SPECIAL OPS (2020)

  • Original Air Date: 17/03/2020
  • Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, Sajjad Delafrooz, Karan Tacker, Meher Vij, Muzamil Ibrahim, Vipul Gupta, Saiyami Kher.
  • Director: Shivam Nair

Special Ops’ story and Kay Kay Menon’s stellar act will resonate with every Indian viewer

On 13th December 2001, the heart of the Indian democracy was attacked by 5 assailants. Due to the efforts of the security personnel and their supreme sacrifices, the parliament was safeguarded. However, the incident pointed out some gaping holes in the national intelligence network. While the different bureaus were trying their best to understand and deconstruct the attack, there was one man who had a very different theory to what was the current belief. Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) believed that the attack was carried out by 5 assailants but they had another member who was supposed to meet up with them after their attack was successful and would then be the face of the following negotiation. His theory was shrugged off to start with but he gathered enough evidence to prove the merit of his idea. Himmat Singh spends the next 19 years pursuing this elusive terrorist who he believes goes by the name of Ikhlaq Khan. Special Ops is the story of this manhunt and a whole lot more associated with it.

I started streaming this show at about 9 pm yesterday and couldn’t get up from my seat until I had finished it at around 4 am today. This is easily one of the most gripping and absorbing shows of recent times and even though it has its share of flaws, one cannot ignore its pure entertainment value. I recently binged the Voot Select series Asur: Welcome To Your Dark Side and it turned out to be mesmerizing. I wasn’t hoping to be served up a better treatment within 24 hours but that was exactly the case with Special Ops. Neeraj Pandey is no stranger to this kind of content. The ones who have enjoyed his films like Special 26, Baby and Naam Shabana (writer) will constantly get a feel here that is very similar to those films. What serves Pandey and director Shivam Nair better here is the amount of time that they have at their disposal. The story spans about 20 years and is peppered with multiple subplots and incidents that not only add on to the overall plot of the narrative but also ensure that every episode of the series is a riveting tale in itself and feels complete.

The additional time lets the director flesh out his major characters and makes us connect with them. This doesn’t work for a few of the characters but is still a laudable effort. Even though the story spans a huge amount of time, it doesn’t lose its focus and we are constantly reminded of what it is that the basic plot of the series is about and who we are after. The first few episodes unfold through an inquiry wherein, Himmat Singh is shown facing seething questions about the various funds that he has used over the last 19 years for various missions. Every question introduces us to a different team member and their exploits or a particular situation that he was in during his tenure. I liked this form of storytelling and it helped give a feeling of novelty to the whole plot.

Kay Kay Menon is one of the best actors that we have in India currently and he does an exceptional job with the character of Himmat Singh. We see him grow from a senior intelligence officer to a ruthless and seasoned wolf as he spends 19 years in pursuit of a single man. We see how the intelligence agency works and what his part in it is. Though it may have been far from the real deal, it is acted with such conviction by Menon that we want to believe it. We are also given glimpses of Himmat’s family life that worked for me wonderfully. He has a teenage daughter who is dating someone by the name of Sohail. Himmat has his daughter’s phone cloned and spies on her to keep her safe in the big bad world. He is torn between duty and his personal life at key junctures that are utilized wonderfully by Menon to showcase his acting prowess. His give and takes with his wife are natural and fun to watch.

The next most authentic character is that of a police officer played by Vinay Pathak. He is an old confidant and aide of Himmat Singh but does certain things that make us wonder if at all he is on Himmat’s side or has plans of his own. A seasoned actor like Vinay Pathak is known to deliver authoritative acts and his performance here is no different. Saiyami Kher has an electric screen presence. Even in the company of good looking people like Meher Vij, Muzamil Ibrahim, and Vipul Gupta, she stands out. I would have loved to see her in a more pronounced role but that was not the case. Sajjad Delafrooz plays one of the primary baddies of the series and he is efficient. You take him to be the man that he plays and as the series progresses, his act grows on. That is something that serves his character very well and helps spice up the proceedings.

The series does have its set of drawbacks. Karan Tacker plays a character that he is unable to justify. I just couldn’t accept him for what he was and his uber-cool / super-intelligent turns from time to time got on my nerves. He reminded me of one of the characters in Baby that had a similar feel to it and hadn’t worked for me. This is one of the biggest issues of the series as a lot depends on the character that he plays and as the character gets liquidated so does a lot of seriousness and intrigue. There is a love angle between the character that Vipul Gupta plays and a girl in Istanbul. This portion was dragged out unnecessarily and was quite boring. I would have rather preferred to see the back-story of the relationship between Muzamil Ibrahim and Saiyami Kher’s character that is hinted at many times but never realized. Atleast one character is just abandoned at the end of the series. It must be noted that this character was being prepared for something important and that is what we are made aware of but is then shunned unceremoniously.

For a series that was building up its universe so meticulously, Special Ops culminates very conveniently and abruptly. Everything just falls into places through conducive coincidences and we are left with no option but to accept it for what it is. This was an issue with Neeraj Pandey’s Baby and Naam Shabana too. It must also be noted that realism and authenticity are often shunned to make way for a more dramatic impact. Almost all the characters playing foreigners do a terrible job. I believe that is something that we have come to expect from Indian offerings but it should have been given some thoughts to in a series like this.

Having said all that, Special Ops is still extremely entertaining and captivating. We are served a story that is bound to resonate with every Indian and the makers present the audience with a perfect blend of fiction and actual events that is endlessly engaging. Superb performances from Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, and Sajjad Delafrooz help to further elevate the content of the film. This is an essential watch in these times when we have nothing to do but stay indoors.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Feedback: aambar03@gmail.com

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