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‘Special OPS’ Review: A Riveting Espionage Thriller

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Director: Neeraj Pandey, Shivam Nair

Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Muzammil Ibrahim, Vipul Gupta, Saiyami Kher

Hotstar’s new web-series, starring Kay Kay Menon and Karan Tacker, is an engaging thriller about a manhunt that keeps RAW and its agents on the edge to nab a terrorist mastermind.

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In the past few years, with films and web-series like Baby, Uri, Bard of Blood, and Family Man, ‘national security’ has become the most recurring theme in popular culture. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the political landscape of our country or the domino effect of a series of films and television shows focusing on the exploits of CIA, FBI, and Mossad in the West, but there’s no denying that espionage thrillers are here to stay.

It’s little wonder that Neeraj Pandey, best known for his films like A Wednesday and Baby, chose a familiar turf for his web-series debut with Hotstar’s Special OPS, an espionage thriller about a manhunt — spanning nearly 19 years — for a terrorist mastermind. It’s a riveting drama and offers a cinematic-scale spectacle with the narrative constantly shifting between India, Dubai, Istanbul, and Azerbaijan.

The series follows the journey of Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon), a senior official at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), who has groomed a team of secret agents in several foreign countries to thwart terrorism or plans to fund terrorist activities in India. However, Himmat Singh lands in trouble when an inquiry is ordered against him for the enormous expenses under his watch.

Through a series of interviews with the investigators, Himmat Singh explains why he believes that there was a terrorist mastermind behind major terror attacks in India since the Parliament attack in 2001. And the rest of the story is about how Himmat Singh coordinates with his agents, Farooq Ali (Karan Tacker), Juhi (Saiyami Kher), Bala (Vipul Gupta), Avinash (Muzammil Ibrahim), Ruhani (Meher Vij), to nab the most wanted criminal — Iklakh Khan.

Theoretically, Special OPS is in the same space as that of Amazon Prime’s Family Man, directed by Raj and DK; however, it digresses quite a lot in its approach. While Family Man focused on the double life that Manoj Bajpayee’s Srikanth Tiwari leads, balancing his family life and counter-terrorism operations, Special OPS is more direct in its approach. This is the story of one man’s relentless effort to convince everyone that there’s another terrorist mastermind — Iklakh Khan, although no one seems to believe him.

All the intel that his agents gather over the years fails to prove the identity of this mysterious figure. It’s a ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ kind of situation; however, Himmat Singh does manage to find a breakthrough when he’s sent to investigate Ajmal Kasab following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Throughout the process, Himmat Singh doesn’t hide the nature of his job from his family. In fact, his wife, Saroj even jokes that she has nothing to worry about because Himmat Singh would have ordered his team to take care of any situation.

Special OPS has an elaborate set-up and delivers plenty of thrillers and intriguing drama with every episode. And the major credit for that goes to how the series has been written. While Kay Kay Menon steals the show with his performance, Special OPS also lets its supporting actors shine. Vinay Pathak as Abbas, a Delhi cop, is phenomenal. Whether it’s the seriousness that he brings to the role or the loyalty that he displays towards Himmat Singh, Pathak nails the performance. Then, there’s Sajjad Delafrooz as Hafiz Ali, whose restrained tone shrouds what’s brewing in his mind all the time. Karan Tacker as Farooq has a significant character, apart from Kay Kay Menon, and he delivers a good performance as a secret agent, whose life is always on the edge. But the show clearly belongs to Kay Kay Menon, who is perfect as an aging officer still hoping to fulfill his mission. Even though he’s restricted to issuing clear instructions to his agents from his office, or running after criminals once in a while, Kay Kay Menon brings plenty of gravitas to the character.

The first season, however, doesn’t show us the backstories of Avinash, Juhi, and Ruhani, the other agents. Moreover, the format of Himmat Singh explaining the secret operations, gets repetitive. Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair, who directed different episodes, don’t lose focus on what they want to narrate. That helps.

Special OPS has all its characters living on the edge, and when everyone’s racing against time, it doesn’t leave you with enough time to process all the information thrown at you. That’s works in favour of this espionage thriller.

Special OPS is now streaming on Hotstar. Watch the trailer here:

The Special Ops review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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