Last minute jitters and runaway bride (grooms) have been preoccupations of Hollywood romantic comedies for a while. Now Jaideep Sahni gives an authentic Indian spin to the much idealised ‘commitment phobitis.’ The movie has sparkling dialogue, quirky characters, circumvented cliches, great performances. But eventually you get exasperated because of the forced cleverness- the characters never feel really real because they all are hell bend on not reacting genuinely to the situations they are in. After every heart break, the characters picks up the pieces and move on so easily that you really doubt whether there was any ‘romance’ in the first place, let alone ‘Shudh.’ These characters are too smart, and also too phony. When second half steers into familiar triangle territory, I couldn’t help imagining Jaideep Sahni in golden shackles with a Yash Chopra stamp on a heart shaped padlock.
Agent Vinod is a cautionary tale for me. A warning against the tendency to weave in more and more twists and turns and story elements in the story and to get lost in one’s own cleverness. What Tony Gilroy would describe as ‘story density,’ I would describe as ‘plot density,’ because I feel both are not the same. Agent Vinod is an example why both these are different.
Many criticised Agent Vinod as having a half baked script where enough time has not been put into it. I don’t think so. I think that it is not about less time being put into the development of the script. I think the problem has been that too much has been packed into it in terms of plot. Agent Vinod is running around all the time with no time for taking a breath. But the truth is, even if you take out two or three sequences of chases or fights or whatever, it wouldn’t affect the story much. And it would have given time to concentrate on his character and give it a sense of direction.
Even I thought that the ‘develop your characters well’ has become a sort of cliché for the screenwriters after all the repetition. But the truth is, Vinod is still a very uni-dimensional character and you don’t feel anything emotionally about him or the story. Bourne had his angst and remorse. Bond had his playboy charm and humor. Dirty Harry had his bad boy arrogance. What is it about the personality and preoccupation of Vinod that defines him? Nothing. He is just like any other action hero. Not only Vinod, but none of the villains (except to some extent, the Colonel) or the girls or the bosses stand apart from the typical action film characters. Development of these aspects requires some screen time. If you use that screen time to add more twists and action and running around, in the end, it is going to get monotonous because the audience doesn’t FEEL anything for what is happening on screen.