Torbaaz: A fine idea has gone haywire

Streaming on Netflix and starring Sanjay Dutt in the central role of a former Army doctor, Girish Malik’s Torbaaz fails to deliver on its promise

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Biswadeep Ghosh

Streaming on Netflix and starring Sanjay Dutt in the central role of a former Army doctor, Girish Malik’s Torbaaz fails to deliver on its promise. The theme, that of seeking harmony and peace through cricket in conflict-ravaged Afghanistan, was cut out for an absorbing screenplay. But writing (also Malik along with Bharti Jakhar) is the biggest weakness of this 133-minute-long unwatchable offering.

Poor writing apart, the film could have also done with good editing, good direction and, most importantly, a less disinterested Dutt who appears to be sleepwalking through the role. The actor’s uncritical fans – and he does have millions of them – might insist that he is more effective compared to Sadak 2, the film in which he delivered his other terrible performance of 2020. But that is not saying much.

Torbaaz, which has been shot in Kyrgyztan masquerading as Afghanistan, centres on Nasser Khan (Dutt), who has lost his wife and child in a suicide bombing. Memories of the tragedy stalk the doctor, who returns to Afghanistan after a long time. Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri) is running an NGO for children in the country, and Khan decides to help her. Cricket, he realises, can be the unifier as he interacts with the children and comes across deep-rooted differences between them that a popular form of sport may not erase overnight.

What Khan doesn’t know is that a youngster named Baaz has been trained to become a suicide bomber by Qazar (Rahul Dev), a militant leader. As the film progresses towards the predictable all-important cricket match, the leader doesn’t sit still either. What happens, in the long run, is anybody’s guess.

Torbaaz could have been an intense drama with a message for the viewer. But its half-baked screenplay is a series of set pieces out of which few contribute to the big picture. These sequences distract from the focus while making us wonder why the writers had to include them in the first place.

The film also needed much better acting, and not just by Dutt. Fakhri goes through the motions like a robot would. Dev, who has played the snarling villain many times before, speaks smoothly in a different accent without doing much else, such as changing his body language. The winsome children are the ones who grab our attention, and we watch them act naturally while wishing that they had been part of a better film.

Hindi film-watching subscribers of Netflix, regardless of whether or not they are Dutt fans, might go for Torbaaz because they can watch a new film with a popular star at no extra cost. Social media suggests that many Dutt fans liked it already. Full marks to their loyalty, since this is one hell of a bad film.

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