Agent Vinod India Today Movie Review by Kaveree Bamzai

Agent Vinod Director: Sriram Raghavan
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Director: Sriram Raghavan
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Keeping a light tone is the toughest thing to do for a filmmaker. One wrong step and the laughs turn into sniggers. For most part Agent Vinod manages to be cool. After a rocky drive following a slam bang shoot out, Saif (who is Vinod, Agent Vinod) turns to his beautiful companion and says: Aasha hai aapki yatra sukhad rahi. When he’s about to be shot, he asks his tormentor for a thanda beer. And in between getting shot at and shooting, he tells his rival agent (Kareena Kapoor, folks), while shoveling spaghetti down his gullet: Kuch paane ke liye kuch khaana padta hai. Super stuff, right? Especially if it’s shot across some of the world’s most intriguing countries: Russia, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia. And especially when Kareena and Saif look like they are dressed from the season’s coolest fashion catalogue, complete with Hermes handbags and Burberry scarves.

But sorry. It doesn’t work. And it’s because Raghavan, the master of cool, doesn’t keep it cool enough. He makes the time honoured mistake of succumbing to the considerable charms of his lead pair and makes it mawkish. So mawkish that it induces sniggers. Which is a pity because he’d been doing fine till then, ticking along nicely, taking Vinod from planes, trains, beaten up Army jeeps, to sailboats, to motorbikes, even to a helicopter. It helps that he has an outstanding cast of thugs and spooks. There’s Ravi Kishen to begin with, and Adil Hussain as the colonel, Ram Kapoor as Abu Nazr, and Prem Chopra as David Kazan. And, of course, the character artiste of the moment, the impeccably accented Dhritiman Chatterjee (remember him in Kahaani?).

Everyone plays their part well, especially Hussain, last seen in Ishqiya, turning on his sexy wife. The action is particularly intense, not cartoonish the way it is in Salman Khan films. You can feel the bruises on Saif’s very lithe and perfectly tuned body, as he leaps, tumbles, pounces on assorted thugs across continents. Every time he utters a caustic one liner, we laugh. There are many occasions to do so: when Kareena is weeping silently over something, he tells her: yaadon ki baraat ko disturb karne ke liye sorry. When he lands with her on a marriage bed after falling through the floor above, he tells her mujhse shaadi karogi? And when someone threatens to arrest him, he tells them: Aap kataar main hain. Because it’s a Sriram Raghavan film, there are many allusions and you’re supposed to catch all of them, whether it is in a name, Mahendra Sandhu says one, alluding to the actor who played the 1977 Agent Vinod, or a name tag, Paresh Kamdar says another, alluding to Sriram’s FTII friend (I presume). Of course, they invested so much wit and wisdom in the film, and then failed to address Dhritiman Chatterjee’s name right (they keep calling him Sir Metla, rather than by his first name).

But there is much to rejoice in the film too. The first mass killings to be set to a romantic song, where Saif and Kareena move from one room of a hotel to another, as he shoots down thugs. The moments when Saif is explaining why he is addicted to danger. And surely, my favourite, when two overweight ladies get into an auto in Delhi and insist on being taken to Kinari Bazaar by the killer. If only Sriram Raghavan had not gone weak in the knees at the thought of love, Agent Vinod would have been a sharper, smarter, cooler film.



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