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Heropanti 2 review: Hack work

In Ahmed Khan's film, Tiger Shroff does his usual dance-jump-fight routine. It's getting old  

Tiger Shroff in 'Heropanti 2'
Tiger Shroff in 'Heropanti 2'

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Heropanti 2 gives you so much to think about it’s really a banquet for the mind masquerading as a feast for the eyes. For instance, the scene in which a bullet is removed from Tiger Shroff’s butt. Why is there a stripper doctor? Why does she say where she’s from (Bulgaria) while introducing herself? Why is she wearing a sash with ‘Prom Queen’ on it? Why is there a horse watching?

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When Ahmed Khan’s film dropped its first poster, everyone pointed out it looked like that of John Wick 2. Unsurprisingly, poster art isn't the only thing borrowed from the Keanu Reeves franchise. A gaggle of assassins is sent after Babloo (Shroff), a hacker in hiding. He fights them in suit and tie. His contact is a man who goes by The Architect. It would seem the comparisons end there, but then you might remember that in John Wick 3, the character played by Asia Kate Dillon is non-binary (as are the actor themself). And in Heropanti 2, the big bad is Laila, a gender fluid magician who runs a crime syndicate.

Had the film been matter-of-fact about this choice, had Nawazuddin Siddiqui not chewed up every bit of scenery in sight, it might not have been so bad. But Laila—cackling, sashaying, maniacally stabbing—is just a punchline for Siddiqui, Khan and writer Rajat Arora. It continues Hindi cinema’s practice of making villains and freaks of those who don’t conform to traditional gender norms. It would be offensive if it wasn’t so stupid.

Laila wants to hack every bank in India on the last day of the financial year. Babloo is hired to run the operation. Like all Shroff heroes, the hacker (“Dimaag se tez aur badan se fit”) quickly grows a conscience and becomes a government agent. This simple enough story is told in hopelessly convoluted fashion, with Amrita Singh playing Babloo’s mother by bank loan and Tara Sutaria his love interest, Inaaya, also Laila’s sister. I don’t have the words to describe what Sutaria does in this role, except that no one should have to sit through this if the big payoff is Tiger.  

The general line on Shroff is that his somewhat dopey screen presence should be overlooked because he’s the only major star with genuine fighting skills. This is not in dispute. But what’s the point if the action scenes we get from him are so consistently inane? In this film, Shroff seems like he’s auditioning for Cirque du Soliel rather than fighting. One showdown in a basement parking is 10% violence, 90% fancy jumps. After eight years, if we know anything it’s that Tiger can do backflips. Show us something new.   

You will scarce believe some of the things said in this film. “There’s a zombie party down the road,” stripper doctor tells Inaaya. “This plumber will open all your pipes,” Babloo growls (double that entendre please). Best of all, Laila to Inaaya—“I’ll order four sisters like you, cash on delivery.” 

During the climactic showdown, Babloo is attacked by giant moving chess pieces. He gets buffeted, then shatters a knight with a flying kick. A reasonable metaphor for the cinema of Tiger Shroff, where physical leaps trump mental ones and games of skill are transformed into displays of daft force.   

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