At a time of quarantine and binge-eating, the digital platform has been a sanctuary for many. Hotstar’s underdog digital series’ ‘Special Ops’ premiered on 17th March to take us on an international two decade journey of finding a sixth hidden terrorist behind the 2001 attack on the Parliament and subsequent attacks thereafter.
This eight-episode Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair directorial is lead by Kay Kay Menon, who plays Himmat Singh, the collected and intuitive team leader who is being investigated for his use of secret service funds. These funds have been used to support Singh’s five undercover agents to uncover the sixth terrorist Ikhlaq Khan, whom the world does not believe exists.
Menon is brilliantly powerful in his portrayal as Singh. The audit on his funds do not faze him, nor do the agents who refuse to hear his “sorry sir” as an excuse to not reveal the whereabouts of his five agents. Menon is relatable in his unflinching ride through years of proving his theory. He is shown as a leader, husband, father and friend, and smoothly transitions between all of these roles.
We are introduced to Singh’s five agents, played by Karan Tacker, Vipul Gupta, Meher Vij, Muzammil Ibrahim and Saiyami Kher. Tacker’s character Farooq is given an ample introduction and premise as he is working one on one with the group that can bring their boss closer to Khan. He and Gupta, who plays Bala portray their characters robustly and aim to differentiate between their popular television roles. Vij convincingly plays the sweet, homely, but undercover wife Ruhani and leaves little comparison to previous film roles. Ibrahim and Kher’s characters are not explored fully and their stories seem to be pinched into the pot.
A possible antagonist is persuasively played by Sajjad Delafrooz. His businessman character Hafiz Ali holds the lock and key to track down Khan. Delafrooz is enigmatically intense from the first episode to the eighth. Cameos by Vinay Pathak and Divya Dutta cannot be overlooked. Pathak plays an enthusiastic Abbas, who helps Singh in his initial investigation and whose unconventional approach helps him in more ways than one. Dutta has a noteworthy part in the latter half of the series and will pull at heartstrings with her perplexing character.
Parmeet Sethi, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Sana Khan, and Gautami Kapoor make their presence felt throughout their short appearances in the series.
Pandey is vastly popular for his elaborate and thrilling stories. Along with Nair, he starts us at a world of questioning, mystery, and belief. Although the story is engaging, it is a tiring road to the the final unveiling. The storyline staggers through the initial episodes and there is much exploration to be craved. One has high expectations of Pandey, but a poor execution and a leisurely pace of this series leaves the audience with other options to look for. ‘Special Ops’ will not necessarily peak your interest as it progresses, but performances from Menon and the supporting cast is what you can look forward to if you were to roam the Hotstar Specials arena.