A.R. Murugadoss’s Ghajini (2008) was a blockbuster that opened the floodgates for the filmmaker to able to virtually cherry pick his story and his cast. With Holiday, which has a full title of Holiday: A Soldier is Never Off Duty, Murugadoss returns with a remake of his own Tamil language entry Thuppaki (2012), which was a huge hit in south India. Roping in Akshay Kumar and allowing Kumar to take on a tailor-made action role, Holiday is foremost a formulaic action movie that goes overboard without letting on that it has done so. While not in the same league as Ghajini or even Akshay Kumar’s Special 26, along with slick, escapist summertime antics, Holiday is also like a serving of popcorn with too much butter.
As Captain Viraat Bakshi (Kumar), life is all good when he returns home from the Kashmir frontier. The only immediate challenge appears to be his parents who are searching high and low for a suitable bride for Viraat. Viraat meets and greets Saiba (Sinha) who may or may not be a match for him. When a bomb goes off on a bus, Viraat’s alter-ego as a super-secret army intelligence office emerges and he sets about uncovering a terrorist sleeper cell carrying out mayhem in Mumbai. In a very modern fashion, using modern techie tools (finally, some actual smart uses of so-called smart phones!), Viraat matches wits with the highly cunning Asif (Sharma), who appears to be calling the shots at the lair of the bad guys.
The first sacrifice a formulaic Hindi action-movie often surrenders to is any significant female presence. After offering a tantalizing possibility by making Sinha’s Saiba a college boxing champion and showing a ferocious-looking Saiba neutralizing a formidable opponent in the ring, this potentially life-saving skill is neatly tucked away and is never, ever mentioned again!
Instead, to remind us that this script is, after all, a man’s domain, Kumar’s would-be suitable boy looking for a suitable bride literally toys with Saiba’s emotions by first rejecting her at a get-acquainted afternoon tea on grounds that she is not “modern” enough for his taste, then changing his mind after he sees her in the boxing ring and then again conveniently telling her “they are off”—simply because he is going on a mission. Oh, well.
The second sacrifice is often sensibility. Within ten minutes of curtain rise, a bus filled with school children is bombed. As if the mere suggestion of a terrorist attack were not sufficient, the camera zooms in on the bus occupants before the bomb goes off. In the world we live in, this is without a doubt the most disturbing scene in the movie. There are so many ways to demonstrate violence, action and mayhem and simultaneously have it blend into the narrative seamlessly. It is perplexing that this scene would pass Indian film censors and yet on-screen kissing between major stars is still taboo! Oh, well.
At forty-six, Kumar can still pull off the intricately choreographed action scenes, albeit a little slower than he used to back in his hit Khiladi heyday from the 1990s. With a coif that bounces too much (over-dyeing?) and denims that stretch too much (man-leggings?), we have not seen this Kumar before. As Saiba, Sinha is comely, coy and demure and, unfortunately, never called on for any great emoting. Newcomer Sharma, who studied acting in Los Angeles, channels a tight control over his minions and the commensurate rage that creeps in as the deadly playing cards are rearranged by Viraat.
To his credit, Kumar’s fans are diehard legions. Holiday has turned out a very respectable Box Office take and will no doubt make money. At least some of the credit goes to Pritam’s decent soundtrack. With Kunal Ganjawala’s dance number “Tu Hi To Hai” and Arjit Singh’s sultry “Aaj Dil Shayarana,” there is enough to take note here. With these numbers and box office returns, Kumar will be back with more of the same. In 2015, he will release Singh is Bling, a carryover from the Singh is King (2008).
Buy the ticket but go easy on the butter.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.