If a Salman Khan movie has many extravagant action set pieces around which a feeble — and mostly silly-plot is built, at least one shirtless scene, plenty of patriotism and a little bit of romance, his audience wants nothing else. They will whistle and whoop through the film, every time the star looks at the camera, walks in slo-mo or cracks a punchline. Of course he is a superhero without a cape; he can quite literally decimate an army, and not have a bullet even graze him. The only sign of his being human is that he needs reading glasses.
Tiger Zinda Hai, sequel to Kabir Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, has been directed by Ali Abbas Zafar (Sultan); in the last film RAW agent Avinash Rathod aka Tiger had disappeared, because he fell in love with ISI agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif), and that wouldn’t do at all in the world of espionage. However, when a crisis looms, his former boss Shenoy (Girish Karnad) knows where to find him — in snow clad Austria, where he and his bratty kid have been fighting wolves, while poor Zoya has been relegated to the kitchen. But, to prove that she is not rusty, she is given a scene in which she batters three muggers in a store.
The crisis involves Indian and Pakistani nurses held hostage in an Iraqi hospital by Abu Usman (Sajjaad Delafrooz) leader of militant organization, ISC. The Americans want to launch an air strike, but Shenoy requests seven days for his team to get the Indian nurses out. If this were a Hollywood film, or a Daniel Silva novel, a team of rescuers would have quietly parachuted into Iraq and done the job in less than 24 hours, not hatched an idiotic and far-fetched plot to enter the hospital.
Tiger and his three hand-picked men go to Iraq and get help from the asset there — Paresh Rawal, placed for comic relief, which he delivers. The ISI sends in Zoya and her cohorts to help the Pakistani nurses. So after some talk of ‘us’ and ‘them’ it is decided that RAW Bhai and ISI Bhabhi would launch a joint mission — something that is unheard of. The all-powerful ISC leader is, of course, a cretin, who frowns “Kuchh gadbad hai” where guns and bombs are exploding all over; the Americans are all cartoonish, trigger-happy characters.
The leader of the nurses is Poorna (Anupriya Goenka), who bravely deals with Abu Usman and provides assistance to Tiger’s team when they arrive to save them. (A recent Malayalam film Take Off was a more realistic rendition of the real 2014 incident of the capturing of nurses in Iraq).
For a thriller, the film has a leisurely pace, with needless diversions, like the rescue of a human bomb child, and some other women being used as sex slaves by Usman’s men. Zoya gets another solid action scene here and Katrina really kicks butt like a trained soldier.
The film is well made and has enough masala to make it a blockbuster; after Salman Khan’s lukewarm Tubelight, this one is meant for the star to please his fans. A part three is undoubtedly on the way.