Director: Ahmed Khan
Writers: Jagdish Sharma, Rajat Arora
Cast: Tiger Shroff, Tara Sutaria, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Cinematographer: Kabir Lal
Editors: Venkat Jalagam, Kamlesh Parui
Every time I watch a bad Hindi film, I think: OK, go home and write the shortest review ever. Life is short. Two paragraphs, at most. The weekend is ahead. I even make up imaginary friends in my head who make imaginary Sunday plans with me so that I have something to look forward to. But I'll say this in the nicest way possible: I cannot. Movies are such an integral part of my being that I just cannot stifle my sense of betrayal and utter disappointment when hundreds of crores are spent to make absolutely zero sense. It does feel personal. It should. Heropanti 2 (read: Antics 2) is the latest in this conveyor belt of such soul-crushing experiences. For exactly two seconds, I got nostalgic when Tiger Shroff appeared on a big screen after such a long time. Heaven knows his movies aren't made for the streaming universe. But then I saw him groove at a zombie party to an A.R. Rahman song called "Dafa Kar" that sounds deliberately similar to "The Fucker" and that's where I broke. Did nobody know? Did everyone know?
Or maybe I broke in the previous scene, where super-hacker Babloo (Shroff) goes to a veterinarian clinic (in a barn?) to have a bullet extracted from his butt and is tended to by… a stripper doctor? What memo did I miss? Or maybe the time Tara Sutaria's Inaaya is introduced as a rich, bratty girl (intro track: "rich girl, rich girl, don't question my desire") who goes around kissing strangers and paying them to piss off her boyfriend, which is incidentally how she meets and falls for chiseled-body-big-brain Babloo? (I also couldn't think of "Babloo" without reminiscing about Shah Rukh Khan's comic genius in Duplicate). Or maybe the time Babloo's Punjabi mother, played by Amrita Singh, bids him farewell with "MC BC" only to inform us that it stands for "Main chali, bye cutie"? Rajat Arora is the writer. By the end of Heropanti 2, I felt a lot like the Paresh Rawal character in Judaai, where every thought in my head inevitably morphed into a giant question mark.
Two paragraphs are up. But I'm still here. Heropanti 2 cuts between two timelines. Present-day, where a bespectacled dude named RJ is trying to live a peaceful life with his mother in Yorkshire before some baddies from his past – as well as a billionaire girlfriend who is elated and annoyed to see him after 1.5 years – blow his cover. The flashback reveals that RJ is Babloo (codename: Plumber), a freelance hacker who was hired by the Indian government to bring down a supervillain named Laila before deflecting to work with Laila and invent a money-scamming app before growing a conscience and deflecting back to the CBI, who then send Babloo into a witness protection program (without protection) to Yorkshire. It's all very intricate, except it's not. All along, Laila's master plan is to wait for March 31st, the day Indians start paying their taxes, so that he can simply hack into the banks and steal all that tax money. In other words, he's a method politician.
The film itself is not a film so much as a cheap theme park ride, where one unimaginative and ludicrously expensive set piece simply follows another without any sort of narrative logic connecting them. Who needs words anyway? At one point, a jeep runs into a high-speed train, manages to swivel inside and then plow through the compartments till it reaches Babloo. At another, Babloo's hacking skills are tested by the villain in a scene straight out of Swordfish: except the girl performing oral sex on the hero in the Hollywood film becomes two girls caressing the hero's face in a family-friendly manner here. Who needs the CBFC anyway?
I really resonate with Nawazuddin Siddiqui performing in terrible movies because he makes sure we know how terrible they are. As Laila, a queer and evil mastermind, Siddiqui is so gloriously campy that it's obvious he is laughing at the film while participating in it at once. The actor has made no secret about what he thinks of mainstream Hindi cinema. That he infuses all the snark into these meta wink-wink turns establishes a strangely endearing relationship with the audience. In every other scene, he's kind of letting us in on the joke, and generally having a blast in a project that sways between inadvertent spoof and self-serious spy disaster. He even manages to rock a suit with feathers, a famous Madhuri Dixit gesture, a hyena-like laugh and, most of all, an alternate career as a magician. For his next trick, he becomes the entertainer in a film that thrives on making things – brain cells, entertainment, reviewers – disappear. Dafa kar, it yells.