REVIEW: In the opening sequence, a coy Sameer asks Nargis if she had agreed to marry him because of family pressure and if she had a boyfriend that she still has unresolved feelings for. This Lucknow boy’s naivety appeals to Nargis. And before you know it, the duo enters into holy matrimony and is drunk in love within days of saying ‘Qubool Hai (I accept it)’ to one another. In a different setting, writers Faruk Kabir (also the director) and Zaheer Abass Qureshi portray the sudden crashing of the world economy and how India grapples under its shockwaves. Needless to say, the lead pair too faces the brunt and both lose their jobs within months of tying the knot.
Desperate, the couple applies for work to foreign countries like the Sultanate of Noman through a sketchy job placement agency in Lucknow. While Narigis’s work visa arrives, Sameer has to wait for five more days. But all’s not well in the Noman paradise as Nargis makes a panic phone call to her husband, claiming “nothing’s what it seemed to be” and that “she is being treated badly”. Something sinister is at play and Sameer knows it, and leaves home with the sole mission of bringing his wife back. Upon reaching, he is confronted with the harsh reality of his circumstances—Nargis is now in the clutches of the dark alleys of flesh trade. How is he going to save her, and most importantly, where is she?
As the name suggests, ‘Khuda Hafiz’ is the tale of a man’s love and longing for his beloved who’s faced with an adverse situation in an alien world. True, when laid out in black and white, the screenplay shows immense potential and could have very well been a game changer in the intense romance-thriller saga. But it’s not. Because of the element of thrill and fear of the unknown, the first half of the film is somewhat engaging and for the first half-an-hour or so, you would want to know what’s in store for these lovebirds. But that initial curiosity is soon butchered by wishy-washy storytelling and a script that acquiesces to the fail-safe techniques typically administered in hit crime-thriller love rigmarole.
However, the way writer-director Faruk Kabir manoeuvres this subgenre is, for the lack of a better term, all too convenient. For one, every other character that crosses path with Vidyut Jamwal’s Sameer is either a Pakistani, Indian or a Bangladeshi who is either eager to help this suspicious-looking tourist or speaks fluent Hindi. Speaking of accents, Shiv Panditt’s Faiz Abu Malik from the make-belief law enforcement agency ISA is absolutely distracting; not so much for his acting but for the fake accent he puts on and occasionally forgets to hold on to. An otherwise skilled Aahana Kumra as detective Tamena Hamid lacks the flair and flamboyance she usually brings to her craft. The damaging factor of her character arc is also the accent: forced upon, caricaturish and should have been done away with. Local cabbie and Jamwal’s wingman Annu Kapoor (playing the role of Usman Ali Murad) is personable in parts and is entrusted with pushing the story forward. Works to a reasonable extent but then the bizarreness of the plotline overpowers Kapoor and he is left in the backseat, hanging mid-air. The blossoming of their friendship does not seem organic to say the least. And quite frankly, neither does Shivaleeka’s and Vidyut’s. Just like the second part of the film, the intensity of their romance lacks conviction and defies logic even by love story standards.
In action sequences, Vidyut Jamwal is a sight to behold: packing punches, landing mighty kicks with his veins popping and face throbbing. Between the two, Vidyut is more emotionally invested in getting the nuances of his character right. Shivaleeka, on the other hand, looks drop-dead gorgeous as the small-town belle but her acting chops need serious honing.
In Bollywood, the essence of love is captured primarily through love ballads. And composers Amar Mohile and Mithun Sharma do not disappoint. ‘Jaan Ban Gaye’, ‘Mera Intezaar Karna’ and ‘Aakhri Kadam Tak’ are absolute musical delights. The background score, too, is one that intensifies the dread in serious scenes and softens the theme of fright in places where the duo is seen pining for one another.
‘Khuda Haafiz’ — literal meaning ‘May God be your Guardian’ — does not have the most innovative script on the planet but it still could have worked had it not been for the randomness in the second half and the outrageously sham Arabic accents. Watch it for Vidyut flexing his muscles in the most amusing way imaginable, peeps!