Special OPS review: Kay Kay Menon in a still from Neeraj Pandey’s Hotstar show.
Special OPS review: Kay Kay Menon in a still from Neeraj Pandey’s Hotstar show.

Special OPS review: Neeraj Pandey and Kay Kay Menon deliver first Hotstar original almost worth the self-isolation

Special OPS review: Neeraj Pandey and Kay Kay Menon deliver the first Hostar original series almost worth the self-isolation.
By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2020 11:31 AM IST

Special OPS
Creator - Neeraj Pandey
Cast - Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Saiyami Kher, Meher Vij, Vinay Pathak, Sana Khan

The benefits Special OPS might accrue from being released at a time when theatres across the country have been advised to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic are equalled by the fact that Hotstar’s streaming series is third out of the gate after Netflix and Amazon’s very similar Bard of Blood and The Family Man. Comparisons might be unfair, but they’re inevitable.

Fortunately for creator Neeraj Pandey, few man-made things could be as bad as Bard of Blood, a series that has single-handedly lifted huge pressure off the shoulders of every show in existence, and also those still waiting to be produced. Unlike that Netflix series, Special OPS, despite being very uneven, actually respects spycraft.

Watch the Special OPS trailer here 

Much of its action – and it is very old-fashioned in its depiction of espionage – takes place from behind its protagonist’s computer screen. Like Srikant from The Family Man, Kay Kay Menon’s Himmat Singh in Special OPS is the sort of regular Joe you wouldn’t notice on the streets, although unlike Manoj Bajpayee, Menon has a slightly sociopathic glint in his eye.

When we are first introduced to Himmat, he is making life-or-death decisions on his mobile phone, deciding the fate of human beings in tacit, two-word commands. “Thok do,” he hisses into his phone, waiting to be summoned for an inquiry that has been launched into his activities by a newly elected government.

Over the years, Himmat has spent crores in taxpayer money on vaguely defined ‘miscellaneous’ expenses. The show is framed, like the first season of True Detective, in flashbacks, with Himmat narrating his adventures to a couple of comical ‘sarkari babus’. It isn’t, however, as sombre as that brilliant HBO show. Nor is it is bitingly funny as The Family Man. Think of Special OPS as a sort of spiritual sequel to Pandey’s Baby and Naam Shabana -- just as affectionate of spy movie tropes and as averse to Bollywood’s pandering nationalism.

Pandey has enlisted his Naam Shabana director Shivam Nair to help helm Special OPS, and although each of them is credited separately, I hear they divided duties based on storylines, much like the approach Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap employed on Sacred Games.

Saiyami Kher, Vipul Gupta, Muzzamil Ibrahim, Meher Vij in a still from Special OPS.
Saiyami Kher, Vipul Gupta, Muzzamil Ibrahim, Meher Vij in a still from Special OPS.

While Himmat Singh braves government interference and toils hard to protect his country in the primary plotline, his apostles on the field are sent on globe-trotting missions. Refreshingly, Special OPS is both more refined and better executed than virtually every series that Hotstar has released under its newly christened ‘Hotstar Specials’ banner, although that isn’t saying much. It’s no coincidence that it’s the first wholly original show that the streamer has produced, after a string of underwhelming remakes.

Pandey and Nair effectively recreate the Parliament attacks of 2001 in the opening scene of episode one, thrillingly narrating an incident that has curiously not been depicted on screen as often as you’d imagine, although it does provide a taste of the excesses that the show routinely indulges in, such as speed-ramping and gratuitous establishing shots.

I was, however, particularly impressed by the use of era-appropriate vehicles in the scene, which doesn’t sound like a major achievement, but you’d be surprised at how many (big and small) shows overlook the importance of period accuracy. I remember spotting a fancy modern SUV in Netflix’s ‘60s-set The Spy, and multiple Wagon Rs in Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘80s-era Miss Lovely.

In the aftermath of the Parliament attacks, Himmat is convinced that there was a sixth member in the terrorist team, and that he has gotten away scott-free. Some viewers might find Pandey’s blend of fact and fiction to be understandably off-putting – we are, after all, talking about a rather touchy subject, and a real-life incident whose perpetrator is still at large. Like Amazon’s recent Hunters, which imagined made-up atrocities committed by the Nazis, as if the real ones weren’t terrible enough, Special OPS makes no mention of Masood Azhar and Afzal Guru.

Instead, it sets its sights on a fictional villain named Ikhlaq Khan. Much of the show’s plot deals with Himmat and his team working together to track him down. There are minor forays into Himmat’s personal life, but these scenes could easily have been done away with. Himmat’s wife has nothing to do, and his Srikant-esque surveillance of his teenage daughter feels needlessly tacked on.

Perhaps the show could have benefitted from having its objectively oblique protagonist be a blank slate. The best spies always are, and Menon’s central performance certainly has an air of mystery about it.

Sana Khan and Karan Tacker in a still from Special OPS.
Sana Khan and Karan Tacker in a still from Special OPS.

It also highlights the comparatively less nuanced performances of the supporting cast, made up almost entirely of television actors such as Karan Tacker and Sana Khan, committed but not nearly in the same league as Menon.

It’s curious to observe how our film industry meanders around tricky themes such as nationalism in times like this. Politically, Special OPS paints a rather problematic possibility, one that imagines the outcome of mass oppression of a single community resulting in retaliation that to some degree the show shrugs its shoulders at, as if it is to be expected.

Special OPS is a minor win for Hotstar. It might not justify a weekend spent in self-isolation, but if you’re already prepared to re-subscribe before the streamer (this time for real) rolls out Disney+, it might just help you bide your time.

Follow @htshowbiz for more
The author tweets @RohanNaahar

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
KBC 12 will end on Friday, January 22.
KBC 12 will end on Friday, January 22.

KBC 12 finale to salute Kargil War heroes, watch Amitabh Bachchan give a glimpse

PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 10:15 AM IST
Kaun Benaga Crorepati 12 will end on Friday. The grand finale will be dedicated to the heroes of 1999 Kargil War. Watch promo.
Close
Aly Goni and Abhinav Shukla in a fight.(Colors)
Aly Goni and Abhinav Shukla in a fight.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14 promo: Aly Goni, Abhinav Shukla lock horns over Devoleena

UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 07:17 AM IST
Bigg Boss 14 promo: During their fight, Aly Goni called Abhinav Shukla a monkey while Abhinav said Aly is a buffalo.
Close
Bigg Boss 14 written update day 106: Rakhi fought with Rubina.(Colors)
Bigg Boss 14 written update day 106: Rakhi fought with Rubina.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14 day 106: Rakhi fights with Rubina, complains 'you didn't hug me'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 21, 2021 12:29 AM IST
Bigg Boss 14 written update day 106: Rakhi Sawant was upset with Rubina Dilaik for giving Nikki Tamboli too much importance.
Close
Rakhi Sawant calls Vikas Gupta, her "bhai" on the show,(Colors)
Rakhi Sawant calls Vikas Gupta, her "bhai" on the show,(Colors)

Rakhi Sawant's brother says her husband is real, their wedding actually happened

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 07:21 PM IST
  • Bigg Boss contestant Rakhi Sawant is really married to a man named Ritesh, her brother Rakesh has said. Ritesh's identity remains a mystery.
Close
Devoleena Bhattacharjee entered Bigg Boss house as Eijaz Khan's proxy.(Twitter)
Devoleena Bhattacharjee entered Bigg Boss house as Eijaz Khan's proxy.(Twitter)

Bigg Boss 14: Nikki brings up Devoleena's MeToo comments during massive fight

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 05:50 PM IST
  • Nikki Tamboli got into a heated fight with Devoleena Bhattacharjee on Bigg Boss 14. Watch the video here.
Close
Eijaz Khan in Bigg Boss 14.
Eijaz Khan in Bigg Boss 14.

Bigg Boss 14: Eijaz Khan hints at re-entry in the show, watch video

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 02:47 PM IST
  • Eijaz Khan, one of the top contenders to win Bigg Boss 14, walked out of the show earlier this week due to prior professional commitments. He hinted at his return in a video message.
Close
Jasmin Bhasin was voted out of Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)
Jasmin Bhasin was voted out of Bigg Boss 14.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14: Nikki Tamboli throws away task, shocks Jasmin Bhasin

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 02:01 PM IST
Nikki Tamboli broke the rules while Sonali Phogat and Rakhi Sawant talked about their craving for burgers when Bigg Boss offered burger and fries as an attraction for them to break rules.
Close
Pitta Kathalu is the Telugu version of Netflix' Lust Stories.
Pitta Kathalu is the Telugu version of Netflix' Lust Stories.

Netflix unveils the teaser of upcoming Telugu anthology Pitta Kathalu, watch

By Haricharan Pudipeddi
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 12:53 PM IST
Netflix show Pitta Kathalu, the Telugu version of Lust Stories, gives us a quick glimpse into the four stories and it seems to be touching upon some bold themes.
Close
Jasmin Bhasin and Aly Goni are rumoured to be together.
Jasmin Bhasin and Aly Goni are rumoured to be together.

Jasmin Bhasin pens note for Aly Goni: 'Missing hugging you hard'

UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 11:04 AM IST
Jasmin Bhasin took to Twitter to express her feelings for Aly Goni. She wrote how she was missing him after her exit from Bigg Boss 14.
Close
Aly Goni gets into a fight with Abhinav Shukla after Rubina and Rahul fight.(Colors)
Aly Goni gets into a fight with Abhinav Shukla after Rubina and Rahul fight.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14 promo: Aly-Abhinav, Nikki- Devoleena engage in ugly fights

PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 09:35 AM IST
Bigg Boss 14 promo: After Rubina Dilaik pushed Rahul Vaidya in a fight, Aly Goni and Abhinav Shukla intervened and ended up fighting with each other.
Close
Rahul Vaidya and Rubina Dilaik in an ugly fight.(Colors)
Rahul Vaidya and Rubina Dilaik in an ugly fight.(Colors)

Bigg Boss 14: Rubina Dilaik pushes Rahul Vaidya in a fight, Aly Goni intervenes

UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 02:05 AM IST
Bigg Boss 14 written update day 105: Rubina Dilaik got angry when Rahul Vaidya dragged her equation with husband and co-contestant Abhinav Shukla in a fight.
Close
Bigg Boss 14: Pavitra Punia said that her closeness with Eijaz Khan was not for the sake of the show.
Bigg Boss 14: Pavitra Punia said that her closeness with Eijaz Khan was not for the sake of the show.

Eijaz Khan opens up about relationship with Pavitra Punia, declares 'I love her'

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 08:42 PM IST
  • Eijaz Khan, who recently had to leave Bigg Boss 14 abruptly, has opened up about his relationship with Pavitra Punia.
Close
There reports doing the rounds that Krushna Abhishek got offended by one of the jokes cracked by his co-star on The Kapil Sharma Show, Kiku Sharda.
There reports doing the rounds that Krushna Abhishek got offended by one of the jokes cracked by his co-star on The Kapil Sharma Show, Kiku Sharda.

Tiff between Krushna-Kiku on sets of comedy show? All is well, they say

By Rishabh Suri
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:55 PM IST
Both Krushna Abhishek and Kiku Sharda have assured that there is no fight between them and what they perform on The Kapil Sharma Show is part of the script.
Close
Zeeshan Khan plays Aryan on Kumkum Bhagya.
Zeeshan Khan plays Aryan on Kumkum Bhagya.

Kumkum Bhagya actor Zeeshan Khan recalls casting couch incident

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:54 PM IST
  • Actor Zeeshan Khan, who appears in Kumkum Bhagya, has recalled a casting couch incident that he experienced.
Close
Shivin Narang wants to explore OTT space.
Shivin Narang wants to explore OTT space.

Shivin Narang: No hang ups in doing intimate scenes on OTT if story demands

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 05:27 PM IST
Actor Shivin Narang says why he did not take up much work on TV last year. He also talks about his 2020 plans and adds that he is keen on exploring OTT.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP