Special OPS (2020– )
|Genre||Action, Crime, Thriller|
|Content Rating||TV-MA (TV-MA)|
Special OPS is an Indian Hindi-language action espionage thriller web series for Hotstar Specials created and directed by Neeraj Pandey, with Shivam Nair serving the credits for co-direction. Pandey also produced the series under his Friday Storytellers, a division of his production house, for providing content to the digital medium. It stars Kay Kay Menon as Himmat Singh, a member of Research and Analysis Wing, forms a team of five agents, in order to track down a person, who is the mastermind of the terror attacks which took place in India.
Neeraj Pandey eventually conceptualised the idea of the script in late 2010, with the series eventually scheduled to be aired on Star Plus, which however did not materialise. He later revived the project in August 2019. Shooting of the series took place in India, and some scenes were filmed in Turkey, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan. The cinematography and editing were handled by Sudheer Palsane, Arvind Singh and Praveen Kathikuloth, whereas Advait Nemlekar composed the background score.
Special OPS was released through Hotstar on 17 March 2020. The series received positive response from critics, praising the performances of the cast members, storyline, direction and technical aspects. It also received eight nominations at the inaugural Filmfare OTT Awards, winning three of them. Pandey had converted the series into a franchise, with the second instalment Special Ops 1.5: The Himmat Story released on 12 November 2021.
The series follows Himmat Singh (Menon) of the Research and Analysis Wing who finds similar patterns in terrorist attacks and is convinced a single person is behind all the attacks. His task force team of five agents living in various parts of the world aim to catch the mastermind. The story is inspired by several espionage missions undertaken by India in the last two decades.
- Kay Kay Menon as Himmat Singh
- Karan Tacker as Farooq Ali/Amjad Sharif/Rashid Malik
- Vinay Pathak as Abbas Sheikh
- Vipul Gupta as Balakrishna "Bala" Reddy
- Sajjad Delafrooz as Hafiz Ali/Ikhlaq Khan
- Muzamil Ibrahim as Avinash
- Saiyami Kher as Juhi Kashyap
- Meher Vij as Ruhani Khan
- Gautami Kapoor as Saroj
- Rajat Kaul as Ismail Hassan
- Sana Khan as Sonia
- Mir Sarwar as Hamid (cameo appearance)
- S. M. Zaheer as Noor Baksh
- K. C. Shankar as Wasim Karachiwala/Firdaus Sheikh/Jamaal Mansoor
- Parmeet Sethi as Naresh Chadda
- Rohit Tannan as Moderator for Indo-Pak Meet
- Kali Prasad Mukherjee as Mr. D.K. Bannerjee
- Divya Dutta as Sadia Qureshi
- Sharad Kelkar as IB officer Surya Kumar (extended cameo appearance in episode 8 and some parts of episode 7)
- Devas Dixit as Lallan
- Pawan Chopra as Chintan
- Bikramjeet Kanwarpal as G.P. Mathur
- Rajendra Chawla as llliyaas Hassan
- Alok Pandey as Pappu Haramzada
- Pakkhi Gupta as Farah Qureshi
- Tanaya Sachdeva as Aditi Rao, daughter of Indian ambassador in Turkey
- Sohaila Kapur as Sujata Thapar
- Bijendra Gupta as Habib Naik
- Rahul Vora as Zaheer Raza
- Abhiroy Singh as Mansoor
- Anuj Sharma as Chaudhary
- Arvind Wahi as Bakhtiar Khan
- Ajit Shidahe as ISI chief
- Revathi Pillai as Pari
- Pavneet Singha as Hitman
The episode were titled, as a tribute, after various Bollywood films by series creator Neeraj Pandey who served as an episode director on an alternating pattern with co-director Shivam Nair. The films referenced include Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Guide (1965), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), Qurbani (1980), Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977) and Sholay (1975).
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Kaagaz Ke Phool"||Shivam Nair||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|In 2001, five terrorists in a dilapidated house attack the Parliament of India and die during the attack. In the present day, Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) attends the RAW audit meeting to explain "miscellaneous" expenses of 28 crores incurred in the last 11 years, on the Middle-East desk. He explains that he had planted agents in five countries and those funds were utilized for their needs but he refuses to reveal their identities. Later his superiors ask him about his theory on 2001 Parliament attack in which he was a part of the investigations. Himmat finds the shop name in the dry fruits packets the terrorists were carrying and asks Abbas (Vinay Pathak) to investigate, from which he finds out that the sixth guy who bought the dry fruits was living near a mosque. Himmat and Abbas reach to the place and start searching, they notice smoke coming out of the window as the sixth guy burns all his things and escapes. As they reach the house Himmat finds his Pakistani passport which was half burnt with no details. Farooq (Karan) calls Himmat and informs that he found Ikhlaq Khan in UAE.|
|2||"Guide"||Neeraj Pandey||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|Farooq suspects about Ikhlaq khan and informs Himmat. And spents time with Soniya. Flashback shows that in 2004 , Himmat meets Farooq who then was a student. Back in present in the investigation Himmat told he got a intel about 26/11 terror attack and sent to investigate kasab. There he believed that Ikhlaq khan is connected with that terror attack too. With the help of his team he operates "Operation Smiley" with Farooq leads the charge, they captured Ikhlaq khan's right hand man Wasim Karachiwala from Dubai.|
|3||"Mughal-E-Azam"||Shivam Nair||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|Telecom Minister, Sujata Thapar appoints Abbas to keep an eye on Himmat. At investigation Himmat reveals that in 2008 upon killing Wasim Karachiwala Farooq decides to stay back in UAE. In 2012 he got to Illiyas Hassan, who was the driver of Wasim. From him he learnt about Ismail Hassan a business tycoon, who invests Hafiz Ali's money in market to fund terrorist organisations. Farooq as Amjad tries to get closer to Ismail. Hafiz executes Ismail's younger brother Abu. Meanwhile Himmat is ambushed while returning from the inquiry.|
|4||"Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahi"||Neeraj Pandey||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|Himmat survived the attack with minor injuries. Four assets and four tasks. Himmat's team is challenged to test their mettle and see if they are ready for the storm coming their way. Hafiz got a tip about Himmat. Farooq getting closer to Hafiz. Himmat causes a bomb blast in Rawalpindi and blames Jamaat to freeze their funds and assets.|
|5||"Chaudvin Ka Chand"||Shivam Nair||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|During the Heated Argument for the funds of Operation Himmat broughts the name of Telecom Minister for a 250cr. scam. Himmat hints a possible bomb blast in Delhi.Farooq's long wait comes to an end and he's face-to-face with Hafiz. Saroj informs Abbas that Himmat's life is in danger. Abbas learns that Telecom Minister is behind the attack on Himmat and warns her. Farooq poses as Rashid infront of Hafiz and agrees to help him on his deal. Farooq senses Ikhlaq khan will be on the deal so, Baku is added to the Special Ops map and new players are revealed.|
|6||"Qurbani"||Neeraj Pandey||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|Farooq's just a few feet away from the mastermind behind 2001 Parliament attack and yet again it's a touch and go situation for Himmat.|
|7||"Shatranj Ke Khiladi"||Shivam Nair||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|Hafiz smells a mole and Himmat finds a pawn. Mind games help Farooq to survive another day.|
|8||"Sholay"||Neeraj Pandey||Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani & Benazir Ali Fida||17 March 2020|
|The country is under an imminent attack and time is running out. Finally, Himmat comes face to face with his nemesis.|
On 15 January 2019, the streaming platform Hotstar, announced its foray to original content production exclusively for the service, with Star India, the parent company of Hotstar, tied up with 15 Indian filmmakers for creating the shows for its label called Hotstar Specials. Pandey had started a new division Friday Storytellers, a subsidiary of his production house Friday Filmworks, for digital content providers, in which the series is produced.
The series is developed as an eight-hour story which is inspired by nineteen years worth events of national significance by Pandey along with Deepak Kingrani and Benazir Ali Fida. Shivam Nair was served as the co-director. He initially pitched the idea of the series in 2010, with Star India's head Gaurav Bannerjee, offering to premiere the show on Star Plus, but failed to materialise later. The project was eventually announced with Kay Kay Menon being offered to play the protagonist, on 6 August 2019, and the rest of the cast and crew members were finalised in the same month.
The principal photography of the series was kickstarted in mid-August 2019. Shivam Nair took charge of helming the major portions of the show taking place in India, and Pandey was directing the rest of the sequences. The show has recreated Parliament of India for filming 2001 Indian Parliament attack portions which were dealt for the first time in film history. Apart from India the show is filmed in Turkey, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan. Pandey eventually stated that the shooting of the series in Delhi was more expensive, as the team needed to build sets and also use visual effects, as the story needs heavy mounting, and hence filmed in international locations.
A promotional video featuring between the scenes footage of filming was released on 23 February 2020. The teaser poster was released on 25 February 2020, followed by the trailer of the series, which was dropped on the same day at a press conference held in Mumbai, attended by the cast and crew. On 1 March 2020, the makers announced that the series will be premiered on Hotstar on 17 March 2020, where it will be made accessible for viewers who enabled the VIP subscription method, in the streaming platform. On 15 March 2020, the second trailer of the series was released, which confirmed the release on the said date. However, Hotstar eventually released the first episode, earlier ahead of the scheduled date, on 16 March 2020, followed by the other consecutive episodes. The series was premiered in seven Indian languages – Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Kannada, along with its Hindi original version on the said date.
Special OPS received mostly positive response from critics. Rohan Naahar of Hindustan Times stated "Neeraj Pandey and Kay Kay Menon deliver the first Hotstar original series almost worth the self-isolation." Sana Farzeen of The Indian Express stated "With some impressive performances and a compelling tale, Special Ops deserves a watch". Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV gave three out of five stars to the show stating "Special Ops, is a sprawling espionage actioner that takes its own sweet time to glide towards two suspenseful climactic build-ups." Archika Khurana of The Times of India too gave three out of five and stated "Special Ops' could have been a winner all together if it was more focussed. Still, this setup of spies is better than some of its counterparts, and is binge worthy too."
Stutee Ghosh of The Quint stated "Special Ops is uneven in its pace and falters in between but it’s also a proof of Neeraj Pandey’s skill that despite these flaws he has created a series that has enough drama to keep us hooked", and gave three out of five stars. Divyanshi Sharma of India Today, gave a mixed review stating "Special Ops has some stellar performances, which was put down by, forced slow-motion scenes, predictable twists, absence of logic and poorly executed story." Nandini Ramanath of Scroll.in opined "Special Ops lands on the better side of Bard of Blood, but doesn’t match the entertainment value of The Family Man While the Parliament attack is well executed, the hand-to-hand combat scenes are unmistakably choreographed."
Avinash Ramachandran of The New Indian Express commented "Despite the supporting cast being underwritten, a few setbacks in the pacing, and the oh-so-convenient twists, the show gets a lot right". Firstpost chief critic Pratishruti Ganguly gave two out of five and stated "Perhaps it would have fared better for Special Ops to do away with the frills and focus on the titular special operation right from the get go... However, it could well be a binge-worthy series in the times of self-quarantine."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Nominee||Result||Ref.|
|Filmfare OTT Awards||19 December 2020||Best Drama Series||Special OPS||Nominated|
|Best Director (Drama)||Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair||Nominated|
|Best Actor (Drama)||Kay Kay Menon||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress (Drama)||Divya Dutta||Won|
|Best Background Score||Advait Nemlekar||Nominated|
|Best Original Soundtrack||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Sandeep Sharad Ravade||Nominated|
|Best Costume Designer||Falguni Thakore||Nominated|
|Best Editor||Praveen Kathikuloth||Won|
In a live chat session on Instagram, with Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker and Neeraj Pandey in May 2020, the director hinted of the second season of the series which is yet to be conceptualised. Although an official announcement of the second season was made in April, Pandey hinted that the series will be "bigger than that of the first season".
In January 2021, Pandey announced that the works on the second season will be completed, before starting the production of Ajay Devgn's Chanakya. He eventually converted the series into a franchise and on 22 January 2021, the makers announced the second instalment in the franchise titled Special Ops 1.5: The Himmat Story. The series which revolves around the backstory of Himmat Singh (Menon) as a raw agent, is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the first season. The series consisted of four episodes with a runtime of nearly one-hour and was premiered on Disney+ Hotstar on 12 November 2021.