Friday, June 6, 2014


Release date:
June 6, 2014
A.R. Murugadoss


Akshay Kumar, Sumeet Raghavan, Sonakshi Sinha, Farhad (Freddy Daruwala), Zakir Hussain, Govinda

Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty is designed as a cloying tribute to our defence forces, with a populist they-can-do-no-wrong tone. Instead of extending the courtesy of basic research to our men and women in uniform though, writer-director A.R. Murugadoss serves up an ill-informed, far-fetched film so filled with lacunae and platitudes that even its pacy action scenes, occasional humour and charismatic hero can’t save it from being embarrassingly stupid.

Holiday is a remake of Murugadoss’ own 2012 Tamil hit Thuppakki starring Vijay and Kajal Aggarwal. A hit machine in south India, the director made his Bollywood debut with Ghajini starring Aamir Khan and Asin. That film offered us the novelty of a shirtless Aamir with ripped muscles and a tragic past plus a successful south Indian film heroine debuting in Bollywood. Holiday, on the other hand, gives us a re-run of the Akshay Kumar we’ve seen repeatedly in action comedies, with Sonakshi Sinha once again playing a pretty showpiece in the background.

It’s one thing to defy logic in masala entertainers that ask not to be taken seriously, quite another to serve up a puerile plot in a film that clearly deems itself extremely intense. Consider this… While on holiday in Mumbai, Captain Virat Bakshi (Akshay) of the Indian Army witnesses a bus bombing. He captures the man responsible for the blast and hands him over to the police, but when the fellow escapes, guess what? Our hero – a member of the khufiya Defence Intelligence Agency – nabs the terrorist and keeps him imprisoned in his own bedroom! The chap is there for almost three days, Virat even tortures him, but no one hears a sound! Not Virat’s family. Not neighbours. Not even the large Mumbai police contingent stationed outside for Virat’s security.

This episode takes place early on in the film. Without giving away any details, let’s just say the rest of the film is devoted to Virat saving Mumbai from a dozen bomb blasts with the help of a dozen fellow Armymen who are also on holiday. The people who are actually on holiday seem to be the clueless Mumbai Police, the state and Central governments who do nothing in this matter, unless you count Virat’s sidekick, the inexplicably ignorant Sub-Inspector Mukund Deshmukh (Sumeet Raghavan). Also in the picture is a romance with a girl called Saiba (Sonakshi).

For the most part, Holiday is a carbon copy of Thuppakki, with a new cast. The differences are crucial though. The terrorists’ boss in Holiday is played by the ineffectual Freddy Daruwala a.k.a. Farhad. The original had the sexy, always effective Vidyut Jamwal. In the absence of a worthy opponent, Virat makes the terrorists look even more foolish than the script intended.

Holiday also departs from Thuppakki with its clumsy efforts not to be labelled anti-Muslim. In one scene when Virat relates an anecdote about the patriotic family of an Indian soldier serving on the border who was tortured by the enemy, the soldier in question is given an overtly Muslim name, unlike in Thuppakki. Okay I guess, but the effort becomes laughable when a terrorist who is set to infiltrate the Indian defence establishment in Holiday is given the Goan Christian name Allwyn D’souza – which is silly and off the mark considering that India has so far not seen terror networks emerging from the Christian, Parsi and Buddhist communities.

Another dissimilarity is that while Vijay is about a decade older than Kajal, he does not look like her daddy. On the other hand, the two decades separating Akshay-Sonakshi are glaring, although he’s beautifully trim whereas she’s tubby and large. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting 46-year-old heroes to retire. Point is, Akshay makes an effort to dress and prance around like a boy, especially in the song Tu hi to hai. In Blame the love she wears a babydoll dress and looks like a kid yet to lose her puppy fat, dancing with her slim papa. It’s also amusing when he’s part of a ladka ladki ko dekhne aaya hai scene where Virat’s age is not specified, so one assumes we’re expected to view this ‘ladka’ as Saiba’s contemporary. C’mon Akki, you’re the fittest of your male contemporaries in Bollywood, but please start acting your age and with women your age.

Kudos to Murugadoss for remaking his inane-yet-entertaining Tamil film by adding new flaws instead of plugging those in the original. This must be a new milestone in the history of remakes.

As a civilian I can only point out what common sense tells me are failings in the terror-related sequences in Holiday (eg: cars in the vicinity of the aforementioned bus bomb blast are engulfed in flames, but Mukund standing right next to the bus is unharmed). I found so many factual errors, clichés and stereotypes in a barely-few-minutes-long Christian wedding scene – a milieu I’m familiar with – that I can’t begin to imagine what police and Army personnel would spot in the entire film. In that single church scene, Virat and his friends are shown laughing and talking loudly next to the altar, the wedding cake is set up next to the altar, and the wedding guests hang around inside the church eating cake after the ceremony. Err…churches are strictly solemn spaces and none of the above would customarily be allowed. Besides, how about for a change showing a sari-wearing Christian bride, considering that that’s the way a majority of Indian Christian brides dress? And puhleeease, it is not the custom for Indian Christian brides and grooms to kiss in church at the end of the ceremony! It’s irritating when our filmmakers persist in showing Christian weddings that are not inspired by Indian Christian weddings but by the many Western films and teleserials they’ve seen! I think I might just re-watch this film with a friend from the Army to see what s/he thinks of the Captainsaab’s functioning.

Lack of authenticity, populism and playing it safe are in fact the hallmarks of this film which justifies torture, deifies Armymen in a maudlin fashion, and casually portrays the sexual harassment of the heroine by the hero as legitimate courtship. When a woman has clearly stated that she isn’t interested in you, it’s not acceptable to kiss her reflection in your mirror while she is watching, or to stalk her, grab her on a basketball court and smooch her. In a clear bid to appease its mass male audience, the film later even has Virat telling Saiba that girls like her blame boys for responding to sexual signals that the girl is deliberately sending out.

The sillyfest might actually have worked if it weren’t for the manner in which Holiday alternates between illogical-but-energetic action scenes and Virat’s fluffy song-and-dance-led romantic interludes with Saiba. Tu hi to hai and Aaj dil shayarana lagta hai are at least nice tunes. The latter is that mandatory feature of most Hindi films these days – a song shot in deserts and forts with the heroine in flowing costumes and the couple posing around – while the rather tuneless Blame the love is that mandatory nightclub number. Throughout Holiday, Akshay intermittently shows us flashes of the talent and charm that have made him the star he is today. In some comic sequences, Sonakshi gives us glimpses of an aspect of her acting skills that remains untapped while she persists in picking up mindless scripts in which she is a marginal player. To be fair, this film is neither loud nor crude like Akshay’s recent misadventures Boss, Khiladi 786 and Rowdy Rathore. The problem with Holiday is that the formulaic comedy and romance end up diluting the thriller that it is intended to be, while the entire film is weighed down by its senselessness.

The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are not peopled by saints, but they remain institutions this country can be proud of. They deserve better than this immature tribute.

Rating (out of five stars): **1/2

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
171 minutes

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