Exactly around 4 years ago, Saif Ali Khan impressed one and all with his suave act in Abbas-Mustan’s Race. That performance itself was an indication that Saif is tailor-made for a film that demands the protagonist to be smart, sexy and intelligent. Hence, when Agent Vinod was announced, no one had complaints with the casting of Saif as an undercover spy. The promos too proved that Saif has truly rocked the show! Fortunately and as expected, the actor comes up with a terrific performance and director Sriram Raghavan too proves his worth. Sadly, the film has its minuses which pull the film to an extent. More on it later!

The story of the movie: When a RAW agent Rajan Sinha (Ravi Kissen) is killed in Russia while spying for the money launderer Abu Nazar (Ram Kapoor), Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) is sent to take his place. Acting on the tip given by Rajan – the number ‘242’ – Vinod reaches St Petersburg (Russia) but doesn’t get his answers. His search for the ‘242’ then takes him to Marrakech (Morocco), Riga (Latvija), Karachi (Pakistan) and finally Delhi (India). On the way, he comes across mysterious and dangerous characters like Kazan (Prem Chopra), Colonel (Adil Hussain), Jimmy (Anshuman Singh), Huzefa (Shahbaaz Khan), Tehmur Pasha (Gulshan Grover) and finally Ruby (Kareena Kapoor). The aim of Agent Vinod is to get the necessary info from these guys, find out the mystery of ‘242’ and in case if it’s going to lead to massive destruction, prevent the same. Will Agent Vinod succeed?

As indicated from the aforementioned para, the story spans across as many as half a dozen countries. The locales are beautifully captured especially in Morocco which gives the film a fresh and slick look. Talking of the story and screenplay, it oscillates in the sense that at places, it’s brilliant while it’s plain ordinary in the rest of the portions. The beginning portion (Agent Vinod’s escape from Dasht-e-Margoh) was good but not great. Plus, the makers spoilt the scene by abruptly chopping the ‘Kapil Dev’ dialogue which ruined the fun! Boo!

However, the film gets better as action shifts to Russia. Ram Kapoor rocked the show with his wicked act! The film gets even better in the Morocco episode, be it Vinod’s interrogation or Vinod spreading ghost rumours or the action at the auction house. The intermission point was supposed to come as a bolt from the blue but sadly that doesn’t happen. Fortunately, the second half turns out to be way better than the first half. The chase sequence at Latvija was too good. So was the Karachi episode. But the best was reserved for the finale! I had a fear that the film might go the Dus or 16 December way but thankfully it didn’t! However, the film didn’t end at this nail-biting juncture. There was an additional sequence which looked stretched at first but had its purpose nonetheless! In fact, it gave a new dimension and made the film stand out from the rest of the films on global terrorism! And that’s what makes Agent Vinod a one-of-its-kind Hindi film!

As mentioned above, Saif Ali Khan delivers a stupendous performance. He comes out with flying colours in the two most difficult scenes in my opinion – the interrogation scene and the one where he tells as to why he became a spy! Other than that, he did several difficult action scenes sans body double which is worth appreciating! Saif has always been a fine actor and has proved that he has a flair for comedy as well for serious intense films like Being Cyrus. An all-rounder in my view!

Kareena Kapoor looks stunning and gives an alright performance. What goes against her is that her character lacked meat. Ruby is shown to have a tragic past but viewers don’t feel much sympathy. Secondly, she gave such a fine performance in her previous film (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu) and her performance in Agent Vinod surely doesn’t match up to it. However, she makes up for it in a way with the mujra song! Thankfully, she’ll get a meatier role later this year in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine!

Adil Hussain, who played Vidya Balan’s husband in Ishqiya, had the most significant role out of all the other negative characters and he made good use of the opportunity. Ram Kapoor has a small but a very interesting role! This guy’s a killer man! Prem Chopra leaves a mark. Newbie Anshuman Singh hardly has any dialogues but makes his presence felt. Gulshan Grover and Rajat Kapoor were okay in their cameos. Same goes for Ravi Kissen. Dhritiman Chatterjee has a damn interesting role and the veteran actor does very well. B P Singh, the series director of the TV show ‘CID’ plays Vinod’s boss and was quite good. Zakir Hussain like everytime did a good job. The hotties – Mallika Haydon, Maryam Zakaria and Ann Lee Roberts – add to the oomph factor!

Pritam’s music was peppy and thankfully the songs don’t serve as obstacle in the narrative. But it’s Daniel George who deserves a pat for his riveting and lively background score! Shuzefa Lokhandwala’s opening titles bore the Sriram Raghavan stamp. Production design (Acropolis, Rajnish Hedao, Sumit Basu and Snigdha Basu) was topnotch without doubt. Murleedharan CK’s cinematography was beautiful. Peter Heins and Parvez Khan’s action was cool and stylish but unbelievable at places, especially in the opening scene.

Sriram Raghavan and Arijit Biswas’ story no doubt had all the trappings of an uber-cool spy flick. Also they came up with excellent one-liners. But the script didn’t match up at several places. Same goes for Sriram Raghavan’s direction. It is often seen that directors who have mastered in making small-budget high-concept films tend to err while handling biggies. Sujoy Ghosh rocked with Jhankaar Beats but sucked in Aladin and finally found his calling in a small film like Kahaani! Then Anurag Basu was comfortable with films like Gangster and Life In A Metro till he did Kites. Likewise, Sriram Raghavan earned praise with films like Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddaar and audiences loved the way he provided a neat and flawless execution to his films. But he couldn’t maintain the same with Agent Vinod. The film had several bloopers (esp Kareena following Colonel in Delhi all alone when Zakir Hussain was there for assistance) and also the chemistry between Saif-Kareena lacked fizz. And this is disastrous especially when they are a real-life couple and also when Bebo’s sharing terrific chemistry with other actors. However, Sriram did show his worth in several scenes. The use of Charlie Chaplin and 70s songs and many such moments make Agent Vinod impressive. And not to forget, the outstanding scene of the film – the ‘Raabta’ song wherein the whole 4 minute action scene is filmed in single take – was outstanding…see it to believe it! And as said before, the final 30-35 minutes is brilliantly executed! Overall, a fine work by Sriram and hope to see him back in form with his next!

Some of the best scenes:

1. Agent Vinod in Russia
2. Agent Vinod befriends Freddie Khambata
3. Agent Vinod’s interrogation at Kazan’s place
4. Agent Vinod talks about Kazan’s mother
5. The scene at the auction
6. Agent Vinod gets shot in Morocco
7. Vinod, Ruby talk about past in Latvija hotel room
8. The chase scene in Latvija
9. The ‘Raabta’ song (best scene of the film!)
10. Agent Vinod in Pakistan
11. The final 30 minutes

On the whole, Agent Vinod is an entertaining action thriller that surely has its moments although it falters at places. It provides a whole new angle on global terrorism which hasn’t been exploited by our Bollywood filmmakers. Saif rocks but those expecting crackling chemistry between Saif and Kareena would be disappointed. Overall, a fine film if not oustanding. Go for it to have a rollicking time!

My rating-*** ½ out of 5!


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