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No ‘Baby’ No!

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By Karthik Shankar:

Is Baby really our best attempt at emulating politically conscious thrillers?

Quickly then – The movie’s title refers to a newly formulated, specialised intelligence cell that targets terrorists. The Bollywood flick details the team’s efforts to nab a syndicate of Islamic terrorists, both Indian and Pakistani, who have planned a series of terror attacks around India.

baby-2015-movie

One of the only complex ideas in Baby comes early on when the head of Baby, Feroze Khan, tells a minister that people turning to fundamentalists is the State’s weakness because people don’t have enough confidence in the State. The rest of the movie then completely ignores that nuance because what we need are more moustache twirling villains beaten by manly heroes.

At a time when American Sniper is making waves at the US box office and attracting a lot of controversy for whitewashing a sociopathic killer, Baby is just as noxious. Baby cloaks its illogical plot with the serious socio-political concerns of our world today without delving into them. It’s like walking into a theatre expecting a high minded thriller and instead getting served the tales you made up with your G.I Joe action figures! No kidding, and here’s why:

1) Superheroes without tights

The very idea that Indian intelligence has the ability to carry out covert operations around the world like the CIA or Mossad is a fanciful bit of concoction on the screenwriter’s part. The team of Baby not only prevents attacks in suspiciously empty parking lots in Delhi malls, they also gallivant across the world making the world a safer place to live in for the Indian diaspora.

Baby presents our fighters as superheroes and asks us to venerate them even further. Don’t let its real world trappings influence you, this is basically a more prestigious version of Bollywood’s machismo infused masala films. Except this time you can enjoy it without guilt. Baby has a mash up of influences, from Argo to Zero Dark Thirty. However, its truest spiritual companion would be Rambo.

2) Sort your Muslims into black and white

Right from the start Baby helps us out by classifying Muslims into two camps – good and bad. Bad Muslims are steeped in religious culture, usually wear topis and speak liberally sprinkle their Hindi with Urdu words. Good Muslims wear well coifed suits or western wear and actively help government anti-terrorist cells.

At every point, the good Muslims are presented as out of the norm. Feroze Khan, the head of Baby wears perfectly tailored suits and simply exists as an authority figure who appears slightly frazzled when nothing goes according to plan. When a young college educated boy informs the cell about clandestine terrorist training camps in Nepal, the protagonist Ajay Rajput played by Akshay Kumar intones “I’m very proud of you” with absolutely no trace of irony. That’s clearly intended to be India’s message to young Muslims. If only the movie at least made a pretence of being interested in that character who is risking his life by being an informant. Instead he is tossed aside like yesterday’s stale dal chawal.

3) Jingoism is not a word, it’s a sentiment

Baby’s real fervour is reserved not for Ram or Allah but for our motherland. Feroze waxes eloquent about his team’s devotion to India to a minister by referring to it as ‘Desh Bhakti’.

In one scene, Ajay storms into the residence of Taufeeq (Jameel Khan), a man who has connections with Pakistani terrorists. A conversation ensues where they make thinly veiled threats at each other. Taufeeq then explains how being Muslim is the core of his identity. Ajay then deadpans – “Religion wala jo column hota hai usmein hum bold aur capital mein Indian liktey hain.” (In the religion column, we write Indian in bold and capital letters). Akshay Kumar and team deserve a big round of applause. Telling Muslims that they have to choose between their Islamic and Indian identities will totally solve the war on terror.

4) You are with us or against us

Baby’s climax is the most disconcerting part of the film. It hinges on the actions of a Muslim, a Saudi investigator who is hot on the trails of our protagonists. As Ajay and his group make their way to an international flight from Saudi Arabia along with a drugged, hate spewing Pakistani cleric, the investigator played by Hasan Noman has to make a split second decision about whether to let their flight take off. After all this sleuthing, he is seized by what can only be a bout of ‘F-ck yeah India!’ and makes the decision to let our heroes go scot free. His label of good Muslim hinges on this decision. After all, if he had done his job properly he would have sided with the terrorists. If only real life was this beautifully nuanced.

5) Democracy is overrated

The movie continually justifies the use of paramilitary forces to achieve justice. When Ajay deals with Taufeeq, he chooses the delightful method of strangulation with a plastic bag to wrangle information out of him. When the Baby team is formulating its next plan of action, Ajay rejects the idea of going through official lines to take out a terrorist because it would lead to delayed action. At no point is the idea that some of the suspects they are pursuing might be innocent, or not wholly culpable, even considered. But with terrorists this overtly evil, who needs justice? We just need to gun them all down amirite or amirite mate?!

The definite choice for the Critic’s award for 2015. Not. Or maybe (rigging much?).

You must be to comment.
  1. Manoj

    Wao !! Nice “POSTMORTEM”
    Would love if you do of OMG, Haider, PK, Singham Returns.
    Please !!

  2. Rishabh Raj

    What the fuck did I just read! O.o

    Point number 1 – The script might not be a realistic one, but yes it is for sure an idealistic one. And it is the freedom of expression of the writer to present his/her idea in an artistic way.

    And please don’t be in a misunderstanding that relating BABY with the other Hollywood movies will downgrade the stature of the so well crafted thriller BABY, and people will get influenced by your review and when the next time they watch, they watch with a bad eye. (Please stop this Hypocrisy -_- )

    Point number 2 – I think they rather emphasised on classifying good ‘people’ and bad ‘people’ (not muslims).

    And according to your observance about the good and the bad muslims, let me tell you that the bad muslims wore islamic kurta as well as the good muslims (as in the case of Ashfaq, and that too in most of the scenes).

    And “Good Muslims wear well coifed suits or western wear…”. Well, it is very obvious that a man, whether a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, at a higher post, such as Feroze Khan in the movie, will wear well coifed suit instead of their regional wear, debarring their religious identity.

    “…and actively help government anti-terrorist cells”. I don’t know whether you wrote this line sarcastically or praisingly, but I took it in a positive way i.e. praisingly. Because its high time now, the good people must stand against terrorism and contribute their bit in fighting terrorism.

    Point number 3 – “Telling Muslims that they have to choose between their Islamic and Indian identities will totally solve the war on terror”. What bullshit observance, dear!! Nope, definitely not, it won’t solve the war on terror, but by at least making them aware of the nefarious intents of the bad people and encouraging the good people to stand against terrorism, will surely add to the minimization of it.

    Point number 5 – The movie does not “continually justifies the use of paramilitary forces to achieve justice”. Actually, the movie emphasises on how to take actions on the cold blooded murderers, who doesn’t care about the innocent ones before killing them. If terrorists are cold blooded then there ought to be a cold blodded cell too to combat them.

    And if the anti-terrorist cells go according to your kind-hearted way of busting them, then wohoo! Congrats! We will definitely someday succeed in ending terrorism. Isn’t it? (Bullshit -_-)

    “…that some of the suspects they are pursuing might be innocent…”
    Well, Ajay and co knew that Taufeeq was not innocent, as the engineering boy informed him about his nefarious intents. And in some of the cases we don’t have enough evidence or official confirmation that a particular guy is bad, but everyone is aware of their maliciousness, and in this case the anti-terrorist cells must opt this brutal way only to stop further bombing of innocent people at the right time.

    PS – I think you have been heavily mind washed by some terrorist apologist having excellent oratory skills. I would suggest you go get a life.

    1. Avik

      Yes.. And both u and the author are sharing opinions not reviews. Sorry.. True neutral needed here..

  3. Avik

    I guess we all see things in a way our subconscious wants to see.. What we see is a reflection of us.. So we can either choose to take the positives from a movie (Yes, any movie! Even controversial ones) or stay back with trolling and making Stark inferences of a word of art. If the poet said “the sky is blue” he probably meant those exact words and not any deeper inference. Our habit to try and dig out other innate meanings in strait forward things harm ourselves and our positivity. It is negativity that creates fractures. Let’s never choose to give into that and see only good things in all.. Oh by the way.. Your review was not a review.. It was a story breakdown and deserved atleast a spoiler alert for the sake of people planning to watch it anyways. Maybe in a review next time, you could talk about the direction, acting, humor and pace of the movie.

    1. Avik

      And I am typing from my mobile. So please forgive my typos.. “work of art”, “straight”.. Arrigatou Gozaimasu..

  4. Poornima

    Pseudo intellectuals. No wonder we are in such a sad state of affairs.

  5. bhuwan

    Any movie that tries to justify covert operations in the name of national interest and/or general global interest is conveying the wrong message. These units will eventually (if successful) play both sides of any conflicts and work in their own selfish interest. We have seen that with many other organisations involved in similar activities. I agree with the author that patriotism is used by many to justify a lot of wrong doings. Sad really 🙁

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