Special Ops first impression: An intriguing manhunt

Sana Farzeen
Special Ops review

Special Ops is streaming on Hotstar.

Hotstar launched its latest original Special Ops on Tuesday. The eight-episode espionage thriller has been created by National Award-winning filmmaker Neeraj Pandey.

With a run time of over 50 minutes per episode, the show keeps you hooked, but will not stop you from checking your WhatsApp messages now and then.

Premise:

The first episode titled Kora Kagaz opens with Kay Kay Menon as R&AW head Himmat Singh waiting at the lobby of an office. We soon get to know that he has used crores from the secret service fund. Two officers (Parmeet Sethi and Kali Prasad Mukherjee) interrogate him, but he doesn’t give out any details. Through the officers, the audience also gets introduced to his five agents - Farooq (Karan Tacker), Ruhani (Meher Vij), Bala (Vipul Gupta), Juhi (Saiyami Kher), Avinash (Muzzamil Ibrahim).

Singh then goes on to share how he has been on the hunt for the sixth terrorist (apart from the five gunned down by police), who had plotted the 2001 parliament attack. The audience is treated to a past and present scenario, as Singh narrates whatever happened years back, and how he had almost nabbed the mastermind Ikhlaq Khan back then. While the officers feel he is making up stories to get away from the money-laundering accusation, the episode ends on a cliffhanger with Farooq calling Singh saying he has found Ikhlaq Khan.

The second episode titled Guide doesn't lead to the terrorist but instead gives insight into the lives of these unsung heroes, and how they function behind different identities. The makers also suggest their villain Ikhlaq Khan is behind the 26/11 attack. Through a conversation with Ajmal Kasab (played by Aishwary Sharma), Singh also finds out that Khan, who was a commander in the terrorist training camp, is quite similar to him. The episode also focuses a lot on Farook, and how he was recruited by Himmat Singh, after he made the officer follow traffic rules as a young boy.

What works for Special Ops?

Kay Kay Menon completely blows you away with his performance. Be it playing an intelligence officer, passionate mentor and nervous father to his dry humour with colleagues, the actor aces his part. Karan Tacker, who is making his acting comeback after a long time, looks really great. It seems he would have a central part to play in the coming episodes. Gautami Kapoor and Sana Khaan, as of now, have nothing else to do than being around their respective partners, Menon and Tacker.

In a brave and bold move, the makers haven’t shied away from using real-life incidents and even the names of culprits. Afzal Guru’s name crops up twice while solving the parliament attack while Himmat Singh himself interrogates Kasab to know more about his terror group. With the audience already familiar with these names, it piques interest. Neeraj Pandey is known to bring alive real stories on screen, with his dash of creativity, and he does the same in his digital debut too. Also, like most manhunt dramas, Special Ops too follows an unpredictable path, and you would want to get on the chase along with the protagonist.

Where it falters?

If you have followed espionage shows, the most recent one being The Family Man, you must have realised that pace is the key. Special Ops, while interesting, lags at times.

Also, what didn’t work for me was the excess information about every character. Agree the makers had a huge canvas to build every character, but sometimes it is just too much. There is a scene where two officers stop Himmat Singh from narrating his tales, and I could totally relate to that emotion. Lastly, I wonder when will the industry stop stereotyping Bengali characters. Not every Banerjee keeps mouthing words like matha kharap and sanghatik (extreme).

Also Read | Neeraj Pandey: Special Ops will resonate with everyone

Verdict: With some impressive performances and a compelling tale, Special Ops deserves a watch. After all, I do want to know the reality behind Ikhlaq Khan.