Tiger 3: How the threequel upholds franchise's theme of India-Pakistan harmony | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Tiger 3: How the threequel upholds theme of India-Pakistan harmony running through Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif's franchise

ByDevansh Sharma
Nov 13, 2023 06:09 AM IST

The Tiger franchise has raised the stakes and changed the director with every instalment, but its core of India-Pakistan harmony remains constant.

Maneesh Sharma's spy thriller Tiger 3 is a patriotic film, but set in Pakistan. No, it doesn't entail Indian soldiers getting into the neighbouring nation so that they can ghar mein ghus ke maaro them. But it's more of a love letter to the patriotism of Pakistanis, with an Indian spy at the forefront.

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif symbolise India and Pakistan in Tiger 3
Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif symbolise India and Pakistan in Tiger 3

(Also Read: Tiger 3 box office collection Day 1: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif film likely to open at 40 cr in India)

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But that's what the Tiger franchise has stood for since its inception with Kabir Khan's Ek Tha Tiger in 2012. It's brought India and Pakistan closer through its superspy representatives, Tiger (Salman Khan) and Zoya (Katrina Kaif). Through their love story, the franchise draws a parallel to the ideal allyship between the two countries despite their historic and geopolitical differences.

Ek Tha Partition

The first part of the franchise saw the two superspies starting on the wrong foot as Tiger, a RAW agent, realises the woman he fell in love with is an ISI spy sleuthing on him. But unlike their intelligence agencies, they decide to give love a chance and elope. The song Laapata becomes a love anthem for the two, as they rise above their respective national identities and travel to Cuba, the land that made spies famous.

When they're chased down by RAW and ISI, they have the opportunity to prove their loyalty and betray and frame the other one. But they continue their quest to unite instead of eliminate. In their heads, they haven't gone rogue. They've not leaked their agency's national security secrets to each other. They're just two citizens of the world deeply in love with each other, so much so that they can't adhere to the reductive and outdated criteria of patriotism and loyalty of their countries.

In a telling scene towards the end of Ek Tha Tiger, a RAW agent and an ISI agent are seen shooting at Tiger and Zoya side by side. They then turn to each other and realise how their common goal of penalising the traitors has brought them together. It took an Indian and Pakistani couple in love to unite their two nations via hate. But what else can one expect from the director who gave us Bajrangi Bhaijaan, where an Indian man resolves to bring a Pakistani girl back to her nation.

Dosti zinda hai

In the 2017 sequel, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, the theme of India-Pakistan harmony was raised to a macro level. When Tiger and Zoya are invoked by their respective agencies to rescue Indian and Pakistani nurses held hostage at a hospital in the Middle East by an international terror outfit, they dive back into the spy business. Tiger is initially reluctant, wondering if it's a trap set up by RAW, but it's his Pakistani wife who convinces him to go ahead because Indian lives are at stake.

Zoya joins Tiger and his pack of RAW agents soon and proposes that the two agencies work together since their mission is the same. Overlooking their religious and patriotic differences, the two teams work in tandem and accomplish their mission. At the end of the film, as a bus full of RAW and ISI agents speeds off, the Indian and Pakistani flags adorn each side as a mark of their combined victory.

But as soon as their mission is accomplished, Tiger and Zoya go back to stealth mode. While they'll be ready to serve their nations as and when required, they can't get themselves to trust their respective agencies. Again, the lack of trust doesn't lie in the ‘enemy’ country, but in those of their own nation who cater to hate and suspicion.

Tiger 3 – for Pakistan

Tiger 3 not only shifts the action to Pakistan, but also tightens its feminist grip on the franchise. Zoya's backstory is explored right at the start. In many ways, it's a story of her patriotism – how she becomes an ISI agent, how she stays true to her nation and goes against her mentor's ill motive, and how she eventually proves herself as a true patriot instead of a spy gone rogue.

Katrina isn't the only Pakistani woman with a voice. Shaheen (Ridhi Dogra), a pregnant spy, pushes her husband and superior Aatish (Emraan Hashmi) to allow her to go on a life-threatening mission. And then there is the Pakistani Prime Minister Nasreen Irani (Simran) who is determined to propagate peace and extend an olive branch to India despite the historical fault lines and the military's iron grip. She even offers to surrender herself to the military if it saves the life of the RAW agents risking their lives to save her.

Even Maithili Menon (Revathy), the new chief of RAW, is a trusting patriot. Unlike her predecessor Shenoy (Girish Karnad), she trusts Tiger to serve the nation despite his erroneous track record. She even offers buttered toasts to RAW agents who went rogue but confessed their detour, all the while threatening to hold them for treason, mind you.

Despite the strong women characters, it's the male Indian spy who emerges as the saviour. He may joke that he's doing it as an obligation to his sasural (in-laws), but Tiger fights as valiantly to save Pakistan's democracy as he would do on any Indian mission. As much as Pakistan's evil forces try to malign him as a RAW spy, he proves them wrong by decidedly drawing battle lines between good and evil, and not between India and Pakistan.

That's why when a Pakistani girl band plays the Indian National Anthem at the end of Tiger 3 to thank their hero, it doesn't come across as pop patriotism. It only takes to the next level what started with Laapata in Ek Tha Tiger 11 years ago: the idealistic romance between India and Pakistan, adamant to love each other against all odds.

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