Film Review: Ek Tha Tiger

In this action romance, two spies—one Indian, the other Pakistani—fall in love and stir up a whole lot of trouble when their respective bosses find out about their extreme fraternizing.

Tiger (Salman Khan) is a top field agent at RAW (Research & Analysis Wing), India's CIA, his loyalty, courage and expertise clouded only by his tendency to create utter mayhem wherever he goes. Even his ever-supportive boss, Shendy (Giresh Karnad), is reduced to asking if he could possibly get through a simple mission without killing anyone: All he has to do is go to Dublin and keep an eye on elderly Professor Kidwai (Roshan Seth), who holds a prestigious post at Trinity College and may be passing top-secret information about military missile technology to Inter-Services Intelligence, RAW's Pakistani counterpart,

Using the cover story that he's a writer named Manish Chandra and hopes to interview the diffident professor for a book about the greatest minds of India, Tiger quickly determines that the best way to gain access to the professor's home is through Zoya (former model Katrina Kaif), a British-born dance student who works as his housekeeper. Tiger's associate Gopi (Ranvir Shorey) warns that seduction can be a dangerous game, but Tiger laughs him off: It's all about getting the job done and he's never let his emotions get in the way before. Which naturally means that this time they will: He and Zoya fall deeply in love, much to the dismay of their respective bosses…because, yes, bubbly Zoya is a spy as well—and it's she, not Professor Kadwai, who's been passing along classified information to ISI, via her suave boss, Abrar (Punjabi model-turned-actor Gavia Chahal, in his first Hindi film). Can this lethal Romeo and Juliet defy their respective espionage families and make a life together?
Ek Tha Tiger (“There Was a Tiger”) has several things going for it, notably a spectacular runaway tram scene; location work in Ireland, Turkey and Cuba that gives the globetrotting action an authentically international feel; a handful of handsome musical numbers and, of course, Salman Khan's legendary charm (though not his equally legendary abs—he only bares his torso once). But it's undermined by a very slow first half that spends a little too much time on comic cuteness, including the antics of Professor Kidwai's fat pug, Rocket. It picks up considerably after the intermission break, which follows the scene in which Tiger discovers Zoya's true identity and apparently puts a bullet through her brain, which is pretty rough stuff for a major Bollywood heartthrob even though you know there has to be a twist: When Tiger compares himself to James Bond, he means Pierce Brosnan, not Daniel Craig.
Ek Tha Tiger's canny opening date—August 15, India's Independence Day—no doubt helped drive its massive opening-day box office, despite the fact that it was banned in Pakistan, traditionally one of the top five non-Indian markets for Bollywood movies.