BAAGHI

First introduced to us in the film doing a handstand, but using only his index finger and his thumb to lift the weight of his body, Tiger Shroff demonstrates why he was indispensable when it came to playing the lead in Baaghi. As action films go, director Sabbir Khan’s latest is a relentless punch-‘em-up…that rare kind of movie that refreshingly relies not on guns and explosions, but on good ol’ fashioned hand-to-hand sparring to deliver the thrills.

Tiger, who possesses the flexibility of a gymnast yet routinely loses his shirt to reveal abs of steel, is perfectly cast as Ronnie, a rebellious drifter and martial arts enthusiast who lets his fists fly each time he’s in a bind. The action scenes in Baaghi are some of the best you’ve seen recently, a cocktail of traditional Indian and Asian martial arts that the film’s leading man pulls off with remarkable ease.

It’s the plot of the film – cobbled together from various sources including The Karate Kid and The Raid: Redemption – that could’ve done with more work. Ronnie, who is packed off by his dying father to a Kalaripayattu academy in Kerala, meets Sia (Shraddha Kapoor) on the train heading there, and pretty soon they are in love.

Back at the academy, Ronnie is disciplined and rid of his cockiness by a Mr Miyagi-like trainer who polishes his rough edges. But when his guru’s villainous son Raghav (Sudheer Babu) makes a play for Sia, Ronnie sets off to Bangkok and singlehandedly takes on an army of Raghav’s henchmen.

Packed into a frankly overlong 2 hours and 20 minutes, this flimsy plot makes room for way too many song situations squeezed between the impressive pow-wow scenes. Shraddha Kapoor, looking pretty and dancing well, is basically reduced to a damsel-in-distress caricature, aside from a few kicks and punches she’s allowed to deliver herself. Sanjay Mishra shows up as a blind Bangkok cabbie in a comedy track that doesn’t belong here. The film is powered purely by the sheer energy and the tireless spirit of its leading man Tiger Shroff, who’s still raw when it comes to emoting but seizes your attention when he’s flaying his arms and legs about the screen.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Baaghi. It’s certainly an improvement on Tiger’s debut film Heropanti, but script problems persist.

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