Special Ops

Creator- Neeraj Pandey

Cast- Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Vipul Gupta, Muzammil Ibrahim, Meher Vij, Saiyami Kher, Mir Sarwar, Parmeet Sethi, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Gautami Kapoor, and Vinay Pathak.

Filmmaker Neeraj Pandey started a new trend in Bollywood with his directorial debut A Wednesday (2008). For the first time Bollywood thrillers stopped being neo-noirs which they essentially had been for the longest time. Now, Pandey’s brand of thrillers is very different, both in terms of style as well as content. If A Wednesday can be described as a political thriller, his second directorial venture Special 26 falls in the realm of a heist thriller. On the other hand, his third directorial Baby is an espionage thriller. Although, his fourth directorial is a sports biopic titled M.S. DhoniThe Untold Story that remains his most commercially successful film till date, his first love has always been thrillers as evident from the fact that he returned to making thrillers with his very next film Aiyaary. But, it bombed at the box-office. After a two year hiatus, Pandey is back with Special Ops which also marks his web debut.

Created by Pandey, Special Ops has an ensemble cast that stars the likes Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Vipul Gupta, Muzammil Ibrahim, Meher Vij, Saiyami Kher, Mir Sarwar, Parmeet Sethi, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Gautami Kapoor, and Vinay Pathak. The series is currently streaming on Hotstar and is co-directed by Shivam Nair and Pandey himself. As one can gauge from the huge ensemble cast, the series has vast panoply of characters—bureaucrats, politicians, cops, soldiers, spies, terrorists, brokers, hackers, terrorists, etc.—with many subplots spread across two decades.

The series follows Himmat Singh (essayed by Kay Kay Menon) of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), who draws similar patterns in various terrorist attacks carried on the Indian soil, starting with the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, and is convinced that a single person has masterminded  all the attacks. In order to nab him, he sets up a team of five agents living in various parts of the world. The story is inspired by actual espionage missions carried by Indian agents over the last two decades.

Special Ops is a slow-burning thriller in the vein of John le Carré’s novels. The plot is more complex than anything you would have seen in the recent times. Also, the action keeps shifting between Delhi, Dubai, Tehran, Baku, Istanbul, etc. The series has a lot of memorable sequences to offer. Early on in the series there is a brilliant manhunt set in the narrow alleys and rooftops of Old Delhi. Then there is chilling execution conducted using a herd of camels stampeding upon a helpless human being in the middle of a desert somewhere in the Middle East. Also, there is a rather unexpected fight sequence following a romantic date in Istanbul. The 2001 Parliament Attack is also brilliantly recreated. But nothing beats the scene wherein Singh interrogates Ajmal Kasab.

Kay Kay Menon essays Himmat Singh to a T. Singh may even remind some of le Carré’s iconic George Smiley. Like Smiley, Singh first comes across as innocuously polite, unassuming, and someone you don’t easily feel threatened by. He is clever enough to hide his razor-sharp memory, inner cunning, spy mastery, and his ability to quickly detach himself from his human subjects if need be. In other words, he is the quintessential spymaster who knows how to get the job done regardless of what it takes to achieve it. Menon’s singular performance alone makes Special Ops binge-worthy.