Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Manav Kaul, Aditi Rao Hydari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham
Direction: Bejoy Nambiar
Production: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Story: Danish is chasing Wazir, an assassin linked to politician Qureshi who’s threatening elderly chess master Pandit Dhar – in this game of life and death, who’s playing whom as a pawn?
Review: So, Wazir is a smart movie – which could have been way smarter. Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officer Daanish Ali (Farhan) loses his daughter while chasing terrorists. His anguished wife Roohana (Aditi) blames Daanish, who’s about to kill himself in guilt-laden grief. Suddenly, he meets wheelchair-bound Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh), who teaches Daanish about chess, life, love – and revenge. Panditji’s own tragic tale leads Daanish to investigate Welfare Minister Qureishi (Manav) – and then chase him furiously when brutal assassin Wazir (Neil) attacks Pandit Dhar.
Does Daanish find Wazir – and the truth?
Wazir is held together by Amitabh Bachchan who shows why he is the Grandmaster of this game. With sly glances and shy smiles, wry jokes and escaped tears, Amitabh carves a character, mesmerising you as he does Daanish, very competently played by Farhan who delivers intensity and gentleness. As pashmina-smooth politician Qureishi, Manav Kaul performs very admirably, adding to the movie’s tension, its eerie quality, its things that go bang in the dark.
But the tension just isn’t hard enough.
With too many distractions – Aditi looks lovely but is constrained in a chiffon-clad role featuring more dancing than dialogues – the plot loses pace. There are too many kiddies, cupcakes and kathak cuts. When the movie picks up speed – action sequences in Delhi and Srinagar are terrific – you’re on a gritty edge. But when it over-indulges itself – its writers and editors are the same – the game slips into stalemate.
It’s a pity because Wazir’s lead performances, its glassy cinematography, its haunting sound design, work well. What this game needed was more attack, less defence, less repetition, more relentlessness.
As Panditji puts it, ‘Thora energy hona chahiya.’
Consistent hard focus over sentimental soft-focus would have let these shatranj ke khiladi blow up that chess board. As it is, they complete their game – but don’t check-mate smartly enough.