Mukhbir- The Story of a Spy Thriller
Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Hindi series Mukhbir on Zee5. When it comes to spy dramas or spy thrillers, a few names that pop up are Raazi and Baby or even the Special Ops franchise amongst a few others. There aren’t too many content in this genre owing to its limitation. The story per se does not change and whatever little changes is in its treatment. The screenplay of a spy drama has to be eventful while not labelling the opposite party as a caricature. This is in general a formula for spy thrillers and dramas in my humble opinion. So when I did watch the trailer of Mukhbir, I was really impressed by its subtle tonality that definitely did peek my interest. Now that I have finished watching Mukhbir on Zee5, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
Mukhbir follows the story of a young recruit who is sent on a secret mission to extract information across the border during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. The story is generic, as is with all spy dramas and there is no novelty factor. But it the treatment here that is an interesting point of discussion. Standing at 8 episodes of roughly 30 to 40 odd minutes each, it makes for a compelling viewing but not without its share of shortcomings too.
Firstly, let me put it out there – the drama is a slow burner and so if you are expecting a fast paced spy thriller like Baby, then you will more likely be disappointed. This is more in the mould of Raazi except that it further moves at a leisurely pace. So after a dramatic start that results in an elimination of an Indian asset, you are introduced to the main players along with the protagonist who has a unique charm to his character. So the world building is excellent here!
The fun begins when the protagonist is sent across the border but it has a few roadblocks along the way. I really did not mind its treatment(of it being a slow burn) which for me was a positive in many ways. It added texture to the drama as opposed to the over the top portrayal of a spy that we all have been privy to. My issue was that the chain of events were mildly uneventful that did not allow me as a viewer to fully invest in the drama. To give you a perspective, there was a love angle(two actually but one did make sense) that had no real impact on the overall screenplay. If I were to remove that entire track, the screenplay would still have ended up being the same. Even if there was an emotional depth to it, I would have let that pass. But this was a major roadblock as far as the screenplay was concerned. Other minor flaws included half baked subplots that did not quite tie itself well to the main plot.
On the positive front, the writing is cerebral and always has something in it at any given point of time to keep you invested. There are also a few heartwarming scenes that are really well intended and executed. Another positive is the portrayal of the people across the border who aren’t painted with the same colour which was heartening to witness. The intensity levels definitely rise towards the back end although the drama is fairly predictable. The final act is an emotional one and really well executed. So overall, the screenplay is compelling with a good message at the end but flawed.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and definitely impactful although subtly so(although the word ‘Janaab’ was used a little more than I would have wished for). The music is really good here with some beautiful compositions sprinkled throughout the narrative. The BGM is sparingly used that gives the drama a bit of a raw edge. The cinematography is good as well(there was a deliberate attempt to create an image of the 60s with a grainy screen to begin with) along with the art design that definitely does transport you to the bygone era and gives the drama a little more texture. The editing could have been a lot more sharper. The director’s mantle is shared by Shivam Nair and Jayprad Desai and the direction is good here although a little rough around the edges. It is compelling but with its share of flaws.
The performances are really good here. Joydeep Burmen as Sunil and Karan Oberoi as Kamal have their moments to shine. Sushil Pandey as Qasim is really good particularly towards the back end of the series. Dilip Shankar as Colonel Zaidi is absolutely brilliant and intimidating. Atul Kumar as Brigadier Habibullah could have so easily been a caricature but it was the skills of a phenomenal actor that mellowed and restrained the character well. Harsh Chhaya as Major General Agha Khan is well restrained as well.
Barkha Bisht as Begum Anar looks very pretty and handles the nuances and softness to her character really well. Satyadeep Misra as Alamgir is first rate and I really wish we get a spin off story of his character(maybe in part 2?). Zoya Afroz as Jamila is really good too but her character did not add much to the screenplay unfortunately. It is always a pleasure to watch and study the performances of veterans like Adil Hussain and Prakash Raj and they are both brilliant. A key thing to note for budding actors – notice their diction and how beautifully they word their dialogues. Zain Khan Durrani as Kamran is really good too with a quiet little charm to his character. While there was a little more scope for improvement related to his dialogue delivery, his baritone voice did add a new dimension to his character. So overall, a good job done!
Despite a few shortcomings, Mukhbir is a slow burn spy drama with good performances that can be watched once. Available on Zee5.