Synopsis – A man rises from personal tragedy to lead a group of children from a refugee camp to victory, transforming their lives through the game of cricket.
My Take – For the past two decades, the turbulent political situation of Afghanistan has been quite a hot subject for many filmmakers across the globe, mainly as war brings out many stories. Stories, no matter the language, budget or cast, all underling a recurring theme that there are no real winners in war, as innocent lives are always lost no matter the cost or purpose.
This time around, former actor Girish Malik turned director turns the focus on the adolescent children of the country, who lack the understanding to comprehend the devastation they are being forcefully put through, causing traumas which clearly determine their future. But then there’s always hope.
Right from the outset, there is something affecting about this latest Netflix release. By shining light upon young children being turned into suicide bombers, the film aims to be a heartbreaking journey which uses their indistinguishable love for the sport of cricket to showcase the lives of these children, but, what fails the story is its half-baked execution and haphazard editing that ends up turning the final product into yet another disappointing entry into actor Sanjay Dutt‘s gliding filmography.
Sure, the intentions of the makers seem noble, and the political elements that are woven into the film are appreciable, however, it’s hard not to get over the underwhelming feeling the botched presentation leaves us with especially in its final minutes.
The story follows Dr. Naseer Khan (Sanjay Dutt), a retired Indian Army doctor, still grieving the loss of his wife and young son in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan. But upon the insistence of Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri), a close confidant of his wife, who still runs the NGO the former had set up, Naseer has decided to return after five years, determined in honoring her efforts in making the country a safer place. An opportunity arrives when he visits a refugee camp inhabited by the children of war. A camp containing all sorts of children divided by their ethnicity, caste and class, yet united by their love for the game of cricket.
Taking upon himself to train a team to compete on a professional level, Nasser begins his selection. However what he doesn’t know that some of these children were formerly trained as Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers, and their faction leader, Qazar (Rahul Dev) is out to collect them once again to set his dastardly plans into motion.
The film has an interesting opening which shows a woman suicide bomber throwing herself amid a few NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, underlying the state of the country, Naseer is stepping into. There is also no doubt about the fact there is a promising potential in the film’s premise that merges an underdog tale with the tragic circumstances in the country.
A couple of scenes do move you, like when some children relive the tragedies that happen to them. Similarly, the scenes where the kids clashed with each other over their tribes and loyalties are also mildly intriguing.
However, characterized by a series of disconnected and clumsy scenes, numerous drone’s eye-view shots of the locations and mawkish flashbacks to Nasser’s past, the film just becomes repetitive and fails to induce any feeling towards the characters. And since they are not well stretched out, what we are left with is a plot that demands empathy without giving enough reason.
Simply put, the film lacks good editing and poorly written, with many scenes that add no value to the film. Here, director Girish Malik seemed to have missed an opportunity at hand here as cricket overrides the aspect of children being turned into suicide bombers. The screenplay also fails to bring that to life but instead dumbs it down for the audience with written text.
Performance wise, Sanjay Dutt does a good job and pulls most of the weight of the film. Nargis Fakhri has no significant role in the film, appears in passing and fails to leave an impact, while Rahul Dev manages to hold your attention when he appears onscreen.
However, the true stars of the film are the young actors who are extremely likable and manage to add a sense of innocent delightfulness to the proceedings. Most importantly, they share excellent chemistry with Dutt. On the whole, ‘Torbaaz’ fails to utilize its promising potential by employing weak writing and poor execution.
Directed – Girish Malik
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 132 minutes