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Front seat: Ek tha (yawn) Tiger

August 25, 2012

The first day frenzy was unbelievable and unseen in Mumbai multiplexes, the likes of which we have heard, used to happen for Ashok Kumar’s film in the 1950s and in the Eighties for Rajesh Khanna films.

Released on a national holiday, August 15, India’s Independence Day, Salman Khan starrer Ek tha Tiger (ETT) had the looks of a crowd puller extraordinaire. Seventeen shows per day were being screened at most multiplexes totaling 1,250 shows a day in Mumbai alone. It is said that Rs90 ticket were sold by black marketers for Rs750 and for lack of car parking space, genuine ticket holders had to park their cars on the roads and walk to the theatre.

Reality struck on the second day, the fans had given ETT a thumbs down — only those who had booked in advance grudgingly made it to the empty halls with hardly 20 per cent attendance. Social media platforms had issued its verdict: ETT was bakwas.

Expectations were high considering Salman Khan had given back-to-back hits with films like Dabangg, Wanted, Ready, and director Kabir Khan who had earlier given films like Kabul Express and New York. Added to this deadly combo was that the film came from the Yash Raj Films stable and was produced by Aditya Chopra. More importantly Chikni Chameli Katrina Kaif was being paired with Salman after five long years — the couple was last seen in Partner (2007).

Hopes were raised with the opening 10 minutes of ETT. Great and fast-paced Hollywood type of action — narrow cobbled street, closely built sunlit yellow-stone walled houses, a typical market day in Istanbul never looked more beautiful. In pursuit of an informer of an intelligence agency who had become a double agent, a nimble-footed Salman scales walls at lightning speed, jumps from one roof top to the other, runs across the crowded market place all the while killing or maiming his predators. It reminded us of Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace.

Just when you were saying, “What action Sirji!” the film peters out. The next 100 minutes are so slow that if not for an occasional sound here and there you would go off to a nice and costly snooze (don’t forget you paid Rs650 for it). Expecting a huge crowd, exhibitors had hiked up the price by 12-16 pc and now refuse to roll back even though the producers — Yash and Aditya Chopra are requesting them to do so.

Actually, it’s the fault of the film’s publicity department which labeled this as an action thriller. Had it been sold as a romantic flick, then fans wouldn’t have been so disappointed. Except for the fact that both the protagonists are working across the border for respective intelligence agencies — Salman (code named Tiger) for Raw (India) and Katrina (Zoya) for ISI (Pakistan), it is a typical Yash Raj soothing, beautiful, mushy romance — boy meets girl, fall in love, gets opposed by everyone, separates for some time, meet again, elope and live happily ever after. Adding to their romance is the backdrop of beautiful locales of Dublin, Cuba, Istanbul, etc.

Salman and Katrina look so comfortable in each other’s company that they appear as a long-married couple on vacation. No hot, sexy or steamy scenes. Salman looks protective and Katrina confident that she has his assuring shoulders for support. Even when they meet on their respective assignments at a nuclear scientist’s place in Dublin, who both the governments suspect of sharing his research information to others, they don’t sizzle. At that point they don’t know that the other person is an agent. It takes nearly half a film to let them know each others’ secrets and for them to fall in love.

Except for a couple of so-called funny dialogues, and even Salman admits “Woh sachchi poor joke tha” the film just ambles on. Next they meet at a bilateral meeting of the two nations by sending coded message to meet. That is when they declare their love for each other and decide to elope.

With both Raw and ISI agents chasing them, it is once again a great chase reminding us of similar actions from the Matt Damon-starrer, Bourne Identity, while jumping from roof tops, crashing into a first-floor flat through the window and keeping track of the lady’s escape from the roof top, etc. But to wait for two superb action scenes in which it is said that Salman Khan has not used body doubles at many places, till the end of film was trying for viewers’ patience.

Acting-wise, one never expected great talent from Khan, for the man has a monotonous way of delivering dialogues especially when he is trying to act the gentleman. Katrina who has a fairly big screen presence, looks good and has matured as an actor. Ranvir Shorey as Gopi, another Raw agent helping Salman, veteran actor Girish Karnad as Shenoy who heads the organisation, are okay.

What shocks and surprises is the music by Sohail Sen. The songs are fine but the theme tune, believe it or not, has an uncanny resemblance to the theme music of Salman’s rival Shah Rukh Khan’s Don! How did Sallu bhai let this pass? Aseem Misra’s cinematography is breathtaking and great. What disappoints is Kabir Khan’s direction and story by Aditya Chopra with too many lose ends and coincidences, and no continuity.

Unless you really don’t know how to spend two-and-a-half hours or are a real fan of Salman Khan, skip it.