(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)
The Hindi film industry is suddenly concerned about the North-East. Last week we had Rock On 2, a disposable sequel rallying around social causes in Shillong with folk-rock bands in tow. Today comes Force 2 – another disposable sequel to what was an open and shut first film – that has RAW agents in China with benevolent lip service to the border dispute between India and China concerning Arunachal Pradesh. But the more pressing issue is about sequels. Force was remake of the Tamil hit Kaakha Kaakha, with none of the magic of Surya-Jyothika original, coming past its sell by date. But we have Force 2. Did Gautham Vasudev Menon secretly make a sequel? He didn’t. Abhinay Deo is just running with it because he can have Genelia D’Souza’s ghost, whom Menon had conveniently named Maya, sharing sweet nothings with still mourning police officer, Yashvardhan (John Abraham).
The last memorable film we had in this genre was Neeraj Pandey’s Baby in 2015, with the ever reliable Akshay Kumar. What did that film get so right that films like Force 2 end up looking like puffed up parody pieces, delivering unintentional comedy at best and intentional comedy at worst? Here’s an attempt at a non-exhaustive list. Baby did not have meetings at the RAW office with dialogs like “this is an attack on RAW. this is an attack on the nation”. It didn’t have professional agents and police officers shouting in agony – kaise – roughly hundred times during the course of the film. It didn’t have characters involved in a sweaty-palms inducing chase go still for a few seconds in stylish poses to take a nice look at each other. It didn’t take the easy route of making just passing mentions to a security issue or manufacture drama by pitting agents – working together – against each other. It didn’t have RAW agents mouthing dialogs like mila to WhatsApp kar dena. It didn’t have agents – still working for RAW – with a conflict of conscience rendering them unable to operate a gun. It sure as hell didn’t have people missing shots from less than 3 metres for about 10-15 minutes straight. Baby also did not have white women dancing to a mutilated versions of cult 80s songs (On that note, looking forward to next week’s Dear Zindagi where Amit Trivedi has done the same to a song from Sadma. Sadma!) in the name of item numbers. Baby had Taapsee kicking butt! Force 2 has a very disinterested looking Sonakshi Sinha. Baby had actors who can act – Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher. Force 2 has John Abraham.
There is a moment when the villain (Tahir Raj Bhasin) – whose only quirk is that he plays a musical instrument – at the end of a chase, locks Yash and KK (Sonakshi Sinha) out of a street, literally behind bars. That made for a nice visual. Also kudos for attempt – the first person shooter angle for climax. Well tried. Force 2 fashionably ends with what’s now become our foremost fundamental duty – respect the army. But do not worry. You won’t be branded as anti-national if you miss this film. I think.