Vishal Bhardwaj’s KHUFIYA Falls Short Of Being A Great Spy Thriller

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Vishal Bhardwaj is a filmmaker I trust explicitly. He has had some of the best movies that have redefined storytelling in the Hindi Film Industry. From his adaptations of Shakespeare to his original films, he’s an auteur filmmaker, and his filmography makes it very clear why. With Khufiya, Bhardwaj enters the spy world of storytelling, but it’s not the Yash-Raj Films Spy Universe style of action extravaganza, but more of a cerebral thriller. Ultimately, while the attempt is admirable, Khufiya doesn’t live up to the rest of his filmography. Read on for my Khufiya review.

Please note that this Khufiya review will be spoiler-free.

Khufiya Review Discusses How It Intentionally Stays Away From The Typical Spy Movie Tropes

Khufiya review Tabu.
Image via Netflix.

Bhardwaj’s new movie sees Krishna Mehra, known as KM (Tabu) as a seemingly innocuous Indian embassy employee stationed in Bangladesh. However, in reality, she’s an asset of the Indian intelligence agency, working for Indian interests. The movie opens with an incredible hook of a mission gone wrong that sees an undercover agent failing to assassinate a high-ranking Bangladeshi general.

There is zero context for the scene, which we then explore through flashbacks. It’s a great hook that immediately creates interest in this story and where things are going. We learn of KM’s connection to this Spy, covertly named Octopus (Azmeri Haque Badhon), and her devastation at the failure of the mission. Through flashbacks, the story explores their relationship, her recruitment, and how events led to the mission in the opening scene. It’s tightly written and the performances are incredibly engaging. One performance in particular really surprised me.

Azmeri Haque Badhona Is A Breakout Star In Khufiya

Khufiya review Badhon.
Image via Netflix.

The undercover spy Heena Rehman is played by Azmeri Haque Badhon, a Bangladeshi actress. Badhon commands the screen from her first appearance and doesn’t let up. Most of her scenes are with Tabu, and she is able to match her performance step by step. Badhon gives a wonderful performance as a coy intelligence agent whose motivations are never really clear. Heena is the wild card of Khufiya, and an ever-looming presence, even when she isn’t on screen. 

In many ways, Heena is the catalyst that kicks this story into motion, motivating every single one of KM’s actions throughout the story. It’s a great character, performed to perfection by Badhon. She’s electrifying in a role that, by comparison, is very small. But she does a lot with that screen time.

A Meandering Pacing Prevents The Movie From Becoming A Great Spy Thriller

Khufiya review Faizal.
Image via Netflix.

The story of Khufiya is one that unfolds quite slowly. When a suspected spy is stealing national secrets, KM and her team spring into action. There are a lot of slow montage sequences in Khufiya of teams setting up surveillance, getting in and out undetected, and then watching the surveillance they set up. It’s actually great, as it focuses on the mundane aspects of the spy world, while still creating tension and intrigue. Bhardwaj enhances these moments with some shock and awe moments of incredible action and follow-through. However, those moments come few and far between, making the larger experience a very slow burn with payoffs that don’t feel worth the journey.

The story interconnects with KM’s mission and the personal life of the suspected spy himself. During the film, the movie goes to very unexpected places which keeps the audience engaged. But ultimately the movie doesn’t meet the expectations set up from the previous acts. The oddest part of this is a third-act climax that feels slapstick and comedic, in a movie where it’s meant to be the complete opposite. It’s surprising how that climax is drastically different in tone and style from the rest of the movie.

Wamiqa Gabbi Is Excellent In A Star Making Performance

Khufiya review Wamiqa.
Image via Netflix.

It’s a shame really. Because Khufiya has a lot of great moments and some even better performances. Tabu is incredible as always, but we get to see her in a totally different avatar from her other roles. Ali Faizal is incredible as a conflicted man with ideologies that make him a target. Another scene-stealing performance comes from Wamiqa Gabbi as Charu, the wife of a man who may be a traitor to his nation. Her journey in the story is one of the more interesting story arcs, and Gabbi gives it so much life.

Khufiya Review Is Spoiler-Free

Ultimately Khufiya fails to live up to its own hype. It’s 30 minutes too long and could benefit from a lot of strategic edits to make the story feel tighter and more to the point. The pacing really drags in some parts, making it hard to stay engaged in the story, despite the incredible performances and some awesome scenes.

Khufiya is now streaming on Netflix.

What did you think of Khufiya? Let me know in the comments below or on X (Twitter) at @theshahshahid for more Bollywood conversations.

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Vishal Bhardwaj's KHUFIYA Falls Short Of Being A Great Spy Thriller
  • Acting - 10/10
    10/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4.5/10
    4.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Watchability - 7/10
    7/10
  • Rewatchability - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
Overall
7.2/10
7.2/10
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User Review
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