Whether one loves watching this new spy movie from Bollywood or not, largely depends upon the picture of Spy-Thrillers already there in your mind and the way you conceive it as a movie.
To be precise, if you think that films belonging to this particular genre, only have a well trained commando kind of person, having a sharp mind with an amazing ability to fight in all situations, has many well shot chase sequences ruining expensive cars with a fabulous cinematography, a narration which keeps jumping from one location or country to another, a charming lady to assist or support the spy, a nuclear bomb which needs to be de-activated, big moles within the system only, many brutal murders and betrayals followed by an exciting climax where the mystery get solved without any basic storyline or plot then you may like watching AGENT VINOD. The film has all the above features with a technically polished look which tries to keep you engaged with something or the other happening every 5 minutes of its script following no specific direction or progression (and a lot of confusion).
But if you are a die-hard fan of exciting fast paced spy movies from the world cinema, especially the Bond and Bourne Series and have also seen the director’s last two movies, then the case might be just the opposite. Honestly, I couldn’t find the maker of “Ek Hasina Thi” or “Johny Gaddaar” anywhere in “Agent Vinod” since it keeps moving from one sequence to another without any thrill, excitement and feeling of a well made thriller. In fact the very first action sequence of the movie clearly reveals a lot where Agent Vinod with only a pistol in his hand, defeats the whole gang of terrorists firing on him with machine guns and rocket launchers.
Its no-doubt a technically sound film having some great production values visible on the screen. But at the same time it also lacks the actual spirit associated with enjoyable films made under this particular genre. The writers do try to add the wit & romance of James Bond in the script which sadly fail to make an impact throughout. There are big confusing loop-holes staring at you in the entire film like a spy opening an Intelligence Website in the home of a Don, a terrorist cum lady-spy changing sides like clothes and The Indian Intelligence Bureau taking major decisions about exploding a Nuclear Bomb from their control room without consulting the Central Government, Prime Minister or President.
The film is surprisingly directed by the talented Sriram Raghavan, who earlier gave us two famous and well crafted crime thrillers in the last decade. AGENT VINOD being his third movie was therefore awaited with huge obvious expectations from the man. But what I feel, the following might have been the cause of this misfire from the potential gun of the director as it seems.
Sriram made “Ek Haseena Thi” in 2004 as his debut film which was executive produced by Ram Gopal Verma. Since it was his first chance, the director made what he really wanted to make under his favourite genre with his full spirits supported by everyone in the production team. The result was a cult film applauded by both the critics as well as by a particular section of viewers. But it was not a Hit and it didn’t do well at the Box Office. As a result the director must have felt depressed. Now who was the culprit here? It was We, the viewers who didn’t go to watch that movie in the theater but later praised it so much and gave it a cult status in the Home Video Market in the next few years.
Cut to 2007, after 3 years Sriram again gathered all the courage inspired from the appreciation received for his first film and came up with another gem called “Johny Gaddaar”.His first movie was not a Hit but it was still accepted well by all after few years, which must have given Sriram the much required strength to make another Crime Thriller, a genre in which he believed in strongly. However “Johny Gaddaar” too opened to a poor response and then later on gained to some extent and faired reasonably well at the box office. But it was still not a Big Hit and the director must have got discouraged again with a near perfect film not doing that well at the Box office as per the expectations which even had a Hit youthful track “Doob Ja Mere Pyaar Mein”. Again who were the culprits here? – We the Viewers repeatedly who didn’t really convert the second great attempt of the director into a Big Hit and just showered praises on his good work in the press and net.
Cut to 2012 in the present, after a long gap of 5 years, the director returns with his third film in the same genre called “AGENT VINOD” taking the title from another spy movie of 1977 which had Mahendra Sandhu in the lead as Agent Vinod. Paying an honest tribute to the first, Sriram takes the name of Mahendra Sandhu in one of the early sequences of the film quite similar to the way he paid tribute to “James Hadley Chase”, “Johny Mera Naam” and “Parwana” in his second venture.
But in this third project, the talented director supported by his famous producer-actor Saif Ali Khan, wanted to make it Big with a surety, taking some clear lessons from his first two movies. And with this vision he walks away from all the intelligent writing, intriguing sequences and exciting twists in his third film and makes way to everything wafer-thin, glossy, stylized & shining, shot at various locations of the world with two leading stars of Bollywood. So the banner, grandeur, budget and the reputation of the stars came into the limelight instead of a well written plot, captivating performances and lovable characters. In other words, the exceptional director makes many avoidable market-based changes in his third project to win over the viewers, moving away from his usual worth praising style and in the process disappoints hugely.
So, what I frankly want to convey here is, that today we have a mediocre AGENT VINOD coming from the gifted director Sriram Raghavan mainly because the man didn’t receive the expected response for his first two extremely well made movies in the rare genre of Crime-Spy-Thrillers. As a result, he went on to add all the famous must have Bollywood ingredients in his third venture, bowing down to the public-demand and the star status of the two well established stars in his movie, resulting in an unexpectedly poor film. And this deprived us from having another well made gem from the director on the lines of EK HASEENA THI and JOHNY GADDAAR.
Another reason Why AGENT VINOD might have turned out in this form may be the pressure of making it under Saif’s own production house, justifying his & Kareena's present star status in Bollywood. At the time of EK HASEENA THI, it was a different scene and this major factor might have forced the director to incorporate many unwanted commercial features in the film, contrary to his own vision. For example I really couldn’t believe seeing a Western MUJRA Song in a Sriram Raghavan film talking about an International Spy dealing with the smuggling of nuclear bombs. And that should clearly explain, what I want to say here.
Apart from the technical excellence supported by its brilliant shot taking and cinematography, AGENT VINOD gets ample support from its background score at few places. But I was really not convinced with its editing which should have been taken care of by the director in its final version. For instance, the badly timed inter-cutting of old Hindi Film songs in few scenes and a sequence showing Charlie Chaplin’s film without any purpose was really painful. Also the over length of the movie towards the climax forces you to take a look at your watch repeatedly which was certainly not the feature of any of director’s last two movies.
Musically, you may have already heard the news of Pritam again doing the “Lifting practice” in his soundtrack. However I could only enjoy the title track to some extent and not any other songs which all seem to be deliberately forced into the narration, unlike a Sriram film. In the performance department too I really didn’t feel the thrill watching Saif as a Spy. He doesn’t amuse you like The Bond since he never smiles in the whole film unless required. The humorous charm required by such a character who could take the viewer along on to his thrilling investigation was missing in the film. Kareena also on the other end never rises above an average performer due to the limitations of her own character which remain confusing right till the end.
Summing up, I only enjoyed three things in the movie. One - the smart cameo of Ram Kapoor who entertains well in his weird get-up. Two - Prem Chopra, who returns to the screen after a long time in his famous grey tone and Three – the final moments of de-activating the bomb and killing one of the Business Mafia Kings which was the only entertaining sequence of the movie having the stamp of Sriram Raghavan. Hence the decision is all yours if you are still excited enough to watch it.