What does one expect from a Salman Khan movie? As Vidya Balan says in The Dirty Picture, â€śentertainment, entertainment and entertainmentâ€ťâ€¦and he is entertainment alright! He remains, in the true tradition of Bollywood, one of the heroes for whom movies are written. You do not expect a story when you enter the theatre hall, you expect a lot of masala though - you expect good looking locales and dances, dialogues and action. You expect a larger than life setting and character for Salman Khan. So does the film deliver on expectations. After the phenomenal success of Dabangg, Ready and Bodyguard, does this movie generate enough whistling, hooting and dancing for its audience to call it another â€śclassicâ€ť Salman movie? Almost!
There is a scene in the middle of the movie when Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif are both running away from the secret services and you see two efficient officers of ISI and RAW shooting at them together. There is a pause in the scene as their eyes meet with each other. It is probably the first time when ISI and RAW go hand in hand to kill someone â€“ and that is the story of the film. A love story of spies with a lot of spice! The Story (and it was slightly surprising to know that there is one), traverses the love life of RAW agent Rathod (Tiger) and ISI agent Zoya (Zee). The movie starts with a chase sequence in Iraq and ends with another one in Cuba. Tiger is on a mission to Ireland tracking movements of an Indian Scientist (Roshan Seth) where he meets Zoya. There is Girish Karnad and Ranvir Shorey on the Indian side of spying, paying the bills for Salman Khan and there is Gavie Chahal on the Pakistani side.
The mission, as you can expect is not as important as the love story that develops, so much so that the writer leaves the mission like an open ended thread where you donâ€™t know what happened to the scientist. But you do not have time to croon over it because soon you are transported from Ireland to Istanbul via Delhi. And then as the lovers elope you move with them to the colourful Cuba. Salman Khan movies are like love- you shouldnâ€™t think much over them and if you just go with the flow you will enjoy them. Just like the scene in the movie where the characters read â€ś Amor cuerdo, no es amorâ€ť â€“ A love without madness is no love.
The movie is replete with chase sequences and behaves differently from other spy movies. As the movie traverses continents, people and countries there are umpteen numbers of wide angled landscapes at sunrise and sunsets, leading lines of convoluted roads where the chase happens and keen feel-good production design which is aptly supported by James bond-meets-Dhoom series background score. Songs appear when they are not required but they wonâ€™t irritate, as else there are very few occasions when the good looking agents get a chance to dance. Dance is a subtle part of the movie.
Direction by Kabir Khan is at best average. If he was not ably supported by his assistant directors that managed the grand production locations and were it not for the impact of his lead actors, it would have been difficult for him to pull this one off. The ambitions here are at an entirely different scale compared to his prior works â€“ Kabul Express and New York. He mixes the feel of Kabul Express and New York at various points in the film. Where Kabir Khan disappoints is partly in the story and screenplay (although that can be forgiven) but particularly in the dialogues that are written alongside the talented Neelesh Mishra. Some of these dialogues are outright silly â€“ imagine an ISI senior telling his subordinate â€śBibi, ek aurat ke liye uski izzat hi sab kuch hoti haiâ€ť or a senior RAW agent telling his junior â€śthi ek sweet si ladkiâ€ť. There are no classic one liners like â€śMaine ek baar commitment de diâ€¦â€ť or â€śMujhe pe ek ehsaan karnaâ€¦.â€ť In the film. This dries up what could have been a constant stream of whistling and madness in the movie hall. The movie had a lot of scope for dialogues which were missed thoroughly.
Aseem Mishraâ€™s cinematography is top notch, something that is very much a pre-requisite these days. The approach taken here reminds one of another great movie of yesteryears, The Great Gambler. Low camera angles to cover the rising mosques of Turkey, wide angle shots to show a barren Iraq, a hurried camera in the chase sequence and colourful Cuba are all nicely utilized. The art direction in particular, with local team hires to set up the production design for Cuba and Turkey is top notch. Chase sequences are beautifully edited by Rameshwar Bhagat with sharp cuts, beautiful pauses in slow motions and narration and nicely choreographed action shots. Action sequences (with Input from Hollywood â€“ Mark Rounthwaite) are the key highlight of the film.
Vaibhavi Merchant and Ahmed Khan gets enough chance to show the dance movies, its well-choreographed with Latin numbers in Cuba, ball room dancing at UN assemblies and ballet dances in Ireland. Music by Sohail Sen and Sajid Wajid is thankfully less intrusive and the background score (by Julius Packiam) is racy but could have made a bigger impact.
Overall, Ek Tha Tiger delivers what it promises to deliver. It is a well made, charismatic, and larger than life film with beautiful cinematography and splendid action to boot. Dialogues and story leaves a lot to be desired. The movie is intentionally simplistic and silly at times but fits the bill for a masala movie. It is strongly recommended to Salman Khan (and Katrina Kaif) fans. For the rest it is just passable but a key element of Bollywood is diversity â€“ for every exemplary Gangs of Wasseypur there would be a charming Ek Tha Tiger.