Agent Vinod: return of the superhero

By Nandita Dutta • Published on March 23, 2012

Director: Sriram Raghavan, Story: Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Actors: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor

[A]gent Vinod is a superhero film. A RAW agent masquerading as a body guard of a mafia in St. Petersburg is killed. Just before his death, he leaves a cryptic message about ‘242’, a mystery that ought to be solved in order to save the world. Just before the agent’s death, we have witnessed another killing in Russia that had something to do with the proliferation of a nuclear bomb. Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) is rushed to St. Petersburg to solve the mystery of his colleague’s death.

The puzzle leads him from Russia through Morocco, Latvia and Pakistan to his homeland India which is where the repercussion of ‘242’ is to be felt. The globetrotting mission of Agent Vinod that begins in Delhi and culminates there isn’t so much a whodunit as it is a personal journey of heroism. Agent Vinod is yet another incarnation of the almighty hero of action films, one who wipes out the enemy from the earth singlehandedly and returns without a bruise from the claws of death. He is invincible and indefatigable. He is above the law, and beyond logic. He must survive till the very end until good achieves the ultimate victory over evil and the bad guys all crumble like a deck of cards. And when the hero is equipped with such heroism, reason must take a backseat and the film be allowed to gratify the lesser faculties. Escapism, some may call it.

The grandiose of the film spills out of every scene. It makes use of a diverse range of locations and actors. But as the film mounts on style and technique, the characters and the story seem increasingly devoid of depth. There seems to be no strong motive behind why certain people have put their lives on stake to carry out a mission. All we know is that Agent Vinod is a daredevil who loves brushes with death, because he won a bravery medal from the President when he was 15. His aide Iram Parveen Bilal (Kareena Kapoor) is the collateral damage, though all she wants is to lead a normal life like anybody else.

Though the film is skillfully shot and sleekly edited, there is hardly anything in the narrative that one has not experienced before. A climax where the timer of a bomb is ticking against the intention of the hero to save millions of lives is stale. Agent Vinod is too convenient to be smart or intelligent. The film is replete with references to The Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock, but nowhere comes close to his mastery in creating suspense barring a few scenes. Like this one–a woman with a pram in a hotel lobby appears to be the most unfortunate victim of an abrupt shootout with her baby, until…

All said and done, Agent Vinod is entertaining. It can be enjoyed as a superhero action film, one that straddles between Hollywood and Bollywood. That is when one is willing to accept that the film belongs to Saif Ali Khan, our desi version of James Bond and not the director Sriram Raghavan we have known. The film leaves you with mixed feelings, impressing you with its style but disappointing you with its lack of substance.

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