Director: Ahmed Khan

Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh, Jaideep Ahlawat

There comes a time when frustration and rage subside, and all one can do is twist a petulant Baaghi movie’s ears and declare, “Beta, tumse na ho payega.” Today is that time. The fans (Baaghians) in my matinee show seemed to suspect that the makers might have started taking them for granted: Let them see the ropes suspending the hero in the sky, let them spot the giant backlights behind the set, let them notice the cranes and smoke machines, let them recognize the Nintendo Wii remote strapped into the sucide-bombing vest. Hell, let them even see that new lines have been dubbed over half the actors’ voices. All is fair in masala and war.

Baaghi 3 – which means that there was a Baaghi and Baaghi 2 – stars Tiger Shroff as Ronnie (Singh becomes Chaturvedi, for social-message reasons), the Rambo-style muscleman who threatens a Syrian jihadist that has kidnapped his brother (Riteish Deshmukh, as Vikram) by growling: “I will destroy your country”. Clearly, Ronnie hasn’t watched the news in the last ten years. Nevertheless, the action franchise – which, in its second instalment, thought that the image of the army man hero using a Kashmiri civilian as a human shield on his jeep was in fine taste – has reached a point where it thinks that the best way to make amends and float a Hindu-Muslim harmony tune is by demonizing a third country that is too broken to react. This film is possibly the lowest common denominator of modern secularism.

In short, yo Syria so dark that India Pakistan bhai bhai. Yo Syria so mean that good Muslims there be named Akbar Lahori but bad ones be named Abu Jalal Gaza (I’m sure the writers assume Gaza is in Syria, because all burning lands look the same, no?). So when Ronnie Amritsari reaches Syria, they never let us forget it: The cop station is called “Syria Police Station,” the walls have grammatically layered graffiti like “Syria revolution,” a cafe is called “Cafe Rumi” and jokes like “Kamaal ki aurat nahi, Jamaal ki aurat hai” indicate that autocorrect is big in this ‘city’. The characters there speak in a strange Russian accent, and the local cop resembles Faf du Plessis. Syria has enough problems; the last thing it needs is Baaghi shooting on (East European imitations of) its streets. Given that troubled regions are an easy target for unaccountable action movies, perhaps India might make for a solid location these days.

Syria has enough problems; the last thing it needs is Baaghi shooting on (East European imitations of) its streets. Given that troubled regions are an easy target for unaccountable action movies, perhaps India might make for a solid location these days.

Which brings me to the first half – the setup – of Baaghi 3 in Agra. The film opens with a flashback in which Jackie Shroff, a senior cop, dies while trying to single-handedly rescue “Indian citizens” – irrespective of caste, creed, religion, roots – in a communal riot. He lives just long enough for the light to perfectly slant in through the hospital windows so that he can tell his hot-headed younger son (Ronnie) to always protect his oversensitive wuss of an older son (Vikram). Whenever I hear the name Ronnie, I can only think of it in Jai’s (Rajit Kapur) voice from Ghulam – the villain’s name was Raunak Singh, played by the beefy Sharat Saxena. Ronnie be ominous.

But I digress. When the brothers grow up, Ronnie choke-slams anyone who so much as touches Vikram. Vikram is the kind of man who cries while watching Hindi movies like Judwaa (old and new) because “where is the logic?” – all signs point to him being a film critic. But Ronnie convinces the meek Vikram to join the police force instead (“You will find your form when you wear the uniform,” “The stars on it makes you a superstar”). Vikram becomes an inadvertent hero when his brother, in disguise (a hoodie), bashes up a local gang of goons. The gang leader’s name is IPL (Jaideep Ahlawat, paying the bills), presumably so that he can converse in poor cricket terminology.

IPL is naturally connected to the Middle East, the main baddie in Syria, who runs a rather harebrained terrorist program: He has hired IPL to kidnap Indian families and transport them to Syria so that he can blackmail the husbands into becoming suicide bombers. I’m not sure what Ronnie’s endgame was, but it was only a matter of time before his secret heroics made Delhi take notice of super-Vikram, who then promptly gets sent to Syria. Ronnie should have known that top cops are routinely sent to the most volatile region on the planet because they are top cops. Not the smartest bro, is he?

Somewhere along the way, Shraddha Kapoor appears as a girl named Sia, and her Cheap Thrills consist of using foul-mouthed language (she says “macho” to rhyme with…you get the gist), which the censors have thankfully altered. If you think about it, there’s a “Sia” in Syria too, which is something the plot takes too literally. All through, it is established that all Vikram has to do is shout his brother’s name, and Ronnie materializes in the most Tiger Shroff way possible. From anywhere, at any time. Vikram could have done this the moment he was kidnapped, and saved us all the trouble of watching an hour of counterfeit Syrian warfare. But I’m reluctant to criticize Riteish Deshmukh (who I liked before the extra vowel) because Ronnie might just slide in through my window and hit me senseless. Or worse, he might hit me with Baaghi 4.

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