Director: Neeraj Pandey
‘Baby’ is a perfect vehicle for the times we live in: it gives us a home-spun hero who allows himself to be hurt but is invincible, and an enemy who is the easiest to demonise. The film is as simplistic as its title – Us vs Them, and no prizes for guessing who will win. In a messy world, where each action can have an equal and opposite reaction, what is the point of complexity?
We are given a luxuriously-bearded mullah (based, clearly, upon a couple of real-life types) whose eyeballs have flames in them, and a crowd of followers who look as if they are ready for ‘jihad’. They raise blood-curdling slogans, and talk nasty about `Indiya’. The retaliatory measures undertaken by our hero are justified right in the beginning. Can’t have hate-spewing terrorists who hide out in countries-ringed-by-deserts-and-sand-dunes threatening our sovereign nation, can we?
So we are meant to cheer when the skilled counter-espionage agent Ajay (Akshay Kumar) breaks bones and smashes faces, while a gruesome interrogation sets the scene. If they can bash our guys, we are allowed to bash right back, no questions asked. Ajay and his band of merry men, the impossibly buff Daggubati, and the sulky computer expert Anupam Kher, cause some amusement as they race around Turkey and Nepal and the Middle East, tracking the baddies. But the whole is familiar and much of it is tedious.
This is Akshay’s most credible performance in a long time, and reminds us the actor he can be, when he is not up-ending monkeys and dogs in films pretending to be comedies.The supporting cast is handed out a few diverting tics, which includes a nice little turn by Ms Pannu as the girl who can give as good as she gets.
But the niggling discomfort caused by the pandering to stereotypes ( and the requisite nod to tokenism) colours our viewing. There’s also the fact that though this film looks always to be on the move, it frequently stalls. The result is a sort of frantic business which flatters to deceive : ‘Baby’, fronted by its fleet-footed hero with his brisk moustache and its background-music-overlaid action, feels longer than it should.
Meanwhile, Bharat Mata Ki Jai.