Agent Vinod (Sriram Raghavan, 2012)
Let's talk about expectations.
I added Agent Vinod to my Induna shopping cart to pad out an order and lower my shipping costs: despite my massive love for Sriram Raghavan’s 2007 effort, the exceedingly well crafted thriller Johnny Gaddar, and despite an abiding fondness for both Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, everything I had heard about the film – up until its release, notable mainly for its production delays – suggested that it would be at best a timepass film, at worst, a vanity project that kind of fell flat. Oh and there were a lot of things to kind of be concerned about. Saifu. Once beautiful Saifu, and his…increasingly, worryingly, immobile face. Talk of a “desi James Bond film” = and I am possibly the only person on the planet who actively LOATHES James Bond films. The real life love match of Saifeena translated to screen (as much as I love the real life couple - and am waaaaay too excited about their impending nuptials, it’s like a law of film that real life chemistry does not tend to translate well to the screen after the fact). With Saif as star/producer, the production delays, the rumour mill working overtime with stories of Saif’s dissatisfaction with Kareena’s “lack of dates” given to the film holding up the schedule…and upon the film’s release, a collective kind of “MEH” response: you can see how my expectations were pretty much non-existent.
But this is all good news for me, because what I found with Agent Vinod was basically good, old fashioned entertainment. It’s true that half an hour after watching the film, I couldn’t really tell you the specifics of the plot – because honestly, the plot, as it exists, doesn’t really matter a great deal. What Agent Vinod is about is basically:
1. Saifu as an international super-secret-agent guy KICKING MEGA ASS AND TAKING NAMES all OVER THE PLACE in a variety of awesome locations and set pieces.
2. Saifu looking SMOKING hot while doing the above.
Uff, you want actual story? The plot revolves around mysterious RAW agent “Agent Vinod” - though he goes by many names as a master of identities – (played by Saif Ali Khan) pursuing a terrorist group who have the detonator for a nuclear bomb around various glam locations. Into the mix is thrown a femme fatale figure, Iram Parveen Bilal (Kareena Kapoor) who may or may not be working for the enemy, but they have to work together to stop the bomb being detonated in New Delhi.
There are various twists and turns and loopholes and puzzles in the plot by numbers but you know what? IT IS SO FUN TO WATCH, and there are a couple of delicious guest appearances that lift the calibre of this spy thriller to the next level. Hell, spoiler alert, because he’s too good not to mention: RAVI KISSEN is one of the best things in this film. Ditto ZAKIR HUSSAIN. These two guys are criminally underused and underappreciated (especially Zakir Hussain. I love this guy and I am THE WORST because I ALWAYS forget how great he is).
Plus, you don’t get a director like Sriram Raghavan without getting at least a few flashes of brilliance in what could have just been a paint by numbers genre flick. Quite aside from the sheer pleasure of just watching Saifu channel, yes, okay, a desi James Bond – he has that whole “impeccably attired, not a hair out of place, cool as a cucumber, witty one liners even as he’s kicking ass” thing going on – there are a number of neat little moments of just…good, solid filmmaking. The bit that sticks in my head is a tidy little sequence where “Agent Vinod” meets one of his adversaries and flashes back through a series of previous meetings between the two of them as if we were revisiting moments from a series of previous Agent Vinod films. Though the plot itself hasn’t really stuck in my mind there are plenty of neat little moments that stick out, because you know what? Agent Vinod is kind of fun, and cool, and…mostly a great film. UP UNTIL A POINT.
I’m loathe to talk about the ending – partly because, well, come on, spoiler alert, and partly because…well, this is where the film, a solidly entertaining, highly enjoyable action thriller, basically falls to pieces in one questionable move. There’s a definite point where I went from totally invested in the fluffy, glitzy, eyecandy action entertainment world of Agent Vinod to actually wondering if someone involved in the film was on crack. On reflection though, it kind of adds to the crazy glory of it all. Plus Pyaar ki Pungi makes up for any minor missteps.
This movie is fluffy fun times. Don’t listen to the haters.