I am not a big fan of reviews. They cloud your judgement and give you pre-conceived notions before you enter the hall. And no way is the rating a yardstick to decide the quality of a film. A critic is as much a guru of cinema as you are and is entitled to his or her own opinion. The only reason I go through his/her review is to find out if I did miss out on noticing a good point which a fellow cinema-buff did. The following article is therefore not a review but some features in Agent Vinod (AV from here onwards) which I personally loved and would want you to take note of as well.
1. As Ajay Nair puts it “The opening intoduction scene along with the titles was the most awesomest thing I saw in movies recently.”
I would still rate the opening titles of Johny Gaddar a notch or two above this one. More so because it was the first (and by far the only time) that the film noir of 70s had been paid such a tribute. And yes when the first name that comes up in the sequence is Kareena Kapoor you know Saif’s name will be shown only after the entire cast has been read out. And when the pretty Afghan lass asks Saif ‘Appka naam kya hai…?’ you can’t wait to see those magical words light up the screen: ‘Saif Ali Khan in & as…’ you know what. Sriram Raghavan’s obsession with colour red in title sequences continues. Hats off people working at the Prime Focus !!!
2. This has already been mentioned by all those who have seen the film but would still like to say it again. The movie pays unabashed tribute to all the movies Sriram has grown up watching. I had counted the number of times a reference was made to some movie directly or indirectly in Johny Gaddar. It was 16. This one has 11 or 12. Perhaps I ll find some more if I watch it again. Do let me know how many could you find. And yes. This count does not even include the references made through background scores. That would perhaps take the count to infinity. From the opening quote from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” to the song from a Raj Kapoor film in the climax; Sriram has it all.
3. Lights.. Camera.. Rolling..ACTION: The action sequences in AV (there are so many that you are exhausted after a certain point) are easily the best imagined and crafted ones that Hindi Cinema has seen in a long time. Its such a rarity to see high-octane dishum-dhishum going on without compromising on reality. The makers have thankfully stayed away from the usage of futuristic gadgets or high speed cars. The maximum you see them use is spycams and hidden mikes. And the RAW office for once looks like a government department working out of New Delhi. These are the fight scenes I loved the most. Let me know what you felt:-
a. The opening battle sequence in Afghanistan. The D.O.P. Muraleedharan very cleverly puts us in a spot where we cannot gauge as to what exactly is going around us but will still have a sense of bullets being fired and weapons being thrown. You are very much there in the battleground with Saif and Ravi Kishen fighting out the Afghans.
b. The way Vinod cleans up the bodyguards accompanying Abu (Ram Kapoor) in the Night Club as they walk through the crowd to the meeting place. Leslie Fernandes’ Sound Mixing adds to the confusion and mystery that would very much arise in a similar situation.
c. The final chase sequence with Saif on a bike and the antagonist in an auto-rickshaw till their final confrontation inside a restaurant- simple and to-the-point. You will understand the reason for the choice of the last three words after you have seen the film.
4. The entire “Rabta” song. It is done in a single shot. And its actually very difficult to execute such shots. The camera-work, the set-design and the choreography of the action has to be in-sync with each other. And most importantly the actors should not miss the cue. It comes and goes in a couple of minutes. But it is worth the effort.
5. This should have been listed in number 3. But its not the action. Its the screenplay technique that impressed me. During the Morocco auction scene there’s a fight scene between AV and a Sri-Lankan gangster called Prince ( thats the name I feel ). And you also have a backstory of Prince through an earlier fight AV had with him in a red light area in Sri Lanka. And as the editor cuts back and forth between the two fight scenes set in two different timelines the viewers slowly and steadily gather information about Prince, his motive, his background and even the cause of mark besides his eye. Even the stunts choreographed in these two sequences run parallel to each other ! I just hope when these ‘Best Scene of the Year’ categories come up next year they at least nominate this scene.
There are many such beautiful moments in the film. We will all have an opinion about the film after we have watched it. Nevertheless, as cinema-lovers we must also appreciate flashes of brilliance in a movie irrespective of what we felt overall at the end. That was the very purpose of writing this article. As of now just go and experience the film without anybody else’s opinion bother you.