Mukhbir is laidback espionage drama, exciting in parts

Zain Khan Durrani plays the title-role in ZEE5’s Mukhbir—Story of a Spy. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Compare the series with best of espionage movies and series (Special Ops, Special Ops 1.5, Avrodh 2) and we find Mukhbir—The Story of a Spy laidback, if not lukewarm as well. A fellow scribe (and this tribe is always vociferous about this one point!) stated that there was no jingoism in it, which he stated was “very welcome”. I, for one, have no issues with jingoism if it makes a story more exciting. I have no quarrel with a Raazi that shows the human side of good Pakistanis, but where is the harm in some rousing patriotic statements? Can the emotion of true patriotism ever be overdone?

In any case, Shivam Nair, co-director of the as-yet-unparalleled espionage franchise Special Ops and also the man who directed the 2016 Naam Shabana, (backed and co-written by A Wednesday!-Special Ops-Baby- Aiyaary fame Neeraj Pandey) generally shows his deftness again at this genre. My only issue is: the length of this long-format story could have been reduced considerably to make it more arresting and riveting and less of a laidback drama that is exciting only in parts.

The film narrates the story of Kamran (Zain Khan Durrani), a brave young recruit into the espionage service, who is sent by Moorthy (Prakash Raj) to Pakistan to avert a war merely by gathering vital intel. Kamran poses as Harfan Bukhari, the lost family member of a Pakistani family. His handler is Alamgir (Satyadeep Mishra), who himself has a back-story.

Kamran, now Harfan, decides to work on his own terms as long as he can achieve his mission, and ingratiates himself into the good books of, first, corrupt Pakistani brigadier, Habibullah (Atul Kumar) and then Major General Agha Khan (Harsh Chhaya), In the process, he has to befriend (and more), Agha Khan’s objet d’amor and ghazal singer, Begum Anar (Barkha Bisht) and also photojournalist, Jamila (Zoya Afroz).

As he gradually goes on to get vital information about Pakistan’s aims to bring India to its knees, he also has to make several hard choices. A man, as yet untrained in acts of war (unlike in the real-life story that was Raazi in reel in Shivam Nair’s Naam Shabana), he has to go through a plethora of emotions at different stages, especially when he commist his first murder.

The era here is 1965, and the Indian Prime Minister is the tough-as-nails Lal Bahadur Shastri (Vijay Kashyap). There is barely any modern technology and Kamran has to do his best with the military equipment then available, both to communicate with Delhi and also to acquire important material from enemy sources.

At first instance, a shout-out to the production design and VFX team for brilliantly re-creating the era and aura of the times then, with apt clothes, cars, streets and buildings, interiors of homes and offices and everything else. Dimo Popov’s camerawork is superb. The background score is uniformly good (Abhishek Nailwal). Abhishek also composes most of the songs, which sound alright in context but are not the stuff memorabilia is made of.

Mukhbir gets into a higher zone also because of the characterizations and the high-level of the main performers. Zain Khan Durrani is perfect as Kamran, living the missing Harfan’s life in an affectionate Pakistani family (Raazi style). Prakash Raj as Moorthy is outstanding and so is Harsh Chayya as Agha Khan, Satyadeep Mishra as Alamgir and Atul Kumar as Habibullah. But the standout performances come from Dilip Shankar as Colonel Zaidi and Barkha Bisht as Begum Anar. Both these excellent talents speak volumes with just their eyes and the undercurrent of menace in the former and pathos in the latter are to be experienced more than described in words. Dilip Shankar sends a chill down your spine with just his glance and cold smile. As the doting grandmother, Veena Mehta also makes a mark.

Rating: ***

ZEE 5 presents Victor Tango Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.’s Mukhbir—The Story of a Spy Produced by: Vaibhav Modi & Tabassum Modi Directed by: Shivam Nair & Jayprad Desai Developed and written by: Arshad Syed, Aseem Arrora, Vaibhav Modi, Karan Oberoi & Saurabh Swamy from a story by Maloy Krishna Dhar Music: Abhishek Nailwal & Ankit Tiwari Starring: Zain Khan Durrani, Prakash Raj, Barkha Bisht, Adil Hussain, Harsh Chhaya, Satyadeep Mishra, Dilip Shankar, Zoya Afroz, Atul Kumar, Karan Oberoi, Veena Mehta, Ujjwal Chopra, Bijou Thaangjam, Sushil Pandey, Suneel Shanbag, Natasha Sinha, Vijay Kashyap, Avantika Akerkar, Ikhlaque Khan, Karan Mehat & others





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