Ek Tha Tiger (Kabir Khan, 2012)
I LOVED IT.
From a cursory glance at the other reviews floating round the internet (as usual, I am extremely late to the game seeing the dvd) it appears that Ek Tha Tiger has been widely met with a yawn and a resounding “meh”, lacking as it does much of the larger than life shirt-ripping and physics-defying action of previous Sallu superhits such as Wanted and Dabanng.
I thoroughly enjoyed both of those films, but I enjoyed them because they were new to me and felt fresh: now, with a lot more people (myself included) waking up to the South Indian films that are inspiration - when they're not sources for direct remakes - for many of the action films coming out of Bollywood these days, I don't want to see Sallu repeat the same Dabangg schtick over and over.
And of course, I was waiting the entire film for the expected “Sallu's shirt comes off” scene – which again, in recent films, seems to have tried to outdo itself in audacity each time. I have to confess I actually cheered when the expected scene arrived with no gimmicky bells or whistles this time: no over the top Hulk-like tearing, the shirt doesn't burn itself off his body – it's blink and you'll miss it, but it's there, satisfyingly ticking the “shirt comes off” box in the curious checklist of tropes that make up a Salman Khan film.
I think that's the secret: Ek Tha Tiger is essentially a genre film (in this case – action/romance/Salman Khan – yes, I am including “Salman Khan” as a genre because if you have seen enough Bollywood films, you will know that a Salman Khan film is going to be vastly different to a...Shahrukh Khan film, for example. The stars act as shorthand in themselves, a little bit), and it's a genre film that strives to be good at what it is, without reinventing itself or being too clever or tricksy with the rules. So the pleasure lies in anticipating and recognising all the elements playing out on screen: the mildly ridiculous action set-pieces (Sallu has to stop a speeding train, single-handed in the middle of Dublin? Makes perfect sense in the film);
the myriad of shakily justified exotic locations (Istanbul, Ireland and Cuba are all kind of wedged into the script);
obviously, the aforementioned “Sallu loses his shirt” scene (always ridiculously satisfying); for the classic Bollywood romantics, an interrupted kiss (check; heartbreaking? Check!);
conflict between nations (and thus divided loyalties, love, duty, patriotism, betrayal, all those great themes) reduced to a personal level:
...and so on, and so forth.
There's not a great deal that is new in ETT, but it's all done well. The set-up: Salman Khan plays the eponymous Tiger, RAW agent for India and lifelong bachelor – because how can he ever marry or fall in love, when his whole identity is a lie, and his life is just a series of secret missions?
You see where this is going, right?
Tiger, naturally, falls in love while on a mission to gather intelligence about a Professor who might be sending sensitive information to RAW's enemies – Pakistan's ISI agency. Zoya (Katrina Kaif) is a dance student who is the Professor's part-time housekeeper, and pretty soon Tiger finds himself completely smitten. THAT'S A BAD THING FOR SECRET AGENTS.
And answering this question is what the rest of the film is about: but not before it takes a few twists and turns into action territory.
I'll tell you something else: I've never been especially secretive about my lack of enthusiasm for Katrina Kaif. But I really liked her in this film. Apart from the fact that to my eyes, she and Sallu DO have genuine chemistry together, it really does make a difference that her character is more than just...a girlfriend/sex object.
Um. This is supposed to illustrate my point.
It's sad to have to say so, but it's so refreshing to see a female character wholly independent of the hero, who can act on her own without having to cling to his arm or run behind him; and there are several moments in this film where it's quite apparent that Kat's character, Zoya, despite being in love with Tiger, can and will go it alone. I like Kat, I think, when she has something to DO, rather than when she is reduced to Item Girl.
She IS pretty in this film though, I was astonished to find myself actively thinking.
Also: Ranvir Shorey: can he be in everything please?
Super hilarious. Also: is it true about him and Konkona? Because that makes me super sad.