Director: Ahmed Khan
Yes Tiger Shroff fans, he does take off his shirt in Baaghi 3. Unlike some Bollywood films of the past decade in which male stars have stripped off their tops for no apparent reason right before a big fight, here an excuse to display that ripped torso is written into the script: the hero’s shirt catches fire so he has to tear it off to save himself.
With such tweaks and touches does Baaghi 3 convince itself that it is different from the templated ventures in which Shroff has been acting since his fists exploded on screen in 2014’s Heropanti. Clarification: it is not.
Baaghi 3 is a remake of the Tamil film Vettai (The Hunt) which starred Arya as the omnipotent brother of a cowardly policeman played by R Madhavan. Team Baaghi‘s poor attitude to quality is confirmed once and for all when the closing credits announce that Vettai was a Telugu film. I suppose because Tamil, Telugu = saaaauth = Madrasi? Ki farak painda? Same same, no?
Anyway, in the Hindi version, Shroff plays Ronnie Chaturvedi who has been aggressively protective of his elder brother Vikram since they were kids. Their father once exhorted Ronnie to forever take care of Vikram who has always been a cowering kitten. When they grow up, Ronnie encourages his sibling to become a policeman, hoping that the uniform will give him a sense of self-worth. Until that happens, one bhai bashes up gangsters of every shade in Agra on behalf of his policeman bhai who then takes the credit.
In Vettai, the brothers’ area of operation was Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, but since gang wars in a single Indian city are small change for Shroff I guess, Baaghi 3 travels to Syria where the story becomes about – as the trailer has already grandly informed us – “one man against the whole country”.
The foray into Syria is a departure from the post-2014 trend in Bollywood of demonising Muslims to cash in on rising off-screen Islamophobia. Unlike Kesari, which distorted history to fit this narrative, and unlike Kalank which was selective in its account of Partition for the very same reason, Baaghi 3 makes an overt attempt to state that Indian Muslims are not villains, that Indians and Pakistanis are bhai-bhai, and that we are all helpless in the hands of demons from the Middle East.
One of the many problems with this line though is that you can hardly hope to counter the din of prevailing Islamophobia with immature writing in a film whose primary purpose is not this anyway, but to show off its special effects, its action choreography and Mister Shroff in all his well-muscled, topless glory.
Of course Baaghi 3 does not have the intellectual depth to take the conversation further either, to ask why the word terrorist in our country is habitually applied to those killing in the name of Islam and never to those who organised the mobs that murdered and raped Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, Muslims in Gujarat 2002 and Christians in Odisha in 2008. A counter to Islamophobia can come only from the thoughtful writing of films like Raazi and Gully Boy in which Muslims are portrayed as normal human beings of all hues – good, evil and the in-betweens.
If “nuance” were the last word left on Earth, you could not apply it to Baaghi 3. Well-intentioned, loud, gory, clichéd – yes. Nuanced – absolutely not. And to be fair, director Ahmed Khan makes no such promise. Nor did the trailer, which makes his intentions clear with this juvenile tagline: “Whack smack attack, never look back.”
Farhad Samji, who has written Baaghi 3‘s screenplay and dialogues, initially gives characters a few bombastic, rhyming lines of the sort that were once common – and often fun – in commercial Hindi cinema, but that have become boring with decades of over-use. Ronnie gets this one: “Mujhpe aati toh main chhod deta, mere bhai pe aati toh main phod deta hoon.” And this one: “Jo uniform pehenta hai, voh hamesha form mein rehta hai.” And Vikram’s senior is saddled with, “Yeh gaadenge jhanda, jo sambhaal nahin sakte danda,” because Vikram is clumsy with the baton in his arms. (Sorry, non-Hindi speakers, I am not making the effort to translate those lines.) This formulaic element is dispensed with early on though, as the leading man’s action skills, his naked torso, fisticuffs, bombs, flying cars, helicopters and tanks take centre stage.
Shroff’s body looks intimidatingly muscular in Baaghi 3 – and that is my sole comment on his acting in this review.
Riteish Deshmukh as Vikram over-acts less here than he did in the insufferable Marjaavaan last year, which is sad, because he actually does deserve better than such films.
Women hang around on the margins of Baaghi 3 to look pretty, to love, be loved and protected by the men, to occasionally dance and wear tiny clothes. Towards this end, Shraddha Kapoor has been cast as Ronnie’s girlfriend Siya whose carefully constructed wavy hair does not get mussed up even during a string of terror attacks in Syria. And Disha Patani makes an appearance swaying in her underwear to a boring song called ‘Do You Love Me?.‘ If I did, I swear, lady, I would have fallen out of love with you by the end of that uninspired number.
Along the way, the wonderful Jaideep Ahlawat from Gangs of Wasseypur and Raazi turns up to make no impression at all as an Indian gangsta called IPL (short for Inder Paheli Lamba…ooh, so clever). Vijay Varma, who has proved his fabulousness in Pink and Monsoon Shootout among other films, is wasted in the role of a clownish, good-hearted Pakistani. And Israeli actor Jameel Khoury gets to play a game of terrorist-terrorist as a certain Abu Jalal Gaza, mastermind of a certain Jaish e Lashkar.
How can any actor’s performance be justly assessed in a film in which a murderous terrorist generously gives Ronnie a break in the middle of a battle unto death, so that little bro can look moony-eyed at big bro and have an emotional conversation.
Everyone and everything in Baaghi 3 is incidental though in the face of film’s determination to foreground Shroff’s nimbleness. I was reduced to a gawking, envious, emotional mess when I saw his legs stretch out at a 180-degree angle in mid-air as he leapt out of (or towards, I have forgotten which) a flying helicopter. Even that scene, however, could not beat the split he performs to slide smoothly under a moving armoured tank and emerge on the other side.
You can imagine how uninspiring the script is that despite all this high-adrenaline action, Baaghi 3 lacks fire. There is a scene in the film in which a wounded terrorist tells Abu Jalal Gaza: “We have not been attacked by America…or Mossad. There is only one man looking for Vikram.” Aiyyo. To use that very Indian English expression: too much!
It was bad enough that silly Vettai was inflicted on the world. Baaghi 3 is more ambitious than the original and ends up being worse.
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Updated Date: Mar 06, 2020 15:25:06 IST