“Baaghi 2.”… Some nice action surrounded by an unbelievable amount of imbecility

Posted on April 2, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Tiger Shroff, who plays Ronnie in Baaghi 2, is often accused of being a non-actor, but that just means you’re looking at the movement of his facial muscles. His school of acting is more about the ripple of skin across the latissimus dorsi as Ronnie is stripped in a police station and beaten with a lathi. It’s about the stillness of the rectus abdominis even when a bullet passes through it, leaving behind a smoking wound. It’s about how the biceps balloon when he lifts, all by himself, a drum filled with oil. In short, Shroff is a good actor not because he cries convincingly or is able to furrow his brow in deep contemplation, but because he’s eminently equipped to carry forward the robotic thespianism of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, where a pectoralis speaks a thousand words.

There’s just one problem with Shroff. His scripts don’t pay equal attention to the audience’s muscles. With Baaghi 2, too, alas, I could sense my gluteus maximus shifting restlessly from side to side. In the best films of Shroff’s Hollywood equivalents (and I’ll have to include van Damme and Steven Seagal, whose Under Siege is, in my opinion, every bit the equivalent of Die Hard), there’s a touching purity to the dumbness of the goings-on. These men don’t have the gadgets from the Bond films, and neither do they possess superpowers. It’s artisanal action – and the stunts in Baaghi 2 aren’t bad at all, most notably in an action stretch where Ronnie, in mid-air, curls his legs inwards, bringing them to a near-foetal position, before freeing them for a kick. Even if wire work was used, this can’t have been easy. It’s Swan Lake on steroids.

The trouble is too much story, derived from the Telugu hit, Kshanam. These films work best when the focus stays on the impossible mission – but director Ahmed Khan keeps throwing in emotional angles. We get painful flashbacks of Ronnie wooing Neha (Disha Patani, who looks so perpetually petrified, it’s hard to say if she’s staring into a camera or a loaded gun), and the screenplay is the kind that introduces Ronnie’s friends simply so they can recall how he and Neha were the life of every party. CUT TO song, and… the friends are never seen again. The plot concerns Neha’s missing daughter, Rhea, and instead of a systematic search, we get scenes of Neha asking random people on the streets if they’ve seen Rhea and Ronnie asking random Russians if they’ve seen Rhea, and about 30 minutes in, I half-expected a tap on my shoulder asking if I’ve seen Rhea.

This is masala filmmaking at its worst. No one has a clue about the genre. When Neha goes to the gurudwara, praying for Rhea’s safe return, the priest says, “Bhagwan ne tere liye zaroor kisi ko chuna hoga.” (God would have certainly picked out someone to help you.) But this line works only when a saviour pops out of nowhere, when he’s someone unknown to Neha. She already knows Ronnie (they broke up; now she’s married to someone so unspeakably evil, he won’t even let her have a Facebook account), so why does she need God? She just needs a phone. Here’s another dumb line, from the prison-torture scene. Ronnie tells his tormentor, “Jo tera torture hai, woh mera warm-up hai.” It would make sense if he’s going to snap his ropes and launch an attack, but in the next scene, he’s just led to the DIG (Manoj Bajpai, taking his inspiration from a pack of Odonil; he knows his job is to class up a shit joint).

Perhaps the cleverest part of Baaghi 2 is how the cast has been chosen (or directed to perform) in a way that Tiger Shroff comes off looking like Dilip Kumar. Deepak Dobriyal plays a man with a limp, or maybe he’s playing a talented actor with an enormous mortgage payment. Randeep Hooda shows up as a chillum-loving cop, or maybe he’s auditioning for the role of second hippie to the left of Zeenat Aman in an upcoming remake of Hare Rama Hare Krishna. It’s hard to say whether the awfulness of these otherwise good actors is intentional or if one look at the script stalled the functioning of their prefrontal cortex for the duration of the shoot. But no such excuse can hide Prateik Babbar’s hamming, because he always plays…. Prateik Babbar. But to be fair, this is one of his lines. “Hey baby… I mean, bhabhi.”

There’s no real reason for Neha’s father to hate Ronnie. There’s no real reason for Ronnie to kill two… Nigerians. There’s no real reason for Neha to withhold her story from Ronnie for so long. There’s no real reason for the villain to explain to Ronnie the what-why-how of the plot. There’s no real reason for Ronnie to start thinking along logical lines, when his logic works like this: “If Neha cannot forget me, her boyfriend from four years ago, then how can she forget her child?” I wanted to reach out to the screen and explain to him, gently, the difference between dialogue and deltoid. The only aspect of the film – other than the action – that has a reason to exist is the Jacqueline Fernandez-starring remix of Ek do teen. The only reason this movie has been made is so they can count the money it’s making.

Copyright ©2018 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi