The film has too many similarities to ‘The Family Man’ web series but is nowhere as nuanced or layered.

Saiyomi Kher and Nagarjuna dressed in black with smoke in the background
Flix Review Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 16:33

If you’ve watched Amazon Prime Video’s The Family Man, you are likely to suffer from a heavy sense of deja vu all through Ashishor Solomon’s Wild Dog. Though the OTT series is a fictional story inspired by real events and the Nagarjuna film is based on actual serial bomb blasts, and the trajectories of the respective investigations are different, there is overwhelming similarity between the two.

Perhaps it was to offset this comparison that Ashishor decided to call his hero Vijay Varma (Nagarjuna), the ‘Wild Dog’. What could be farther from Srikanth Tiwari’s (Manoj Bajpayee) ‘The Family Man’ title that suggests domesticity? But in trying to make Vijay Varma different, the writer-director ends up stuffing him into the same mould as Telugu heroes who are trigger-happy and can do no wrong on screen.

But first, the good. Wild Dog has very few distractions by way of songs and unnecessary romances and slapstick comedy. The script doggedly sticks to the main storyline – the investigation of serial bomb blasts – and this is refreshing to watch in a new age Telugu film. Nagarjuna looks suave as Vijay Varma, moving with a speed and agility that belies his age.

However, the ‘punch’ dialogues that he’s saddled with are disappointing and sound out of place in a thriller like this. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer is brought back to the force to investigate a bomb blast similar to the one that happened in German Bakery in Pune. From the brief flashback, we know that he lost his daughter to a bomb blast in a Hyderabad chaat shop (the Gokul chaat shop case) in the past, but there’s very little scope for emotion or nuance in the script. We get a perfunctory view of his relationship with his wife (Dia Mirza) but Vijay Varma never manages to move us or make us feel for him because he’s always presented as the top dog.

Where The Family Man scored was in trying to unravel the layers that lie beneath a person’s decision to turn to terrorism. But Wild Dog is content to indulge in loads of Islamophobia, with a token Good Muslim in the NIA squad (there’s also a Christian who wears a big cross). The script is focused on Vijay Varma’s machismo and this involves shooting anyone he suspects is a terrorist. Does the man not want to interrogate suspects to unearth the network, you keep wondering. The ‘instant justice’ formula can be excused in a masala film, but not in a film like this that tries to be a realistic, sophisticated thriller.

Watch: The trailer of Wild Dog

The people on Vijay Varma’s team get brief sketches but none of them make an impact; they are mere satellites to Vijay Varma. They never pause for a second after the violence that they have unleashed, whether it is bullets they’ve emptied on someone’s chest or a bloodied cutting plier they have used to remove someone’s nails; they don’t have a single human moment on screen other than cracking wife jokes and looking amazed by Vijay Varma.

From the dynamic female officer (Saiyami Kher) to the team’s plan to infiltrate a wedding, there are way too many plot similarities between The Family Man and Wild Dog although the landscapes they traverse are different. The action sequences by themselves are impressive, in the way they have been choreographed and shot, and if you haven’t watched the OTT series, they’re sure to be engaging.

But considering this film is coming two years after the popular OTT series, it only ends up looking like a tame imitation. Not so wild, after all.

The film is now playing on Netflix.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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