WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
Life should be simple when you’re young. Growing up in a stable home, going to school, learning, and ultimately graduating into the realities of adulthood. However, the road is not always that straightforward for everyone, and the struggles of the past can be a haunting burden to bear. For college student Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu), it is her past she attempts to bury beneath the veneer of hard work and focused study, with no time for deep relationships despite the efforts of a classmate, Jai (Taher Shabbir Mithaiwala). Resisting his advances, yet undeniably taken by Jai’s persistence, Shabana finally seems willing to reveal her traumatic childhood to him and be open to love again. But, when an unanticipated and devastating encounter occurs one night, Shabana’s world is once again in turmoil.
In the wake of these events, Shabana is contacted by a mysterious group known only as The Agency, who offer her the means to take revenge on the thugs that ruined her newfound chance at a normal life. Passing some initial tests, she finally meets the organization’s leader, Ranvir Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), who offers her training and said opportunity, which she takes full advantage of. But, Singh has also advised this would only be the start of larger missions and commitments Shabana will enact for The Agency, and soon she is deemed ready to go after one of their most notorious foes, Mikhail (Prithviraj Sukumaran), an international arms dealer and a master chameleon when it comes to evading authorities. With the aid of veteran Agency agent Ajay Singh Rajput (Akshay Kumar), Shabana heads into action and a new career.
Next, my Mind:
Maintaining a strong, dramatic, emotionally-charged, character-driven narrative while providing high-octane, blunt force action sequences (and even a little bit of humor) throughout the majority of its 147-minute runtime, director Shivam Nair’s fourth outing in feature films carries itself with precision, fluid pacing, and just the right amount of excitement to keep the adrenaline flowing yet keeping the proceedings grounded and, honestly, realistic. From the rawness showcased in the two primary catalysts that shape Shabana’s steps towards vengeance to the aftermath of this action and the ways it further molds her to become the force she is, it’s still the humanness illustrated here, the need for justice, the strength to stand up as a proud, able woman, that thematically shines through. Yes, its total entertainment, but more importantly, a relevant social message in this modern age wrapped in an uncomplicated yet engaging action/crime film. Kudos, Shivam sir, kudos.
For this reviewer, especially in view of her stellar performance in “Pink”, but then underused role in “The Ghazi Attack”, it was superb to see Pannu back, literally, in full swing (and kick, and run, etc) as Shabana, a woman so drastically altered by the harsh circumstances of both childhood and now her early adult years, that having any means to find herself, mete out justice, gain a new identity, and find release and redemption are ultimately the only paths to travel. Whether stirring and emotive or charging forth with sheer conviction plus a more than believable skillset via her fighting techniques, Pannu’s passion and commitment to this role is never in doubt. Add to this dynamic the excellent turn from veteran Bajpayee as the secretive yet powerfully present and quietly intense Agency head Singh, whose commanding voice, steady, unshakable demeanor, and vast leadership knowledge make him an intimidating force to be reckoned with. Yet, beneath it all, there are those hints of how much he sincerely cares for Shabana’s, and his team’s, well-being, always ensuring they will be watched out for, no matter what. Bajpayee plays this all exceedingly well here.
Sukumaran is likewise perfect as arch-villain Mikhail, who’s talents lie far beyond his arms dealing, especially when it comes to duping those in pursuit of him. Kumar, as always, chews up scenery when present, ready for action and holding his own as seasoned agent Rajput. Mithaiwala makes the most of his appearance as the kind-hearted Jai, a man who actually breaks through Shabana’s tough exterior. Other support from Virendra Saxena, Anupam Kher, Madhurima Tuli, Murli Sharma, and others is here as well, all to good effect on the greater whole. In total, “Naam Shabana” stands as a fun, fast-paced action drama that carries with it all the elements to love about Bollywood cinema while also initiating another fantastic female action character we hope to see get teamed up with Sinha’s Akira in the future! If so, watch out gentlemen, the ladies are here and they mean business!
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!