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Ek Tha Tiger

EK THA TIGER is Conrad Palmisano's film. The mercenary stunt and action director does not even pretend to be original here. He performs a referenced rehash job. Every single frame in the action scenes of the film is a copy of what we have already seen in countless Hollywood films. He even loops his action themes and scenes. EK THA TIGER is yet another example of the nadir Indian Cinema has touched in its100th year thanks to the new age 'Bollywood' filmfakers like Kabir Khan. He discredits and shames himself and our cinema with his self-proclaimed most-ambitious opus. And the extra-ordinary box office opening of EK THA TIGER spells doom and not boom for Indian cinema.

It is a one-line idea based on Yash Raj Film's favorite "Indo-Pak Dosti" tune. This time an Indian RAW agent Tiger (Salman Khan) falls in love with an ISI agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif), both earn the ire of their respective agencies, and thus begins our Romeo & Juliet/honor-killing saga between two espionage clans. The lovers are on the run, chased by their fellow agents.

The first half of the film, shot in Dublin, Ireland, is used to bring the lovers together to create some kind of chemistry between them. It's like an octogenarian Dev Saab trying to romance a sixteen year old Tina Munim. Dev Saab could still pull it off, Salman cannot. The chemicals don't react here, the experiment fizzles out, the actors look tired, and the audience is bored in spite of two long action sequences in this half. Salman Bhai won't let go off his patronizing attitude towards his protégé even in front of the camera. She in turn seems bent upon keeping her distance from him lest it may give wrong ideas to the audience of their real-life relationship, whatever it is. We get a sense that Salman Bhai is simply piling on to the Indian-English beauty.

The filmmakers turn to physics in the second half to liven things up. Thankfully it happens in the streets and by-lanes of Havana instead of a velvety Hotel room bed in the familiar James Bond style. It would have been dreadfully unbearable to watch our Romeo performing physics experiments in bed with the long-legged baby-face beauty. Here Mr. Palmisano gets a free hand to recreate his hackneyed parkour stunts and chase sequences, extensively using Salman's and Katrina's body doubles. It's a halfhearted job though. He even repeats the moves and hurdles he used in the long opening sequence of the film without any qualms. The director and the producers of the film have obviously given him a bunch of DVDs of all kinds of Hollywood action flicks for his ready reference to make his job simpler. So he delivers according to the minimal demands made on him. The writers provide small two-line fillers in the story to bridge the gaps between ultra-long action scenes.

So, what happens to Romeo & Juliet finally? Romeo is busy with DABANGG 2 and Juliet is romancing Shahrukh Khan in London under the deft supervision of Yash Uncle himself for an 'yet to be titled romantic saga'. The RAW and the ISI, the contemptuous villains in the love story, continue to keep the two nations and its people apart with their abhorrent shenanigans.

EK THA TIGER is an ode to the generosity and tolerance of Indians who can take the negative portrayal of their premier espionage agency without a pinch of salt and fill the coffers of its producers with truckloads of cash. The film cannot be released in Pakistan though. Pakistan's political establishment would not like Yash Raj Films to make money. It leaves the field open to 'D' Company video pirates who are reportedly sustained and supported by the ISI. Some firmly believe that various terror groups use the funds thus generated to carry on the covert war of attrition against India.

The writer and director Kabir Khan claims that the film provides an insight into the lives and works of actual RAW and ISI agents. It probably does since it portrays Salman Bhai taking milk in a steel pot from the milkman early in the morning while being admired by the married women in his housing colony to the chagrin of their jealous husbands. We have been spared the important details of Salman Bhai's visit to a Super Store to buy 'sabzi-bhaji' and 'aata-daal'. Of course Salman Bhai's 'Superman' acts in Istanbul and Dublin are part of the RAW agent's life too. We should be soon seeing a whole lot of well-built Bollywood aspirants lining up for recruitment as RAW agents. That is the 'bogus' touch of realty Kabir Khan has been talking about. The fact is that he has miserably failed to exploit the possibilities in the film's premise from artistic, archival, and entertainment perspectives. He has made a bland and boring film of little cinematic significance. If the film has any saving grace for the audience, it is Conrad Palmisano's action scenes that account for almost 70% of it's footage.

Rajesh Kumar Singh