Bollywood Hungama
Last Updated 24.08.2019 | 2:48 PM IST



Subhash K Jha speaks about Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty

Let me stick my neck out just this once to say Holiday is going to be a huge success. It has all the trappings of a superlative masala entertainer, plus a thought provoking message on the uneasy relationship between the army and civilians.

Hence army man Virat Bakshi (Akshay Kumar, in top form) who is home for a vacation uses the time to fall in love with an arranged match and also save Mumbai from sleeper-cell terrorist attack which threatens to plunder the city. He is a busy man. So is director A R Murugadoss. They both are on the same mission. While Akshay saves the city, his director rescues the masala fare from the blemishes of blandness that it has acquired lately.

Just how director Murugadoss manages to mix the dark theme of terrorism with a palatable mainstream cinematic thaali served with dollops of pickles and papad and is a marvel. The director’s earlier film Ghajini was another landmark of mainstream filmmaking. It suffered from excessive violence and too many resemblances to a Hollywood film (Memento) to be dismissed as coincidental.

In Holiday Murugadoss is more in charge of the proceedings. Having Akshay Kumar at the helm helps. He is a man off the streets and yet capable of looking completely convincing as a larger than life hero. This is Akshay’s most chiseled and restrained yet boisterous and exuberant performance to date. It’s just as hard to imagine Holiday without Akshay as it is to imagine last week’s elegiac and thoughtful Citylights without Rajkummar Rao. They both breathe life into their characters from different respiratory systems.

We often tend to think the grammar and language of mainstream cinema to be far easier to convey than the language of the so-called ‘serious’ cinema

Wrong! A full-on massy product which doesn’t resort to outlandish inanities or outright vulgarity is the most difficult form of filmmaking. In Holiday Murugadoss has some absolutely unflinching support from his writers and technicians, all out to create that increasingly elusive cinematic entity.

The Perfect Entertainer.

Not that Holiday is not without its flaws. What would life in the movies be without those? Sonakshi Sinha‘s role and presence in the plot can at best be termed as comic relief. It is interesting to see how the director weaves the romantic (read: glamorous) element into what is predominantly a rugged man-to-man pow-wow between an army-man on leave and a super-intelligent terrorist who is seen to work out not from a dingy warehouse but a normal home teeming with the scents and images of domestic harmony.

Full marks to the film’s art and costumes designer. Apart from Sonakshi everyone looks at home.

The irony of terror in the climate of normalcy is chilling. And it’s a master-stroke to cast the unknown Freddy Daruwala as the terrorist mastermind. Daruwala looks and behaves like a hi-tech executive in a multi-national rather than a diabolic terrorist. It’s in the flashes of arrogant megalomania or his chilling cold-blooded laughter that we see the devilish man behind the white collar mask.

Daruwala is quite the discovery of the year. As is the tradition in Good Versus Evil sagas, Akshay and Freddy don’t come face-to-face until the finale. When they do….boom! Boy oh boy, the climactic one-to-one fistfight between Akshay and Daruwala is so heart-in-the-mouth audiences will forget to breathe for a good 15 minutes.

This film rarely gives you time to come up for air. Holiday is that rare masala entertainer which leaves you breathless with excitement. The writing is so skilled and the interweavement of the terrorist theme into the larger plot of an army man’s vacation gone awry is so astute, that you end up excusing and overlooking the excesses. Govinda, for one, as Akshay’s numb-skulled superior is completely out of place. You wish Govinda and Sonakshi’s annoying characters would be expelled from the storytelling by some computer-generated magic.

The ever-dependable Sumeet Raghavan as Akshay’s pal and colleague in counter-terrorism is able to make a much better place for himself. But it’s the Akshay-Daruwala conflict that keeps you riveted for nearly three hours of this pitch-perfect film’s playing-time.

Some episodes such as the one where Akshay’s character collects his army pals at a church wedding for a “game” across Mumbai that saves the city from a terror disaster are so ingeniously implanted into the kinetic plot that you wonder which came first: the scourge of terrorism or the cinema that takes terror to the level of high entertainment.

Yup. The potent Akshay Kumar-Vipul Shah team is back with its most lethal entertainer to date. Holiday is a fast-paced, exhilarating roller coaster ride filled with the most unexpected twists and turns. The anxious narrative is nourished by some spot-on background music which punctuates and pins down the heart-stopping action. A. Natarajan Subramaniam’s cinematography takes the edgy proceedings to another level altogether. The fidgety images are framed traditionally in every shot, and yet they are able to furnish a renewed vigour to the goings-on.

This, then, is that entertainer which tells you that cinema about terrorism need not be dark and grim. Murugadoss keeps the going light-hearted, and yet the undercurrents of tension jump out of the screen to relentlessly claim our attention. Akshay’s character’s basic argument that terrorism can only be countered when the counter-terrorists are as fearless about losing their lives as the terrorists, is put forward with such gusto and conviction, we really can’t argue with the plot premise.

So here’s your chance to go with the ferocious flow and not regret it for even a minute. Yes, the songs are like sleeping dogs that come awake at inopportune times to yelp out their melody-less messages. But the last farewell song, an ode to the dedication and sacrifices of Indian soldiers, will leave you moist-eyed.

This is Akshay Kumar’s most engaging entertainer in recent times.

More Pages: Holiday - A Soldier Is Never Off Duty Box Office Collection , Holiday - A Soldier Is Never Off Duty Movie Review

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