Having appeared in absurdist action-comedies that relied solely on his self-created eccentricity which contagiously sought refuge in the collective consciousness of the nation, Ek Tha Tiger comes as a refreshing breather with the unfathomable Khan safely under the competent lens of director Kabir Khan.
The resultant work may not reflect profound thoughtfulness but is nonetheless a product that distinctively stands apart due to its inventive, fairly original action that blends harmlessly with a neat dose of situational Salman-isque humor. But writing off Ek Tha Tiger as a mere Salman Khan-vehicle is reducing a genuinely well-carved script to the neighboring rubbles of Bodyguard and Ready - both outstandingly ridiculous instances of Indian cinema at its nastiest.
For Tiger is not only conscious in playing to the gallery, but is well aware to not be a victim of an elaborate exercise in purposelessness. When RAW agent Tiger, excessively devoted to his government job that has strong patriotic connotations, leaps over buildings and knuckles down the opposition with visible effort, theres a sense of involvement because he represents the country's force, and not a rented help out to protect a millionaire's daughter.
So is Ek Tha Tiger a gleaming product in a relative sense? Does the feature stand apart just because of the undeniably evident mediocrity of Salman Khans previous titles?
Yes and no. Yes, because Tiger's dangerous liaison with his Pakistani counterpart requires the backing of melodramatic songs and contrived walks in parks that compel you to stare at stars and feel forcefully sympathetic. And No - because the writer's invest time in giving a definite personality to their titular character. In Tiger, we don't see a man without motivations on a killing spree because it makes for high octane set pieces; we see in him an individual who takes his profession like any other, complaining about job hazards while gulping down beer, coming home to cook a famed dal, and restlessly opening the door to the milkman at dawn. These heartfelt scenes contrast very well with his practice as an official assassin and award the actioner with a satisfying humane touch.
There are instances where the film hints on identity crisis and loss of individuality routinely faced by agents forced to live double lives but the director chooses not to dwell on the theme for too long. Fair enough as long as the thought is drawn out. Bourne identity isnt the role model here. Tiger's alienation with women is quite relatable as it justifies his initial awkwardness, because he never got the chance to be with anyone. The actor is remarkably subtle as the driving force; both in his rendition of lines and emoting expressions.
While Katrina Kaif is an explosion. The once real-life pair keeps their chemistry consciously understated; the lines remaining conversational and substantially free from melodrama. In fact, Katrina's Zoya is an impassionate agent as long as is sustainable. The film delightfully steers away from being a cruel reinforcement of sexism as Kat is allotted her share of efficient action and is portrayed as a woman who can defend herself as well as assist her man.
Tiger isn't her hero. He is a mere companion and she is as capable as him. So you see Kat leap from curvaceous heights and figure her way out, with or without his aid. Her performance is well calculated and she plays it with required delicacy. There is no verbalizing every coming trouble; as understanding is reached through low-key emotions. The gorgeous Katrina Kaif outshines the collective visual brilliance of Dublin, Istanbul and Havana.
However, the plot isnt entirely free of loopholes and at times provides nave solutions, but the message of pointless war isnt totally misguided.
Thus, Ek Tha Tiger sustains itself very well due to the consistently engaging action, which should be lauded for its originality and performances which aren't overdone. For a change, it seems Salman Khan ihas actually committed himself to the role coming across as an endearing guy predictably entangled between action and romance, but not without motivations. The film's stature is further elevated thanks to the utterly convincing performances by its supporting cast of Ranvir Shorey and Girish Karnad.
The climax is adrenaline-pumping, blockbuster stuff that redeems any gaping flaws that the curious scrutinizer might joyfully point at.
A cruising motorcycle catching up with a fleeting aircraft with two beautiful creatures on each end?
This Tiger roars. And his Kat Growls. And the box-office worships this holy duo.