Khufiya 2023 Movie Review
Vishal Bhardwaj adopts Amar Bhushan’s “Escape to Nowhere” for a cinematic thriller, Khufiya, starring Tabu, Ali Fazal, and Wamiqa Gabbi in the lead. It seems like Bollywood has forgotten how to make good thrillers and mysteries, and Khufiya is another testament to that statement. Whatever good thrillers we have made in recent times are either remakes or highly influenced by others’ work-except one or two good ones, of course, which were both good and original. Bhardwaj has been a master at restoring Shakespeare’s works, and I enjoyed all his adaptations, even though I have seen earlier adaptations from Hollywood’s 40s and 50s cinema. He brought that Indian feel to them, which wasn’t there in those B&W American movies, naturally. Khufiya is mainly a spy thriller but behaves as if it’s only half honest to its primary genre. A spy thriller has to be taut and gripping; otherwise, it kills the entire mood. In 150 minutes of Khufiya, you see thrilling and suspenseful stuff for hardly 50-60 minutes. Now tell me, can you call it a spy thriller?
KM (Tabu) is an R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing) agent trying to catch Mirza (Shataf Figar). Her attempts fail, as they have a mole in the agency who is betraying them. Her companion, Heena, aka Octopus (Azmeri Haque), is killed by Mirza because that mole tipped her off just before the mission. KM is on to find a mole, recognised as Ravi (Ali Fazal). At the same time, she wants revenge since she was in a relationship with Heena. Ravi’s lifestyle does not match his salary, as he brings expensive gifts to his wife, Charu (Wamiqa Gabbi), who happens to be a soldier’s daughter and, by default, a hardcore patriot even as a normal civilian. KM and her team trace Ravi’s every activity to get him red-handed, but he is too smart to be caught. The second half takes the narrative to America, where Charu rejoins her family, but as a spy. Will Charu and KM manage to get their hands on Ravi and eventually Mirza?
Based on Amar Bhushan’s literature, Khufiya is more drama than thriller. There are many things that bore you for a while, especially when they’re 155 minutes long. I believe any thriller shouldn’t go over the standard 2-hour runtime because that’s one of the major aspects that makes them pacy and engaging. Khufiya just doesn’t listen to the basics, as if they were making a universally appealing thriller. Anyway, there are some moments filled with exciting segments, even though they are very basic with thrilling factors. The main character isn’t really exciting, as she is fighting her bisexuality and family crisis more than the country’s problems. Was that lesbian angle really necessary? Aren’t we happy with straight people as spies? The other big fault is Ravi and Charu’s family crisis. A family can never get involved in secret missions because secrecy means keeping others in the dark. Here, you meet a family working together. One of the biggest covers for a secret agent is his family being normal, and here they blew that cover. And what a boring family drama they have! Tedious and snoozy. Technically, there are dozens of mistakes when it comes to the behaviour, activities, and social presentations of the characters. I can’t disclose them here since I’m not allowed to give away spoilers.
Tabu has always been good in Bhardwaj’s movies, and Khufiya is no different. Her character isn’t well written, but she has done well despite the low potential. Wamiqa Gabbi gets all the hot and cold scenes in the movie and looks fine there. Ali Fazal was surprising, though. I didn’t expect such a naive-looking agent with nerdish specs, so that was surprising. He added two bits of acting too. Ashish Vidyarthi is quite okay as KM’s strict and concerned boss. His age, body language, and personality all suit the image of the character he was playing. That Dadi by Navnindra Behl will be a treat to watch because we don’t get such aged characters in this zone. Shataf Figar, Azmeri Haque Badhon, Lalit Parimoo, Rahul Vohra, Disney James, and Atul Kulkarni’s support is noticeable.
Khufiya goes wrong with its screenplay first, and then direction. Vishal Bhardwaj seems to have lost his touch since Haider (2014). Next year, it will be a decade since we had a great film from him. His ideas are getting older, and frankly speaking, thrillers were never his genre. Hia forte was complex human stories with artistic vision, and Khufiya has only 1% of that. The film is also weak on the technical front, with the cinematography and editing causing tedium and boredom. Who cuts a thriller with so many flaws and slow-moving scenes? It felt like I saw a two-part series in one movie. Aren’t spy thrillers supposed to be smart, clever, and intelligent? Or is it just like Tabu says, “It seems like you people are smart only in your movies”. And it was a goddamn movie only. As a whole, Khufiya could have been a good spy thriller if it had only stuck to spy business and avoided all that monotonous drama. An average watch that underplayed itself.