Review: Aiyaary, “Brothers at odds…or something”

(SPOILERS)

I made a point to see as many new releases as I could when I was in Delhi, but failed to see Aiyaary. I took a weekend trip to Jaipur instead, so no regrets there. But when I saw that Aiyaary was on Netflix it seemed like the perfect time to see what I missed. The answer? Not a whole lot.

Here’s a summary for the movie I found online, because I could not be bothered:

Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra), part of a secret seven-member team called Design and System Diagnostics, helmed by Colonel Abhay Singh (Bajpai), has defected. Once an integral part of the group, sanctioned by the Chief of the Army Staff (Vikram Gokhale), Jai, disillusioned by the corruption in the army, is about to reveal the details of his team, which has been kept secret from the public.

This movie is not terrible. There’s plenty more outright trash out there. But it is uneven and definitely more drama than action based (read, boring). My biggest complaint, though, is that it fails utterly to resonate. Lately, Bollywood films have tried more to be topical, to address real issues facing the country. However, this falls flat when the writing is thin and when every other plot point is so disconnected from reality. The rest of the film must keep pace with the topical story line. This means no love story that can be told in a song, showing technology that looks like something the Indian Armed Forces would actually use (even aspirationally) and a lot less speed walking through the empty streets of Delhi. If the rest of the story floats too far off the ground you risk only sensationalizing and not personalizing the very issues you are trying to address. This movie puts Siddharth Malhotra in full drag and wants to be taken utterly seriously.

Malhotra at his thinking spot
Goodness only knows what time you have to visit India Gate to see it this deserted.

The run time  is typical for Bollywood but, in this case, is far too long. At the hour and forty five minute mark, I texted someone who had seen the movie to find out how it ends. (He couldn’t remember.) To fill out this time it splices in a flashback to a border operation (featuring yet another pointlessly over the top disguise), ostensibly to raise the stakes, to show that Singh’s preferred punishment for treachery is summary execution. Most strangely of all, Jai recalls this story fondly over chai on a sunny day. He smiles at the memory of the time he saw his mentor shoot a man in the back of the head and then took two bullets for him in a revenge attack. In a grittier movie, maybe this would work. But Jai never surpasses being the handsome top-student to become the threat the story needs him to be.

By the end I was so stupefied, I couldn’t keep up with the plot. Apparently this whole thing was about a housing scam? The essential idea for Aiyaary is very good but the follow through whimpers more than bangs.

Little weird things

  1. Apparently MI6 has a landline and if you call it you’ll reach a woman sitting at an empty desk in an empty penthouse.
  2. British people with American accents (???)
  3. Bajpayee holds a stranger’s baby on a train in England for…a disguise??
  4. In one frame Siddharth Malhotra walks past a guy wearing a University of Texas hoodie. What are the odds.

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