Two years after the release of ‘Baby’, director Shivam Nair releases spin-off, ‘Naam Shabana’ tracing the background of Shabana Khan, starring Taapsee Pannu in lead role, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher in cameo role.
Shabana Khan was first seen in brief role in ‘Baby’ while facing off against a terrorist in Kathmandu hotel room, it was one of the best things in the whole movie. The possibility of revisiting the character through a single film is appealing without any doubt, but as it turns out Naam Shabana is poky weary of a movie. Though Neeraj and Shivam Nair do a smart job in telling the story from a girl’s point of view about what made a simple girl transform into a kick ass secret agent, but the problem in stating a tale from scratch is that ending becomes improperly fleshed out.
The first half indulges the protagonist and her love interest, Jai too much. It is only post-intermission, especially the last 35 minutes in which proceedings pick up. Sticking to a typical-action drama narrative that jumps from Mumbai to Goa, Vienna to Kuala Lumpur, with the arms dealer and the ISI agents playing a cat-and-mouse game, the film, is more an escapist fare than a realistic one. Shabana is a solemn-faced Muslim girl with a dark past. We first meet her as a college student and martial arts enthusiast living with her mother in Mumbai. Since the film is set a few years before the events of Baby, we learn why and under what circumstances she is recruited by a top-secret, off-the-grid intelligence agency that has been tracking her for some time. Midway through the movie it becomes standard intelligence thriller about a team, who is broached with the task to arrest an international arms dealer. Shabana is yanked out even before she completes her training and is entrenched in the mission because most probably the agency doesn’t have anyone more experienced or more skilled to do the job.
The problem at the root of this film is that it literally offers nothing new, other than the idea of a woman who knows her way around a fight. The plot is predictable from the word go, and yet it unfolds over an excruciating two-and-a-half hours. And next time anyone wishes to make a prequel to a hit, again, please do so because you have a substantial story to tell, not because you want to cash in on a successful brand.
Taapsee delivers some knockout punches and is sincere enough. She is terrific in the action sequences; her kicks and blows feel real. Manoj is brilliant, though he has just dialogue-baazi and no action to support him. Although Taapsee shoulders the film, her name appears in the end credits only AFTER Akshay’s, in spite of his role being only an extended cameo.