Always Time To Romance
Salman Khan in recent years have been in top form, becoming the box office phenomenon and cementing his popularity and legacy with iconic roles in films from Wanted, Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, and now Ek Tha Tiger. Not to diss the other filmmakers who have enjoyed success together with Salman, but his first work under the Yash Raj banner has the usual YR gloss being applied, making it quite the stylish affair to accentuate Salman's charisma on screen as the larger than life Tiger, formidable and arguably the most fearsome field agent for RAW, India's external spy arm.
Pakistan had reportedly banned the film, since the story deals with RAW vs Pakistan's ISI in highlighting the obvious odds between them, in a spy versus spy world where the opening act had Tiger tail, intimidate, interrogate, battle, and finally walking away victorious from scores of ISI agents hot on his trail. We see him exercising his reputation first hand, and is what 007 is to MI6, and come to observe plenty of his parkour like skills in many rooftop chases throughout the film, with Salman doing what Salman does best in his many action roles, to thunderous applause of approval from fans in the audience.
The setting in this film is ambitious, with similar 007 jet setting to beautiful though not quite far flung locations with the likes of Iraq, Ireland, and even Cuba, so with different locales brings about different stunt teams and choreographers to vary the flavour of the action. It's a little pity though that at times, because of Salman's bulk in physique, it's quite discerning to note when a stuntman takes Tiger's place, since one would not want to risk the big star's safety in some of the more dangerous stunts. And because Salman will always be Salman in a film and does what he does best, there is no lack of camp and sense of fun, with movie logic thrown in by the bucketloads for good measure, otherwise you can't get away with sliding down a hill on a car door and passing through highway traffic unscathed, or have the ability to call upon a ramp in the middle of a runway. Yes, we live for moments like this in a Hindi action movie.
Still, with big budget action spectacle, such as the stopping of a runaway tram being one of many highlights, the story grounds itself into a romantic one. On his latest mission to spy on an Indian scientist allegedly giving away trade secrets on India's anti-missile system, he falls for the scientist's caretaker Zoya (Katrina Kaif) unwittingly, and having not been in love before (you see, it's an occupational hazard), he turns from tiger to tame pussy cat in her presence, going extra miles and veering out of mission objectives (he would deny it of course) just to spend more time with her. And ultimately, it is this emotion that will cause him to hang a target board on his back from both RAW and ISI, and for a man in love, will do just about anything to be able to walk into the sunset with his lady love.
Spilt into two halves, the narrative in the first comes complete with comedic moments, especially with Tiger's Ally McBeal-ish moments of fantasy each time Zoya's questions becomes something of a funny reminiscence that screams of what he would like to explain, but can't. It gets all serious with the politics in the second half though, with fears from Tiger's direct supervisors of his potential of leaking information of his country into the enemies should he be captured, so in true clandestine style, the Tiger has to be put down without prejudice. Such is the world of the movie spy, with a twist in the romance that Shakespeare himself would be proud of, especially when it has to rival the bard's greatest love story ever.
It's no doubt that Ek Tha Tiger would be the blockbuster it's expected to be, for its lush production values now combined with two of the hottest Hindi stars of the present moment. Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif sizzle on screen with their chemistry each time they appear together, whether for a lovers' sharing of sweet nothings, or when it's time to hit the action button. At some points in the last act come questions of loyalty and allegiance that would put you on the edge of your seat because you'll find yourself drawn into rooting for them to get out of the deadly scenario they have put themselves under, though credit has to be given for not stretching those moments too far that it gets bogged down by its own doing.
The songs in the film serve as another major highlight, since they punctuate the romance and the action, without a song and dance moment in the film being felt out of place. Banjaara had Sukhwinder Singh's vocals, and allowed Katrina Kaif to become the clotheshorse with a number of costume changes throughout. But my personal favourite from the soundtrack is Mashallah, though featured in the film only as the end credits roll. Anyone doubting the chemistry between the leads, should just take a look at any of the film's music videos to be convinced.
Directed by Kabir Khan, who was at the helm with films like Kabul Express, and New York, he has shown a knack for being able to craft stories that are larger than life, and being entrusted with Ek Tha Tiger after only two films with the studio, demonstrates the confidence it has in the abilities of the director. Hopefully, with the announcement of a sequel being green lit, we'd see another Tiger outing with Kabir at the helm again. Definitely recommended, for those eager to watch a Hindi blockbuster that can rival Hollywood's anytime.