Released: April 2016(USA)
Director: Sabbir Khan
Run Time: 133 Minutes
Genre: Action, Romance
Distributor: Reliance Entertainment
Tiger Shroff: Ronny
Shradda Kapoor: Sia
Sudheer Babu: Raghav
Shaurya Bharadwaj: Guruswamy
Kazu Patrick Tang: Yong
I’ve seen movies from nearly every country that has a film industry. That’s pretty extensive. From Chile to Japan, I’ve sampled movies from nearly all corners of the Earth. But the one country that eluded me for some reason was India. Why? I guess it has something to do with the prejudices I had unintentionally adopted about India and its people. I had always heard about Bollywood and the kinds of movies they made. I didn’t bother checking them out because I had assumed that most of those movies were directly ripping off the stuff that we make here in the States. I had also heard that every movie made in India were musicals and had dance numbers. Why would I be interested in that? The question I should have asked was, “How much of what I had heard was true?” It wasn’t until I heard about an upcoming martial arts superstar that was from Mumbai named Tiger Shroff. There was a number of websites that were advertising and promoting a movie called Baaghi. This caught my attention. After checking out the trailer, I was intrigued, so I looked for other stuff from Mr. Shroff. As it turns out, Baaghi was his second movie. I checked out a movie called Heropanti, and I was actually surprised at how much I really liked it. Dance numbers? Definitely, but it also had some pretty decent martial arts action. It was definitely different from what I’m used to watching, but I was intrigued. That was my first Bollywood experience. Wow. So, what does Baaghi have to offer?
The film opens as we see a young actress getting kidnapped by a gangster and taken to Bangkok, Thailand. Turns out that the gangster who kidnapped her was madly in love with her. However, she already had a guy in her life, Ronny. After her abduction, her father seeks out Ronny to try and get her back. Due to certain circumstances, Ronny is reluctant to find her, but ends up going anyway, just for the money. The story is about as straight-forward as you can get. There are no surprising twists or turns along the way to confuse the audience. However, a good chunk of the story is told through a flashback that comprises nearly half the movie. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing as we get to know our main characters, specifically Ronny, Sia and Raghav. While a great many people would balk at such a simple premise, we have to realize that story isn’t really the most important thing in a Bollywood production. Not only that, their film industry hasn’t really developed enough to really warrant complex story lines. You know what? I’m fine with that. Simplicity can be a beautiful thing.
Now, the first thing you may notice about Tiger Shroff is how similar he looks to the late Brandon Lee. If I didn’t know any better, I would say Mr. Shroff is a dead ringer for Brandon. Having seen Tiger in Heropanti, it’s very clear that the man is physically capable of handling his own stunts and fights. He is a 5th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. However, for Baaghi, he trained for several months under India’s proprietary martial art, Kalaripayattu. I had not heard of this style until I started reading about Baaghi. This is a very unusual martial art that bears a great resemblance to Chinese Kung Fu. In fact, there are some stories and legends in India that Kalaripayattu is the original martial art from which all others are derived. How much of that is actually true, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s very clear that this style had been around for quite a while. The fight choreography in the film is surprisingly tight and controlled. There are certain scenes that seemed to be copied directly from movies like Ong-Bak, but overall, the action is pretty damn good, and it hits pretty damn hard. These guys don’t mess around.
The acting in this film is not bad. One has to remember, that the standards that we set for OUR actors and actresses aren’t necessarily going to apply to those involved in a Bollywood production. It’s a completely different mindset. As a result, the acting may come across as a bit cheesy, but it definitely strikes me as genuine. These actors do a good job with what they’ve got. Movies like this are NOT intended to be realistic. Let’s face it, the film follows a certain formula to the letter. It’s your basic “hero taking on the bad guys to get the girl” story. As such, the main actors are decent enough. I think that Tiger Shroff could probably use a bit more refinement in his acting. He can physically do it, but his emoting seems forced at times. Shradda is simply gorgeous. She does a fine job, but she’s definitely there to look pretty and be the damsel in distress, although she does some butt-kicking later in the film, so there’s that. Sudheer Babu plays your basic mustache-twirling villain. He constantly sneers and growls, but he’s a physical presence like Tiger and he definitely holds his own.
Since Baaghi is a Bollywood production, music plays an extremely important part. What you have heard about Bollywood movies suddenly erupting into musical dance numbers is true. A lot of modern Bollywood movies use pop music as a way of expressing an emotion, which can be more effective than prose or regular acting. Because music plays such an important part in Hindu culture as well as being a part of their identity, it makes sense that Bollywood uses music this way in their productions. It’s not a bad thing, really, as some of these songs and dance numbers can be pretty catchy. In fact, economically, these dance number and songs are put into movies as another way to generate revenue by selling records and CD’s. The songs and dances in this film are very well-choreographed and pretty entertaining. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for musicals, and modern Bollywood is getting really good at it, while crafting a solid action movie at the same time. That’s also why Bollywood movies are so long. They take the time for an impromptu dance number. I could understand how that could really get on someone’s nerves, but it really didn’t bother me in the slightest.
I have to admit, after seeing Heropanti and Baaghi, I’m really curious about what the rest of India has to offer in movies. I’m truly glad that I finally got to see a couple of Bollywood movies. It’s helped me get past certain preconceptions about Bollywood and how they do things. It’s very, very different to be sure, but it’s surprisingly effective, provided you go into it with an open mind. Seeing these films has allowed me to expand beyond what I already know about movies, and seeing a movie from India puts things in perspective, one could say. Baaghi isn’t perfect, I think it runs a little too long, and the second act of the film seems a little….off. But then again, I don’t really have a whole lot of experience with Bollywood movies to really complain about it. If you like action movies and don’t mind something a little..nay..very different, I would suggest Baaghi. It’s a pretty decent film with some really astounding production values and is pretty entertaining from beginning to end.
Final Score: 8/10.