It is great to see an out and out action flick with female protagonist, a rarity in cinema in general. In an alternate universe, Naam Shabana would be the film to start a successful Bollywood franchisee, and launch Taapsee Pannu to perennial stardom. For now, let’s be content with her kicking serious butt in the company of the original action hero franchisee, Akshay Kumar.
It is thanks mainly to Taapsee Pannu’s sincere performance that the film works. She is a middle class Muslim girl with a hard nosed attitude to life and incredible physical prowess; a fighting machine. This is an act that Taapsee pulls off consistently, and that is her greatest credit. The action is not spectacular. It is hand combat, gritty, and harsh. You hear bones breaking, limbs bashing, noses breaking.
But you are engaged only because Taapsee is. Otherwise, the film has neither the story nor the drama to sustain a runtime of 148 minutes. Manoj Bajpayee plays the ringmaster, acting mainly with his cell phone to explain how the plot is going to unfold. He recruits Shabana for a top secret international mission to capture a world famous arms dealer. You can expect that everything else that follows this cliche cannot amount to much in terms of plot or narrative. The supporting cast (which includes Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Danny Denzongpa amongst others) is solid and provides the odd strand of humor in the film.
Through the film, Akshay Kumar is constantly seen holding her hand and walking her out of trouble. At the end, mission accomplished, as they walk away to a happy ending, he lets her go and she smiles briefly. As she should, for carrying a film that bears Akshay’s stamp on her shoulders. There is nothing really wrong with Naam Shabana. Had it been at least 30 minutes shorter, it may even have been memorable.
Hindi, Action, Color