Saturday, August 18, 2012

NEW: Ek Tha Tiger: Warring spies in love

It’s one we’ve all been waiting for… Ek Tha Tiger! Beware of spoilers below, though I tried to avoid the big ones!

Synopsis: Tiger (Salman Khan) is a ruthless RAW agent known for getting things done — and killing people (“Try not to kill anyone on this one,” his boss asks). Sent on a mission to observe an Indian scientist in Ireland, Tiger rediscovers his humanity as he falls in love with the scientist’s housekeeper, Zoya (Katrina Kaif). But as fate would have it, Zoya is actually an undercover Pakistani spy, the very last person Tiger should fall in love with.

So let’s just say I liked it despite my ongoing Sallu issues. I really enjoyed it, as a matter of fact, even though it wasn’t my favorite.

A few scattered thoughts:

Ek Tha Tiger is roughly comparable to Agent Vinod in several ways. It’s a spy flick based on a character who’s ostensibly RAW’s star agent, who then falls for a Pakistani woman. (Though there’s a key difference in this that I’ll discuss in a moment.) I tweeted after seeing the movie that in a way, Ek Tha Tiger feels like Salman’s response to the hailed-as-a-first-Bond-style-Bwood-spy-flick Agent Vinod: “Saif can be a desi spy? I can be a more badass desi James Bond!” (“Main James Bond hoon!” he actually yells in one scene.) I’ll skirt going into which one I liked more because there’s really a key difference in the two: Agent Vinod is a spy movie with a conspiracy-style plot and a Bollywood heart; Ek Tha Tiger is a Bollywood love story with a spy setting.

Another important (though less directional) difference is in each film’s treatment of Pakistan. Each film was banned in Pakistan, but after Sallu essentially campaigned for Ek Tha Tiger in Pakistan, the ban was lifted. But aside from that, it makes a lot of sense that of the two, Ek Tha Tiger was the one unbanned: Though it deals with the touchy subject of Indo-Pak relations, it’s really so evenhanded in its treatment that I have to wonder why it was banned at all. (Well, it’s because the Pakistani government is overly touchy; but that’s an argument for another day…) “I won’t betray my country,” Zoya says. “And I won’t betray mine,” Tiger responds. It’s an important difference because in Agent Vinod, Iram effectively betrays Pakistan, and Pakistan is behind nearly every nefarious dealing in the film. Ek Tha Tiger merely shows two countries senselessly at war, senselessly hating one another, neither more to blame than the other. “Our countries will keep fighting for who knows how long,” Zoya says. So she and Tiger agree not to play into their countries’ fighting — signaling romance winning over criticizing Pakistan.

Taking steps away from that, here are some comments more on the film itself:

The cinematography is really quite better than I actually anticipated. From excellent filter work to great moments that slow down action scenes to creative shots, the camera work was really quite top knotch.

And the action is, save its handful of groaningly exaggerated moments, actually quite good. From the standard chase-shooting scenes to a great across-the-rooftops segment in Cuba, they’re varied and well-done.

The one major exception? For a well-trained and supposedly valuable Pakistani spy, Zoya shows very little hand-to-hand prowess or even spy smarts until about ¾ of the way through the film. Instead, she’s usually prey to what I call film’s “helpless woman syndrome”...despite, yeah, HELLO, being a spy. It’s one of the things that makes me angriest about films. Why must a woman be helpless on screen when every bit of the film shows the man’s physical prowess?

Another random note about Zoya is that once she's made to look more "Pakistani," Katrina looks decidedly out of place in more traditional desi garb. Very awkward almost. And folks have come out of the woodwork to argue this with me, but I think Katrina also looks awkward and ridiculous in a scene where she carries bagpipes (which, by the way, are Scottish-style bagpipes and not Irish-style bagpipes). I say not even she can make bagpipes (not the outfit, but the bagpipes themselves) sexy, but evidently everyone disagrees.

So much sizzle it makes me wonder if they actually broke up.

Anyway, despite having definitely gone through a breakup, Salman and Katrina still have some definite chemistry on screen. An almost-kiss moment has your heart stopping for just a moment (in part because you actually think, “Wait, an onscreen kiss...between them?”), and then later, there’s a heavily romantic scene where she basically seduces him away from painting. And it’s great. (Totally irrelevant sidenote, but Katrina is definitely taller than Salman, but movie magic keeps trying to make him taller... Short Man Syndrome!)

The film has a fabulous international feel to it. From India to Dublin to Istanbul to Havana — with a certain small tribute to each locale along the way. And perhaps I’m biased because Dublin and Havana are high on my “wish I could travel there” lists, but I liked this far more than many globe-hopping films (and far more than Agent Vinod’s flavorless stream of locales).

Havana! (Sallu almost looks Latino!)

I particularly loved the stint in Havana, with its carefree feel, Spanish (me encanta!) and the classic cars (que bella!). I could rave forever about the cars, but I won’t.

I could also rave about how wonderful the tense moments, the cliffhangers that keep you guessing, are. But I’ll restrain myself because I really don’t want to spoil anything for anybody. (Feel free to discuss them in comments, though!) But especially the interval cliffhanger! Wow.



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    1. Whaaaaaaaaaat, you actually read and comment? lol.

      1. You should.
      2. Pakistan always has to make a big deal. It's in their makeup. :P But yeah, if history is any indicator, it wouldn't have mattered. Didn't they ban all Indian movies for decades? Don't think that stopped anything!
      3. Some of the handful of groaningly exaggerated moments were fun. Not the plane scene though, because I was sitting there thinking the whole time... he would've gotten sucked off of the plane. lol.
      4. I still haven't seen Kahaani. But I can't stand film women who can't fight. Ever. Also, glad you thought she looked good in traditional attire. She just looked awkward in it to me, like she felt out of place.
      5. Glad someone agrees on bagpipes.
      6. I actually thought it was dragging toward the end, but maybe that's because it was like midnight at the time I was watching the end of the movie. Haha.

  2. Omg, first let me say I'm so happy I stumbled on your blog! I am starting at UF too, and I've been wondering where to see Hindi films nearby. I heard there was a cinema in Gainesville that shows Bollywood movies. I don't know how frequent, I think it was for Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl that I really wanted to see!
    I am an Arab-American male that also loves Bollywood! I know a couple people too that watch it, but I think I'm one of the few that's actually obsessed with desi culture. Arabs in general kinda like Bollywood movies (in the Middle East), but here in America, everyone finds it odd/weird. Like my parents find it odd too haha. Anyway, I've seen around 30 films too, but not in such a short span as you guys. I got this obsession like from November last year (2011). Dostana was my first movie to watch and I loved it! Then I saw Band Baaja Baarat, which I also loved. The last one I saw was Kahaani and AgentVinod, both which I found very good (especially the former). Anyway, I want to watch Ek Tha Tiger! Especially since it came out on Eid this year!! But, one problem I find facing many non-desis interested in watching Bollywood is finding them with English subtitles. Personally, I don't have Netflix, etc, and I usually find websites where I watch my videos online for free. It is really hard to find them with eng subs, or even if they say they have eng subs, half the movie doesn't have them! So, that frustrates me, and I was wondering where/how you watch them? Can you understand Hindi by now (I'm on my quest of learning it, I know some words/phrases)? Thank you!

    1. Hi, Sameer! Glad you found my blog (I say "my" because my co-bloggers have all but vanished!). :) I actually graduated from UF in December, and I'm in Tampa now. Right around the time I left, the theater in Butler Plaza began showing Bollywood movies (I saw Ra.One there). It's generally my policy to support any Bollywood movie that comes to the theater, whether I want to see it or not. :)

      I speak some conversational Hindi now and watch some movies without subtitles, but I know what you mean about finding subtitles... The India Bazaar (next to a great Indian restaurant) on 34th Street has good DVDs for $4-$6, but if you buy NEW releases, they tend to be low-quality ripoffs... Online, YouTube has a pretty good selection of older Bollywood movies/classics, but yeah, the subtitles do sometimes cut out. I recently found this website, which is pretty good and has subtitles, so try it out: (Ek Tha Tiger won't be there yet, though.)

      I know what you mean about people finding it odd/weird. My obsession with desi culture is more than just Bollywood, though that's where it started and of course a very large part. My family thinks I'm crazy! Haha. And I swear any time I walk into a theater, desis think, "Who is this silly white girl?!" haha. :) Oh, well. I love Bollywood enough to overlook the stares. :)

    2. Thank you for the link! One time I bought some DVDs from a store....bad choice haha. They were barely subtitled! And I checked the cinemas here recently and none were showing BW movies...I think it could be for the big hit releases.

  3. Oh and I want to learn Hindi too! But since I know how to read and write Arabic, I thought I'd learn Urdu first, as it would be easier for me than starting to learn a whole new alphabet (as they'll teach you here in college, along with grammar). After getting my conversational Urdu down, I'll most likely be able to understand Hindi, since they're very similar. My pakistani friends always watch Hindi movies and understand them perfectly. Do you know if they offer Urdu classes at UF? Or conversational Hindi?

    1. I actually started off with the intent of learning the Urdu alphabet so that I could use it to segue into learning Arabic, but so far it hasn't worked. Haha. I can't really read Devanagari (Hindi script) either; just a few letters.

      But Urdu and Hindi are essentially the same language when spoken; the written part (and obviously the alphabet) is what's different. In conversational terms, it's all very mixed nowadays, especially in Bollywood because many of the lyricists or dialogue writers are Muslim and speak Urdu. So if speaking/hearing is what you're after, Hindi and Urdu are the same; only the writing is really different.

      They offer Hindi classes at UF, but they're intense (five days a week). I never had time for one.

  4. Ok, thank you so much! That's what I've heard too. I don't know if they offer Urdu classes, i'm going to try to find out! By the way, I need to ask there any place in Gainesville where I can get desi attire? Like salwar kameez?

    1. The Indian store on 34th has some Indian clothes, but the best way to buy is online. I own a pretty big collection of Indian clothes (definitely for a white girl), and most of it came from online retailers (like,,, even ebay).

  5. Ok thanks! I've seen utsav before. They're pretty expensive. But one thing I worry about is getting the size correct, and the way the article looks on you...which can't be done exactly if you order online.

    1. CBazaar tends to be cheaper than Utsav, with much of the same stuff. Indian clothes are measured by chest size. If you're in between sizes (I am), you either have to alter clothes yourself or have them custom made -- which CBazaar does at a reasonable price.

      Also, Ek Tha Tiger is available online here now:

  6. Ok thank you! I liked the link you sent me! I watched Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, which I loved!! It was different! And I like anything with ranveer singh and anushka sharma haha!