Wazir (The Queen / Minister piece in conventional Chess) is allegorical to the game of life that unfolds in the unique friendship between Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan, grieving over the tragic loss of their respective daughters.
The metaphor points to strategy and acumen that holds promise in the first half to a supreme climax but fails to sustain itself in the end. At 104 minutes, with slick production values, couple of well-placed songs, we just finish they had pulled off the promise of the movie.
The movie begins with an introductory song that positions Farhan’s character for us. It then slides into a slice of life shot when an ATS ace cop suddenly finds an opportunity to chase a key suspect. For the life of me, I cannot understand any father risking his young daughter on the mission – it could have been avoided by asking her mother (Aditi Rao Hydari in a nice cameo with not much to do though) to take custody of the child. Well one freakish mistake that cost a life and obviously one can imagine the angst and grief it causes for the lead character. Even his wife can’t forgive him for the slip and she moves away.
It’s a happenstance that Farhan meets Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan) who effortlessly essays the role of a grieving father and husband now restricted to the wheel-chair. He stills pulls of an amazing act of joie-di-vivre though often the masks slips to show his pain. The Chess metaphors only add to the flavour that there is a bigger game afoot. (The dropped wallet episode stands out as a sore thumb to begin with anyway).
Well Panditji manages to win over Farhan – he teaches him Chess, they have a nice ‘Vodka-Chess’ game, and he even manages to effect a rapprochement between the warring couple. He suspects a key politician of having killed his daughter while the official line is that she well of the stairs and died in an accident.
Farhan’s investigations are anything but subtle – a suspended cop, he just walks up to the politician to confront him about the death. Stupid bravado – you can’t expect the politician to be caught unguarded and rather he antagonizes / alerts an enemy who obviously has some resources available to fight back.
(Spoilers Ahead !)
By intermission we known what is the climax meant to be – the unmasking of a villainous politician and of course Farhan is the man for the mission who is being guided by Panditji. The Chess metaphors of Wazir ( Queen / Minister) and ‘Paagal Haathi’ (Mad Rook) drawn to the T – possibly the reason why Farhan is shown to be hot-headed and a suspended ATS cop.
The so-called twist in the plot featuring ‘Neil Nitin Mukesh’ becomes obvious as well – for one he is remarkably informed about the happenings between Farhan and Amitabh. And by the time we come to the well-sequenced traffic chase, for most viewers, there is no suspense about his role in the game.
The final climax is predictable to the core and it is approached in a clinical manner. (Even Parinda had a predictable climax – still the action was riveting when it unfolded. But that is not to be in this movie.) And John Abraham is wasted in a little cameo – there is hardly any character building done for him. I guess these are the elements of the story that disappoint us the most particularly since the first half set up the game nicely and we were promised an enticing finish.
The final scenes give us a re-hash of the plot for those who may missed picking the real beat. Some find it annoying that we need to spoon-feed viewers but in a commercial venture it may well be justified. After all it is over in a few minutes right at the end and for all you know it may help build the connect with the average viewer. At the end of the day commercial elements will predicate certain parts of the film craft – that is surely a pragmatic view as any.
Nonetheless it is still worth a watch due to the remarkable camaraderie between Farhan and Amitabh. They share their pain and grief, have true moments of warmth and mouth some lovely shayari as well.