In case you’re wondering the significance of the title (with a gun for the alphabet ‘L’); it’s about an army man’s annual vacation that turns out to be rather eventful. From foiling multiple terrorist attacks, destroying sleeper cells, and falling in love—it’s all done effortlessly by army intelligence guy Virat (Akshay Kumar) in under six weeks. Well.
The film starts with the military train arriving in Mumbai. Virat’s overdressed family takes him directly to meet a girl for marriage. “You’re getting older,” they say with concern. The befuddled Virat, still dressed in military fatigues, meets Saiba (Sonakshi Sinha), who he rejects for being too inhibited.
Turns out it was all an act, and she’s actually a boxing champ. Their on-off romance is trying and we soon lose interest.
Meanwhile, Virat nabs a terrorist who blew up a bus on a busy Mumbai street and dumps him in his clothes cupboard. Some uncomfortable shots of torture later, the terrorist blurts out names of people involved and an impending plan of attacking the city at 11 places simultaneously. Virat, on a holiday, and therefore not bound by rules and protocol, sets out to foil this plan with the help of his doofus cop friend (Sumeet Raghavan)) and his army buddies.
The premise is instantly arresting. And it’s sad the film isn’t half as thrilling as it could have been. There are several moments that take you in, despite the ludicrousness of the developments. You begin to believe in the superhero-ness of our army guy (thanks to Akshay Kumar’s superb act) and wait to watch how he saves everyone from the baddies. That’s till the film abruptly breaks into yet another song or the silly romantic track interrupts the flow.
The characterizations are muddled. We have zero idea of Virat’s character. He is scared of his senior such that he’ll salute him even in a coffee shop. But he’s cool enough to stack terrorists in his cupboard, while his unsuspecting family sleeps in the next room. A character even calls him a cold-blooded murderer.
His courting style is more Roadside Romeo than Prince Charming. And he’s not terribly bright either, for all his sleuthing cunning. He puts several lives in danger, including his own sister’s, to execute a plan.
And then he has the audacity to lecture his sis (who’s totally cool about the whole thing, except for a few minutes of sulking), that it’s about time civilians gave up their lives, just like suicide bombers do. Of course, the difference is ‘choice’. Just because he thinks it’s cool to die fighting terrorists, he can’t burden others with that ideology!
As for Sonakshi’s Saiba, she’s a sporting champion but is showcased as a hare-brained bimbo. She has no interest in Virat, and you don’t blame her considering how he chooses to court her. Then she sees a friend getting married to a bald man; the bride confesses that eligible men are scarce. That leads to Saiba professing love for Virat.
Love out of insecurity? How unromantic!
Director A.R.Murugadoss, who made the hugely entertaining Ghajini (Tamil and Hindi), is not as sure-footed with Holiday. Here, he makes a film in that typically old-school style, where the story breaks into a song without warning, and the actors appear in countless costume changes. It’s interesting that Akshay wears a nondescript wardrobe in the film, except in the songs, where he is styled to look younger and ‘with it’— an experiment that works only intermittently.
The film probably wanted to showcase the heroism of an army man in the face of danger. And they got the perfect actor for it—Akshay Kumar can do this with his eyes closed.
But sadly, the film often gets unintentionally comic. After rescuing a gaggle of terrified girls from the terrorists’ den (for which Virat was responsible), he tells them, “Don’t worry” in a tone belying the impending danger. The combat on top of a ship with the baby-faced yet menacing villain (Freddy Daruwala) is also very funny with Akshay fixing his dislocated arm in place, throwing the audience into peals of laughter.
One of the more touching portions is the finale, where families bid teary goodbyes to the soldiers going back on duty. As civilians, we do need to acknowledge the immense sacrifice and struggle involved in living an army life. But showing a larger-than-life figure that irresponsibly puts people’s lives in danger, to execute his own anti-terror plans, isn’t cutting it.
The lead actors do well in their parts, and their pairing will possibly be a draw. But with such weak characterization and soppy romance, even their electric onscreen chemistry is diluted.
Holiday is a remake of Murugadoss’s 2012 Tamil hit Thuppakki, which I hear was fairly watchable. What happened then? Did Murugadoss try to Bollywoodise the perfectly fine story? Reminds one of that phrase—“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
Rating: Two and a half stars