Producers: Aruna Bhatia, Shital Bhatia
Writer: Neeraj Pandey
What's Yay: Taapsee Pannu
What's Nay: Screenplay, Interval, Misplaced Songs
Popcorn Refill: Interval
Iconic Moment: None
The film opens in Vienna, Austria with the broad daylight murders of two secret agents from India. Cut to Mumbai, Maharashtra, we are introduced to Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu), a SYBCom student whose life revolves around her mother and Kudo training. She is a headstrong girl who doesn't wear her emotions on the sleeves and pretends to ignore the feelings of her classmate Jai (Taheer Shabbir Mithaiwala) who is head over heels in love with her.
Upon Jai's insistence, Shabana reveals murky details of her past as the reason for her bitterness, But the boy stands by his stance and melts Shabana's stone-cold heart leaving a room for a romantic song. Unfortunately, their yet-to-begin love tale is cut short when Shabana falls prey to eve-teasing and Jai gets killed in the bargain.
As she clamours for justice for her slained lover, she receives a mysterious call from a secret agency who wants to induct her into their organization in exchange for offering her help to eliminate Jai's killers. Soon, she completes her vendetta saga and is sent off on her first official mission which involves assisting Ajay Rajput (Akshay Kumar) to bump off a global arms kingpin Tony/ Mikhail (Prithiviraj Sukumaran) in Malaysia.
Naam Shabana, which is touted to be a spin-off to Neeraj Pandey's critically acclaimed Baby, turns out to a damp squid and leaves you heartbroken. Blame it on the weak and disjointed screenplay which doesn't just let the film rise above the average. Shivam Nair pulls off a decent job of directing but fails to cover up the loopholes in the script which play a spoilsport. What's quite surprising is that this film has been written by the same man (Neeraj Pandey) who had brilliantly penned Baby that stood out back then for its gripping narrative and tensed moments!
Just like the name, the film belongs totally to Shabana Khan aka Taapsee Pannu. She gets to break the bones and indulge in some serious butt-kicking. She aces the action scenes like a pro and carries the film on her slender shoulders. In a scene or two, the actress even gets to display her emotional side and shines in those moments.
Manoj Bajpayee delivers what's written for him but falls short of giving us a memorable act as compared to his last few performances. Akshay Kumar's extended cameo completely falls flat as it looks forced. You just see him randomly popping up in scenes that make no sense. The makers seem to have made a mockery of his Baby character Ajay Rajput here!
Prithviraj Sukumaran as the main villain with his sharp suits and studded ear is passable and suffers from ridiculously written part.
Many other characters from Baby too show up in the film but they do more damage as you are constantly reminded how Naam Shabana fails to match up the brilliance of the 2015 thriller in terms of storytelling and layering.
Poor writing, lack of detailing and lacklustre dialogues are the main culprits here. The first half of the film is a drag. Post interval, the action begins but soon fizzles out as you predict the climax from miles away.
Sudheer Pansare's cinematography is top-notch. At a runtime of about 148 minutes, Naam Shabana aims to treat you to two different worlds but falters in its attempt.
This Taapsee Pannu starrer scores low for music. None of the songs stay with you after the end-credits roll. In fact, they hinder the narrative and only add minutes to the film.
Naam Shabana is a major letdown especially when you walk into the theatre halls carrying good ol' Baby nostalgia and expecting a similar adrenaline rush. In a nutshell, we would prefer to settle for a rewatch of the 2015 espionage-thriller instead!