Friday, January 23, 2015

So Baby is out now...

So, yes, Baby is out and you'll forgive me if I take a hard pass on it. For a number of reasons.

I do always skim reviews for films I'm on the fence about and look for keywords. I don't care about the same things critics do but sometimes they mention things that signal whether or not I should pay to see a film.

For Baby… well… the reviews are a HUGE pile of no-go words for me. As to be expected since I was on the fence with Special 26. It seems like Neeraj Pandey took everything I hated in Special 26, added to everything I hate about Hollywood-style "terrorist" films, and shat out Baby.

From the Deepanjana Pal's Firstpost review:

Baby is about a super-secret and incredibly effective anti terrorism cell that was set up after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, better known as "26/11". You are, of course, meant to notice there's nothing babyish about muscled men hunting down bad guys. However, after seeing how the Baby gang go around making a mess — cafes in Istanbul are destroyed, hotel rooms in Kathmandu are trashed — look tremendously chuffed once they're done and calmly move on, leaving the government of India to clean up and pay for the mess presumably, Baby seems to be a very apt name for this unit.

a) Unrealistic filmi violence and destruction presented as gritty and "real."

Clearly, no one in Baby has got the memo that torture doesn't actually work and if painful abuse does make someone talk, it's likely to be whatever the interrogator wants to hear.

b) TORTURE being shown to work. (Torture doesn't work.)

From the Prasanna D Zore's Rediff review:

Pandeyji, please note that the background score is supposed to compliment a thriller, not overwhelm the proceedings on screen.

c) Suffocating background music.

From Shubhra Gupta's Indian Express review:

But the niggling discomfort caused by the pandering to stereotypes (and the requisite nod to tokenism) colours our viewing.

d) Pandering to anti-Muslim stereotypes, covered with a fig leaf of tokenism.

‘Baby’, fronted by its fleet-footed hero with his brisk moustache and its background-music-overlaid action, feels longer than it should.


From Bollywood Life:

I would first like to point out the efficiency with which Baby has been directed. Whenever I saw Hollywood action thrillers like Mission Impossible or Die Hard, I would question the ability of our Indian filmmakers in shelling out ventures possessing such high standards. Today, Neeraj Pandey has convinced me that the mission is in fact possible!


From DNA:

Neeraj Pandey makes an edge-of-the-seat film that’s on par with any mega-budget Hollywood thriller you’ve seen.


From India Today:

Baby also wears the label of cool too seriously and pats itself on the back with awkward lines such as "Bachchewale code use karte hai, I cracked it in five minutes."

h) Cool. I hate cool.

Akshay, sir, I love you but not enough to sit through 2.5 hours of Hollywood-style, no-songs, suffocating background music, self-serious "cool" dialogues, anti-Muslim stereotypes, and pro-torture propaganda.

With all the troubles in the world, films like this--like American Sniper--do not help anything! They confirm people's worst and laziest ways of thinking. Kamal Hassan's Vishwaroopam was a complex, yet mainstream look at the narrative of Islamic terrorism. Baby does not appear to be anywhere near that level.


Anonymous said...

Just saw it. The world news and political climate being what it is, I can't blame anyone who's not interested in seeing a movie about predominantly non-Muslim characters chasing Muslim terrorists, just as I can't blame anyone who dislikes the objectionable content and use of hot-button issues in Thank You (even though I like Thank You).

That being said, I enjoyed Baby, felt like it made some effort to humanize the terrorists and explain the root causes of terrorism. It seemed to me that the film might have had that component toned down for fear of offending people in power. (As when Danny's Muslim character ends up in a meeting with a Modi-like politician and Danny dances around the issue a while before saying that the country has alienated its Muslim community, and that's a victory for the terror networks). I did not care for the mullah character, who turned out to be a total cartoon, but Kay Kay did a good job of making his character someone "on the wrong side" who was passionate and intelligent.

The torture scenes from the trailers are not what they appear; in both cases Akshay's character gets information using psych-warfare techniques, and physically roughing the captives up seems to be mostly revenge for them messing with his fellow agents. (Which does not make it okay, but it's presented more as the character quirk of a very jaded, reckless man who's been in the field too long).

So, I can't say that I would recommend it to you or other people who had qualms about the content, but I would say that it's not as Desi Jack Bauer as the more negative reviews make out.

PS: I am really tired both of the "on par with Hollywood" meme and the countermeme that any film tagged with that label is some kind of sellout. This is a storyline that doesn't lend itself well to songs, filmed by people who know how to use a camera and an editing room 9which puts them ahead of alot of people in both Mumbai AND Los Angeles), but it is very Indian in its point of view.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that should be "mostly uses psych-warfare on his captives", there was an incident I forgot about.

Filmi Girl said...

@Odadune I cannot tell you how happy I am to read your review!!!! I still don't think it's something I'm interested in, not having particularly enjoyed Special 26 and not particularly enjoying no-songs films, BUT I am glad to hear that torture isn't portrayed as effective (for the most part) and that it's not as cartoonishly anti-Muslim as it appears.

You're right about the climate right now, though. Perhaps I'd be more receptive to a movie like this if we weren't saturated with simplistic takes on "Islamic Terrorism" from every media outlet with two wires to rub together.

The narrative the Western media has strung together is so one-dimensional. I was talking with a friend last week about places I wanted to travel and honestly I'd feel a hell of a lot safer as a woman traveling in Lahore or Karachi than I would visiting Delhi or Mumbai.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, and remember, May 1 and Main Gabbar (the film formerly known as Gabbar, before the Sippy family decided to mess with SLB) will be here soon enough.

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