Synopsis – Shortly after arriving at a martial arts academy, a troubled young man falls for the girl being wooed by his rival.
My Take – This Sabir Khan directed and Sajid Nadiawala produced film could have been easily called the Tiger Shroff show reel. Son of the ever likable veteran actor Jackie Shroff; Tiger Shroff made his first screen appearance in the quite average romantic action drama Heropanti in 2014, but this post debut film marks his real breakthrough. First introduced to us in the film doing a handstand, but using only his index finger and his thumb to lift the weight of his body, Tiger Shroff demonstrates why he was indispensable when it came to playing the lead here. The young actor with one of the most unusual faces and the fittest bodies in the movie business is perfectly cast as a martial arts champion who combines Kalaripayattu and Muay Thai to kick and smash his way through all manner of opposition. A line that he is a bit too fond of repeating in the movie rings true for Shroff’s prospects too: “I am only just getting started.” Every second scene of the film is a chance for Shroff to show off his rippling muscles and an incredibly flexible body that he manages to contort into all sorts of positions while fighting the bad guys. Nevertheless as the films goes on for about 133 minutes, you do realize that director Sabir Khan‘s latest is a rare kind of movie that refreshingly relies not on guns and explosions, but on good ol’ fashioned hand-to-hand sparring to deliver the thrills, a rare thing in Indian films, but other than that it has nothing else going for it. Director Sabir Khan is no doubt better at borrowing than creating compelling original material, and the bits that work the best are the spectacular fights, that shot to mimic their East Asian predecessors as closely as possible and made utterly believable by Shroff’s command of his body and moves, but in the story department, he and writer Sanjeev Datta decide to get in every Bollywood cliché at their disposal in order to reduce the quality of the film.
Based on a Telegu film ‘Varsham’ along with a little shades of Indonesian action film ‘The Raid Redemption’, the story follows Ronnie (Tiger Shroff) who arrives in Kerala unwillingly at the wish of his dying father to train under Guruji (Grandmaster Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj) at the Academy Of Kalaripayattu. Here, he meets upcoming actress Sia (Shraddha Kapoor), who is on vacation to meet her grandmother. After a couple of rainy coincidences, they both fall in love. Hell breaks loose, when Guruji’s son Raghav (Sudheer Babu) also falls for Sia, and uses the help of her father Khurana (Sunil Grover) to break them apart. A year later, Raghav has kidnapped Sia and taken her to Bangkok where he runs a drug cartel and an illegal fighting ring. In order to raise money for a mute kid, Ronnie takes up the task to rescue Sia for a pay check. Thus setting the stage for more conflict and plenty of broken bones. It’s the plot of the film – cobbled together from various sources including The Karate Kid and The Raid: Redemption – that could’ve done with more work. Packed into a frankly overlong 2 hours and 13 minutes, this flimsy plot makes room for way too many song situations squeezed between the impressive pow-wow scenes. The film wastes a good part of its first hour building the romance between Ronnie and Siya. What do they do for a living? Well, they are Rebels. To the writers, it worked well as a full time career. At least, Siya is an aspiring actress who shoots a total of one scene in the 133 minutes’ runtime. Ronnie whole-heartedly devotes himself to Kalaripayattu. His training scenes are good but seem to have been lifted straight out of a medley of better films. Pre-interval, a lot of time goes in bringing together on screen flip kicks, back kicks, some rain songs, more rain songs and a love story that doesn’t work. The driving force of the film is the love story, which lacks passion for us to buy into it. The romance blooms quite late on in the film and by then your patience runs thin. Added to that the screenplay lacks coherence. A linear narrative would’ve worked better in this case and could’ve possibly ironed out many of its faults. But the drama sets in only after interval and unfolds over its zillion songs that come in at frequent intervals. The dated story and its over dramatic dialogues take a toll on you and by the time the film reaches its climax, you are exhausted. Can action and only action make a film? Not until there is some story to fall back on.
Sabir does have a story in mind but he busies himself focusing single-mindedly on the grandiose of the action which makes the film suffer. Looking at his previous works that include the disastrous ‘Kambakth Ishq’ and average ‘Heropanti’, Sabir Khan has again used a poorly stretched screenplay to create a masala potboiler for the front- benchers. When will this kind of films stop? However, what works are the commendable performances of the leads and well-choreographed action scenes (like I mentioned above). Much like Heropanti, Sabir does his best to make Tiger look like a star. Tiger, who possesses the flexibility of a gymnast yet routinely loses his shirt to reveal abs of steel, is perfectly cast as Ronnie, a rebellious drifter and martial arts enthusiast who lets his fists fly each time he’s in a bind. The action scenes in the film are some of the best you’ve seen recently, a cocktail of traditional Indian and Asian martial arts that the film’s leading man pulls off with remarkable ease. Hats off to Tiger for executing the near-to-perfection action scenes without any cables or body doubles. The hard-work clearly pays off and it is pleasure to watch the deadly stunts. Even his performance has matured since his last film. Shraddha Kapoor, looking pretty and dancing well, is basically reduced to a damsel-in-distress caricature, aside from a few kicks and punches she’s allowed to deliver herself. Sanjay Mishra shows up as a blind Bangkok cabbie in a comedy track that doesn’t belong here. Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj, a kalaripayattu exponent and action trainer in real life is effective as the sensei to Ronnie’s undisciplined student. As the big baddie, Sudheer Babu Hams! Even though he does perform his action scenes well his over the top performance makes it hard to accept him as a drug kingpin. On the whole, ‘Baaghi’ fails as film due to its weak script and boring screenplay but if you can forgive the lack of logic, then this “The Tiger Shroff Show reel” might be worth your time.
Directed – Sabir Khan
Rated – PG
Run Time – 133 minutes