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Posted at: Jan 24, 2015, 12:51 AM; last updated: Jan 23, 2015, 10:36 PM (IST)

No baby steps… fast and slick

Nonika Singh
The no-nonsense approach of these special agents to tackle terror finds a match in the director’s straightforward skill to carry the story forward. Sans jingoism or overt sentimentality, with suitable and simple flourishes Neeraj Pandey humanises his characters
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Film Baby

  • Director Neeraj Pandey
  • Cast Akshay Kumar, Rana Daggubati, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, Taapsee Pannu, Mikaal Zulfiqar and Madhurima Tuli
No baby steps… fast and slick
Force one: Rana Daggubati and Akshay Kumar
It’s a hat-trick… from the maker of A Wednesday and Special 26. Neeraj Pandey is back with yet another absorbing fare. An espionage thriller that thrills, keeps you on the edge of the seat, has your heart in your mouth, even though you know what will happen next and finally. Think hard, when was the last time a desi action thriller did this to you? Yes, in recent memory there has been Nikhil Advani’s D that presented a fictionalised account of an operation against the dreaded terrorist in the heart of Pakistan and whose pace matched its subject. 

Ditto for Baby, a strange name for an action-thriller. But, since pre-release, the director himself had no hesitation in sharing the secret; let you be told Baby has nothing to do with babies. Rather it is a code name for a covert mission (formed post 26/11 when the dastardly Mumbai attacks happened) devoted exclusively to uncover terror groups and their activities.

And from the word ‘go’ the film focuses on its subject and its heroes, which expectedly are the undercover agents. Without a doubt, the film belongs to Akshay Kumar, the braveheart officer Ajay Rajput, who puts in such a credible performance, it makes us ache and quiz – Akki, why don’t we see you more often in parts that bring out the best in you? Keeping Akshay good company is Danny Denzongpa as the chief Feroze Khan and together they seem to be quite a formidable force.

Of course, what they are up against are even more redoubtable and terrifying, terrorists whose menace reflects in the eyes of Kay Kay Menon and the glint of Rasheed Naz as the Maulana. Expectedly, in a film about terror and terrorists, male characters dominate. But amidst the bevy of brawn, the lady officer Taapsee Pannu too shows muscle power. Her introduction to the film is in reference to what is called a honey trap. But hey, there is no seduction game here… she is actually a bee who can sting. And then Madhurima Tulli in the briefest part as Akshay’s wife tugs at your heartstrings as the concerned wife of an officer in line of duty. No theatrics, no melodrama, even when the husband can’t make it for important family functions. Her one recurring dialogue, marna mat is loaded with meaning and makes you aware of the danger lurking over dare devil officers like Ajay. Sure there are more like him, Rana Daggubati in a short-but-impactful role and the same goes for Anupam Kher. And Pakistani actor Mikaal Zulfiqar as their accomplice in Saudi Arabia too engages. Actually, the no-nonsense approach of these special agents to tackle terror finds a match in the director’s straightforward skill to carry the story forward. Sans jingoism or overt sentimentality, with suitable and simple flourishes Pandey humanises his characters. Humour is pithy — call it sarcasm, if you wish. Cinematography captures Nepal, Turkey and India remarkably and is in sync with its leitmotif. And those who might take up issues with its supposed anti-Muslim slant—well, have patience—just a few minutes into the film and the telling dialogue, “If India alienates its Muslim community, it would be the biggest victory for terrorist organizations,” says it all. Sure some terrorists in the film are fashioned after real people. 

There is the Maulana and his anti-India venom would remind you of the man in the neighbouring nation, Pakistan. But it would be foolish to think the film has any agenda or is even a political statement. Indeed, coming as it does close to the Republic Day, when the media is abuzz with plans to ensure no untoward incident happens, here is a peek into ‘behind the scenes’ of how terror activities are kept in check. All of what is shown on the celluloid screen may not be true to life — the twist in the finale might be just plain and simple wishful thinking. But, if the US could get their Osama, who knows…

Call it India’s answer to Zero Dark Thirty or a film inspired by other Hollywood flicks like Argo, there is no denying it’s a slick, well-executed thriller with Akshay in command. So is Pandey whose ability to keep us on the tenterhooks is writ all over the blink-and-miss tenor. The only reason you ought to miss this one is if potboilers are what satiate you. 

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