Directed by Sriram Raghavan
The best way to diffuse a bum is through butt crunches. Unless one is referring to the Hinglisized word for a bomb. And the much-awaited dhamaka that this thriller hoped to detonate at the box office might just be diffused once you read this review. Despite miraculous leaps in production values, spy thrillers in Bollywood end up looking like Chinese equivalents of western products. And here, the characters are even stereotyped to the extent of detectives wearing trench coats and moles being obvious, shifty-eyed and literally uncomfortable in their own skin. So let’s just say foreign locales, weapons to annihilate the world, designer suits and not-so-excruciating interrogations don’t cumulatively justify ‘Agent Vinod’ as a thrilling movie-watching experience.
RAW agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) divides his screen time between being questioned (when he is captured) and playing real-life Counter Strike when he’s trying to escape from the baddies. Now when you’re a spy in a movie, you need to be indestructible, trained to do just about anything and hop across continents like they were puddles on the ground after a drizzle. So Vinod does all this without a scratch – until he’s commissioned a case that allows enough air miles to win a free ride to Pluto. So he jets to Russia, Latvia, Morocco, Pakistan and a dozen other countries to solve the mystery of this curious super weapon referred to as “242” and nothing else. While these three numbers don’t seem world-threatening and knee-trembling, we soon learn that they refer to a nuclear bomb, no less. And it is indeed a unique product: it looks like a mosambi juice-maker and the detonator fits snugly into a poetry book. And the very minute this magical device is handed over to the controller, a few words of caution are offered, “Yeh nuclear bomb ka detonator hain, don’t lose it.” Now that’s something that should be included in the manual as well just to be doubly sure.
In his quest to discover and diffuse “242”, Vinod meets Irum Bilal (Kareena Kapoor), an agent just like him (only with far fewer facial expressions) from our neighbouring wonder, Pakistan. Irum and Vinod are obviously headed for a common goal and are subjected to endure the same misadventures: surviving bombs, Prem Chopra (as a Moroccan gang-lord perpetually dressed in a maxi), double agents, triple agents but thankfully no LIC agents. During this, the two try very hard to evoke feelings for each other but if they do, they really don’t make it apparent to the audience. So if there was to be love story hidden cleverly somewhere within the indiscriminate firing, we really need a spy to crack it.
Vinod and Irum have to be the most tormented secret agents ever. While severe interrogations and dodging a million bullets can be exhausting, what seems to hurt them the most is assuming any recognizable facial expression. Perhaps special agents are trained to be poker faced. Perhaps Saif was too cautious of not letting out his potato-chips-endorsing self. We will never know.
While this film will be forgotten for many reasons, it has a few remarkable sparks that will regrettably stay with the audience. One of them being how Ram Kapoor (playing an international arms dealer) can’t spot the mole amongst his personal security that comprises a Russian, another Russian and Ravi Kishan. Then there is an epic scene where Irum smashes out of the window of a towering building to point out the villain who is about to make a slippery exit by an aircraft awaiting him. All this, after she has been shot repeatedly, damaging her liver and a few other organs. But life is yet to be sucked out of her and she later even has a painfully long phone call with Vinod who is on the verge of transporting the live nuclear bomb outside Delhi on a chopper. Will Irum die before the people in the audience breathe their last? Will transporting the nuclear bomb outside Delhi save most earthlings that matter? These questions are best left unanswered.
When the lead cast of the film fails you, it’s like the tail-enders are put to task. But with Saif and Kareena both believing that expressions are injurious to health, there was little that the supporting cast could do to save the day. The VFX of the film is being widely discussed and even appreciated by those who form opinions based on promos. But the climax features Saif piloting a chopper that nails aerial somersaults to celebrate the bomb's diffusion. The point being, this chopper looks like a remote controlled toy being maneuvered by an inebriated person.
Music director Pritam’s chori has been caught openly and his uninspired tunes don’t inspire much either. While Kareena’s mujra song was badgered by the media for not being an authentic one, her moves and grooves are more aerobic and less graceful to suit the genre.
We hear that Saif is already planning a sequel. Perhaps he could call it ‘LIC Agent Vinod: The return of the killer policies’.
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