Every superstar, whether in Hollywood or Bollywood, needs a franchise to fuel and sustain their stardom. Salman Khan had Dabangg before, now he has the Tiger franchise too. If Ek Tha Tiger established the spy, action movie genre in Hindi cinema, Tiger Zinda Hai takes it forward. Director Ali Abbas Zafar’s action thriller takes things to a whole new level. The intense action, the detail of costumes, characters and locations, everything about this film looks and feels international. Of course, it can’t shake off the shirtless Salman hangover and the cinematic sins come in abundance. But this high-octane film is both slick and fantastic. For the average action movie buff this is pure guilty pleasure.
The story deals with Indian and Pakistani nurses being held captive in Iraq, by a terror group. RAW decides to unearth Tiger (Salman Khan) from his time in hiding, because intelligence suggests nobody else can complete the rescue mission in 7 days but Tiger. So RAW chief Shenoy (Girish Karnad) plays the patriotism card to get Tiger to leave his adventurous life in the Alps behind and head to the sandy locales of Iraq to infiltrate and extract. Tiger though wants to chill with his wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif) and son. But on the insistence of Zoya, Tiger joins the mission and assembles a team made of Kumud Mishra, Angad Bedi and Paresh Pahuja. Together they have to get the nurses out of the evil clutches of Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz). Tiger Zinda Hai uses the classic terrorists and hostages situation to create some high drama. But it doesn’t adopt the Argo approach. Instead it takes the Rambo route where musclemen, guns, explosions and lots of action bombard the screen relentlessly. But that’s not to say that the film is all about mindless violence. The writing is self critical in the right places. Moments where Tiger questions RAW’s funny mission passwords make for a nice touch. There’s also a strong woman empowerment theme delivered through Katrina Kaif’s character which adds a nice depth to an otherwise all-macho movie.
Katrina Kaif was the surprise package in Ek Tha Tiger and she’s no different on Tiger Zinda Hai. The screenplay goes easy on her by not giving her stand and deliver dialogue. Instead, she does the bulk of the hand to hand combat and gun fights and she looks the part. Its invigorating to see a lady kickass with so much élan and pull all the punches like they’re real. That her character Zoya destroys a band of heavily armed terrorists with clinical precision makes Tiger Zinda Hai that much more satisfying. Not to say, Salman Khan isn’t in on the action. He fights in close quarters and the action looks intense and very real. In its 2 hours and 41 minutes, Tiger Zinda Hai serves up a lot of well-choreographed fighting. If you’ve grown up appreciating films from the Bourne series, you’ll be thrilled to bits with what Tiger has to offer. Iranian actor Sajjad Delafrooz, who plays the main villain, has the standout performance. He impresses and terrorises in the most quiet and unsettling manner. Its also good to see Paresh Rawal bring back his streak of comedy and give the viewers a breather from all the break-neck action.
It may look like a Hollywood action thriller, but at its heart, Tiger Zinda Hai is an unabashed masala movie. The excessive use of slow motion shots and the constant fall back to comedy keep reminding you, this film wasn’t made in Hollywood. But the heady mixture of an international looking action film and the regular tropes of Hindi cinema make it a pleasing watch. The two songs Dil diyagallan and Swag seswagat come at the very beginning and the very end respectively. So they don’t really distract from the action that sits firm in between. Director Ali Abbas Zafar has crafted a superb action movie with some pretty strong moments. The best of the lot deal with India and Pakistan rivalry and camaraderie. It’s good to see an action film that slows down momentarily to show some insight. This one’s definitely a smart watch.