By Sunaina Kumar
THERE IS an ever present and lurking danger in Ek Tha Tiger, which has nothing to do with its thriller premise. The danger lies in its potential for being an excruciatingly bad film. It isn’t, and that may be the kindest thing one can say about the film. If there weren’t a Ready or a Bodyguard, would it have been possible to be as charitable to this movie? Ek Tha Tiger scores only because it does not plumb new lows, does not bludgeon your senses and does not make you gnaw your teeth in frustration. Salman Khan’s last outingBodyguard was always going to be a tough act to follow. How does one top a film that could inspire a whole generation of Japanese Manga writers with new ideas for slow torture rituals? Director Kabir Khan knows not to mess with that precedent, so he turns it on its head.
Shock. Awe. Horror. Fans of Khan better belt up for this ride: A Salman Khan film without his signature moves, dialogues, and mother of all heresies, no flashing of chest! Well, there is the barest glimpse of bare chest, but it is dispensed towards the end almost apologetically, with none of the usual drum roll that accompanies these epic moments in his movies. Next to this reviewer sat a female fan who uttered a heartfelt, “Finally!”, when he obligingly changes his T-shirt in the last 15 minutes, and with that one stroke relieves the tension that gripped the audience for most of the film. This is what Salman Khan movies are made of. The moments of heightened anticipation right before he whips off his shirt, the thrills when he kicks some butt, the fond laughter when he shows his goofy romantic side.
The problem with Ek Tha Tiger is that the filmmakers did not think beyond the basic inspiration, to get the leading man to take a break from the season of silliness. He plays Tiger, a super spy who feels like the R&AW version of James Bond. How do we know we must take him seriously? He wears a well-cut suit. Clearly, this spy means business. While on mission, he falls in love with Zoya (Katrina Kaif ) who plays an agent from Pakistan (and that is no spoiler, even though the film pretends it is). Soon Tiger forgets this saving the world business, and starts to woo the girl in earnest. He shows her stars, her eyes well up and we know why this is a Yash Raj film. No Mr and Mrs Smith this.
The makers of the film did not think beyond the basic inspiration, to get the leading man to take a break from the season of silliness
The pot slowly starts to bubble post-interval as the audience is rewarded for its patience. Some improbable but fun action sequences are thrown in, executed in slow-mo. Meanwhile, the loose ends are left hanging like tedious arguments. The character of Roshan Seth is introduced and cruelly left unexplained. Girish Karnad tries hard to fit into the cardboard cut-out character assigned to him. Greater disservice is done to the intelligence officers of both countries, portrayed as supremely unintelligent.
Kaif has more to do in this one film than Sonakshi Sinha in her entire filmography. An action film that gives the heroine more than the opportunity to dance is cause for celebration. But she fritters away her chances, and remains functional at best. Khan, too, could do with a booster shot in the emotional scenes, where the mojo is distinctly missing. Never mind, he makes up with the action.
Ek Tha Tiger is an in-between film; it ends up disappointing essential Salman Khan fans, without really winning him new ones.
Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.