Synopsis – Ronny, is hired by ex-lover Neha, to track down her daughter Riya, who has been kidnapped.
My Take – There are certain expectations from a film starring Tiger Shroff, a star kid who has made a name for himself by nailing his roles by flexing every muscle and scowling at every opportunity given, both during an action and dance sequences, all in a mass based film which usually does not include the content or the quality most thinking public are looking for on their weekend. Here, returning in a sequel to a below average yet commercially successful 2016 film, which in Bollywood’s unique style, does not share anything with the predecessor except for the title card and its protagonist, to create more havoc on the bad guys although on a much larger scale.
Walking into this one for the sake of guilty pleasure, however, what I wasn’t expecting from this film, other than seeing an improvement in Tiger as an actor, was that I was witnessing a gripping action loaded remake of the underrated excellent 2016 Telugu film Kshanam, where the investment banker has now been replaced by India’s version of Rambo. Sure, it’s not a well-structured film, the story has many loopholes and the plot points convenient, yet with stellar actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Randeep Hooda, Deepak Dobriyal and Prateik Babbar sharing screen space with Shroff, and his buzz-worthy pairing with Disha Patani, some credit must be given to director Ahmed Khan (Fool N’ Final, Lakeer – Forbidden Lines) for staying true to its genre and being aware of the positioning of the film.
The story follows Ranveer Pratap Singh aka Ronny (Tiger Shroff), an Army officer in Kashmir. Four years ago, Ronny was a happy go lucky college student who was madly in love with Neha (Disha Patani) with aspirations to marry her that is until her father ends up refusing their union and offers her to marry Shekhar (Darshan Kumaar), a business man instead as his dying wish. Heartbroken, Ronny joins the Army and becomes one of the best in his paramilitary force, along with being the apple of the eye of his superior Colonel Ranjeet (Grandmaster Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj).
Having broken all ties with Neha after their painful break up, Ronnie is surprised to receive a call in distress from her, stating that her 4 year old daughter Rhea has been kidnapped and there is no news about her whereabouts for two months. Dropping everything Ronny reaches Goa to start investigating in much vain, as Shekhar maintains that Neha is suffering from a PTSD following a car theft gone wrong, and the police too have closed their investigation as there have been no ransom calls or any proof of Rhea’s existence. Enlisting the help of a shady car rental service owner Usman (Deepak Dobriyal), Ronny’s informal investigation techniques brings him into the crosshairs of Director General of Police, Ajay Shergill (Manoj Bajpayee), Sunny (Prateik Babbar), Shekhar’s drug addicted peddler brother and a maverick police officer LSD aka Loha Singh Dull (Randeep Hooda). The suspense that follows and the action sequences form the rest of the film, which Tiger Shroff carries with flair. The plot starts to unmask its layers around the halfway mark, where we learn that Ronny isn’t dealing with a mere kidnapping, as the underbelly of crime unravels, action sequence begin one after another.
The first half is all about the setup, and the buildup is slow but steady as the film takes it’s time to establish the story with the main focus on Neha’s and Ronny’s relationship and the way their past affects their present, the suspense and its variety of characters, and by interval time the film manages to pique the one’s interest. Narrated in a non-linear manner with flashbacks, we are then thrown into a rather childish flashback about how Ronnie and Neha met in college. With the requisite meet-cute songs and cliché dialogues we’re given the back story of the two leads and it’s everything you imagine it to be. Director Ahmed Khan teases us with only glimpses of the coming, with two hummable but forgettable songs packed into the first 20 minutes.
But, the second half though is a completely different tale, as the slow pace gives way to new twists, turns as we witness Ronny going from the slightly confused soldier to an absolute blood-thirsty vigilante with nothing but revenge on his mind all leading up to an action-packed finale. However, too many different elements spoil the plot as the film combines the most generic elements of a mainstream action film, as the story suffers in this attempt to impress with the action choreography and stunts. The direction falters as the film’s initial pace which is a setup for the thrills, doesn’t fit in with the high on action and adrenaline second half.
Sure, the dialogues have some gems that offer some whistles and chuckles, but the writing overall is a tad unimpressive. The characters are lazily crafted, especially Captain Ranveer Pratap Singh’s, who is he? We are told he is a one man army who loved Neha, but what about his family? What shortcomings does Neha’s father see in Ronny that he prefers to get her married to Shekhar instead? Why does Neha not share her secret instead of jumping out of the window? Ronny can spot the height measuring marks in on a wall in the house, but Neha did not, for two months! Usman, a cripple, decides to brave the mob, and offers to testify against them in court, only to be brutally beaten and killed. Was he so stupid as to believe they would let him live till then. At this point director Ahmed Khan hurls everything he has at the screen but little sticks, as he mixes Kshanam with elements from Rambo: First Blood 2, the sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s 1982 action blockbuster First Blood. Through he retains the plot twists from Kshanam, he throws in songs to showcase the chemistry between Shroff and Patani with an item number for good measure, yes, the ghastly Ek Do Teen remix, featuring Jacqueline Fernandez and pads Ronny’s mission with light-hearted comedy all done just to impress the masses.
Yet, somehow despite this gaping plot holes, the proceedings still manage to keep you engaged, mainly as on the technical front, the film is astutely mounted. The action sequences, once they begin, are like a whole other film. Full of swag and agenda, they set the tone of the film. No matter when and how he is beating up people (or getting beat up), Ronnie makes sure to spot an Indian flag and save it from being roughed up. He’s a true patriot, and the film takes every chance they get to hammer home the point. Since Ronny’s mythology includes using human shields, he turns out to be as conservative and war-mongering as Rambo.
Fortunately for us, Ronny’s mission is ultimately fueled by love, as the film converts Rambo’s lonely war against a society that refuses to acknowledge the contributions of its soldiers into a sappy love story. A multitude of eye-rolls would be too few for the moment when our hero, in the process of beating up an entire police station, finds time to catch a miniature India flag mid-air and place it safely on a table. The ridiculousness of such scenes almost distracts from the noxious nature of this film, which dilutes its near-constant violence with cheaply bought nationalism. However, when the revelation leads Ronny to the jungle, the 137-minute run time exists finally comes into view as he arrives as a untouchable superhero who aims himself at everything, and takes down single handedly about 200 men who are laden with explosives of every kind and spraying bullets left and right, and not mention the odd helicopters.
The whole sequence is so bonkers and fun to watch that at a point you don’t care about the physics, chemistry or the biology involved as the Shroff prodigy son seems to be having a blast performing all his stunts. Hey, if Stallone and Arnold can do it, why not Tiger, right? The film also offers some humor in the form of LSD, a humorous cop who believes in the adage, when in Rome, be like the Romans, and it’s why his name has been shortened to LSD as the action has shifted to Goa by this point and he is dressed like a hippie. His scenes with his unknown deputy known as Bosco, who is never seen and only heard, an assistant who is very good at his work but tends to bawl like a small child when asked awkward questions, are also hilarious.
Just like its predecessor, Tiger Shroff is the main attraction of the film and he carries the film on his shoulders perfectly. Unlike other hyper-masculine action films, Tiger is given more than enough to work with, as the action sequences are not merely a platform for him to show his talents, as the threats posed are real, and there are high-voltage stunts galore. He hangs from a helicopter, jumps from the rocks, flies into the sky and chases like a leopard and most important packages passion in his emotive scenes. The drop dead gorgeous Disha Patani is a capable actress and together, they make a cute pair, but unfortunately they share a few awkward onscreen moments that speak poorly not of their histrionics but of the director’s impatience to can the shots. As we have come to expect from them, the performances from Manoj Bajpayee and Randeep Hooda are the highlight of the film and their characters have been given some of the best dialogues. Prateik Babbar is suitably menacing as the lascivious dope head with kohl-lined eyes and an abundance of tattoos. In smaller roles, Darshan Kumaar and Deepak Dobriyal also excel. While Ahmed Khan has directed only disasters until now, and in that sense, he evolves, but I do wish he really exerts himself next time, i.e. for the third installment. On the whole, ‘Baaghi 2‘ is a watchable action film which despite its glaring flaws manages to engage with Tiger Shroff‘s antics.
Directed – Ahmed Khan
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 137 minutes