August 9, 2022
Special Ops Review: Neeraj Pandey’s Hotstar series did not live up to the low expectations

Over the past week, Hotstar has been making waves for the unexpected arrival of its parent company’s new streaming service – Disney+ – in India. It’s on hold now, but it comes with the promise of several new originals from Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the midst of all this though, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Hotstar also has its own local origins — called “Hotstar specials” — that have been making waves because of the quality, or lack thereof, of the six series released last year. failed in

Unfortunately this trend continues with Special Ops, an action thriller series from a writer-director about Indian agents chasing an international terrorist, who has made it his own specialty: Neeraj Pandey. Her previous forays into the genre include A Wednesday!, babyand Aiyaary, a close cousin in Special 26. Written by Deepak Kingrani (Pagalpanti), newcomers Benazir Ali Fida and Pandey, Special Ops is a mess both on paper and on screen.

Things happen literally as the writers need them to happen, and the film lies to the audience to twist its plot, prioritizing plot mechanics over its characters. None of its characters progress or arc, so to speak, and are abandoned when the narrative no longer requires them. As the finale nears, Special Ops is both inconsistent and rudderless, and by the time it ends, there are more loose ends than you can count.

Special Ops swings between two contrasting character states: cold-blooded expertise and senseless incompetence. A terrorist mastermind who recklessly strolls through a high-security government compound is the same person who doesn’t know how to root out a mole in his organization. Detectives who have been engaged for years and are shown to communicate well, fail on many counts on both counts. Similarly, the popularity of Hotstar series is everywhere. No matter how editing works, its uneven cutting and background score undo the speed and feeling it craves. Special Ops lacks technical prowess across the board, especially the terrifying use of slow motion as a way to increase the time you’d hope was a soap opera relic.

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Above all, Special Ops continues Pandey’s routine: a relentless focus on radical Islamic terrorism, with “good” Muslims involved in stopping them. The Hotstar series isn’t as outright Islamophobic as Netflix’s Bard of Blood, where Muslims were portrayed as barbarians, but there’s something insidious about its “bad Muslims” talking differently than their detractors. who secretly indicate to the audience that they are the opposite of “we”. Special Ops also hints at Pandey’s willingness to elevate Islamophobic perceptions, with bizarre consequences. A last-minute twist attempts to make us reflect on our biases, but it’s such a stupid bait-and-switch that only serves to confuse it when it fails to address the real problems of its setup.

We open to the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, before jumping forward eighteen years to investigate the internal investigation of RAW agent Himmat Singh (KK Menon, from Shaurya). For nearly two decades, Himmat is behind Ikhlaq Khan’s aka Terrorist – essentially a McGuffin For most of the show’s runtime – the search for which he spent vast resources on his team of five agents spread across Asia. Himmat believes that Ikhlaq is the mastermind behind the above Parliament attack and many more across India. But here’s the catch: No one believes in guts. And with nothing to show for it after all this time, investigators force Dare to reveal what he’s really doing to the millions who are wasted chasing a ghost. went.

It serves as a gateway to introduce its supporting cast and dive into Dare’s past. In the former, we have Delhi Police constable Abbas Shaikh (Vinay Pathak, from Bheja Fry), who became close to Himmat after 2001. And then there’s the aforementioned team of five: Dubai-based Farooq Ali (Karan Tacker from Ek Hazaaron Mein Meri Behna Hai), Tehran-based “housewife” Rouhani Syed Khan (Mehar Vij, from Secret Superstar), Istanbul-based chef Balakrishna Reddy (K. Street). Vipul Gupta from Pali Hill), Baku-based sniper Avinash (Cheater from Muzamil Ibrahim), and the always itinerant Juhi Kashyap (Saiyami Kher from Mirzya). Farooq is the only person whose background is sketched properly, while the others are getting no more than a line or two.

Special Ops Farooq Special Ops Karan Tacker

Karan Tacker as Farooq Ali in Special Ops
photo credit: Disney/Hotstar

As for the latter, Special Ops is sometimes lazy with its performance, explaining what we’ve already seen or talking about what people in the room already know. But the biggest problem for the Hotstar series is its complete inability to generate the expected thrills. To begin with, unlike saying with a mission: impossible, Dare doesn’t run around the world chasing Ikhlaq. Instead, he spends most of his screen time between three indoor locations: his office, his home, and another office. Sure, it might be logical for someone in his position, but it hardly makes for good TV when the protagonist is never seen in action (minus the opening episodes). It may be unconstitutional to field a desk jockey, as was the case in the beginning jack ryanBut there’s a reason the show does this.

And it’s not like Special Ops loves logic anyway. It’s thrown out the window in pursuit of comedy, bosses putting their agents in danger for every joke they trust in the line of duty, or sources for getting agents to talk in a way that’s Charlie Chaplin into slapstick. would be more appropriate. It is thrown out to make the villain dangerous, even as it goes before the protocol and training of agents. It is thrown out to let the good guys run away and live another day. It’s thrown out to make the plot easier. And sometimes, it’s thrown out because… can it? Additionally, Special Ops has little consideration of real-life rules, such as different time zones, or even boundaries, whose oblivious neglect shatters all the concept of realism in the Hotstar series. .

Special Ops isn’t even considering the money at its disposal. (If you wait through the credits, you’ll be greeted by the Dolby Atmos logo, which is pretty funny because Hotstar is still stuck in the stereo sound era.) Clearly the best of any Hotstar original ever. Despite the big budget—you can tell that the places it has access to—it looks dreary. It’s down to a direction inspired by Pandey and Shivam Nair (Naam Shabana), in combination with pedestrian cinematography and color grading. In the opening sequence, there is an established shot every fifteen seconds. Elsewhere, it doesn’t know what to film or where to focus. All that contributes to creating a show that drags its feet moment by moment, scene by scene, and eventually episode by episode.

It is somewhat poetic that, like Disney+’s half-baked rollout, Hotstar has also been able to wrap up a simple action thriller. Can this fix anything?

All eight episodes of Special Ops are now streaming on Hotstar worldwide.

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