Streaming on Amazon Prime, ‘Farzi’ which marks the OTP debut of Shahid Kapoor is one of the most action-packed thrillers one has seen in recent times. It truly offers the temptation of binge watching but at the same time, fails in terms of the ideology it subtly presents. The ideology makes quite a powerful statement.

The story revolves around Sunny (Shahid Kapoor) a pavement artist in Mumbai who can copy original paintings brilliantly. His mother died when he was small, and his father, a criminal, left him to fend for himself in a train. Sunny’s maternal grandfather (Amol Palekar) found him on a railway platform and took him home alongwith his friend Feroz (Bhuvan Arora). The boys are taken care of by the idealist grandfather.

The grandfather runs a newspaper called ‘Kranti’ (Revolution). But his printing press is threatened by the original owners, as huge loans have not been repaid and the debts have run high. Sunny, who loves his grandfather, racks his brains to find out a way to repay the loans and save the press, the newspaper and its employees.

He and Feroz crack up the idea of printing fake currency notes, of Rs.500 and Rs.2000. With Sunny’s artistic talent, they strike gold without the knowledge of the grandfather who had taught him to draw and paint.

From this point on, the narrative turns into an adventure-action thriller of high voltage action running parallel with that of a police officer Michael Vednayagam (Vijay Sethupathi), who is trapped between a troubled marriage and his career.

He wants to crash the massive flooding of the market with counterfeit currency sourced back to kingpin Mansoor Dalal (Kay Kay Menon) to clear his name from a past wrong media report that got him suspended from his job. Dalal, an extradited Indian citizen, lives in Kathmandu and destroys whoever comes in his way.

Michael smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, lives alone, and eats noodles in cups when he is not drinking. He is constantly disturbed by his distancing from his only son Byom, but has no idea what a bad husband and father his job and frustrations have turned him into, much to the sadness of wife Rekha who finds solace in the arms of another man.

The Urdu word ‘Farzi’, means “feigned, as a story or fable; devised; invented; not real; fictitious.” It is an adjective, not a noun. Can complete and committed allegiance to a fake practice turn the practitioner into a fake person himself turning the adjective into a noun? This is a comment made by Sunny’s avuncular manager Yasir (Chittaranjan Giri) who unwillingly gets caught in the trap of Sunny’s and Feroz’s counterfeit business.

Sunny began on the plea of rescuing his grandfather (Amol Palekar)’s printing press and newspaper from creditors. But even after clearing the debts, he got sucked into the same shady business.

Did he get addicted to it? Or, was he addicted to the greed for money? Sunny turned his artistic talent in making replicas of currency notes (post demonetisation) to a flourishing way of life which he does not feel one bit guilty about. He calls himself an “Artiste” so no one in the law and order system knows either his real name or what he looks like, till the end.

With a few exceptions like Nanu, Yasir and Megha Vyas (Raashi Khanna) a foreign trained specialist at catching counterfeit notes, the rest of the ‘Farzi’ cast is composed of negative characters. They are more or less content in their negative way of life.

From the time Sunny makes counterfeit currency which even Megha’s machine cannot detect, and washes off the guilt of betraying his Nanu, he is thoroughly corrupt. His return to street paintings is an eyewash till Nanu recovers.

Michael chases his wife and son in vain and finally, surrenders to his sad destiny. Characters like Anees, who backs Sunny in his shady business are also small-time criminals. The two political leaders are cliché characters steeped in their tall talk, confidence and corrupt way of life.

The end result is a negative narrative with villains running the show and even getting away with it. This is dangerous as the film offers its viewers a short course on how counterfeit currency is manufactured in great detail. This includes the kind of paper a genuine note uses, the artistry involved in the design, printing and distribution, the way to overcome detection and the deadly danger involved in the whole operation.

Sunny and Feroz, along with the recalcitrant Giri lead to electrically charged action scenes of bike chases, car chases, fights, random shooting, currency notes blown into the air, crowds rushing in to pick them off the streets and scenes of graphic violence which elevate the series to an action-filled, nail-biting, thriller.

There are some positive features too that come through relationships. The most outstanding is the one that obtains between Sunny and Feroz, followed by the close bonding between Sunny and his Nanu, the relationship between Yasin and Nanu and also, the solidarity given to Sunny by the local goon Anees and his gang. Shahid Kapoor as Sunny, whose girlfriend Megha never gets to know his real name or profession, invests the character with just the right blend of innocence, love, uncertainty, confusion and conviction all in one go.

His first snobbish girlfriend does not belong to the film at all, and the role should have been clipped. But Raashi as Megha offers a freshness, a confidence blended into a bit of shakiness that comes out well. She is a classified officer with the RBI but is much too gullible in striking up friendships with men she does not know at all. Her failure to detect Sunny toying with her cell phone which contains classified information is not logical as is the sudden disappearance from the scene of Mansoor’s right-hand man Bilaal.

Why Sunny is made to look so bedraggled, badly clothed with straggly hair, no one knows. Vijay Sethupathi as Michael with his Tamil-accented English and Hindi is brilliant. The villainish-comic Kay Kay Menon as Mansoor has been miscast. Bhuvan Arora as Feroz gives an award-worthy performance.

The final scenes where we see him board the running train looking out for Sunny to join him as promised is moving. Sunny’s idealist Nanu (grandfather) is portrayed brilliantly by Amol Palekar whose slow but sure dementia is mercilessly misused by Sunny to flourish in his ‘farzi’ business.

‘Farzi’ is more of an actor's film because it features three National Award-winning actors, Amol Palekar, Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathi. Tt is also a road movie as it travels far and wide from Mumbai to Kathmandu to Jordan. The audience is left on tenterhooks waiting for what is going to happen next.

So, it is equally a cinematographer’s and an editor’s delight. It is an excellent binge-watch, provided the negative ideology which many unemployed and frustrated youngsters might be inspired by to get into the shady counterfeiting industry.

The directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. who gave us the wonderful ‘Family Man’ and the not-so-wonderful ‘Stree’ (though it was a big hit) have delivered an eminently watchable action-driven thriller, but have put across very negative values which not even a character like Nanu could correct.