Verdict - A boring movie with a diffused story and not sufficient dramatic action. The background music and Bajpai stand out.
Aiyaary meaning a shapeshifter or the ultimate trickery, directed by the usually dependable Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday, Special 26, Baby, Dhoni) is a boring movie. The Director normally does a great job with dramatic action movies and is pretty good at telling a deft tale. However, Aiyaary does not have too many tricks or different personas and fails to deliver on a number of counts.
The story is based on corruption in the army. A top-secret team that does covert operations suddenly finds one of its team members missing. Turns out he is disillusioned by the system and finds it pointless to be a patriotic, loyal sucker when everyone else is making money. His senior Colonel Ajay Singh is a fiercely loyal Indian soldier who believes in doing his duty. The film meanders through this philosophical maze, landing up at the feet of the Adarsh building scam to provide it with an anchor.
Firstly, the movie is unbelievably long. Till the interval, there is absolutely no movement in the story. It keeps giving us small snippets of various people and goings-on and expects us to keep linking all these together. We could but it's just very boring to do so. Also, the Director insists on going into flashbacks much like an old grandmother who keeps meandering away from the topic while trying to tell you a story. I don't understand why we need to see everything in such excruciating detail. It doesn't add much beyond extra length and a short snooze for us poor viewers.
The bigger flaw to me is the motivation of the younger man to quit the army and go AWOL. He is assigned to do surveillance on the Army top brass and the level of corruption that he comes across while overhearing all these conversations disillusions him. That somehow is too weak a premise. Usually, a person gets motivated to take such a drastic step only when something impacts him personally or he comes across some huge injustice to a helpless person. A general disgust with the system doesn't a deserter make. You wait with interest to see what his reasons are and when you hear them it is a total a let -down.
The dramatic bits are too few and the conflict never really builds up. In the absence of one single idea around which to build the angst, the whole effort becomes too diffused. Perhaps the strongest dramatic point of the movie is the background music composed by Sanjoy Chaudhary which has to work extra hard to make you feel that something is about to happen. Its many flourishes and 'dhak-dhak' moments keep the excitement alive where none exists really.
Manoj Bajpai sinks his teeth into the role of Colonel Abhay Singh, the ruthless, straight-as-an-arrow officer who will kill without compunctions if you betray the country. He brings charisma and power to his role but sadly is let down by not having enough to do while being in every scene. You can't go charging around like a bull when there is no china shop around you. Sidharth Malhotra as Major Jai Bakshi is very bland and almost stony-faced with a sardonic all-knowing smile pasted on his face. For a person who is disgusted and frustrated enough to turn against his beloved officer and desert the army, he looks surprisingly detached. Even his romance with the sweet and simple Rakul Preet Singh who plays a crack hacker is devoid of passion and holds as much interest as outdated computer software. Adil Hussain (whose sidekick is called Roger, which he says in a rich plummy accent that sounds really funny)Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin play tiny cameos and Naseer as maybe some kind of lucky mascot gets to play a colourful character and also gets his own extended flashback, making the movie needlessly longer by several minutes.
Overall, this movie fails to impress or entertain. It picks a pertinent topic of corruption in the army and then proceeds to make it as boring as possible. Maybe, it has to be watched again to see the subtle ways in which it shows despair with the system but unfortunately I don't have the patience for that. Aiyaary doesn't shape shift or create interesting characters for itself. It remains one shapeless boring watch.