Killing Terrorists Softly, the Tiger Zinda Hai Way

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Killing Terrorists Softly, the Tiger Zinda Hai Way

Illustration: Shruti Yatam/Arré

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fter two hours and forty-five minutes of Tiger Zinda Hai, you will be certain of one thing: Ali Abbas Zafar has not just made a film, he has proposed a new world order where the Islamic State has been gloriously defeated, its dreaded terrorists have IQs lesser than Donald Trump, and Salman Khan is the de facto Minister of External Affairs with exploding biceps who unilaterally decides to carry out a surgical strike of uniting India and Pakistan for a rescue mission.

Zafar’s Tiger Zinda Hai, a sequel to Kabir Khan’s 2012 Ek Tha Tiger, is essentially his dramatised response to a real-life incident; one where 46 Indian and 10 Bangladeshi nurses were taken hostage by the ISIS in war-ravaged Iraq in 2014. Back then, the Indian government took part in numerous rounds of skilfull negotiation, aided by Saudi authorities and the Iraq Red Crescent, that ultimately led to ISIS freeing the nurses from their captivity. But dramatisation is one thing, delusion is another.

In Zafar’s head, the real rescue is a wholly failed mission, for neither did it end terrorism, nor did it milk the tragedy to manufacture an India-Pakistan camaraderie. Sure, we managed to save a few lives, without ending any. But, is that really the reputation RAW, India’s foremost intelligent agency wants to present to the world? If Tiger Zinda Hai is any evidence, Zafar won’t let that happen on his watch.

A successful negotiation, according to Zafar’s world view, necessitates cars to be destroyed, guns to be blazing, and a secular Indian spy murdering the ISIS chief. Now that is what he calls a rescue. Reality be damned.

And, so he presents his version; one where a non-greying 45-year-old RAW agent, Avinash Singh Rathore aka Tiger, now lives a life of #wanderlust retirement in the quaint ski-town of Innsbruck in Austria with his wife aka retired Pakistani spy Zoya (Katrina Kaif) and their adorable son (whose secular existence seems to be a quintessential Bhai film template by now).

After its makeover of ISIS, Tiger Zinda Hai also blows your mind with its interpretation of rescue missions.

Tiger spends his mornings fighting a pack of wolves for cardio and evenings forgetting his marriage anniversary, until his old boss summons him to be the saviour of the 25 Indian nurses (in Zafar’s version, the remaining 15 nurses are Pakistani, because who cares about aman ki asha with Bangladesh?) taken hostage in a hospital in Ikrit by the Islamic terrorist organisation, ISE. (Cinematic liberties ki jai ho!) And so the same guy who is so uninspired that he doesn’t even make an effort to give his son a legit name, calling him Junior instead, is tasked with saving the world. So far, so good.

In the geo-political universe peddled by Tiger Zinda Hai, the ISE chief Abu Usman (modelled on ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) is the biggest example of a brain-dead buffoon, whose daftness knows no limit. Despite having multiple chances of killing Tiger, Usmani chooses to randomly adopt Gandhigiri and not resort to any violence, instead willingly waiting for Tiger to kill him. He is also given an attention span strikingly lower than that of the cumulative attention spans of millennials. At one point, he leaves the hospital with hardly any guards, which is not just where he’s hiding his hostages but also acts as his base just because he got distracted about some other inconsequential firing. If there’s any dude who has no clue how to pick his battles, it’s the chief of one of the most powerful terrorist organisations in the world.

Tiger Zinda Hai

In Tiger Zinda Hai, Salman Khan is the de facto Minister of External Affairs with exploding biceps who unilaterally decides to carry out the surgical strike of uniting India and Pakistan for a rescue mission.
Image Credit: Yashraj Films

According to Tiger Zinda Hai, terrorists also make super hosts. Usman is so large-hearted that he invites Tiger and his team to stay at the hospital, the same place where he is holding the nurses ransom, for two whole days, thus literally inviting them to screw him over. This “big-hearted chief”, the guy who has beheaded an American journalist and wants to spell terror in the world, also roams around without bodyguards and weapons. At this point, the only thing that is “dreaded” about him is his accent.

You have overcome your incredulity at Zafar’s vision by now and have to start looking forward to witnessing more of its absolute idiocy. It does not disappoint. After its makeover of ISIS, Tiger Zinda Hai also blows your mind with its interpretation of rescue missions. Toward the beginning of the film, Tiger is shown “assembling” a politically correct team for this elusive mission, comprising Muslim and Sikh agents. Naturally, the Muslim agent has to undergo surprise pop quizzes on his “nationalism”, the correct answer for which is carrying the Indian flag in his backpack wherever he goes. But that’s not even the best part about this team. It’s the fact that in the climax, his “team” is rendered as an afterthought with Tiger single-handedly killing close to 300 ISE soldiers by destroying more cars than Rohit Shetty, turning oil tankers into beads of fire, making horses perform somersaults, and bombarding Iraq with bullets, without getting a hair or muscle out of place. If this isn’t wonderland, I don’t know what is.

Tiger Zinda Hai

Tiger spends his mornings fighting a pack of wolves for cardio and evenings forgetting his marriage anniversary.
Image Credit: Yashraj Films

Despite stiff competition of stupidity in every frame of the film, Tiger Zinda Hai achieves its real momentum toward the end, in a scene where Usman and his incompetive aides have at last succeeded in capturing Tiger, (who for the entirety of the film was roaming freely around them, poisoning their food). Despite being tied to a chair, he gets the better of them by taking off his shirt and utilising it as a prop to defy cylinders titled “highly toxic chemical gas”. After all, what force can be stronger than the union of India and Pakistan? It’s this same unbreakable force of reductive jingoism that helps them yank a bomb vest seconds before it is about to explode, with the same nonchalance as one would squat flies. In doing so, Tiger Zinda Hai unknowingly gives a panacea for eradicating terrorism that has stumped even the best minds in India and the world. By the end of the film, there’s a Pakistani holding an Indian flag, and an Indian saving a Pakistani agent’s life. “Insaaniyat” has at last triumphed. After all, it’s all about loving your neighbouring country.

Now that two Bollywood A-listers have solved two pertinent social issues plaguing our country, open sanitation and terrorism, we can now rest in peace. But, I hope we remember the one thing our agents and the government need to do to obliterate terrorists the next time they come calling: Swag se Swagat.

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