Neeraj Pandey’s films often score high for how well they connect the many dots peppered throughout the narrative, and while there are more than enough dots in Baby, not all of them connect to make a logical end for the thriller it was made out to be. Baby could have been one of the best indigenous thrillers in a very long time, but gets to hit the cradle with a sweet little lollipop in its mouth, thanks to its oversimplified and stereotypical plot.
It’s a post-26/11 era where a special team of officers are handpicked and the team’s codenamed ‘Baby’. Their mission is to identify the terrorist sources planning attack on India and eliminate them. In Danny Denzongpa’s voiceover, we learn that since 2008 BABY has thwarted many acts of terrorism against India, and in its most recent mission we are introduced to Jamal (an agent with BABY) who double-crosses the team and teams up with the terrorists. Ajay (Akshay Kumar) is an agent with BABY, and in pursuit of Jamal learns of a bigger danger that’s to hit India very soon. This danger was from Pakistan’s Mullah Maulana Mohammad, and required the freedom of terrorist Bilal Khan (Kay Kay Menon) from a Mumbai prison. Escape Bilal does, and thereby hangs a tale of how Team Baby plans its ass off to nail the key players of the terror outfit, and return home unscathed to pride and glory.
Baby testifies what a naturally brilliant actor Akshay can be without his usual buffoonery. He has the maximum screen presence in the film, gets to maintain his swag even in his calm and composed avatar and though he gets a couple of one-liners to throw, it does it with utmost subtlety. His realistically stylized and elaborate action sequences are some of the most enjoyable parts in the film. Also hand-to-hand fight scenes have been very well choreographed. Tapsee Pannu too gets to be Bollywood’s Black Widow as she dishes out some heavy-handed punches to the bad guy, the following whistles asserting that the crowd was very pleased with her.
Anupam Kher enters the film in the second half of the second half as a technician, and has an important part to play in the mission. Rana Daggubati ups the beef of Baby, and is more than once referred to as Hulk. The best performance in the film comes from Pakistani actor Rasheed Naz, who plays the Jihad-craving Maulana to perfection. Kay Kay Menon gets a small but intense role to play out as Bilal, but there’s very little juice to his character.
The film starts off in a very Skyfall-like manner but submits to a rather rushed Bullett Raja-like climax, without getting over the top. While Pandey’s story may be a downer, his film-making is definitely smart. The camera work is good, and I loved how the visuals were designed. And the film was not entirely bad. What it really lacked was a logical key to lock every element in. There’s a climax airport sequence in Saudi Arabia where a ‘brilliant’ local officer who is studying Baby’s move-around and is rather hell-bent on knowing their whereabouts, but does absolutely nothing when he does find the same. While the thrill element here was outstanding, it settles down as dust once out of frame.
Dialogues were very natural. Music was never the high-point in the film, and though there was a love song fused somewhere in between, it thankfully got the editorial scissor it so badly deserved.
There’s a sequence towards the end where Danny asserts the Indian Prime Minister that their plan of execution might be risky, but it is definitely ‘not dumb’. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the plot.