Posted On Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 08:06:30 AM
|Although Agent Vinod is is a rare spy
action film it is quite muddled and does not fully work as a thriller
Many years ago, I knew a person who worked at the Indian Consulate in New York. He would often ask desi students at Columbia University what was the buzz about India on the campus. He would ask about the thinking of specific
professors. Then one day someone told me that this gentleman was probably a RAW agent. “Really?” I asked. “How can he be a spy? He’s like a sarkari babu?”
I have to give Sriram Raghavan a lot of credit for Agent Vinod — a rare spy action film to come out of India, although it is quite muddled and does not fully work as a thriller. But Raghavan has turned the sarkari babu RAW agent into a cool, handsome, suave, immaculately dressed action hero.
And that to me was the most interesting part of Agent Vinod – a smooth RAW agent, who beats up all the bad guys, always manages to get out of tough situations, visits exotic locations, hip clubs and bars, and has a sexy soundtrack to support his moves.
There was a lot I enjoyed in Agent Vinod, but throughout the two-and-a-half hours, I kept thinking — why was this film made? I remember the same question bothering me when I saw Ra.One in Delhi and later Don 2 in New York and then recently in Berlin. But those two films did not work at all for me. Agent Vinod is different. It is clever and partially succeeds, but because of the excessiveness, it
also fails. Why it is important for some Indian filmmakers to make very western style – Hollywood obsessed action thrillers and then blend it with elements of Bollywood? That fusion of two very different cinematic languages with definite cultural histories — marrying Jason Bourne/ James Bond with the romantic Rahul, that Shah Rukh Khan used to play with such finesse — just does not work. I can definitely say that Bollywood is nowhere ready to make an Iron Man, a Dark Knight, or a Mission Impossible, as long as the Hindi film industry is primarily governed by domestic considerations.
It is natural and understandable for artists, writers and filmmakers to be inspired by their peers. Hong Kong’s John Woo credits Martin Scorsese’s films and French gangster thrillers of Jean-Pierre Melville as his prime source of influence. But Woo’s films had the authentic flavour of Hong Kong cinema. Woo’s cinema influenced his junior colleagues in Hong Kong.
It was ironic, but also a happy moment of world filmmakers influencing each other when Scorsese took the rights to a Hong Kong thriller —Infernal Affairs and remade it into his sole Oscar winning film — The Departed. Even though the two films have the same plot — Infernal Affairs is a very Hong Kong film, and The Departed has a very Boston/Irish-American flavour, with Hollywood dimensions. There are other such instances. Quentin Tarantino borrows heavily from the Hong Kong cinema, but then gives the films his own language.
But in Agent Vinod, Don 2 and especially Ra.One it is obvious that the filmmakers, perhaps stirred up by the egos of their stars had this thought in their mind: ‘If Hollywood can make these films, then so can we.’ I believe nothing good comes out of that type of thinking. What they end up doing is making a mess of their films (despite some excellent moments — a single shot with hand held camera, as Vinod and Pakistani counterpart duck killers chasing them in a hotel; the chase scenes in the end; and a hilarious moment in a well-known eatery in Delhi’s Connaught Place). A little bit of Hollywood and a little bit of Bollywood does not make a complete film.
Just two weeks ago we saw the terrific film Kahani. I think it is the first time I felt scared watching a Hindi film in a theatre. Kahani’s story, the plot seem so organic to India. Kahani also has spies and sarkari babus, but they are creepy and believable. It is also not a film trying to outsmart Hollywood or any other foreign cinema. And that is why Kahani worked and Don 2 did not!
Summing up the mood
This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s last week column ‘Nobody won, everybody lost’ (PM, March 18). It was interesting to read a piece commenting on a tragic incident which took place in the US from a writer who has mainly dwelt on subjects relating to films and actors.
Nevertheless Chhabra succeeded in giving us a New York perspective on Indian issues. The author has rightly summed up the mood when he wrote ‘ the truth is that nobody won on Friday and everybody lost’. Further the quotes of Joe Clementi were quite insightful. For someone like me who relies on newspapers for foreign stories the column gave a complete and unbiased picture.
- Jatin Palliwal
There’s no doubt that Dharun Ravi committed a big mistake by posting on Twitter that his roommate was a gay. The entire story conveys the message that homosexuals are still unacceptable in our society. With gays and lesbian becoming more vocal about their orientation, it has become imperative for schools and educational institutes to sensitise the next generation.
- Rohan Gosavi