Eight years after Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman Khan again lands in Pakistan, this time to save democracy. Director Maneesh Sharma invokes both the National Anthem as well as “Prabhu Ka Naam” to keep Tiger politically prudent but the spy doesn’t turn out to be as sharp as his spiritual cousin Pathaan who also hunted in a similar geopolitical space earlier this year.
Written by Shridhar Raghavan, who penned Shah Rukh Khan’s comeback action vehicle as well, the shadow of Pathaan is palpable on this latest edition of the expanding desi spy universe of Yash Raj Films. The antagonist Aatish Rehman (Emraan Hashmi) is again a rogue agent who mixes personal loss with political agenda. The difference is this time he belongs to Pakistan’s ISI and has a deep past connection with ex-ISI agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif), who is now leading a quiet life with Tiger and their son Junior in Austria. Is Zoya working against the interests of India? The leap of faith is suitably audacious and the backstory of Zoya pulls us into a narrative that gets ignited every few minutes with some unbelievable action choreography. The high point is a cameo by Shah Rukh that generates a whistle-worthy sequence for the masses.
Tiger 3 (Hindi)
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Emraan Hashmi, Kumud Mishra, Danish Husain, Ranveer Shorey, Anant Vidhaat
Runtime: 156 minutes
Storyline: A vengeful ex-ISI agent forces Tiger and Zoya to take on a mission that puts their integrity for their respective countries under a cloud.
However, in between, the emotional tapestry fails to move us and intelligence inputs don’t turn out to be intelligent. Put together, they give the taste of a Deepavali recipe that has become stale; it means the intrigue never threatens to bring us to the edge of our seats. The realpolitik that drives the superficially convoluted plot is not as newsworthy as we have seen in the previous instalments, and the fun element that defines a Salman Khan film is not as juicy as expected from the franchise. Some profound dialogues (Anckur Chaudhry) — like when a well-meaning Director General of ISI (Danish Husain) equates the peace process with the delicate art of helping a girl wear bangles — are followed by some garbled lectures on unhealed wounds of Partition.
After a point, the film, like a section of news channels, feels a little too concerned about the democratic and dictatorial elements in the neighbourhood while turning a blind eye to the churning within. There is no counter perspective. Like Gadar, the film plays to the gallery when Tiger enters his in-laws’ terrain and the makers take the subcontinent’s male saviour sentiment to the next level when Tiger turns up to bail out the female Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nasreen Irani (Simran).
Early in the film, Tiger goes on a rescue mission to warm up for the big battle. His handler calls it Mission Timepass. Inadvertently, it becomes a sobriquet for the film when it refuses to become more productive than a series of well-mounted action sequences with a few obvious insights on salvaging the delicate peace process between the two countries.
Salman puts in a little more effort every time he plays Tiger. Difficult to hide as a spy, here again, he does his thing with a sense of purpose. However, the emotional swell and the mental conflict of finding himself on a mission that has deep personal ramifications don’t consistently come through his performance. Emraan aces characters that suffer from cynicism and persecution complex. As the villain who loves to dress up in black but dreams of turning the world green, he brings to the table the bigots in the neighbourhood.
Katrina doesn’t stretch herself to portray the emotional aspect of a conflicted woman whose loyalty towards her husband and her country is under a cloud. However, she is once again much more nimble-footed in action sequences than Salman, the highlight being the itemised fight scene where she takes on a female opponent in a towel.
Replacing Girish Karnad as the handler of Tiger, Revathy is a smart casting choice and one expects at least one crackling scene between two remarkable actors who once upon a time headlined Love (1991), but the makers disappoint. The support cast led by Kumud Mishra, Danish Husain and Anant Vidhaat is impressive and fills in the gaps well.
Overall, running on goodwill and patriotic fervour, Tiger will sail through the festive season but won’t leave pug marks for posterity.
Tiger 3 is currently running in theatres