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If you can stomach a hyper-masculine spy called Tiger, played by Salman Khan, snarling to the terrorist: “There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded tiger”, then you are likely to enjoy this testosterone-charged ride. For those who scoffed at those words and found his threat pulpy, stay away from Tiger’s trail.

Bollywood star Khan returns as the titular hero in the espionage thriller Tiger Zinda Hai, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, and never lets us forget that he is an indestructible force to reckon with. An army of trained militants in Iraq are spraying bullets at this undercover agent on a covert operation to rescue hostages from the clutches of religious extremists, but he is still standing with his puffed out chest.

Veteran actor Girish Karnad, who plays Tiger’s boss and mentor, is foisted with sycophantic dialogues that highlight his protege’s super-spy skills. “This Tiger is sleeping, so never pull his tail,” he advises his colleague when they jointly try to nudge Tiger from his self-imposed retirement in Austria.

Tiger is now living an idyllic, domesticated life with Zoya (Katrina Kaif), the alluring Pakistani undercover agent from the first instalment of this series, Ek Tha Tiger. But his introductory scene is him fighting off a pack of wolves as he goes camping with his son.

Subtlety is given an absolute thrashing in this spy thriller. After the viewers are given a crash course on his super-human combat skills, the husband-wife spy duo are soon drawn to a mission that takes them to ISC-occupied Iraq, a group from a fictional self-styled caliphate, who have taken around 40 Indian and Pakistani nurses as captives.

Though this film should ideally have been a portrait of the global politics and how religious extremism is sacrificing humanity, all forces in this film are at work to showcase Khan’s swagger, brute strength and espionage tactics. So unless you are a Khan fan, you may find it tedious.

But what pulls you up from joylessness are the spectacular action sequences and the nuggets of humour that are inserted during the tense moments. The camaraderie between the agents on the free-the-nurses mission, who are naturally hand-picked by Tiger himself, puts a smile on your face.

Actor Paresh Rawal’s slimy character leaves an impact and so does the villain Sajjad Delafrooz who plays the terrorist ring leader, Abu Usman. Hollywood action director Tom Struthers has gone all out with car chases, bomb explosions, oil tankers bursting into flames and bullets being sprayed like they’re going out of style. Abu Dhabi, which has been dressed up as war-torn Iraq, doesn’t look contrived.

While the film is largely testosterone-laced, the vision of Kaif executing deadly stunts is a bloody sight to behold. While she’s stone-faced in emotional scenes, she seems to revel in pummelling people to the ground.

Jingoism is also one of the obvious threads of Tiger Zinda Hai. Tiger never lets anyone forget about his unwavering patriotism and is on call to remind his mates periodically about what’s good for them.

It can get a bit tiring. The twists are also painfully predictable and the ways in which Tiger outwits the terrorists aren’t particularly ingenious.

Watch this if you are in the mood to see a stoic, stone-faced swashbuckling superhero, aka Salman Khan, and some supremely well-executed action sequences. Don’t go looking for soul, though.

  1. Film: Tiger Zinda Hai
  2. Cast: Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif
  3. Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
  4. Stars: 3 out of 5