In the movie Sarfarosh, an acclaimed Pakistani ghazal singer turned out be a terrorist mastermind. Beware these velvet-tongued Pakistanis with their courtly manners and hospitable ways, Sarfarosh suggested. Something similar is at work in Kunal Kohli’s Zee5 film Lahore Confidential, in which a love for Urdu poetry plays a major role.

Diffident and bookish Research & Analysis Wing employee Ananya (Richa Chadha) is dispatched to Pakistan to join the Indian diplomatic mission as a media attache. Ananya’s real job is to infiltrate Pakistan’s cultural elite, represented by a single individual, and find out more about the terrorist Wasim Ahmed Khan, who is planning attacks on India.

The single individual who is Ananya’s point of entry into Pakistani society has a shorn pate, the bulk of a wrestler, and a shared passion for Urdu verse. Rauf (Arunoday Singh) soon seduces the unattached Ananya, but he isn’t who he seems to be. Ananya finds her mission in doubt, possibly endangering the lives of her colleagues in Pakistan, which includes the tough Yukti (Karishma Tanna).

If Ananya is posing as a connoisseur of Urdu, Yukti is living it up in other ways. I went for a quick fuck, that’s my cover, she tells the easily impressed Ananya.

The risible and unintended humour slips through despite the mercilessly short running length. In 69 minutes, Lahore Confidential covers Ananya’s seduction, Rauf’s secret, Yukti’s sex life and clandestine missions, references to RAW’s role in the Balochistan freedom struggle and the second-only-to-Osama-Bin-Laden Wasim’s dastardly plans. A moment when Rauf is reduced to a pool of tears provides a welcome distraction in an espionage thriller low on espionage or thrills.

The only suspense stems from Ananya’s staggering naivete and lack of judgement. The minutes fortunately pass quickly as we wait for the tubelight in her head to go off. When it does, it comes none too soon.

Lahore Confidential (2021).