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Film Review: Ek Tha Tiger

Film Review: Ek Tha Tiger

August 16, 2012

This Tiger roars, and with such style!



At the risk of being hunted by diehard Salman Khan fans, I will admit that I'm usually skeptical of his films. It's mostly due to his questionable acting abilities and a filmic sensibility that usually leans more towards the lowbrow and outlandish. But the man has charm and superstar confidence. Truckloads of it. He can whip it out and bombard you with it when he cares about a film enough. Kabir Khan's latest Ek Tha Tiger is, thank goodness, a prime example of this. After Dabangg, this is Salman Khan's best film yet. And for co-star Katrina Kaif, it's refreshing to see she can kick some ass too.

Mounted as a big budget romantic action thriller, Ek Tha Tiger delivers a fine balance of larger than life entertainment with restrained emotion and drama. Those elements are very difficult to have in the same film, especially in mainstream Hindi fare. But director Kabir Khan handles his spy thriller with rare control for a film produced by the veterans of romantic melodrama, Yash Raj Films.

Khan plays Tiger, a rugged, ferocious, and dedicated RAW agent. So dedicated, in fact, that he hasn't taken a day off in 12 years. Nor has he ever had the time to fall in love. You know where this is going, but there are curveballs thrown in there, I assure you.

The first ten minutes of the film are constructed entirely around the grand superhero entrance of this man, complete with jaw-breaking kicks, slow motion rain of cigarette ash, and fast-paced bone-crunching gymnastics through a busy marketplace as Tiger bashes up baddies coming from all directions. If someone were to collect the best superstar entrances in films, it would be safe to bet that Khan will fill up many of the top spots.

Always thirsting for the next dangerous mission, Tiger is sent to Dublin to closely observe an Indian scientist and professor who is suspected of going rogue by sharing information with Pakistan's ISI. In Dublin, Tiger meets Zoya, the professor's house-sitter. Her smile makes the tough Tiger melt. The chemistry between Khan and Kaif is actually quite cute, and their comfort with one another is instantly palpable.

Structurally, the film seesaws between tender romantic scene and destructive action sequence. It's a bizarre balance, especially since the action sequences are over-the-top but brilliantly choreographed by Markos Rounthwaite and Conrad E Palmisano. The romantic drama, in stark contrast, is kept grounded without any unnecessary sobbing, screaming, or deafening background score telling you to feel emotional.

Without giving away the plot twists, it is safe to say that Ek Tha Tiger gets the style and fun of an spy movie right. The characters go on an international jaunt from Delhi to Dublin to Istanbul to Havana. Surprisingly, the plot actually holds up most of the way. There are, of course, holes in the story and some convenient elements thrown in. But then you see Khan accomplish superhuman feats of action with such gusto that you are forced to forget the problems. When the man actually stops a speeding tram with a jacket and his sheer strength, what else would you want from a film about a spy called Tiger?

The intelligence angle in the plot is too heavily emphasized, however. RAW and ISI agents don't usually openly mention their agency names or so clearly state their affiliation as they do in this film. There's a certain grace and protocol involved in how intelligence agents go about their business. Even James Bond rarely mentions who he works for. Here, Tiger and his trusted partner Gopi (Ranvir Shorey) hardly ever flinch before throwing the name 'RAW' out in the open.

As the female lead, Kaif's role isn't too complicated, but she gives it all she can. She can deliver a chilling stare when she wants to, but beyond that her histrionics are what you'd expect.

The best thing about the character of Zoya, however, is that she too throws punches and kicks. Just when you expect her to be a damsel in distress (the usual heroine type we've been forced to accept), she matches Tiger's slam dunks. It's incredibly fun to watch them tag team as they beat up a gang of thugs. Kudos to the director for making the heroine just as badass as the hero.

Khan's acting is usually a hit or miss. In most of his recent films, he sleepwalked through his roles, not showing an ounce of concern. This time, he actually cares, and what an astounding difference that makes to the entire film.

It's safe to say most of this change in attitude is actually due to the presence of Kaif. The way he looks at her in their romantic scenes show a side of Khan we rarely see in his films anymore. There's genuine affection in his eyes (whether it's due to their real life relationshop, we can speculate), but it helps the emotional quotient of the film.

Where Khan excels, of course, are the action sequences. They are an absolute delight, and it's abundantly clear Khan enjoys those the most. Hindi cinema may still be lacking in script originality but I have a hunch Khan's back-to-back action blockbusters will propel a boom in creative action choreography.

Ek Tha Tiger isn't a perfect thriller. But it's some good masala fun with heart and brains. Full points to director Kabir Khan for steering clear of the leave-your-brains-at-home approach to filmmaking. This film has the right mix of zing, ass-kicking, romance, substance, and good performances, all enveloped in a pacifist message. Now if only Salman Khan can deliver these kinds of films to cater to his superstar image (instead of a Bodyguard or Ready), I might stop being so skeptical of his new releases. Go watch the Tiger roar!

18 Comments

  • chitu
    By
    chitu
    15.09.12 09:46 AM
    good honest review. i dont know why but why, but i am a very busy professional and get almost not time for entertainment, i watch movies only by reading bits about it. i saw ETT at my friend' insistence. no great feeling when i watched, but as of today i watched it thrice. it drew me to the theatre thrice. i enjoyed more at the second and third times. that's salman i think.
  • vansh chauhan
    By
    vansh chauhan
    25.08.12 12:43 PM
    now its the time of salman khan
  • Mansuri Imran
    By
    Mansuri Imran
    23.08.12 02:01 PM
    I like movie
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    20.08.12 03:21 PM
    @Pulkit,

    Sure, I am fan of any good looking Indian actress that makes a big difference with looks cold or warm and tell tale body language.

    Bollywood search for new faces all the time taking little notice of their acting talents. Some learn hands on the job rather than having been born talented. Katrina has her best chances right now.

    Remember Asha Parekh who had rivalries with Simi Garewal?
  • NS
    By
    NS
    20.08.12 02:25 PM
    I am one diehard Salman fan! Good review, naturally :)
  • shyam
    By
    shyam
    20.08.12 08:51 AM
    picturisation is good! actions are good ! of course salman look good as always !!!!! but as u take the whole film, it is not the best as Dabangg ??? ....the last seen "he jumped from bike to plane !!!!!god promise I don't think even Rajani kanth dare to do that.." ;)
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    18.08.12 09:47 AM
    @Roy: You're right, Salman is the same star persona in every film but I guess that comes with the territory of being a star for two decades. It's hard for people to see you as anything else. He even said in an interview that he wants to only play larger than life roles. I guess if it's working so well for him, why would he change it?
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    18.08.12 09:45 AM
    @Bee: Wanted was definitely cringe-worthy, but I really enjoyed Dabangg actually. The loud fight scenes didn't wake you up? ;-)
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    18.08.12 09:44 AM
    @Rajpriya: I take it you're a Katrina fan. :-) I still think she needs to work on her acting. I like that she's taking on more interesting roles but as an actor she has to evolve beyond the cute smile. Although, I did like her cold stares in Ek Tha Tiger - she's getting better at emoting through her eyes.
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    18.08.12 09:41 AM
    @Ash: I agree. I've never really been a fan of his, but he sure does have some star quality that has kept him at the top for so long.
  • Roy
    By
    Roy
    17.08.12 01:27 PM
    Surely one time watch movie but don't keep ur expectation too high. Being a Salman, katrina and kabir khan fan I watched first day first show but was disappointed in 2nd half. As far as kabir khan is concerned this movie is not even close to Kabul express or new York. Salman is same in every movie, he don't become the character all character mould itself to Salman khan. Katrina was a surprise, I think this is her best performance till now. Movie will have a good first week but a long term collection and beating 3 idiots will be difficult.
    @ Pulkit Nice way of balancing ur post. Rightly said its difficult to criticise a Salman movie and make his brain dead fans angry. If they can make Bodyguard a super hit then they can do any thing.
  • Bee
    By
    Bee
    17.08.12 05:48 AM
    Ohhh I guess I'd see this.. I cringed watching Wanted and slept in the theatre within 15mins of dabangg.. LOL
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    16.08.12 03:08 PM
    @Pulkit,

    You have certainly succeeded in making me go for this movie. I am trying for the DVD version. Can you remember Angie Jolie and Pitt Brad (I like to call him like this) made a movie when they became a pair?

    I wonder what made Angie so skinny. I hope Katrina stays just like she is now – A treat. God makes a few perfect angels once in awhile don’t he?

    Thanks for talking me into watching Zoya of course the Tiger too.
  • Ash
    By
    Ash
    16.08.12 02:13 PM
    Wow - a rave review from Pulkit - this one I have to go and see. Just a side thought - I am not a big Salman Khan fan, but I cannot fail to admire this is the same guy who defined romance for a generation with MPK, Saajan, HHHK, made us laugh through his hysterics in Andaz Apna Apna, Judwaa and then transformed into an action hero like no other today from Karan Arjun, Jagruti to Dabangg and now EKT..... He's definitely got something going for him.
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    16.08.12 09:20 AM
    @Rickie: You should be totally Dabangg and go see it. I know you've Wanted to. :-)
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    16.08.12 09:18 AM
    @Shivani: Thanks for the comments! You're right, it's very hard to review his films because his mass appeal is confounding. There's definitely something about him.
  • Rickie Khosla
    By
    Rickie Khosla
    16.08.12 08:59 AM
    Hmmm...looks like I should go see it. Are you absolutely sure I am Ready for it? That I won't need a Bodyguard for my protection?
  • Shivani Tripathi
    By
    Shivani Tripathi
    16.08.12 08:57 AM
    Great review, Pulkit. Reviewing a Salman Khan film is an art, as the masses love him and critics, well, don't know what to make of the phenomenon. Thanks for an honest, balanced critique!

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