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‘Agent Vinod’ is a slightly mature character who is not a loverboy: Saif Ali Khan

If 'Agent Vinod ' is a hit,as Saif hopes it will,the comic book writers Yogesh and Saumit Taneja will find themselves writing the story for a sequel.

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha |
March 23, 2012 10:48:10 am

Sodium Pentothal,Kareena Kapoor in a never-seen-before avatar and a quintessential Hindi film hero — Saif Ali Khan on why ‘Agent Vinod’ will impress frontbenchers and more.

Saif Ali Khan is now re-surfacing in the news for stuff he usually likes to be known for – – acting,and movies. The one picture up for viewing at present is ‘Agent Vinod’. When Khan started out with his own production company,Illuminati Films,he was quite the rising star after top-lining a bunch of films as varied as the rom-com ‘Hum Tum’ (for which he won a National Award),coming-of-age films ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’,an adaptation of Othello by Vishal Bhardwaj (‘Omkara’),and edgy crime thrillers (‘Ek Haseena Thi’ and ‘Being Cyrus’). But the industry was still largely sceptical about Khan.

Even as he was fast earning a reputation as an actor who could throw up delightful surprises he cast himself in the role of an independent producer. Call it his serendipitous streak or a nose for sniffing out the right script and business partner in Dinesh Vijan,Khan landed a hit in his maiden production,’Love Aaj Kal’,a contemporary rom-com helmed by Imtiaz Ali. And it signalled to the industry that the newly-minted producer was here to stay.

About two and a half years later,Khan’s Illuminati Films is back with not one,but two films – -‘Agent Vinod’,up for release this week and ‘Cocktail’ (tentative title) a July release. There is also a Zombie flick,’Go Goa Gone’ in the pipeline helmed by directors Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru that will see Khan in a guest appearance.

According to the actor,the prime motive behind the production house was to build his brand equity (as an actor),hence India’s first official spy thriller ‘Agent Vinod’,after a successful rom-com,seems the logical step forward. “’Agent Vinod’ is a slightly mature character who is not a loverboy and if it works,you can create a franchise around it,” he says.

Khan,who has always described his venture as a boutique production house of sorts,admits,“It’s too early to rejoice,” as the fate of his forthcoming films still hangs in balance.

He adds though,“Production certainly gives you control over your career and how you would like to be projected. The idea is to create special roles for myself,but that’s not to say that actors playing other characters are not important. As a producer,you have to look beyond yourself,at the film in totality. Some of the character actors in the film have even worn my clothes for them to look better. Adil Hussain and Ram Kapoor are in smaller roles in the film,but will still shine. And I am very happy for them.”

As is increasingly apparent,Khan’s turning out to be a seasoned hand at providing no-holds-barred production values. The film was shot in five different countries at a considerable cost – – during the Rajasthan schedule,an entire set had to be dismantled and recreated as the location was a heritage site! Even the huge personal setback – – the death of his father,legendary cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi – – did not keep him away from work for long.

Director Sriram Raghavan gives him a complete thumbs-up for managing the dual role of Hero and Producer successfully. “As a producer,he is not involved in the nitty-gritties but he has a terrific sense of production design and economy of scenes. He is someone who can improve scenes tremendously.”

The producer’s hat,says the actor,gives one a better understanding of different departments as also a paternal feeling of pride. “You start seeing the team like an army with different generals you start respecting the entire process.”

Among the innovations that Khan and Illuminati have introduced is a graphic novel which follows the tests ‘Agent Vinod’ must pass before he is declared a full-fledged RAW agent. The comic book ends with ‘Agent Vinod’ being posted in Afghanistan which is also the starting point for the film. “It gives a background to the character with four villains who are all looking for him,and call themselves Mr North,South,East and West since they don’t want to reveal their actual names. Each has a different ethnicity but more important,a different story of their individual encounter with Vinod.”

If the film turns out to be a hit,as Khan hopes it will,the comic book writers Yogesh and Saumit Taneja will find themselves writing the story for a sequel.

There’s a lot of attention to details in the film he asserts. The way it’s been shot,for one – – Morocco is shot in a golden light while Europe is muted. He disagrees with the notion that ‘Agent Vinod’ may be a little too western in its look and feel to suit the Indian audience.

“’Agent Vinod’ is essentially a Hindi film hero in a film that is a little Alistair MacLean and Robert Ludlum style,but it’s not just about tossing punches and posing,” says Khan. “The audience has to connect emotionally with the story. Besides,it is the morality of the film and its characters that a certain audience can disagree with,not the slickness. There’s a guy who has to prevent say,a nuclear disaster,so why would the audience have a problem with him doing so just because he is in a fancy car? One may face that in rom-coms where the actions of the girl and guy,nowadays may be more acceptable in big cities. ‘Agent Vinod’,I feel,should appeal to the front-bencher as well.”

Director Sriram Raghavan,who the actor claims is not easy to please,echoes his sentiment. “I have always thought of Saif as an intelligent actor. It really helps that he doesn’t want to break records – – he just likes acting. In ‘Agent Vinod’,I can see his mind work through the scene. There’s a particular scene where he is being grilled by Kareena Kapoor and Prem Chopra,so it’s very campy,but Saif pulls it off very well. It’s a delight to watch him.”

priyanka.sinha@expressindia.com

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