[Also published in DNA]
Gather round, children. Today I shall tell you the story of Agent Vinod. Not the Saif Ali Khan- Agent Vinod but the one who came before him, the original “Agent Vinod” from the 1977 movie with the same name.
It was a landmark year for international intrigue. Times were so bad that Iftikaar, known to play the staid police commissioner who encircles the bad guys ( “Police tumhe chaaron tarah se gher liya hai”), had crossed over to the dark side. There he was heading an international gang of intrigue, which not content with blowing up what looked suspiciously on-screen like toy-trains and doll-houses, had also hatched a sinister plot which involved kidnapping and imprisoning great scientist Ajay Saxena (Nazir Hussain) in a lair that had sharp dildos descending from the roof and, even more dangerously, lip-shaped TV screens. Why did they do this? So that they could obtain from him a secret formula he had developed, one that could negate even the effects of a Hydrogen-bomb.
And that plot would have succeeded had it not been for Agent Vinod, played with aplomb by the Daniel-Craig-look-alike Mahendra Sandhu. Do not be fooled by his cross-eyed, paunchy, hairy exterior. Do not be taken in by his cringe-inducing shayris and the bizarre English proverbs like “Never shoot a guy who gives you a gun”.
For Agent Vinod was quite the player. He dispatched villains by spinning like a top on a revolving chair. He assaulted their arses with strategically placed cacti. He ate with chop sticks. He somersaulted from six stories up to land perfectly on a motorcycle parked below. He seduced armies of bell-bottom-clad comely aunties with a wink and a knowing smile, which made them all “paseena paseena”. He discovered spies and moles like a bear does honey, helped only mildly by the fact that the under-cover bad guys all had prominent scorpion tattoos on their hands.
Nothing surprising in all this marvelousness for as his boss, the redoubtable spy-master (played by K.N.Singh) said with barely concealed reverence—- “woh lomri ka dimaag rakhta hai aur sher ka jigar.” Even the bad men knew not to mess with him. For instance, when once one of them said “Hands up” and Agent Vinod retorted “Mera haath upar karoonga to qayamat a jayega”, they hesitated for a vital second, worried as to what hell might emanate from his sher-like armpits.
Does the new agent Vinod command that respect? I don’t think so. He is too busy slapping people that come in the way of him and his friends having a good time.
The old Agent Vinod too had great friends, without whom he would not have succeeded— a side-kick named James Bond (played by Jagdeep) who wore the hat from Dr. Seuss’s “Cat In the Hat”, a fisherwoman, a Sardarji, a lady-love Anju(Asha Sachdev) and most importantly, a Sanath Jayasurya-lookalike scientist.who worked in a laboratory with beakers full of chemicals which, to an untrained eye, looked like orange drink made from Rasna concentrate.
If there is any doubt left that the original Agent Vinod was awesome, sample this sequence.
Anju (Asha Sachdev) uses two marks of a black pen to paint a moustache so that she can pretend to be a man. So masterful is her disguise that even the Lomri-dimaag Agent finds it difficult to recognize her as a woman, despite her rather prominent Anjus. He asks “him” “his name”. “Ram Singh” is the answer. To which he reaches forward, massages her/his thighs and says with a wink “Tumhara naam aaj se Mulayam Singh rakh lo”.
Smart. Sexy. And still politically relevant after all these years. That’s the old Agent Vinod for you.
The Mine is now available for Kindle. Please use this link to buy the book if you are outside India.