Chandigarh based Vijendra Trighatia is a film buff and writes extensively on cinema.
This has been a first for me. Here was me sitting through an entire Salman Khan movie without consecutively experiencing irritation, boredom, disgust and bewilderment and not necessarily in that order. Much as he is a favorite of Chammak Challo and a rage amongst his millions of wide eyed fans, his acting skills or rather his choice of roles always left me unimpressed. Combine that with his reported off screen persona which itself is a contradiction. A painter, a known charity promoter, darling of numerous beneficiaries of his generosity, he is also reputed to be a man walking on the fringes of the law. His supposed indiscretions may or may not be true but the image that I saw on the screen always came across to be shallow and unimpressive. The body of a Greek god and gyrations to silly tunes never helped me form a favorable opinion about his capacity to emote or hold my interest in his cinematic presence. Ek Tha Tiger changed all of that.
The plot of the story is nothing new. Bits and pieces have been picked from here and there from a number of Hollywood spy stories, woven together in a fabric of India-Pakistan’s never ending conflict of interests and played out across different exotic international locations. So after the cross nation tour courtesy Agent Vinod, we are taken from the savage streets of Iraq to the traditional Britain to beautiful Turkey to hold your breath, the never before Cuba. The photographer in me would have seen the movie just for the spectacular landscape of these places. The opening sequence of twenty odd Paki agents who couldn’t shoot straight at thirty feet and systematically got steam rolled by our home grown James Bond badly aping the free style running made fashionable by the original had me groaning. Not again, I said to myself and started getting ready to raid the snack shop. But hark, normalcy returned quickly. The tiger returns to his lair and is reassigned to another mission, of observation only as he is reminded, in the hallowed precincts of some intimidating academic institution in the Queen’s country. Then boy meets girl, sparks invariably fly, Pakis re enter to spoil the party which I am not going to do by revealing anything more.
What impressed me the most was the treatment of the razor thin plot. It’s a judicious mixture of high voltage action, romance and drama, the classic ingredients of most Bollywood pot boilers but Kabir Khan got the proportion right. Salman Khan is for once bereft of his meaningless comical avatar and has acted with remarkable restraint. His action prowess remains unchanged but he looks the part of the rock solid, caring, protective and oh so vulnerable romantic lover when the occasion demands. The girls are going to get ever so moony eyed just over this. Katrina, of course, looks like a million bucks. The background score is outstanding even though the main theme sounds suspiciously like King Khan’s Don. Sohali Sen’s choice of western classical strains of melody tremendously enhanced the depiction of romantic emotions of the lead pair and mine too. And after a long time it was a pleasure to see Roshan Seth as the eccentric professor.
The movie is a pleasant departure from the normal Bollywood action genre which is a great relief from the likes of head splitting Rowdy Rathore and Bodyguard. The action sequences, although sometime over the top, are still a visual delight but what really took my breath away was the cinematography which has lovingly captured the street life of UK as well as the romantic backdrops of Turkey and Cuba incorporating everything that the places are famous for. And apart from the initial buffoonery of the Indo-Paki protagonists it was a great relief to see them portrayed as competent professionals rather than crazed individuals shooting jingoistic barbs as each other. Well done Mr Khan, you have redeemed Sallu boy and I hope he doesn’t remain a one trick pony.