Baaghi 2: How to Make Your Cheek Muscles Act While Saying Jai Hind


Baaghi 2: How to Make Your Cheek Muscles Act While Saying Jai Hind

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Ahmed Khan’s Baaghi 2 borrows its title and tagline from Salman Khan’s 1990 film, its plot (down to the last detail) from the 2016 Telugu film Kshanam (the first film in the franchise was “inspired” from another Telugu film: Varsham) and its lead, Tiger Shroff from a wax museum. Naturally, expecting any iota of originality from the film is like wishing Bollywood choreographers and action directors would stop substituting as directors – pointless and impossible.

But, I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the self-awareness of Baaghi 2’s choreographer-turned-action-director-turned-actor-turned-director Ahmed Khan, for the film is an unintentional parody of itself.

The showreel of Tiger Shroff’s abs disguised as a film, starts off with a violent attack on a woman who is repeatedly slapped and hit by three masked assailants before one of them kicks her in the face. The woman in question is Neha (Disha Patani), the film’s lead and sole female character, ex-lover of our baaghi Ronny (Tiger Shroff), and maker of terrible decisions. Once it’s established that her role in the film will only last until she is in distress à la Yami Gautam, we are introduced to her saviour: Special Forces Captain Ranveer Pratap Singh, currently stationed in Kashmir.

Baaghi 2

Baaghi 2 will make you miss the times when Bollywood action heroes had dhai kilo ka haath instead of dhai kilo ke abs.

Image credit: Sajid Nadiadwala/Fox Star Studios

If there’s one thing Bollywood has taught us, it’s that any man can become a saviour of any woman if he has three venerated qualities: 1) the ability to mansplain 2) hyper-masculinity, and 3) hyper-nationalism. Thankfully for us, Ronny is the perfect choice considering he ticks off all the three Ps: patriotism, patriarchy, and planks. I mean, it’s clear that we have lucked out.

The challenge in front of our tough boy is both emotionally and physically taxing. His ex-girlfriend Neha, who had dumped him four years ago to listen to her cancer-stricken father and marry a stranger, suddenly reappears in his life with a call for help. He takes a week’s leave from the army as easily as the writers of this film discard the need for a story, and heads to Goa. Upon meeting a bruised Neha, he comes to know about the attack and the fact that Rhea, her three-year-old daughter, was kidnapped outside her school. Due to the local police closing the investigation after two months without any leads, Neha has no choice but to beg Ronny for help. There’s also the fact that her husband, neighbours, and the school authorities claim that she never had a daughter, putting a question mark on her mental health and the veracity of her version.

Instead of single-mindedly focusing on investigating the disappearance of Rhea, our hero and Baaghi 2 deem it immediate to first focus on more pressing issues. Like, participating in a “Kis mein kitna hai dum” contest between the local police and the army. Spoiler alert: Faujis never lose. In between, Ronny also injects a generous dose of reductive nationalism into his daily protein shake, with innumerable unnecessary odes to the army and soldiers despite the plot having literally nothing to do with the armed forces.

In the first action sequence of the film, Ronny single-handedly beats a horde of local cops to a pulp, but ensures that in the scuffle, he doesn’t lose sight of a tiny replica of the national flag, saving it from falling to the ground. The words “sarhad”, “fauji”, and generic declarations of a soldier’s strength are repeated more times than the collective number of expressions Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani possess. In fact, Baaghi 2 (with the blessings of Neeraj Pandey) comes very close to convincing you that there can be no action hero unless he has an “I love my India” tattoo on his forehead, and no action film if it doesn’t act as a PSA (a bad one at that) for the Indian Army. Moreover, it’ll make you miss the times when Bollywood action heroes had dhai kilo ka haath instead of dhai kilo ke abs.

Baaghi 2

What exactly is Prateik Babar doing in Baaghi 2?

Image credit: Sajid Nadiadwala/Fox Star Studios

Then comes the part where Baaghi 2 unknowingly becomes a stoner comedy. One of the film’s villains, Sunny (Prateik Babbar) is a beefed-up, manic-pixie drug-addict, who for some reason behaves like Lokhandwala’s Heath Ledger. The film’s ACP is called LSD (Randeep Hooda) who dresses up as a hippie lost in Goa, behaves like he is perennially high, and advocates the consumption of marijuana. There’s also Deepak Dobriyal wasting himself in the film playing a car dealer who moonlights as… what else, a drug dealer. In between, the film also resembles a “Who Can Flex Their Muscles Better?” contest between Shroff and Babbar. Spoiler alert 2: Faujis never lose.

As a bonus, there’s a hilarious chase sequence where Ronny runs behind Sunny, covering the length and breadth of Goa. Braving countless obstacles and accidents, he finally manages to get a hold of him until Sunny escapes from his grip by adopting the strategy of a five-year-old: biting him. This little scene pretty much sums up the film.

In the climax of this 144-minute headache, Rambo Ronny suddenly discovers a forested land straight out of Baahubali that serves up as the villain’s den. It is here that Shroff exhibits the extent of his talents by going shirtless and flexing his muscles. He runs, jumps on a flying helicopter, fires shots at an army of enemies, defeating them with his sheer strength, shoots while doing a backflip and survives gunshots. No surprises there. If anything Baaghi 2 shatters the assumption that Tiger Shroff can’t emote; I can stand witness to the fact that I saw a cheek muscle move on Shroff’s face.

Although, I have to say, his chest has a better acting range than him.