Despite featuring a fresh all-star cast in the hot-and-happening thriller genre, Tinnu Verma's "Baaz - A Bird In Danger" was greeted with low expectations and no fanfare when it released. Having sat through the painful entireity of the film, it's not hard to see why. Be it in terms of performance, direction, visuals, or even music - Baaz is a loser out and out.
Baaz's plot is as conventional as possible for a thriller. Neha Chopra (Karishma Kapoor) is an interior designer new to the town of Nainital. As she begins to settle in the area, she befriends a number of people in the town. There is the Mayor, Jai Singh Dabral (Jackie Shroff), who is smitten by Neha and asks her to redesign his house. Then there is Harshvardan (Suneil Shetty), a police officer with unorthodox methods of monitoring suspects. And finally, there is Raj Singh (Dino Morea) - a local playboy and Neha's new neighbor. Two of these men fall in love with Neha, and the third is a mentally disturbed serial killer who is trying to kill her. But who's who? The rest of the film is about who Neha will choose as her lover and which one of the men is trying to kill her.
Perhaps the worst thing about Baaz is that the director and writer spend so much time having the audiences second guess the identity of the killer, that it becomes a chore by the time the narrative reaches a climax. By the time the identity of the killer is revealed, so much time has been spent coloring the other characters with shades of gray that if any of other the men were revealed to be the killer, audiences would have no problem believing that development either. A taut thriller could have concealed the identity of the killer but also drop useful hints towards his identity rather than relying on cheap tricks to confuse viewers. Baaz, on the other hand, abounds in cheap tricks.
The screenplay (Shyam K. Goel) has a number of other problems as well, but they are a bit more excusable since they have become recurring themes in all contemporary Bollywood films. As usual, a useless romantic track has been thrown in between Dino and Karishma's character. And as usual, the two find time out from their busy schedules of acting suspicious and running from serial killers to dress in designer clothes and gyrate in snow capped locales. The song and dance in the film is a bit much for a thriller; Karishma's dancing while in the villain's captivity during the climax brings back fond memories of the old masala flicks from the 70's and 80's - but comes off as completely outdated and downright ludicrous here. And while we're discussing songs, it should be mentioned that the music in the film is horrible. Barring the title "Aye Subhah," everything is devoid of melody and a real pain to watch on screen. Ismail Darbar should be ashamed.
Performances are lackluster. Karishma is the only performer who turns in work of some merit here. She takes a break from the loud, over-the-top dramatics in Shakti and Rishtey and delivers a more subdued performance. Her work here is nothing extraordinary, but it is commendable to some extent. She also looks the best ever in her career. Jackie Shroff is sloppy. At times he is interesting to watch, but overall he is inconsistent and seems disinterested in the film. He looks out of shape and tired. Suneil Shetty is really terrible. Monotonous, stiff, and expression-less, he sleepwalks through his role. His role was actually the best written in the film and a good actor could've done a lot with it. But Suneil Shetty falters and drags a lot of the film down with him. Dino Morea seems devoid of real talent, but has a flat enough role to go through the film without messing up. Preeti Jhangiani is somewhat miscast as a cop, but brings a surprising amount of conviction to her role.
Direction is choppy. Tinnu Verma seems unable to escape his action director identity. He fills the climax with one of the most drawn out and invovled action scenes in quite some time. Unfortunately for those involved, the sequence isn't the least bit thrilling and just comes off as loud, fake, and uninteresting. Cinematography (Raju Kay Gee) is poor considering the subject and genre of the film. Sweeping vistas of snow covered places are pleasing to the eye, but kill any kind of anxiety or tension that is needed in a thriller. Editing (Keshav Naidu) is too relaxed. Background music (Ismail Darbar, again) is horrendous. In fact, in many ways poorly composed and placed background music ruins the drama on screen. It is loud and brash without being scary. A truly haunting, subdued score would've delivered much better.
Overall, Baaz is a sub-par thriller with more laughs than thrills. That's not a very good thing, because I don't think Tinnu Verma is a smart enough director to have been aiming for camp or satire. Worth a quick watch, but only with your finger firmly placed over the fast-forward button.