In an industry filled with tons of big-budget blockbusters devoid of logic, Neeraj Pandey is the man who creates some smart, taut thrillers which become cinematic gems. The entries on his resume, including A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby, bear testimony to this. This year too, Pandey has written and directed an Indian Army thriller called Aiyaary (which means shapeshifting in case you’re curious).

The story revolves around a talented Major (Sidharth Malhotra) and the man who taught him these skills, a reckless Colonel (Manoj Bajpayee). The protagonist hits upon some secrets and cover-ups by the army, the government and some businessmen, basically classified information wrongly hidden from the public. Caught in a conflict of duties, he decides to be like Snowden and prevent him from opening the Pandora’s Box of secrets; a cat and mouse game ensues.

 The story has a lot of potential for a thrilling chase but unfortunately lags in pace. The flashback scenes shot in Kashmir crawl like a snail and there’s a slight romantic angle which is unnecessary. This is quite bizarre as there has hardly been any hints of romance in Pandey’s previous works. Love seems like uncharted territory for him. The cinematography and score still add to the adrenaline rush in parts. Sidharth acts fine but has his shortcoming of looking quite blunt at times. There is a talented ensemble of Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin and Adil. However, the script doesn’t do full justice to their characters. If not this, what still makes Aiyaary watchable is the talented Manoj Bajpayee. He delivers some great dialogues with the intensity needed for his role.

In the end, Aiyaary is an interesting addition to good well-researched espionage thrillers of Bollywood but still fails to have a lasting impact.