(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 18 August, 2012)
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Girish Karnad, Ranvir Shorey
Director: Kabir Khan
Rating: 1 star
If you went to a CBSE school, you’ll remember this story by Keki N Daruwalla called Love Across the Salt Desert. You may remember something about “a smear of Kutchi added and a little of Sindhi sandpapered away”. And a camel called Allahrakha. The whole thing may have put you off love for the next ten years, across a salt desert or not. Just as you’re beginning to forget that story, along comes another that is set in the same agency Daruwalla himself retired from – RAW. Worse, it stars Salman Khan.
Yes, Tiger (Salman Khan) wonders, as he hops from mission to mission, killing to killing, and aunty to aunty, whether he is allowed to fall in love. He is encouraged by Shenoy Sir (Girish Karnad), who confesses over dal that he didn’t have an arranged marriage because, “jawani mein shayar thha” and poets fall in love. Why the barely coherent Tiger, whose biggest grouse is that he can’t answer the question, Tum karta kya hai?, would interpret that as advice to fall in love, I don’t know.
However, before this heart-to-heart happens, we’ve met Tiger in Iraq, where he materialises behind a shower of cigarette butts, one eye cruelly narrowed as some token Hindu or Sikh bad-boy is exposed as an agent. A short ultimatum is drawn out in slow-mo, and followed by a long chase, with suitably dramatic music and plenty of vegetable carts waiting handily to be upset.
This film is different, though. For one, the top guy in RAW is not a South Indian, though he’s played by one. Secondly, the mission is not to steal a laptop that has all the evidence and information required to indict someone as a spy, and save the nation. No, Tiger and Gopi (Ranvir Shorey) must simply observe a mad scientist – his involvement in espionage is supposedly indicated by his chatting with students of various races. Of course, the agents instead observe “the only woman with access to his house” – Zoya (Katrina Kaif).
Somewhere between observing shooting stars, damaging public property across the world, killing about ten people, and double-crossing several parties, Zoya and Tiger fall in love. And thus unfolds a miserable story with boring chases, terrible jokes and maudlin dialogue that makes us wish one of the guns trained on the camera could put an end to our misery.
As Salman searches for excuses to show off his new hairline and old pecs, Katrina searches for opportunities to bare her midriff to hide her lack of grace (this is rather crucial, since she’s masquerading as a choreographer). Oh, did I mention this is love across secret agencies? So, that’s the conflict. That, and the inability of their buddies from their respective Intelligence to shoot them in cold blood. Or the penchant their buddies from Intelligence have for indulging in long chases when a bullet shot to the leg would do the trick.
The Verdict: Right on the back of Jism 2, comes another insult to Intelligence that convinces us RAW would do well to sue Bollywood.