Agent Vinod

Of Bond, Bebo and Audience Ki Pungi…

Agent Vinod; Pic: Wikipedia

Much awaited Bollywood spy thriller, Agent Vinod, written and directed by Sriram Raghavan released this weekend. Saif Ali Khan has not only acted in the film but also produced it. The film also stars Kareena Kapoor and a series of supporting actors including Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover, Ravi Kishan and Ram Kapoor amongst others. I was going to review it but then someone sent me this so called secret transcript of telephone conversations between Saif, Sriram and Kareena. It obviously looks like a spoof to me as films are not made like this; but I leave it to you to decide…

Saif Ali Khan (SAK): Hey Sriram! Wanna make a cool thriller? I’ll produce it… Love Aaj Kal made good money.

Sriram Raghavan (SR): I already made two cool thrillers but despite all the good reviews, they don’t earn much at the box office.

SAK: Yeah man! Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddar were good… maybe you need to make a James Bond style thriller starring me. I mean look at Farhan and Shah Rukh’s Don, it became a hit and now they’re working on a sequel!

SR: Hmm… I think we can do better than them.

SAK: Exactly, and with your credentials, my star power and a lot of style, we can actually make a James Bond style film in India.

SR: Of course, now that the James Bond films also look and feel like Bolly thrillers from the 70s.

SAK: Done deal! So what do we call the film?

SR: I don’t know; let me start writing the film first…

SAK: Umm…  Ok but please make me an agent in the film. I’d like to be a secret agent, Bebo loves that kinda stuff.

SR: Ok, let’s call it Agent Vinod then; it was a hit spy thriller in 1977. It’s cool and retro.

SAK: Superb! People will call it a remake and after a while we’ll deny it… think of the double publicity… ok, hold on a minute, Bebo is saying something.

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SAK: Sorry, Bebo says she also wants to be in the film and since she’s already done a Helen aunty style cabaret in Don; she wants a Jayshree T style mujra song in the film. Oh, and she also wants to be an agent. She says she liked Eva Green in Casino Royale, so please write something interesting for her.

SR: Hmm… Ok, I’ll do that. I am not sure about Jayshree T style mujra though.

SAK: Listen, I can’t disturb the peace in my household; I’ll ask Pritam to start working on the mujra and a couple of other fancy tunes inspired by music the world over as we must shoot the film in 12 countries at least!

SR: 12 countries! Ok, I’ll incorporate that in my story.

SAK: Yes, please do that. To make it easier for you, Bebo is discussing the countries she wants to visit with Lolo and Babita aunty. She’ll mail you the list.

SR: Uh… Ok! Anything else?

SAK: No I think, this is enough for now… I’ll ask my team to start working on the brand integrations so that you can keep them in mind too.

SR: Ok, bye.

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A few days later…

SR: Hello!

Kareena Kapoor aka Bebo: Hi Sriram, hope you got my list of countries… I included Russia as Saifu keeps talking about Bond movies having Russian villains. But please do not take me there, it’s too cold and I’ll have to wear jackets; that will make me look fat, no? I’d like to shoot in Europe during summer as I’d like to wear a nice sexy gown for a chase sequence. Manish (Malhotra) was over last night for cocktails and we discussed some ideas. He’s the best you know!

SR: Oh, your character is from Pakistan and an agent so I thought you’d like more rugged stuff, like jackets and all… but it is ok, a gown it is for the chase sequence.

Bebo: You’re such a darling… LOL! Accha, talk to Saifu now… I am off to shoot an action sequence for Bodyguard. They have a killer helicopter robot chasing me during the scene today; you also think of something cool like a deadly box of chocolates or something. OK, Ciao!

SR: Ok Kareena, I will. Thanks!

SAK: Hi Sriram. I have seen loads of DVDs now and I want you to include the following… a Bo Derek style swimsuit sequence, where we’ll have a hot model emerging from the sea in a two piece bikini; and don’t think of Bebo doing it! I watched In Bruges, so let’s have some sort of shoot out sequence in middle of an exotic European city square. The opening title sequence should be at par with a Bond film! We definitely need to have a car chase, a bike chase and a helicopter… Of course, the plot should have the villain planning a nuclear war or something that I’ll thwart. Oh! And I have already placed an order for a Savile Row tuxedo, Casino Royale style… so include a sequence where Bebo and I go for a fancy function or something; Manish is doing a slinky dress for her in gold.

SR: Yes, I will. Anything else?

SAK: Oh yeah! Pritam has got some really original inspirations this time… he’s doing something on the lines of Boney M’s Rasputin and a special item song for me based on some Iranian band number he discovered on YouTube. Bebo’s mujra is also shaping up well; she even chose a fuchsia dress. And Pritam says we can give a retro touch by using old Hindi numbers in the back ground score. I think it’s ingenious! Your views?

SR: It’s your film buddy! I am only the writer, director.

SAK: Good! I promise we’ll make money on this one… I have a good feeling about it.

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March 26, 2012 – After the first weekend of Agent Vinod’s release

Audience:

Agent Vinod should have been called Travel Agent Vinod! (Read on Twitter and Facebook)

Agent Vinod ne pungi baja di… I’m never getting my Rs. 250 and three hours back…

Critics:

Sriram Raghavan what have you done? We fanboys are disappointed…

Producer’s Office:

Film’s budget + promotion: Rs. 50 Crore + 12 Crore = 62 Crore approx

Music & Satellite rights sold: Rs. 30 Crore approx

First weekend worldwide collections: over Rs.  25 Crore approx

We’ll make a profit hopefully…

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Kahaani

A Paisa Wasool Thriller…

Pic source: Wikipedia

Bollywood is not very good with thrillers, especially nothing beyond the fast cars, snazzy hero types… While the Dons and the Agent Vinods create a lot of buzz and earn the moolah, there are hardly any thrillers that play with your mind and keep you on the edge of your seat. Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani successfully manages to do that and Vidya Balan’s superb performance along with the current ‘India’s darling’ status helps the film to draw in the audience.

A thriller with a pregnant woman as the protagonist is something new for the Indian cinema and it seems the viewers are also growing up along with the filmmakers. A few years ago Sriram Raghavan made an excellent thriller called, Ek Haseena Thi starring Urmila Matondkar. It was a slick film with a fabulous plot and a chilling climax. Whoever saw it loved it but the box-office figures were not very encouraging. Thankfully, with Kahaani it is different and the film has already been declared a hit within four days of its release. So what works for Kahaani? Here’s my list (there are minor spoilers in the post):

An interesting story and a clever screenplay (story: Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita Kala; screenplay: Ghosh, Suresh Nair & Nikhil Vyas): The plot is intriguing, about a pregnant woman (Vidya Bagchi, played by Vidya Balan) who comes to Kolkata looking for her missing husband… the screenplay does full justice to it, with smart and at times misleading scenes and situations. Vidya’s condition immediately draws your support and you join her in her search, just like a young police officer, Rana. You are concerned about her well being and actually get worried when you know something wrong is going to happen next. I also enjoyed the dialogues (Ghosh, Ritesh Shah & Sutapa Sikdar) that were peppered with Bengali lines and terms.

Inspired casting: Kudos to the casting director who managed to put together a stellar cast of Bengali actors who make their characters so real and believable. Parambrata Chatterjee as a young cop who assists Vidya in her search is extremely likeable and sincere. Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas is simply outstanding; full credit to the writers for creating an interesting character like Bob – an insurance agent who is also a contract killer. Other characters including the senior pot-bellied police officer, Mona Lisa Guest House receptionist and the little kids, all have done a fabulous job. Finally, Vidya Balan as the lead; I can’t think of another actress who would have been able to pull off this role except her and Konkona Sen Sharma. Vidya once again does a stellar job and is extremely convincing as a pregnant woman who is determined to find her husband. She is vulnerable and at the same time stronger than any of the other characters.

Kolkata: Those who have been to Kolkata will enjoy the film a bit more than those who haven’t. And those who haven’t may want to visit. Sujoy and his team (Cinematography – Setu; Art Direction – Kaushik Das, Subrata Barik) bring alive the many faces of the city on screen – a buzzing metro with traffic jams and crowded local trains; a sleepy town which still appears to be stuck in the last century and a city soaked in celebrations. I almost cheered at the mention of Park Street’s iconic restaurant, Mocambo and at a glimpse of New Market…

Kahaani starts slow and you get a chance to empathise and connect with Vidya. However, once the action begins, you are in for a roller coaster ride. Vidya’s flashbacks about her husband are irritating as they hamper the pace of the film. The film has many loop-holes and a lot of things are a little hard to digest. However, those can be overlooked for the ultimate effect that is created. Music by Vishal-Shekhar is good and goes very well with the mood of the film.

One thing that I did not like about the film is its ending. The director spends too much time in explaining everything after the final revelation or the main climax. The film soars high but lands with a thud. It would have been more impactful if the end was open to interpretation.

Overall, Kahaani is one of the best Hindi films I have seen in the recent times and I recommend you watch it if you haven’t already.

– Shrey Khetarpal

My Week With Marilyn

She’s Marilyn… She’s Michelle

My Week With Marilyn; Source: Wikipedia

Marilyn Monroe lives through her image… the iconic photographs, the stories around her enigmatic life and death, and of course, her films that released over half a century ago. She is more of a cinematic icon than a person in the minds of the viewers today… However, Simon Curtis’ (director) film ‘My Week with Marilyn’ brings Marilyn the star, Marilyn the manipulator, Marilyn the victim and Marilyn the insecure girl back to life again.  The real credit goes to the actress, who it seems was born to play this role – Michelle Williams.

The film is based on British writer and documentary filmmaker, Colin Clark’s account of his time spent with Marilyn on and off the sets of another film, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) for which she shot in London with actor/filmmaker, Laurence Olivier. Clark worked with Olivier as the third assistant director and forged an unlikely friendship with the world’s biggest star, albeit for a week. His two books, ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’ and ‘My Week with Marilyn’ were adapted beautifully for screen by Adrian Hodges.

In the new film, Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) admires Marilyn’s screen persona and tells his young colleague, Colin (Eddie Redmayne) that he finds himself dull when she’s on-screen with him. That statement holds true of Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week with Marilyn. When she is on screen, you see nobody else and she lives Marilyn Monroe; she flirts, she winks, she laughs and says wicked things… she also appears nervous, vulnerable and someone you’d like to help, despite knowing that she can’t be helped. That’s the situation, Colin finds himself in as he thinks he can protect Marilyn, but from whom, herself?

The film also stars Judi Dench as Sybil Thorndike; Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh; Emma Watson as Lucy, a wardrobe assistant; Zoë Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Marilyn’s acting coach; Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene, her business partner, amongst others. A stellar cast like this and you only remember Michelle after the film ends! Of course, the role she plays ensured she gets the most attention, but it was a big responsibility and the final outcome rested on her performance.

Williams has given some fine performances earlier also that earned her Oscar nominations (Supporting Actress for Brokeback Mountain and Leading Actress for Blue Valentine); but this time she shone like never before earning her third Academy Award nomination (Best Actress). Do watch My Week with Marilyn for her. It is a fine film with an interesting story, good cinematography, art direction, great supporting cast, etc, etc. But at the end it is Michelle as Marilyn who is the soul of the film.

– Shrey Khetarpal