Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga is a heist film and a hijack film rolled into one, but that’s just the start. Director Ajay Singh and writers Amar Kaushik and Siraj Ahmed take pleasure in drawing out the unpredictability and impishness of their plot, stretching a one-liner in two, four, and eight different directions as they move. They come across as giddy schoolboys pulling a piece of bubblegum just to see how far they can go before it snaps. A good distance - as it turns out.
Trick films—that is, films that delight in convolutions and twists—often rely on simple surfaces and hooks, luring the audience in before hoodwinking them a little further down the path. The trouble is, that approach has gotten patently old. Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga pre-empts this problem and wrongfoots us from the beginning. The film opens in medias res, then flips back eight hours, then eight months. It’s already complicated enough (and fast-moving enough) to involve us in the surface action. With so many plates spinning in the air, we stop looking for more games underneath.
Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga (Hindi)
The story takes off in earnest in the sham Middle-Eastern city of ‘Al-Barkat’. Neha (Yami Gautam), a flight assistant, meets and falls in love with Ankit (Sunny Kaushik), a failed diamonds insurer. Their attempts at starting a new life are jeopardized when Ankit comes clean about his past — he’s in hock to some local criminals. What’s more, he can’t pay them back, so the creditors find a better use of the newfangled couple. They are strong-armed into stealing a cache of diamonds that Ankit’s current boss is stowing away on a flight to India. The couple works out a plan to imperceptibly finish the job. However, before they can fully execute it, the flight is hijacked, and 150 passengers trapped.
Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga proceeds with a self-seriousness in the first half that contradicts the narrative hi-jinks we see unfolding on the screen. This pays off, though, once the film pulls its penultimate trick. Singh, who is making his Hindi directorial debut, aims for something on the level of Snatch or Now You See Me. As the revelations and double-crosses come thick and fast, the film loosens up tonally and emotionally. Ek Dusre Se, a famous song from the 1991 multi-starrer Hum, is used to excellent comic effect, and I laughed when a suspected hijacker, on being interrogated by the cops, maintains he is just a worker returning from the Gulf, since the jobs there are terrible anyway.
Sunny Kaushal has been in a few remarkable films in his career. His shaggy charm and lithe, rough-hewn features mesh well with a film like Chor... Yami, finding herself in the midst of a crime comedy, has fun with the double act, even though I couldn’t believe in Ankit and Neha as a couple from the start. The supporting players are enjoyable throughout, especially Sharad Kelkar as a dry, bemused RAW officer and Barun Chanda as a sleazeball politician.
Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga isn’t as technically accomplished as other aviation-based Hindi films like Neerja and Airlift. The good news is, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a joke film, a ruse film, a film where the cleverness on paper somehow overrides and glosses over the flaws in execution. Its slipperiness extends to the ultimate fate of the characters. Each of these miscreants thinks they are going to get the last laugh. Yet, in the end, it’s the viewer who is left smiling.
Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga is currently streaming on Netflix