2020’s Khuda Haafiz presented action star Vidyut Jammwal in a different light, playing an ordinary man on a mission to rescue his kidnapped wife. The sequel Khuda Haafiz: Chapter 2 — Agni Pariksha shows the devastating consequences that the events of the first film have on both characters, propelling them to change in whole new ways.
The sequel picks up in 2008, one year after Jammwal’s Sameer rescued his wife Nargis (Shivaleeka Oberoi) from sex traffickers in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Noman. Getting her home safely wasn’t the end of their troubles as Sameer had hoped. Nargis is depressed and anxious, tired of the constant whispers about her ordeal by neighbors and coworkers. Sameer walks on eggshells, cautious not to upset Nargis but not sure how to fix her or their relationship.
In a well-meaning but misguided attempt to help Nargis open up emotionally, Sameer offers to look after his friend’s newly orphaned niece, 5-year-old Nandini (cute Riddhi Sharma). The girl’s presence initially has the opposite effect that Sameer wanted, reminding Nargis of the dreams that were taken from her in Noman. But when Nandini suffers a medical emergency, Nargis’s protective side takes over, and soon the three are living together as a happy family.
That joy doesn’t last. While heading home from school with a teenage neighbor named Seema (Anushka Marchande), the girls are kidnapped by three boys who’ve been stalking Seema. Their ringleader is Bacchu (Bodhisattva Sharma), grandson of a powerful family lead by matriarch Sheela Thakur (Sheeba Chaddha). The local police are either in cahoots with, or in fear of, Sheela. So, it becomes clear that Sameer will have to take matters into his own hands once again.
The public wants justice for the girls, thanks to sympathetic news coverage by reporter Ravi Kumar (Rajesh Tailang). Filmmaker Faruk Kabir — who wrote and directed both Khuda Haafiz movies — demonstrates how to properly include news reports in a film. Ravi is shown out in the field with his camera crew or recording in a studio. There are no annoying “man on the street” interviews or shots to make the audience feel as though they are watching a TV news report.
While the first film was based on a true story, the plot of the second is entirely Kabir’s own creation. This allows him to focus on character growth and the consequences of their actions. The result is a story that is exciting but grounded in reality. Unlike some Hollywood movies where superheroes destroy entire cities and get to go about their merry way, choices produce results that the characters in Khuda Haafiz – Chapter 2 have to deal with, good or bad.
Nargis was primarily acted upon in the first film, but here Oberoi gets to display real emotional range, carrying most of the story in the early stages. Nargis’s struggles are centered, as they should be. Only after Nandini is taken does she turn the reins over to Sameer.
As befits Jammwal’s martial arts background, Sameer’s character evolution is demonstrated through his fighting styles. In his first fight, he beats a callous police official in a blind rage, all fury and no finesse. This lands him in jail, where he is attacked by a gang that works for Sheela. He fights to survive in a manner that is still desperate but more calculating. When he’s released from prison, he’s a predator on the hunt, powerful and merciless.
The jail fight scene is particularly chilling because the prisoners’ improvised weapons — half of a pair of short scissors or a small piece of metal — require them to get very close to one another when attacking, stabbing in small bursts rather than taking long swipes from a distance. The sequence’s intimacy makes it especially terrifying.
Chaddha’s icy demeanor as Sheela is just as scary. At one point, she visits Nargis at her parents’ home, requesting a glass of milk from Nargis’s mother. After threatening Nargis and being met with defiance, Sheela drains the glass of milk in one go, sending the unambiguous message that she could make Nargis disappear just as easily. One would hardly imagine that drinking milk could be a menacing act, but Chaddha does it with aplomb.
Khuda Haafiz – Chapter 2 deals with a grim subject in a respectful way. While not taken from a single news story, Kabir distills the Indian public’s frustrated desire for justice in response to similar crimes into a fictional plot that feels cathartic but not pandering. Kabir treats his characters and the topic of crimes against women and girls with respect, and he trusts his audience to do the same.