Director Sriram Raghavan is a master at producing slick, suspense thrillers like Johnny Gaddar and Ek Hasina Thi. I was pretty sure that with such accomplished credentials, Agent Vinod would be another unforgettable film. The trailer strengthened that notion. Now post-viewing I’ve got to say that I liked Agent Vinod, although this is well below Raghavan’s usual efforts.
Agent Vinod is Bollywood’s answer to James Bond. Well almost. Saif Ali Khan is RAW operative Vinod – a stylish, suave master of international sleuthing. When a fellow RAW agent Rajan (Ravi Kissen) is killed, AV is forced to country-hop across Afghanistan, Morocco and London in pursuit of a nuclear “suitcase” bomb. En route he meets Dr. Ruby Mendes aka Dr. Iram Parveen Bilal of the ISI, who swears to Vinod that she is on his side, but he has trouble believing her.
The bomb apparently is to be exploded in New Delhi, and Vinod and Iram are thrown together to thwart plans by the heinous Colonel (Babu Antony). As they get closer to home, right into New Delhi itself, it seems it might be impossible to prevent this catastrophe . . .
First of all, kudos to Saif & Co. (Saif is producer also) on creating the first likable Indian spy hero. Yes, the first desi spy to come out of mundane sounding, bureaucratic RAW, and still be full of the coolth and the magical plasma that makes spy-agents seem so glamorous. Saif as Agent Vinod is quite delectable – dashing and stylish, never a hair out of place, always a debonair smile on the face. Young and vigorous with a sense of humor to boot, he jumps continents, bashes up baddies, speaks several languages, flies choppers on demand – all the while turning on the charm like it was on tap. As I said in an earlier tweet, desi spy hero ho to aisa ho!
Kareena as Iram is passable. As good an actress as she is, I couldn’t see her as a spy – didn’t look too fit, didn’t do anything too spy-like, and there wasn’t too much emoting required; a case of the spy who could but didn’t . The villain Babu Antony is impressive because he appears cold and calculating AND suave. Prem Chopra as villainous Kazaan was a caricature, and I was just as appalled to see Gulshan Grover on screen.
Now for the meat : the film was reasonable fun but didn’t deliver on its promise of a spy “thriller” – thriller being the keyword here. Although I was relieved that inspite of this being a commercial venture, the film didn’t break often for songs – there is that Qawwali number, but that was it. There was the slow song “Raabta” which is pictured on a surreal fight sequence but that was done well, and didn’t break the tempo. Still the film didn’t manage to ratchet up the tension – so no hanging on to the edge of your seat in nail-biting anticipation, which in my view makes this thriller not so thrilling. This film is kind of all over the place, and doesn’t quite come together with the economy of movement, or succinctness which would have provided the much needed adrenalin rush. Screenplay and direction are to be blamed, me thinks.
Watch this film with lowered expectations and you will not be displeased. This is not James Bond/Jason Bourne material, but a reasonable attempt at a rarely attempted genre in Hindi cinema – and for that worth applauding.