Tiger Zinda Hai Review: Best a filmmaker could do with a superstar..

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Bollywood.com Rating: 
3.5
Average: 3.5 (1 vote)

By Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times

It’s a tense day in North Syria. Forty Indian and Pakistani nurses have been abducted by a terrorist group ISC (read ISIS). Tiger (Salman Khan) is the special agent RAW has appointed for the rescue mission. 
 
He is about to enter the danger zone when his wife and Pakistani agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif) whispers in his ear, “Apna khayal rakhna (take care).” In response, Salman Khan smiles sarcastically as if this is the most insignificant wish on Earth.
 
A hiatus of eight years, spent in different European countries, hasn’t changed Tiger from inside. He is 45 now, thank God for that, and his heart still bleeds for India. But age is just a number for Salman Khan, so he fights wolves to give us a glimpse of his physical prowess. From skiing like Vin Diesel to fighting like Batman, he assures us of his everlasting youth. At some point, he will have to remove his shirt too. This is all a prelude to that ultimate, orgasmic moment for his fans.
 
Ali Abbas Zafar, the new director of the franchise, sees Salman Khan as a guy who is on the cusp of maturity, if not already there. After Sultan, he has given Salman a window of another five years, and he plays a father in the film. 
 
This also serves Salman’s popular image of a guy who is a hit with the kids, a do-gooder by nature. It’s better for the filmmakers to set a character trajectory that matches the star’s current image rather than basking in the glory of the past.
 
Khan’s Tiger is blessed with dry humour, but Zafar fails to capitalise on that front. That would have added depth to the mostly lonely agent we have seen in the original film, Ek Tha Tiger (2012).
 
You know how such movies begin. A place’s name will be typed at the left bottom and an aerial shot will close in. That will cut to the most terrifying character, in this case Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafroz), and there onwards it will take its own course.
 
The writers have tried to add motive and back story to Abu Usman, which is mostly on the predictable lines. He plays the America-educated, unethically tortured man, but hell it works, because Delafroz takes right pauses. Of course, he is also waiting to meet Tiger at some point.
 
Such villains are weirdly funny in their own ways. They are otherwise very sharp, astute and terrifying, but they falter right when their skills are needed the most. They call you from behind just when you think you’re out of their clutches. Or, they kill the lead’s best friend. And all this happens when the hero is giving proper vibes of being the real player. You know like looking directly into the eyes or chewing dialogues. Abu Usman, rather the director, believes in keeping the audience hooked via old methods.
 
Tiger Zinda Hai does everything you thought it would do. From establishing India-Pakistan friendship to proving the secular credentials of our chief agent, you witness everything. The good thing is all this happens rapidly. Tiger Zinda Hai is 161-minute long and a slow pace could have completely ruined the film.
 
There is just one song, a good development by YRF’s standards, and Tom Struthers’ action has novelty. I won’t be surprised if Bhai fans will go berserk after seeing him wielding a bazooka.
 
Where is Katrina Kaif in all this? Well, she delivers her part with aplomb. In a film totally dependent on Tiger’s charisma and combat skills, Katrina’s Zoya steals the show in a prolonged action scene inside the City Council building of Ikrit. Her body double plays a substantial role in it, still it’s a sequence you can cheer for.
 
A hindrance in Indian spy films is the mandatory ‘insaniyat ka mahjab’ and ‘saare gods hamare dil me baste hain’ kind of sequences. Now, after watching such scenes for the thousandth time, nobody in the hall even murmurs, “sahi baat hai.” These scenes could have been trimmed for a sleeker product. Didn’t the first film tell us these things in as many words?
 
Salman Khan, of course, is back in his zone and seems to be enjoying the slow motion and close-up shots. He delivers what is expected of him. It comes at the cost of the others, though. Angad Bedi is forced to carry a constant fretful look, something he has been stuck with since Inside Edge.
 
There are a couple of surprise elements and they work too. Actually, Tiger Zinda Hai is exactly the movie you wanted to associate Salman Khan with, so no disappointments on that front.
 
There’s still some time to catch up with Hollywood, but Tiger Zinda Hai is probably the best a filmmaker could do with a superstar. Just wait for the moment when Salman Khan dodges the most dreaded criminals and their rocket launchers while riding a horse.
 
In the end, Vishal Dadlani croons, “Listen close what I gotta say.” Is there still something left?