Khufiya Review – A successful, suspenseful spy drama

By Romey Norton
Published: October 5, 2023 (Last updated: October 9, 2023)
Khufiya Review - A successful, suspenseful spy drama


The dynamic duo of Tabu and Bhardwaj strike again with this suspenseful spy drama — it is a slow burner but worth investing your time in.

Khufiya is a mystery thriller film that is based on Amar Bhushan’s espionage novel Escape to Nowhere. This film is the Netflix debut of director Vishal Bhardwaj and stars Tabu, Ali Fazal, and Wamiqa Gabbi. This article gives our spoiler-free, official review.

The story follows an operative of the Indian spy agency known as R&AW, who is assigned to track down a mole who is selling defense secrets while grappling with her dual identity as a spy and a recent sexual awakening.

Khufiya Review and Plot Summary

This is Bhardwaj’s first spy-thriller film, and I would describe it as more of a drama than a thriller as it had a strong focus on the character’s emotional conflicts and development. The film steers to focusing on the main character’s emotions rather than action.

This makes sense, as Bhardwaj is known for his Shakespeare adaptations as well as films like Kaminey and Seven Sins Forgiven (7 Khoon Maaf). However, it makes a change from his intense narratives set in rural landscapes as we’re thrown into a multitude of locations.

The characters are what make this film stand out. They’re well-written and well-executed; the actors give compelling performances and have excellent chemistry on screen. 

The character of Krishna Mehra is in constant conflict with herself — including a sexual awakening and a strained relationship with her son. Her character is messy, flawed, and yet compassionate and caring.

Her inner, underlying conflict drives the narrative and is strong enough for audiences to believe in, and it does not become cheesy or over-the-top. Tabu’s ability to portray so much emotion is truly awe-inspiring and her work should be seen and studied by any aspiring actors and acting enthusiasts. 

There are some fun scenes, such as a dancing striptease whilst under surveillance (effective use of the male gaze), and calling her friend a bad singer whilst they’re on location spying. These fun moments allow our protagonist to let down her guard, and show her light-hearted and vulnerable side. 

The film does not spoon-feed you as an audience; you need to concentrate as there are no lingering close-ups or overly expressive music to let you know what to think and feel as an audience (except for the brass band chase scenes.) There are a few plot twists and developments that are confusing — sometimes I couldn’t tell if the flashback had started or ended. 

Is Khufiya Worth Watching?

My only real issue with the film is that it has a very long runtime of over two and a half hours. Espionage drama is one of the easiest genres to lure and captivate an audience, but it can be one of the hardest to execute especially with our shrinking attention spans. The film does start out strong, but it drags a lot in the middle, with the surveillance scenes becoming repetitive and not all holding the same suspense. It then builds and builds to what feels like a rushed ending — but it’s a good ending nonetheless. Krishna gets the ending she wanted, and it’s satisfying to watch. 

The film is by no means perfect, but for Tabu’s acting alone, it’s worth watching.

It’s a story of love, betrayal, loyalty, and revenge and pushes the boundaries of Indian cinema. It’s not glamorous and has little singing and dancing, but it’s captivating in its suspenseful story-telling and character conflicts.

What did you think of Khufiya? Comment below.

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