So here is another aging star self producing an ambitious film with himself as a larger than life action hero. There is a twist, though: he hires a good director. And the story was not written by a bunch of drunk monkeys.
Agent Vinod is a RAW agent who starts looking into the possibility of terror groups getting their hands on a portable nuclear bomb. The story unfolds as he learns more.
This is a globe trotting adventure, but focuses on the east. We visit Africa and Asia in their myriad forms. And we hear excellent music playing in the background, inspired by Bollywood thrillers of 70s and 80s. The rest of the film has nothing in common with the sloppy, badly written fare of that era, however.
Although its promoted and perceived as a Bond tribute, this owes more to the Jason Bourne series than Bond ones. And ii’s thoroughly Indian for all that. Saif plays a brooding introvert dark hero more than the smiling, quippy spy we all love. And he pulls it off. In action, in dialogue and in body language, Saif is in his element. This is the post “Langda Taiga” avatar, the guy who is cool, and can act too. There is no trace of the idiotic guy in “Main Khiladi Tu Anari”
The cluster of “Character actors” is magnificent, and Kareena is quite convincing as the enigma from Pakistan. The stand out performance is Adil Hussain as the Colonel. With looks and mannerism of a corporate executive, he is able to bring a cold menacing quality to his performance.
This is a Sriram Raghavan film, though. as Director and co-writer, he has created a taut, well written and constantly evolving script without contrived twists. The picturisation of Rabta is pure genius. The hues and the the color palette changes with each change in scenery. It must have been easy to get lost in the changing scenery but Raghavan keeps it together and makes a compelling case for each location without exposition. Neither Sudan nor Latvia feel out of place with the intrigue.
Another interesting choice was the lack of gadgetry in the film. The cars are just cars. They don’t change into battleships or choppers. And the spy technology is all stuff you can get in your local electronics shop. This may rob us of a few “wow” moments, but helps keeping the story grounded in reality.
Don’t get me wrong, Agent Vinod is nothing but a competent spy thriller. But, frankly, when did you last watch a competent spy thriller made in Hindi? It’s one flaw is the presence of Kareena in the Mujra number, but that is easily ignored. Especially given how well all the songs are woven into the storyline.
So this is the way to handle your midlife crisis. Get a good director. It’s that simple.