I finally watched Kick! Thanks to Hotstar and needing something mindless to play in the background while I cleaned. It’s okay, mostly interesting for seeing Salman’s version of an action avenger type. (yes yes, I know it is a remake so it wasn’t originally supposed to be Salman)
The biggest flaw of this film is also it’s biggest advantage, the impossible perfection of our hero. He is charming, handsome, and has all kinds of fancy engineering credentials. He can do anything and be anything and it is very fun to watch. But eventually it also seems a bit mean-spirited, that he is soooooooooooooooo much better than everyone else and has no flaws, and kind of enjoys showing them up. Not just the “bad guys”, but even the “good guys”.
That’s my biggest pet peeve with these hero-focused films. It sometimes feels like the idea is to project your own petty power fantasies on to the hero. It’s not “I wish I was that cool so I could feel Big!” but more “I wish I was that cool so I could make everyone else feel small”.
And so our hero here tricks the heroine, tricks the heroine’s family, tricks the second hero, and it’s presented in this very gleeful manner, as though this is the thing we would want to watch him do, obviously. Everyone enjoys feeling superior to and tricking the people around them. And that’s the point of the tricks, to see how completely he is taking in the other people, not to see the clever way he put them together, or the ultimate goal of them, we don’t spend time on those aspects of the narrative, instead it is all about that one moment when other people don’t realize what is happening but the hero, and the audience that identifies with the hero, does.
(And also about this really catchy song)
And just in case you start to feel guilty for enjoying the way he is standing alone and laughing at everyone else, there is a reminder that he is doing all this “for the kids”. To raise money for treatment for sick little children, by stealing from the religious/political/business forces that are preventing them from getting the money they need. So he is better than everyone else not just because he is smarter and so on, but because he is more noble.
If you remove that odd feeling that our hero is laughing at everyone and inviting the audience to join him in his high status, I do like the message of “the biggest Kick of all is doing good”. Because that is something that has always always always bothered me about those “he’s super smart and so he [blank blanks] out of boredom” plots. Like, The Thomas Crowne Affair. Or 50 Shades of Grey. Or, I don’t know, Sherlock Holmes solving mysteries. If you’re that bored, why don’t you try solving some massive social problem? And yay, for once that is the message! Our hero is bored by industrial lab work, by all the usual things, but he can find meaning by acting as an avenger for these helpless children and getting them the care they need.
Now, how does Salman fit in? I think it’s not a perfect fit! He isn’t a “I’m better than you and enjoying it” kind of star, he is more of a “I am just like you and aren’t we having fun” kind of star. It’s very close, in something like Dabangg he was definitely super cool and smart and strong and brave and all that. But there was this sense that what he enjoyed more than anything else was sharing his smart-strong-braveness with someone else. Whether it was his wife, or his mother, or his fellow police officers. When Salman is joyful over tricking somebody, it feels kind of shallow, like he just hasn’t matured enough to realize it’s not what he really wants; when he works with others to play tricks, it feels like a joyful child. The biggest problem, for me, is that he is playing tricks on his love interest Jacqueline as well. It’s not the two of them against the world, it’s him “winning” over her by fooling her. Which, yuck! That’s not romantic!
And this brings me to Ek Tha Tiger/Tiger Zinda Hai! The brilliant thing about Ek Tha Tiger, which hopefully they will keep in Tiger Zinda Hai, is that Salman always has a partner. At first it was him and Konkona-Sen-Sharma’s-husband working together to woo Katrina/complete their mission. And then it was him and Katrina working together to escape. In this movie, I assume, it is going to be him and Kat straight through. Which, great! I don’t want to see a lonely superhero doing stuff, I want to see him interacting with someone as an equal and both of them doing stuff.
And I really really don’t want to see our hero and our villain as the only people who understand each other. Which is a bit what we get here in Kick, Salman’s girlfriend doesn’t know him, and his potential ally Randeep Hooda (I hate his face!) doesn’t know him, but his enemy Nawazuddin Siddiqui does. Versus Raees, another Nawazuddin versus the hero movie, where it was clear that no one really liked or wanted to work with Nawazuddin, but our hero had a whole deep group surrounding him, all of them more important than any kind of duel with Nawazuddin.
(I hate his stupid face. Always have, always will. No reason at all, I just do)
So what watching Kick before Tiger Zinda Hai confirmed for me is that “Tiger” is a really perfect role for Salman. Carefree and brave and smart and “special”, but all with a lot of love at the heart of it, love for the people around him that is much stronger than hate for his enemies.