Synopsis – A man uses his combat skills to eradicate black money, which has been siphoned to banks abroad.
My Take – Barring a few films, sequels in Bollywood in general don’t have a good history. Last year itself, we had to witness a ton of them, while some (Like Force 2, Hate Story 3, Housefull 3) managed to repeat the success of the predecessor vaguely, others (like Rock On 2, Kahaani 2, Great Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum 3) made sure any hopes for future installments were abandoned. Yet, despite failures producers in nearly every film industry continue their cash grab process build on the familiarity of their audience. Such is the case of this feature film debut of popular TV actor Deven Bhojani, which happens to be a sequel to a little known, moderately successful and enjoyable 2013 film Commando: A One Man Army. At the time of its release, the film despite mixed reception drew acclaim for its high octane action, similarities to the Rambo series, & of course its star, Vidyut Jammwal, who was touted to be India’s answer to Sylvester Stallone. With his chiseled physique, and decent acting chops to match, it was easy to understand why, the second film in the series, would want to live up to the promise that the first one showed. Hence, I wasn’t surprised when the film decides to close-up of his bulging bicep, even before we see his face as an introductory to the lead. While, the 2013 film was more of a self contained, a one man show kind of film, the sequel, however decides to go the Mission Impossible/ Fast and Furious route by making Jammval’s Captain Karanvir Singh Dogra a part of rag tag team to take down the baddie. Yet, for all his the kicks, back flips, sliding through tiny spaces in the nick of time, and slow-motion flying-in-the-air stunts, it cannot be denied that the film is quite lackluster. Mainly due to its underwhelming direction & dismayed writing, this film proves yet again that cinematic patriotism is the last refuge of the incompetent. Conceived months before demonetization but perfectly suited as a propaganda vehicle for the government’s disciplinary measure, this sequel has nothing but a ludicrous plot, banal dialogues, action sequences derived from Hollywood and East Asian cinema, and mostly sub-par acting from everyone except Vidyut Jammval himself. Only one thought emerges through the gloom: the black money economy is the only reason lakhs of Indians live in poverty. What if the money lining fake accounts could be directly transmitted to starving suicide-prone farmers in some way?
The story follows Captain Karanvir Singh Dogra (Vidyut Jammval), a former commando working for a secret government organization run, where Karan & his chief in command (Adil Hussain), spy on ministers & powerful business men to gather information with a mission to bring back all of the country’s black money. Everything begins to fall in place when Vicky Chaddha (Vansh Bhardwaj), a shadowy and powerful launderer, who before his arrest with his wife Maria (Esha Gupta) in Malaysia, transferred all the illegal money into one account. Worried about losing her government & currently unchecked power, due to her son’s activities with Vicky, Home Minister Leela (Shefali Shah) assembles a pliant team consisting of corrupt officers like Bhawna Reddy (Adah Sharma), ACP Bakhtawar (Freddy Daruwala) and IT expert Zafar (Sumit Gulati) to bring Vicky and Maria back to India. The idea is to protect Vicky’s clients, rather than prosecute him, and cover the trail by killing him when the job is done. With just a glimpse hope to get justice done, Karan forcefully finds his way on the team and heads on a mission where everyone has their own secrets and hidden agendas. The mission obviously has lot of hurdles along with the twists. Like a video game, he has obstructions at every level and many times with the people who are more powerful to him. How the captain emerges victoriously is the film all about. You know what you’ve signed up for when a film begins with 5 minutes of pure action – gravity-defying moves, bone-crunching punches and some swift acrobatics. The film is basically quite a dramatic lowdown of what goes on when a man sets his mind on hunting a black-money agent and eradicating the laundered money from circulation. It might be natural to assume that the tale of a government-appointed, trigger-happy action junkie on the trail of a murderous, black-money-laundering villain would be a fun ride, especially with Vidyut Jammwal in the driver’s seat. While the film’s narrative delivers some unexpected twists and turns, but the colors that fill in the outline of the story are weak, amateurishly handled and in the end, amusing in its clumsy effort to play to the gallery. Written by Ritesh Shah, the dialogues are a predictable mix of WhatsApp patriotism and tired clichés. In a film of this sort, aimed at racing pulses rather than thinking minds, it is perhaps pointless to ask why the Home Minister alone is the moving force behind the government’s efforts at retrieving black money from abroad, with the Finance Minister nowhere in sight. The film’s impressive action scenes and pretty hero cannot compensate for its limited substance, which matters particularly because the action is not unrelenting. While Karan is bashing up baddies, it is hard to look away from the screen. When he is not, it becomes easy. What worked with the 2013 film was brawn, here, replaced with brains, you have yourself a dampener. After indulging the audience with a five-minute long action scene in the beginning of the film, the makers decided to do away with it altogether.
Post this, all that Vidyut is reduced to doing is zooming in and out of pictures, trying to figure out the culprit, chasing goons across markets and making plans. For a man, who seems comfortable performing gravity-defying stunts, this is more like a restriction. Apart from this, the fact that the film features too many characters also seems to have gone against it. So while you are trying to figure who’s who, there is someone new who needs to be chased and killed. Phew! Besides, the romance between them feels terribly contrived and silly because of the complete lack of chemistry between the two. Then there is their colleague Zafar, the most awkwardly written, stereotypical ‘good Muslim’ seen in recent years in Hindi cinema, the kind that – in my humble opinion – could only emerge from the pens of writers over-compensating for their deep-rooted suspicion of the community, a suspicion they may possibly not even be conscious of. Also, the female characters in the film, despite being given seemingly strong roles, are reduced to being bimbettes. Since the film is about action, it is fitting that we see Jammwal do a crazy, eye-popping number of stunts – including one in which he slips effortlessly through a cubby hole – but the action feels overlong and repetitive since it’s in service of a frankly underwhelming plot. For his part, Vidyut Jammwal is without a doubt the Bollywood’s answer to Rambo. He has that grace in action and a believable niceness. He is a good actor who has not yet received a role (other than his debut in 2011’s Force) which fully utilizes his acting chops as well. Adah Sharma plays Karan’s teammate Bhavna Reddy, an irritating encounter specialist who harks back to the old Hindi film stereotype of a south Indian. Most importantly, the fake mix of Hyderabadi with English makes it hard to understand what she is saying. Enjoying herself, Esha Gupta in an unlimited supply of fitting gowns and a high-backed leather chair that follows her everywhere she goes is better here in comparison to whatever work she has done before. Freddy Daruwala (Holiday) is underutilized and is alright with whatever he is given. The fourth wheel of the team, Sumit Gulati is wasted. Thakur Anoop Singh (the lead antagonist of the Tamil film, S3) and Vansh Bhardwaj ham like there is no tomorrow. Satish Kaushik, Shefali Shah and Adil Hussain work only because of their inadvertent strong screen presence, but their true acting potential remains untapped in this film. A note to the film makers of today: what was the point of remaking a still popular song, Hare Krishna Hare Ram from 2007’s Bhool Bhulaiya to something downright terrible? On the whole, ‘Commando 2’ has a few racy action sequences & Vidyut Jammval’s presence to keep us hooked, but the film never rises above its clichés and loopholes.
Directed – Deven Bhojani
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 144 minutes