This thriller is not just predictable, but depressingly monotonous, says Raja Sen.
Watching truly skilled chess players take on one another is both a lyrical and violent experience, as they bleed and decapitate across the 64 squares like dueling ninjas in slow motion. however, watching a game between people who only think they’re good at chess is just infuriating.
bejoy nambiar’s wazir, based on a screenplay by producer vidhu vinod chopra, stacks up the pieces quite interestingly to begin with. there is a melancholy tower, defective but furious. there is a desperate pawn with nothing to lose. there are dead princesses to make up for the lack of a queen, and there is, finally, a bishop, a vizier, deadly enough that the film is named after him.
seems to be the ideal combination for a tense thriller and, with a laudable weight of just over a hundred minutes, it’s certainly sharp.
wazir’s problem, then, is not that it does what you’d expect from a thriller; the problem is that she does everything expected, which makes it a film that surprises little and adds nothing of importance.
The movie is about a tough, reckless cop and a grizzled chess instructor bonded by tragedy, and when they become friends, they decide to brave the storm clouds together.
This movie world is intriguing enough as is and nambiar, to his credit, plays things efficiently enough at first, until the plot goes awry and the pieces fall off the board.
the twists are completely transparent, the film is so committed to the idiot-proof narrative that we see everything that comes, particularly the big twist.
however, even when it’s visible far in advance, a skillfully executed twist and reveal is a thing of beauty. Wazir’s twist, sadly, doesn’t make any sense, nor does it feel in any way monumental, thanks to the way it reveals and consumes, and not much else in this moody revenge drama either.
I can’t go into detail for fear of spoiling an elaborate (albeit contrived) plot, but suffice it to say that none of the character motives in this movie fit. plus, there’s some unnecessary cashmere nonsense that muddies things up even more.
farhan akhtar, crossing his arms and watching the kids beat him at chess, is pretty good at the beginning of the movie, but his performance starts to fall apart once the movie gets hysterical and he’s asked to do more than to frown.
To be fair, this is less the fault of the actor and more of the asshole character, a very dumb cop indeed.
amitabh bachchan is panditji, the Danish teacher who teaches about life and love and, rather reprehensibly, how you can hit ‘undo’ and cancel a chess move after you’ve moved the pieces. Bachchan, of course, is excellent at delivering simple homilies and making them seem spontaneous.
some of this dialogue is well thought out and adds to the sense of mood, while cinematographer sanu verghese keeps the lighting dark, hiding the character’s eyes and keeping things raccoon-like, stopping by himself to let aditi rao hydari shine, sad but amazing.
and then neil nitin mukesh comes on like a maniac, doing it like he’s turning six seasons of game of thrones into one moment of madness, eyes glowing, dagger blazing.
The movie can’t survive this onslaught, and the third act, clearly not strong enough to begin with, collapses in on itself as things struggle to wrap up.
this is a movie where a ballerina’s daughter dances and a chess teacher’s daughter teaches chess, a movie where a suspended cop wields great power without presumably being able to spell “responsibility” and a movie where an actor in a cameo basically gets to play rambo.
Somewhere in the shadows lurks manav kaul, cool and inscrutable, and makes this movie look good. he, it seems, is more committed to this end than the nambiar himself, who, unfortunately, almost completely forgoes his usual trademark visual trickery in this film.
I would never recommend that all films show some khoyakhoyachand-ugiri, but this one cries out for visual spark, really clever style. therefore, this thriller is not just predictable, but depressingly monotonous.
It has competent moments, but it’s too generic to be memorable, which is a shame because it could have been a winner so easily.
As it stands, wazir is the one thing a chess player can never allow himself to be: obvious.