Naam Shabana......Halfhearted!

MUMBAI: You realise that whatever Naam Shabana had to show has already been shown in the film’s promos. The strategy may draw the initial audience to an extent but, since they are not going back being a very happy lot that is about all.

Akashy Kumar did Baby with Tapsee Pannu (2015) playing a brief role. Akshay, being a star of over 25 years of standing, is accepted readily playing an action hero. But, when you are letting loose a female protagonist who you expect to carry a film through in place of Akshay, you need a build-up for her. So Tapsee who featured in Baby is given a backstory here. Her past, which makes up for the first part of the film and, when she is assigned a mission, that makes for the latter part of the film.

If you look at the film that way, it is what is referred in the West as a double bill: two films at the price of one.

Tapsee, playing Shabana Khan, is one stern person drained of all emotions. Brought up in predominantly Muslim locality of Mumbai in a small flat, she and her mother have suffered heavily from her drunkard father. Both women, Tapsee and her mother, have been at the receiving end of nonstop violence. Not to be a victim of any kind of violence again, Tapsee is training for martial art.

Relentlessly wooed by her college mate, played by Taher Mithaiwala, Tapsee is not ready for any sort of commitment. Her idea about men is not positive thanks to her father’s behaviour. The only person Tapsee trusts and confides into is her mother.

Taher finally manages to win Tapsee’s love and, after spending a cosy evening with him but before she could say she also loves him, Tahir becomes the victim of a group of spoilt boys from Delhi making merry in Mumbai. While that saves Tapsee from being molested, the experience also leaves her devastated as well full of rage.

Tapsee now wants revenge, nothing sort of kill the perpetrators. The police is no help. That is when she starts getting help from anonymous source. Tapsee is trained to be a lethal weapon by her benevolent caller. Her offenders are located for her and all the arrangements are made for her to get to her enemies and kill them. Also shadowing her is her guardian angel played by Akshay Kumar.

Having sought her revenge, Tapsee is now ready for the purpose her helpers had in mind for her. It seems, a national agency was tracking her moves and aggression all along and intended to enrol her as a spy to work for the country. Her handler so far keeping tabs on her is the character of Manoj Bajpayee.

Having agreed to join the agency, Tapsee’s assignment is to liquidate an international arms supplier played by Prithviraj Sukumaran. Many agents have earlier lost their lives trying to tackle Prithviraj and, he also keeps getting his looks changed through plastic surgery.

Finally, Prithviraj is tracked to Malaysia and it is time to move the narration out of congested Mumbai streets and to a more picturesque locations in Kuala Lumpur. Here, after some more trackers losing their lives to Prithviraj, it is left to Tapsee to tackle him singlehandedly.

Naam Shabana, in an effort to give a back story to Tapsee, fails to connect the two parts. The way other characters are etched out make Indian spies look like fools and their parts look like they are playing a game of spies. Then, to send a novice agent to a villain who has been painted huge is not convincing. And, making Akshay her shadow and a guardian angel seems more an attempt to keep Akshay on the screen so the viewer does not feel cheated.

Direction fails to detect or solve these and other glitches. While the first half story has been seen in few films earlier, it is still watchable due to Tapsee’s efforts. The second half sags. Music though out of place comes in three songs. Dialogue is good in parts. Editing needed to be sharper.

Tapsee Pannu performs very well carrying her angry young girl image through with conviction. Akshay Kumar has really nothing to do and he does nothing to alleviate the situation. Prithviraj Sukumaran makes a mark. Manoj Bajpayee is okay.

Danny and Anupam Kher make fleeting appearances to no avail. Taher Mithaiwal is fair. Naam Shabana is a halfhearted effort, the only comfort being in its seemingly low making costs.

Producers: Neeraj Pandey, Shital Bhatia.

Director: Shivam Nair.

Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Akshay Kumar,. Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, Prithviraj Sukumaran.

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