There's a lot to like in Ek Tha Tiger. But just not enough.
The good stuff first. This is a Salman Khan film that does not use its Bhai-film licence to go all out kamikaze crazy. The action, though spectacular, tries to bring in a tinge of realism. Like we see Bhai getting hurt and bruised quite early on. Ha! Like that can ever happen.
Kabir, he's Salman Khan. The closest thing Bollywood has ever got to recreating the Rajnikant persona. He can't get hurt. He has to be James Bond ka Baap. Bourne ka Bada Bhai. Ethan Hunt ka Hunter!
Not just that. Bhai gets fooled too. Fooled by a girl in a schoolgirl skirt! Now, now... that's blasphemy.
It's okay to be realistic if the idea is to make a gritty, arthouse film about the life of intelligence officers. But no, this is a Bhai film that takes its own time to become a full-fledged action masala film. By the time it becomes what it's best at, it's over.
The politics of it is rather amusing but you can't expect more from the star who has in recent years given us mind-numbing nonsense in the form of Bodyguard and Ready. But then, if you had a choice to kill Katrina Kaif or to run away with her, what would you do? That, right there, is Realism 101 for you. And they say Bhai films lack logic!
As refreshing to see a mainstream film not take a jingoistic stance and debunk all popular notions of Farz (duty) towards the nation, it's rather funny to see all this unfold in this film. It mostly works because of the pairing and the inside jokes. Like when Katrina tells him: “Now, you're old enough to be married.”
You can see the twists coming from a mile but hey, you can't possibly expect Mission Impossible from a film industry that churns out the likes of Mission Istanbul.
Still, it’s too much of a googly in a film that promises a genuine spy thriller when the head of intelligence smiles and tells his best man, Tiger: Let’s find you a new enemy in a new country (Tumhare liye kisi naye mulk main naye dushman dhoondthe hai)… only to turn the tables on him and have the hero abandon everything he stood for halfway through the film.
This is Agent Vinod suddenly dumping its roots to go all out Dil Se. A curious mix which could have still worked if only it gave us more bang for our buck.
There are some four well-choreographed action sequences, probably the best we’ve seen in Bollywood. Yet this is a film that feels at least one set-piece short of a great action film. Worse, it feels like a spy thriller without a climax with its tendency to escape from more serious issues, the politics of hate between two countries especially. But it's good to see a film where RAW and ISI are equally good or bad.
Salman Khan is solid as ever. The epitome of cool, willing to take a dig at himself, and his asides to the camera are guaranteed to bring the house down (when he smiles thinking about his past encounters with women, assorted enemies and dogs). But it's Katwoman who steals the scenes away from him, especially the stunts, in the second half of the film. It's such a wonderful change to see a girl kick so much in a Bollywood action film.
This Tiger, however, is strictly the King of the Zoo. A film that never really gets a chance to show us what it can do in the wild.
Ek Tha Tiger
Director: Kabir Khan
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ranvir Shorey, Girish Karnad, Roshan Seth
Storyline: A RAW agent on a mission falls in love
Bottomline: Not a full on love story or a spy thriller but an almost fun entertainer.