Kabir Khan’s movies—Kabul Express; New York, Ek Tha Tiger start with the similar sepia-toned skyline montages of what could be Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq; strife-ridden country associated with extremists. In ETT, the montages pass quickly. A voice-over tells you of how Governments fight shadow battles of espionage and intrigue with faceless agents.
Cut to India’s finest RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) agents Tiger–Salman Khan. He enters the screen, dramatically, shoes first, kicking butt in a crowded bazaar; with his trade-mark checked scarf around his neck. He ambushes a handful of traitors single-handedly in a long-drawn high octane action sequence that is clearly inspired by Jason Bourne(Bourne Identity/Supremacy series) and James Bond ( Quantum of Solace). Mission one successfully completed Tiger returns home to a middle-class neighbourhood in New Delhi.
Barely have his wounds from Iraq healed when his boss, Girish Karnad, (impressive performance) packs him of to Ireland to spy on a professor (Roshan Seth) who may be trading missile technology secrets with Pakistan.
Before he sets out, the boss ominously warns Tiger how agents must never let their hearts rule their head. But when Cupid strikes even Tigers become pussy-cats. The spy is drawn to college girl Zoya( Katrina Kaif) and he’s almost ready to settle down with her, when the twist in the plot is revealed. Kat is a secret agent for the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence); she owes allegiance to India’s archenemy Pakistan.
Post interval, ETT goes on to focus on the Tiger-Zoya romance. Since they have unfinished business, the plot allows them to lock eyes at a peace summit in Istanbul. Passions are rekindled. This time they let their own feelings rule and elope. Chased by their own people and the enemy, the couple traipse in Cuba and other foreign locales, riding bikes and cuddling up while some lack-lustre songs play in the backdrop. One must say there is nothing raw about the Kat-Sallu romance in ETT; it’s synthetic.
Leaving the plot open for a sequel, just in case Salman’s fans demand one; ETT ends with telling you how Tiger’s file went missing because, once this super-spy decided to go off the radar, no intelligence agency could actually track him down.
Tiger is one of India’s most effective espionage agents. But when this brave heart falls in love, even he has to seek cover to realise his dream.