Director: Nilesh Sahay
Writers: Nilesh Sahay, Shobha Nihalani
Cast: Rinzing Denzongpa, Malvika Raaj, Pooja Batra, Mohan Kapoor, Dishita Jain
Streaming on: ZEE5
Most Hindi action films these days are easy to dislike. You have the most harebrained plots, the most distasteful political undertones and the stiffest heroes strutting around in awfully staged settings. Reviewing them is usually limited to describing them; the fault is (mostly) in their stars. But movies like Squad you can only feel sorry for. Squad is not a bad movie; it's an infant aspiring to be a bad movie. In fact, it almost feels unfair to review. There is not a frame that looks or sounds professional, not a scene that belongs in any self-respecting story, and not a performer who doesn't look like a piece of shell-shocked furniture. Islamophobia (a character mumbling "I'll rip his beard off" is played for laughs) and jingoism (every song is about Hindustan asserting its dominance and destroying enemies) are the least of its problems.
The unique selling point of Squad, of course, is that it marks the debut of veteran actor Danny Denzongpa's son. "Introducing action star Rinzing Denzongpa," the screen screams, during an opening in which he single-handedly takes down a Pakistani camp (there's also some cocaine smuggling thrown in) while an Urdu-spouting extremist stares at him as though he were Matthew Wade in the World T20 semi-final. The baddie is killed, or maybe he cringes to death when Bhim declares: Hum Hindustan hai, bolenge nahi seedha todenge. Trust me, the translation is not worth it. His name is Bhim, so a hip-hop Kaurava-Pandava anthem blares in the background, and hip-hop Jai Hind anthems dot future action scenes where Bhim advances with the elegance of a malfunctioning cyborg.
Speaking of cyborgs, the premise goes thus: Brooding Bhim (because he sees a child die in Kashmir after a bomb-squad expert is confounded by coloured wires) is soon recruited to lead a squad of Special Forces "soldiers" to rescue the six-year-old granddaughter of a famous DRDO scientist who went into exile after inventing murderous half-cyborg half-human things. Rescue from whom, you ask? (Or maybe you don't ask). A dozen other countries are out to kidnap this rare little Indian girl, referred to as "Bharat ki beti" by everyone in the film, including none other than a Prime Minister Modi doppelganger at the end. When Bhim's attractive female colleague (Malvika Raaj) – introduced as a sharpshooter, who seems to be auditioning for a jeans ad – sees him asleep with the child at one point during the mission, she dreams of a romantic song with him in some foreign land. For some reason, her strategy to get brooding Bhim into a room with the RAW bosses in the beginning involves performing a saucy song and seducing him at a club. Needless to say, by the time she sings a song called "Aa Mujh Pe Baras," even the innuendos have left the building.
Keeping a straight face through the dialogue requires a fair amount of acting skill. That aside, the performances are perplexingly poor. Denzongpa's face conveys the same blankness in the embrace of a woman and the heat of battle. He doesn't sweat or smile or bleed, but the plot refuses to reveal Bhim as one of the scientist's robots. It's high time aspiring action stars stop mistaking inertia for strength. His action sequences don't feature a lot of movement, momentum or logic – more in the Salman Khan mould than the flexible Tiger Shroff or Vidyut Jammwal zone. This is not to say I prefer one to the other; I prefer none. Pooja Batra returns as a RAW boss who'd rather be somewhere else; at times I think she is, because her character starts to look like a hologram in the darker shots. It's fun to see old hand Mohan Kapoor ham it up in a grey role that a cigar-chomping Manish Chaudhari would be proud of. The others add as much to the film as ketchup does to pizza.
Squad will go down as one of the most clueless and wasteful examples of big-budget filmmaking in recent memory. Pity is not an emotion any title should elicit. I'd prefer feeling angry, exasperated, sad or even disgusted – at least that would legitimize the medium at hand. The craft of Squad is simply not credible enough to merit strong reactions. It's actually quite an achievement – to spend so much money, shoot in so many countries, employ so many people and yet amount to absolutely nothing. To be honest, I'm lost for words and feelings. I have no idea how to end this review.