Faruk Kabir’s Khuda Haafiz sees Vidyut Jammwal as a mild-mannered software engineer who discovers his inner Jean-Claude Van Damme when his wife is kidnapped by a trafficking ring. The vigilante thriller was premiered on Disney+ Hotstar in 2020. Its sequel, subtitled Agni Pariksha, is braving the box-office test via a theatrical release.
Jammwal’s Sameer is once again provoked into action by sexual assault. Before we can say “not in our name”, Sameer sets off on a brutal path of retribution that literally goes for the jugular in an attempt to jolt audiences out of their popcorn-cola stupor.
Nargis (Shivaleeka Oberoi) has slid into depression after being raped by her captors in the previous film. A potential cure arrives in the form of the orphaned Nandini. Overnight, she becomes the ray of happiness for the beleaguered couple until disaster strikes.
Nandini gets unwittingly embroiled in a crime committed by the odious Bacchu (Boddhisatva Sharma). Sameer sets off on a rampage that involves copious blood-letting.
Nargis disappears from the plot, to be replaced by Bacchu’s nasty grandmother Sheela Thakur (Sheeba Chadha). A villain out of a James Bond movie, Thakur uses her enforcer (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) and all her influence to protect Bacchu.
The raison d’etre of Khuda Haafiz – an ordinary man forced by circumstance into extraordinary behaviour – is lost in the sequel. Sameer’s ability to wrestle his way out of situations and his love for sinking sharp objects into people’s anatomies brings him closer to the action hero usually played by Vidyut Jammwal.
Kabir brings visual flair to a 146-minute film that is also avoidably sordid and needlessly ponderous. The makers and cast put on a good show for what is essentially a garden-variety vigilante movie.
An already dubious story goes out of whack when Sameer lands up in Egypt. Hopefully, no pyramids were harmed in the making of the movie.