Wazir gets its atmospherics spot on. The chessboard metaphor for real-life shenanigans of loss, longing and revenge is beaming with promise and purpose, the players in the game are up to the task, and the editor on the editing table respects your time for once. But alas, all of this wonderful premise is bogged down by a curiously unidimensional and predictable plot. More on that later. But to begin with, it’s a relief to see a Hindi film with visible signs of a plot after a considerably long time. No, I am not being sarcastic – just look up the list of major releases that you have had in the last couple of months. So, being an eternal optimist that I am, I straightaway declare Wazir to be a decently good omen to begin the New Year. *Touchwood*.
Wazir is the story of coming together of two wounded fathers under peculiar circumstances. Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) is a tough ATS officer, happily married to Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and father of a spunky, cute girl. Danish’s world turns upside down when he loses his daughter in a freak shootout; he eventually finds solace in the company of an unlikely friend – the much older, wheelchair-bound but a chess genius Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan). Danish and Omkar’s lives get intertwined and then begins a series of moves, checks and maneuverings that further complicate the lives of all the players involved.
Director Bejoy Nambiar, the man behind smaller but significant films likes Shaitan and David, gets a much bigger canvas with Wazir. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s overarching impression is evident both in the film’s production values and storyline. Chopra, who along with Abhijat Joshi is credited for story and screenplay of Wazir, teases you with all the metaphors and parables in the writing, but eventually falls short to build a solid, leak-proof thriller. But, at the same time, it is heartening to see a film that’s heavily backed by its writing, if not entirely carried through. If only Chopra and Joshi would have infused an element of unpredictability, or tried to be a little more convoluted rather than relying on the safe bet of straightforwardness, Wazir would have emerged as a riveting thriller.
But despite its flaws, if Wazir is very watchable, it is majorly because of the powerhouse performances by its lead cast. Farhan Akhtar is brilliant as Danish Ali, the ATS cop dealing with a major loss in his life. Wazir is the culmination of the tremendous growth of Farhan Akhtar as an actor and you are amazed by the ease with which Akhtar pulls off difficult emotional scenes with a masterly ease. Amitabh Bachchan does what he does best – wowing you without much effort, as the wheelchair-bound chess genius. Big B also executes the difficult task of infusing light humor in an otherwise dead serious kind of proceedings.
Manav Kaul as the power-hungry Kashmiri politician is sufficiently impressive, so is Aditi Rao Hydari as Farhan Akhtar’s wife. Aditi portrays vulnerability of human emotions with finesse and you wish you could see much more of this truly talented actor. Neil Nitin Mukesh gets all the histrionics right in the title role of Wazir, looking both menacing and intriguing at the same time. John Abraham makes a fleeting appearance, but what really convinced him to play this rather insignificant part (even from a cameo point of view), would be interesting to know.
Wazir’s dialogues are written with an honest simplicity and there is no visible attempt to load the audiences with metaphors that do not make sense, or worse, take time to grow or manifest themselves. The chess analogy, repeated references to pyada, wazir, hathi and ghoda are all part of the ongoing conversations and more of an outcome of Big B’s character’s obvious fixation with the game of chess. But, this welcome simplicity in writing goes overboard when you know ‘what’s going to happen’ all through the game, and guess what, the writers fail to outwit you at almost all crucial junctures in the film.
And that’s why you strongly wish that Wazir should have been a little tighter, a bit smarter than it thought it was. Then, all the good atmospherics, suave cinematography (Sanu Varghese), effective background score (Rohit Kulkarni), and taut editing (Chopra and Joshi themselves), would have ensured that you come out of the theater completely wowed and impressed.
If only. But, still go and watch Wazir. It is, despite all its flaws, an honest and sincere attempt to make a worthy little film. Big B and Farhan are reason enough to like and appreciate Wazir.
Rating – *** (Good)