Film Review: 'Wazir'
Opened: 8 January 2016
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari, Manav Kaul, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Mild spoilers ahead.
"In chess one cannot control everything. Sometimes a game takes an unexpected turn in which beauty begins to emerge. Both players are always instrumental in this..." ~ Vladimir Borisovich Kramnik, Russian Chess Grandmaster & Classical World Chess Champion
It's always refreshing when you have a film that immediately gets the ball rolling in what's seems like a solid plot, at its onset at least, but then frustratingly mid-way, spectacularly loses steam and slips into the abyss of mediocrity. Wazir is one such film. It has it all. An intriguing plot, several red herrings, a couple of towering performances and yet, rather unfortunately, doesn't quite come together as planned.
The film tells the story of two unlikely friends brought together by coincidence (or is it?) - one a paralysed chess master, Pandit Omkarnath Dhar (Bachchan), who's something of an enigma and a traumatised ATS officer Danish Ali (Akhtar) dealing with an unexpected loss and a crumbling marriage. They bond over games of chess, an underlying metaphor throughout the film, and uncover that they have more in common than they'd initially imagined. Danish finds solace in the grandmaster’s company, but that calm is soon threatened by an external sinister conspiracy where not just their friendship, but their lives too could be at stake.
Wazir, undeniably rests on an interesting premise and the whole concept of having chess as its backdrop is smart, but after a point gets tedious especially in the climax. The film's 104 minute run time feels way longer, mostly in its second half, because you can see most of the film’s twists coming a mile off, and the presence of one too many uninspiring songs, don’t help its case much either.
Besides, there are far too many plot holes in the film – call me ignorant but I have yet to decode how a man so reliant on a maid for his day to day chores, is able to and allowed to drive so carelessly without so much as an aide by his side.
Still, Nambiar's direction is efficient, but whether that’s down to him or because he leaves most of the film’s heavy lifting to the film’s core cast, both of whom deliver the goods mind, but suffer from sketchy characterisation, is open to debate.
Bachchan's Pandit character especially, is one that we can never really empathise with, despite his pain, and its not as if he doesn’t try. It’s just that the plot seems unsure as to pitch him as someone your heart goes out to or someone you want to despise because of the way in which he manipulates someone else’s emotions for his own gain. It’s a good performance but by no means is it his best.
The real star here is Akhtar, who’s officer is a perfect mix of brains, brawn and vulnerability and Akhtar makes the most of it. His romance with Aditi Rao Hydari though is redundant and in hindsight could have been done away with entirely.
Of the remaining cast Neil Nitin Mukesh, surprisingly, makes an impact in a brief yet important cameo, but the film’s other stray cameo from John Abraham, unfortunately falls flat, because it does little to add to the narrative. Manav Kaul as the eerie villain is the film’s other plus point, he keeps things engaging and the Wazir definitely deserved more of him.
In the end, Wazir could have and should have been a better film. On paper at least, the set up must have been stellar, but ultimately, the end result remains unsatisfying despite Bachchan's and Akhtar's unmistakable presence and charisma.