Cast: Tiger Shroff, Disha Patani, Prateik Babbar, Manoj bajpayee, Randeep Hooda, Deepak Dobriyal
Director: Ahmed Khan
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
“Hey baby,” leers a lecherous villain in Baaghi 2. “I mean bhabhi.” You and I may groan, but this might be the kind of directness the heroine of the film actually appreciates, given how in college she rebuked a boy for tailing her (“I hate stalkers”) but then commended him for speaking his mind. “Don’t act desperate,” she then warned, “I’ll carry pepper spray.” Then she turned away and laughed mischievously, as if the mere mention of mace is a sexual come-on.
When we meet the film’s hero – the aforementioned indiscreet stalker – he is an Army Commando in Kashmir who ties a man to the front of his jeep and uses him as a human shield. Wow. It is the kind of thing I expected Hindi cinema to tackle at some point, but not in a Tiger Shroff film where his reasoning for this inhumanity is that somebody burned the Indian flag. As if the film’s loathing for subtlety wasn’t immediately clear enough, we then see that his commanding officer is played by a man who calls himself Grandmaster Shifu-Ji, a creator of hate-filled YouTube propaganda videos, whose own website lists him as a “Revolutionary Orator” and a “Freelance Mentor.” God save us all.
A girl has been kidnapped but does she even exist? Baaghi 2 – technically a sequel to the entirely unrelated film Baaghi, and a remake of the Telugu hit Kshanam – has a decently twisty plot about kidnapping and deceit, one that could have worked in the hands of an actual filmmaker.
Choreographer Ahmed Khan isn’t up to the task of making ineffective leads look like actors, which basically means storytelling via montages so clumsy you can all but hear the director’s voice as the performers abruptly alter their expressions: “Now look sad, more sad, eyes lower.” That kind of thing. In the film’s first scene, where Disha Patani finds herself assaulted by masked men, she looks more confused than hurt: how, she seems to be asking herself in slow motion, can I look more vulnerable, more surprised, more in pain? (Look to us, miss. Look to our faces to see what being brained with a blunt object looks like.)
The lack of finesse hurts the actor. Tiger Shroff – who has the earnest likability of the one-stunt pony – is fine delivering flying kicks over a table, but Khan tries to make him appear emotionally driven, which translates to him grimacing when firing a machine gun – not the best look for a Rambo wannabe. The fight sequences are set to odd music, liberally use slow-motion, and rely too heavily on turn-by-turn choreography. Plus, the hero pauses in the middle of a fight to reverentially gaze at the Indian flag kept on a policeman’s desk, while he bashes in both policeman and desk. Despite the actor’s core strength being his core, most of these action scenes appear inexplicably late, long after the film has hammered us with weak melodrama and inexplicably poor writing.
Tiger tries hard to suck in his cheek, square his jaw and Jackie it up, but this mediocrity is too much for him to handle. Half the film involves him overwhelmed, while the other half has him beating up people and then using a Batman voice to growl “I’m looking for a little girl.” Okay then. Patani, playing a high-strung role, is particularly insipid. “Have you seen my daughter?” the hysterical heroine asks, running from stranger to stranger in what looks like the parking lot of a shopping mall. “I don’t know,” says a man, understandably feigning a phone call to get away from this woman.
Shroff and Patani have very little on-screen chemistry, exemplified in a song sequence that shows us two youngsters who dance at each other instead of with each other, like rivals at a Zumba class. The posters of this film showed me two frighteningly fit youngsters and I thought maybe she’d get a chance to kick butt as well, but there is alas no dice. In fact, on the basis of this role and her work in MS Dhoni, Patani could well be in danger of being labelled the next Yami Gautam, a girl with a nice smile who rarely lasts the whole mile.
The extras seem to have walked in from Gold’s Gym, but some familiar faces show up, like Randeep Hooda playing a cop who looks like an unemployed Rasta bassist (and who, refreshingly, gives zero damns whatsoever to the film) and Prateik Babbar, doing such an unconvincing job of being on drugs that the actor must be trying to assure us he doesn’t know what they look like. In one scene, bona fide actors Deepak Dobriyal and Manoj Bajpayee sit across from each other possibly wondering why they’re in this film. Later, one of them gets to lean on an honest-to-goodness Trojan Horse sculpture, while the other gets a line about Hyderabadis knowing their way around both biryani and qurbani.