So what happened to Agent Vinod?

Posted: April 6, 2012 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, film review, reviews
Tags: ,

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.

  1. The movie was more bogged down by critics than the audience . Burden with such huge expectations ??? It was just bizarre to say the least !
    Every self proclaimed genius of cinema , or in other words “critics” agreed that it had its moments of brilliance – Rabta sequnece , the intercut fight sequences,opening sequence ,opening credits, lead performance by Saif etc . So now I politely asks the learned , when was the last time a big budget movie had so many “stamps of brilliance” ??
    Agent Vinod is not a perfect movie and we don’t have the budget to pull out Bourne, Bond or Ethan’s stunt work ! In its limited capacity , Raghvan directed an above average movie and managed to give India its first Spy who actually does kick some ass .
    Not every script translates word-to-word on celluloid. Indian audience is growing in cinematic intelligence ,its high time critics as well do the same & stop rating the movie based on their self-made poetic pseudo expectations !

  2. @Rohwit says:

    Agent Vinod packed in too much but it offered too little…—- this line summarises the movie for me. Incidentally, I watched it last night in the hall…that still had some 50 odd people.

    i am one of those who knows nothng about cinema anyway. Still, ‘have keyboard, will ublish my comment’ is what I follow.

    It was losely put on the screen. The famed opening credits were good, still the song sucked. Sorry.

    Raabta was too good….yet towards the end, it was almost clinical the way saif uncle was shooting everywhere. Looked like the shooting game we used to play hiding behind walls as a kid. It looked bad.

    my better half jokingly remarked that had there been a flying salman khan with his lazy overalls…the film would have been what the box office crazies call, a hit.

    I liked the film. Not loved it, but liked it.

    They should have not used pungi in agent vinod. Dluted the packaging of this movie. My view.

    Someone please tell me SR is planning a sequel because am seeing it o matter what the ‘critics’ say.

  3. varumn says:

    I praise the article and the ethos behind it. I saw the movie quite late, and heard so much since its release, and after a long time went to a movie without any expectations or baggage. Not only did it engross me, but like a intricate page turner, kept me guessing as to how will it take the story forward. A much enjoyable fare!

  4. scriptlarva says:

    Just had put a post on Agent Vinod on my blog and then I came here and saw this post where you have talked about the same thing. Also I think that Agent Vinod is very uni-dimensional in terms of character and how he does what he does…

  5. arunprak says:

    “In the end, it seemed too dumb for smart people and too smart for dumb”

    This one line says it all!

    I feel this was a movie shot, and edited, strictly as per the ‘bound’ script. A director’s touch or improvisation was missing…… Lot’s of lines which must have been good to read but didn’t sound good on the screen.

    But the Raabta sequence stayed with me…..and still does.

  6. @Rohwit says:

    And I forgot to mention….as much as I liked the fact that both versions were stitched together (dil mera muft ka) but it did not click on the screen at all. Whats with weird chorus that was added?? They have wasted the music of this film..

  7. PBS says:

    Nice post.

    For me ” too dumb for smart and too smart for dumb” sums up the movie. An average moviegoer doesn’t care about homage and all…

    Homage and all is good but it should work as chopped coriander you sprinkle over chaat, you can not make a meal out of coriander…

    I liked Saif’s dry humor in the trailer and in the movie it was too inconsistent…and too less…

    But I still wish he makes another AV movie…this time around with tight script and medium budget…we can do away with all the unnecessary sajavat ke saman…

  8. Kumar Gautam says:

    A very sensitive approach. Nice write-up.

    I completely agree with the section “The Big Picture” and there in comes the role of producer-actor. Producer – actor get carried away in their motto to better or match the standards of hollywood. I believe certain decision should be left to the sensibility of technician and editor has a major role to play. When it comes to writing I guess, Sriram for the first time goofed with 3rd ACT…It took lot of time to come to an end. Then the image of “saifeena” for fans and its portrayal on screen…that too still matters in India.

    But if you talk of Sriram as a director in AV…I am dead sure…I haven’t seen any such sleek, smart film which matches hollywoood standards. It leaves, don-2 and likes far far behind.

  9. Prasun Banerjee says:

    I must say you guys have a sense of humour … a post criticizing Agent Vinod published on the day Housefull 2 is released !!!

  10. John Galt says:

    My heart sank while reading Sriram’s interview – where he talks about Shridhar suggesting ‘let’s tell a simple story in a complicated manner’ or something to that effect. That was the end I guess 😦

  11. chaitanya says:

    nice write up…loved the 2nd last para.

    the movie was tad too long and thr were so many characters, .gets confusing…but is pretty fun if u watch it with open mind. and i feel critics killed the film..i mean commercially and i feel if it wasnt for sriram and sme other directed it..thr would have been so many positive reviews.expectationsfrom the director ruined it.

    • travellingslacker says:

      Dont really think critics can commercially kill a film… just have a look at the list of commercially successful films in last few years…

      It is a combination of confusing tone as well as a disappointing climax…
      The climax constantly reminded of substandard films like Dus, Quyamat etc…

  12. fattiemama says:

    When I read Saif saying, “It’s not a Sriram film, it’s a commercial film” I lost all hopes (not that I had many after watching the trailer). But in Sriram we trust and somehow I continue to. Looking fwd to his next with the same enthu as before.

  13. johnny says:

    Guys, AV is boring. Stop over analysing it. SR is an intelligent director. I am sure he knows what went wrong. Shit happens! I am sure he will surprise us in a pleasent way with his next. For now.. just enjoy the vigilidiot’s review of AV.

  14. Yogi says:

    Hey Cilemasnob…Thought your post mortem was pretty good, but I felt the mistake was not in too much packing, but the screenplay was a bit lacklusture. They showed so much in the first half that the story ran out of steam in the second and I felt too much time was spent on the bomb part (even thought it is sort of the climax) and also the last part where he kills the kingpin guy. Also I think the movie would’ve turned out even more bold and interesting if he could not decipher the code for the bomb and actually chucked it into the mine (even though a bit unrealistic). Also the last 15 min was a bit unnecessary and reduced the thrill of the viewer (after the bomb scene) and mellowed down his emotions while going out after the movie ends. All in all a lot of screenplay changes could’ve been done with the whole movie.
    P.S. Am so disappointed with the end result because after seeing the first half I was mighty thrilled seeing the quality of the making and writing in the movie but they brought down what they built with their own hands 🙂

  15. A very well written article, to add to all of it, I do believe that somewhere, our belief that an Indian actor cannot pull these stunts added to the failure of the film. Personally, I quite enjoyed the film, I though Raabta was extremely extremely well shot and I fell in love with the sequence. Agent Vinod also definitely set a new standard as to how songs can be used in film without distracting from the story – Case in action, I do the talking tonight. Yes, I do agree that somewhere the film went on for too long, the VFX took me miles away from the film back to the era of the 1950’s VFX maybe! Why can’t bollywood pay attention to detail is something that beats me!

  16. […] had read the script first and then saw the film. And this (So what happened to Agent Vinod?) was the post that i wrote after watching the film. At that time […]

  17. Saurabh says:

    Thanks for the take…Do agree with most of what you are saying but I liked a lot more/

    My take on the film

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