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Why I gave Agent Vinod a miss.

India, April 4 -- At the outset I wish to declare my admiration for the directorial acumen of Sriram Raghavan (not least because he coaxed us into believing that Neil Nitin Mukesh could actually act), which was on full display in the films that preceded Agent Vinod-Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddaar, both unacknowledged classics in their respective genres, and standing almost pitifully alone owing to the lack of films produced in those genres by the Hindi film industry. Tardy as it may seem, I even consider Saif Ali Khan a good actor, having witnessed him crawl out of the shadows his co-stars used to cast on him during his salad days in the industry (and this isn't just because of a certain Langda Tyagi). Finally, I admit that I've never managed to cultivate the patience required to sit through a single James Bond film.

For a majority of the past year, I'd been faintly aware of a new Raghavan film in the works. You could say that I was even looking forward to it. And then the trailers began to creep out of television screens, accompanied by remarkably ghastly music, set to lyrics unimaginably crude and inane. From this frame emerged the shimmering figure of our homegrown spy, a Vinod who, a few seconds into his appearance, started crumbling to the ground as a hollow impression of Bond. A glistening suit wrapped around him, a pair, or more, of female arms wrapped around the suit, all enwrapped in a set bursting with blindingly bright colours, Vinod proceeded to laugh in the face of torture, burn rubber on OCD approved spanking clean roads astride a sports bike (a customary girl on the pillion), and then in what seemed like the only genuinely inspired aspect of his character transform into a sod gyrating to a song.

For all the anti-feminist charges leveled at the character of Bond and the Bond franchise itself, I posit that such films are infinitely more harmful to the male psyche and the space that he occupies in the world. The damage to a genuine spy's reputation apart, this GQ certified man stands in stark opposition to men around the world, 'common' as they are humbly called. Walter Benjamin once observed that the advent of movies had removed the concept of the shadow, in effect hinting at cinema, or at least the films under consideration here, confronting man against a humungous projection of his ego, and rendering it lucratively attainable and unattainable at the same time.

The flashy spy is a vigorously polished alloy of integrity, courage, and thirst for adventure, magnetism all of them spurious and exaggerated. Therefore, notwithstanding the lack of spy films in our side of the world, he's representative of the image of a man as seen in commercial cinema, which is no different from the machismo that bears down on us from hoardings everywhere.

All in all, Agent Vinod offered no release from the conservatism rampant within the film industry. And I decided against watching it. And yet I still await Raghavan's next with much anticipation.

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Date:Apr 4, 2012
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