When was the last time you saw an action-thriller that did not let your mind wander even for a minute? Think. Whatever your pick is, in all likelihood you will name a Neeraj Pandey film (A Wednesday, Special 26) when it comes to genuine action thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat. Pandey does it again with ‘Baby’. Although, ‘A Wednesday’ remains my favorite in this genre, with Shoojit Sircar’s ‘Madras Cafe’ coming a close second, ‘Baby’ is nothing less than a giant leap when you ponder over the sheer dearth of quality thrillers in the Hindi film industry.
Set on a canvass that is much bigger than Neeraj Pandey’s previous films, ‘Baby’ means business right from the word go. There are no larger-than-life introduction scenes, no song and dance, no needless exhibition of emotions and most importantly, no in-your-face display of nationalism and jingoism. The film’s biggest asset is its ensemble cast that looks so real and believable that you can almost feel and touch each of its member. Despite a run-time of almost 2 hours and 40 minutes, the film never really loses steam. And that is ‘Baby’s’ biggest strength. Kudos, Mr. Pandey!
Tracing the adventures of a team of specially trained Indian secret service agents, which is curiously and bravely named Baby, the film follows a terror trail across Istanbul, Delhi, Mumbai, Nepal and Saudi Arabia. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography deserves praise for giving us some stunning visuals from places like Nepal and Saudi. Also, adding more meaning and authenticity to the entire proceedings is the film’s apt background score that never lets the momentum slip.
Akshay Kumar plays the ever-reliable and supremely competent Ajay Singh Rajput, a key member of team Baby, and gives his heart, soul, flesh and blood to the character. The actor underplays his part beautifully and lets his steely expressions do the talking. Akshay looks suave yet raw, menacing yet kind, sharp yet edgy. He delivers one of the finest performances of his career without making much fuss about it. Ditto for Taapsee Pannu, who shines like a star in her brief role as one of the lynchpins of Baby. Her ‘oh-so-real’ action sequence with Sushant Singh (who is competent as usual) will remain etched in your mind for long.
Danny gets to play a meaty role after ages and grabs the opportunity with both his hands. He is suitably restrained and efficient as the head of Baby. Anupam Kher makes a late entry into the film but is likely to walk away with most of the whistles and claps. His comic timing and unusual chemistry with Akshay Kumar’s character is top-notch. Rana Daggubati, Madhurima Tuli, Kay Kay Menon and Rasheed Naz (his character and looks are chillingly similar to Hafeez Saeed) are excellent in their respective roles.
The film is laced with subtle humor that adds much-needed breathing space to the overall fast-paced and tensed narrative. You are bound to laugh out loud in certain scenes, especially Akshay’s ‘rod and Vaseline’ interrogation session with Sushant Singh and his interaction with the secretary of a minister. Talking of the minuses, the film could have easily been trimmed by 15-20 minutes, which CasinoBonuses would have made the climax more impactful. Also, a couple of more ‘surprises’ or ‘twists’ would have spiced up the narrative. Not to mention, that the prolonged climax (with an unbelievable getaway in the end) may not go down well with a certain section of the audience.
All in all, ‘Baby’ is one of the most grown-up and mature films ever made on the tricky issue of terrorism. It drives home the point that terror has no religion and gives you a glimpse of how our security agents run against time to keep us safe and happy. Watch it for some genuine thrills, a sense of pride and yes, a very very impressive Akshay Kumar.
Rating: ***1/2 (Very Good)