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Anuj Kumar
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Cinema As Agent Vinod prowls into theatres, Saif Ali Khan tells us what to expect… Anuj Kumar

The gritty sideSaif Ali Khan plays a RAW agentPhoto: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
The gritty sideSaif Ali Khan plays a RAW agentPhoto: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Style is in his genes and accent comes naturally to him, but over the years Saif Ali Khan had to shed them to prove that he could cut ice with the masses. This week as he picks up the gun and brings style back into play, Bollywood's resident lover boy has a bigger challenge. As Agent Vinod he has to reach out to all the benches for his expensive product to make it to Bollywood's new benchmark: the 100 crore club. The good thing is his co-star, Kareena Kapoor, knows what it takes. But is his director, Sriram Raghavan, who once showed him the other side of cinema with “Ek Hasina Thi”, up to the big game, where you can either make sense or money?

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Is it a Sriram Raghavan movie or a Saif Ali Khan film?

You can't say it is a Sriram Raghavan movie. It is directed by Sriram Raghavan. We didn't want to make a completely Sriram Raghavan movie. I understand he comes from a slightly different school. We wanted to make a commercial movie but we knew he is the right guy to make this movie. Scale-wise neither of us has attempted a film of this magnitude. As a production house we have given a lot in terms of locations, costumes, cars and we left Sriram free to tell his story, visualise his shot taking. In short it is a full glossy commercial entertainer but with a realistic edge.

Comparisons with Bond films are inevitable….

It is different in the sense that the personality of the character is very Indian. He is always in an international situation but his approach more like an Indian hero and a little unorthodox, in the sense that he opts the dangerous way out. I know Bond is an icon in this genre and every film made in this genre will be compared to a Bond film. We are not using any special guns or gadgets. Vinod is a RAW agent. The idea is to make a film about our agents. We have a spy culture and many stories to tell.

Give us a sense of the plot

A RAW agent is killed on the job. Before dying he sends a message. The message is cryptic. All it says is a number 242. Agent Vinod is called to Russia and from there he goes on a roller coaster ride across seven different cities. He meets beautiful women and counters dangerous villains and eventually comes to Delhi to prevent the biggest catastrophe that can happen.

Girls go with Bond…

There are just one or two girls! It is not like Bond films but it has to be there otherwise there is no fun.

Did you watch the original Agent Vinod?

I watched the film long time back. In fact one of the aliases that Vinod uses in the film is Mahender Sandhu, who played Agent Vinod in the Rajshri production. I loved the title. Rajshri has been very kind to give us the title. Rajbabuji (Raj Kumar Barjatya) gave it to me. In those days all the spy films tried to copy Bond films. The idea to create an Indian James Bond was correct. But today if you try make an Indian James Bond I don't think it will work. You have to make an Indian hero. The treatment could be a little influenced by Bond but that's it.

But you do have retro elements like the mujra?

The action takes place in Pakistan at one point. It is an uncomfortable place for a RAW agent. There is a wedding sequence where this mujra takes place. But it is more like an Agent Vinod mujra. It is not in the classical format. It is more funky as I don't think today's kids will be able to appreciate a proper mujra.

Did you really shoot in Pakistan?

Not really. We used green screen but we have friends who shot the real footage in Pakistan and then we blended the two. The effect will be proper. The way we have shown Pakistan is really different. The film says if there are some Pakistanis who want to fight with us there are one or two Pakistanis who don't want to fight with us. It is a realistic view. Kareena's character is a Pakistani agent who joins hands with Vinod. I hope this is something people will appreciate.

You have come a long way from an actor whose accent was ridiculed by critics to somebody who spoke chaste Hindi in “Aarakshan” and now you are breaking your lover boy image with an action thriller.

Forty is a magical age as you are in control of many things in your life. I think I am in control of my acting. And I want to do a role which I feel young playing. I feel like a young RAW agent but I no longer feel like a young lover boy. I am not saying I don't want to play lover boy any more but I want to play a slightly stronger hero. And this is the start.

These days you are playing out the angry young man in real life as well…?

I apologised profusely. The episode should not have happened. Never again!


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