Synopsis – A sequel to the record-breaking blockbuster ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ continues the story of two super spies Tiger and Zoya eight years later.
My Take – By now any Bollywood fan should know that a Salman Khan starring film doesn’t exactly need reviews (good or bad) to make an impact at the Box Office. As a casual film goer you even know that when you walk into an eternal Bhai starring film, you shouldn’t expect good acting or even a good script (well the superb Bajrangi Bhaijaan is an exception of course), instead it’s the undoubtedly strong charisma of the superstar and the sight of his diehard fans whistling and hooting at the screens is what makes his films an experience, no matter how horrid the after taste feels the moment you begin getting into the aesthetics about the product. After surprisingly disappointing with his earlier release this year, Tubelight, here, Salman Khan is back as the central part of an engaging action film that has its emotions and patriotic sense in the right place. Working as a sequel to the highest grossing film of 2012, the Kabir Khan directed spy-action thriller, Ek Tha Tiger, which despite boasting of some great action sequences, especially the opening scene, ended up being a disappointed due to its fuzzy screenplay, however, this time around, taking over the reins, director Abbas Ali Zafar (Sultan) takes a plunge to concoct a rewarding blockbuster that deservingly treats its star as importantly as it’s script. Sure, it’s not a wonderfully carved script or the best film ever made, yet it somehow manages to hook us right on from the very beginning, that too without the commercial elements and unnecessary song placements usually seen in Salman Khan films, the film works mainly as it sticks to what the trailers promised – a high octane action thriller fired up its lead star’s sizzling onscreen chemistry. Taking place eight years after the events of Ek Tha Tiger, the story follows Avinash Singh Rathore a.k.a. Tiger (Salman Khan), a former RAW agent, who after falling in love with Zoya (Katrina Kaif), an ex-ISI agent, quit their respective agencies and are now living in hiding along with their son Junior in the snowy capes of Austria.
However, their calm life is interrupted when Tiger’s former boss, RAW chief Shenoy (Girish Karnad) comes knocking and seeking help in rescuing a bunch of nurses, belonging to both India and Pakistan, who have been are taken hostage by a terrorist group known as the ISC (a stand-in for ISIS) led by Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz) in Ikrit, Iraq. With only seven days to evacuate the nurses before the Americans bomb the city, Tiger puts a team together, consisting of a sniper Azaan Akbar (Paresh Pahuja), a bomb disposal expert Navin (Angad Bedi), a tech wizard Rakesh (Kumud Mishra) and of course Zoya, who must face the militants with minimal weapons and yet achieve their target with the grit and wit. As for all Salman Khan films, this too is a film which is not meant to be taken too seriously, I mean common, Tiger takes off his shirt for no reason at all to give ISC and us a generous view of his toned chest in a scene that does not even bother to offer a logical excuse for his shirtlessness.Despite the titular reference, the film also gives ample respect and credibility to his sidekick and now wife Zoya played by the ever gorgeous Katrina Kaif. Like every other spy who takes the mandatory break from his agency, Tiger too has his family life set as a priority. This new angle gives the film a more mature and serious appeal. Tiger and Zoya have aged, but their charm is still intact. The introduction of each of the leads is a sign of how age-appropriate the filmis, for example, Tiger is first spotted protecting himself and his son Junior from a pack of wolves, while Zoya, on the other hand, kills a bunch of muggers in a store while buying groceries. Her unerring timing and energetic fighting skills save Tiger’s skin ever so often, encouraging a collaboration between RAW and her parent organization, ISI. Even, when Tiger picks up a suggestive Rambo styled big gun to bring the show to the end, the effect is diluted by the fact that Zoya had already achieved results with a smaller weapon. Once the plot moves to make believe Syria (shot in Abu Dhabi), the political plot lines breathe heavy on the film. It’s interesting how director Abbas Ali Zafar recreates havoc stricken Iraq. There are blatant references to multiple American movies but for Indian screens, it’s all too novel. Though the remarkable real life drama on which this film is based upon, was chronicled beautifully earlier this year in the form of the Malayalam language film, Take Off starring Parvathy and Fahadh Faasil, the Hindi language film merely just takes inspiration. While, the Malayalam film was told through the eyes of one of the nurses who was at the forefront of coordinating with the Indian Embassy in Iraq and ultimately helped get herself and her colleagues back to India, here, the nurses along with the embassy, the governments of India and Kerala are firmly replaced by a single team at the center of the action. Thankfully, director Abbas Ali Zafar steers clear of the major political statements, probably his inadequacy but what he does beautifully is make a nail-biting entertainer. Without a doubt, the film’s core strength is that it is unapologetic about its unintelligence and so, although it is for the most part simplistic in the socio-political statements it lays on thick, and is packed with so much action that it ends up being a fun, even though we know it’s a cliché. While the rest of the story is fairly predictable, what makes one sit through the film comfortably is director Abbas Ali Zafar‘s skillful binding of the core plot, a little bit of romance, longing emotions and a strong Indo-Pakistan angle. The film surprisingly inhabits a Bollywood that has evolved to a stage where Pakistanis can now be shown as allies in the face of a common enemy, and one character, when confronted over Pakistan’s wrongdoings in Kashmir, gets away with implying that India’s hands are not clean either. Considering the divisive times we live in, even this fleeting scene, sadly, is an act of courage that needs to be lauded, as does another contrived passage involving national flags that pushes the envelope up to a point (though without crossing a certain line).
Though the film is not as deep as director Abbas Ali Zafar‘s earlier outing Sultan, in terms of its strong message, it does have a significant load of style coupled with a belligerent star in Salman Khan. The film also boasts of hotshot technical wizardry, which is an added asset. It’s exquisitely shot with thumping action sequences that could be visuals straight from a Hollywood actioner. The stunts are truly crackling. In fact, the action sequences are of the heart-in-the-mouth variety and if one may add, such stunts and chases have never ever been witnessed on the Hindi screen before. As a must-have for a film of this magnitude, the cinematography, the cuts and the music have been meticulously worked on. Kudos to Julius Packiam‘s background score, which helps in upping the ante during both the tense and the explosive parts of the film. Of course, the film does it have its share of flaw as well, starting with its length. Running for about 161 minutes or so, the film is just way too long and could have easily been trimmed by 20 – 25 minutes. There is a bit of lethargy that seeps into the second half, also because the setting is a hospital and we end up spending a lot of time on the same location, it does become a bit tiresome. Despite knowing the final outcome of the climax, it is the execution and buildup leading to the last big fight that feels like a bit of a struggle. Director Abbas Ali Zafar also goes a bit over the top in choreographing the action scenes with Salman, of course, the fans will lap up it all up, but it does get into familiar territory. Plus, it’s hard to ignore how utterly predictable the story line is, sure, it does throw in an interesting twist or two in the plot, but somehow it’s easy to foresee what’s going to happen next. Also, the suspension of belief is too far-fetched in some scenes, I know it’s a Salman Khan film, and we need to turn a blind eye to logic, yet, it’s impossible to overlook some ridiculously written scenes. Thankfully, there is only major song in the film Dil Diya Gallan which sounds beautiful and has been well-shot. Coming to the performances, this is a sure-shot tailor-made film for Salman Khan. If you have missed Salman Khan‘s screen presence in Tubelight, then here is Salman back with a bang delivering what he is always known for. Salman looks the part! Clutching the thriller with his dynamic presence and performance, here, Salman is, without doubt, the lifeline of this film. He pulls off the part with flamboyance. Also, he brings in so much visceral rousing energy to the film, every time he appears on the screen. A lot of the brilliant moments here also come from Katrina Kaif. She is bombastic, matching his energy, prowess for action and yet peppering it with an inherent chemistry with Salman. A thoroughly thrilling scene had her rescue women, all blazing guns with the Tera Noor number running in the background. Here, the ever gorgeous lady puts her mostly frozen expressions to perfect use during the action sequences, kicking and chopping with abandon. She is certainly more agile, more alive and seems to be having more fun than Khan. It’s also great to see Paresh Rawal back on screen in an excellent role, while Iranian actor Sajjad Delfrooz as the main antagonist is fabulous in a stand out role. MMA fighter Najmeddin AlHadad is a treat to watch. The supporting cast consisting of Girish Karnad, Angad Bedi, Kumud Mishra, Anant Vidhaat Sharma, Paresh Pahuja, Danish Bhat, Gavie Chahal and Anupriya Goenka are adequate. On the whole, ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ is a decent high-octane thriller that manages to keep you engaged throughout with its spellbinding action and stylish execution. An out-and-out Salman Khan starrer!
Directed – Ali Abbas Zafar
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 161 minutes