While watching Ek Tha Tiger, the thought that kept hitting me again and again was that throughout the making of the film, the makers faced a dilemma and were unable to decide what kind of movie they wanted to make. Did they want to make a realistic story of spies and their world, or did they want to make a full-blown, no-holds-barred, quintessential Salman Khan entertainer which defies logic and earns whistles and claps in abundance? They couldnt decide, and finally, they ended up making a movie that is neither here nor there.
Don’t get me wrong. Ek Tha Tiger is not a bad movie. In fact, far from it! It has a decent plot, it maintains its tone and tempo and even has some stunning action scenes. But it is not a very entertaining film. At the same time, it is not the best Salman Khan film ever, as is being touted. Nor is it the best Bollywood action film yet. Heck, it is not even the best spy movie to come out of Bollywood this year. But before we get into comparisons, let’s talk about what worked and what did not.
The story concept, although not terribly complex, is interesting. What happens when a spy decides he/she wants to lead a normal life? Can someone who has been trained and who has sworn to put country before self for all his or her life revert the decision at some point of time in life and start a new life afresh? There are so many possibilities there and Ek Tha Tiger pretty much skims over them. The screenplay is quite dull and underplays everything. The stakes dont rise high enough – not in the emotional scenes, not in the funny scenes and surprisingly, not even in the high voltage action scenes. The action scenes are excellently choreographed though, and do appear slick and sophisticated. They are fun to watch but the experience continues to be underwhelming, because the stakes arent high enough, and as an audience member, you dont feel the action has an end purpose that you care about. The culprit here is the direction, which underplays everything and ends up making the entire movie look like a ho-hum effort. The background music is apt and does improve the impact of the scenes in places.
Music is a mixed bag. Banjara is the weakest of the lot and is picturised very typically. It also comes at a point where the momentum of the film is already low and acts as a speed-breaker. Laapata is easy on the eye and comes as a refreshing change in the movie. Saiyaara is perhaps the best placed song, but lacks good visuals to accompany it. Maashallah comes off as the best of the lot, especially since it appears at the end as the credits roll, and there is nothing it can do to spoil the effect of the movie. It is easily the most energetic song of the album and, in spite of an uninspired display of dance moves by the lead pair, manages to entertain. Cinematography is excellent and every frame looks beautiful and adds to the scene. The direction by Kabir Khan, who gave us the very interesting Kabul Express and the fine-till-the-muddled-climax New York, is confused and, for lack of decision, makes a meddle of a good story idea and opportunity.
The supporting cast is pretty good and does a commendable job. Girish Karnad and Ranvir Shorey are a delight to watch in particular. Katrina Kaif is ill suited to the role and although she does her action scenes with aplomb, her emoting is wooden and listless. A better actress could have done wonders in this role, which itself needed more fleshing out. Salman Khan does well as a RAW agent, especially in the first half where he is under disguise and in the action scenes. He plays his part with conviction, without going over-the-top and without his usual low-brow humor. It is refreshing to watch him do simple stuff without hamming or overacting. Where he appears unconvincing is the romantic angle, and that is because the romance is half-baked.
Ultimately, Ek Tha Tiger is a well-meaning film, which at only 2 hrs 10 mins takes too long to come to the point and then makes the point very meekly. In the process, it does not entertain enough and ends up being a middling effort. It is neither a massy film that caters to Sallu fans nor one that will win critical acclaim for its finesse. Again, it is not a bad film, just an underwhelming one. And all this because it faces an identity crisis.
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