If one delivers a path breaking, trendsetter classic as his very first film then it surely raises the bar substantially that is quite tough to manage in the subsequent projects. Thankfully Neeraj Pandey is a director constantly trying to deliver quality products post his A WEDNESDAY unanimously acclaimed by both the critics and the masses together. And though he might not have excelled himself in his next films as seen in both SPECIAL 26 and BABY, the fact remains that he does come up with all off-beat themes on a constant basis and tries to present them in an unconventional way too that more or less works with a larger part of the audience.
However in case of BABY, it was not a completely satisfying experience due to pretty lousy first half and big flaws in the execution that was too convenient to be considered as a realistic take on the serious issue of terrorism. Yet what largely saves the film are some particular sequences having that thrilling pull and its last hour where the director finally finds his brilliant form to end it all on a spirited note.
Beginning with a typical filmy action hero sequence with a racy background score (where the loud beep of the transmitter/phone is strangely not being heard by the goons), it loudly declares itself as a more action oriented film till Kay Kay Menon comes in to impress right away followed by another engaging scene featuring Rasheed Naaz from Pakistan. Offering just the usual, uninteresting stuff in its first hour (with another completely filmy jail escape happening in the middle of the road in broad daylight), the first major entertaining sequence of a clash comes in post 50 minutes leaving you stunned that how can the ATS team leave a self confessed, proven agent of terrorism just like that without making an arrest, after getting the desired information from him about another key suspect.
The visible flaws continue in the next sequence right before the interval too when again a terrorist (caught while making a possible bomb lying open on the table) is not arrested as per the strict procedure and is allowed sufficient time to trigger a blast killing many. Whereas in reality, the moment such a wanted man is caught, the first step taken is to see his clear hands, get hold of them quickly, so that he cannot press any button or take anything in his mouth leading to any further disaster. Hence till interval, BABY remains a well shot but average escapist kind of thriller that fails to make any major impact on the audience and offers nothing path breaking or fresh as compared to even Neeraj’s last venture SPECIAL 26.
But fortunately, the tables get turned in the second half when all new faces enter the scene led by Anupam Kher, Tapsee Punnu, Sushant and Rana Dagubatti infusing new life into the BABY making it alive again. Here at first we have another long chase sequence involving Tapsee and Sushant with Tapsee simply excelling in her well-directed action scene performed superbly. And from here onwards the pace picks up in a significant manner with Neeraj coming back into the form after almost 100 minutes of the film with a terrific final hour bringing you onto the edge of your seats through an engaging action and tension crafted well. In fact the final 60 minutes get you so much involved that you tend to forget as well as forgive the mess displayed in its first half and that’s exactly why the film turns out to be a winner altogether in the end with praises in your mind forgetting everything else.
So if one wishes to consider BABY from a commercial angle, then the film works well delivering the entertaining excitement anticipated (particularly) in its second half along with a worth praising cinematography (wonderfully capturing the action and the locales of Istanbul, Nepal, Abu Dhabi and more), a pulsating background score (that is a must for such thrilling ventures), fine editing (though a bit long), some well written dialogues coming at regular intervals and (especially) no songs to hinder the proceedings as usual (it has only one short love song in an unplugged form).
Akshay Kumar performs as a solid actor, enjoying his action & great fitness level keeping an unsmiling expression throughout that suits his character perfectly. And its really great to see that he is supporting ventures like these on a personal level following the right path. Taapsee (as the agent) looks great and performs well too in her few scenes and so does Madhurima (as Akshay’s wife). Danny, Anupam Kher, Sushant Singh and Rana Dagubatti, all play their cameo kind of short roles effectively. Plus both Rasheed Naaz and Mikal Zulfiqar from Pakistan make their presence felt, particularly Rasheed Naaz in his single scene through a peculiar kind of dialogue delivery demanding an instant attention.
Yet, despite all the above merits that mostly get visible in the film’s second half, I am unable to rate BABY as an exceptional achievement mainly due to four reasons as mentioned below.
Firstly for its entirely forgettable first half with many flawed sequences relying more on just action, cinematography and background score without any basic story as such. Though Neeraj has tried to connect each ATS operation with the other leading to their next boss, but the progression doesn’t have that thrilling excitement or suspense factor as seen in another cult thriller SARFAROSH.
Secondly for shockingly wasting Kay Kay Menon, who was prominently featured in the trailer as the key villain, but was only given one major scene in the entire film so cruelly. How can one do that with an asset like Kay Kay Menon, I frankly couldn’t get it?
Thirdly for being too convenient in its execution moving away from the reality with a typical filmy touch and cunningly playing it safe with reference to Pakistan and Muslim community (eying another commercial territory avoiding a possible ban) which further dilutes the impact justifying none. In other words, instead of Pakistan bashing, we have India bashing here for a change. But that’s exactly like two sides of a coin shouting out the same message in a different form, deliberately avoiding an offensive tone.
And lastly for having a borrowed kind of theme taking it from more than one source that is not like a Neeraj Pandey film unexpectedly. To elaborate further the major part of the film (its final hour) that actually works reminds you of the plot earlier seen in Nikhil Advani’s D-DAY where they wish to take Dawood back to India. And then the final setting of making fake papers and arrangements to fly back home with the man along, is exactly like the structure of award winning English flick ARGO.
Summing up, BABY has its moments in the first 100 minutes. But it’s the final 60 minutes that turn it into a fast paced engaging thriller giving you the return of your money spent. And if a film’s second half is much stronger than the first defying the famous jinx then that simply changes the game undoubtedly.
(Spoilers Ahead – Revealing the story plot)
Sharing my own perception of its main exciting plot, I wish Neeraj had considered the second half only as his complete film focusing on the air-escape alone.
For instance, just imagine Akshay and his team going for a mission in Istanbul for catching a known terrorist. In the first 30 minutes they work on the mission, reach there, plan it all, execute an attack and then in the next 15 minutes kill a whole group of terrorists who were having a sort of joint mafia meeting there in Istanbul. But just when they are about to leave the venue they hear someone is in the washroom and they hide. As the man walks out, to everyone’s amazement he is none other than Dawood putting his ‘ray bans’ back after cleaning them gently, who was not supposed to be there as per the information given. Spotting him Akshay instructs the team with his speaking eyes and then catches the Don alive……..catches Dawood the most notorious man till date unexpectedly all alone.
Now they want to take him back to India alive but cannot do so without any government interference. But no government help is possible as they are officially not government agents as such. Here we have the interval at around one hour with Dawood in their custody………alive and kicking ready to be taken back to India. And then post intermission comes the entire nail-biting drama of making fake papers, arrangements, medicals and other schemes of putting ‘the man’ on the plane flying back to India as the film’s second hour.
This being the basic script of BABY could have turned it into a masterpiece espionage thriller minus all the unrequired mess and wastage of reputed artists seen in its first half. Anyway in its present avatar too it thankfully works well (only) in its final hour that surely deserves to be seen and enjoyed. So without expecting anything novel on the lines of A WEDNESDAY or SPECIAL 26, do watch it as a well shot racy thriller, ignoring the first half.
Rating : 3 / 5