Tigers Movie Review: Emraan's the man

Updated: 23 November, 2018 14:32 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

Tigers, that's directly dropped online, is set in the sub-continent (Pakistan), deals with a lone, Third World man's tireless battle against a mighty multi-national corporation

U/A; Drama
Director: Danis Tanovic
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Adil Hussain
Rating: Ratings

Okay, quick quiz question: Complete the exclusive, three-member list of filmmakers - Federico Fellini, Gabriel Axel, and ___. Who? Answer: Danis Tanovic. These are directors whose films - Nights Of Cabiria (1958), Babette's Feast (1988), and No Man's Land (2002) - won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, in the three years that Indian films - Mother India, Salaam Bombay, Lagaan - miraculously got nominated in the same category.

Almost every desi film-buff has probably heard of No Man's Land, because of Lagaan's loss, although I'm quite certain nobody's seen the Bosnian war-drama. Given that Tanovic's latest release, Tigers, that's directly dropped online (on Zee5), is set in the sub-continent (Pakistan), deals with a lone, Third World man's tireless battle against a mighty multi-national corporation (MNC); but most significantly, because it stars Emraan Hashmi in the lead role, more desis are likely to instantly connect with Tanovic's work over any other Bosnian director in history, no doubt!

Pritam has scored the music in this picture (it's lovely). Key locations are Indian as well. As is the supremely competent main cast - Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Hussain, Vinod Nagpal (Basesar Ram from Hum Log) - even as the camera seemingly dives into the interiors of small-town Pakistan, revealing a strong nexus between professional medical representatives and popular doctors, who prescribe products to patients, depending on bribes and favours earned from big pharma companies. This scary practice, as anybody with a doctor friend/relative would know, is very much an Indian pandemic as well.

This is one of the reasons locally produced generic drugs, which cost a minuscule fraction of branded strips, hardly stand a chance in the medicine mass-market. Could this doctoring of the prescription cause deaths? It did in the late '90s in Pakistan, as infants were pretty much force-fed formula baby-food, over mother's milk, leading to loss of lives due to diarrhoea, and other symptoms.

Chronicling this actual episode, the Tanovic plays it fairly, and often disconcertingly, straight; without the crackling accoutrements of a fast-paced thriller, or Michael Winterbottom style high-drama (Guess I thought Winterbottom, because of the energetic, bleak A Mighty Heart, similarly set in Pakistan).

Except, if you consider that in terms of form, there is a film being made within this film. The lawyer, along with the filmmakers, for instance, aren't sure whether they should 'out' the massive MNC offender. While discussing it, they name the company, Nestle, and then, on second thought, replace it with Lasta Vita (perhaps a pun on Hasta la vista; Spanish for 'good bye'?). Either way, clever move, bro.

Why is the movie called Tigers, though? Because that's how salesmen are encouraged to growl and catch their prey (the docs), come what may. Hashmi plays the super-ambitious, super-smart, but innately conscientious medical salesman, based on real-life whistleblower Syed Amir Raza Hussain, who takes on Nestle, puts his neck on the line, separates from his family, to see to it that no more infants die out of screwed-up nutrition.

This isn't a role you would immediately associate with Hashmi, although he has stepped out of his comfort zone a few times in the past - most notably with Dibakar Bannerjee's Shanghai (his best work yet), which didn't exactly set the box-office on fire.

It's to his creative misfortune that audiences have nearly always expected him to stick to 'chumma-chaati' thrillers, while privately - a very articulate Bandra boy, with a sharp head on his shoulders; by all accounts, a gentleman - he's nothing like the 'serial kisser' the front-benchers love and imagine him to be.

Sure, his English sounds a lot more 'Pali Hill' than small-town Pakistan in this pic. His calm, courageous demeanour, while in the line of fire, speaks volumes for his usually under-appreciated acting talent though. Surely Hashmi's professional risk can't possibly compare with his character Husain's. But both deserve a watch, for sure.

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First Published: 23 November, 2018 07:43 IST

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