By Subhash K Jha
Film: ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’; Director: Ali Abbas Zafar; Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sajjad Delafrooz, Girish Karnad, Kumud Mishra, Paresh Rawal; Rating: ***
When did this Tiger ever stop roaring? Well…okay, “Tubelight” didn’t quite work . Salmaniacs didn’t want to watch him as a wimpy whiny crybaby hero. The message is hammered loud and clear in “Tiger Zinda Hai”(TZH), a homage to Salman Khan’s indomitable powers of herogiri. From the first frame to the last blast, this is a fanboy director making sure that every moment of the narrative is paisa vasool for the Salman fans.
“Tiger Zinda Hai” is a 2 ½ hour homage to Salman Khan’s superstardom. In the cinema of the Southern superstars like Rajinikanth or even Mammoothy(see his latest release Masterpiece where in almost every frame the star is eulogized)it is common practice to extol the virtues of the Man Of the moment, to the extent that the other members of the cast appear to be afterthoughts.
Almost every supporting actor in TZH- and that includes the diligent Katrina Kaif -is an extension of Salman Khan’s superstardom, his or existence defined by how much he or she hero-worships our intelligence officer Avinash Singh Rathod a.k.a Tiger. The lengthy eulogy gets tedious only when the actors pause to tell us what a daunting one-man army our hero is.
And since that happens quite often, we are frequently asked to hold our horses, while the compliments flow and the speed breakers are served up. Once those are out of the way TZH is a lot of fun to watch. The sheer silliness of a one-man army mowing a mayhem across terrorism, at a time when heroes in cinema across the world are exposing their vulnerability more than their virility(see the haunting Call Me By Your Name to know what I mean) is laughable.
So is the attempt to infuse a political urgency to an endeavour that is clearly on a one-point mission: no, not save the tiger, but celebrate the hero’s macho-giri until it hurts. And I don’t mean the muscles.
To his credit director packs in quite a punch. The narrative takes us through a collage of quirky, appealing locations where some really well-choreographed action scenes are shot with breathless zeal. Full marks to cinematographer Marcin Laskawiec and action director Tom Struthers, not to mention the pulse-pounding yet discreet background score by Julian Packiam , for uplifting the viewers’ gaze to a level comparable with the Hollywood franchise.
A thought, though. Are we so short of international-calibre talent that we need to import important technicians to make our onscreen action look competitive and competent? And does Salman’s stardom really need a boost? A no to the first question and a yes to the second. Salman’s superstardom is like a pitcher of brackish brew whose bitter hue is best tasted when recycled with gusto.
TZH looks like many other anti-terror films including Baby and Naam Shabana.And if you really want to see a taut intensely-felt take on the same plot about the kidnapping of nurses in Iraq, try the Malayalam film Take Off.
Admittedly the action sequences in TZH are better staged than in the first Tiger film. Except for the Iranian actor Sajjad Delafrooz who stands out as the terror mastermind, the splendid supporting cast is criminally wasted. It’s sad to see actors like Girish Karnad, Paresh Rawal, Kumud Mishra and Angad Bedi hanging around only to make sure the leading man looks his Sunday best. Still these actors ferret out their moments from a script that allows no breathing space for anything but comic book vigour .
As for Katrina Kaif she remains as deadpan as ever. Thank God some things never change. But she’s surprisingly effective in the action scenes , more so than she was in a similar role in Kabir Khan’s “Phantom”, or for matter in “Ek Tha Tiger”.
As for her chemistry with Salman, his eyes melt like a ice cream cone left out in the sun, each time she’s around. Will someone make an intense love story with the two?