Film review: ‘Wazir’ is a preposterous but punchy thriller about chess and revenge
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It’s only a few days into the new year, but a leading contender for the Most Ludicrous Screenplay of 2016 has already emerged. Wazir, based on a story by producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and written by him along with regular collaborator Abhijat Joshi, is a deeply twisted yarn about an Anti-Terrorism Squad officer whose daughter is killed during a chase for the leader of a terrorist sleeper cell. The death drives away Danish’s wife Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and prompts the traumatised officer to carry out an unauthorised hit on the terrorist.

One of the movie’s key themes – personal tragedy must be avenged at all costs, even if it means ruining crucial government operations – is set very early in this movie and returned to again and again.

A suspended Danish (Farhan Akhtar) finds himself at the door of chess player Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan), who has his share of grieving to do – his wife has died, he has lost his lower legs in an accident, and he has still not finished mourning for his daughter, Neena. Dhar is convinced that smooth Kashmiri politician Yazad Qureshi (Manav Kaul), at whose home Neena worked, has something to do with her death.

How does Dhar know? The chess teacher’s crippled form and stoic self suggest an allegory about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits driven out of their homeland during the struggle for self-determination in the state in the 1990s. Dhar simply knows in his gut that Yazad is not to be trusted. Meanwhile, there is also the unfinished business about the sleeper cell, and the mysterious appearance of another terrorist, also named Wazir. How do they all connect?

Predictable climax

Sharp viewers will guess the conclusion much before it comes. Yet, Wazir remains watchable even at its eyeball-rolling best. Despite the fact that Bejoy Nambiar’s movie also qualifies for other potential awards, such as the Worst Use of a Flashback prize, the gong for Do We Need Background Music in Every Scene, and the medal for How Not To Ruin the Pace with Song Sequences, the movie holds together. Akhtar gives a sincere performance even though his character is dull to a fault, Kaul is suitably sinister, and Bachchan is fabulous in every scene, his hooded eyes conveying a lifetime of suffering and intelligence beyond Danish’s comprehension.

The scenes between two men united by personal tragedies work the best. There’s a lovely conversation between Dhar and Danish about coping and moving on, and Dhar’s pain carries the film through its most laughable moments, including John Abraham’s bulky officer firing on his own men so that Danish might have his revenge. The movie comes to a neat and tidy conclusion after all the maze running, but the larger question of whether nationalism is best conveyed through vigilantism remains unresolved.