Archive for April 6, 2012

Two weeks after its release, trade analysts have announced that it’s a flop. Even critics didn’t like it. Most rated it either 2 or 2.5 stars.  I have always believed that hit or flop doesn’t matter much. As long as you deliver a good film, you will always get a chance to make few more. Imtiaz, Dibakar, Anurag, Sriram – all belong to the same club. Their debut film hardly made any money. Paanch didn’t even reach the theaters. Nobody saw Socha Na Tha when it released. And Khosla Ka Ghosla was almost in the coffin before it got a new life.

I remember talking to Sriram after the release of Johnny Gaddar. Trade analysts had already given a Flop tag to it. He said, in the last four-five days Neil (Nitin Mukesh) has got about 30 offers and nine people have called me asking me to make films. If this is flop, then we want more flops like that.

And that’s what i meant by delivering a good film.

For many of us, Agent Vinod was one of the most anticipated film of the year. You can put some of the blame on burden of expectations. But if we can’t expect a good film from Sriram, then where do you go? With Ek Haseena This and Johnny Gaddar, it was easy to spot the distinct directorial stamp of Raghavan and a taste for thriller stories with some priceless quirks, kinks and bit of nostalgia. So what went wrong with Agent Vinod?

Anyone who knows Sriram Raghavan (SR), can tell you how much effort he puts in his films. The number of rewrites he does and how he is never satisfied. When it comes to making movies, you can never doubt the man’s intention and integrity. So when John Abraham and Aishwarya Rai were ready to do a film with him, and he said he doesn’t have a script ready yet, the industry was surprised. You have the stars and you don’t have the script? Nobody had heard that excuse before. You don’t need a script when you have stars. Let the  stars say yes and you can fill 120 pages in 2 hours – that’s the norm here.

Thanks to some good souls, i had managed to read the script of Agent Vinod much before i saw the film. My initial reaction was it’s great fun. Starts with a bang. But bit ambitious and all over the place.

My reaction after the film – where’s all the fun gone? Some good stuff in bits and pieces. It started with a bang but not the one i saw when i read the script. Except for that opening scene, it never “plunges in”. Ambitious and really all over the place. And at a time when we are so used to that adrenaline rush with Bond, Bourne and Ethan Hunt, Vinod seems to be just a freshman out of college.

Agent Vinod packed in too much but it offered too little.

Excess is the reason, i believe. Too many places, too many characters, too many locations, too long, too hotchpotch and too little payoff. And it’s over-written. But that’s not the only reason. Let me rewind and go back to the script and film again.

—> Tone/treatment – That was my biggest issue with the film. I could not make out whether it wanted me to take it like a comic book Bond film or a realistic setting like a Bourne one. The mash-up just didn’t work. Baradwaj Rangan has written about the same in his review. Click here to read. But while reading the script, it seemed completely serious.

—-> Villains – How can you take Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover or Ram Kapoor seriously? Really? They are so overexposed and are part of the pop-culture now where they exist as characters and not actors. That’s one of the reasons why Adil Hussain works much better compared to others as he is not exposed in the mainstream space. And please don’t dare to cast Dhirtiman Chatterjee as the main villain after Kahaani and AV. You will see him and you get the drift.

—–> Thrill Pill – Now that i look back i don’t remember any sequence that gave me any kind of adrenaline rush. The opening sequence was good, raabta as a single shot sequence and the intercut between Vinod and Prince’s fight in Morocco & Chennai had a stamp of brilliance. But when i have seen Ethan Hunt’s stunt on Burj Khalifa, i have tasted blood. Though the script mentions many action sequences from various films for reference purpose, it hardly manages to create anything similar on screen.

—–> The Big Picture – While discussing the film, a friend suddenly asked, so what was that killing of the man while he was jogging? Remember? Who was he? Even i was lost. Just could not figure it out. What was the connect? Then i came back and went through the script and i realised that Jimmy kills him and takes his identity – Dr Suresh Krishna who works with UN, so that nobody will doubt him. Is there anything else am i missing? If not, do you really need the track? Suppose Adil handed an id to Jimmy saying, you are now blah blah, we would have blindly accepted it. When they have such a huge racket, we will accept whatever is said. Same goes for the entire sequence between Kareena and the Airport officer which i thought was a complete waste. Meeting him, going out with him, spending time with him, going to that hotel and doing the dance number. Ok, some dose of nostalgic fun with o meri jaana maine kaha. But if you remove the entire sequence and we see Adil handing over the airport security card saying this is for your entrance, we would have believed that also. (Strangely Rangan mentions the airport officer as a goon in his review 😉 ) Interestingly, Raghavan connected many small dots together (Remember the camel? I thought why? And then the password) but when you see the big picture, do these two sequences really matter? They seem unnecessary which eats up precious screen time. And there are few more like that which could have been edited out to make the film shorter. What it needed was some ruthless editing on paper.

—-> Such A Long Journey – For everything where it was possible to go directly from A to V, Raghavan goes from A to Z to P to M to B to few more destinations before he reaches V. And just for the sake of it. Sometimes the journey is fun but it gets tiring and boring after a point. Like i remember Raghavan talking about the sequence in Russia. He said he wanted snow in the coffin and he got that. But do you remember what was that sequence for? Try.

In the end, it seemed too dumb for smart people and too smart for dumb. Neither the critics appreciated it, nor it could be in the 100-crore club. The single screen audience didn’t get it, the multiplex audience have Bond, Bourne and Ethan. I am all for indulgence and homages as long as it doesn’t bore me. If filmmakers and artists don’t indulge, who will? The sarkari babus?

As for the good points, Sudhish Kamath has mentioned it his review here – a spy so suave he can even pick up a guy. And as Anupama Chopra mentioned in her review, i do believe that this character has potential. Sooner or later, Raghavan will get it right.