Saturday, March 24, 2012

Agent Vinod is reasonably well-plotted, but lacks the fizz

Breaking News: All the rumours going the rounds about a plausible disagreement between Saif Ali Khan and Sriram Raghavan are seemingly true. Yes, you may feel that the macaws and mynas that make up the sensationalist media may not be completely false, specially once you watch Agent Vinod, produced by Saif's Illuminati Films and directed by the supremely talented, Sriram Raghavan, of Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddar fame. Again, if you haven't seen these films, please re-evaluate your cinematic exposure of Indian cinema. 

Its been a long, tedious wait for Agent Vinod. Many years in conceptualizing and filming for the makers, and ineffable wait for the audience before this one saw a release. Saif Ali Khan's dream project, that got entangled in production issues, let alone the controversies that had the media awfully speculating. Ironically, the movie itself ends up furthering the belief *spoiler alert* in the existence of conspiracy (read controversial) theories of the New World Order too. Now go Wiki, whats that all about. Agent Vinod is a well-crafted, reasonably well-plotted spy thriller, that comes out as overweeningly confused and callously choppy. The point is after seeing the trailer, I had assumed it to be a wondrously tongue-in-cheek humor kind of action thriller that transcendentally elbows out all the others in this genre. The reality is it is that kind of a film, but you never end up feeling like that. Its almost as if two different forces were strangling the rope that pulls the film forward, unfortunately in different directions.

Agent Vinod had a lot going for it. The publicity was not aggrandizing, the expectations were not humongous like Ra.One or its likes, the lead male could quietly pass off as the Indian James Bond and the director came from a skilled cadre. Raghavan has his own uncanny style of doing thrillers. He does not believe in incorporating a gazillion twists in the tale, but he does like to tell convoluted tales that keep the viewer perennially guessing and sometimes present the obvious with his gushing notoriety. Thats where he scores above his peers that fall prey to the multiple twists in a thriller and lose sight of the teething loopholes. But who cares about loopholes, I could find a lot of them in Mission Impossible too, but you have to pocket that leap of faith when you enter the theatre and believe that your spy agent does not need to lay out everything he does. In Agent Vinod, there are many sequences which have Raghavan's watermark etched upon them but they are fewer than they they should be, and the result is that you never feel the punch. Raghavan also tries to pay a tribute to a lot of retro cinematic techniques, by incorporating old songs as background scores in significant sequences, action and non-action both. The plot is headily overstuffed with convolutions and its easy to lose sight of whats happening, but sadly, its not dealt with a deft hand making you lose patience rather than lose sight, more often than not. Its loaded with numerous throttling fight sequences, fiesty fist fights and gunshots, alluring chases, witty one-liners and arresting twists which along with a slick second half saves the film from absolute mediocrity. But none of these deliver the punch that you are expecting, the best one liners do not evoke influence and the best actions sequences do not enthrall you at times. The patchy work leaves the final outcome garbled and trite right when you are ready to feel the high. The use of old songs in background score, the sequence with aunties in the auto-rickshaw, the sequence at Prem Chopra's house in Morocco, the sequence at the wedding in Pakistan, the car chase in Latvia - original and well-executed, but straitjacketed by a missing edge to them. You might wanna think twice if the original scripting by Raghavan and Arijit Biswas was slightly different than the final product because its hard to believe that Raghavan got delusional while directing it. Having said that, few sequences are sparkling and top-notch. The one shot fight sequence built around Raabta, is a pure gem. Its a treat to watch the execution of so many kickass and wicked moments but its disappointing to realize that they dont add upto the whole film experience. Thankfully, it does not fall prey to sappy propagation of the romantic track between the leads and still keeps it there in the essence and wit. Yet, I would rate it as an ambitious aim, that slightly missed the target, but is arguably competent. 

Agent Vinod has been backed efficiently by Saif and it shows up. The Production Design is defiantly grand and instantly affable, with a lot of money poured into it. Shooting in multiple locations across the world must have been an uphill task for the whole crew but they took their time to ensure nothing comes out as unreal or garish on screen. Cinematography by Muraleedharan is overwhelmingly sleek and registers a searing impact. Editing by Pooja Surti could have been better, it defeats the purpose of a lot of visual artistry used by Raghavan. Sound mixing and editing could have been better too, many a times it misplaces masterstroke trippy segments with mis-attributed sound effects. Sound design is strikingly better from the other sound departments. Dialogues have the knack to make you grin for sure and have been written well. The music of the film has been touted as the best plagiarized album by Pritam. Most of the songs are lifted, but well-composed and appealing chartbusters, that have served as suitable accouterments to the script. Raabta, is definitely the pick of the lot, specially with its marvelous execution.  

Saif Ali Khan has grown into a very mature rooted performer, coming from his days of ludicrously sleepwalking through his roles. Pinned down as the best supporting actor by many, for me, he is a credulously able actor owing to Dil Chahta Hai,Ek Hasina Thi, Being Cyrus, Omkara, Love Aaj Kal and a couple of others. In Agent Vinod, he notches one step further, carrying along his unusual wit and the innate ability to look the part, well enough to deliver an earnest performance. He is literally the soul of the film. Kareena is saddled with a poor character sketch and does not shine, morosely getting typical to most of her other roles. There are a million other cameos by seasoned actors for small roles that end briskly without much ado but help the movie sustain its consistency in performances including Ravi Kishan, Ram Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover, Shahbaz Khan and Dhritiman Chaterji. Adil Husain is allright, while B P Singh, the creator of television series CID, is hilariously miscast. 

Agent Vinod had a lot of money, time and effort riding on it. It is definitely not a bad movie, after all, but grimly enough, it does not deliver the adventure you are wanting it to. You expect heresy, but you get a mildly thandi chai. It has taken a good start at the box office and the promos are largely appealing which will ensure the collections add up. Plus, Pungi is a runaway hit with the masses and is a major draw. I would rate it half a star more, but honestly, I was expecting a lot more and came out with trifling disappointment. I will share a secret here. To all the fanboys of Mission Impossible 4, I would still rate it at 3/5, along with Don 2. I will secretly wait for Raghavan's next though because EHT and JG were both a 4/5! 

Rating - 2.5/5

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