Cricket is usually a sure shot success in Bollywood films. But even the combination of perpetually hot topics; cricket, children and terrorism cannot save this catastrophically bad film.
Girish Malik’s second feature film, Torbaaz, is inspired by the story of the Afghani cricket players who endured several hardships in refugee camps to finally represent their country at the international level.
Torbaaz follows Nasser (Sanjay Dutt), an ex Indian army doctor who lost his wife and child in a suicide bombing carried out by a child soldier of the Talibaan. As a result, he can’t help but remember his trauma whenever he encounters children.
When he comes to Afghanistan he starts working for Ayesha’s (Nargis Fakhri) NGO, Tomorrow’s Hope, which helps children struck by the adversities of the war in Afghanistan. He is moved by the plight of the children in the refugee camps and decides to help them out by teaching them cricket.
The children in the refugee camps are already divided into factions. Baaz (Aishan Jawaid Malik), a Pakistani refugee, is the best all-rounder at the camp but is despised by other children because his parents were members of the Taliban and killed several people in suicide bombings. He holds the same beliefs about jihad and sacrifice as his parents.
Nasser realises the extent of their talent and tries to get the head coach of Kabul Cricket Academy to coach them but ends up challenging the coach’s under 16 team to a match against his team of refugee children.
Meanwhile, a prominent leader in the Taliban, Abdul Qazar (Rahul Dev), tries to recruit children to become soldiers and give up their lives for his cause.
Nasser realises that there is a lot more at stake here than just cricket.
Sanjay Dutt plays Nasser almost like any other Sanjay Dutt role. There is no effort on his behalf. Nasser’s character is terribly inconsistent and has a severe case of the messiah complex. He is even missing the charm that Dutt is known for.
Aishan Jawaid Malik plays the blunt brainwashed child, Baaz. He is fairly good in his role and is the emotional core of the film. He definitely seizes the moments he is given to shine.
Rahul Dev as Qazar, the ruthless leader in the Taliban, is the only actor who is actually good in Torbaaz. He is menacing and does heinous things but has his own reasons for it. He is the closest the film gets to a mildly fleshed out character.
Nargis Fakhri’s Ayesha is simply present in the film without anything to do. Fortunately, the filmmakers did not try and make her a romantic interest for the lead.
All the other characters are barely present in a scene or two and hence don’t have much to show.
Girish Malik definitely tries to make a meaningful film. He tries to address the problem of brainwashing in such volatile places without being Islamophobic, which in itself is a rare thing to see in such films.
The ending of the film is quite better than the rest of it. It has sufficient tension and heart.
The writing and direction by Girish Malik are comically bad for a film of this scale. The story structure is messy and lacks purpose. It just meanders as it goes on. The dialogue is terribly on the nose and lacks any semblance of realism.
Most characters are inconsistent and change their convictions quite easily which takes away any conflict in the film. In fact, the story itself is completely detached from reality as we see Dutt easily solve Afghanistan and all its issues in about two hours.
Torbaaz has a runtime of 132 minutes, most of which are painful to sit through. Even at this drawn-out runtime, the film seems paradoxically rushed.
The editing by Dilip Deo is sloppy and scattered. Some important scenes are very short while the montages are longer. The scenes are fragmented and do not flow well in general.
It derives its title from a minute-long scene where Sanjay Dutt calls himself Torbaaz and spreads his arms across and runs in the plains with the kids. This scene, like many others, comes absolutely out of the blue and has no connection to the scenes before or after.
There are also a few songs that are misplaced and rushed as well. The movie even manages to mess up the sound editing and mixing at times.
Torbaaz is a long lacklustre watch. It is a confused film with no clear direction.
Unless you are a fan of Sanjay Dutt who never misses a single film starring him, Torbaaz can be skipped.