Khufiya (2023) Ending Explained – Why does the CIA agree to kill Mirza?

Vishal Bhardwaj has followed up his acclaimed television series Charlie Chopra with yet another intriguing espionage thriller. Khufiya stars Tabu, Ali Fazal, and Wamiq Gabbi and is based on Amar Bhushan’s novel, Escape to Nowhere. Bhardwaj has adapted the book with Rohit Narula, making considerable changes to the plot to suit the politically turbulent setting of the early 2000s in the Indian subcontinent. Although the film is almost three hours long, the compelling performances and taut direction from Bhardwaj ensure the runtime isn’t an issue. 

The film is now available to watch on Netflix with English subtitles. In this piece, we break down the complexities of Khufiya’s many subplots and establish their interconnectedness. We also analyze the twist ending which saw KM avenging Heena’s death.

Khufiya Plot Summary

The film is set in the aftermath of 1999’s Kargil War fought between India and Pakistan. The former emerged gallantly victorious but the war damaged the relations of the countries forever. The neighbours have been involved in a neverending cold war ever since and Khufiya takes a piece from their chequered relationship.

Our story begins in the year 2004 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Heena, codenamed Octopus, works for the Indian intelligence service, RAW, and is on a mission to neutralize Brigadier Mirza, who is the face of the Jammat, a Bangladeshi political party. Jammat is supported and funded by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service. 

They have been behind many terrorist attacks that have hurt India in the past, including the hijacking of an aeroplane. Heena has clawed her way into Mirza’s life and heart with months of perseverance. She intends to kill him using a perfume, which she gifts to him at the party. But a mole in RAW informs Mirza about this mission and he kills Heena. When Krishna Mehra, a.k.a. KM, who is Heena’s handler, learns of this betrayal, she blames her boss, Jeev.

Why did KM recruit Heena?

KM works undercover in Bangladesh’s NSI as a counsellor and regularly tracks Mirza. One day, Heena walks into her office for a place on her team and surprises her with knowledge of her true identity. KM becomes interested when Heena gives her Mirza’s 15-day schedule. This is a sort of test that Heena wants to pass to convince KM of her abilities. But the RAW veteran isn’t so easily convinced. It is not until Heena correctly calls three terrorist attacks in Bangladesh that KM recruits her as an asset to tail Mirza. 

Who is the mole in RAW?

We get our answer fairly early in the film when Jeeev reveals to KM in the aftermath of Heena’s death that RAW suspects Ravi Mehta is the mole. He works in the same building as them. A routine from Jeev’s team surveillance revealed a mismatch between his lifestyle and partly government income. In his desperation for answers, he bugs Ravi’s office and the resultant footage confirms their fears. He has been making copies of top-secret files in the office and taking them home.

Ravi was also seen in a shady theatre right before Operation Otcopus exchanging information with a Pakistani undercover agent. Jeev and his team believe that Charu, Ravi’s simpleton housewife whose father was in the army, delivered these files to Ravi’s handler at the Zaire Club, where she takes her son to swimming lessons after school.

The club is flooded with foreign diplomats and Charu shares a cheery relationship with the Pakistani delegate. Jeev invites KM to lead the mission to find out who is pulling the strings and catch Ravi in the act. KM is reluctant but ends up accepting the job, in the hopes of redeeming her failures that pushed Heena away.

Operation Brutus: the beginning of the end

The operation to nab Ravi and identify his handlers is codenamed Brutus. We see that KM shares an indifferent relationship with her son, Vikram. Due to the exigent nature of her work, she oft finds herself missing key events in his life. Her absence would have torn deep but Shashank, KM’s ex-husband, keeps him in check. Jeev secures permission for KM’s team to bug Ravi’s house. They enter the premises when Charu has left to pick up her son, Kunal, from school.

Unfortunately, he is running a temperature that day and Charu skips the swimming lessons to come back home. Although KM is alerted of her early arrival, she risks everything by staying back and tidying up after her team. KM’s team also tracks Lalita’s movements, who is Ravi’s mother. Since his father was also a soldier, Lalita is also in the crosshairs of their investigation.

She follows the dictum of a spiritual guru, Yaara, whose stronghold on Lalita is boundless. She follows everything he says blindly. During their surveillance work KM and her team learn how Charu is a free-spirited soul. She does not have much contact with the outside world and their suspicions about her are eased. 

What is the nature of Heena and KM’s relationship?

Although they initially started out as recruit-handler, Heena and KM were attracted to each other. The latter was not ready to act on her feelings at first but Heena’s persistence won her over and made her see how she really felt about Heena. When Heena did not show up for her training before being recruited, KM ended up visiting their house.

Heena lived alone with her father, who was suffering from lung cancer. His treatment and Heena’s fierce hatred for Mirza were the reasons why she approached KM. They unexpectedly shared a kiss and slept together that night, solidifying their bond.

How does Jeev save Operation Brutus? 

During the course of their investigation, KM learns that it is Lalita who delivers the papers for Ravi. She is complicit in his betrayal, although Charu seems to have no idea. With this knowledge in their hands, Jeev wants to wrap up the operation and catch Ravi. But right under the team’s nose, Ravi completes his deal without them noticing it. The Home Minister, Naresh Mishra, wants to shut down the operation after the failure. 

Jeev wants more time but Mishra isn’t ready to risk everything. All of this happens in the backdrop of ongoing talks between the US and India for a probable Nuclear deal. Jeev takes it upon himself to salvage the mission and unexpectedly, makes a telling breakthrough. He notices that every Monday, Ravi takes four extra minutes to come up to his apartment. There is a small door right by the staircase to his apartment that connects straight to the garage. Jeev asks KM’s team to set up surveillance in order to find out more about how Ravi makes the drops.

How does KM jeopardize the mission?

On the day of the operation, Charu slips on the staircase as she hurries to take Kunal’s inhaler to school. While KM’s team installs bugs and cameras, KM notices the accident and jeopardizes the mission by asking her team to take Charu to the hospital. She saves Charu’s life and gets away with the intervention. Charu’s relationship with Vikram deteriorates further as he demands to know the truth about her work. She wants to protect him from anything that might spill over and hence chooses to allow the breakdown instead of telling him the truth. 

Who is Ravi’s operator, pulling the strings?

Using the footage from the garage, the team learns how Ravi makes the drops. There is someone at the club who accesses the boot of Ravi’s car and exchanges the files for money. He also completes the cross that Ravi draws on the boot with chalk to signal a successful exchange. This leads the team to the actual puppeteers behind Ravi’s betrayal: the US. They catch Rachel McClane in the act, forcing Jeev to confront the Home Minister. It turns out that Mishra himself was also responsible for Heena’s death. McClane had warned Mishra in an earlier interaction to stay away from Mirza.

The US was closing in on a deal with Pakistan to nab Osama Bin Laden but they required that Mirza be left untouched. If the Nuclear deal between India and the US were to be a success, Heena had to be sacrificed as pulling her out would have alerted Mirza.

That night, Ravi notices the bugs in the garage and confirms his suspicions that he is being tailed by RAW when he looks outside his window. KM’s team is stationed right next to his house. In order to give himself time, Ravi kills the members on duty and asks McClane to bail him out. 

What happens to Charu after Ravi deserts her? 

Ravi haphazardly packs his bags and asks CHaru to do the same. She demands to know the truth and Ravi obliges her. He justifies his actions by saying that helping the US get the Taliban out of Afghanistan is more important than what happens in Bangladesh. Charu is shocked to learn the truth and does not want to go with Lalita and Ravi. That is when the former shoots her – although not fatally – and they leave before KM and her team can get there.

We jump 6 months ahead of this incident. Charu now stays with her father and has lost all hope in life. She desperately wants Kunal back in her life and notices KM in an album with Ravi. She also remembers her from the brief second she regained consciousness that day on the staircase.  She visits KM while she is having lunch with Shashank. KM refuses to recognize her and is unmoved even as Charu begs for an opportunity to bring her son back.

Khufiya Ending Explained: 

The next day, Charu is approached by KM and her team. They prepare her to infiltrate Ravi’s household in the US. Charu visits multiple concerts organized by Yaara around the country in the hopes that Lalita will show up one day. That fateful hour finally befalls Charu, who is presented to Lalita in the confines of Yaara’s room by him. What Lalita does not know is that Yaara is helping RAW so that they can unfreeze his accounts in India. He lies to Lalita that Charu has been staying in his ashram for months. Lalita sees this as a blessing. She and Ravi have fallen on hard times. 

Ravi is bankrupt and lives with her as a refugee in the US. The CIA is yet to give them citizenship or any monetary help. In her old age, Lalita has to do all household chores alone. Charu does everything to convince Ravi of her innocence but he remains skeptical. Kunal is over the moon seeing his mother back and so is Charu. She uses her training to successfully evade a lie detector test the CIA administers her. Charu also places bugs and cameras around the house for KM’s team to monitor. Dr. David White, who is Ravi’s CIA handler, gives him surveillance cameras to ensure Charu is not a threat.

She passes the test with flying colours and regains her old self in her disguise as a loving housewife. However, that does not last long as the reality of her fractured marriage dawns upon her. She requests KM to bring Kunal and her back to India. But KM reminds her that this cannot happen unless the mission is successful. KM narrates how she found out that Heena betrayed her as she was working for the ISI. To prove her loyalty, she took on the suicide mission to kill Mirza which eventually took her life.

Fida, their Iranian neighbour in the US, who has also been brought by the CIA, spots Charu talking on the phone at night. She is frightened but manages the situation. Fida mentions a Black man across the street spying on their house and asks her to be careful. As he is leaving, out of nowhere, a car strikes him and he is left for dead. It turns out that the man is part of KM’s team. She is herself positioned in that house. Charu tries running away with her son Kunal but is stopped in her tracks by KM.

The mission rests on a pivotal stage as KM overhears David saying on a surveillance camera to Ravi that Mirza is visiting the country and wants to meet Ravi. She immediately phones Jeev to get permission for a mission to nab him. But Jeev asks her not to indulge. Without caring about what happens next, KM proceeds with the mission. She shows up at Ravi’s house and shows Lalita and him all the evidence RAW has against them. They plan to kill Mirza by poisoning him.

David and his wife will also be coming for dinner. To ensure they aren’t an obstacle, KM recruits the help of an old colleague. David is called away by her daughter and his wife is convinced by Charu and Lalita to fast until David gets back. Their overeagerness puts Mirza in doubt, who takes Lalita in his arms pointing a knife at her throat. She bites his hand and Mirza slashes her throat. Charu somehow manages to hold Mirza back from escaping as KM arrives at the house. Ravi bashes Mirza’s head into the wall and goes to finish him off, only to be stopped by KM who reminds her of what it would mean for Kunal.

David comes back to find this chaotic scene and a proposition by KM. She has him on camera accepting that the US spied on an ally. This would mean humiliation for them on the global stage. David understands this and accepts KM’s deal. Mirza’s dead body is later transported to the hotel he is staying in and the media presents it as an accident in his bathtub.

The movie ends with Ravi being transported back to India and Charu encouraging KM to be honest with her son about her work. She cannot keep running away from the truth and distancing him in the process. KM takes her advice and calls Vikram to finally confront the truth. 


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