In which we review a movie, talk about some others and generally waste time and ticket money
For those of you who came in late (hmpfh!) or have forgotten who I am (sniffle!) — I love bad, cheesy, campy, tacky, kitschy Hindi movies. I belong to that tribe of thinglings who has watched the original 1977 Agent Vinod. Not the by-accident, innocent-kid-in-the-clutches-of-Doordarshan type of watched. But hunted and tracked down DVD and watched. Yes, we are very pro-choice, whattodo. Anyhoo, the Bollywood spy-thriller genre is very special to me. Rajesh Khanna in The Train (1970), Jeetu in Farz (1967) and Raksha (1981) (both Agent 116 movies, and the latter a hidden treasure by R D Burman), Jeetu again in Bond 303 (1985) (another undiscovered Pancham treasure) and of course, Mithun and Agent Gopi/Gunmaster-G9 in Surakksha (1979) and Wardat (1981), two movies that deserve a separate series dedicated to them. Interestingly, all of these movies, except Bond 303, are directed by Ravikant Nagaich, the God of Hindi spy movies. Ooh, that’s who I wanna write about! But as Shammi Kapoor says in Manoranjan, woh kissa phir kabhi.
Agent Vinod. Truly, madly, deeply, this is a movie that deserves a review and how! Heck, I knew I was gonna write one before I saw the film even. But alas. Such a mind-effing number has this movie done on me, that even I, with all my articulation skills (koi shaq?), cannot do justice to it. So instead all I have are bullet-point observations. (Yep, the usage of the phrase bullet-point in the review of a trigger-happy spy movie is intentional. Let’s move on now.)
For those of you who care, there are spoilers. Although, if I were you, I would not care.
- Dr Metla. Now what is with this dude?! He punctuates the movie every 14.3 minutes to smile weirdly and say — Hello. I am here. I exist. I am the only recurring character in the movie who has absolutely no explanation for being there, but let that not even remotely lead you to believe that I am the surprise bad guy. Of course not.
- Speaking of recurring characters — just needed to clarify something about the Farrah Fawcett babe. She was put there to a) establish that Agent-saab is not Bond and therefore doesn’t sleep around with the women he rescues and b) to have her show up at the appropriate moment at a high-profile high-security wedding and wave her dainty hand and say — ye mere saath hain, so just like that the gun-toting security guards let Saif and Kareena in with no background checks required. Yes? Good. Just making sure.
- Did anyone keep track of the fact that Agent Vinod was captured in every single country he entered? And sometimes even twice? Some spy that. And yet, nobody ever thinks to maybe, um, kill him?
- Movie has a camel named Zilleh whose owner is Prem Chopra no less. And yet no background song jile le jile le aayo aayo zilleh le? Talk about a missed opportunity.
- Props for casting B P Singh, creator of the TV series CID, as Vinod’s boss. Yes, he looks like a dork in an ill-fitting suit, but considering that CID and its over-the-top ACP Pradyuman are to TV what spy movies are to Hindi cinema (well, sort of), it was a nice lil bit of inside-joke happy for me! Also for casting Ram Kapoor. I love this guy, I don’t know why. He shows up on screen and I smile. All two hundred fifty pounds of him. Sigh.
- Doctor Kareena points to the RIGHT and says, snifflingly — yahaan LEFT mein mera ghar hua karta thha. And I thought I was the only one who got her left and right confused. I should have been a doctor too! Damn.
- What is with that mujra? What’s Kareena wearing? Did you know they still do hand-gajras in Hindi film mujras? (I rhymed!) Is that song only in place so the audience can have some girl-on-girl action? Okay then.
- Dude is flying helicopter with a nuke on it, so he can crash it in an unused copper mine. Calls girlfriend one last time. Girlfriend informs him that she’s gonna die as well. Why? Oh, I have been shot. What?? Yes, I have TWO bullets to the liver. Please note. Not — I have been shot. Not — I have been shot in the liver. No. I have been shot and I have precisely two bullets in my liver. Two hours, twenty two minutes, and two hundred twenty two characters later, we have suddenly decided that the beauty of the damn movie shall lie in the detail. (Booty is in the tail!)
But after all this, one must say, one had fun. Its silly, crazy, mindless and noisy, but then that’s exactly what one expects going into a movie like this. Sriram Raghavan does action well, keeping scenes tight and his love for cinema shines through (although Johnny Gaddar (2007) made that kinda obvious already.) There is also much to be said for Raghavan’s awesome use of background score in the film, which ranges from the regular to the unusual. The only romantic number in the film is interestingly picturized as a background to a shootout in a brothel. But sabse maximum happiness for me, came in seeing both my gods — R D Burman and Ilayaraaja — being paid homage to in the background score! O meri jaan maine kahaa from The Train (1970) and rakamma kaiyathattu from Thalapathi (1991). Sigh! For that alone, one is willing to forgive a lot. Oh one must not forget — special mention is to be made of Pritam’s acknowledged inspiration/lift from Boney M.’s Rasputin as being awesomely bum-shaking. But most of Boney M. is likely to get that reaction out of me.
Super-spy movies are about the infallibility of the spy. You know he’s gonna make it, no suspense there. But how he’s gonna get there and how much fun he’s gonna have getting there, is why we watch them. Agent Vinod is a movie full of people, action, locations and adventure. Also, loopholes and stupidities. None of which are deal-breakers. However, somewhere along the way, it gets too full of itself. And that’s where it falters. Taking oneself too seriously is always trouble.
True of life. Even truer of Hindi spy movies.