Salman Khan movies result in drinking games. In his latest blockbuster Ek Tha Tiger, you’re advised to gulp down a peg every time he breaks the fourth wall or grins. So with every gulp the screen becomes blurrier and the movie gets less painful – bottoms up for that is precisely what it takes to make it through to the end.
This is how you make Agent Vinod and Don 2 look good - you turn the protagonist into a full on secret agent man, reduce the overall IQ to half, swap Kareena or Priyanka for Katrina, and replace the lead hero with an actor who has absolutely no public goodwill to lose. Ek Tha Tiger seems like the result of what happens when you give zoo monkeys a camera and a crew to work with, because it is a film so inane that it pretty much runs on chronic stupidity. And without a doubt it will satisfy the low entertainment thresholds of those who scream at the very sight of Sallu Bhai and whistle when his bare abs make an appearance.
To be fair, the opening 20 minutes do make you believe that you’re in for a fun ride – Sallu takes a giant dump on Jason Bourne and runs and punches through a super action scene in Iran. It’s hard not to enjoy an ash tray overturning in slow motion and zooming in on Sallu Bhai’s visage to the backdrop of a rain of cigarettes. Alas, after that fun opening we’re left dealing with an unfunny comedy romance filled to the brim with idiotic characters, horrid dialogue, and some laughably bad performances. Director Kabir Khan displayed his knack for clumsy filmmaking with New York and Kabul Express but at least he didn’t resort to irritating melodrama in those films (they had a whole other typhoon of cringe-inducing plotting).
Perhaps we have cowriter Neelesh Mishra to thank for this mess. As always, the ‘story’ is an excuse to slap on a bunch of ‘hey look it’s Sallu Bhai, whistle you guys!’ scenes together. Codename Tiger is a RAW agent with an oeuvre of super-secret commando missions. He is sent undercover to London to reconnoiter a professor (Roshan Seth) but falls in love with Zoya (Katrina) and this for some reason compromises his mission. In a stunning, completely unexpected twist Zoya turns out to be a rival agent. If you consider this as a spoiler then I will be forced to assume that you have never seen a movie before. What would Tiger and Zoya do? Kill each other? Or go the whole hog? Watch the movie to unravel the epoch busting mystery!
In his droopy-eyed stardom Bhai simply runs around with his puffed up face and botox packs practically falling out of his pockets. Because he is playing a RAW agent, Bhai tries to be serious – by wrinkling his eyebrows like Joey Tribbiani. When he isn’t bufooning around Bhai does most of his own stunts – like inverting a dining table and sliding down stairs while shooting people. Bhai even makes Spiderman’s epic train stunt look like child’s play as he stops a whole tram using his suit blazer (after which he simply dusts it off and wears it). These are fun moments, but sadly there aren’t enough of them. Katrina is grotesque as she spouts all her dialogue affecting a sense of mental impedance. For being two top ranked agents, the characters’ motivations are hilariously stupid – in fact Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn from Dumb and Dumber could beat these two agents in an IQ test.
Part of the blame goes to the editors because Ek Tha Tiger wasn’t cut so much as thrown into a blender and maimed to pulp. It almost seems like Sallu himself edited the film, and when lines like ‘Kutte ki tarah haaf raha hai, kitne cigarette peeta hai’ can't redeem a movie, the film has gone spectacularly wrong. Worst of all are the ham-fisted holier than thou ludicrous attempts of sloganeering peace between India and Pakistan. And if all that weren’t enough you get to witness Roshan Seth who in the most thankless role seems like he is apologizing to us for his bit in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
A film of unremitting idiocy disguised as an upmarket big budget action movie, Ek Tha Tiger is about as reprehensible as masala comes, even in our decreasingly intellectual times. Do yourselves a favor and watch The Hero: Love Story of a Spy – at least it offers a ton of unintentional hilarity.