Khuda Haafiz review: A thin but watchable action thriller
Vidyut Jammwal fights on in a lean, unassuming thriller
In 2008, as now, the global economy crashed. Millions of lives were ripped apart. The shockwaves reached India, with its blooming IT industry taking a hit. It was a moment of deep collective horror, echoes of which are again felt today in the din of the pandemic.
All of this has little bearing on the knockabout pleasures of Khuda Haafiz. The film, starring Vidyut Jammwal and out on Disney+ Hotstar, follows a Lucknow couple imperilled by the global financial crisis. It's as good a starting point as any, since the focus here is the frantic search of a husband for his missing wife. Yet, releasing at this hour of uncertainty and fear, the romantic thriller carries a speck of truth.
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Shivaleeka Oberoi, Aahana Kumra
Director: Faruk Kabir
Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar
Sameer (Vidyut) and Nargis (Shivaleeka Oberoi) lose their jobs to the crash. Recession sets in, and the couple decides to emigrate to the Gulf. A slimy agent (Vipin Sharma) suggests the 'Sultanate of Noman' — a cover so bad they could have just used the real name. To make matters worse, Nargis is abducted, setting Sameer on a one-man quest to Noor-Us-Saba, the oil-rich capital of Noman.
It's a flush year for prickly action heroes rampaging through exotic foreign lands (6 Underground, Extraction, and Baaghi 3 are all available to stream). Khuda Haafiz tries to duck the template by minding its own business and giving Sameer a set of local allies and friends. Annu Kapoor, in a grey pakol and beard, plays an Afghan taxi driver with his ear to the ground. There's also an intriguing mix of diplomats and officials — their motives surprisingly sharp.
However, this muteness of approach is undone by the exceedingly comical villains, and a pimp who looks like the Canadian rapper Drake. Most annoying, though, is the accent put on by Aahana Kumra's Arab agent. "Inteqam ka mamla hai (it's a matter of revenge)," she says, sounding like a character from the TV show Hatim.
Vidyut, meanwhile, looks tired and strained. He is charming and atypical at first — a brave attempt by director Faruk Kabir to reveal the man under the bulk. The first movement, when it happens, is sloppy and second-guessed: Vidyut clobbering two men with a stick and quickly dropping it, as though regretting the whole scheme. The action picks up, of course, with a knockoff of the Punisher fight from Daredevil season 2, but featuring CGI-blood and a forlorn tune.
To sum up, Khuda Haafiz makes a tolerable watch in the clutter of boilerplate Hindi action movies. It's lean and unassuming, and far less wasteful than the lot. The wailing soundtrack by Mithoon, however, is another matter. It sounds too antiquated, too 'mid-2000s'. But then, hey, what else has changed?