In Tigers, Emraan Hashmi plays a real-life pharmaceutical whistleblower from Pakistan, a character so happily guileless it feels refreshing in contrast to his committedly corrupt filmography. There’s a winning earnestness to his Ayan — who goes to a job interview in borrowed shoes and takes life lessons from Manisha Koirala movies — and he’s an easy hero to root for.
The actor’s true coolness, however, kicks in once Ayan gets a job at Nestlé where, as he starts getting better as a sales representative, he effortlessly blooms as a fixer. Directed by Danis Tanovic, this is a movie about criminal irresponsibility shown by Nestlé that resulted in thousands of infants dying across Asia.
There is much to admire in the sequences involving Hashmi and those around him — from Geetanjali Thapa playing a wife who thaws at the offer of rasmalai to the terrific Vinod Nagpal as a father who teaches himself law — and there is fine texture, in the cramped hallways of the houses and a turbaned landlord getting his beard trimmed late at night, but this authenticity of Ayan’s story is frozen in flashback. The film as we see it comes from the point of view of a foreign documentary crew wondering if Ayan’s true story is true enough and story enough. Which means the dramatic climax of the film is punctuated with mood shots of an old white man contemplatively staring at a ceiling fan.
The central thread is impressive — a fixer who does shady things for a big corporation can make a massive impact if he speaks out — but Tigers doesn’t have the right pace or a strong enough conflict. Movies about truth-tellers like Michael Mann’s The Insider and Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton show what lengths a corporation will go to in order to safeguard its image. Here, despite footage of fatally diseased infants, Nestlé is never depicted as genuinely sinister.