There was once a woman who by no means was ordinary. She battled institutional patriarchy to become an undercover agent, sacrificed for love, fearlessly took on the bad guys, rescued distressed women and led a mini liberation movement; but at the same time, remained a caring mother and wife. Her husband was a bit of a tool, parochial with plenty of swagger… all faux machismo. He would fight wolves, but won’t help the wife with household chores. His idea of romance was floating sky lanterns. Despite all his faults, she always stood by him. But this is not Zoya’s (Katrina Kaif) story, it’s about her husband, Tiger (Salman Khan), who by the way, zinda hai.
In director Ali Abbas Zafar’s utopia, Tiger is the last man standing between India and everything that is bad out in the world. His ruthless antagonists fight with bazookas and AK-47s, but all he needs are good ol’ sticks and a horse. His one speech brings peace between India and Pakistan. When some of the top intelligence agents fail to eliminate the world’s most wanted man, Tiger shows that all he needs is chilli powder and some sleep medications. Tiger knows it all, does it all.
The film opens in Iraq’s Ikrit where the ISC, the world’s most feared terrorist group, has hijacked a hospital and taken 25 Indian and 15 Pakistani nurses hostage. While this is going down, Tiger is with his family in Austria, leading a quiet life, fighting wolves, tinkering with a radio, giving his son lessons on patriotism and sending Independence Day e-mails to RAW. The Indian administration has seven days to rescue the nurses before US starts their air strikes and the only man for the job is Tiger.
For the uninitiated, Ikrit is Tikrit (a city in Iraq) and the ISC is the Islamic State. The film is based on a true story. In 2014, 46 Indian nurses, mostly Malayali, were abducted by militants in Tikrit (the birthplace of Saddam Hussein which later became an ISIS stronghold) and were kept captive in Mosul. They were rescued almost a week later and returned to India safe and unharmed. It was considered to be India’s major diplomatic coup. For a more realistic take, there is Mahesh Narayanan’s Malayalam film Take Off starring Parvathy, Fahadh Fazil.
Typical of any Salman Khan movie, Tiger Zinda Hai is high on masala and low on logic. It has the tropes of hyperbole, rhetorical dialogues, over the top action and simplistic solutions to complex problems: For example, Tiger’s suggestion that RAW and Pakistan’s ISI run a joint operation, or the prolonged verbal duel between Tiger and ISC chief Abu Usman. But the film does not get a tacky treatment, it is slick and makes an honest attempt to portray the conflict situation in a war-torn country. The director also steers clear of demonising anyone and tries to give a 360 degree view of all the stakeholders involved.
Salman Khan has gotten too comfortable playing the super spy. He owns Tiger. Katrina Kaif is absolutely fantastic as the badass Zoya. It’s a delight to watch her doing impossible stunts effortlessly and gracefully. Sequel or no sequel, Katrina’s character definitely deserves a spin-off. It’s high time Bollywood got its own Kill Bill. There is a supporting cast with the likes of Girish Karnad, Paresh Rawal, Kumud Mishra, but all they get to do is support Tiger’s feats. Sajjad Delafrooz as Abu Usman is impressive.
It’s hard to remain cynical in a world where the audience screams out ‘I love you, Bhai’ as soon as Salman Khan appears on the screen and starts addressing Katrina as Bhabhiji. You resign to the fact that in Tiger’s utopia, India-Pakistan can be friends, ISIS can be exterminated and a RAW agent on a sabbatical can live a bountiful life in countries like Greece, Austria without plebeian worries like money.
The Tiger Zinda Hai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.