Barring 'MS Dhoni The Untold Story', all the films directed by Neeraj Pandey have been thrillers. The subject and the theme of 'A Wednesday', 'Special 26' and 'Baby' may be different but all of them belong to similar genres and have Neeraj Pandey's signature stamp largely writ upon them. After making a biopic on a sportsman's life, he is back to his favourite genre with 'Aiyaary'. Apart from his regulars Manoj Bajpayee and Anupam Kher, the film features Sidharth Malhotra, Rakul Preet and Pooja Chopra in principal roles.
Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) has worked on his team comprising of Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra), Maya (Pooja Chopra) and others on a covert army unit the details of which, if exposed to the world, could spell doom for them. The funds for the unit had been allotted by army chief Pratap Malik who did this secretly. Abhay learns that Jai has gone rogue and is willing to sell sensitive data related to the army to unscrupulous people. Abhay is shocked to learn this as he had always counted Jai amongst his finest men.
Neeraj Pandey adopts a non-linear narrative to tell his story but he does so without making any effort to help the audience identify and differentiate between the different timelines. As a result, you get confused and are not whether the scene you are watching at the moment follows the last one or is set in a different time period altogether. After watching the incoherent narrative unfold before your eyes and the film culminating on an abrupt and confusing note, you wonder whether Pandey was fascinated with the word Aiyaary (lit: treachery) and decided to use his knowledge of the armed forces to tell the story of two army men who were masters of disguise. If that is true, it is even more unfortunate that this quality of theirs does not come to the fore at any crucial juncture in the film. There is a flashback portion set in Kashmir which does not add any value to the plot and just informs the viewer why Abhay Singh has been besotted with the tile of aiyaar(lit: treacher).
Neeraj Pandey's direction is good but he falters severely as a writer. It is clear that he knows the territory he is getting into but the screenplay is extremely consulted and engages intermittently. The dialogues (Neeraj Pandey) could have been more effective. There is just one song ("Lae Dooba", music: Rochak Kohli, lyrics: Manoj Muntashir) and it is very tuneful. Praveen Kathikuloth's editing is one of the major failings of the film; there are several scenes that bring nothing to the narrative and should have been done away with.
Manoj Bajpayee is extremely effective as Colonel Abhay Singh. Though the screenplay is disjointed and lacks meat, one cannot day the same about his character as he gets enough scope to display histrionics. Sidharth Malhotra relies on a few expressions throughout the film and does not leave any mark as an actor. Rakul Preet gets a couple of scenes to show her abilities as an actor and does well. Pooja Chopra, who was not seen much after delivering an assured performance in her debut film 'Commando', leaves her mark in a role that does disservice to her talent. Anupam Kher is very good in a brief role. Nasseruddin Shah is memorable in a poorly written cameo appearance. Adil Hussain lends charisma to the character of Mukesh Kapoor. Vikram Gokhale is terrific as army chief Pratap Malik.
'Aiyaary' is Neeraj Pandey's weakest film as a director till date. It lacks the tautness and the frisson one expects from the thriller he makes. Neither the film offers nothing to the audience who has liked his earlier films nor does it will excite the ones who are discovering the auteur's work for the first time.