Star Cast:Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, Manoj Bajpai, Prithviraj, Taapsee Pannu
The movie is India’s first spin-off based on Taapsee’s character in Neeraj Pandey’s film Baby, a film revolving around a group of undercover agents who prevent terrorist attacks in India.
There is something about Akshay Kumar. His honesty as an actor translates well on screen. When he appears on screen as Ajay Singh Rajput, the man we saw in Baby, you will be thrilled. But Naam Shabana is not about this gentleman. It is about Shabana’s (Taapsee Pannu’s) life and how she enters the agency.
In a first of its kind in India, Neeraj Pandey writes a spin-off for one of the most interesting characters from his super successful ‘Baby’. We had already witnessed Shabana’s ability to kick ass in the 2015 film. Here we are told more about her life before she became a secret agent. And what drove her to become one.
For most of the first half, Naam Shabana is a drama. It is a story of young girl who never lies to her mother and finds it difficult to accept love coming her way. She has a paramour in waiting, who she keeps at bay because of her own dark secret. And then one day she loses him and is consumed by vengeance. The ‘agency’ contacts her and promises to help her in her quest for revenge. She is trained to suit the agency’s needs. The post-intermission section is when Shabana is out on her first mission, to bring in one of India’s most sought after man. This is where the thrill sets in, and there is much of action for the adrenalin seekers.
Writer Neeraj Pandey shifts gears fast in the second half after a steady first half. The built up is slow but focused. The screenplay does not waver from Shabana, the protagonist. And then he cleverly gets in the other characters – Ajay Singh Rathore and Om Prakash Shukla (Anupam Kher) into the play towards the end to bring in the much need lighter moments. As his screenplay reaches the climax, there is sufficient amount anticipation if Shabana will achieve success in her first assignment.
Director Shivam Nair, who has earlier directed the memorable Maharathi and Ahista Ahista, shows he is capable of handling a first paced thriller. He surges past the failure of his last film Bhaag Johnny. Of course, you would wish the first half was more concisely edited but the second half makes up for it.
What works for the film is Taapsee Pannu’s ability to transform into Shabana. You know she means it when she is kicking the hell of her opponent in a Judo championship, and also when she is beating the life out of a rogue when she is angry. She plays the angry young woman with absolute resolution. Manoj Bajpayee is primarily seen giving orders on the phone. For the most part of his role, he has no actor to react to. And it can be difficult in such a case to maintain the same tone, but he never slips. And of course, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher add some delightful moments for the fans of Baby. Prithviraj has relatively lesser to do as the bad man, but he is convincing.
Although a prequel which draws highly from Baby, Naam Shabana manages to stand its own. It has elements of Baby and yet it is nothing like Baby. This film will take you through high and lows of Shabana’s life and leave at a position where you wish to witness more of her exploits.