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Agent Vinod


By Arun

What is the primary job of a secret agent/spy/detective (whatever you like to call them)? Solving cases, one would think, with their deductive powers, eye for detail and shrewd thinking. Of course, there can be action, fisticuffs, shoot outs, car chases etc. But, the one thing driving a secret agent movie has to be intelligence with which a mystery is approached. Cinema seems to have a different idea: spies are born to look stylish and utter witty one liners at every possible moment, even when they have a gun pointed at their forehead. Since when did wit become an inseparable part of a detective’s personality?

Watch Sherlock Holmes, arguably, the world’s most celebrated fictional detective. We have had two movies in this franchise. Ask anyone who has watched both of them about the first thing that comes to their mind when the movies are mentioned. 9 out of 10 will answer that it is the wit of Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock) and occasionally that of Jude Law (Watson). The entire franchise is built around and moves along on the witty exchanges between the two, sometimes involving a third person. Of course, there is a central plot with extremely intelligent perpetrators. But, the focus of the script and the film, on the whole, seems to be so much on showcasing the ‘witty eloquence’ of its central characters, that there is hardly much time given to the actual ways in which critical conclusions are reached. It all seems to jump right into the mind of the great Sherlock Holmes, as and when he summons them. Agreed, Sherlock Holmes is the owner of an extremely sharp mind, but even a witch with a crystal ball wouldn’t have been able to see things as quickly as Sherlock does in the movie. The feeling that you get at the end of the movie is that you have watched a couple of hours of verbal jousting between two good friends, in the midst of which they (also) managed to crack a case and (guess what?) save the world. Yes, Sherlock Holmes and Watson save the world as an additional activity during one of their long never-ending conversations. You have to admit it, you like the movie because of the wit. But that exactly is the problem. How can you like a Sherlock Holmes’ movie just for its wit; it’s not what the character was meant to be. ‘It’s so overt, it’s covert’, says Holmes during one of his hideously obvious disguises. Yeah; a couple more of them and one wouldn’t have seen a difference between Sherlock Holmes and the Pink Panther.

It’s nearly four months since Sherlock Holmes released. Why this delayed discussion, you might ask? Because, another spy came along and tried to be more cool than he was intelligent, Agent Vinod. This impulsiveness to be cool is catching up with spies. It’s like a cricketer trying to be more stylish with his batting than effective. The result; he looks good but doesn’t make runs. The same thing applies to the spies; they seem distracted from their job; which simply speaking is, applying their brain. Agent Vinod just has to look good in all scenes and well, has to ask for a ‘cold beer’ at gun point (the makers put that in the trailer to show the world how cool Vinod is). OK, now we understand. Film makers around the world are in a competition, trying to create the coolest spy; not the most intelligent one.

We have but one guy to blame for all this; James Bond. Being cool, suave and utterly tongue-in-cheek helped him scales popularity peaks and survive for generations. But, the down side of it is that anyone who makes a spy flick wants to emulate Bond (even when they have a much more legendary character behind them). Well, what worked for Bond need not work for others!

While there has been a lot of talk about Jason Bourne also being a source of inspiration, one does not see any of that because Jason, unlike most other contemporary spies, was a no-nonsense guy who did not believed in the 'The Good, Bad and Ugly' maxim of ‘when you want to shoot shoot, don’t talk’. Also, film makers might want to watch films that do not romanticise detectives so much, so that they can detox themselves from the impulsive need to beef up their script with one liners. The Hercule Poirot movie ‘Evil Under the Sun’ would be one such movie where you have a paunch sporting genial detective walking around leisurely and smelling out the truth with the most believable of deductions. Indian film makers might also do well to watch some amazingly well executed sleuth tales on Indian television; remember the Bengali detective ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’? He was gripping without being showy. At the end of it all, let films not forget, detectives are about the brain, not about a loud mouth.

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