Tiger Zinda Hai is a garden-variety Salman Khan film elevated by Katrina Kaif and India-Pakistan bromance

Pradeep Menon

Dec,23 2017 12:41:34 IST

Let's get one thing out of the way. Tiger Zinda Hai is everything everyone expects it to be. Haters will hate, lovers will love. If there's one thing to be said in the film's favour, it is that the neutrals might just favour this over other recent Salman Khan outings.

While director Ali Abbas Zafar struggles to find a voice amid the explosions and the gigantic aura of his lead actor, ironically even in a film with an ISIS-like villain, the audience is expected to take enough leaps of faith for it to feel like relentless emotional parkour.

Still, there are at least two things in the film that come across as a pleasant surprise. The more heartening of the two is Katrina Kaif's ISI agent Zoya, someone who's supposed to be the strong, brooding type as opposed to Salman's more amicable, pop-philosophy spewing R&AW super-agent who also makes epic 'dal makhni'. #TrueStory

Now Katrina is still a grade school student in the acting department, but she gets an A for attempt and intent. She infuses Zoya with a personality, and Zoya actually gets to do a few things by herself in this movie. The best action sequence in the film, for me, is one that's all Katrina Kaif. It also happens to be an important sequence in the context of the film's story, and it has an emotional current running through it purely from a popular social aspect as well.

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in Tiger Zinda Hai

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in Tiger Zinda Hai

Zoya also gets a well-designed, possibly inspired, intro scene that sets the tone for her character, and Katrina holds that character throughout. The film may be called Tiger Zinda Hai, but it's Zoya that seems truly alive when she's on screen. Alas, that doesn't happen often enough.

But that's made up for with the most schmaltzy India-Pakistan bhai-mance in the film, which is bound to make people smile, even if reluctantly. In these times, it's difficult to accurately portray the complexity of the India-Pakistan relationship, so feelgood is probably the way to go.

Tiger Zinda Hai Day 1 box office collection: Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif starrer has Rs 36 crore opening

A bunch of side characters — R&AW and ISI agents no less — grudgingly coming together; then fighting alongside for a common good, and finally indulging in flag-based histrionics, all of it peppered with humour and emotion; Zafar mangages to milk this situation to make it the lingering takeaway from the film, along with the usual suspension of disbelief.

It helps that the main villain in the film has also been crafted rather well. Abu Usman, chief of ISC, is a ruthless leader who is chillingly practical. Actor Sajjad Delafrooz makes him menacing, managing a balance between being a religious fanatic and a war strategist. In fact, in a film that basically has no surprises to offer you whatsoever, he's what raises the stakes somewhat, even though you know exactly what's going to go down by the time we get to the end.

Make no mistake, nothing even remotely comes close to how much time and effort is spent on making Salman Khan's character superhuman in every way. The shirt doesn't just come off this time; a reason for it coming off is invented.

The money shot of the trailer — Salman firing the massive machine gun and obliterating half of a major terror organisation — so shamelessly demands your complicity in its exaggeration that you're tempted to go along with it. All it needed was Salman wearing a t-shirt that said Being Superhuman, for it to transcend into meta-Salman territory. How much fun you have with it depends on how long you're able to keep logic at bay.

If the film were shorter, had more Zoya, more cross-border love, and Salman Khan with a little more chill, it could have worked for many more people than just those who unconditionally love its lead actor.

Updated Date: Dec 23, 2017 12:41 PM