Lahore Confidential, starring Richa Chadha in the main lead, is now streaming on Zee5 and this one certainly does not live up to the expectations. Spiralling between the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) headquarters in Delhi and the Indian High Commission in Lahore, the film attempts to tell a fictional tale around the very real escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. But these well-intended thoughts go haywire halfway into the film, and all we are left with is an agonising watch that seems lengthier than it actually is. Directed by Kunal Kohli and written by Vibha Singh, the story lacks the punch required of a spy film. Neither does the romantic twist create any sort of sensation. And all you can do while watching the film is to mourn the wasted potential.
What is the plot about?
We are introduced to a bookish Ananya (Richa Chadha) who has a simple desk job at Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). But her life soon takes a turn as she is recruited by two Indian agents Rajiv (Khalid Siddiqui) and Yukti (Karishma Tanna) for a secret intelligence duty in Pakistan. Her goal is to find out about the terrorist Wasim Ahmed Khan but on the way she meets a well-connected man in Lahore named Rauf Ahmed Kazmi (Arunoday Singh).
Rauf is an Urdu poetry connoisseur to Ananya’s delight, and their love for shayaris and mushairas slowly bring them closer to each other. But neither is aware of the other’s identity, and by the time Ananya figures out that she has been seduced by the enemy, it is a little too late. The security of her nation hangs at balance and she can only choose either her country or her love.
Lahore Confidential Review : It Feels Like A Parody Of An Espionage Film
Yet Another Stereotypical Portrayal Of Women Characters
To be very honest, I was quite excited when I first saw the trailer of Lahore Confidential. An espionage thriller with a woman at the center of it is not an unheard plotline, limited as it is in numbers. And with Richa Chadha’s stellar track record, surely I wasn’t alone in my excitement. But the film shredded all hopes into pieces with its lackluster script, mediocre performances and an abysmal climax. It’s a different kind of frustration to watch the main protagonist being fooled by a ruse that even a 10-year-old can see through. To then sit for 68 minutes waiting for the light bulb to go off in her head is simply excruciating.
The sub-standard plot could still have been excused had the film provided us with strong characters, but it loses points even in that department. When in world will directors understand that it is not enough to put women in lead roles just for the sake of ticking off those checkboxes of representation? Showing a book-loving, independent single woman who refuses to marry according to her mother’s choices is a great start, sure. But to then fall back into the same misogynistic wormhole of portraying her as the outcast spinster who is so vulnerable that she will believe just about anything to escape her loneliness is yet another patronising take. It makes you question why it is so hard for filmmakers to deal with the figure of the single woman without reducing her to these mind-numbing stereotypes.
Same is the case for Yukti’s character, whose devil-may-care attitude is breezily compartmentalised into the typical Bollywood portrayal of the ‘modern woman’ – she is sexually promiscuous, she swears like there is no tomorrow, and booze and cigarettes are her best friends. It is about time filmmakers collectively shut whatever conduct books they are referring to and stop putting women into these illogical binaries. As for the other aspects of the film, there isn’t much to say anyway. Richa Chadha’s disinterested acting makes it much more of a struggle to keep up with the storyline.
Karishma Tanna fits the role she enacts, but it is Arunoday Singh and his praiseworthy onscreen presence that makes the watch bearable. There are enough shayaris to lighten up the mood, although it would have made much more sense if the poetic quality actually added to the plot rather than becoming stand-alone entertainers.
All in all, Lahore Confidential fares better than its predecessor London Confidential. But it certainly does not live up to the hype it created. Did the film have potential? Definitely yes. Will I recommend it to my friends and family? Absolutely not.
Picture Credit: YouTube ScreenGrab
Views expressed are the author’s own.