“I steal from every single movie ever made”, when Quentin Tarantino said those words, how deep he really meant it, only he can tell. It is impossible to avoid to not to be inspired before creating something, and when Quentin Tarantino said that, while he made his own films, he made a relevant reverential reference to a particular film produced earlier which might have influenced him when he made his films, and that can be easily identified in those films he made.
Agent Vinod falls in the same category, perhaps Sriram Raghavan’s previous film Johnny Gaddar did too, if only, it was that good. In India, if you make a spy-action-comic-thriller, the idea of it comes with certain defined drawbacks. Probably it is the narrow mindedness of Indian cinema that it doesn’t try to be inventive, especially in terms of content. Visually, Agent Vinod is on par with most of the standard Indian films, it looks exactly as it should, and certain parts of it prove that Raghavan is an extraordinary film-maker.
But Indian film makers are poor thinkers. In a way that, not a lot of thought is applied when the decision, of what should be the content, has to be taken. When, an Indian spy film is planned, automatically certain decisions are taken, probably without a lot of consideration, for example jumping from one location to another, from one character to another, adding multiple twists and how will it affect the overall effect of the film, while Agent Vinod tries to be funny and occasionally intelligent lighthearted moments do exist, but Saif’s Agent Vinod is immensely forgettable and is hunchbacked by the load of conventionalities and little inventiveness where he can do no wrong and is perfectly sharp as far as action and elimination, or even beating the bad guys, is concerned, his intellectual brilliance is only suggested when it was expected to be mind blowing.
Agent Vinod starts off with the same formula as every spy movie does. It establishes its hero, then the main plot is triggered, which starts with hinting something hidden or something that could cause a disaster, then something else will happen somewhere related to it, and the hero has to be deployed, and through the series of the defined set of incidents, where you can find similarities with Indian spy movies, released earlier, for example, 16 December, Dus even Asambhav and Zameen sometimes, that it made me wonder that how much I was missing respect for Vijay Anand.
But Agent Vinod has his moments, especially in the first half. Where the style and wit, both are present, action is engaging, girls are good looking, colors are appropriately contrasted, and Prem Chopra is delightful, even Ram Kapoor is. The Starting of the film, preceded by a quote from The Good the Bad and The Ugly (which is more relevant to the trailer than the film), which begins with a battle in the desert, interlaced with very stylish opening credit sequence, excites you. And most of the first half keeps you engaged and unavoidable looks and characters.
It is glossy, indeed, rarely I find such textures in a Hindi film, visuals are as sharp as they could be, it is so brilliantly toned at times that you simply can’t put down the effort Raghavan has given in crafting a scene as well as its action, supported by a killer background score that is far more effective than a couple of out of place songs and unashamed usage of technique is sometimes let down by abrupt cuts at certain places. Editing is more liberal on the overall length of the film, it seems tad long at times, because of which the style is no longer important after a while, the content loses importance, Agent loses importance, Villains lose importance, even the suspense does. Ultimately in the second half, even the interest is lost, though a high point is there too, when the Rabta song starts playing.
When I first watched the trailer, understanding Raghavan’s craft, I knew this won’t be the film and I would be surprised to see what I find out. To my dismay I was both right and wrong. Right, that trailer isn’t right about the film, wrong that I would be surprised. It is just another, watchable-one-time good looking action flick, falling on its knees unable to bear the regularities of Indian Cinema.
A thriller with logic in Hindi Cinema is a very difficult combo to find. Recently we had movies in the name of thrillers like Game, Players and Don 2; all of them had loopholes bigger than potholes you find in Mumbai suburb of Saki Naka during rains. A few years ago Sriram Raghavan debuted with Ek Hasina Thi which had Saif in a negative role for which he garnered critical acclaim. Next Came Johnny Gaddar a wonderful tribute to two masters of thriller -James Hadley Chase, whose novels have been inspiration for many Bollywood films and Vijay Anand, the director who broke boundaries of traditional Bollywood storytelling and gave us gems like Teesri Manzil, Jewel Thief to name a few. Sriram did full justice to Johnny Gaddar and do not remember the last time in a film where characters shoot and then talk, instead of giving lengthy monologues. Been looking forward to Agent Vinod which has been in the making for the past 2 years and has been a long wait with all those editing room wars between Saif and Sriram has being in news for wrong reasons.
Sriram continues his romance with the 70’s, Spy genre and pulp films’, confirming that he is a total movie fanboy with references ranging from the original Hindi Don to The 5 man army. The movie begins with a 12 minute action piece set with Agent Vinod escaping from Afghanistan and sadly the action here is the best you will see in the entire movie. Agent Vinod then is assigned to discover 242 and prevent an attack on India. The story moves on then to Morocco, Latvia, Pakistan, India, England and ends in South Africa.
For those looking at film references there are many like tongue in cheek references to Don, Yadoon Ki Baraat, Agent Vinod (old), Amar Akbar Anthony etc. Also look out for the moment when the camera focuses on a book about Pran in the Palika Bazaar chase sequence towards climax. Giving a reference to Casablanca in Morocco and a personal favourite which I loved was homage to the scene in Sean Connery’s From Russia with Love, in an action sequence in Pakistan. There is also a mention to Charlie Chaplin in a scene set in Latvia, but it’s completely ruined by the editor. The song sequence of Rabtaa, though may be out of place in here but it’s been long since I watched such a beautifully shot piece in Hindi films.
The problem with Agent Vinod is the character itself, the only time we see him vulnerable is at the beginning of the movie. He is a super spy and drinks in moderation, as you go by the promo we assume the character must be womanizer but not, rather turning out to be a one dimensional do gooder. Kareena seems to be inserted for the forced romantic track mandatory for Bollywood films and Ram Kapoor gets into one’s nerves with his attempt at Russian accent. Adil Hussain as Colonel is avant grade while the rest of the cast is okay, considering the previous two films of Sriram which had great supporting cast. Some parts of the second half are predictable, also the bits in climax seems to be slightly inspired by the George Clooney and Nicole Kidman starrer The Peace Maker.
Agent Vinod has its moments and is definitively slicker than maybe a Don 2 or Dhoom but coming from Sriram we except more, as the man has given 2 good thrillers in the past which is a benchmark.
On parting note I would suggest go with an open mind and enjoy the ride till Sriram makes his next. As one of my twitter friend said he has not seen a movie which is so inconsistently brilliant.
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