“Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Neeraj Pandey have done it again! ”
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I was happy to discover, in Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Baby’, something which I otherwise find sorely missing in contemporary Bollywood: expertly choreographed action. In a scene early on in the film, Anti-Terrorist Cell officer Ajay (Akshay Kumar) is chasing a suspect through the streets of Delhi. I can’t think of any other star who would have better suited this part than Akshay Kumar given his natural forte for action; and the fighting in this scene is shot in real time (i.e. no slow-motion, for a change) with fluid, coherent takes. A short while later when the suspect is nabbed, Ajay ferociously slaps him several times in rapid succession; and yet the act is infused with a calm sense of routine. ‘Baby’ has a lot of great masala moments, and for a change, the humour works too. There’s a great scene involving Ajay running to a hotel room with the intent of saving his female colleague from the hostile man she is with, only to discover that she has put the guy down in an another full-of-surprises action scene. But what grates is Pandey’s kitschy, hackneyed handling of the “issue” at hand. There’s close to zero nuance or insight in the way the film is predicated on the issue of terrorism, and amidst all the whistleworthy moments, this frivolous masala-fication of the subject is problematic. Neeraj Pandey has the gift of rendering masala moments genuinely dynamic, it’s evident that he knows how to imbue life into generic stuff and charn into functional stock characters; but he seems to have no clue about how to bring real-life (or realistic) stories on screen inventively. If Pandey could let go of his obsession with “issues” (terrorism in ‘A Wednesday’, scams and corruption in ‘Special 26’ and terrorism again in ‘Baby’) he could make a truly great entertainer.