'Khuda Haafiz Chapter 2': Vidyut Jammwal shines in undercooked thriller
Khuda Haafiz: Chapter II—Agni Pariksha released in theaters on Friday. It's the sequel to the 2020 film Khuda Haafiz that had arrived straight on Disney+ Hotstar. Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi reprised their roles, while Dibyendu Bhattacharya and Sheeba Chaddha are new cast additions. The film is written and directed by Faruk Kabir. So how does the action extravaganza fare? Here's our detailed review.
The sequel picks up right after the events of its predecessor and follows Sameer (Jammwal) and Nargis's (Oberoi) attempts to fuel happiness in their lives. However, all hell breaks loose when their adoptive daughter Nandini is kidnapped one day. The film, in the first few scenes, covers quite a lot of ground—Nargis's PTSD, her self-deprecating guilt, and the gradual death of their romantic relationship.
Despite a somewhat promising story, Khuda Haafiz 2 is riddled with stereotypes that bog it down. For instance, Sameer thinks that a child's arrival will set their life on track, not realizing that a depressed Nargis might fall further into the abyss with added responsibilities and pressure. Moreover, just like its predecessor, our hero's path is laced with conveniences every step of the way.
The narrative suffers from being in-your-face, and Rajesh Tailang—a reporter modeled on real-life journalist Ravish Kumar—comes across as a preacher. Oberoi has an inconsistent part; her thoughts have discernible tonal shifts in successive scenes. Moreover, there are references to Sita's Agnipariksha in Ramayana—to remind the audience of victim-blaming and scathing societal judgment. However, the allusion was noticeable even without the characters' constant reminders.
Although Oberoi here has relatively more screentime than the original, she still comes across as an afterthought in a film written for Jammwal alone. She is bereft of much gravitas, even though she had the potential to be portrayed as strongly as her male counterpart.
Coming to the part that is the biggest saving grace of the movie—the excellently executed, meticulously-performed action scenes. And there are MANY of them here! Jammwal is a bonafide master of the genre and he doesn't disappoint in the frames that demand him to go straight for his nemeses' jugulars. Particularly, keep an eye out for the consequential prison fight right after the interval.
The film has been rated 'A' for its gory, spine-chilling violence and multiple scenes are extremely blood-curdling and quite difficult to stomach. Admittedly, they can be very unsettling and disconcerting to watch. Remember to look away for a few seconds in between!
The fireworks are reserved for Jammwal alone and though he falters in the emotional parts, he still delivers a largely watchable performance. Chaddha and Bhattacharya add the much-needed villainous, predatory touch that the film demanded, but the wafer-thin plot gives way easily and doesn't let them reach the potential they easily could have. They have been criminally wasted—Bhattacharya more than anyone else.
Khuda Haafiz 2 touches upon multiple uncomfortable realities ravaging society, such as the police-politicians' nexus, jilted lovers, and the usage of women's bodies as sexual territories. However, it is marred by many plot holes, half-baked characters, and a rather long (over two hours) runtime. Had it not been for the action scenes, the real pariksha would have been that of the audience. Verdict: 2.5/5.