Finally, Salman Khan and YashRaj films have come together for a movie - an alliance of Bollywood giants that took a good 24 years to come to fruition. Having flirted with the idea of working together for the production house's 2007 surprise hit Chak De India (a movie that eventually fell into Shahrukh Khan's lap and he happily hammed his way through the title track and a good chunk of the movie as well), it took YashRaj to deviate from their usual brand of filmmaking geared towards the multiplex market and instead, plan a movie that fits into Salman's mass appeal in order to get India's biggest star to sign on the dotted line. What's more! Even the director, Kabir Khan (of Kapul Express and New York fame), known more for his new-age realism-inclined cinema, had to succumb to the commercial norms of all-things Salman. Such is the power of Salman these days. "Sal-mania" has been running rampant for the past 3 years and is only getting stronger.
Right from its first teaser to the final action trailer, Ek Tha Tiger (ETT) generated unparalleled buzz. Like every other Khan-starrer these days, it promised to be a full-blown dhamakedaar showreel designed specifically for Bollywood's resident Rajnikant all the while keeping the brawny thespian's maniac fans in mind. And just like any other Khan-starrer, there is a lot for his fans here to lap up with both hands.
So what is the movie about? Does it even matter at this stage in Salman's career? Realize this - Salman Khan movies are an event. A festival, if you will. As long as his face is plastered all over the posters and he gets top-billing, his fans will throng to the theatres no matter what. They will greet his entry with cheers and whistles, dance in their seats as he shakes it on screen, clap and whistle as he mouths his patented dialogues in true "Bhai" style and fill the theatre with a collective, deafening roar as he takes his shirt off. Heck, all you, as a filmmaker these days, have to do is turn the camera on, focus it on Salman while he sleeps, let it roll for 2 hours, release it as it is and his fans will still come.
But for the sake of this review and to complete the formality, I shall briefly touch upon on the story of the film. ETT is about one of RAW's most revered agents, Tiger (Salman in an efficient performance) who, when not making his famous daal at home, is traveling all over the world bringing India's enemies to justice. He blows stuff up, indulges in wild chases through city streets, kills people along the way when he really shouldn't and yet, somehow, always manages to return home to a hero's welcome. After a short return to home from Iraq, Tiger is sent packing to Ireland on an observatory mission to ensure India's missile program secrets are not leaked to ISI of Pakistan. While in Dublin he meets Zoya (a mechanical-as-usual Katrina Kaif) who, in truly desi-fillum heroine ishtyle, loves stars, planets, galaxies, aliens, ET, Jaadu and Star Wars. Anyhow, in order to get closer to the subject of his observation to whom Zoya is a personal assistant or a housekeeper to (we are not sure as the movie never explains just what her role in the professor's house is), our hero tries to woo the pretty nerd with a home-made dinner and a book on Astronomy. Finally, he decides to close the deal by inviting her for a lakeside picnic date where he does something that has never, ever been done by a hindi-movie hero before. He points towards the sky and shows her a meteor shower! How cool is that?! Well, what follows thereafter is another twist, agent chasing agent around the globe, a lot of Air miles accumulated by everyone and a couple of love songs thrown in for good measure.
There is, however, a lot of action for those who expect to see Salman in his usual Dishum Vishum, Kick Kick, Wham Bam avatar. He kicks a lot of ass in his trademark style. The poor job of graphically morphing Salman's face on his body double's body at numerous points during the action sequences notwithstanding, the action sequences range anywhere from above-average to awesome.
The script, however, does leave a lot of unanswered questions as well as misses out on many potentially-rewarding opportunities for lifting the movie's emotional quotient. One such missed opportunity involves the bond that Tiger and Gopi (the excellent Ranvir Shorey) share. The two indulge in a rather pleasant bromance in the first half of the movie and there was a great opportunity of exploring this bond further while turning them against each other when Tiger is on the run and transforming their chases into a game of one-upmanship between the two agents all the while lending more credibility to Gopi. Instead, what starts off as a potentially-deep character of Gopi ends up being barely used and that too in a cardboardish way only to elevate and highlight Tiger's macho-ism. There are similar instances where the movie would have benefited from answering a few more questions than it ends up answering as well as making better use of the characters (and performers) it had at its disposal.
ETT is entertaining, no doubt. It has all that fans of Salman Khan have come to expect of him - great action, Salman flaunting and strutting his attitude on screen like no one else can, good music and full-on entertainment. There's a lot of repeat value in it for Salman fan whereas for the non-Salman crowd, it provides good escape to the movies and turns into a good one-time watch. Thankfully, the movie doesn't resort to Pakistan-bashing and instead is about the lovers themselves rather than what and whom they represent. As long as you don't question the triviality with which RAW and ISI operate, the sheer stupidity and incompetence of their respective "agents" chasing the lead pair, the laws of physics and logic in general, you won't regret your purchase of tickets to this movie. It's paisa vasool, Salman Ishtyle!