'Baby'...Not so cute!

MUMBAI: If you have an action hero, the best thing to do is let him loose and make an anti-terrorist film like Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty. Baby is a film in the same mould. Director Neeraj Pandey’s best so far has been A Wednesday! That established him as a compact storyteller on screen. A Wednesday! had a runtim of 104 minutes. Unfortunately, Baby accounts for that much in just its second half (out of total duration of 156 minutes)!

Espionage stories had their peak during the US-USSR cold war days; after that writers of such fiction have never found a formidable enough enemy for the US to write books on and, resultantly, there have been few movies on the theme.

In Indian films, the recent trend has been to make films on the fight against terrorism. But many of these films lack weight as the terrorists have no face and, to add to that, the casting lets the idea down. While our hero is a super star, the villains chosen as the face of terrorism are mere caricatures. The same problem persists with Baby. The strong box office faces, Akshay Kumar and Danny Denzongpa, are with India while those on the other side are junior artistes.

RAW is known to all. Ergo, those in power form an elite group of few officers, men and women, to work offline from the mainstream agencies and take on the terrorists and terrorist attacks in the offing before they happen. They call the team “Baby”. The star officer is Akshay. Like the trend set by 007 films and followed by most action films made lately, the tone is set with an action sequence: Akshay intervenes in a situation where one of his teammates is betrayed by another one. He can’t save his betrayed teammate nor can he liquidate the betrayer! So much for his elite tag! You know the film is going to falter more often as it progresses.

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Shital Bhatia.

Director: Neeraj Pandey.

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Tapsee Pannu, Rana Daggubati, Anupam Kher, Kay Kay Menon, Madhurima Tuli, Rasheed Naz.

The elite anti-terrorist group’s elite agent, Akshay, embarks on various missions. He knows only to shoot and kill, so much so that because of his wild ways, no sensible colleague wants to work with him.

Kay Kay Menon is a dreaded terrorist who is serving time behind bars. He wants to be out and that is his condition to his people before he cooperates with them with the information they want from him. He is freed in the same old-fashioned way: the police van which is ferrying him to some place is ambushed. Menon then heads to Saudi Arabia where he is raising funds for further terrorist activities. Accompanying him in a fortress like place is the major Pakistani terror group head, Rasheed Naz (supposed to depict the infamous Pakistani terrorist chief, Hafiz Saeed).

Akshay, along with Rana Daggubati and Anupam Kher, embark on a mission to eliminate Kay Kay before he gives shape to his plans of terrorism in India. When they kill Kay Kay, they find Rasheed too, but instead of eliminating him, Akshay decides to take him to India as a trophy. This last plan to give him a total makeover and to smuggle him out of Saudi makes for some interesting viewing though it reminds of the film D Day where the agents smuggle Dawood (played by Rishi Kapoor) out of Pakistan.

The film tries to cram in too much and loses sense of length; the film could have done without the family track of Akshay. Some scenes are stretched to create anxiety among viewers which they don’t. Directorially, the film falls far short of Pandey’s previous films, A Wednesday! and Special 26. Editing is slack. Music and romance find no place and the one song the film has could also have been done away with. Cinematography is very good. Background score is effective in places.

Akshay dominates the film and it is a role tailormade for him; he does very well. Danny makes his presence felt merely with his expression in the absence of anything substantial to do. Tapsee Pannu is impressive in a brief role. Rana’s can best be described as a cameo appearance. Anupam Kher as a computer wizard does not quite convince. Rasheed makes an impact as the fanatic. Kay Kay is okay in a brief role.

Baby, coming as it does in the wake of Ek Tha Tiger and Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, has nothing new to offer; also it falls short of the director’s earlier films. The film has more verbal footage rather than action which can be a put off for many including single screen audience. The film has a three-day weekend with Monday being Republic Day holiday to make the most of, though the opening response has been below par. All said, its box office prospects are limited.

'Dolly Ki Doli'….Doli nahi uthi!

Producers: Malaika Arora Khan, Arbaaz Khan.

Director: Abhishek Dogra.

Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Rajkumar Rao, Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Rajesh Sharma, Manoj Joshi, Archana Puran Singh, Rajendra Kala and cameos by Malaika Arora Khan and Saif Ali Khan.

Cases of men posing as prospective grooms, marrying and vanishing with the bride’s jewellery and other belongings are a dime a dozen and reported regularly in newspapers. Dolly Ki Doli jumps on the idea and turns it around so that a woman does this vanishing act instead.

Sonam Kapoor has a ‘family’ which is always on the lookout for a suitor for her. The boys found for her are usually average, not much to look at and not really well-placed in jobs or on the social ladder. Sonam to them would look like a fairy! The ‘family’ consists of Manoj Joshi (posing as her father) with others posing as her brother, mother, grandmother, a family photographer and a pandit who decides on the earliest wedding muhurat.

The newspaper matrimonial are scanned, a suitable sucker is shortlisted and an approach made. Soon, after gauging up the prospective victim family’s resources, an early wedding date is fixed. The wedding done, it is time for honeymoon but Sonam would always have some reason to stall it: ekadashi vrat or woman’s problem and so on. However, honeymoon or not, she would do the traditional offering of a glass of milk, not only to her ‘husband’ but also to rest in the family. With everybody around rendered unconscious, the house would be wiped clean of all its valuables and the bride and her ‘family’ would vanish into thin air.

Sonam’s first victim is Rajkumar Rao, the son of a Haryanvi sugarcane planter. Then follows a montage of numerous victims until it is time to bring in Varun Sharma, a lad whose family paid a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to get him a 50, 000 a month job in an IT company! But, to her ire, Sonam is rejected by Varun’s mother, Archana Puran Singh. Sonam’s ego is hurt and she decides to pursue the boy and make him revolt against his mother! The plan works. The wedding takes place, followed by cleaning out of closets. But, somehow, the script fits in a problem for Sonam as somehow her earlier husband, Rajkumar drops in at this wedding.

Why did Sonam take to cheating people? The writer and director think it is time to add a thrilling third angle to the goings-on. There is a dashing kind of cop on her trail now. The cop, Pulkit Samrat, was not at all interested in taking up such a petty case but he changes his mind once he looks at the picture of the girl whose police file is titled ‘Looteri Dulhan’. It seems she is the love of his life who he ditched.

A decoy is planted for Sonam and her ‘family’. The royal prince of a Rajasthan kingdom of yore pastes posters in the town seeking a bride! The family is lured and meet up with the prince, Saif Ali Khan. The game is over for the ‘family’ as it is confronted by all three, Rajkumar, Varun as well as Pulkit. Some more situations follow before the charade comes to an end.

Finding an idea is fine but what needs talent is to turn it in to a taut and plausible script that a director just needs to convert on celluloid. But, even with a 98-minute run time, Dolly Ki Doli has no spark anywhere. The comedy is forced and the artistes fail to carry the film on their own, given mediocre direction and little by way of script. The film has one hummable track in Mere naina kafir hogaye.. Comedy falls flat most of the time.

Dolly Ki Doli is a nonstarter.

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