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Khufiya: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Best In Years



Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya


Starring Tabu, Ali Fazal, Wamiqa Gabbi, Atul Kulkarni , Azmeri Haque  Badhon

Directed by  Vishal Bhardwaj

 Rating: ****

Cutting through the  acres  of  ambiguity and  symbolisms that run through   his work, Vishal Bhardwaj delivers his  most coherent  cogent and  compelling film in years.

Khufiya  is  many things at the same  time. It is on the topmost layer an espionage thriller  about a spy at RAW selling  confidential information to the neighbouring  country(you know,  the ‘P’  factor). Ali  Fazal  plays this  character with  such straggling  imprecision  that I thought we would  lose focus on the  spy’s  brazen antics(how did he get away with  it for so long?!).

 But no. Bhardwaj, fully in  charge  for once wastes no time in exploring hazy characters played  by lazy actors. His focus is the ever-resplendent  Tabu who has  earlier created enduring magic for Vishal  in  Maqbool and Haider. In Khufiya Tabu plays  a number  of roles, and I don’t mean that as disguises. Tabu’s spy  with  a secret Krishna Mehra  is a sum-total  of  so many elusive emotions that I shudder to think what she would have been in  lesser hands.

Tabu is not short of  extraordinary in  this  brilliant study of masks and  disguises, and it’s not just her workplace where  Krishna leads a double life. It is  also her  personal space where she is  not what she seems  to be.Tabu makes  Krishna Mehra’s  messy chaotic life tenable and  sorted….sort  of!

Khufiya is  not  a  film with  accessible soluble  solutions to  labyrinthine problems like  loving the enemy,leading a  dual life  and stealing  your  child back from  fugitive  traiter. The  diligently penned screenplay(by Rohan Narula, Vishal Bhardwaj)  creates scintillating space for ambiguities: not only Tabu’s  Krishna  (who is at once a vixen and a victim, admittedly  more the former) but also the other Bharadwaj favourite Wamiqa Gabbi  who blossoms in this winged work into an unpredictable  gamine.

In the  film’s most memorable  interlude, Tabu spies on Gabbi in her  home as she dances to Kishore Kumar’s Yeh jawani hai deewani  while doing her house work. Tabu’s half-smirky half-smiling  expressions give away faint erotic  hints.Catch them if you can.

The  women in Khufiya  give away nothing, even as they control the  numbers on this  predominantly  masculine  scoreboard. Not  only  Tabu and  Wamiqa  but a   third generation of  womanhood represented by Navnindra  Behl  , simply known as  ‘Maaji’ will blow  your brains out.Then there is  the Bangladeshi femme fatale Heena  Rehman(Azmeri Haque Badhon). She has a  profound effect on  Krishna Mehra’s life.

In the second- half which moves  to the  US, it is just Tabu and Wamiqa  coming together as  sisters in arms in ways that are  both empowering and  enrapturing. Except for that ridiculously  filmy climax where a Bangladeshi politician meets  his nemesis, Khufiya is every bit that breathless whistleblower’s tale that will make you whistle and  clap and cheer and also persuade  you to shed a  tear.

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