Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Manav Kaul Aditi Rao Hydari
Ratings: 2.5 stars
When the audience is full of questions, it's an ideal scenario for a suspense thriller. You build the knots slowly as you go along only to untie them eventually and do it convincingly. Wazir hits the bull's eye in the first half --- you are asking a new question almost every ten minutes. The build up is slow and steady and smooth. Every new face you see comes with a back story. By the interval, the plot has built itself into a crescendo of suspense, all the pieces of the puzzle are strewn across on the table and you cannot wait to put them together. But when they do come together, it all seems too quick and easy. You were thinking it all along and expecting the storyteller to outsmart you, especially when it is someone as crafty as Bejoy Nambiar. But then, all he does is explain his master moves, throws a volley of constant recaps of the clues he left for you, (almost as if we wouldn't get it at first go), as a result of which the grand reveal is somewhat of a bland reveal.
An ATS officer Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) and his wife Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) are in the face of a terrible personal crisis. In the midst of the that, Danish, in his hunger for revenge, botches up an operation, leading him to be temporarily suspended from duty. That's when, in what seems like a freaky coincidence, he gets to befriend a former chess champion Omkarnath Dhar, aka Panditji (Amitabh Bahchan). The chalk and cheese characters forge an unlikely friendship, bound to each other by two things --- their personal loss and a game of chess. Their interactions give us some endearing moments in the film. As expected Bachchan delivers a robust performance. There are moments when he gets a tad too theatrical, but only a performer like him can get away with that. Also, even though his character has a lot going on beneath the surface, the grand old man, with a friendly silver mop of hair, never comes across as devious as the character is meant to be, or as we would have liked him to be. It's a revenge saga at the end of the day. The kind of atmosphere Nambiar creates in the film, nobody expects any kind of relief. We'd have liked to see things go several shades darker, but the story, perhaps in a rushed attempt to wrap up proceedings, fails to live up to its devious promise.
Manav Kaul's character of a Kashmiri politician with many secrets to protect was one more spot where Wazir could have scored. What potential the character of Yazaan Qureshi had under the able hands of the brilliant actor! He is sinister from the word go. The scene where he calmly sits his daughter down to have a conversation as he quietly keeps rolling up his sleeves is one of the most terror-inducing ones in the film. The anticipation of violence in that scene almost makes you want to shut your eyes in horror. And your mind races with thoughts of more perverse possibilities. There are a handful of such sparks of brilliance in Wazir but they remain isolated examples. Farhan's character carries traces of Aamir Khan from Talaash, but the actor, unlike Khan, seems to have just one standard scowl for his anguish. He's grief stricken and torn by guilt, but you don't empathise with him as much as you would have liked to. There are also echoes of Varun Dhawan's character in Badlapur and to an audience that has already seen those two stellar performances, Farhan has only so much to offer.
In another un-Bejoy like move, in Wazir he reduces the female character to a mere prop. Aditi looks radiant in the first few minutes in the film before sinking into a sullen face, that continues to look pretty. The story is so fiercely fastened to Big B and Farhan, that others are not given much space to perform. Despite the predictability that creeps into the second half, the director manages to sustain the pace of the narrative. What's missing is the finesse of storytelling, the wicked humour and his trademark style. Think Shaitaan and the brilliantly shot accident sequence inside the car or the chase sequence with Khoya Khoya Chand playing in the backdrop. I was waiting to see how this director would have shot a bomb blast sequence, but it turned out to be like just another one in Bollywood. The songs are engaging and the background score keeps the story good company. The dialogues are crisp, cinematography apt, but could have been more stylised.
A story that uses chess quite literally as a game and as a metaphor, we'd have loved to see it check-mate us. We'd have loved to lose to the storyteller and have all our guesses proved wrong by the time the end credits rolled. But sadly, this game leaves a lot to be desired.