Can Saif Ali Khan be India's Bond or Bourne? The query crossed my mind, more so because the Hindi film industry hasn't come up with a secret agent movie that's as memorable as the Hollywood franchisees.
Sriram Raghavan bestowed Saif with an absolute switch in EK HASINA THI. An unblemished look, an unsullied representation. It showcased the aptitude that the actor possesses, which, unfortunately, wasn't tapped in his earlier movies. With AGENT VINOD, Sriram and Saif embark upon a spanking new journey, sorry mission, to come up with a spy film. A chic James Bond kind of a Hindi film.
Back in 1977, a film on a secret agent called AGENT VINOD, starring Mahendra Sandhu, proved a surprise hit. Three-and-a-half decades later, Sriram attempts a motion picture of the corresponding sort, retains the title, but goes in for a new plotline all in all. Besides, of course, the new AGENT VINOD is uber-cool, vastly stylized and has been filmed at panoramic locales across the globe. Also, it's a well packaged secret agent movie.
Hindi moviedom's tryst with hardboiled espionage sagas dates back to FARZ [1967; Jeetendra], SPY IN ROME [1968; Dev Kumar], YAKEEN [1969; Dharmendra], SURAKKSHA [1979; Mithun Chakraborty], BOND 303 [1985; Jeetendra], MR. BOND [1992; Akshay Kumar], BAADSHAH [1999; Shah Rukh Khan], THE HERO [2003; Sunny Deol]â€¦ But the hunt for an original Indian spy, who could fit into the shoes of James Bond, lingered. Actually, the Indian equivalent of Bond and Bourne declined to be born.
An ambitious script, set in various countries, AGENT VINOD is by far the most credible secret agent movie made in Bollywood. This hi-octane thriller has style and substance, both!
The story begins with a series of seemingly unconnected events, all over the globe. In Uzbekistan, an ex-KGB officer is murdered. In Cape Town, a group of international business tycoons discuss a rumor that the dead KGB officer had a nuclear suitcase bomb hidden away. In Moscow, an Indian secret agent is exposed. The agent is shot dead while trying to send a code red message to India. In India, the head of RAW sees the incomplete message. All it contains is a number 242. Enter Agent Vinod.
Vinod [Saif Ali Khan] is the kind of agent who first kicks the door open and then finds out what's behind it. His unconventional approach puts him in perilous circumstances, but he manages to get the decisive leads. Vinod is sent to Moscow to investigate why his colleague was killed. Vinod finds out that a Russian money launderer Abu Nazar [Ram Kapoor] has sent US$ 50 million to a contact in Morocco, for an operation against India.
Vinod leaves for Morocco, where he meets an elderly Mafiosi Kazan [Prem Chopra] and the beautiful but mysterious Dr Ruby [Kareena Kapoor]. A series of twists and turns take Vinod across the globe from Marakkesh to Riga, Karachi to Delhi and finally, London. Where he discovers the ultimate conspiracy.
One expects AGENT VINOD to be an elegantly defined story with an exquisitely structured screenplay [writers: Sriram Raghavan and Arijit Biswas], with some unanticipated betrayals, sensational locations, slick action but with the absence of gadgets. If that's precisely the way you are looking at AGENT VINOD unleashing before your eyes, you've got it right. Contrasting the spy movies made in Bollywood, this one's truly bona fide and swanks of a pertinent plotline. What keeps you tongue-tied is the fact that the movie keeps you on the periphery for most parts, as the Agent takes on a whirlwind tour across continents, tackling the thorny and multifarious situations with flourish. As a matter of fact, besides having a bit of Bond and Bourne, there's a bit of Hitchcock and also traces of Tin Tin in this movie.
After making films like EK HASINA THI and JOHNNY GADDAAR, Sriram Raghavan returns with yet another intelligent thriller that doesn't disrespect the astuteness of the moviegoer. As a matter of fact, you need to watch the narrative unfurl with a vigilant mind, since this is one of those films that demands your concentration. While I have listed the several winning points of this film, I'd like to add that Sriram himself is the vital USP of this endeavor. His method of exemplifying the anecdote is way too varied from the prototypes. Drifting away completely from the Bond movies of swanky cars and cool babes, this one is more about electrifying thrills along with a lot of wit and intelligence and a garnishing of the desi tadka. The nuggets of the quirky humor injected in the plot work incredibly well.
The film suffers from a relatively slack midsection, which -- while not humdrum -- isn't as arresting as one might've expected it to be. The editing [Pooja Ladha Surti] is razor-sharp at most times, but could've been spruced up during those portions. The film's astounding stunts add extensively to the motion picture. In fact, the stunts, chase and action scenes [Peter Heins; additional action: Parvez Khan] are truly enticing.
Pritam comes up with a striking score. 'Pungi' is, of course, a runaway hit, but I have a problem with its placement. 'Raabta' is imaginatively filmed, amidst gunshots and tension. The mujra, 'Dil Mera Muft Ka', is equally catchy. Muraleedharan C.K.'s cinematography is eye-filling and has an international feel to it.
After playing a straightforward simpleton in AARAKSHAN, Saif returns as a spy in AGENT VINOD. But the spy in this film is not remotely comparable to the British superspy. Saif has a distinct style of dialogue delivery that gels well with the character here. Saif is effectual and charming all through. It's a flawless performance and it's an absolute delight watching Saif get into the groove so magnificently. Kareena has a pivotal part to play and the fact of the matter is that only a commanding actress could've pulled this role off with elan, flamboyance and vulnerability. The fact that she is superlatively talented only gets reiterated with this awe-inspiring and elaborate act.
Prem Chopra was the most revolting, lecherous and downright 'Bad Guy' of 70s and 80s. After a long gap, the veteran returns as a baddie and I must add, he plays it with flourish. Dhritiman Chatterjee is excellent and his presence adds so much freshness to the film. Adil Hussain is a revelation. He gets a substantial character to sink his teeth into and he takes full advantage of the opportunity. He's terrific! Gulshan Grover, in a brief role, is perfect. Zakir Hussain gets the footage, but there's not much meat in the character. Shahbaaz Khan is venomous to the hilt and deserves to be watched more often on the big screen. Ram Kapoor is superb, enacting the smutty money launderer with precision. Ravi Kishen is alright. New-find Anshuman has screen presence and though he doesn't get many lines to deliver, he makes an effective debut.
On the whole, AGENT VINOD is a hi-octane espionage thriller with a heart. It is not just brawny and dynamic, but witty and crazy too. Ultra slick and stylish, this desi Bond movie adheres to the formula and succeeds in meeting the humungous expectations. AGENT VINOD has all the potential to develop into a triumphant franchise!