‘Naam Shabana’ is an espionage thriller starring Taapsee Pannu in the titular role. The film is a spin-off of 2015 hit ‘Baby’ and reflects on her character’s private life and transformation into a secret agent. It also features Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Prithviraj Sukumaran among others. The film has been directed by Shivam Nair.
The scene opens to the killing of two secret agents in Austria by Michael aka Tony (Prithviraj) who is involved in illegal trade of arms, drugs and human trafficking. Back in India, Shabana Khan (Taapsee) is introduced as college goer trained in Kudo, who lives with her widowed mother in Mumbai. She mostly keeps to herself, as she has been to a remand home for killing her alcoholic and abusive father. She has a secret admirer in her classmate Jai (Taher Shabbir), and one day while on a date with him, she is eve-teased by some guys. She fights them but in the process Jai is killed by one of them. Shabana approaches the police to seek justice for Jai’s murder, but since the culprits have influential connections, police don’t pay much attention to her case. At this moment, Shabana gets a call from Ranvir Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) who offers to help her mete out punishment to Jai’s murderers in exchange for her services for the nation as a secret agent. He tells her that they have been watching her for some time. With zero hope from the legal system, Shabana immediately agrees to the deal. Shabana, who is already good in martial arts, is provide further training to deal with every kind of hostile situations. As per the deal, she avenges Jai’s murder and gets handed her first mission as a secret agent. She is entrusted to eliminate the dreaded criminal Tony, who has been on the run for years and has already killed many top officials of the agency. Shabana heads to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia where senior officers Ajay Singh Rajput (Akshay Kumar) and Om Prakash Shukla (Anupam Kher) are already present to help her in the mission. How a rookie agent like Shabana manage to take on a notorious gangster like Tony, and what kind of help she receives from the two senior officer forms the rest of the story.
‘Naam Shabana’ is partly and revenge drama and partly a spy thriller. The first half deals with the personal crisis and brief and budding love-life of Shabana, and the rest half is about her life as a secret agent, and that is when the major action in the film takes place. Taapsee is excellent both in her action avatar and emotional scenes. She kicks and punches with great precision, but despite being the central character, Akshay’s character is overpowering in action sequences. But for a thriller, the ‘thrill’ is missing in the movie. It gets predictable in the second half and tends to drag. However, the film does have enjoyable moments in Taapsee’s butt-kicking and Akshay’s one-liners, a few of which are idiosyncratic to his character in ‘Baby’. His presence in the second part livens the movie a bit, and his chemistry with Anupam Kher is amazing. The dramatic dialogues are a plus point.
The cast of the film plays an important role in keeping the interest in the movie. Taapsee has given and impressive performance, despite the film’s week script. She carried the film on her shoulders with much help from Akshay, who plays an extended cameo. The talented Manoj Bajpayee seems restricted by the script, but has aced his character despite limitations. Anupam Kher perfectly reprises his role, and the handsome antagonist Prithviraj is a perfect fit. Other actors also play their part well.
Producer Neeraj Pandey, the director of ‘Baby’, has written the script of ‘Naam Shabana’, but the film doesn’t provide the edge-of-the-seat thrill like the 2015 film, or his other offerings like ‘A Wednesday’ or ‘Special 26’. But it is enjoyable in parts and makes for a decent watch, along with the stunning visuals of scenic Kuala Lumpur and the main casts’ performance.