Taapsee Pannu-starrer Naam Shabana released on March 31. The spin-off of 2015 spy flick Baby received positive reviews from fans and critics alike. It has managed to rake in Rs 18 crore in three days. The film chronicles the life story of Shabana Khan (Taapsee) who was in Baby as well.

Better late than never, I managed to watch this film at the theatre last night. Sadly, the film despite a fiery start fizzles out in the latter half. In recent times, there has been a surge of films revolving around a female protagonist. Taapsee, who shone to limelight with her defining role in Pink was the USP of the Shivam Nair flick. The entire promotional campaign was carried out in her name.

Naam Shabana begins with the story of middle-class girl Shabana Khan, who stays with her mother in Mumbai. She is focussed on her studies and Taekwondo, and has no time for love and relationships. Her classmate Jai is head-over-heels over Shabana and is leaving no stone unturned to win her heart. She does reciprocate his feelings but their love affair is limited to an ill-fated motorcycle ride as an incident changes her life. Unable to get over her beau’s murder, she is approached by India’s spy agency which shortlists her for a mission. It is not a spoiler, but the story which is out in the open.

However, the film loses the plot in the second half as the pressure of raking in moolahs begins to reflect on the director. It seems Shabana’s gruelling training was a wastage as she gets little to do towards the mission. Was Akshay Kumar really in a cameo role? It seems that producer Neeraj Pandey was apprehensive of Taapsee’s capability to draw crowd towards theatres.

But Naam Shabana is not solely responsible for the flaw in our Indian spy movies. Blame it on multiplex culture and the fixation with elite Rs 100 crore clubs, the filmmakers have no option but to sprinkle ingredients of an action-packed Bollywood film. Agent Vinod and Phantom are classic examples of how the filmmakers drifted from realism and harped on the lead actors’ star-power to run the film. While the former was a half-hearted imitation of James Bond, the latter was nothing less than a dream sequence. Based on crime author Hussain Zaidi’s book Mumbai Avengers, the film involved a revenge plot by RAW to eliminate the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attack in Pakistan. The Kabir Khan-directorial had Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif spraying bullets from a machine gun atop a tank in war-torn Syria.

Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), an international charity organisation had issued legal notice to the film’s makers, saying Katrina’s role misrepresented the organisation’s workers. The actor played Nawaz Mistry, an NGO worker who helped disgraced Indian soldier in the mission. The MSF statement read that it practised a no-guns policy and did not even armed guards outside its offices.

What is shown in Bollywood films about spies is not the truth. The secret agents lead a life full of hardships and isolation. They change identities as per requirement and if caught in foreign land, are disowned by their own government. Nikhil Advani’s D-Day was the best example of a spy flick which showed how dangerous the life of a secret agent is. Even Baby portrayed the secrecy with which they operate. For example, Akshay Kumar often lied to his wife about being in the midst of a conference when actually he was on a secret assignment.

It’s high time Bollywood gets out of the vicious trap of box office fortunes and portray the realism associated with espionage missions.

Also read: From Taapsee Pannu’s Naam Shabana to Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, here are 7 spy-thrillers which should not be missed

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