Vishal Bhardwaj’s Netflix film Khufiya takes us back to 2004 Bangladesh, a tumultuous time laced with political violence, religious militancy, and public protests. The election would decide the future of the country, and the outcome would establish the nature of the relationship that the country would share with its neighbors. Both India and Pakistan wanted to influence the outcome, unaware that they were not the only players. Bhardwaj sets the tone of his film—a brief description of the political situation is followed by the voice of a woman describing the little details of someone she loved. The vastness of the political situation set against the intimate details narrated by the voice suggested that this is not just a spy crime thriller; Khufiya is also about loss and love that often remain unmentioned in tales of valor.
The impact that Khufiya creates in the beginning gradually dilutes as the film progresses. Where the story fell short, the cast made up for it. It is always such a delight to watch Tabu perform on screen. Even though an R&AW agent is not someone you come across in your daily life, Krishna Mehra’s vulnerability, anger, and guilt feel closer to home. After “Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aseni,” Azmeri Haque Badhon’s Heena Rehman is the perfect blend of flirtatious and valiant. Ali Fazal is brilliant as Ravi Mohan; the shift from rage to helpless submission in the end was particularly moving. Wamiqa Gabbi plays Mohan’s wife, Charu, and while she offers her best, the character is not written effectively. The male gaze is strongly felt in scenes where she is imagined to be alone at home.
How Was Ravi Mohan Connected With Heena Rehman’s Murder?
Khufiya begins with the murder of Heena Rehman, also known by her coded name, Octopus. Rehman was invited to a party organized by the Defense Minister of Bangladesh, Brigadier Mirza. The seductive banter between Heena and Mirza was interrupted by a phone call. Shock descended on the Brigadier’s face upon listening to the information passed via the phone. The Brigadier called Heena and proceeded to spray the bottle of perfume she gifted. She stopped him, and Mirza went on to reveal that he was aware of the content in the glass bottle. He swiftly grabbed a fork and stabbed the Octopus with it. That was the end of Heena and the beginning of the story we were to watch unfold. Octopus’ death proved that there was a mole in the R&AW.
The head of the security division at the agency, Jeevanathan, had doubts about agent Ravi Mohan. His salary could not support his luxurious lifestyle, which proved that he was earning money elsewhere. After bugging Mohan’s office, Jeev’s doubt was confirmed. The man photocopied sensitive documents and was, in all probability, involved in Heena’s death. But to whom was he sending these documents? How did the information reach Mirza? Was Ravi Mohan working as a double agent for the ISI? To answer all doubts, it was important to conduct thorough surveillance, and agent Krishna Mehra was assigned to the task. Mehra was boiling with rage when she heard about Rehman’s death. Her relationship with Heena transcended the formal bond between an agent and an informer. Krishna could not make herself leave her apartment and continue with life as usual. She was fueled with vengeance when Jeev discussed the mole in the agency, and thus began Operation Brutus.
Who Is Ravi Mohan?
Ravi Mohan was a family man who lived with his mother, wife, and son. It was initially assumed that his wife, Charu, helped him with the delivery of the files, but gradually, we got to know that she was innocent. The team was shocked when they found out that the only person who knew about Ravi’s secret was his mother. Ravi’s father was an army man who also worked as a middleman for a European arms company after his retirement, and it only made sense that his wife had also learned his cunning ways. While it was evident that Ravi was a double agent sharing confidential information, his delivery pattern and his target were yet to be determined.
Why Did The CIA Hire Ravi Mohan?
Jeev realized that Ravi took an incredibly long time on his way from the garage to his house. What took him so long? Jeev knew that the garage was where the delivery details could be tracked, and thus, he instructed the team to fix surveillance cameras in the garage. Krishna and her team watched Ravi leave a bag in the trunk of his car, and he scratched a mark on the car’s paint. That morning, he left the car in the parking space, and a man who was pretending to mow the garden suspiciously walked up to the car, opened the truck, took the bag Ravi had kept, replaced it with a similar bag, and struck off the mark on the car. The man left on a bike, and Krishna and her team followed him. The message forwarded by Ravi was ultimately left inside a wall of bricks.
With an Agatha Christie novel in her hand, Krishna watched the messenger walk away. She did not expect US diplomat Rachael McClane to be the one receiving the coded message. It became evident that Ravi Mohan was working for the CIA. The CIA wanted to win the trust of the ISI for the smooth transfer of Osami Bin Laden, and by warning Pakistani intelligence about the possible attack on Mirza, they succeeded in their plan. If R&AW murdered Mirza, it would have destroyed ISI’s confidence in the CIA. ISI’s influence on Bangladesh politics could adversely affect India, and they were invested in influencing the election outcome. Mirza shared a fond relationship with militants responsible for the ICI 814 hijack, and yet the CIA refused to budge. The India-America nuclear deal would have suffered if action had been taken against the CIA. The Indian intelligence was left helpless, and they had to sacrifice Octopus to satisfy the goals of the American intelligence.
Even though they could not save Octopus, Jeev was determined to catch the puppets and the puppeteer in the act. With Ravi preparing to make another delivery, Krishna and her team assumed that they had the situation under control. Unbeknownst to them that night, the tube light in the garage blinked, and Ravi took note of the surveillance cameras. He prepared to leave, but Charu refused to run away with a traitor. According to Ravi, he did the right thing by supporting the CIA in its mission to eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan. He explained to Charu that the agency’s myopic vision was the reason why he had to betray them and work directly with the CIA. His explanations were not adequate to win Charu’s trust, and he begged him to let go of her and their son. Ravi’s mother stepped in and shot Charu. She knew that they needed to escape immediately with the help of the US Embassy, and she could not let Charu ruin their plan. Ravi escaped to the United States with his mother and son.
What Role Did Charu Play In The Final Operation?
Charu survived the gunshot injury, but she could not recover from the pain of losing her family. While flipping through the family album, she came across an eye-opening picture. Charu remembered that while she was taken to the hospital after she slipped and fell, a woman was seated next to her, and she wore an evil eye bracelet. She noticed the same bracelet around the wrist of one of Ravi’s colleagues from the agency. Charu walked up to Krishna, hoping that she could help her get her family back, but Krishna refused to engage. Just when she had lost all hope, a kid selling balloons spelled a coded message. Krishna did not wish to be publicly seen with Charu, thus the message asking her to leave for the United States. Soon, we learn that Charu was trained for days by the R&AW agents before she left for the States. She was taught to lie in such a way that the detector would fail to recognize it. They were aware that Charu would have to go through several tests to win back Ravi’s trust, as well as the CIA’s. After reaching the States, Charu followed Yaaraji wherever he went. Ravi’s mother was a devotee of Yaaraji, and it was obvious that no matter what, she would make it a point to visit him. The plan worked, and soon, Charu saw her mother-in-law in his ashram. Ravi’s mother complained to her guruji about the household chores she had to undertake now that Charu was no longer staying with them.
Yaaraji presented Charu, and Maaji reacted almost as if she had seen a ghost. She did not expect Charu to be alive, and seeing her in a foreign country was all the more shocking. Maaji immediately wondered if Charu had an ulterior motive, but when Yaaraji confirmed that the girl was clean, she was relieved. She trusted her guruji blindly, and taking Charu home would relieve her of all the household duties. While Kunal was overjoyed to see his mother after months, Ravi had doubts in his mind. He could not trust Charu, but his mother begged him not to report her to the CIA. With no steady job and income, it was impossible to hire a housekeeper, and Charu was the next best option, according to Ravi’s mother (of course!). She was afraid that the CIA would deport Charu and send them to another third-world country to rot. The mother and son started blaming each other for their misfortune; after all, the CIA no longer cared about an ex-agent. Ravi ultimately informed the CIA about Charu’s arrival. She passed the preliminary interrogation, which was followed by close surveillance. After months of staying true to her story, the CIA finally gave Charu the clean chit. Charu finally connected with Krishna after the cameras were removed. She begged them to hurry up, but unfortunately, her neighbor spotted her talking over the phone. As her neighbor walked by, a car ran over him. Charu was shocked to see Krishna get out of the car; she had no idea that Krishna had been keeping a close watch on her all along. Charu blamed herself for the death of her neighbor, but she ultimately got past it and focused on finding a way to bring her son home.
What Deal Did The CIA And R&AW Make In The End?
Charu had fixed a surveillance device onto her son’s jacket, and that was how Krishna learned about Brigadier Mirza’s arrival in the United States. Mirza wanted to personally thank Ravi for saving his life, and Dr. David White, the official psychiatrist on the CIA panel, asked Ravi to organize a dinner. Dr. White and his wife would accompany Mirza at the dinner party. Krishna knew that it was the perfect time to execute her plan. Krishna’s plan was not exactly what Jeev had approved of. She planned on making a deal with Ravi Mohan and destroying Mirza, but Jeev was against it. The plan was to simply bring Ravi Mohan back to India, and he instructed Krishna to stick to it. Krishna did not care about approval, as long as she could seek her vengeance. She sat down with Ravi and his mother and explained that she had video evidence that proved his involvement in saving Mirza at the cost of an informer.
In the end, Ravi agreed to execute Krishna’s plan in exchange for a respectful return to his country. He was aware that he was no longer valuable to the CIA, and there was no point in staying loyal to them. He was at peace, knowing that he would at least return to his country. At the dinner party, Krishna tried to create a distraction for the Whites, but it was only David who left. The poisoned mutton was presented to Mirza, and it struck him as odd when everyone at the table refused to eat the dish. Mirza could sense something was going on, and he excused himself and walked to the washroom. By then, even Michelle could feel the tension at the dining table. Soon, Mirza took Ravi’s mother hostage, and the situation escalated. Ravi’s mother in an attempt to defend herself, pushed him off, but he slashed her throat as a result. Mirza attempted to run away, but Charu got hold of him.
During Khufiya‘s ending, Krishna entered through the front door and brought the situation under control. By the time David returned, he found Mirza lying on the floor, and Michelle was held hostage. David tried to strike a deal, stating that he would ignore the situation if they allowed Mirza to live, and in case he died, they would be punished. KM reminded David that he was not in a position to make the deal. KM stated the United States could be accused of espionage, and R&AW had video evidence to prove their claim. If the CIA intended to get away with it, Mirza needed to die. To make the death seem natural, David suggested keeping his head down. The next morning, it was officially announced that Mirza had died after slipping in the shower. KM succeeded in avenging the death of her lover, and she also made it clear that nothing went unnoticed by the agency. Charu had her son by her side, and Ravi returned to India in a container. At the end of Khufiya, KM makes a call to her son; this time, she is determined to confess her whole truth. KM had been hiding her sexuality from her son, and he was also unaware of the nature of her job. He demanded honesty from her, and KM finally gathered up her courage to open up.
Is It Based On A True Story?
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Netflix film is based on Amar Bhushan’s book titled “Escape to Nowhere”. For twenty-four years, Bhushan has worked in the Research and Analysis wing, which explains the details that he provides in his literary work. The novel is inspired by a true event in which an R&AW agent was enticed by a CIA honey trap. The events unfolded in 2004 exactly as the timeline followed in Khufiya. An elaborate surveillance system set up by the counterintelligence team confirmed that the man in question was a CIA mole. The agent was Rabinder Singh, and used to work at R&AW before he excaped to America in 2004. Singh’s frequent photocopying the top secret documents and his burgeoning wealth caught the attention of the Indian intelligence Agency. Singh was under rigorous surveillance, but he managed to escape arrest and ran away to the United States with his wife via Nepal.
It is also said that the R&AW unit in Nepal was aware of Singh’s plan, but no action was taken. Bhushan’s book sheds light on how such actions are not as easy to take as one supposes. In the year 2007, R&AW was finally able to trace Rabinder in New Jersey. It was claimed that Singh changed his name to Surenderjeet Singh and had applied for asylum in America, but his plea was rejected. After fleeing to the United States, Singh’s life took a tragic turn, with barely any means to survive after the CIA ceased providing him with financial aid. He tried to secure odd jobs to survive on the foreign land, but even those opportunities were denied to him. In 2016, Rabinder Singh met with a fatal accident in Maryland, USA. Even though Rabinder Singh was not nabbed, his life took a turn for the worse after his escape. He was no longer beneficial to the CIA and he was a wanted man in his country.