Yash Raj Films presents “Tiger Zinda Hai”

Produced by: Aditya Chopra

Directed by: Ali Abbas Zafar

Written by: Neelesh Misra & Ali Abbas Zafar based on original characters by Aditya Chopra

Music: Vishal & Shekhar with additional song by Julius Packiam

Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Paresh Rawal, Girsih Karnad, Kumud Mishra, Sajjad Delafrooz, Anupriya Goenka, Paresh Pahuja, Neha Hinge, Gavie Chahal, Zacchary Coffin, Steve Lorrigan, Danish Bhatt, Sameer Kochhar, Erdal Besikçioglu, Angad Bedi, Jineet Raj, Sartaaj Kakar, Anant Vidhaat, Nawab Shah & others

MUMBAI—So there we are: RAW agent Tiger (Salman Khan) and Pakistani spy Zoya (Katrina Kaif) whose Veer-Zaara-ish Indo-Pak love story in their 2012 espionage venture “Ek Tha Tiger” culminated with their disappearing into anonymity in Europe to be husband and wife, resurface.

This time, 40 nurses (25 Indian and 15 Pakistani) are held hostage by a middle-Eastern terrorist group, said to be the wealthiest in the world as they control oil refineries. So now, the country needs Tiger: only he can collect a team that can rescue these 25 girls (he is not told about the 15 others) from a hospital in Ikrit in Iraq, wherein the terrorist boss Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz) is injured and recuperating after a bout with the local army.

The Americans want the man for killing their people, and will finally strike from the air, causing the death of even the girls as (for them) just negligible collateral damage. India’s RAW chief Shenoy (Girish Karnad, carried in from the former film too) asks them for time to save the nurses and is given eight days. Shenoy must locate Tiger (officially dead in their files) and get him on the job.

Tiger lives in Austria, and the couple has a son (Sartaaj Kakar) who is just called Junior. He (fantastically) keeps track of RAW’s activities, so it is no surprise that he is traced (by an IP address he deliberately keeps available), but refuses the assignment. But Zoya tells him that she and their son should not be his weaknesses but his strength, for his first love is his country.

Tiger prefers to be his own boss and gets his own crack team: Navin (Angad Bedi), Rakesh (Kumud Mishra) and Azaan (Paresh Pahuja), but follows a broad RAW plan, with help from agent Pawan (Nawab Shah). And at a unique juncture, the team is rescued by Zoya!

It is then that Tiger realizes that Pakistan has also sent two crack ISI agents and traced and got Zoya too, and why. For the first time, RAW and ISI agents get together for a common cause – peace. An interesting character is introduced in the shape of Firdaus (Paresh Rawal), an eccentric middleman who likes to keep in everyone’s good books – the Americans, Iraqis, terrorists, and Indians!

After this stage is set, there is nothing but action and more action. While the general extravagant tenor is on the lines of the “Mission Impossible” franchise (complete with an agent who is dead on record), it is also along the lines of “Rambo.” And obviously, at the n-th moment, all’s well that ends well.

“Tiger Zinda Hai” can be best described as a holocaust of war-like action. Exploding cars, missiles smashing into buildings as well, chases, personal combat, rattling machine-guns, cold-blooded murders, this slick yet tad overlong action drama has them in rapid alternation. Many a time we must suspend logic, both in the action and in the flow of the story, like a horse suddenly appearing out of nowhere just when Tiger wants to escape and how Zoya springs out of nowhere to help Tiger’s team more than once.

Where “Tiger Zinda Hai” falls a bit short is in two departments: one, there are barely any tension-packed moments (a prominent exception being Azaan’s sequence where he must be injected by a nurse on Abu’s orders) and punch-lines in the script. The familiar few one-liners shown in the trailer were drowned in the cacophony of cheers and whistles by the audiences in the multiplex where I watched it.

Naturally, the film scores (very) high in the action sequences and in the way they are conceived (Tom Struthers), shot (Marcin Laskawiec), edited (Rameshwar S. Bhagat) and post-produced (yrx, the VFX wing of Yash Raj Films). Though often familiar, Julius Packiam’s background score creates the right vibe, but the songs (just three within the film) by Vishal and Shekhar fall short. “Dil Diya Gallan” is a hybrid letdown and the only song that registers (though only with its hook and riff) is “Swag Se Swagat.” Forget all the downloads and views, man, we are speaking of merit here.

Writer-director Zafar shows his range, but we feel that the emotional voltage could have been upped considerably to enhance both grip and appeal. Salman Khan is obviously the lifeblood of this film, and in his action mode is so credible. He is also very impressive in his scenes with his son, the human bomb-to-be Hassan (Jineet Raj, impressive) and also his wife, especially when she lands in trouble towards the climax.

Katrina Kaif gets more scope than in the earlier film for action. Her role is far from vacuous, and she does her bit like a pro. Sajjad is a nice find for his role, and among the others who impress are Paresh Rawal, Kumud Mishra (especially whenever he invokes the gods every time he hacks into a computer), Angad Bedi as Navin and Anupriya Goenka as the spokesperson for the nurses.

As a Salman-athon, this film is full value for money and more for both Salman Khan and action buffs, so if we have to judge a film on that base, it is bang on target. But for non-Salman fans who still like their tryst with commercial entertainment, I somehow felt that this film lacked the repeat value of the best espionage dramas. But, since my rating is always for how close a film succeeds in its original intention and target audiences, I will go for a midway score.

Rating: **** (Almost)

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