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Updated: April 7, 2012 19:16 IST

Go beyond the gore and get the message

Syeda Hameed
Comment (12)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The film speaks an inconvenient truth.
AP The film speaks an inconvenient truth.

Reviewers have panned ‘Agent Vinod' but the film has broken the stereotype of the Muslim terrorist.

To borrow from Shakespeare's Macbeth, one often misses the forest for the trees: Individual scenes can so overwhelm the senses that we lose the larger picture.

I am talking of Saif Ali Khan's much hyped “Agent Vinod.” Trashed by reviewers and written off as a colossal flop, the film has been banned in Pakistan. In my view, however, people have been so turned off by the violence in the film that they have missed its larger point. I regard the point as the raison d'être of “Agent Vinod.”

I see the film as a bold cinematic statement which categorically delinks Islam from terrorism, almost exemplifying the cliché “Terror has no colour, no religion.”

Violence and poverty

The film opens with a scene in a dusty, rugged and overcrowded camp, Dash-e-Margoh, in Afghanistan. Vinod is tied up and tortured by Colonel Huzaifa of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) watched over by a posse of shalwar clad, rifle bearing men. What is as hard hitting as the violence is the wretchedness and poverty of the people huddling in the camp.

Agent Vinod is the ace spy from the Indian intelligence who is in pursuit of an elusive terror source. On board the Trans-Siberian express, he jets across the world from Kandahar to Tangiers, from Latvia to St. Petersburg, going from the rolling greens of London to five-star hotels in Karachi.

All the while he is looking for the terror trigger, which rests in hands far beyond the reach of ordinary intelligence, hands which are both invisible and invincible.

Agent Vinod is pitted against the Pakistani agent, Iram Parveen Bilal, who has been unleashed by the ISI across continents to track down the same source of terror. The point the film makes is that we ordinary people are only permitted to see half truths. We are shown (by our rulers) terror cells and terror capsules which are carefully crafted facades for the real thing. We see smoking guns and dead bodies, and we are led to sleeper cells of the Jaish and Lashkar. Names like ‘Abu,' ‘Abdul,' ‘Al Nasr' are thrown at us so unceasingly that we cannot but join the dots to Islam. We see a terrorist in every Muslim and Islam becomes synonymous with terror. But as Agent Vinod and Iram Parveen Bilal eventually find out, the people they are chasing are the wretched of the earth, creatures of harsh terrains who are merely pawns carrying out the biddings of powers far beyond and far above them. India and Pakistan, personified by Vinod and Iram, have to understand, in the words of Kareena (Iram), “We are after all on the same side.”

Enter Sir Jagdishwar Metla, Indian origin British Lord, who glides on water, cuts ribbons, walks across golf greens, greets mothers and babies and obliges TV anchors. In his plush Oxford Street office is a photograph of him with a bunch of international buddies, global players and Sultans of the stock market. It is a black and white snapshot of the cartel that rules the world.

What we need to see

When Vinod confronts him, Sir Metla flicks him off like a speck of dirt. “What do you know of the complexities of the game?” he asks. “Whenever there is a blast anywhere in the world, do you know what happens at the stock market?” “But what about the lakhs who get killed?” asks Vinod. “What about them?” he asks, adding with a shrug, “But you will have to excuse me. I am the chief guest at the London Rotary.”

“You will be killed for this Sir,” Vinod replies softly. “But yours will be the death of a martyr; roads and buildings will be named after you, memorials will be built for you.”

The assassination takes place according to script. A scruffy member of the sleeper cell appears with a bouquet in front of Sir Metla and pulls the trigger. The real assassin is blown up; no one would ever know the truth behind the screaming news headlines.

For me, the film has opened a new window to vindicate Islam; the very word Islam means Peace.

The film attempts to erase the scars and rid Islam of the terror tag. It speaks an inconvenient truth. Unfortunately, this truth escapes most of the audience which sees the violence of the film as an assault.

The film is rightly dedicated to ‘Abba' Mansoor Ali Khan Tiger Pataudi. He would have been proud of his son. As viewers, we ought to look beyond the obvious to reach the core of a truth that is as uncomfortable as it is stark.

(The writer is Member, Planning Commission.)

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This article is as lousy as the movie itself. Since when did journalists start basing their claims on movies and not facts. Whats worrying is that this person is a member of planning commission. According to the author we should start forming our opinions based on conspiracy theories rather than proven hard core facts. No doubt we are faring so badly in tackling terrorism.

from:  S. Roy
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 21:15 IST

A movie can be a hit because it is very intelligent and delivers
important messages in subtle ways. However, a movie will become flop
for very obvious reasons. The movie might be having an important theme
but failed miserably in other basic ingredients that make up a successful movie. It is unwise to assume that people could not
understand the big picture underlying the movie. The collective
intelligence of people is far better than what we usually assume. All
the problems facing our nation might suggest that ours is an un-
intelligent society but it is merely a reflection of the lack of
action and belief (but not intelligence).

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 20:54 IST

Ma'am,
3 points - a) the film does nothing to break stereotypes b) it even
reinforces certain existing stereotypes c) people are turned off not
by gore but by the bore it turned out to be.

The 'Muslim terrorist' stereotypes that you argue are being broken are
actually ever present in the movie. Even the penultimate scene where
Agent Vinod is getting in touch with a 'terrorist gang' to let them
know the truth of Metla, if you notice carefully the stereotypes are
maintained. May be it hints at financial big-wigs micro-managing
terrorist activity, but that has been done before and much better in
other movies. Instead here, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco (and other
Muslim majority countries) are shown as hubs of terrorist activity. It
is business as usual. And Iram Bilal who you say has been 'unleashed',
couldn't even muster a gun throughout the film. And yes, that is also
a sign of ardently sticking to existing male-female stereotypes. Final
analysis - the film achieves nothing.

from:  Shraddha
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 18:57 IST

Should have written a column... like you. The lousy film hides this esoteric message. I can't see it.

from:  Vidyut
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 16:39 IST

I am totally in sync with your arguments on Agent Vinod. The way Muslim community is treated in the Indian Cinema has always been an issue of polemics for over a decade eventually resulting into severing ties with the Muslim World and spreading perceived antagonism. Cinema, if used as an effective tool of communication, might turn the worst bilateral relations into affable and healthy relations. Alas! Film producers (Not all! There are few producers who really care for the cinematic ethics and always intend to retain its survival through their movies) at least in India have become so materialistic that they even fail to remember the real purpose of cinema. Thank you very much Syeda Hameed for this positive note that glorifies the efforts put in by R Raghvan in the process of making the present Cinema.

from:  Kiran P.
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 15:41 IST

You are trying too hard to justify it...
The film works as a near spoof of the genre in the first half but
falters the moment it starts taking itself seriously & indulges in
those cliches..."people have been so turned off by the violence in the film" Really?... I was waiting for some mindbogglingly violent action sequence but nothing happened... It was the tepid, toned down version with a confusing tone that fails the film...But for the record it still had several enjoyable moments, only if they had a less cliched plot...

from:  Jitaditya
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 14:43 IST

So we should ignore the crap of a storyline,bad direction,worse acting and a painful overall experience and help the producers earn money for this so called 'message' in the end.No one is denying that a wrong stereotype of 'most terrorists are Muslims' exist and it needs to confronted but this movie was not a suitable vehicle for the same.The movie was a crap and deservedly flopped.As for the message, correct and non speculative news reporting would be a thousand times more effective than such movies.

from:  Sachn
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 14:27 IST

I have not seen such ridiculous article in Hindu News Paper till date. Now a days Members of planning commission are busy with thinking about conspiracy theory instead doing some creative work.

from:  chakresh sahu
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 12:36 IST

The movies representing the opposite point of view in Pakistan, typecasting Hindu / Indian extremism/ideology are equally badly made . Sad but true !

from:  Nadir Ali
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 12:35 IST

the movie sucked big time. Even if you are trying to play a religious card or something, the complete movie was a waste of time as there was no connection between the heads and tails of the story..

from:  aswin
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 11:29 IST

This is the typical attempt from so called liberal and secular muslims
to convince ignorant citizens that Islam is religion of peace.
It would have been better if u had chosen empirical evidences rather
than basing your movie on a work of fiction.

from:  sanjeev
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 11:17 IST

Syeda: I totally agree with you. People must learnto exercise their brain and move beyond slapstick comedy and romantic obsession. I liked the movie, many layers, meanigful and nicely desified.

from:  Priya
Posted on: Apr 7, 2012 at 10:46 IST
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