MUKHBIR (2022)

Adil Hussain in a still
  • Release Date: 11/11/2022
  • Platform: Zee5
  • Cast: Zain Khan Durrani, Prakash Raj, Zoya Afroz, Harsh Chhaya, Dilip Shankar
  • Series Creator: Aseem Arrora and Saurabh Swamy

Zain Khan Durrani’s spirited performance is not enough to make this series great

— Ambar Chatterjee

Mukhbir has been garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews across social media platforms. The trailer looked interesting and the presence of stalwarts like Harsh Chhaya, Adil Hussain, and Prakash Raj meant that the source material must have something interesting for these men to be interested in. I had some idea of the backdrop of the story and the fact that the makers were using real names for the Pakistanis and their tech meant that they had confidence in their story and execution. What was left to be seen was whether this series was another run-of-the-mills Bollywood-ish spy story or if its makers chose to go the hard way and concentrated more on the espionage portions and less on the more massy elements of the story.

The story: –

The story revolves around Harfan (Zain Khan Durrani), a smooth-talking, good-looking con man who is recruited by RAW to go undercover in Pakistani and get close to the higher military brass and take out secrets and plans of the nation that was on the brink of a major war with India. To do that, he must seduce important women, disarm shrewd army officers and finally face off against his enemies head on. He also has to be constantly on the lookout for means to thwart the ISI and its cunning lead officer, Colonel Zaidi (Dilip Shankar) who is always hot on his heels. The mission ultimately takes a toll on Harfan’s psyche but different characters influence his life and cerebral approach to his work in distinctive ways leaving their respective marks on his memory and judgment. While his actions leave him conflicted and disillusioned, he is ultimately able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize how important his task was and why he must continue doing what he was doing.

Zain Khan Durrani’s performances as the protagonist: –

The performances in the series are wonderful. I never expected Zain Khan Durrani to be this good. His character has to change his mannerisms and approach to a sequence in a matter of seconds sometimes. There are scenes where he has to portray multiple emotions on the go and sell these different facets of the character sometimes in the same sequence. Durrani is not only successful in enveloping the audiences with his authoritative portrayal of the spy but is also able to sell each and every aspect of the character including some subtle comedic bits. He looks the part. The fact that he is always chased by the ISI and is never safe in what he does only enhances the prevalent sense of tension and thrill in his performance rendering his character even more interesting and intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed his interactions with the two female characters of the film. The approach that he takes to both these characters is very different and that it is bound to grab one’s attention.

Effective supporting cast: –

The supporting cast of the series is equally good. Prakash Raj leads from the front. He has over the years made it a habit of playing characters of this nature and that gives him the kind of comfort in playing this particular character that very few actors might enjoy. His character assumes a lot more importance towards the end of the series and is finally instrumental in guiding the protagonist towards a greater goal that hopefully we will see him pursue in future seasons.

a poster of the series

Harsh Chhaya was fantastic. He played Major General Agha Khan with the perfect balance of poise and madness that went a long way toward making the character fearsome in many of the sequences. Unfortunately, Assam’s very own Adil Hussain has a blink-and-miss cameo and my hopes were seriously dashed by this aspect of the series as I was hoping to enjoy his performance. Having said that, he still does his best in the few sequences that he has in the series. Barkha Bisht and Zoya Afroz are efficient as the two leading female characters.

The screenplay: –

The screenplay worked for me for most of the parts excepting the climax. The only other times when I questioned the creative decision and choices of the makers were during the prolonged interactions between the protagonist and the female characters. These portions felt tedious even though the actors were never at fault. When I thought a little more about the sequences, I realized that these sequences were necessary to lead to the climax that the story was building up to. They had to show the connection between the characters as the kind of bond that Harfan shares with the ladies cannot be built in a day. It needed prolonged periods of meetings and romantic exchanges. A large portion of these dialogues and interactions are documented in the series and that strictly speaking doesn’t entertain you all that much. It is because of these intimate relationships that Harfan shares with these characters that what he does to them, in the end, feels even more shocking and uncharacteristic.

The climax: –

This is my major qualm with the series. While the makers try to mount a gigantic climax complete with elaborate action sequences and a lot of different elements of the story coming together to create a compounded impact but for some strange reason, the climax felt utterly dull. The war that was about to be the big finale is shown using montages where we don’t even see the people fight. The final failures of the three primary antagonists is shown using just glimpses of the men listening to the news or sulking and this didn’t even come close to giving me the kind of payoff that I was hoping for. Having said that, I did love the portion that Harfan shares with the father of his closest aide in Pakistan.

Final words: –

I felt that the makers could have incorporated a lot of different aspects of espionage into the series but they chose to play it safe. They beat around the bush for a large chunk of the series which did it no good. They hardly show the many different information and intelligence that the character of Harfan could have been shown passing on to India. Instead, the emphasis is on his two semi-romantic relationships and how they are key to his unfolding of at least some important information that would go on to aid India. Many questions remain unanswered and some of the major characters are left dangling without any proper resolution or at least a final tip of the hat. For all these reasons, the series ends short of its mark and left me somewhat unsatisfied. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.