Special Ops 1.5, The Himmat Story’ review: Taut And Gripping With Kay Kay Menon In Fine Fettle

Special Ops 1.5 has been created and co-written by Neeraj Pandey, who, as he did in the inaugural season, shares directing responsibilities with Shivam Nair. ‘Special Ops’ is out on Disney+ Hotstar.

Special Ops 1.5, The Himmat Story’ review: Taut And Gripping With Kay Kay Menon In Fine Fettle

Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, Aftab Shivdasani, Aadil Khan, Vijay Vikram Singh and Maria Ryaboshapka
Director: Shivam Nair

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Neeraj and Shivam Nair in their direction take a risk of focusing on just a few characters this time, unlike the first season that had a huge ensemble. So the risk of the camera going monotonous is definitely high. But to break that the writing with their direction adds the biggest twist is Himmat’s life there is and that serves the purpose of breaking the monotony.

In the first season of Special Ops, Research and Analysis Wing agent Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) was being questioned by officers Naresh Chadha (Parmeet Sethi) and DK Banerjee (Kali Prasad Mukherjee) during an audit of unaccounted expenses. The audit took them back to 2001 and Singh’s hunt for the mastermind behind the Parliament attacks.

Special Ops 1.5 Review(Pic Credit: Poster)

In 1.5 we meet Himmat when he wasn’t the Himmat Singh we saw in season 1. He was just an intelligence officer who had no authority until the day he decided to take things into his hands. Written by Neeraj Pandey with Benazir Ali Fida and Deepak Kingrani, Special Ops 1.5 acknowledges the current times and is set in the post-pandemic world. The writing follows the same template where a new inquiry is set about Himmat but this time for good. Vinay Pathak sits down and tells his story.

The latest season sees Chadha and Banerjee return to their chairs on one side of the desk. But this time, while assessing Singh’s performance record before determining his retirement package, Delhi Police officer and Himmat’s long-time ally Abbas Sheikh (Vinay Pathak) is sitting across from them. He has been called in to give Singh a character certificate.

Through Shaikh’s detailed retelling of past events, the four-part season pieces together a portrait of Singh’s personality as well as his skills as an intelligence and counter-terrorism officer. All the information is provided by Abbas, and one wonders how he has access to such details when there were no witnesses and many of those were private and intimate moments.

Like in the first season, the episode titles are derived from movies such as Aandhi and Ijazat. Creator Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair direct alternate episodes that dial back to a year-and-a-half after the Parliament attacks.

Writers Benazir Ali Fida, Deepak Kingrani and Pandey have honed in on the use of female Russian agents trained in sexpionage who seduce weak-willed men, including highly-placed Indian diplomats and officers, to steal classified and sensitive information. A number of Indian officials on foreign deputation seem to quickly forget their lives and wives back home and fall into an elaborate trap.

The story moves from India to Sri Lanka, Dhaka, London and Kyiv. Singh is recalled from suspension to track down a rogue agent. For this mission, he teams up with an old acquaintance and RAW agent Vijay Kumar (Aftab Shivdasani).

There’s a great deal of back and forth with the officers asking ‘What happened next’ when the scene returns to the inquiry room. What does happen is a series of redundant and literal shots showing the subjects walking along corridors and streets or entering airports and planes.

These shots add nothing to the narrative. Some editing of montages and disposal of a flashback of something that happened minutes ago would have created a brisker pace.

The series scores on the ageing and reverse ageing makeup and effects, especially on Menon, and the consistency of performances. Menon replays the intense and stoic Himmat Singh whose glassy eyes hide underlying pain and guilt. Shivdasani, as the soft-spoken unfaltering agent, is in good form, while Pathak spryly reprises the part of a loyal associate and narrator. New cast members include Aadil Khan as Maninder Singh and Aishwarya Sushmita as Karishma.

Special Ops 1.5 Review: Star Performance:

Talking of Kay Kay Menon, he is Kay Kay Menon and knows his job to the tee. There is not a single loophole in his acting performance. He is even vulnerable this time, but then he is on duty for his country and breaking down is not an option. He collects himself and uses rage to revenge, but there is never a dramatic outburst. A well-written character performed by a seasoned actor.

Aftab Shivdasani gets a rather special appearance and does the job well. More of this please Aftab, this is the right track. Gautami Kapoor brings the same positive presence. Now in my season 1 review I didn’t really like the treatment she was given, but now that the story is clear to me, the lack of attention to her for keeping secrets to reveal in 1.5 makes sense.

Aadil Khan becomes the bad guy this time. He doesn’t have a bigger share of the pie, because the antagonist this time is concept more than a person and the idea is to break it. Aadil is just a part of that syndicate and he plays it well.

Special Ops 1.5 Review: Last Words:

Neeraj Pandey is a well-aware creator and knows the formula to grab the audience. With Special Ops 1.5 he proves the show he created was a one-trick pony, but a well-layered universe that has the capability to branch out into several storylines. Kay Kay Menon adds panache to Pandey’s source material and makes it gold.

Special Ops 1.5 feels like an appetiser and a palate cleanser while we wait for the main course because there’s clearly more to come from Neeraj Pandey, Menon, Himmat Singh and his special ops team.