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This secret agent has more mush than mission on his mind

(This review is meant to be read as a spoof of a review, just as the film is to be watched as a spoof of a romantic spy thriller)

The thing about bans is that they pique your curiosity beyond reason and you end up watching a movie that you otherwise may have had no interest in. Curiosity gets the worst of us in Ek Tha Tiger, only this Tiger turns out to be a pussycat, an overgrown pumped up billa that fits the proverb perfectly.

Manish/Avinash  (alias Tiger), an experienced RAW agent allows himself to fall in love with ISI agent Zoya. Hell, if all ISI agents really looked this hot then they’d all be doubling as belly-dancers, just as Zoya does at the end of the film “Masha’allah” and that would make the ISI much more interesting than it actually is.

Anyway, Zoya’s, “Mein ISI, tum RAW, hum kabhi saath nahin ho sakte” (I am ISI you are RAW and we can never be together) lays the premise of the film and director Kabir Khan spends a little over two hours trying to convince the audience that human beings both sides of the border are the same people and they are impossible to be told apart.

They both wear the keffiyah (and you thought it was a Muslim thing), they both have radical mullah type beards (and you thought it was a Muslim thing), and they can both have the same kinds of names. If you thought Professor Kidwai sounded more Pakistani than Indian then that was only because the director was proving a point.

Pakistanis and Indians are alike, he implies, set apart and against each other by only organizations like the ISI and RAW. Though Kabir Khan has directed fairly serious films like New York, I suspect his intelligence took a nosedive when he thought this film would clear the Pakistani censor board.

He really hasn’t a clue about how the old Pakistani mind works, does he?

He doesn’t. And his characters come across as just as clueless.

As secret agents, both Tiger and Zoya are unconvincing and ineffective. Being a trained RAW agent, how does Tiger not run a background check on Zoya, who he finds in Professor Kidwai’s house as a house-keeper? Kidwai, by the way, is a scientist creating anti-missile technology for India and is suspected of selling it to Pakistan. It doesn’t matter what he’s making because that mission is debunked and forgotten within minutes of the spies falling in love. It’s brushed away and forgotten as trivia. Second, being on the almost militant secret services, how do these two agents allow themselves to fall in love in the first place? That too with each other.

“There are over 200 countries in the world,” says Tiger’s supervisor in the RAW, “and he had to fall in love with a Pakistani!”

“I didn’t know she was the enemy when I fell in love,” he replies, “and when I did I didn’t know why she was the enemy.” Cute. That’s more than a decade of his training/drilling/brainwashing down the drain.

Pussycat or hardwired secret agent, Tiger sees himself as a James Bond counterpart.

He even wears an aspirational 007 t-shirt in one part of the film but honestly, there is nothing James Bond about this one. The world’s favourite British spy may enjoy perks on the job (ie sex) but he never allows himself to fall in love. Even when he does fall in love, he never compromises his mission quite as conveniently as Tiger does at the Trinity College in Dublin where Professor Kidwai is developing an anti-missile program. To hell with the mission, they’re in love!

What we do know is that Tiger and Zoya fall in love, throw away their cell phones and hop, skip and jump their way to anonymity from the ISI and RAW. And while they’re doing that (risking death for betrayal to their respective countries) one wonders how their love for each other got deeper than their love for their country. As a spy thriller Ek Tha Tiger disappoints for its gaping flaws, but even as a romance it fails in creating anything more than a lukewarm love story.

Is Ek Tha Tiger offensive to Pakistanis? I really don’t think so. In fact, it’s actually offensive to RAW agents who depart on missions wearing their hearts on their sleeves and fall for fluttering eyelashes and sexy pouts even if it means compromising national security. I would take offense if I were an Indian.

Was the Censor Board right in censoring the film? I would have to concede that it was. A film that opens with “India and Pakistan have fought four wars because of rogue organizations ISI and RAW” is destined for a ban. ‘Love shove’ and all that mushiness doesn’t cut it to kosher. We’d rather stick to the Cocktails and Heroines, even Jisms and Dirty Pictures thank you very much.

Published in Instep on Sunday, August 26, 2012

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