Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Ek Tha Tiger 2012

Note: I don't review many Hindi films, but this one seemed special. I watched and reviewed it on opening day - now 2 weeks later, it's broken all but one Bollywood box-office record, which it's very likely to break soon. 29/08/12

Salman Khan is sitting atop a hat-trick of record-breaking successes (Dabangg 2010, Ready 2011, Bodyguard 2011), and with his latest release - timed perfectly for India's Independence Day celebrations and in anticipation of Eid - he is expected to deliver another shattering success, which he just might.

Ek Tha Tiger is the story of a dedicated RAW agent, Tiger (Salman Khan), who has been on field missions continually for 12 years and has hardly had time for a personal life. His boss (Girish Karnad) sends him to Dublin to observe and report on a retired Indian scientist (Roshan Seth), who is suspected of leaking information to international intelligence agencies. Tiger tries to infiltrate the scientist/professor's home and life, by enlisting help from his housekeeper, Zoya (Katrina Kaif). Despite warnings from his trusted friend and colleague (Ranvir Shorey), Tiger ends up falling for Zoya, in his attempts to make her fall for his charms. All should've gone well, except that Tiger's secret identity isn't the only secret in this story - and as other hidden tales are revealed, our protagonist has to choose between love and his duty to his country. Thus begins a wild chase spanning continents and beautiful locales (we jump from Ireland to India to Turkey to Cuba) - finally proving, once again, that love shall conquer all.

The problem with this film is that despite a hint of an actual story (unlike some of Salman Khan's recent ventures), the twists and turns can be spotted a mile away. Some of the dialogue is trite and most of the conflict, completely banal. A 65-year-old animosity is simplified to the extent that it looks like a silly rivalry between RAW and ISI.

Yet, there is something quite compelling about this film.

From the opening sequence itself, where we see a silhouette of Salman Khan appear against a beautiful Middle Eastern backdrop, the film sets up enough moments for the audiences at home to whistle and clap in the Khan-mania that usually turns even his most ridiculous films into runaway successes. The cinematography is out of this world, aided heavily by formerly unexplored locations (instead of the usual London, we have Dublin; instead of Dubai and New York, we have Istanbul and Havana). The music and song picturisations are also worth mentioning as they never really break the flow of the story and provide just the right amount of Bollywood-style entertainment. Save a couple of typical toilet jokes that have become synonymous with Salman Khan's films, the humour is generally quite subtle (too subtle, at times), which is almost refreshing. And though no one can ever accuse Salman Khan or Katrina Kaif of actually acting well, they are not half bad in this film - and for the first time ever, they appear to have some onscreen chemistry.

Above all, it is the action that's the life of this party. Even though you can clearly identify Salman's stunt double whenever he appears (thank you for that, cameraman), the action is smart, quick and mostly believable (let's not dwell on the tram madness or the helicopter sequence, shall we?). There are no scenes where 10 men circle the 'hero' and go flying in the air with his one kick. True, it's not Jason Bourne action (even The Bourne Legacy 2012 couldn't recapture that level of coolness), but it's definitely quite awesome. The kicks and punches look and sound real, the crazy jumps are almost possible - and for the first time (ever?), the woman gets to kick ass as much as the man in a Bollywood film. Yes, Katrina Kaif isn't a damsel in distress; in fact, she's possibly the most 'equal' female character I have seen in a film named after the male protagonist!

The biggest issue with Ek Tha Tiger is the usual problem with all of Kabir Khan's films: they're always gorgeous and they make sense, but they lack a connection with the audience. There's something clinical about them that keeps the viewers at a distance. So, despite the stunning visuals and a half-decent plot, the very slow-edited, pointlessly lengthy shots, where we wait for a character to react to the information just received, put the viewers off quite a bit. If only he'd spent more time tightening the edits, the final product would have been far superior.

Having said that, this film has all the makings of a blockbuster. There's action, romance, songs, comedy and a couple of very attractive actors. What more could one possibly want from a Salman Khan film, which could just as easily be a hit because he is in it?

Ultimately, if you like 'masala films' and enjoy basic Bollywood, do not miss this one. It will not disappoint!

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