The Hindi web series Khufiya is directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and stars Tabu, Ali Fazal, Wamiqa Gabbi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Atul Kulkarni, and Navnindra Behl.

Where can you watch Khufiya in the UAE?

Khufiya is now available to stream on Netflix.

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Khufiya review

Khufiya review

+ Acting of women characters
+ Underlying possibilities

– Laggy & Lengthy
– No real thrills
– Less a spy story

A movie does not have to be what it seems to be in its trailer. But it is equally a fact that the trailer sets the tone and mood for the film to follow. In that sense, Khufiya’s trailer, which cut it as a spy thriller, may have done a disservice. For this, Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie, based on Amar Bhushan’s 2019 novel Escape to Nowhere, hardly has any thrills that belong to the genre. The book, written by India’s spy unit RAW’s counter-espionage team’s chief, was built on an actual operation against a mole in the team who was spying for the United States. So everything prepared us for a thriller with typical set pieces, albeit with Bhardwaj’s famed touch.

Instead, we get a keyhole view of some of the story’s protagonists. To be sure, most of them have myriad shades and lend themselves to interesting voyeurism. But how much can you see through a keyhole? What you don’t get to see can sometimes be exasperating. And that one is afraid of what happens with Khufiya. Also, this is not the material for character-peek.      

Vishal Bhardwaj, an auteur with his stamp and sensitivity, trying to avoid the genre’s cliches is pretty much understandable. But what he replaces them with becomes crucial. And that is where the film slips. At over 2 hours and 30 minutes, the film does not have enough to hold the interest sustainably, especially since it plays the suspenseful cards pretty early into the deal.

The story, as was mostly revealed in the trailer, is about Krishna Mehra, referred to as KM (Tabu), an important hand in RAW, who leads a counter surveillance operation to out a mole in the agency who is shadily working for the US. That there is a spy within RAW emerges through Krishna’s Bangla intel source, Heena (Azmeri Haque Badhon).

Anyway, the needle of suspicion is on Ravi Mohan (Ali Fazal), who lives with his Charu (Wamiqa Gabbi) and mother  (Navnindra Behl). And when the suspect is put on surveillance, many unintended personal details emerge. To be sure, it is intriguing. Charu and his mother have wonderful character arcs. But Bhardwaj is content to go forward with implicit suggestions. That sure is the trait of a good director. But when everything has to be imagined and thought up in your mind, the question is, what is the movie’s point?

Tabu’s character, who is separated from her husband (Atul Kulkarni in a guest role), also has parts that are revealed not over the table. Again, the whys of her separation hint at something more. 

Bhardwaj and his co-screenplay writer, Rohan Narula, have chiselled impressive characters. There is a heft to most of them. But they don’t come in this story for a meaningful whole. Tabu is efficient, playing the suspenseful role (suspenseful from her inner angle) with the right amount of emotional depth. Her taciturn ways fit the role well. Wamiqa Gabbi, Bhardwaj’s muse these days, is again a delight as the intrigue-filled homemaker. Her blithe-spirited performance is among the strong parts of the film. Theatre personality Navnindra Behl, as the mother of Ravi, has a role that is filled with so many inner details. And she is terrific. Her equation with her son is at the core of the story.    

Bhardwaj, a past master in adapting books and plays, has chosen his interpretation of a book. He manages to leave his imprint in places. But it is not the film you signed up for. 

What are the other critics saying about Khufiya?

Balakumar Kuppuswamy
Balakumar Kuppuswamy

An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.

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