It’s the media that’s responsible for Naam Shabana for the character that was a near-cameo in Baby called for a full length feature dedicated to her. And yes, it’s good fortune that it happened so.
Naam Shabana is the story of Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu) before Baby happened. And it’s a story well told. Credits undoubtedly go to Neeraj Pandey (who this time has only handled the ‘writing’ department. The film is directed by Shivam Nair) for penning down a film with much thought, particularly giving it an edge in terms of layers in characters, back stories, kickass dialogues, facts, and of course the charmers Manoj Bajpai and Akshay Kumar.
The film however does have flaws and it won’t be enjoyed by the masses as much as it calls for. There are moments which seem dragged and the audience might feel bored at places. There are also few moments which seem unreal- not a good sign in such a film. There’s too much impetus given to Shabana’s personal life and her own motives, the pace of the film isn’t very thrilling, and the prolonged runtime of the film (148mins) are a few turn offs. But on the other hand, they are balanced by splendid performances, a graph in the plot, enriching dialogues, and a glance into the working patterns of national security agencies.
Where the first half majorly deals on why Shabana is taken on board for securing the nation, the faster second half concerns what and how she conducts her mission. Having said all, the film is a mix of fabulous as well as dull moments, making it a film receiving mixed responses.
Tapsee Pannu is just too good in shoes of Shabana Khan, even better than what she did in Baby. Makers must be credited here for giving her character nuances involving emotions, naivety, strength, and determination- and Tapsee in every such shade shines brilliantly. It’s a treat to watch her and you feel it’s Shabana and not Tapsee. Manoj Bajpai as Ranvir Singh, the officer in command is first rate. There are not enough scenes of him in the film but whenever he takes charge, the film is charged positively. He brings a certain amount of thrill in the film and you feel wish he was there in Baby too. Taher Shabbir as Jai, Shabana’s friend is very sincere on camera and his expressions are to die for. Prithviraj Sukumaran has his part carved out for himself and has an interesting character. Akshay and Anupam in their brief appearances make a mark and their chemistry makes you laugh. Danny Denzongpa, Murli Sharma, and Virendra Saxena too have their moments.
The editing is thrilling, cinematography average. The production design should be appreciated for its large canvas. The film consists of two songs played in background, which give the situations a pleasant feel.
On the whole, don’t expect this prequel to be as good as Baby. But watch it as an independent interesting piece, which might pave way for prequels in Bollywood.