I’ll have to use discussion on Wanted (2009) and Dabangg (2010) as a lead into this brief discussion on Salman Khan’s latest movie and, as box office collections are illustrating, perhaps greatest in at least some respects. ... I am admittedly biased in favor of Salman, but he’s bringing the fun back into core, made-for-cinema Bollywood, and that cannot be a bad thing, can it?!
We're a week in, and the overwhelming box office success of this year's Salman starrer -- Ek Tha Tiger (There was a Tiger) -- is well-documented by now. The streak is alive and well. For our 2012 update on Salmanisms (coining the term here, folks), here are some key observations on or from the movie.
If you've seen it, I'd love to know what you think of it, and if you agree or disagree with the following. If you've written about it, please share a link in the comments section and I'll add it to the post.
- It is difficult -- really difficult -- to not have social media spoil a big movie. Good thing I'd learned my lessons after Twitter timelines spoiled the Olympics opening ceremony for me last month. I haven't yet read any reviews by critics and bloggers, but is it too much to ask that people not spoil an Eid release before Eid? I was completely taken off-guard by at least two moments in the movie that are too critical to be known by a viewer beforehand. It would be unfair any other way.
- He ducks. He jumps. He shoots. He slides. Heck, he even takes a table ride down a long, narrow, winding staircase while being chased. Through rows of clotheslines and flocks of birds. Over Prince of Persia-type rooftops and Aladdin of Agrabah-type bazaars. This movie has one of the best opening 15 minutes I have ever seen in a Bollywood action flick. Video game, please!
- Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif still have it. Whatever we may want to call *it* (chemistry of the unscientific kind, they say), it's still there in abundance. This is one cool couple that oozes some serious sex appeal.
- Katrina can act. She has gotten so much better over time, and it's about time she be given her due. Also about time I gave her a loud *Haaye Allah!!!* for how splendid she looks in salwar kameez!
- Speaking of the lead actress, Katrina's character (Zoya) really is my kind of 'bold'. We've been hearing so much about 'boldness' in popular cinema of late, be it of Vidya Balan (The Dirty Picture (2011)) or Priyanka Chopra (7 Khoon Maaf (2011)) or Sunny Leone (Jism 2 (2012)). This is a different kind of bold, folks. The kind in which the actress is a traditional Bollywood heroine one moment and a living specimen of a Street Fighter character (think Cammy) the next. She even does the corkscrew variant of the scissor kick! (When was the last time we could say *that*?!) That makes her likeable, bold, *and* hot, a combination of characteristics that can be applied to none of the other aforementioned 'bold' characters/actresses. The only thing missing was she didn't pull that action off while in salwar kameez. I rest my case.
- The best entertainers strike good balance of style, likeability, and pace. The emotional content here is fitting for what it is. Independence Day in South Asia and Eid are about India-Pakistan relations and community, and there's plenty of both here in a refreshingly (and expectedly) not-too-serious manner. There are mentors, friends, neighbors, confidants, coworkers, cops, countries, and intel folks, all working in synch. Honorable mention to a solid supporting cast.
- Kabir Khan's New York (2010) took an extremely sensitive topic and, in my opinion, missed quite miserably in its interpretations of the regulations it cited. Thankfully, we have no such issues here. Yes, the overarching topic is extremely sensitive here as well, but its treatment is far more light-hearted in comparison. For those seeking serious commentary on India-Pakistan relations, I direct you to your favorite propaganda-filled newspapers, radio stations and TV channels. This is escapist cinema at its core. Think James Bond who is actually loyal to his woman.
- There is also some very slick action that is best enjoyed on the big screen. Action in Hindi films has generally gotten better in the last decade, but this has to be among some of the best action we've seen in any Bollywood movie, largely in part due to Salman Khan and of course Director Kabir Khan. Bonus points for civilians not pulling guns out of nowhere for random acts of violence. God knows even that's a blessing these days. Also, there were parts that had me wishing the upcoming Dhoom 3 starred Salman v Aamir Khan instead. Those chases...
- Salman Khan understands the value proposition of 'paisa vasool' movies that, by definition, provide the best value for the audience's money. Add to it that in this case, he's more restrained in his antics than he was in Wanted (2009), Dabangg (2010), or Bodyguard (2011), and we have a complete and well-rounded filmic product that is just pure fun to consume. I can't divulge much more since this is intended to be a spoiler-free post, but I have to say that Salman even makes us not hate him for having done something wrong -- that's almost, dare I say, Amitabh Bachchan-like!
- The record-breaking streak cannot go on forever. Salman's been cruising on this incredible run of blockbusters lately, and it's great to see him finally gain (or regain) such consistent box office credibility. But there is one very common element in each of his big hits, and like Shahrukh Khan's love acts, it will get monotonous sooner than later. Yes, this was a slight shift, but was it enough of a sustainable change? I think it needs to change for the streak to continue. So...when do we see him as a *real* superhero? :D
So there you have it. Overall, just a fun, fun ride of a movie I'd recommend quite liberally. Ek Tha Tiger is an enjoyable ride. It's not earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but it does have a lot of what we love about Bollywood cinema. Four stars to Salman's best and most complete movie in a while!
Movie rating: 4/5
Excellent, unadulterated and clean entertainment
Music rating: 3/5
Songs are fair in the movie for visuals and cast, average otherwise. Lapataa is the pick of the lot.
My classification: R
For violence, blood. No language or sexual situation issues.
Official website (and picture source):