KHUDA HAAFIZ: CHAPTER 2 – AGNI PARIKSHA (2022)

Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi in a still
  • Release Date: 08/07/2022
  • Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Shivaleeka Oberoi, Sheeba Chaddha, Dibyendu Bhattacharya
  • Director: Faruk Kabir

Vidyut Jammwal turns in his career-best performance in a film about tragedy, dread, loss, and unadulterated fury

— Ambar Chatterjee

Khuda Haafiz was a solid thriller that had great performances from Vidyut Jammwal, Shivaleeka Oberoi, and Annu Kapoor. While many were expecting an out-and-out action film, Faruk Kabir subverted those expectations and delivered a deeply personal and thrilling drama that resorted to action only when it was unavoidable. This didn’t go down too well with some of the Vidyut Jammwal fans. Apart from this, the film also suffered the 2nd half jinx where some lackluster writing and poor performances from some of the supporting cast marred the likeability of the film. Thankfully in Khuda Haafiz Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha, Faruk Kabir takes all these issues into account and delivers a knockout punch with a film that will not only satisfy the adrenalin junkies but will also appeal to the thinking man and make him sick with the thoughtful and yet painful display of grief, tragedy, and aftermath of abuse.

Khuda Haafiz Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha starts one year after the events of the first film. Nargis (Shivaleeka) and Sameer (Vidyut Jammwal) are trying to cope with the aftermath of the events of the first film. Nargis is suffering from PTSD and her marriage and relationship with Sameer are on the verge of crumbling because of her inability to let go of the memory of the mass rape and abuse that she suffered in Noman. She is taking psychological help but even that hasn’t been of much use. It is at this juncture that Sameer brings home Nandini, the daughter of his friends who has lost both her parents in an accident and has nowhere else to live. Nargis is initially apprehensive about the child but soon warms up to her and things start getting better in the Choudhury household. Happiness seems to be coming back and even Nargis starts returning to what she was before her tragedy. Sadly things drastically change for Sameer and Nargis when Nandini is kidnapped from her school, brutally raped, and then murdered. 

The series’ first film was about Sameer getting back Nargis from Noman. The film hardly got any time to show us the pain and suffering of Nargis who was brutally raped for weeks. Even Sameer’s character was hell-bent on getting his wife back and never got the chance to think about the state she was in or the horrible things that had happened to her during this period. In this film, for the first time, we actually get to see the toll that the events had taken both on Nargis and Sameer as human beings. Sameer is trying his best to woo Nandini again by doing little things that might just kindle romance and happiness back in their relationship. Nargis, on the other hand, is repulsed by these actions of Sameer as all she can think of is that she is no longer worthy of his love as she has been raped by innumerable men. She even says that out loud and her words evidently cause unspeakable pain and horror to Sameer. 

How Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi play out these portions make these parts of the film exceptional. There is no overacting. There are no prolonged poetic dialogues. Whatever is expressed between the two is expressed through reactions, mannerisms, and very little but meaningful dialogues. This was to me Vidyut’s best performance to date. The man gets every beat of the character right and we feel the tension and the suffering of the man by just looking at his face. The bewildered and tortured expression that he has on his face throughout tell you all you need to know about his mental state. The moment when he learns of Nandini’s kidnapping and the way he starts for the car and the entire sequence that follows was one of the most realistic depictions of dread and horror that I have seen in a similar sequence in any Indian film. I had no idea that Vidyut could act so well and while I was floored by his acting as Vishnu in Force, I was of the opinion that he could do so well only when he was playing a negative character. I am glad that he proved me wrong. 

Sheeba Chaddha in a still

Shivaleeka Oberoi was equally potent. If it wasn’t for the sadness and pain that she brought to her character, the drama between her and Vidyut would never have played out so well. Vidyut has to react mostly to her pain and predicament and that had to be spot on to leave any impact on the audience. The way Shivaleeka puts forth her pain is believable and haunting. What I loved about her performance was how, after all the tragedy, she gradually started turning a new leaf in the company of Nandini. This felt just as real as her pain and added so much to the first half. We see Nargis and Sameer nearly get back to their normal lives and it is at this juncture that tragedy strikes once again and nothing remains the same. The fact that the couple, for a brief period, looked happy and complete, only doubles their tragedy as we want them to be happy after all that they had endured before. 

Sheeba Chaddha and Dibyendu Bhattacharya as the antagonists are great in their respective performances but could have been used better. They just didn’t get enough screen time to leave the kind of impact that they could have. The writing of the characters could also have been better.    

Amazingly, I am nearly 800 words into this review and I am still stuck on the first half of the film. That tells you all you need to know about how effective the first half of the film was. The second half is a far cry from the first. Here we see Sameer go all out for revenge and he does certain things that might be difficult to explain with reason and logic but feel befitting in the film as the tragedy and reasons for Sameer to do some unthinkable things has already been built up and supplied with enough motivation in the first half and also from the first film. Thus I was able to sit back and enjoy the action from here on. Anyone who had issues with the lack of action in the first film will be mighty pleased with this film. 

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Khuda Haafiz Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha has some of the best action sequences that we have seen from Vidyut Jammwal. The action sequence in the jail, though reminded me of The Raid 2, was its own beast in many ways. The action choreography of this sequence was phenomenal and it is no surprise since it was choreographed by Vidyut himself. The man knows his action and it shows. The fact that the performers and the actors carry out their stunts with the right expressions also makes these sequences a lot more engaging and effective. The way the camera moves in this sequence focusing on different characters and then moving back or ahead to concentrate on a different character without cutting, made this sequence even more interesting to watch. 

Dibyendu Bhattacharya in a still

There is another action sequence that takes place inside a Mohalla where Jammwal and his team have to take on an entire locality of adversaries. This was the second-best action sequence of the film. The climax felt a little underwhelming but for all the good that Jammwal and Kabir pulled off throughout the film, this aspect of the film can be ignored and forgiven.

Khuda Haafiz Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha is a massive improvement and steps forward from its predecessor. The story, the performances, the action, and the overall dread and tension in the film make it an absorbing and sometimes, heartbreaking watch. The film ends on a note that promises much grander things to come in the future. If it is anything close to what they have pulled off in this film, I will be up in arms to watch that film.  

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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