Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ram Kapoor, Gulshan Grover, Prem Chopra
Synopsis: The story begins with a series of seemingly unconnected events, all over the globe. In Uzbekistan, An Ex-KGB Officer is tortured and murdered. In Cape Town, A group of international business tycoons discuss a rumour 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. Vinod is sent to Moscow to investigate why his colleague was killed. Vinod finds out that a Russian money launderer, Abu Nazar has sent $ 50 Million to a contact in Morocco, for an operation against India. Vinod leaves for Morocco, where he meets an elderly Mafiosi Kazan and the beautiful but mysterious Dr Ruby. 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. Agent Vinod – you may not agree with his methods, but you sure are glad he`s on your side. Agent Vinod – Your passport to action and adventure.
Review: Agent Vinod isn’t just a film. It isn’t just about action sequences, drama, heroics and wise-cracks. It’s about much more than that if you look at it from an industry stand point. Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod can make or break the very future of a dying genre in Indian film. Let’s leave other aspects aside for a while. And think of Agent Vinod as simply an espionage spy film from India. Here’s a startling fact: It has just one other movie to share this genre with in the past decade. The Hero (2003) starring Sunny Deol was the last real spy to film to come out of our otherwise prolifically diverse Hindi movie industry. Needless to say, Indian film-makers haven’t really tapped this genre to it’s full potential. With Agent Vinod, Sriram Raghavan gives this genre of Bonds and Bournes, a much-needed reboot with his proverbial ‘Desi Tadka’.
That being said, the movie itself is several notches higher than you’d expect from an Indian film. There were some shots where I thought I was in a Sam Raimi or John Woo film rather than a Bollywood one. The international appeal is noticeable. However, stylization and oodles of charm in the form of Saifeena can only take you this far. Agent Vinod has a rather murky start. The events that transpire seem mostly unconnected and are happening all across the globe. From Cape Town, where an ex-KGB officer’s death in Uzbekistan Nuclear Suitcase Bomb has rumours flying about a Nuclear Suitcase Bomb. To Moscow, where an Indian RAW officer (Ravi Kishen) is undercover. The plot thickens when this officer is uncovered and killed just seconds after he sends a frantic message to his bosses at RAW. The message contains just a number: 242.
Agent Vinod, a man who is a cold and calculating RAW operative himself. His bosses hire the smooth-talking Vinod to get to the bottom of his fellow officer and friend’s death in Moscow. Vinod is self-assured and sometimes even cocky. He has an ever-present sarcastic one liner in even the most intense situations. Crash, boom, bang. Vinod reaches Moscow and kills the man responsible for his colleague’s death quicker than you can shake a dirty martini. The man in question here is a Russian mob boss by the name of Abu Nazir (Ram Kapoor) who just seconds before dying, reveals that he’s paid a cool 50 mill USD to an individual in Moscow for an operation against India.
From Moscow to Morocco, Vinod is living the jet setter’s life. He arrives in Morocco and meets with an aging mob leader David Kazan (Prem Chopra). This sentimental yet ruthless gangster also happens to have a demure doctor on call for himself. The lady in question is the gorgeous and mystical Dr. Ruby (Kareena Kapoor). Who is revealed to be a secret agent for Pakistan.
From there on out, Agent Vinod gets a tad bit slow in terms of pacing till the end of the first half. The audience is taken on a whirlwind tour that includes Riga, Somalia, Latva and finally commences in Karachi and New Delhi. The second half is more entertaining and the final 20 minutes are decently executed.
Director Sriram Raghavan is evidently quite influenced by a barrage of 70s and 80s masala. And he makes it a point to pay subtle tribute to them every now and then. The intricacies with the background music and scorpion tattoos, all inspired from masala movies of yore are hard to miss for any movie buff. As cute as it is, it really doesn’t make for good, complete cinema. The background score is certainly a little out of place. I think Mr. Raghavan’s main undoing is that he’s made a film that strives to do too much in two and a half hours. You can’t have a movie that matches Hollywood spy thrillers and at the same time pays cheeky homages to B grade movies.
The film also has it’s share of glitches. Television’s Ram Kapoor is out of place as it is with a fake Russian accent and an ogre like get up. However, what I found most amusing is how he couldn’t spot the rat within his own personal security. Not hard to find the odd one out when your security comprises of a Russian dude, another Russian dude and Ravi Kishen. Also, I really do not know of any Russian clubs that play Punjabi music. Another plot point that seemed a little over the top was Kareena Kapoor after being shot twice in the liver is able to break open the window of a fairly tall building, then shout out to the authorities standing beneath, and go on to point out the villain before he makes an escape. More so, she goes on to survive an agonizingly long phone call with Vinod himself and helps him defuse a nuclear bomb as well. Cinematic liberties? I think so.
After movies like Johnny Gaddar and Ek Hasina Thi already in his repertoire, Sriram Raghavan does well to keep his credibility as an edgy director alive. With Agent Vinod, he further shows us his discernment when it comes to keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. Apart from a few flaws in the screenplay and a fairly lackluster mid-section, the film does leave you satisfied in the end. The comparatively slow middle of Agent Vinod is probably the only flaw in it’s pacing since the editing(Pooja Surti) is otherwise quite stupendous. The cinematography(C.K Muraleedharan) is dazzling and really adds to the international feel of the film. The action sequences and mind-boggling car chases deserve special mention. Peter Heins and Pervez Khan have done a remarkable job indeed in the action scenes which add greatly to the overall appeal of this movie.
The music by Pritam has been one of the many pre-release USPs for the film. ‘Pungii’ is a runaway hit and has been on my iTunes playlist since I first heard it. The same can be said about the mujra themed ‘Muft ka’ with Kareena Kapoor. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the ‘Raabta’ track was filmed. It’s execution is supremely innovative since it’s peppered with gunshots and melee attacks.
A lot can be said about Saif Ali Khan. A man who decided to make a separate identity for himself rather than stick to the norm. A late bloomer who did more than his fair share of struggling through the 90’s when his counterpart Khans were sitting pretty atop their Superstar thrones. However, since this Khan’s potential was discovered, he hasn’t taken long to carve a unique niche for himself. In an industry where most of our leading men prefer playing it safe, The Nawab of Pataudi isn’t too afraid of stepping into unventured territory. With Agent Vinod, he proves his versatility yet again. He plays the suave and charismatic super spy with panache.
Kareena Kapoor is effective and plays a vulnerable role with grit. She combines sensitive victim and feisty femme fatale extremely well in her role. Again, we have to remember that this is a male-dominant genre and the female protagonist is bound to get overshadowed. However, the way she holds her own is a testament to her ability. Another example of why she’s at the top. Dhiritiman Chaterji is astounding. He adds immensely to the overall outcome of the film. Another example of Raghavan’s love for the 80s is the casting of Prem Chopra. A throwback to the baddies of yesteryear, this legend shows us how it’s done and is brilliant in his portrayal of Kazan. Adil Hussain is sheer brilliance. Shahbaz Khan is menacing and effective. Ram Kapoor is memorable. ‘Bade Acche Lagtey Ho’ fans should watch this movie just to check out his contrasting look in the film. Ravi Kishen is annoying. Gulshan Grover is decent in a short role. Anshuman Singh is alright and makes a lucrative debut.
Verdict: Like I said in the start, Agent Vinod is more a genre than a film. It hits most of the right notes and should do satisfactorily at the box office because of it’s star cast. This could be the dawn of a new era in Indian spy films. Because Agent Vinod certainly sets a bar. Worth a watch.
Jackie J. Thakkar