Director: Aditya Datt
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Adah Sharma, Angira Dhar, Gulshan Devaiah
We have, somehow, as a culture, arrived at a juncture of commercial filmmaking where writers are convinced that action heroes can’t exist for the heck of it. In fact, action cannot exist without an incurable sense of patriotism. Only true patriots with a penchant for deshbhakti monologues have the license to break bones, mock gravity and spill blood. This diagnosis is corroborated by Vidyut Jammwal in Commando 3, in which he attempts to invoke his inner John Abraham and Tiger Shroff by declaring, at one point, that “all Indian soldiers look like heroes”. This is after a computer analyst scoffs at his bulging chest (49 inches) and freakish muscles. As if to assure us that his words cater to the lowest denominator of intellectual whataboutery, a female character in the frame whistles to his ‘seeti-maar’ dialogue. We get it. All is fair in war and war.
Even by these deplorable new standards, Commando 3 is an astonishingly tone-deaf film whose idea of secularism involves a Hindu hero broadcasting a video message to millions of Indian Muslims requesting them to form a human shield outside Dussehra mandals to stop Pakistani terrorists from executing their dastardly plans. “When we killed at Balakot, India’s Hindus and Muslims cheered for us together,” he observes, in a motivational video that Neo-Nazis would be proud of. It takes the makers 130 minutes to arrive at his ingenious brainwave. It also inadvertently serves as an appropriate advertisement of the nation’s current situation.
Many films use sexual harassment as a device to establish the noble character of the hero. But Commando 3 crosses the line with ignorant glee when it presents an epidemic of desi wrestlers harassing pigtailed schoolgirls
But let’s, for a moment, pretend that Jammwal plays a John Wick-ish hero (he doesn’t, but please humour me) who just likes foiling terrorist plans as a hobby. Does Commando 3 still hold as a dumb celebration of coiled testosterone? Force 2, for instance, had an interesting villain and some smooth stunts across Budapest and other locations with white people who behave as if Indians wrecking their beautiful cities is perfectly normal. The short answer is No. The long answer is that this is the kind of film where a defense chief asks his subordinate “Hai aapke paas koi aisa officer?” and the title appears. The plot is predictably silly: Karan Singh Dogra (Jammwal) and his ultra-diverse team of two female agents and one nerd are recruited to weed out an eccentric mastermind in London. A vegetarian-cat-and-carnivorous-mouse chase ensues.
The problems begin early. The “hero ka entry” scene is a sign. The question most writers ask themselves while conceiving such scenes is: How far can we push the audience till they beg for a saviour? How desperate can we make them for a breather? Many films use sexual harassment as a device to establish the noble character of the hero. But Commando 3 crosses the line with ignorant glee when it presents an epidemic of desi wrestlers harassing pigtailed schoolgirls. A pervert slowly lifts the skirt of a weeping girl in front of mute onlookers…till Jammwal’s fist makes an entrance. The moment is unnecessary and tasteless, and pretty much sums up the gist of what is to follow.
Gulshan Devaiah plays a Nawazuddin-in-Kick villain here – he hams like only a fine actor, who is amused by the soul-selling of this genre, can
Karan is secular because he allows the terrorist to finish his namaz before engaging him. Never mind that he headlines a movie whose villain thinks that targeting Indian cities whose initials cover the word “Allah” is so clever. (Ayodhya, Latur and so on – reminiscent of the alphabetically challenged baddie who kills Mumbai’s corrupt cops according to areas that spell out the term SATYAMEV JAYATE…in Satyamev Jayate). Jammwal is stone-faced enough to make you wonder if he’s just wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. To his credit, he jumps and runs very acrobatically. Adah Sharma of 1920 fame plays an Agent Reddy, whose accent is an unfortunate love-child born from the union between Aishwarya Rai’s Konkani riff in Josh and Deepika Padukone’s Tamilian tomtoming in Chennai Express. Angira Dhar simply exists.
Gulshan Devaiah plays a Nawazuddin-in-Kick villain here – he hams like only a fine actor, who is amused by the soul-selling of this genre, can. His character is comically insane, his accent is a hoot, and his diction is simultaneously a performance and a parody of a Brit-Asian extremist. On a better day, his would be another alter-ego to Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota’s Karate Mani and Jimmy. Somewhere in this mess there’s also the talented Rajesh Tailang, but I’d rather pretend he isn’t.
I remember Commando 2 being marketed as “the first Bollywood movie on demonetization”. Commando 3 can only lay claim to being the 238th Bollywood movie on rabid nationalism. The motto: Each action will have an unequal and unopposed reaction.