The third installment of the Tiger franchise follows the events of Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Tiger Zinda Hain (2017), War (2019), and Pathaan (2023). It’s tritely titled Tiger 3 but who can you blame? Clearly, Tiger Thak Chuka Hain (Tiger is tired), he still has to gallop, swing, and jump in a world produced at the assembly line of the YRF Spy Universe. Double emphatic, but it is a banal bore.
Remember Gopi? Tiger’s handler from the first film, played by Ranveer Shorey, is caught in a place, “from where no agent came back alive,” warns new R&AW chief Maithili Menon (Revathi). Of course, there is only one person capable of doing the job. Sometimes I think how come other operatives aren’t envious of Tiger? He gets all the top missions and his work from home hasn’t ended even after Covid.
After a derivative dirt bike chase atop the ashy terraces of some Middle Eastern hamlet, Tiger saves the man who once fatally shot him. Gopi, conveniently, succumbs to his injuries but not before giving a vital piece of intelligence to Tiger. An ISI agent is working with a rising militant faction in Pakistan to topple the regime of the current, mediative PM. No surprises. It is Tiger’s wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif).
What follows is a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-ian battle of kicks between hubby and wifey. All is resolved (rather quickly) once it is revealed that Zoya has been doing it all on the behest of her mentor Aatish Rehman (Emraan Hashmi), a dishonourably-discharged former ISI deputy head. Back in 2011, leading up to a peace talk, Tiger had shot ISI agent Shaheen (Ridhi Dogra) in the head, while trying to save the Pakistani Army chief. She was Aatish’s wife. It’s not just personnel, but personal now.
What’s a spy film without its villain? Emraan Hashmi, sporting a grey beard and in black overalls, is charmingly formidable. But the screenplay doesn’t make use of his acting prowess. For most of his screen time, he apparates from the darkness in dingy basements that double up as holding cells. “Welcome to the world of shadows,” he tells a young Zoya while recruiting her. But if there was any chance of character development, it evaporates once the sun shines. He becomes repetitive in being calmly menacing. The chaste Urdu he spurts, like any self-respecting Muslim villain, also loses steam.
The action too didn’t have enough propulsion to begin with. You never really feel afraid for Tiger or Zoya or his kid (who, six years since the last film, is still named Junior). Once Tiger starts a mission, you already know it is going to be accomplished, no matter how many gunners, bazooka-wielders or choppers turn up. It’s exhilarating to see an infallible hero for whom jumping off a bike onto a helicopter is as casual as going down a playground slide. One action sequence could have merged into another and nobody would have blinked an eye. However, the viewer does wake up when a certain superstar arrives, swaying his lovely locks. But more flesh was needed to liven up this paper tiger.
The central plotline of Tiger 3 has the metatext of the Congress-era Aman Ki Aasha sentimentality. There are tired themes of Pakistan being bad but not Pakistanis, of choosing democracy over dictatorship. Noble thoughts served without novelty. It seems like the makers have casually assembled a bunch of run-of-the-mill spy film set-pieces and tried to balance it on simplistic politics. It’s all too easy. R&AW chief Maithili even spells it out when she assigns a mission to Tiger. It’s called ‘timepass’.
Name: Tiger 3
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Starring: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Emraan Hashmi, Revathi, Kumud Mishra