Subhash K Jha reviews new web series streaming on Hotstar, Special OPS

Review of Hotstar’s Special Ops: Entertaining pulpy take on Parliamentary attack

Special Ops (Hotstar, 8 Episodes)

Starring: Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Saiyami Kher, Muzammil Ibrahim,Meher Vij, Neeraj Pathak, Divya Dutta

Directed by Neeraj Pandey, Shivam Nair

Rating : *** (3 stars)

Calling the film’s constantly-grimacing RAW agent hero Himmat Singh is not the most subtle of scriptural exercises. Himmat Singh, as played by the redoubtable K K Menon, seems to find most of his associates and colleagues intellectually challenged. Or so his attitude suggests particularly when he is being interrogated by two of his colleagues (Parmeet Sethi and Kali Prasad Bannerjee, the smirking duo) who want to know where all the funds he’s allotted for special tasks are being used. We could ask the makers of the series the same question and would probably get the same smirking response.

No one questions the national heroes when they are putting their life at stake to protect us good-for-nothing citizens from those awful terrorists who have mayhem in their hearts, blood on their hands and kajal in their eyes.

Special Ops takes us halfway across the world to track down these vile evil-Laden Osama clones.Though the plot is action-heavy none of the thrills are exceedingly thrilling. Heart-in-the-mouth is not a description that fits this project.

The RAW agents’ special target in this not-so-special series is an international terrorist whom our Indian government chases for 18 years after the parliamentary attack. It takes no time at all to figure out that Neeraj Pandey and hi co-director Shivam Nair has no patience with subtlety in recreating the events that shook the underbelly of global terror activities after the Indian parliament was attacked. There was that fine film that Pandey directed on global terrorism. That was Baby. This is Bawling Sprawling Baby.

The first 20 minutes of the lengthy and loud series are devoted to recreating the attack on parliament in New Delhi. The action is staged with all the sensitivity of a hammer on a particularly stubborn wall with the screeching cars, and rat-a-tating guns deployed for a merciless assault on our senses. The terrorist squad comprises various out-of-work actors who are made to sport accents peculiar indeterminate accents.

Then there is the token Muslim moderate, Himmat Singh’s duty-bound colleague Abbas (Vinay Pathak) who interrogates hardcore types like the school principal questioning a student who has pushed a colleague too hard on the playground. Though the series proudly wears an air of slickness there are glaring continuity lapses here and there. In one sequence a noodle-eating terrorist is shot in the head. In the next sequence his head is on the table in a pool of blood (or is that the sauce from the noodle?) the noodle-bag gone.

In truth, Special Ops makes no attempt to understand the complexities of the terror situation. The eight episodes serve the purpose of a collective tornado leading us by the scruff of our neck through events that have little bearing on actual facts. The plot feeds on the Indian hunger for an anti-terror fiction that assures us that those who try to blow up our national pride are bound to come to a sticky end.

Not all global attacks have a happy ending. This one certainly does,

While K K Menon is suitably cheerless as the RAW agent with a mind that smells foul play from far away, his team consists of a bunch of amateurs played by actors who are too raw to immerse themselves in the ‘RAW’ materials. Actors like Karan Tacker and Saiyami Kher are happy to dress and conduct themselves like nation’s custodians, though they are often put into situations that beg to be believable.

In episode 5 which is entitled Chaudvin Ka Chand, each of the RAW team members is seen indulging on one extended fight sequence. As though they are all being given bonus time in the extended series.

Every episode is named after a Bollywood classic. Naturally the last climactic episode in called Sholay which in spite of some terrific momentum fizzles out. But do hang on till the end for a very fine performance by Divya Dutta as a riot-and-rape survivor who has nothing to lose.She represents a will that is the opposite of the frantic spirit of the series. Must get eyeballs until the very end. And in that endeavour Special Ops succeeds.

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