Once upon a time, a “Tiger” nearly got loose. He got nabbed by the government and was shipped back. End of story.
In Ek Tha Tiger, the new Salman Khan movie, still rollicking from renewed fandom set afire by Wanted we see a man on a mission: an Indian intelligence agent, gone rouge by love —an organic chemical reaction with emotional results that shows little of itself in producer Yash Raj’s mega-blockbuster that spins across multiple international locations without relevance; but then again who counts frequent flier miles when one’s smitten. Right?!
Flying around the world was once a token aspect of nary all Bollywood commercial masala movies. It cost a pretty bundle, brought tourism incentives, and served as measly window-dressing. Then Bollywood films started bombing. Now with countries promoting tourism and competitive production incentives, going abroad is the new “in” — even in Hollywood.
Opening with an action set-piece in Iraq, “Tiger” (both Khan’s codename and the film’s title) quickly sets the core-rules between country-vs.-country espionage game: If you track an enemy agent, kill him or buy him.
Tiger, who unconsciously (yet with a sly twitch in his brow) woo’s the neighborhood women in his off-duty hours, has been relishing his day-shift for the last twelve years. He reports back to his boss Shenoy (Girish Karnad), and hates the notion of a deskjob. His motivation is more action-oriented.
After a successful stint, he is sent to Dublin to spy on a scientist (in a writer’s alias, of course), suspected of selling missile tech. There he keels-over Zoya (Katrina Kaif), the prof’s caretaker and student in the academy.
A song or two (the nearly above-average music is credited to Sohail Sen and Sajid-Wajid), a romantic dinner and a few actor-targeted puns later, Tiger collapses into Bollywood sub-standardization. The romantic-duo, after a slapdash story reveal, go rogue. Hot on their trails, in a separate yet singular-minded agenda, are the Indian and Pakistani intelligences.
And so they run like the devil.
From Istanbul to Havana, knocking down traffic in cartoonish violence, stopping for a breather and a love song or two.
Tiger’s lackluster divergence from the moment the leads elope governments, stops a believable forward momentum anchored to Khan’s character. The actor — shining, performing, and very much grounded — rules the movie. But he’s the only one.
Forget the un-lively tonal preset fixed by director Kabir Khan and co-screenwriter Neelesh Mishra. Khan’s powerhouse charisma is enough to tug the movie to worldwide “financial” success. Critical success? Not so much.
Ek Tha Tiger is running worldwide. It has not been given censor certification in Pakistan, because its script openly names, and oft times disses, both countries intelligence agencies to parodying degrees of insipidness.
Spy games are hard, but ludicrous they’re not.