August 15, 2012
Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ranvir Shorey, Girish Karnad, Roshan Seth
Ek Tha Tiger begins with a voice-over about the never-ending battle between India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Cut to Iraq where a RAW agent nicknamed Tiger (Salman) is pursuing another agent through the streets in a well-executed chase. The other guy is an ex-RAW chap who sold his soul to ISI. Cut to India, where Tiger is much gawked at by the women in his neighbourhood while his kindly boss (Girish Karnad) worries that his feisty subordinate does not have a life beyond work, but sends him off on his next assignment when Tiger refuses to take a break. That mission involves travelling to Dublin to keep a watch on a scientist (Roshan Seth) who may be collaborating with ISI. The good professor’s housekeeper is a pretty student of Indian origin called Zoya (Katrina Kaif of course). She and Tiger fall in love … of course. And of course there are hurdles in their path. I’ll leave you to discover them if you watch Ek Tha Tiger.
The first point in favour of Kabir Khan’s film is that it does not give us the almost overpowering obeisance to Salman’s star status that we saw in Anees Bazmee’s Ready last year. Except for the actor’s grand entry in silhouette on a burnished background and the salaam he gives the audience at the end of the final song, we are spared constant reminders throughout the film that he is in conversation with his fans.
Where Ek Tha Tiger falters though is in not being alert to Salman’s weaknesses and strengths; and in failing to achieve that balance of humour and self-effacingly humorous action that made Dabangg such a delight. This Khan is a charismatic star whose likeable screen presence is hard to ignore, but he has his limitations as an actor. He pulls off comedy not because of impeccable timing but because he’s naturally funny when he’s being himself; his Salman-ness can be so charming that it’s tempting to ignore the sameness of his performances. More than comicality though, what this film needed was an aching love story, but Salman fails to pull that off. The actor’s shortcomings are never more evident than in a scene by a lake where he first declares his love for the first woman he’s ever loved. Instead of being poignant, it was dull.
Interestingly, Katrina’s action scenes in the film actually overshadow Salman’s stunts. Didn’t know she had it in her. What a pleasant surprise! In fact, except for a slamdunker of a climax that is entertaining in spite of (perhaps because of) the way it defies believability, for the most part Salman comes across as slightly slow, even a tad bit tired when he’s meant to be throwing punches. It doesn’t help that his heroine is an actress about 20 years his junior … but try telling a Hindi film hero that! Which brings me to the other plus point of the film: unlike in Wanted, Dabangg and Ready, the heroine here has not been relegated to the role of a showpiece. Katrina rises to the challenge in the best way she can, showing us just how much she has evolved since her early, impassive days. She also shares a friendly equation with Salman, though warmth is not sizzle, is it?
What really does this film in is its failure to come up with a convincing storyline. The professor in Dublin is quickly forgotten when lurve takes over. RAW and ISI officials who have been outed to their enemy countries roam about in extremely public spaces while trying hard to draw attention to themselves. And trained intelligence officials stare hard into surveillance cameras although most crooks worth their salt on CSI and Criminal Minds know better than to do that. In fact, it’s tough to believe that this film comes to us from the same director and production house that gave us the far more believable and moving John Abraham-Katrina Kaif-Neil Nitin Mukesh-starrer New York. Completely unrelated to these flaws, is there some deep point being made in Ek Tha Tiger by giving Tiger’s associate Gopi a thick beard and moustache?
So here’s the balance sheet: Ek Tha Tiger has a couple of good, blithely over-the-top action scenes (especially one involving a tram and the hero’s jacket), a few funny sequences and some stunning locations. I’m afraid that’s it. The pace is a complete let-down. The oddest thing about the film though is that its background score is a marginally re-jigged version of the signature tune of the Don films. It’s the good luck of Team Tiger that the film’s most enjoyable stretch comes in the final half hour, and the only worthwhile song comes as the end credits roll. The pleasant memory helps reduce the impact of some of the dullness that preceded it.
Rating (out of five): **1/4
CBFC Rating (India):
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ek_Tha_Tiger