Almost an hour-and-a-half into Tiger Zinda Hai, the camera stands frozen in smoky dungeon where a shootout has just taken place. Things now start moving in slow motion. Bullets fly leisurely out of sten guns. Noxious fluids pour out of glass tumblers like how Nigella Lawson pours honey in pancake mix. That’s when you know that the money shot of the multi-crore film is about to take place. That’s when you know that Salman Khan will make a shirtless entrance with his most faithful companion for the last two decades, moobs.
Don’t get me wrong. I love moobs. I am proud owner of a pair. But when you sit through a 3-hour long film which celebrates a Salman Khan entrance every 20 minutes, you lose your appetite for such spectacles.
In snow-covered Austrian woods, a leather-jacketed silhouette *Cough Salman Khan* is chopping some logs while his son is loitering about as a bait for some wild beast. Before you can say brat, a drooling wolf appears. Cue for a dhamakedaar Salman entry. Salman turns around, revealing a designer stubble. The camera freezes, almost goading the audience to stir up a frenzy. Needless to say, the pack of wolves is tossed out of the frame like how you will toss out your empty kurkure packet – with very little concern for the environment.
Cut to a shot of a desert. A speck is visible on the horizon which soon grows into a Salman-shaped figure in a bike. Kafiyeh. Check. Bike. Check. Surma-lined eyes. Check. Again a few second pause for the audience to acknowledge the their good fortune of witnessing the second entrance of Salman Khan in a Salman Khan film.
And this goes on and on.
Tiger Zinda Hai, in keeping with the grand tradition of Bollywood patriarchy, takes a real story about the bravery-in-the-face-of-certain-death shown by Indian nurses in 2014 in Tikrit (Iraq) and turns it to a tale of male bravura. In Salman universe, the incident is all about Sallu bhai doing Sallu bhai things in slow motion while trained snipers and dreaded militants wait for him to complete his moves. He is the messiah who rescues this bunch of simpering nurses from a creepy bearded fella, who is taking over the country just by unfurling giant flex banners of his face in different city squares.
A good part of the first half is wasted in establishing how inept our intelligence agencies are. RAW officers urge their head (Girish Karnad) to watch news channels to get latest reports on the situation in Tikrit where the nurses have been taken hostage. Tiger, on the other hand, is privy to all top secret information thanks to his incredible hacking abilities.
A huffing and puffing Girish Karnad lands up at Tiger’s Alpine doorstep. A reluctant Tiger almost says no to the mission, citing the importance of his wife and son in his life. Wife (Katrina Kaif) intervenes, citing desh bhakti. You know the rest.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the memo to director Ali Abbas Zafar read. ‘More Salman.’ All the cards are laid out cleanly on the table. It’s like the drawing book of a pre-pubescent boy. The bad guys are circled in red, with little red horns protruding from their head. The good guys have hearts drawn over them. And the girls come in two sizes- superwoman and damsel in distress.
Frankly, the only way to survive Tiger Zinda Hai, if you are not a Salman Khan fan is by taking comfort in the way you will tear it apart in your review. Or by comparing your moobs to Salman’s. His are definitely bigger.