4.5 Excellent

In the times when intellectual films are an increasing rarity in the Indian film industry, there are certain established filmmakers one can depend on for a brief respite from those dilwale people. Using metaphors based on the game of chess, two protagonists try to overcome their personal tragedies while planning their next move against a growing nemesis that threatens their plan for retribution. 'Wazir' is a sharp thriller that engages the viewer with a plot that only gradually unravels and with consistently strong performances by its lead stars Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. Produced and co-written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, this game of astute minds is directed by Bijoy Nambiar, whose past films were as forgettable as India's overseas bowling attack. Yet, he pulls this off with a tight screenplay, intriguing plot and an appetite for no-nonsense.

Tragedy strikes early in ATS Officer Daanish Ali's (Farhan Akhtar) married life when he loses his daughter in a shoot-out with some terrorists. His estranged wife blames him for their daughter's death and the guilt has been consuming Daanish from within, to the extent that he attempts to end his life at her grave until he is disturbed by a stranger in a van. This chance encounter was actually planned by Pandit Omkarnath (Amitabh Bachchan) who is also a subject of multiple tragedies but the most recent loss of his daughter, ties them both together. In simple terms, Daanish's daughter Noorie was learning chess under Pandit whose daughter Nina would teach chess to the welfare Minister's daughter Ruhi. She lost her life by falling down the stairs at Minister Yazaad Qureshi's (Manav Kaul) home. This delicate link of tragedies binds the two individuals together through the sharing of grief, games of chess and shots of vodka. Daanish decides to probe into Nina's case to aid the handicapped Pandit who he believes, deserves better justice.
Their frustration rises when the police officially closes Nina's case and just when things couldn't get worse, Pandit is brutally attacked by an assassin who threatened worse actions if they wouldn't leave Qureshi alone. Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh) appeared to be a step further each time even as Daanish tapped Qureshi's phone and found out about his trip to Kashmir. Pandit is eager to get there as Wazir threatens to end his life even if he attempts to do so and Daanish has to race against time to bring the popular political figure of Qureshi to justice on the assumption that he could be the perpetrator in a murder case.

At a brisk 102 minutes, Wazir will hold your attention throughout. There is little that deviates from the intriguing plot other than extended sequences of grieving characters, coupled with slow melodies in the background. Yet, those moments are held together by capable actors. In his brief role, Manav Kaul is quite intense. The conniving villain is nefarious enough to really make us hate him. Aditi Rao Hyadri is mostly despondent on screen but she somehow manages to counter the intensity of Farhan. Amitabh Bachchan meanwhile, is really into his character and under V.V.C.'s supervision, he provides one of his finest performances in recent times. Notice his pride as he plays the drunk Omkarnath during the special chess game or when he narrates his tragic losses to Ruhana. There is pure excellence in that personality.
We have all been waiting for a film that challenges Farhan Akhtar unlike his last two ventures in acting. After seeing his dedication as Milkha Singh, it really is a treat to watch Farhan get absorbed into his grieving character that has a an impulsive ability to react sharply in tough situations.

Tu mere paas is the romantic theme that plays throughout the movie and its rendition by Ankit Tiwari is beautiful. Maula is a pretty good soul searching qawwali while the theme song is well suited for the thrilling moments. In the end, literally, it's Atrangi yaari that stands out as the film's brilliant anthem and both Mr. Bachchan and Farhan have rendered it with their hearts.

The game of Chess is being played while a personal vendetta is set in motion. The Wazir will play a key role in deciding who turns out victorious in the end. Bejoy Nambiar's thriller tries to dramatize beyond necessary reason and explains the twists in rather unnecessary detail. By dumbing the plot down, he ceases the movie from being open to interpretation and further discussion. However, he deserves the credit here for turning V.V.C.'s efforts in the story and screenplay department to an engaging thriller while extracting some powerful performances through his exciting cast. The unfortunate scenario is that such films fall flat against an audience that cannot digest serious scripts. Just like the pawns on a chessboard, they only take small, straight strides with an occasional wavering of their path to overcome their own doltishness. Rise above if you must and pay attention to this riveting game.

- 8.663 on a scale of 1-10.