'Spy' Telugu film review: An excruciating actioner with clumsy and fraudulent storytelling

Spy is a crude and visually impoverished film that reduces Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to a clickbait.
Nikhil Siddhartha in 'Spy'.
Nikhil Siddhartha in 'Spy'.

At one point in Spy, there is intense indignation on Jai (Nikhil Siddhartha)’s face as he tries to explain to his boss that he does not want to work with his ex-girlfriend  (she has honey-trapped him in the past). “She cheated me, I will work with anyone else but her,” is what he says, sighing. The hurt is not entirely different to what we feel after watching Spy. One feels cheated here as well. Now, cheating is a commonplace term in the film industry for recreating a specific location in the story in someplace more logistically feasible. This is not the same as using VFX (though that is another form of cheating). The bottomline, as the word suggests, is you have got to cheat your audience into thinking they are in that actual location.

For a story that unfolds across Amman, Kathmandu, Yangon, New York City, Galle, New Delhi and Kohima, the film makes its Hyderabad locations obvious to an unflattering effect. It almost becomes a guessing game after a point. There is Ramoji Film City. That one set where filmmakers always go to, to shoot government hospital scenes. The famed Shimla Mall road is Kathmandu here. The Old city predominantly inhabited by Muslims is the makers’ replacement for  Yangon, a Buddhist-majority city.

And the list goes on. Not being able to recreate locations well is inconsequential and forgivable, but in a film from this genre—this is an egregious transgression. The sense of vicarious joy and exploration that we wish to experience in films that jet across continents is sorely absent here. The film’s lackadaisical production values are only aggravated by the fact that the background in the film is so off-focus and blurry that I almost wondered if I was watching the film with my prescription glasses off. All of these shortcoming make Spy a rather crude and visually impoverished film. 

The makers don’t stop with the guess location game, they also urge us to play the ‘spot the cliche’ game. Janaab? Check. Abbu? Check. Bad men from Pakistan? Check. Regressive ideas? Check. RAW? Check. Sleeper cell? Check. Rogue Agent? Check. The film does not try to rise above these terms. And the writing also seems reverse-engineered just about enough for the most low-hanging jokes and oft-repeated stereotypes to come through. For instance, there is a shot of a Pakistani relishing a burger, only for an Indian “spy” to shame his country’s food shortage the very next second. 

The elephant in the room, the famed (and deeply fascinating) conspiracy theory regarding Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death — is at best, an insect here, making a minor-sized impact to this film’s story. The legendary freedom fighter is reduced to mere clickbait here. One wonders why it even appears in the film till you see Rana make a guest appearance as a pilot. “We don’t have time for introductions” is what he brusquely says, before giving an angsty 10-minute lecture on the 1944 Battle of Kohima.

This is where the film’s true and disingenous intentions come through. Rana’s character is practically an extension of Anupam Kher’s character in Kartikeya 2. Both characters give a rousing monologue that becomes a bigger talking point in the entire film. 

The ideology is clear. The target audience is also receptive. But does anyone, let alone, the people who echo the core ideology of a film, need to endure two hours of incoherent, derivative meandering for a few minutes of chest-thumping declarations? This is cheating the art and the format of cinema itself. 


Cast: Nikhil Siddhartha, Abhinav Gomatam, Ishwarya Menon, Jisshu, Makarand Deshpande
Director: Garry BH

Rating: 1/5 stars

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