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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Heropanti 2, Review: A bullet in his bum

Heropanti 2, Review: A bullet in his bum

Denizens of Mumbai and environs might not need the meaning explained, but this is an international portal, and an explanation is in order. The title comes from two words, hero, which needs no translation, and panti, which does. Most probably, it is derived from panthi, which mean traveller. Panthi easily becomes panti, the combination with hero standing for one who follows the hero’s, or heroics’, path. Lead actor Tiger Shroff took a walk along Heropanti lane in an eponymous film, eight years later, which was successful enough to merit a franchise, owned by Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment. Nadiadwala is the family name of the production house, which was founded by the grandfather of the present head honcho. This is depicted in a pre-credits animation. Heropanti 2 has just about enough mileage to attract real hardcore fans of Tiger, and not too many others. And even the fandom might find their kingdom not popular enough to garner too many votes.

Lying low to avoid being targeted, Babloo, aka RJ, wears spectacles, rides a bicycle and takes up odd jobs, like a security guard and a driver. He is living in London, with his mother, who dotes over him, loves him very much, and keeps praying to various deities to save her son. After he lands a job as a driver for top gaming designer Inaaya, he is forced to contact the CBI headquarters, when he is attacked. To contact his boss, he breaks a wall in his house with a sledge-hammer and retrieves a phone, which connects him instantly. The man at the other end, however, is not Asif Khan, his boss, but someone else, who claims that Khan has retired and he is his successor. The new boss asks him for his code-name and insists that he cannot entertain the call unless Babloo reveals his code-name. Babloo first hesitates, because he knows that his co-ordinates will be found out once he reveals his secret identity. But he finally does so, and, as expected, all hell breaks loose after that. The man is on the payroll of criminals and he, along with his associates, launches a search to find and kill Babloo.

Inaaya takes a strong liking to Babloo, and introduces him to her brother, Laila, an effeminate magician, who, behind the veil of magic, runs an international crime syndicate. Laila recognises him as a CBI agent, sent by Khan, and arranges to have him killed. Laila is sure that Babloo, an unequalled computer hacker, is out to ruin his plans of hacking into the computers of crores of Indians on 31st March, a date that signifies the last date for paying income tax. Laila plans to use some of the best hackers in the world to withdraw all these payments, which totally amount to billions of rupees.

Babloo and Laila strike a deal, and he starts working for the evil mastermind. His services are exactly what the doctor ordered. Meanwhile his mother leaves on a pilgrimage to India, to seek blessings for her son. Fact is, she is not his real mother. Babloo’s real family is never even mentioned in the film, let alone shown. But this woman, with a little boy and a husband for family, had all their savings drained by some hacker, including a huge bank loan, which drove her ambulance driver husband to jump off the window. Since then, Babloo treats her as her mother. She hears about Babloo’s affair with Inaaya, and lands up at the Laila den to ask for her hand, just when Laila is about to kill Babloo.

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala takes the credit for the story, while rest of the writing is attributed to Rajat Arora (Dirty Picture, Baadshaho, Azhar). At a press meet some time ago, director-choeographer Ahmed Khan had said that action movies work only when there is a balance of action and emotion. Action, without emotion, is meaningless, he had opined. Couldn’t agree more. Now here is the catch. Heropanti 2 has a lot of action, and more than the average action movie’s share of the emotion. Giving Babloo a foster family, to exploit the bonding, and making him take-up lowly jobs, to show the normal, human side of a killing machine, sound good when you hear about them. Not when you see these tracks on screen.

Sample this. One morning, Babloo wakes up to see that his garrulous Punjabi mother has disappeared. He finds a phone, and switches it on. A recording plays back, in the voice of his mother. She says that she has left for India, on a pilgrimage, to pray for his safety and well-being, at Indian holy places. It is worth noting that does not leave any address of phone number, her flight details, or anything else that would or could connect the two. Yes, she does indeed go for the pilgrimage, and laments the fact that the Thames did not heed her prayers because it is not an Indian (read Hindu) river, and the Ganges will. But is this how mothers leave? Stealthily, in the night? Why? And what happens to the child, who is never shown after that? And when she does connect with him, she tells him she will return after another ten days. Return, she does, but straight into the lion’s den.

Also this. Laila is about to kill his mother when Babloo comes to know about it. He is driving, and far from the centre of the action. He immediately sends an MMS of one of Laila’s inner group baddies in a highly compromising position to the baddie himself, with a message that he should prevent Laila from killing his mother, otherwise…. Mr. Baddie gets the message instantly, sees and reads it in a jiffy, and immediately trains a gun on Laila, stopping the killing. Such sublime faith in technology and human behaviour!

Arora seems to be unsure whether he wants to depict Laila as a homosexual, or merely an overly effeminate character. Neither premise is explored. The effeminate mannerisms are affected and the homosexual angle is given a go by. It will take some believing that Laila operates an international crime syndicate, causes killings and explosions, runs the world best hacking lab, and his sister, his only relative, has no idea about his machinations. Perhaps the fact that he keeps producing roses with long stems, from nowhere, at the drop of a hat, convinces her that he is no more than a harmless magician. Events, including one where he knocks out Babloo’s mother for a several minutes without touching her, are clear indications that he is indeed a magician. Now it is common knowledge that magicians, by and large, are illusionists, so they should have provided some logical, scientific explanations for his tricks.

You would not expect Babloo to die midway through the film, or even at the end, this being a franchise crime thriller. So, when Laila blows up a whole building to kill Babloo, you do not expect him to die. You do, however, expect to see some reaction – police, fire-brigade, etc. After all, blowing up a large building is not like blowing up a balloon. And yet, there he is, coming out of beneath the rubble, and heading towards the graveyard, where Inaaya is looking for his grave, holding an umbrella. He too arrives, holding an umbrella. How much more romantic can you get? Now this is where director Ahmed Khan brings in heightened romance, as another counterpoint to action and emotion. And was Babloo a Christian? We have no idea.

To his credit, the first few scenes, where Inaaya is introduced and meets Babloo, are well directed. Towards the climax, his take on Enter the Dragon, updated to 2022, is quite interesting. The insider jokes, playing on the words ‘tiger’ and ‘shroff’, are there only for the fans to whistle at. Khan also borrows from the Amitabh Bachchan hit of the late 1980s, Shahenshah, with one piece of iconic dialogue coming at you full screen, in the form of a clip.

Why does Laila need to form a consortium of underworld Dons, when he could have easily kept the booty/swag for himself? He has the men and the machinery. Why does he need more than half a dozen Mafia-men to share it with? These Mafia-men come with trigger-happy hirelings. While escaping an attack, Babloo stops a bullet…in his bum. Now he cannot go to a regular hospital, what with him being a secret agent and the unholy in hot pursuit. So, he and Inaaya got to private doctor. When the car stops there, we see an impressive mansion. Babloo says the lady doctor there knows him and will treat him, no questions asked, which she does. We see a part of his bum, but you never know, it might not be the real thing. Khan insists on showing the extraction of the bullet and the stitching of the wound in minute detail. Both of them then decamp. Following them, a handful of gunmen reach that doctor’s clinic and barge right into the reception area. They demand to know the whereabouts of the couple on the run. When the two staff members say they don’t know, the thugs shoot them dead! Why? Shows what human life is worth these days!

A pawn in the game, Tiger Shroff is like a gunman on hire. They have tapped his action skills in all possible ways, in various forms of combat, which he executes with characteristic élan. Ahmed Khan has seen what he is capable of, having directed Tiger in Baaghi 2 and Baaghi 3. You have to wait very long to see him without his shirt, and it might be worth the wait. On the senti side, he is not very bad either, and there is a possibility of exploiting that aspect of his persona. Question is, will he ever be able to get out of the action superhero template? Do producers want to cast him in anything except flying kicks and somersaults fare? Talking of somersaults, I recall at least two occasions when Tiger took several reverse somersaults to reach his adversary, when he could have just run in that direction, and probably reached faster.

Tara Sutaria (Student of the Year 2, Marjaavaan, Tadap), as Inaaya, is extremely comfortable with showing her skin and makes a nice, haughty entry. Her initial few scenes are well-acted, while she seems lost once the madness sets in. What a colossal waste of talent is Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Laila. An ill-defined role, looking short, dark, diminutive, and grinning every time he has to face a tricky situation. The designer suit and tie notwithstanding, he does not convey the image of a person who would even understand high-end IT, let alone plan a colossal hacking heist. There is no sophistication in his dialogue delivery, which should have been there, considering he is a world-class magician. And, oh brother, from no angle can he pass off as Tara Sutaria’s brother.

From the support, Amrita Singh as Babloo’s mother is the surprise packet. Like Nawazuddin, her role too is badly written, but she manages to rise above it, thanks to some over-the-top traits that are shown as part of her psyche. Zakir Hussain as Asif Khan is his usual, confident self. Often made to play characters on either side of the law, Zakir has a natural, spontaneous approach to acting that usually stands him in good stead. Lastly, there is Kriti Sanon, who has obliged the team with an item number as the end credit tiles roll. Names of the other actors – there are too many of them, playing minor roles – were not available at the time this was written.

Two names that were available are that of cinematographer Kabir Lal and the music composer, A.R. Rahman. Kabir does a fine job with the lenses, encapsulating colours, action and angles with professional finesse. We do not have the editor’s name. Had the action and emotion been balanced, the two hours and 25 minutes (another source says 2.22) might not have felt longer than they did. It is obvious that many scenes have either been completely deleted or truncated, to reduce the length to a manageable duration, causing jerks in continuity. Music by A. R. Rahman offers curiosity value only in the shape of ‘Miss hairaan’, a number rendered by Tiger and Nisa Shetty, though the situation is forcibly fitted to the song. By no stretch of imagination a Rafi or Kishore, Tiger just about manages to carry the tune. The other three songs have no recall value.

For a film like Heropanti 2, only hard-boiled Tiger Shroff’s fans can help it get a respectable run at the box office. On the other hand, if they too are disappointed, as was this reviewer, the heroics will only land in the film a fix.

Rating: **



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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