September Issue 2012

By | Arts & Culture | Published 12 years ago

For a filmmaker who is known to make realistic films — here the term ‘realistic’ is being used most generously — Kabir Khan’s latest offering is an utter, confused mess-of-sorts. The main problem with Ek Tha Tiger is that it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Is it yet another mindless vehicle for its star, Salman Khan — which it clearly seems to be in the first half — or is it a love story, which it seems to become, quite unconvincingly, after the interval?

Tiger (Salman Khan) is a RAW agent who always ends up killing someone or the other while on a field mission. Therefore, he is given strict orders by his boss to only ‘observe’ on his next mission which is to check-out Indian scientist (Roshan Seth), who lives in Dublin and is suspected of supplying missile information to Pakistan. While keeping an eye on him, Tiger, quite predictably, falls in love with the scientist’s housekeeper, Zoya (Katrina Kaif), who in her free time is a performing arts student at Trinity College.

Tiger is caught in a dilemma — he wants to find out about the scientist but is also repeatedly distracted by Zoya. Another RAW agent, Gopi, is also present in Dublin and tries to remind Tiger of his priorities. Gopi (Ranvir Shorey), seems more composed and focused, which begs the question, why hasn’t he been put on the mission?

While the film borders on incredulity in the first half, things just get worse in the second. The supposed twist that Zoya is an ISI agent is incredibly stupid. This isn’t a spoiler, its kind of a given — from the moment she mentions her father’s name as Nazar Jung and does not openly reciprocate Tiger’s feelings. Something is fishy, only to be confirmed a little while later. It appears that she is on a mission of her own! Things then take a turn for the weird and bizarre after the interval, especially when the respective RAW and ISI agents meet at a UN peace conference. They also dance aboard a yacht with each other because ‘all the other countries are doing it.’ And one wonders why RAW and ISI are representating India and Pakistan at a UN peace conference?

Now, Ek Tha Tiger has a few good things too. The cinematography and production value is of a high standard and Kabir Khan knows how to shoot action sequences. Nonetheless, what can one say about a film where the first 15 minutes are laden with countless slow-motion shots of Salman Khan fighting or walking. Also, how often do we need him breaking the fourth wall and giving us flashbacks for comic relief?

Ek Tha Tiger has been banned in Pakistan, which frankly, is surprising. While the exact reasons as to why the censor board objected are unknown, the film isn’t really demeaning to Pakistan. There are suggestive scenes where the ISI is portrayed in a negative light, but so is India’s RAW. The whole point of the film is to display the similarities between the two agencies and, cinematically speaking, one isn’t able to tell ISI and RAW agents apart in the climax. While a false sense of peace between India and Pakistan doesn’t really work — because it’s being spoon-fed to the viewer rather than explored — the film isn’t disrespectful to anyone. Whether Pakistani sentiments have been hurt in Ek Tha Tiger is a non-issue and if one is truly offended, then one is reading too much into the scenes, because the film is, in its entirety, insignificant.

This review was originally published in the September issue of Newsline.

Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany