Baby, which released two years ago, still remains one of the most nerve-racking thrillers that was powered by gripping and galvanizing performances. One of the characters that stood out was that of RAW Agent, Shabana Khan, which Taapsee Pannu effortlessly owned. I still get goosebumps when I see her fight sequence with Sushant Singh in the hotel room.
Touted as the first spin-off in Hindi cinema, this week’s release, Naam Shabana, narrates the tale of the very character that was one of the highlights of Neeraj Pandey’s action thriller. But Shivam Nair is no Pandey, and his idea of thrill comes nowhere close to the latter.
Tracing the journey of Khan to the RAW Agency, the film suffers from an inactive first half, with hardly any rousing or exciting proceeding. It’s only post intermission that we witness some kick-ass moments and lavish locations.
As the story moves to Malaysia, we see our protagonist hunt down Tony (Prithiviraj) with the help of Ajay Singh Rajput (Akshay Kumar in a scene-stealing show). And of course, it also throws the cantankerous Shukla (Anupam Kher) for some humor.
Despite its best efforts to pack a punch and deliver a hardcore thriller, Naam Shabana fails to soar as the screenplay is replete with loopholes and lackluster storyline.
As for the acting, Manoj Bajpai as Ranvir Singh is reminiscent of Special 26, Kher recycles everything what we saw in Baby and Prithiviraj gets some menacing moments.
In the end, the film rides high on Pannu’s powerful performance. Blending vulnerability and valor, she’s absolutely spot-on from the first reel to the last. The film paves way for more such hard-hitting and fearless female characters in the future.
And how many mainstream actors would be courageous enough to do a mere 20 minute role, that too after delivering four back to back blockbusters ? Kumar, currently going through the strongest run of his career, is the backbone of the second half.
For the leading lady and Kumar alone, Naam Shabana is moderately watchable, but stepping out of the cinemas, you feel it could’ve been so much more.