Tigers movie review: Emraan Hashmi does well in a sincere but slow film

Updated on Nov 23, 2018 09:48 AM IST

Tigers movie review: Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic’s film, starring Emraan Hashmi, is sincere but slow. Rating: 2.5/5.

Tigers movie review: Emraan Hashmi plays a salesman-turned-hero in Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic’s film.
Tigers movie review: Emraan Hashmi plays a salesman-turned-hero in Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic’s film.
Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai

Director - Danis Tanovic
Cast - Emraan Hashmi, Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Hussain, Danny Huston
Rating - 2.5/5 

I always find it interesting to watch Emraan Hashmi when he isn’t being hurried into theatricality. There’s a self-assured understatement that serves him well when a film gives him elbow room. In Tigers, he plays a real-life pharmaceutical whistleblower from Pakistan, a character so happily guileless it feels refreshing in contrast to his committedly corrupt filmography. There’s a winning earnestness to his Ayan — who goes to a job interview in borrowed shoes and takes life lessons from Manisha Koirala movies — and he’s an easy hero to root for.

The actor’s true coolness, however, kicks in once Ayan gets a job at Nestlé where, as he starts getting better as a sales representative, he effortlessly blooms as a fixer. Hashmi’s trademark slipperiness makes this arc wonderfully promising — a gradual descent into misbehaviour that comes naturally, something similar to the way Bob Odenkirk makes his slide into amorality in Better Call Saul look inevitable. Tigers is not interested in that story. Directed by Danis Tanovic, this is a movie about criminal irresponsibility shown by Nestlé that resulted in thousands of infants dying across Asia. It’s basically Emraan Brockovich.

Watch the Tigers trailer here 

Tanovic, however, never quite seems on top of this particular inspirational story. This is a well-intentioned and suitably crusader-like film, but Tanovic — popular in India for directing that lovely, Lagaan-beating Oscar-winner, No Man’s Land — struggles to find the dramatic core of the story, resulting in a lack of narrative propulsion or storytelling threat. Hashmi’s character or family never seem truly endangered, and the plot developments fall well short of being thrilling. The dryness is a good thing for the actors (and there are some fine performances here) but it’s hard to justify this motion picture when it could have been a much harder-hitting documentary.

There is much to admire in the sequences involving Hashmi and those around him — from Geetanjali Thapa playing a wife who thaws at the offer of rasmalai to the terrific Vinod Nagpal as a father who teaches himself law — and there is fine texture, in the cramped hallways of the houses and a turbaned landlord getting his beard trimmed late at night, but this authenticity of Ayan’s story is frozen in flashback. The film as we see it comes from the point of view of a foreign documentary crew wondering if Ayan’s true story is true enough and story enough. Which means the dramatic climax of the film is punctuated with mood shots of an old white man contemplatively staring at a ceiling fan.

Emraan Hashmi and Adil Hussain in a still from Tigers.
Emraan Hashmi and Adil Hussain in a still from Tigers.

The English portions of the dialogue are childish, with Hashmi saying things like “How many babies should die before you decide to trust me?” Actors like Adil Hussain and Satyadeep Mishra do their best to lift the material, and succeed to some degree, but Tigers demands a viewer’s indulgence.

The central thread is impressive — a fixer who does shady things for a big corporation can make a massive impact if he speaks out — but Tigers doesn’t have the right pace or a strong enough conflict. Movies about truth-tellers like Michael Mann’s The Insider and Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton show what lengths a corporation will go to in order to safeguard its image. Here, despite footage of fatally diseased infants, Nestlé is never depicted as genuinely sinister. For that, I recommend some instant googling: just two minutes.

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