By RAHUL DESAI
Director: Remo D’Souza
Cast: He who must not be named
I don’t think I can review Tiger Shroff films anymore. The kid may be nice and sincere and well meaning and pretty and even the Pope in person, but every frame he appears in is a gut-wrenching and systematic blow to the craft and history of motion pictures. He is enormously popular with a certain section of people, all of who I can only assume are disillusioned Salman Khan fans finally noticing that their hero actually ages faster than he drives. If only I knew back in 2014 that his debut abomination, Heropanti, would remain the best (or least toe-curling) of his three horrid efforts.
Baaghi was only a few months ago, and already, I find myself weak and woozy at the very thought of having to write ahead.
There was a brief phase in A Flying Jatt during which I found myself wondering if this was Hindi cinema’s first real-time parody. For example, a serious genre-staple scene is often immediately followed by its cheeky B-movie interpretation. When Aman (Shroff) dramatically assumes his new superhero moniker with religious-paraphernalia costume, he poses heroically — and then goes back to his bed to watch television and take a nap. His mother (Amrita Singh), who makes him watch every movie from Hulk to Superman to help him discover his identity, insists that he goes and saves the world instead – not walking, but swooping through the window, ‘like superheroes should.’ Her maternal Sikh-ness shines through despite her son’s supernatural transformation. Moments later, when he can’t find anybody to save at night, she calls to berate him, “Sector 9? That’s a posh area. Nobody needs to be saved there!” These are oddly humorous moments – the kind you’d expect in a DIY superhero film like Kick-Ass, or self-patronizing smart-alecky ones like Avengers andHancock.
But choreographer-turned-director Remo D’Souza isn’t one to quit while he’s ahead. So he brings in a monstrous villain who nullifies everything Tiger stands for; her name is Jacqueline Fernandez. She possesses a unique superpower; instantly, hundreds of viewers look away and cringe as soon as she appears or attempts to speak on screen. She exists solely to be his nerdy Louis Lane, though she comes across as someone who isn’t all quite there in the head. Their songs together look like they’re part of a colour-blind cannabis addict’s dreamscape (I could swear I saw pink grass and yellow trees). It’s ironic that the 200-year-old holy Banyan Tree this plot revolves around (Tiger’s village must protect it from being demolished by evil industrialist Kay Kay Menon) is a far more versatile and understated actor than the two young leads put together. Fernandez is so painfully screechy and awful here that you genuinely wonder if Katrina Kaif isn’t so bad after all. Getting worse with every film takes a special kind of talent. And that accent just keeps getting thicker and thicker.
And there’s the other villain of this film, a real monster named Rakha (Wrestler Nathan Jones), who derives his power from the planet’s waste and pollution levels. Imagine how strong he’d be if this was set in Beijing. All this ram-man seems to do is appear out of nowhere to scare people like a blinking 16-bit video game bot. Because the planet is so polluted, guess where Mr. Jatt takes him to make it an an even fight? I kid you not.
Who thinks of these things? In what solar system is it even legal to be sitting in a dark hall at 11 PM to watch two tacky puppet-like figures battle each other in space and across plastic satellites and moons that resemble muddy planetariums? And I get it, I get it that the VFX isn’t really supposed to be good because this isn’t really an all-out epic – but can we at least try to not make it look like Tiger is hanging by a string against a giant screen? Forget what I think; the children for which such films are ‘designed’ deserve something far more competent.
To understand why I cannot stand the sight of this particular star son on screen, do the following: Observe his body and hands when somebody else is speaking to him. Notice how he has no idea that a performance is as much about reacting than it is about acting. He looks agonizingly conscious and ill at ease, like someone with a perpetually weak bladder. It’s not entirely his fault. He has been led to believe by greedy producers that the craft can survive solely on his dancing, six packs and martial arts skills. Nobody, including his own father – who can be fantastic on his day and horribly hammy otherwise – seems to want him to be something more than just a well-groomed machine.
When he is required to speak and emote, he is so out of his depth and simultaneously entitled that I feel sorry. I feel sorry that action heroes are perceived as one-trick ponies that are supposed to do everything but act. And I feel sorry that superheroes, just like Olympic athletes, will always deserve a better country.