Tiger Shroff, s/o Jackie Shroff, was “launched” in Heropanti (2014). That film did decent business, so now he’s here to stay. The director-producer team that launched him has brought him back, in a similar dhishum-dhishum avatar, but in a film that’s much, much worse. Baaghi is a typical Bollywood “showcase” film that’s trying, yet again, to coax a star bachcha into stardom. Thus, it’s an action-love story which has a bit of everything.
The film’s thin storyline is about a boy with long, curly hair who doesn’t look like a baaghi (rebel) at all. He seems rather sweet with his toothy, dimpled smile.
He’s also kind. So kind, in fact, that he stops to eavesdrop on a girl standing at the door of a moving train and shouting at the rain. Normal people like you and I will not feel endeared to a kooky mumbler. We’ll quickly dash to our seats to tell our co-passengers that there’s a mental case on board.
But not Ronnie (Tiger Shroff). He is smitten, immediately. And proceeds to maaro line and throw smiles. Sia (Shraddha Kapoor) being a coy Indian girl, smiles slyly to us, but wears a disapproving frown for his consumption.
Mann-hi-mann she is ecstatic, of course. So much so that as soon as the train stops and it begins to rain, she and many extras take over the platform to dance a song to the rain gods. The song goes cham, cham, cham and the choreography is built around, as is the case these days, three steps. I was bored already and it was really just three-four minutes into the film.
What was slightly interesting and distracting was the fact that the entire cast of the film barring one Guruswami (commando trainer Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj himself) and one Yong in a very wrong kind of wig were on board this train. Hero and heroine, of course. But also Sia’s father, P.K. Khurrana (Sunil Grover aka Gutthi), and chief villain Raghav (Sudheer Babu) with his minions.
Ronnie is on his way to meet Guruswami who runs the very aesthetic and picturesque Kalaripayattu Academy of Martial Arts somewhere in Kerala. He’s carrying a letter from his father for Guruswami. It’s more like a plea: Kindly note that the bearer of this letter is my son who is a baaghi because he does not follow any rules. Tumhein meri dosti ka vasta, please turn him into a useful human being.
Raghav is also on his way to meet Guruswami, i.e. his father.
Two things are most be noted here: During the platform, three-step cham, cham dance, Raghav saw Sia and fell in love with her. Madly.
Raghav is a Bangkok-based, red-meat eating bad guy who organises “Deadliest Armed Fights” where people obviously die. He himself is a killer fight machine, his daddy dear’s best student.
So now, two boys, one bird.
Guruswami’s Kalaripayattu school runs on the lines of the Shaolin schools that Jackie Chan attended many years ago, but he painstakingly explains that his desi version of martial arts is the original one, and those Chinese ones copies.
It’s hard to believe him because though he can go upside-down to stand on two fingers, he does so wearing a black silk night-suit with red detailing.
He’s also stern and not fun like the Drunken Master.
In between some Shaolin-type household chores that amount to martial art training, Ronnie and Sia are conducting a full-blown affair. But Sia’s father is a greedy man and Raghav is a rich and evil man.
Soon Raghav confronts Ronnie with his love philosophy: “Aurat sirf taqat se pyaar karti hai”. This line brought back very painful memories of that misogynistic vomit, Kambakkht Ishq (2009), hurled at us by the same director, Sabbir Khan.
Incidentally, all these bits about Ronnie’s romance and training and confrontation with Raghav come to us as flashback. In the here and now Ronnie has taken on the assignment to rescue and return Sia to her father from a penthouse in Bangkok.
The whole premise of Baaghi is built on the promise of action. And it is there, especially in the climax. But to get there we must first suffer the damp squib love story between two actors who have zero chemistry. The romance yields so much rain (that’s their thing, you see — it rains when Ronnie and Sia meet) that I kept wondering why they hadn’t conducted it in Latur, with selfie-queen Pankaja Munde in the foreground. That would have been both charitable and fun.
The film’s climax, the flight up many floors to rescue Sia, is built like those videogames in which a prince has to cross many levels by beating many people, overcoming sudden hurdles and not getting killed himself, to get to the princess. Before Ronnie can get to Raghav, he must kill Yong who, we are told, is “China se import ki hui killing machine”. But because this is a film about guru, gurukul and great Indian culture, this scene contains some nationalistic dissing and the film’s only funny line: “China ka maal jayada der nahin tikta”. Despite this, it’s tedious crawl from one floor to the next. So tedious that at one point Sia joins Ronnie to get the job done quickly.
Sabbir Khan’s Baaghi isn’t pure bile. In fact, if it were tighter, faster, shorter, more focused, it would have been an okay film. Sadly, in its current unwieldy expanse, with too many songs, a thakela comic routine, boring romance and fights that are too few and far between, it’s tough to sit through.
Though cinematographer Binod Pradhan captures Kerala beautifully, the way in which Sabbir Khan simulates reality is hysterical (in a bad way). To show that we are in a Thai hospital or mall or street, he makes people from the Northeast walk around aimlessly.
Sudheer Babu and Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj lend some credibility to the film by acting and staying in character, but that’s not enough reason to watch this film. Tiger Shroff, with Turkish, Belgian, Bengali and Gujarati blood, is interesting looking. But how many times must we watch him throw a 360 helicopter kick? Many times, I fear, because the boy can’t act. At all. He can fight and stare and deliver at the most one line, and has a body to die for. But he really can’t act.
When he tries to act, it’s as if he’s impersonating an emoji that hasn’t been made yet. It’s the emoji about fighting acute constipation. He so awkward and stiff that he made me cringe with embarrassment.
Shraddha Kapoor is also terrible here. She purses and pouts and is really very annoying. Very, very.