Review: Bollywood Movie TORBAAZ Has Good Intentions, But Not Much Else
As part of yet another movie that skips theatres to go straight to streaming, Sanjay Dutt’s new Bollywood movie Torbaaz is now on Netflix. But it’s difficult to feel that this one is less impacted by the pandemic, and more a lackluster movie just dumped onto streaming. While it was exciting to see Sanjay Dutt back on the (small) screen after not having seen his movies in a while, this let me down in a big way. Partly due to the fact that almost everyone in this movie phones it in. Hard! So read on for my Torbaaz movie review.
Sanjay Dutt’s Torbaaz Is An Inspirational Sports Movie To Combat Terrorism?
Torbaaz’s marketing would have you believe that it’s an inspirational sports movie. And the premise is kind of unique too. Sanjay Dutt’s Naseer is a former military doctor who returns to Afghanistan after a personal tragedy upended his life. Upon his return, he has to face the idea of terrorists using children as suicide bombers; which led to his own aforementioned tragedy. In an effort to combat this issue, Naseer decides to rally these refugee children, mostly orphans, by training them in the sport of Cricket.
The usual trope of sports providing direction and purpose in life, veering at-risk kids away from dangerous paths is automatic here. Not something we reach or discuss organically. The intent is pretty clear; cricket will rescue these kids from a short-lived life of becoming a child suicide bomber. But the execution and how we get to this point is very half-assed.
Torbaaz Movie Review Discusses How There’s No Clear Motivation
While Torbaaz’s intentions are kind of clear, at least in terms of the movie they were trying to make, it’s execution was muddy. No character in the movie has a clear idea of what they want. Or how to achieve it. Characters go from plot point to plot point like an aimless teenager, forced to do their chores. Naseer returns to Afghanistan, where his family died, years after consciously avoiding coming back.
But for some reason, he comes now for the dedication of a charity his wife started, which he doesn’t stay even stay for, due to his past trauma. But he still sticks around in the country for days later, kind of just muddling about. Which… if he didn’t want to be here, why come, and why stay? It feels forced for the sake of the movie’s plot. Even his attempts to get the kids interested in Cricket and working together are so aloof, that it’s almost like he doesn’t care about it at all.
The Main Protagonist Doesn’t Seem To Have Anything To Do With Cricket?
All this character development goes out the window as he meets with the father of the young suicide bomber that killed his family. He then, all of a sudden wants to become a crusader for this issue. Through Cricket. Despite the fact that he himself is not a cricketer, coach, former athlete, or anything that the trope would usually demand. I mean, I think there’s a reference to him enjoying the game with his deceased young son, but that’s it? He actually has to seek formal training for the orphans from a professional cricket club.
When he fails, he gets angry and makes an impulsive challenge pitting his untrained and inexperienced underdogs with the club’s formally trained team. Without even really talking to them about it. And despite that, he still had to bring in a coach from somewhere else to train the kids. So it’s an inspirational sports movie where the protagonist is basically a good samaritan? Benefactor? I don’t even know. Oh, but the kids call him ‘coach’, for some reason.
The Terrorism Elements Drag On And The Inspirational Moments Have No Meaning
Torbaaz’s biggest problem is that the movie assumes that we all know what it’s trying to be, without it being that. The terrorism aspects of the movie take up a huge chunk, including an unnecessary torture scene and a clumsy climax. The moments between the actual kids are quick and don’t allow the audience to actually sit with the kids’ tragic stories long enough for us to care about any of them. We’re shown that we should care, obviously. Displaced orphan children as victims of terrorism, is a difficult thing to watch. But it’s hard to invest in these specific kids as part of this specific story when we’re not allowed to get to know them beyond bickering and scenes that are all mechanical with no emotions.
While on the flip side, there are absolutely no moments in the movie that feel inspirational, for a sports movie meant to hinge on those core elements. No speeches, no morals, or lessons the kids have to learn to put aside their differences for a better life. It all just happens. And for a sports movie, there’s absolutely no proper training montages or any development of the raw skills these kids have. There’s just a lot of adults talking about how sad their situation is. And even jarring is how then we just cut to the ending with them in sponsored uniforms all experts now. Somehow competing with formally trained kids as part of a bet to see which team is better. How we get there is as confusing as this Torbaaz movie review probably sounds.
Good Intentions Don’t Make A Good Movie
Torbaaz is a very well-intentioned movie with an okay underlying message. But the execution of it takes away from its intentions and we end up with a very haphazardly put together movie that doesn’t really do anything; for its own story, or the audience’s experience.
Torbaaz is now streaming on Netflix.
Let me know what you thought about Torbaaz in the comment below, or on Twitter @theshahshahid.
Featured image via Netflix.