Movie Review: Baby (2015)

 photo baby_zps32543b9e.jpgRating : Good (3.85/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 40 minutes
Director : Neeraj Pandey
Cast : Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Tapsee Pannu, Danny Denzongpa, Rana Daggubatti, Kaykay Menon

Going by Akshay Kumar’s recent films, one might be tempted to think that “Baby” was the name of a dog/cat/horse/other animal that Kumar was befriending in the movie. Thankfully, it is not so. Baby is the codeword for a nascent, Indian covert intelligence force, formed to fight terrorist through stealthy surgical attacks.

“Baby” is led by Feroze (Denzongpa), and Ajay Singh Rathore (Akshay) is the lead man on most operations, with the hulk-like Jai (Daggubati) flanking him. When Feroze learns of a massive new threat to the nation, Ajay, Jai, brainy Shuklaji (Kher) and female operative Priya (Tapsee) are called in.

Now, one of the reasons I wanted to see this film was because of director Neeraj Pandey. Pandey has directed movies like “A Wednesday” and Special 26, so he’s got a reputation to uphold. “Baby” while a decent watch, isn’t quite as good. Yes, it is a fast-paced thriller, but it is shorn of artistry, delicacy and all the nuanced details that help a film get from good to great. It is not that we were unaware of Pandey’s rather rough-around-the-edges style; “Special 26” was much the same, except that there, the novelty of the plot helped the film. Here, Baby is yet another movie about a secret organization fighting the terrorists – and that plot “Dday” did better and with far more finesse.

“Baby” starts off with a quick intro, a voice-over by Firoz who fills us in on the basics. Then the film gets going and you are in the thick of it quite abruptly. It feels like the natural beginning and ending of the movie have been chopped off, leaving you, the viewer, watching just the fast-paced middle. Charaterizations are either forced or awkward. Feroze, although the head of “Baby” does little more than ask Ajay what the plan is. Ajay’s character himself is rather introverted, displaying little emotion when with his family, reserving his passion for the job. There is some forced jocularity in Shuklaji’s dry demeanor, but it doesn’t quite turn out very smoothly.

After all this criticism, you might think that I didn’t like Baby. I actually did like it, because it was engrossing, and a fairly well-done spare procedural of covert operations. And spare is important in Bollywood, where every Hindi film attempts to infuse acts of valor with forced melodrama, saintly emotion, and songs with color-coordinated extras in the background. Where “Baby” didn’t succeed, (it doesn’t quite make 4 stars in my book) was in getting me sympathetic to, or invested in the lead character’s life. I watched Baby, quite interested in the goings-on, but detached.

“Baby” is strong on the action, there are a bunch of fight and chase sequences, all quite well done. Although Akshay gets the majority of those, Tapsee has a few hand-to-hand combat scenes which were pretty well executed. There are no songs in the movie itself, although there is one at end as the credits run, and that is filmed in dramatic black-and-white with Esha Gupta (in a Nikhil Thampi gown), very Bond-movie style.

Baby’s background score is thundering (not a compliment) and omnipresent. Every little action is underscored with loud beats, and the lack of subtlety gets tiring after a while.

All in all, a good watch. Just don’t go in there with your expectations sky high.

Kidwise: Pretty violent and bloody.

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