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Neeraj Pandey has a way with thrillers and crime dramas. He knows how to engage the audience with gritty plots and make them savour the dark truths that unfold in his stories. In short, he leaves his audience coming back for more. 

His latest venture, Aiyaary, set against the backdrop of the Indian Army, sheds light on the corruption that is firmly entrenched among high-ranking officers who are in cahoots with top-notch businessmen, all for financial gain. But his propensity to dish out high-powered mystery, drama and thrills has taken a back seat with Aiyaary.

Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) is on a mission to capture his protégé, Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra), who has decided to rebel against the unscrupulous system by fleeing with recordings of phone-taped conversations of officials, which serves as evidence against their unprincipled accomplishments. Jai’s source of succor, Sonia (Rakul Preet Singh), a hacker by profession and his girlfriend, joins him in the cat-and-mouse game, which extends from Delhi to London. Jai also extorts money from a London-based arms dealer, an ex-army officer Mukesh Kapoor (Adil Hussain), who sells arms to the Indian Army at a large profit, through Retd Lt General Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra).

Unlike Neeraj Pandey’s other wake-up-call films, the narrative of this film seems never-ending. Though the subject about two generations of officers at loggerheads with their respective ideologies is well established, the plot becomes confusing for the audience half an hour into the film. It is packed with unnecessary flashbacks and introductions to characters that make the film lose its grip.

Also, the plot is too intricate, making it difficult to always join the dots. Thus, as the plot unfolds, the audience grows bewildered and then weary trying to figure out why and how! The only saving grace is some of the lines delivered by Abhay which are laced with quirky humour. The film finally winds up with a crestfallen climax, taking us down memory lane. It is a repetition of the climax in A Wednesday.

The locales of Cairo, London, Delhi and Kashmir are beautifully captured. The editing could have been more tactful by deleting some of the flashbacks or unnecessary scenes, which would have tightened the script and proceedings on screen.

The background score is sharp and set cleverly to keep the audience hooked while the scenes play out. Sticking to the film’s plot, there is just one romantic song, Palak Muchhal and Ankit Tiwari’s Lae doobi, picturised on Sidharth and Rakul Preet Singh’s concept of romance in the film.

Performance-wise, Manoj Bajpayee as the resilient, no-nonsense army colonel carries the entire film on his shoulders. He does everything to evoke outrage and resentment in the audience, and he succeeds. Sidharth Malhotra playing the role of an officer from the younger generation, questioning what legacy has in store for the younger generation is impactful. Rakul Preet Singh is good to look at and doesn’t have much to do in the film. Adil Hussain and Kumud Mishra’s characters are underwhelming though their performances are decent. Pooja Chopra is fantastic. Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher’s cameos are just about okay.  The others lend adequate support.

Verdict: Flop.  

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