This new 8 episode web series dropped in probably at the right time when people are locked down at home compulsorily.
For Neeraj Pandey who is credited with creating, writing the series and directing of few episodes, the genre of Special Ops is his familiar playground. After his 1st outing in this genre – Baby which got critical acclaim and mass adulation, he followed up with two more – Naam Shabana and Aiyaary. Though these two were not in the same league as Baby, they established Neeraj as a proficient writer of espionage stories.
With Special Ops, he returns to the genre with a more expansive canvas in what can be described as a clear sequel to Baby in slow motion. Thanks to the luxury of length provided by a web series compared to a film, Neeraj builds up the story, events and scenes in a more dragged out manner spread over 8 episodes.
The non linear narrative starts with the 2001 terrorist attack on the Parliament. Picturised and filmed well, the 1st episode itself makes you sit up tight and watch and pushes you to binge watch the 8 episodes in one go. The basic thread is about a RA&W officer – Kay Kay Menon in a top notch performance who believes that there was one mastermind who escaped without being eliminated (apart from the 5 who were killed) and hence sets up a under cover team as deep assets spread across 5 countries to nab him.
The narrative unfolds with an internal audit enquiry where Kay Kay is asked to give explanations to the crores of rupees being spent on “Miscellaneous expenses” for which Kay Kay gives the details of the deep assets and their operations. The enquiry itself looks comical with the officers portrayed as goofy characters to probably showcase the bureaucratic slack even in sensitive functions in the government. (Baby had this element too). This slackens the flow a bit and distracts from the otherwise taut flow of the script.
Kay Kay Menon leads the cast with some exceptional acting, leaving us to wonder why we don’t see him too much in mainstream bollywood these days. He is not the Akshay/ John Abraham type macho RA&W officer but a sharp sleuth, operating behind computer screens and on his phone giving real time instructions to the on field assets. He is tailor made for this role and he almost singularly carries the web series on his shoulders.
The supporting cast that includes veterans like Vinay Pathak, Gautami Kapoor, Sharad Kelkar, Divya Dutta and many upcoming actors is also impressive and do their jobs well.
The series is shot with excellent production quality. Many of the actions are shot in real life locations which add to the authenticity of the narrative. The script plugs real life events like 26/11 and actual characters like Kasab, Afzal Guru but treads carefully in not turning Islamophobic. Of course the usual trope of dialogues and scenes around differentiating the “good” and “bad” muslim are not missed. (We saw this in Baby again)
Don’t know why in Bollywood, in spy thriller films, the family drama needs to be brought in compulsorily? ( Baby had this as well) This also has the mandatory emotional conversations at home of the officer, the phone calls from the wife in the middle of an operation etc which do not add much value to the screenplay. Thankfully those segments are shorter in this and we can live with it.
The very casual unsecured telephone conversations between the deep assets and Kay Kay and how a mole so easily impregnates the terrorist mastermind camp come out as gaps in the script but in the overall scheme of things, do not upset the flow.
Overall, its a well written and well made series.
With cities on shutdown and nothing much to do outside of the house over the weekend, Special Ops, streaming now on Hotstar is worth your time to catch up if you are a fan of spy thriller dramas.