Ajay Singh’s Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga begins with such routine man stalking-wooing-winning woman sequences that it is impossible to anticipate what comes next (the title is from the children’s rhyme Akkad Bakkad Bambe Bo). The script, by Siraj Ahmed and Amar Kaushik, is like a nesting doll – you open one and smaller dolls keep popping out gradually till the seed is reached.

Neha (Yami Gautam Dhar) is an air hostess who falls in love with a charming passenger, Ankit (Sunny Kaushal), after a few dates, giving credence to the belief that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

Ankit reveals a business failing that left him vulnerable to vicious gangsters. Neha agrees to help him smuggle diamonds into Delhi. It seems simple enough – a code shared, a diamond-studded phone switched and an unsuspicious stroll out of the airport.

However, the plane gets hijacked however by three men who demand the release of a Kashmiri terrorist. Even as Neha negotiates with the hijackers to keep the passengers safe, Ankit tries to get to his diamonds. Both he and Neha get increasingly anxious as the hijackers stalk the aisles and use violence when required. On the ground, intelligence officer Sheikh (Sharad Kelkar) tries to figure out ways to save the passengers without actually releasing the prisoner.

Sunny Kaushal in Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga (2023). Courtesy Maddock Films/Netflix.

It seems like a standard-issue crime thriller, but nothing is what it seems. Clever plotting is revealed with the peeling of every layer. Some scripting conveniences do creep in, but the action is so engrossing, and the many twists so surprising, that the minor flaws do not matter.

Sunny Kaushal is competent as Ankit, even though the character doesn’t get to try too many variations. Yami Gautam Dhar’s part is written with so many shades that one can gauge only at the end what Neha is made of. The other actors don’t have much to do, but they do their bits well so that the two leads shine.

Without needless diversions, and keeping a tight control over the hairpin bends of the script, Ajay Singh has crafted a smart and entertaining thriller.

Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga (2023).