How do you get an action star to play a common man forced into situations where he has to use his fists-and-fangs but not like an action star, and still be credible?
That’s the dilemma that Khuda Haafiz grapples with right through, as Jammwal slaloms between being a Lucknow-based software engineer working honestly for a living, and a desperate husband in search of his missing wife in a fictional Middle East country called Noman.
There was potential here to make it a racy rescue mission, between a vicious gang of flesh-traders and the good guy, but the film feels dated, and at two hours plus, it’s much too long.
Khuda Haafiz movie cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Annu Kapoor, Shivaleeka Oberoi, Shiv Panditt, Aahana Kumra, Vipin Sharma
Khuda Haafiz movie director: Faruk Kabir
Khuda Haafiz movie rating: One and a half stars
Newly-weds Sameer (Jammwal) and Nargis (Oberoi) find jobs in Noman via an agent (Sharma, effective) who looks so shifty that you know instantly that he’s a bad ‘un. Of course, it doesn’t occur to the couple that there’s something fishy about the whole thing, because it’s that kind of film.
This is what we get: a kindly Pathan cabbie (Kapoor) as Sameer’s saviour, a figure we’ve seen a zillion times before. An officious but helpless official at the Indian mission. A couple of zealous local lawmakers (Panditt and Kumra) who track Sameer’s journey, as he encounters vicious brothel-runners and their henchmen, while looking for the king-pin. And the stunning locations in Uzbekistan, where most of the film is set: some of the desert-and-ocean scenes are really scenic.
But the only time the film lifts off the screen is when Jammwal gets going, minus the weepy wife or the scenes in which he has to emote. A couple of strikingly choreographed fight-and-chase scenes hold our interest, especially one in which Jammwal is hemmed in a narrow corridor with a whole bunch of armed louts about to pound him into the ground.
Both Panditt and Kumra, able actors, are made to speak in a strong ‘Arabic’ accent which has no way not to slip. The only one who belongs to this universe is Kapoor, with his dialogue-delivery (‘tum jise karz kehte ho, Pathan usko apna farz maanta hai; tumko jo ehsaan lagta hai, momin ko imaan lagta hai’, and so on). The rest of it is creaky and cartoonish.