I debated a lot with this one, and finally decided to just be honest. It’s “least favorite film”, not an objective judgement, just what you didn’t like. Tiger Zinda Hai wasn’t the worst movie of the year, or even the most disappointing, but it was the one that was least to my particular taste.
Way back in ancient times, when people were roaming the earth in small tribes, there were two instincts necessary to survive. One was focused on nurturing, on loving, on protecting, on building communities. The other was focused on protecting from outside threats.
People still have these two instincts today, but most people are not evenly balanced between the two. These are the forces visible in politics and public life everywhere in the world. While some people are focused on protecting, on nurturing the land and the people, others somehow can only feel alive when they are on the attack, when there is an enemy outside the gates. The problem is, while there is always something to nurture, there is not always something to fight. And so these people will create an enemy if one does not appear before them.
(This is what makes me feel good, being nice to little children, not attacking mean adults)
This is the kind of thinking that leads to millions dying of treatable diseases, while the money that could be spent helping them is instead poured into defense projects to save a handful of lives. Or to riots against “internal enemies”. This is why America had the McCarthy Hearings after WWII, we had no other enemies to fight, so we made one up.
And this is what Tiger Zinda Hai relies on, triggering that part of your brain which feels alive when there is an enemy to fight. And I just do not have that part of the brain. I don’t get angry with people, I don’t hate people, I wasn’t born that way. It’s kind of a problem, it’s part of the reason I am blogging here instead of being paid to do this work. I’m not competitive, I’m not aggressive, I’m not a go-getter, I do not enjoy conflict of any kind. And because I am none of those things, Tiger Zinda Hai was a movie I absolutely could not enjoy. Like forcing milk on someone who is lactose intolerant, it’s not about the quality of the film, it’s that the essential essence of it is something I am innately allergic to.
I tried to be fair in my review. It was an unimaginative kind of movie, and it definitely should have been better. But it wasn’t a terrible film, absolutely not the worst film of the year, acting was good, direction was clear, narrative and script moved briskly along. Action sequences were a little blah, and I wanted more time building the characters before throwing us in, but it wasn’t a terrible movie. For contrast, Tubelight was a film that more or less matches how my brain works, but it was also a terrible terrible terrible movie, so I gave it just a terrible terrible terrible review.
(Meanwhile, I love this movie because it perfectly encapsulates my view of the world)
A good 3rd of Tiger Zinda Hai is focused on watching the “bad guys” do bad things. You are supposed to boo and hiss and get a little adrenaline jolt as you watch and think about how terribly they will be punished for these bad things once the hero arrives. It’s a well constructed film, they did this on purpose, a balance of bad guys doing bad things, then the heroes planning how to stop them, back and forth and back and forth, building the tension so that we can better appreciate the release. But for me watching the bad guys do bad things has no pleasure to it. I just get caught up in relating to their victims, in feeling their fear and misery, instead of in hating the people doing the bad things. And so 1/3rd of this film was literal torture for me.
A lot of the things that people liked about this movie, which made it a little unique, are what made it even more painful for me. It is semi-based on a true story, which means I was aware that this is something that is actually happening in the world. Both that real people are being tortured, and that people are really being encouraged to hate to this degree real “villains”. It was filmed in a non-stop thrill fashion, little time for romance or comedy. So I had no respite from the stress, since I didn’t get that little “hate” energy burst others got. And it was filmed “realistically”, at least compared to other action movies. So I had no joy of, say, a car rising in the air and spinning three times to remind me that this wasn’t a “real” story. Everything could be something that actually happened/was happening.
(This, for instance, is so insanely ridiculous and over the top that it didn’t stress me out, I knew it wasn’t real and the filmmakers wanted me to know it wasn’t real, that was the mood they were creating for their film)
Again, none of this is necessarily something I would put in a “real” review of the film. There was no message of the film that was so despicable it is worthy of being called out in a review, it’s not an “evil” movie. And so a “real” review should focus more on giving a sense of the overall quality of the film (medium to high) and what kind of content it has (mostly action). It is just a film designed for people who are built differently than I am.
The only thing that makes me wonder about it in terms of quality is that, usually, hate in art seems to have a diminishing return in a way that joy does not. There is an initial thrill in booing the bad guys and then watching them be vanquished, but other time the joy in the vanquishing far out weighs the joy of the booing, as it were. And this film doesn’t have much to offer without that thrill.
In Sholay, for instance, Gabbar was the unstoppable force of evil in the world that drove the plot. There is no Sholay without Gabbar, that is true. But the Gabbar scenes were memorable because they were original. The speeches, the mannerisms, the Russian roulette game, it’s all been parodied and copied over and over because it is so different. But in this film, the “evil” was your basic torture and shooting, just like in any other movie. Or in real life. And Gabbar of course was balanced with the comedy, the romance, the songs, that were happening elsewhere in the film. Which meant not just that the film could match any taste, but that it could match any mood. And I wonder if Tiger Zinda Hai will be able to do that, if it will lend itself to rewatching. Which is a qualitative flaw of the film, not just a taste issue.
(In this scene alone, depending on your mood, you can focus on hating Gabbar, on loving Basanti, or on loving the love between Basanti and Veeru. It’s all there, you can pick through the layers and find what you want)
But mostly my problems with it get down to my personal taste. So I am listing it as “least favorite” film of 2017, because it was my least favorite film. But it could very easily be your most favorite film, or something that was my most favorite could be your least favorite. It’s just who you are as a person meeting with what they are as films.
(The heart wants what the heart wants)