The cameras that shoot Bejoy Nambiar’s films often act like teenagers who have discovered alcohol for the first time. They can’t remain still, usually behave out of reason, seem way too excited, and, quite naturally, try too hard to impress. Consider the first few minutes of his latest, Wazir, which opens with a song that shows the film’s leads, Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) and Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari), falling in love with each other, getting married, and raising a child. Opening the film with a song, when one doesn’t know anything about the main characters and, hence, finds it difficult to get instantly drawn towards them, is a questionable stylistic choice, but what’s more troublesome, even ludicrous, about this segment is this: The entire song is shot in slow-motion. Scenes such as raindrops falling on a Delhi street, with India Gate in the background; Danish picking up his new-born baby in a hospital; Ruhana twirling on stage; rose petals showering the bride and the groom materialise through tedious slow motion, for no convincing reason at all, appearing gimmicky and inane.
The opening sequence is a thoughtless stunt, drawing attention to itself in the worst ways possible, but it does prime you for the rest of the film, one that’s remarkably low on art and high on artifice. Co-written and –edited by Vidhu Vinod Chopra (also the film’s producer) and Abhijat Joshi (who’s shared writing credits with Rajkumar Hirani on films such as Lage Raho Munnabhai, 3 Idiots, and PK), Wazir struggles to make any shred of sense throughout. Why would, for instance, Danish, an Anti Terrorism Squad officer, sitting in a car with his daughter, follow a much-wanted terrorist and his cohorts — an action fraught with dangerous possibilities? Is Danish really that reckless? Is he really that fixated on his job that makes him forget everything else? We aren’t sure, because the makers didn’t think it’s important enough to define their lead. It’s not difficult to guess what happens next: Danish’s daughter is shot dead in a violent showdown. This plot point — which unfolds through lazy writing, devoid of logic and common sense — is the reason why Wazir’s story exists (as it sets up all the subsequent conflicts in the film), but it’s treated so casually by its writers that you wonder whether the script even went beyond the first draft stage. Also, had this been the only glaring flaw in the writing, it could have still been acceptable, but the film is patched together by a litany of similar contrivances and conveniences, which desperately try to hold the film together but fail.
Other bits in the film’s initial portions such as Danish losing his job, meeting Pandit Omkarnath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan playing a retired old man who, for some reason, harbours a gratuitous obsession with playing chess), and befriending him lack a convincing reason. But what’s worse? The film’s second crucial plot point, where Pandit tells Danish that he suspects his daughter, whose dead body was found in the house of a Welfare Minister, Izaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul), didn’t commit suicide. Instead, he says, Qureshi murdered her. How is Pandit so sure of this? “Saboot Qureshi ke aankhon me hai (the proof lies in Qureshi’s eyes),” he tells Danish. Obviously. Danish — who, and this must be repeated again, is a cop in the Anti Terrorism Squad — instantly gets convinced (and starts investigating the case), because, apparently, the ability to perceive ‘aankhon ki sachai’ is some sort of a secret trump card in this alternate world where only rules of playing chess are normal.
Which takes us to another preoccupation of its characters: playing chess. Characters in Wazir play chess all the time. They play chess to get over the loss of their loved ones; they play chess to make new friends; they play chess to get drunk. When the film’s villain, Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh), barges into Pandit’s house, he not only stabs him but also sets his chessboard ablaze. You know, just normal people doing normal things.
The main problem with Wazir is not that it’s silly but that it tries too hard to be profound. Pandit, a major character in the movie, frequently speaks in chess-riddled metaphors, and nearly every dialogue of his revolves around “baazi (challenge)”, “ghoda (horse)” “haathi (elephant)”, or, of course, “wazir (rook)”. However, it can’t be denied that there was a promising story buried deep within this mess: two men, deeply scared by the loss of their children, trying to find solace in a friendship where one tries to find closure for the other. But Wazir’s so unreal, so dumbed down (when characters talk about something that was shown not long ago, Nambiar cuts to the same scene again, sometimes underlined by a voice over, just so that we truly get it), so predictable (for a film that postures as a thriller, its climactic ‘twist’ is quite bland and not difficult to guess), that there’s nothing redeemable about it.
Originally published in Firstpost.