A prequel to a film, which revolves around a character which had a brief but important appearance in the original, could be a very interesting idea. ‘Naam Shabana’, written by Neeraj Pandey, traces the journey of Shabana Khan as she joins a special crime fighting consisting of secret agents, whom once was earlier introduced to in ‘Baby’ (2015). ‘Naam Shabana’ is directed by Shivam Nair who has earlier made diverse films like ‘Ahista Ahista’, ‘Maharathi’ and ‘Bhaag Johny’.
An otherwise reserved Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu) shares her feelings with her mother. She does not reciprocate the feelings of Jay, a fellow classmate, has for her. Shabana keeps herself busy with studies and kickboxing lessons and always strives to come across as a tough, resilient person. On his birthday, Jay confesses his love for Shabana and she reveals some dark secrets about her past. They share some warm moments together before an incident tears their world apart. After getting no help from the police, Shabana decides to take matters in her own hands and teaches the wrongdoers a lesson.
Right from the scene in which Shabana breaks into one of the perpetrators wrong and Ajay Singh (Akshay Kumar) breaks a glass pane (while the three men standing outside the room remain oblivious to all the commotion), one knew that ‘Naam Shabana’ does not boast of the dexterity which ‘Baby’ was made with. While the first half of the film is all about Shabana taking revenge with the help of the members of the special crime fighting unit she joins later, the second half revolves around the team assigning her the task of nabbing Mikhaal, a high profile criminal involved with arms supply and flesh trade. Neither of these two episodes has enough nail-biting moments to keep you invested in the film. The film fails to give you the slightest of adrenaline rush and that is its biggest shortcoming. We are told that Mikhaal is one of the most dangerous criminals in the world and has managed to dodge the world for years skilfully. Yet, he is brought into captivity quite easily. ‘Baby’ was, to a certain extent, an escapist fare but it made you root for its characters and delivered entertainment by the bucketful.
Taapsee Pannu delivers an earnest performance but despite the title of the film giving an impression that the film revolves around her character, Shabana turns out to be a half-baked, underwritten character. Prithviraj oozes dollops of charm as the antagonist but his character, too, does not have much of a depth to it. Akshay Kumar, reprising his role from ‘Baby’, has limited screen time but shines in every scene he appears in. Manoj Bajpayee does not have much of a character arc to boast of but he does well as the officer who helps Shabana sail through her tasks.
Though ‘Naam Shabana’ is written by the man who helmed ‘Baby’, it is not a patch on the brilliance of the latter. Despite being there for a few scenes in ‘Baby’, Taapsee left a strong impression with her portrayal of the feisty young woman who takes on hardened criminals. This time, the film revolves around her character but the impact is not half as strong.