It should be difficult to pick a favourite moment from Agent Vinod, the latest Saif Ali Khan-starrer that has ended up to be about as little of a dhamaka at the box office as the nuclear bomb in the film. Perhaps Ram Kapoor as a villain named Abu Nazer who is based in Russia? Or maybe Prem Chopra with a ponytail, speaking in Moroccan Arabic? It’s an international film, which means that not only are there white extras but also an Iranian actress. (To be fair, they really did go around the world shooting the film. Now if only the locations managed to add up so that the viewer felt there was a reason to hop from Afghanistan to Morocco to Somalia to I don’t remember where else with stopovers in places like Riga and Karachi. That said, if someone paid me to hang out at Tangiers, I probably wouldn’t care whether or not the script made sense.) There was a brilliant interrogation scene in which Ram Kapoor is wearing headphones and his eardrums are being tortured with high volume dance music. Yet through that “din”, he can hear Saif Ali Khan’s whispery attempts at a baritone. Maybe the music wasn’t so loud after all. Incidentally, the scene is set in a club in Russia where they play Hindi music. As you do in the Bollywood version of the globe. Incidentally, the film ends in South Africa with Khan and a Russian agent in a bikini. I’ve no idea why.
It’s a pretty progressive film, Agent Vinod. Unlike many heroes, Saif Ali Khan does not shy of seeming ridiculous. Consequently, he’s a spy who cannot bear to button the first two buttons of his shirt, no matter what the situation. Whether he’s being interrogated or he’s at a shootout, the audience must see his male cleavage. He also has a dance that he does in rooms where he knows there’s a hidden camera. It’s probably designed to show the audience Khan has a sense of humour but what it establishes beyond doubt is that Khan cannot dance to save his life. Also, while Khan’s desi Bond doesn’t get much action from women, he does canoodle one Freddie Khambatta. Not just that, Prem Chopra’s character is shown to be heartbroken, devastated and wailing with empty-the-glycerine-bottle misery when his camel is lethally injured. Bisexuality, bestiality, nothing’s taboo in the world of Agent Vinod. Except logic. If it’s senseless and ridiculous, bring it on. Details like explaining a cause-and-effect relation, on the other hand, is strictly not allowed. Which brings me to possibly my favourite bit in the entire film.
This is the scene. Khan and Kareena Kapoor are hiding out in a seedy hotel in Riga, Latvia. Why the government of India has put them up in a place that looks like a seedy motel that desperately wishes it was a set for a Wong Kar-Wai film is a separate issue. Point is, they’re in there. Approaching the hotel are a bunch of bad guys, menacing chaps with gelled hair and leather jackets who don’t really try to blend in much. In the lobby of the hotel sits a blind pianist who starts playing the piano and singing a song. While she does so, Khan proceeds to pop in and out of doors, as though all the doors and rooms in the hotel/motel are interconnected. Anyway, never mind the architectural oddity, the point is Khan lures the bad guys, one by one, into a different room and shoots them. No one seems to notice that a) Khan is coming in and out of different rooms like super-efficient room service, and b) that evil-expressioned men enter rooms, get shot and don’t come out. There is then a scuffle involving many shots and bits of pillars getting blown away by cross-shooting in the lobby itself. A woman pulls out a massive machine gun — it had so far been nestled in a baby blanket in a pram — and starts shooting at Khan until he’s managed to kill her. Then, Khan and Kapoor slip out, leaving behind an utterly destroyed lobby and numerous corpses. (After all, they do have an ISI plot to foil.) Once they’ve left, the song that the blind pianist was singing and playing finally stops and she reaches for her cane, without a flicker of expression on her face. Because it seems she’s both deaf and blind, since nothing else explains how she calmly sang and played her way through a mini massacre. Yet she’s making a living as a musician. That’s pretty impressive. I suspect if she put her mind to it and decided to blow up the world, she’d do a way better job than Agent Vinod‘s actual villain.