Monday, May 14, 2018

Baaghi 2: Review

Of all the ways Baaghi 2 could have declared its chest-beating love for India, it chose one of the most distasteful. After the opening sequence, in which Neha (Disha Patani) is badly beaten and left by the side of the road by carjackers, the action shifts to Kashmir and army officer Ranveer Pratap Singh (Tiger Shroff) thrashing militants—or is it stone-pelters?—in the snow. The next scene shows him using one of these men as a human shield, tied to the hood of his jeep to protect him from an angry crowd. Irrespective of where you stand on the moral implications of such an action (which mirrors an actual incident that took place last year in Kashmir), it takes a certain amped-up, dumbed-down outlook to appropriate it with so much glee.

Ahmed Khan’s film isn’t a sequel to Baaghi (2016), just an expansion of its eternal themes of women finding themselves in trouble and Shroff levelling buildings and demolishing private armies to save them. Neha and Ranveer, or Ronnie, fall in love in college. Though they break up, it takes one letter from her four years later to bring him to Goa. It turns out Neha’s daughter, Rhea, was also in the car that day, and was kidnapped. The problem is, everyone else, including her husband (Darshan Kumar), insists she never had a daughter at all, that her head injuries have turned her delusional.

As Ronnie tries to wrap his easily steamed head around the case, we’re introduced to Neha’s cokehead brother-in-law (Prateik Babbar), a hippie ACP (Randeep Hooda, in on the joke) and his boss (Manoj Bajpayee), and a garage owner (Deepak Dobriyal) with a bum leg, clearly inspired by the Bryan Cranston character in Drive. It’s obvious who the guilty parties are, but it doesn’t matter—even fans aren’t going in expecting Chinatown; they’ll settle for Shroff busting heads and a few moves. “Not all wars are decided by strength,” one of the antagonists tells Ronnie. “Some are won with intelligence.” Faced with that horrifying thought, Shroff grabs the speaker by the throat and slams him against the wall.

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. Towards the end of the film, a sobbing Ronnie—who’s just laid waste to a jungle base crawling with armed militia—is told that the war is over. What war?

This review appeared in Mint.

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