Review: Aiyaary exposes the real Aiyaars

Language: Hindi / 160 mins Direction: Neeraj Pandey Produced by: Friday Filmworks, Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Gada, Jayantilal Gada, Akkshay Gada, Karan Shah Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Siddharth Malhotra, Kumud Mishra, Adil Hussain, Rakul Preet Singh, Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher Cinematography: Sudhir Palsane; Editing: Praveen Kathikuloth Music: Sanjoy Chowdhury

Hindi | Drama, Political | 157 Mins | India | 2018

Aiyaary Review Indian Film Institute


When a filmmaker evolves, he sees unidimensional growth (usually). In other words, he debuts with an easy-to-handle, small budget script shot in limited locations with a cast that he can control. If it sees success, he grows a little more confident and bigger, expanding exponentially and along predictable lines. The results too are on expected lines. For eg, think Yash Chopra; there is Yash Chopra who always made films around love stories. He did it in predictable ways - foreign locations, chiffon sarees, well-manicured heroes, powder puff and candy floss. Raju Hirani addresses pressing issues with soft punchlines, peppering his work with good humour. Sanjay Bhansali has not yet moved out of his love-me-and-my-opera style. You get the drift. Basically, you know what to expect with every filmmaker as patterns emerge over a period of time and successive films.

But rare is a man who delves within. Who taps his other dimensions; who likes to dig deep and intense. A man who builds layers into his craft and creates complex pictures - like creating a 3D image with 2D material. Rare is such a man and Neeraj Pandey is his name. Aiyaary is not just about the ‘aiyaars’ / shape shifters / Military Intelligence (MI) officers of the Indian Army who change their appearance at will and are on surveillance duties. Being an aiyaar is only its starting point. The story itself weaves a slightly more complex plot involving the Indian Army and international Arms Dealers; MI officers turning rogue; ex-generals turned middlemen brokering weapon deals across continents; girlfriends getting caught in the web and, of staked reputations. So who are the real Aiyaars?

Aiyaary Review Indian FIlm Institute IFI

So, Major Jai Bakshi (Siddharth Malhotra) has been taught that, ‘listening is a fine art’ by his boss Col. Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee). Being part of a special MI unit makes him privy to confidential conversations and one such conversation between the Army chief (Vikram Gokhale) and General Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra) leads him to a key decision in his life. He turns rogue, suddenly posing a danger to the very institution that has nurtured him. Bajpayee is put on the job to ensure that the culprit be brought to book. But there is more that is at stake. Billion dollar Arm deals which could go down the drain; media tip-offs which promise a circus at some point; hackers roped in to aid and abet these operations across continents.

The characters of Jai Bakshi and Abhay Singh are complementary but juxtaposed; they seem to be working at cross-purposes yet in tandem; they are wired into the same networks and same people, both moving in the same direction but will likely arrive at different results. And they are both ruthless but humane. Taken together they are but an oxymoron – to borrow a figure of speech. Two sides of the same coin. But are they?