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.
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 prior to 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 Kiev. Singh is recalled from suspension to track down a rogue agent. For this mission, he teams up with 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 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.