Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Manav Kaul
Direction: Bejoy Nambiar | Rating: ***
Bejoy Nambiar’s Wazir — based on a script by producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra — stacks the pieces interestingly enough to begin with. There is a brooding rook, flawed but furious. There is a desperate pawn with nothing to lose. There are dead princesses to make up for the lack of a queen, and there is, finally, a bishop, a wazir, lethal enough to have the film named after him.
It appears to be the ideal mix for a taut thriller and, weighing in commendably enough at just over a hundred minutes, this is certainly crisp.
‘Wazir’ is about the coming together of two wounded men, very different in age and temperament, for a mutual purpose. Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) is recovering, with excruciating slowness, from a deeply personal tragedy; his wife Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) is suffering too, in her own solitary corner. He meets up with the wheelchair-bound Pandit Omkarnath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan), and gets sucked into the latter’s world, which is full of light and darkness, the contradictions arising from a painful past loss, and a present trying to come to terms with it.
Aamitabh Bachchan is exceptional as the weathered senior, his eyes hiding a repository of grief and pain. And Akhtar, although saddled with a one-note part, brings unmistakable sincerity, his anguish palpable every time he’s on screen.
Manav Kaul is very good as the inscrutable minister, and Aditi Rao Hydari leaves an impression as the fragile wife and mother struggling to cope. Neil Nitin Mukesh and John Abraham appear in small cameos but neither is particularly memorable as a result of their carelessly etched parts.
Wazir uses chess metaphors to talk about life, a move that could have been irritating were it not for the subtle way Bejoy inserts these into lighter conversations. For example when Danish says, “Galat chaal wapas nahi le sakta,” and Panditji retorts, “Yahi to farak hai shatranj aur zindagi mein, yaha dusra mauka milta hai,” a smiling Danish and some smart moves on the chess board ensure the scene is not bogged down by the heaviness of the dramatic dialogues.