Khuda Haafiz: Chapter II – Agni Pariksha is a revenge fantasy on steroids. Director Faruk Kabir seems to be inspired by such films as Taken and Nobody, where seemingly ordinary men get faced with extraordinary situations and miraculously rise above them, turning from underdogs to alphas in the blink of an eye. The difference between these Hollywood films and the present one is that of coherence. However over-the-top they may be, they go for a coherent plot and suspense building. Khuda Haafiz doesn’t do any of that and hence comes across as dull fare. It’s also quite slow for an action flick.
The film is a direct sequel to Khuda Haafiz (2020), also directed by Faruk Kabir. The original was far more engaging than the sequel, as it had Vidyut Jammwal showcasing his martial arts skills quite early and was filled with entertaining characters like Annu Kapoor’s Usman Hamid Ali Murad, the friendly taxi driver, Shiv Pandit’s Faiz Abu Malik, a rogue policeman, and Aahana Kumra’s Tamena Hamid, a gutsy cop who got a killer kickass moment in the film.
Nothing substantial happens in the first half, which is dedicated to giving a backstory of sorts to the characters. We see that Sameer (Vidyut Jammwal) and Nargis’ (Shivaleeka Oberoi) marriage is in tatters as she is suffering from the aftermath of being the victim of multiple rapes when she was abducted in the Middle East. To take her mind off her suffering, Sameer brings home Nandini (Riddhi Sharma), the orphaned daughter of a friend. Nargis soon bonds with Nandini, and the going goes smooth for a while. However, Nandini and an older girl get abducted at gunpoint by some senior students of their school. Both are gangraped and Nandini loses her life because of the trauma. An enraged Samir badly beats up the cop investigating the case and soon finds himself in jail. The rest of the film is dedicated to how he becomes a killing machine inside the jail and manages to take his revenge on those who have wronged him. At the end, he’s shown to have become a bahubali of sorts—someone who runs a parallel government. Be prepared for another sequel to arrive.
We know that Sameer had the ability to become a one-man army. That has been shown amply in the film. Our problem is that his eruption comes quite late. Maybe non-linear editing could have served the film better. Also, there’s no novelty to the fights. In comparison, the fight choreography in the first film was much better. It was more visceral and raw. Vidyut Jammwal is one of our finest martial artists and in the past has wowed us with his tricks. Here, he has been made to do an ’80s-style action, which makes us feel he’s been underutilised. His sincerity can’t be denied, but lack of good writing stymies his efforts. Shivaleeka Oberoi has to look martyred throughout and manages to look convincing doing that. She should invest in more rounded characters in the future. The most interesting character in the film is Sheela Thakur, played by Sheeba Chaddha. She plays the classic villain with a nuanced edge to her portrayal, but even her performance isn’t enough to elevate the film, which falls prey to the number of cliches it espouses.
Vidyut Jammwal doesn’t need to prove his credentials as an action star. What he needs are better scripts and directors. He should say Khuda hafiz to such half-baked products and move on…