NETFLIX Review: Khufiya – Vishal Bhardwaj’s spy world

Photo- Netflix.

MELBOURNE, 6 October 2023: A person working in India’s spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), based in New Delhi on a sensitive assignment vanishes amid the political turmoil engulfing the country in 2004.

Branded a ‘traitor’, his escape from India with the assistance of his powerful overseas handlers is the story of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Khufiya’, based on Amar Bhushan’s 2012 novel ‘Escape to Nowhere’. Amar Bhushan served as Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat from where he retired in 2005. Loosely inspired by actual incidents in 2004, ‘Khufiya’ gives a rare insight into how one becomes a ‘traitor’, the working of different intelligence agencies, and their inside workings laced with mysteries.

In this rather intriguing crispy tale, Vishal Bhardawaj weaves  a sensational spy world where Krishna Mehra (KM), Tabu, Ravi Mohan (RM), Ali Fazal, Charu (Ravi’s wife), Navihindra Bahl (NB), Ravi’s mother, Wamiqa Gabbi, Azmeri Haque Badhon … , are on a canvas criss-crossing three countries in the era when Nokia mobiles were used and chatting through the net the domain of a few. 

In a nutshell, the story in the novel and publicly available reports is about one person in RAW who when posted overseas becomes the spy of a big country and later starts his operations from New Delhi. There is suspicion about him and he is put under surveillance. His handlers are not known and the mode of communication with them is a deep secret. He emails classified sensitive documents to his handlers.

Basically, the spy was using the internet and its VOIP system which gives talk, chat, and text communication. This, probably, was not known to the agencies in India. Currently, this technology is used by anyone with an internet connection in the world.

Things seem to be closing on him. And, one day along with his wife with their new identities (RM becomes Robin in the movie) escapes from India to a neighbouring country. From there they are flown to the country for which he was spying. Big questions were raised including whether how could such a high-profile person under surveillance vanish from New Delhi. Or, was there something else behind it? Some reports indicate the spy died in an accident in 2016.

Tabu (KM) the protagonist, grapples with a broken marriage and an assertive son. She looks mature giving life to a tough career. The role of a god man in the espionage drama gives spice to the narrative. RM’s mother NB, collaborating with her son is not surprising. After KM, Charu’s role as Ravi’s wife is crucial and acted well. Stunning Bangladesh actress, Azmeri Haque Badhon, as the informer in Dhaka, is Vishal Bhardawaj’s big find.

In the 157 minutes movie, the first half is engaging and pace normal. The second half has many longish shots, which could have been trimmed. Still, Khufiya is another feather in the cap of Vishal Bhardawaj, though this is not his best.

I was wondering what is all the trouble and violence about. One Tabu dialogue  indicated the answer – ‘Jab tak duniya desh aur dharm main bati hi – yeh khoon kharaba chalta rahega.” (Until the world is divided by countries and religion – this bloodshed will continue).


I give 3 stars out of 5 to Khufiya.

By Neeraj Nanda

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