Ek Tha Tiger (2012): 10 Spoiler-Free Observations

Let's begin with an excerpt from my review of Bodyguard (2011) around this time last year:

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):


Satish said...

I saw this with my wife yesterday, and I mostly agree in particular with the last one about something changing soon. Was also reading your Bodyguard review and I think you're spot on with this...

"Please don’t let my fondness of Salman or the film imply I don’t subscribe to intellectualism as a conscious effort to elevate the self and community – some ‘commercial’ movies warrant more intellect in their consumption"

That's very well said, tBF!

Filmi Girl said...

Agree 100%!!!! On every point - especially the spoilers. I gave away one in my review but I warned everybody about it.

And Katrina! She was looking a bit plastic in a few places but she and Salman were wonderful together. :)

It made me anxious to see what she'll be doing in Dhoom 3!

Jess said...

Agree with all your points, but I'd like to point out the downsides I found in the movie (my list is much shorter lol)

1. The background score was not very good I thought. Too cartoony even for the comedy bits in the first half. I did like the songs though.

2. That pinocchio song/play thing was SO awful I almost had a conniption. My friends were all really confused and disturbed by it. Why didn't Kabir just use the lovely Irish dancers?

3. And what happened to that nice old professor? Or did Tiger's love story allow him to escape under the nose of RAW and ISI?

I also would like to congratulate Kabir, Salman, Katrina and the team on the action, but the biggest props go hands down to their stunt doubles. The guy who did all the parkour and had Salman's face cgi'd on to his for a big part of it was really really good.

Moimeme said...

Nice set of comments, TBF. But I feel like I don't know your opinion of the film as a whole, though you've touched on various elements of it.

I was most struck by your point on "bold" heroines. Yes, indeed, this is exactly what a bold heroine should be, not constrained to just one meaning of that word as in other films. In fact, Salman touched on this topic in his interview with Anupama Chopra. The heroines of TDP, Heroine, Fashion, etc. are "bold" from the male gaze perhaps, but the heroine in ETT is bold in a general sense, for all audiences, in the sense of bravery, which I think is a much more valuable quality in a person.

As for changing the kind of films he does, Salman has been very definite that he will never play a superhero, because (and I agree with him) the traditional Hindi film hero already is like a superhero. However, he is going to change things, since his next after Dabangg 2 will be a romance.

I'm working on my review of ETT and will let you know when it's up, since you invited us to do so.

Andy Adamson said...

Saw it yesterday and agree with your review totally. I'd add great location work, some excellent jokes and just the right running time (the "you're old enough to be married" line in particular). My only criticism would be some of the CGI was a bit ropey (the tram scene in particular)

The Mighty Mango said...

1. So agree with you on the first 15 minutes. The riding-a-table bit was great.

2. Clarification on the Katrina thing: I'm not saying she doesn't look good in a salwar kameez (heck, I'd probably be the last person to say that about anybody). I'm saying she looked uncomfortable in one. Like...awkward. Hard to explain.

3. Also, I like your case for Zoya being bold, but the number of times she sits on her hands (up until the last-minute ass-kicking in Cuba) still bothers me.

4. "...Salman even makes us not hate him for having done something wrong..." I know your post is spoiler-free, but can you clarify here in comments? Not sure what you mean!

5. You still need to see Agent Vinod. :P (Though...it's quite a bit more gorey than Ek Tha Tiger.)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Satish: I hope you and yours enjoyed the movie. I continue to be baffled at what I can only conclude is genuine anger (and I LOL at that sentiment, but it's out there) over movies that the likes of a Salman Khan or an Akshay Kumar make. They have demonstrated time and again that they're making what in their eyes are mass entertainers not because they have to, but because they want to. They've also shown over and over again that they can act *really* well.

So this intellectual brigade is bothersome. It's not like those of us who can enjoy some of their movies are dumb, right? :D

And yes, I hope Salman does something different soon, although I think he tried to with Veer and it backfired big time. I honestly believe of each of his movies in the past 5 years, Veer had the most potential at least on paper, but I know I'm in the very, very small minority of that opinion.

Thank you for your visit and comment!

theBollywoodFan said...

Filmi Girl: I look forward to reading your review. I think most of us with any appreciation for filmmaking and viewing wouldn't include spoilers without alerts.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, this, that SRK-starrer upcoming followed by Dhoom 3 -- Kats is all over the place! Good for her fans!
Thanks so much for your visit and comment!

theBollywoodFan said...

Jess! Thanks, and you're absolutely correct, of course, in commending first the stunt doubles. Some of this stuff was ridiculous.

1. I knew I was missing something in my haste to write and publish. The one issue I had with the background score is that the first few seconds of the Tiger theme reminded me of the theme from the newer Don movies.

What did not occur to me until you mentioned it is the cartoony nature of the background score tie-in to my mentions of Prince of Persia and Aladdin video games which I played as a kid. The ones I played were on PC and Sega Mega Drive (aka Genesis in the U.S.) in the early to mid-1990s. Both had some seriously cartoony music, as did most platform fighting/adventure games back then. Now, from a sound engineering standpoint, your comment makes *complete* sense! Maybe that's why I kinda liked the background score?

2. I've heard that quite a bit, enough to want to see that Pinocchio song and dance again. I think I was *so* caught up listening intently and looking at Pinocchio's nose and Katrina's eyes that I failed to see the what was really happening on stage. Agree though that they ought to have paid more attention to it. It's such a critical juncture in the movie too, not like the other full songs.

3. Since they sent Tiger to observe the professor and not assume he was doing something wrong, maybe we're just supposed to assume all worked out in that part of the storyline? Maybe we'll learn more if there ever is a sequel?

theBollywoodFan said...

Moimeme: Thank you and welcome to the blog! My overall opinion -- and I'm sorry if this wasn't reflected in the post -- is that Ek Tha Tiger is a fun entertainer that works despite having plot holes that are easy to overlook because of a great action and cinematography, and a cast whose strengths are tailored to the characters they portray. (I'll add this bit to the conclusory statement above.)

Do you agree/disagree? I'd love to read your review, yes, please share the link when ready!

On the interviews:

Thanks for directing me to that interview of Salman with Anupama Chopra. I've seen Salman and Katrina interviewed by Komal Nahata -- and that was a really fun interview -- but I want to check this one out now. Definitely agree on the boldness comment.

Also, interesting that he'll be doing a romantic movie soon enough. It's tricky. He was doing a few different movies -- Kyon Ki, God Tussi Great Ho, Rock On -- none of them was terrible but they flopped big time. Then he starts doing action movies again and creates these enormous hits. Maybe the platform's there to go back and mix things up a bit?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Andy! I don't disagree at all about the CGI in that tram scene. And how about that vehicle coming to a stop so close to the other sprawled out cars on the roadway? It reminded me of Thomas the Choo Choo Train in some ways :D I was also thinking back to a train scene in Wanted. The action preceding the eventual stop here was really more fun, though, so I didn't mind it.

Thanks so much for your visit and comment, and welcome! You have some gorgeous pictures on your blog, can't wait to check them out. Thank you!

theBollywoodFan said...

The Mighty Mango!

2. Get your point on Kats in salwar kameez. I'm now wondering if she looked uncomfortable with those on because of the scenes in which she was wearing them. Maybe she was supposed to, given what her character was doing at the time? I want to see it again now. Bring on the DVD! :)

3. I can't say I didn't think about that. But hey, the best couples know how to play good and bad cop (I guess even versus cops, LOL). Just kidding. Your point is entirely valid.

4. So if they really fell in love like that in the real world, the logical and correct thing to do would be to wait until the current assignment was done, go back home, resign from their duties, go to a neutral place (Dubai is less than two hours away from Islamabad and about a couple away from Delhi), get married, and live happily ever after. Why use up top resources of your employers when they really ought to be doing more important things? Hence, I conclude what they did was just wrong. But where's the action and adventure in doing the right thing? :D

5. I'll look to pick up Agent Vinod the next time I go DVD shopping, then. You've convinced me.

The Mighty Mango said...

Re: 4. Pssh. I think in fictional spy world, the assumption is that the agency wouldn't let them resign to marry an enemy agent, even if they went somewhere neutral. So... I'm not thinking they did anything wrong. lol.

veracious said...

Uff, I really want to see this! It's great that Salman doesn't seem to disappoint these days .. okay, maybe aside from Ready which was not my cuppa.

dunkdaft said...

Too late. But,

As always, a superb post. Last few posts, I can see your humor growing more. Kya baat hai boss? haan?

I liked the moments of the two - SalKat. But didn't like how overall movie was treated. Something, incomplete feeling was there. A hurried ending.

But, the butt-kicking Kat made second half totally woot-worthy !

theBollywoodFan said...

The Mighty Mango: If assuming they wouldn't be able to resign peacefully, I guess you're right!

theBollywoodFan said...

Veracious: I saw Ready just very recently (like, a week ago), and I can see why you'd say that, although I did quite enjoy some of the humor -- more that was induced by Salman or Paresh Rawal than anyone else. Some of Salman's dialogue quite reminded me of him in Partner (which I really enjoyed, despite rip off and all).

I think you'll really like Ek Tha Tiger if you've enjoyed his other recent action movies. Thank you for your visit and comment!

theBollywoodFan said...

Dunkdaft: Thanks man! I'm too late in replying too. It's cool. You comment on humor in posts is interesting, I'll have to investigate the reason for it a bit further. :)

I think the theme in Yash Raj movies is that they don't seem to care much about completeness. It is often a shame because they're good in so many departments (in this case, cast and cinematography being the top two in my opinion), but they just don't round things out like, say, Aamir or Ashutosh Gowariker would.

I truly believe Katrina's progressed a lot in the last two years, it was fun to see her kick butt in this! :)

Until next time, then. Thanks for your visit and comment.