Happy Salman Week! Ek Tha Tiger Before Tiger Zinda Hai

I saw this movie 3 times in theaters, mostly because I wanted to watch the Jab Tak Hain Jaan teaser over and over again.  But also for itself, it’s a very well-made fun movie.  I forgot just how well made and fun until I re-watched it just now.

First, and I don’t usually do this, but I know not everyone will have time to watch/rewatch this movie before Tiger Zinda Hai and it will be helpful to have the plot, so here is the WHOOOOOLE THING:

“Tiger” is Salman Khan, the top RAW agent.  It’s very exciting work, but it’s also the only thing in his life, he never takes a vacation or does anything for fun besides cooking himself nice meals in his nice little apartment.  His boss teases him about never marrying or having a life or even withdrawing any money from his bank account.  But Salman claims to be fine with his little life.  And then he goes off on a mission to Ireland to talk to a scientist and figure out if the scientist has been contacted by ISI.  And while he is there, he meets and falls in love with the scientist’s young grad student housekeeper, Katrina Kaif.  It’s the first time he’s ever been in love and he is a little confused by it, but he tries his best and is kind and thoughtful and cares about her, and she can’t help responding when he does things like arranging for her to watch the stars just like she used to with her father.  But then he breaks into the scientist’s house to complete the mission and discovers Katrina there!  She is a spy too, but a spy for ISI, a British citizen (thus her accent), but working for ISI in honor of her dead Pakistani father it is implied.

Post-interval, Salman is back in his sad small life, but seeming even sadder.  Until he learns that there is a message being sent through the chatter, “Zee TV will be at the conference, will Doordarshan be there?”  Which is Katrina’s message to him, so he goes to the conference in Turkey.  Where they secretly meet and Katrina wants to just say good-bye, but Salman says he doesn’t want to say good-bye.  That night he takes a risk and asks her to dance at the diplomatic dinner.  And the next day they have run off together, hiding from both ISI and RAW.  They go into hiding in Cuba, but are eventually tracked down and both agencies try to bring them in.  Salman tricks his old agency into helping him when Kat is taken by ISI, promising that he will come back and bring Kat with him.  But in the end he gives them the slip and he and Kat fly off together, still free.


There is SO MUCH here!!!!  First, there is a really clever comic attitude to spy adventures.  The majority of the film isn’t Salman as a spy, it is Salman as a regular man thinking back on his spy life.  Kat asks him “do you like dogs?” and he remembers being chased by attack dogs through a forest.  She asks about dating, and he says he “doesn’t meet nice women” and remembers a series of fight scenes with terrifying female fighters.  The point isn’t that Salman is a superspy, it is that he is an awkward human.  He can win any fight, chase down the bad guys, solve the code.  But he doesn’t know how to handle his own feelings, he is as lost as a teenager when he falls in love.  And that’s the skill he really needs, how to be in love.  The journey of the character is from a man with no life at all outside of work, to one who is all about life and no work.  He awkwardly gets through his first love affair, his first date, his first everything else.  And then he takes the plunge all the way, suggests running off and leaving everything behind for love.  It’s in the Cuba section that he fully comes to life, happy and free and confident and reborn.  Which is what makes it so kind of sad and shocking when Katrina is kidnapped and he has to become the spy again, dress in black and bark orders and generally stop being that happy soft warm guy.

And so Salman’s happy ending is to escape from himself.  From the violence and spying and lies, and be a new person, a person who could paint and play cards with old men and love and be happy.  In a way it’s also a meta-statement on his stardom.  Salman-the-action-hero is being broken down so that the original Salman, Salman-the-lover, can burst out and be born again.

But it is Kat where I think this film really takes flight and turns into something special.  She also needs to break free.  But in a different way than Salman and for a different reason.  We don’t get the explicit discussion with her, but we can figure it out as we watch from the little clues.  She starts to open up with Salman when she talks about her father, how he loved to show her the stars, and how he is dead now but she feels like he is with her when she sees the stars.  At the conference where she meets Salman again, her supervisor clearly has a close watch on her and she is under strict orders.  Her cover story in Ireland is as a graduate student in the dance department, and when they are on the run in Cuba, she teaches dance classes.

So this is a young woman who misses her father.  And in order to feel close to him, and because he gave her a love for his country, she signs up to work for ISI.  But she also loves to dance and her cover story, as a simple young woman with friends and a life who is intrigued by a shy older man who opens her heart, that’s also a true story.  She isn’t like Salman, she isn’t completely ruled by her job yet, in fact she is fighting against that already even before she meets him, trying to have a balance in her life.  Salman goes from 100% work and no life, to 100% life and no work.  Katrina has in some ways the harder journey, going from 70% work and 30% life to 100% life.  She could keep up this life of happy superficial connections to others, pursuing her passion for dance in between missions, and pretend to herself that it made her happy.  But Salman is challenging her to throw away everything, her duty and her passion, and start fresh with hope for a better life.

There is a final point Kabir Khan is making, an almost hidden one, which is that Salman and Katrina and their super spy love story is, ultimately, a Romeo and Juliet story.  A true Romeo and Juliet story.  Salman, like Romeo, sneaks into the enemy camp and falls in love with Juliet by accident.  Katrina, like Juliet, resists and then finally agrees.  And in the end, a strange peace is achieved by both warring families coming together over this couple.

It’s also, more importantly, a real story of Honor Killings in India and other places in the world.  Two families that hate each other will work together to both kill the couple who has been married.  There is no longer any sense of “my girl” or “my boy”, by joining together, they have become the enemy of all.  And the families will join together in a shared desire to protect their “honor” by killing those who have brought them shame.  The spy shenanigans and so on are there to hide the real message, a couple who just wants to be free to love each other.

One of the most important things is that they aren’t asking for anything to help with their freedom.  Their adventure is funded by Salman’s savings, that money he earned and never touched for 20 years.  This is a happy ending that was long in the making, that they have sacrificed and worked for.  And it is wrong for anyone to try to take it from them.

And, my hope is, that the same will be true of Tiger Zinda Hai.  The trailer seems to imply it, the couple comes out of retirement in order to save lives and prove that they stand for peace and love.  They aren’t doing it for their respective countries or personal pride or anything like that.  In an effort to teach their blind “families” what love is really about.  And, I hope, the film will end the same way as Ek Tha Tiger, with the two of them happily going off to continue living free lives of love and happiness.


12 thoughts on “Happy Salman Week! Ek Tha Tiger Before Tiger Zinda Hai

  1. I did not expect to enjoy Ek Tha Tiger as much as I did. It’s funny, thrilling, touching, just a lot going on and the chemistry between the leads is off the charts. Even my hubby liked it and he’s my barometer for “will someone with zero interest in Bollywood enjoy this movie?”


    • The only thing that makes me nervous for Tiger Zinda Hai is that they changed directors. Ali Abbas Zafar was okay with Sultan, but not nearly as good as Kabir Khan was with Ek Tha Tiger. But then, it is still the same cast and scriptwriter, so maybe it will be okay.

      On Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 1:51 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched it again a couple of nights ago as well. I quite enjoyed it first time round (ages ago) but enjoyed it more on second viewing. One thought I had as they were about to escape together – Gopi (or whoever it was) says to RAW boss that Tiger had withdrawn all his money from the RAW salary bank (2.3 million rupees) – $47,000. That wouldn’t go very far these days, so just as well Zoya teaches dance classes in Cuba. Wonder if Tiger gets some kind of local job – what do you think he would do?

    Anyway off to see Tiger Zinda Hai this afternoon. They are expecting a blockbuster here – it is screening at more than one cinema complex here in Adelaide – yay I can get to the nearest Hoyts fairly easily – and I think there are about 4 sessions today including a 1:30pm (the one I’m going to so I can be there and back in time for dinner).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I noticed the same thing about the money on this rewatch. And I kind of like that. They weren’t going off to live a life of luxury, they just wanted a small life somewhere with their little money. $47,000 would give them a start and set them up, but they would have to work and save after that.

      Oh, and I think Salman’s character is shown painting and selling his paintings in Cuba.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just checked the Hoyts website – there are 6 sessions today at the nearest Hoyts, 5 tomorrow (Saturday), then dropping back to 3 on Sunday and Monday before picking up to 5 again on Tuesday (Boxing Day – a big day for Christmas release movies here). The bigger Hoyts complex (further away from me) has 4 sessions per day until Wednesday.


    • It looks like a lot of showtimes here too, but they weren’t put up until last minute at some of the theaters. I think because of the competition with Star Wars for the screens, theaters were prevaricating until the last minute over what would get priority.

      My Indian theater, interestingly, only has 4 showtimes so only one screen. They are saving the other screens for the non-Hindi releases. I think they probably got scared off after so many Hindi films did so terribly, they aren’t counting on this one doing well.

      On Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 3:07 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. I am so glad they repeated Katrina. I heard somewhere that it was Salman who pushed for her, else they wanted a new heroine (like always). She was really good in ETT – the role was right for her. It’s always this unwritten rule that sequels need to have a new girl. The love story they had in ETT and just their chemistry is good, will be nice to seem them together! But there was also a lot of Kabir Khan magic in ETT and he does really good in such movies. Wonder how Ali Abbas will approach it.


    • Replacing Katrina would have been such a mistake. The point of Ek Tha Tiger was the love story, lose that and there’s nothing.

      Someone pointed out (I don’t remember who, but I don’t want to take credit for the thought :)) that Ali Abbas also gave Kat one of her best characters in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. So he may have a shakey track record with Salman (Sultan wasn’t perfect), but he has a great one with Kat. Who knows, she could end up being used better than Salman in this one.

      On Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 3:18 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ek tha tiger was one of those movies that I thought I’d hate but instead found that I quite liked. Eh, that doesn’t happen often. What I liked was the way they treated the woman’s character, ever so often in action dramas they are mere “flowerpots” or there’s a regressive plot point that’s fashioned around the heroine’s role. This was neither, in fact she is cool and capable and makes her own decisions.
    I’m truly worried about the new director and his sensibilities though I did like the girl’s character in MBKD so it’s a good sign right? I don’t expect the new movie to be as good as ETT though. I’d be shocked if it is. 😂


    • Well, maybe you will be surprised again! And me too, sequels always make me nervous, and the change of director doesn’t seem good, so my expectations are going down. But maybe both of us will be surprised by a better movie than we expect.

      On Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 8:07 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  6. I’m a little amused at all the angsting over the change of director. You do know that Kabir Khan hated the concept and characterizations in ETT, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to meet Salman’s and (a little) Aditya Chopra’s visions, don’t you? I’ve never truly believed in the auteur theory (i.e., I think it can only be applied to a very few directors in the world), and I think it’s even less applicable to commercial Indian cinema.


  7. Pingback: Tiger Zinda Hai Review (No SPOILERS): Not a Fun Move | dontcallitbollywood

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