Akshay Kumar returns to the silver screen after a hiatus. Known for having a film release every few months, this move has, expectedly, garnered positive reception by the film fraternity as well as the multitude of fans. In his newest outing HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY, the actor teams up with A.R. Murugadoss, who made his Hindi debut with GHAJINI , starring Aamir Khan. Incidentally, Murugadoss too returns to the Hindi film arena after a gap of almost six years.
HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY is a remake of the Tamil action-thriller THUPPAKKI [2012; starring Vijay and Kajal Aggarwal], which won immense critical acclaim and reaped a rich harvest at the box-office. Obviously, the expectations are humungous since Murugadoss' GHAJINI was the *first Hindi film* to waltz past the Rs 100 cr mark in the domestic market. Besides, THUPPAKKI has been a Blockbuster and one expects the Hindi adaptation to repeat history.
When one attempts to remake South Indian hits in Hindi, one makes modifications to suit the Northern sensibilities, which only enhances the project in question. Murugadoss does exactly that in HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY. THUPPAKKI was a hugely admired and engrossing entertainer and evidently ranks amongst Murugadoss' finest works. Does the able craftsman deliver a far superior product in HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY? Does Akshay slip into Vijay's shoes with as much ease? Is the new antagonist Farhad as merciless and cold-blooded as the original baddie Vidyut Jammwal? Most importantly, does Murugadoss take a leap forward as he recreates his bonafide Hit?
Let's shed light on the premise! Captain Virat Bakshi [Akshay Kumar], an army man, returns home to Mumbai for his holidays. His family takes him to see Sahiba [Sonakshi Sinha], but he rejects her. Later, on another occasion, he finds out that she is actually a boxer and is surprised by her personality. The story takes a turn when an anti-social activity in the heart of Mumbai city gets him involved into something huge.
Being a patriot and a special agent in the Indian Army, Virat is dragged into a huge network of terrorism. The rest of the story is about his fight against the terrorist network and the eradication of the sleeper cells from the city.
Let's not confuse HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY with atypical Akshay Kumar film that tilts heavily towards humor or has an uninterrupted flow of gags. This one tackles a serious issue -- terrorism -- and how a lone soldier sets out to annihilate the sleeper cells that are out to create mayhem in Mumbai. Sure, a number of films focusing on terrorism have made it to the big screen, especially post 9/11, but Murugadoss marries the serious issue and good old romance [Akshay-Sonakshi] most effortlessly. Of course, much like the original source, HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY veers towards the clash between a soldier and the terror forces, but the storyteller, who's eyeing the pan-India audience, makes sure he gives the masala movie lovers something more than that.
Additionally, in a majority of entertainers, the screenplay takes a backseat, while the star power takes precedence. HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY comes across as an exception because the smartly-packaged fare never loses focus from its core issue [the fight between an army man and terrorists], with the post-interval portions diversifying into race-against-time thriller mode. Also, Murugadoss employs the right tricks to woo the entertainment-seeking spectator -- abundant turns in the screenplay, the face off between good and evil, the hand-to-hand combat, the subtle humor, the nail-biting finale et al -- but at the end of the day, the message that the film communicates resonates loud and clear.
Expertly filmed and edited [Amitabh Shukla], the sole hiccup is that the romantic portions could've been short-n-snappy. The club song in the second hour appears forced. Besides, though the makers employ Pritam to belt out chartbusting melodies, the soundtrack is plain ordinary. But these are minor hiccups in an otherwise slick film that gets so many things right.
N. Nataraja Subramanian's camera gives the film scale, while the action sequences [Greg Powell, Anl Arasu] are raw, gritty and appealing.
Murugadoss abstains from casting over-familiar faces for pivotal characters, choosing actors who aren't known for featuring in Akshay starrers [except Sonakshi]. Govinda is restrained in a cameo. Sonakshi Sinha is effervescent and contributes in making the proceedings lively. Sumeet Raghavan is wonderful, absolutely in sync with his character. Farhad [aka Freddy Daruwala] is impactful as the antagonist. He has good screen presence and handles his part with conviction. Zakir Hussain effectively portrays the same part that he essayed in the original.
The scene-stealer is, without doubt, Akshay Kumar, who reinvents himself with this one. The actor has acted in every possible genre and though the cynics may argue that Akshay keeps repeating himself in film after film, I'd like to remind them of his nuanced act in SPECIAL 26 and now HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY. It's a power-packed portrayal, which the actor illustrates with complete understanding, without going overboard. This is Akshay's show unquestionably!
On the whole, HOLIDAY - A SOLDIER IS NEVER OFF DUTY is a slick action-thriller that keeps you engrossed, enthralled and captivated all through, thanks to its fascinating premise and a watertight, razor-sharp screenplay. Go for it!