As the door swings dramatically open, light streams into the darkened room. A man in an impeccably tailored black suit turns on his toes and points his gun towards the dissolving blackness.
“The name’s Bond, James Bond.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake”, says the voice from inside, “I knew it was you Mr. Bond the moment that Tadatada tune started playing. So enough with the nautanki.”
Jason Bourne never quite liked James Bond. Overtly theatrical and stylishly arrogant with a Cold War-vintage stench of Pussy Galore, Bond made him want to forget everything.
Putting away his Walther PPK but keeping his swag on, James Bond asks “Why did you call me here, Jason. Or should I call you by your real name, David Webb?”
That British pedantry once again.
“There is this movie you need to see. Ek Tha Tiger. Or in English, Once upon a time there was a tiger.”
‘What? You sent me a distress signal on the ultra-secret spy covert channel just so that I catch a nature conservation film. By Jove. The crown jewels have been exposed in Las Vegas. The Queen has her knickers in a twist. And you call me here, for this?”
Bond feels like an idiot. Because he had fallen for the same trick last month.
“I have something you should see. It’s about your boss Q” had been the message he had received from Bourne, just when he was going to lick the caviar off the navel of his Pakistani target, whose code-name he knew only as Ten-percent.
Making a quick get-away, he had arrived at the drop-off spot to find Bourne with a video. And what had that turned out to be? A Hindi movie called “Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyon”.
No. Not Q. But Kyon. Two hours of men making tremulous love,a fat man referring to a bikini as “choli chaddi” and disturbing images of Aryan Vaid, a man on MI6’s most wanted list, sharing a bathtub with a gentleman.
Give me a man with three nipples, a man like Scaramanga any day, over this torture.
Bond is about to leave but there is something about Bourne, a kind of icy stillness, that compells him to stay.
“No Mr. Bond. This is not a movie about animal conservation. As a matter of fact, the hero here cares as much for wild animals as you care for Blofeld and SPECTRE.”
“And who is this hero we are talking about?”
“Bhai is the name by which his devotees call him. He hates black bucks more than Baba Ramdev. And when it comes to people on the pavements, he lives and let die.”
“And why, old chap, should I care about this Bhai, this Ek Tha Tiger?”
“Because old chap, this Bhai plays Tiger, a secret agent, of such great power that he can finish us off. For good. The crisis this time isn’t about stolen submarines. It is about our existence.” Bourne points away to the light. “If you still think that getting your imperial knob polished is more important, there is the door. Otherwise, we can get started.”
James Bond sinks into the leather couch and turns towards the monitor. The video seems to be paused.
“Well I can see you have already begun without me. What’s happened so far? And is that man on screen…’
“Yes. That’s Bhai. Salman. Tiger. RAW agent. More alpha than Uranium 92-238. What Ra.One needs a superhero suit for, he can do shirtless. Stop a speeding tram. Play around with high tension wires without any tension.”
James Bond is unimpressed. After all, he is the man who got Onatopp on the bottom. The world is not enough.
Bourne realizes that 007 is having trouble getting his mind around the awesomeness of Tiger. Not yet a Bhai-head, he smiles to himself. He will see the light. Soon.
“Okay let’s say the KGB have stolen plans for a secret missile to be used against the British. Time is of great importance. You have been asked to keep a nuclear scientist under surveillance, a nuclear scientist who is needed to arm the bomb. What would you do?”
“Sneak in. Plant bugs. Stakeout. Use night-vision… Why are you asking me these things Jason? You know as well as anyone what stand-ops are.”
“Guess what Tiger does ?Given a mission to keep an eye on a scientist, who looks suspiciously like that history-traveller from “Bharat Ek Khoj”, he climbs pipes, sleeps on the bench, goes out on dates, dances with backup dancers. In short everything except keeping the principal under watch. Why does he do this? So that he can fall in love with the scientist’s beautiful secretary.”
“Well Jason. I still don’t see what’s so strange about that. For decades, I have fired my heat-seeking missiles into the enemy’s soft spots, all in the service of Her Majesty the Queen. This is but yet another weapon. A pleasurable one, I do accept.”
“But you see James. That’s where things are different. Here, with the fate of the country on the line, Tiger does not go in for the quick insertion-extraction approach we learnt in spy school. No, he takes the girl to a park, watches swans and meteor showers and then asks her dead father, up there among the stars, for her hand.”
James Bond realizes Bourne has not seen the reboot of the franchise wherein he cries with the girl in the shower. Thank Goodness.
Bond gives the rakish grin. “Oh my Goodness that is just so pathetic.”
Bourne continues, “So obviously the girl Tiger falls for is an ISI agent.”
Bond knows where this is going “He shoots her. Don’t tell me he shoots her before they consummate their passion. That would be, to use a Shakespearean term, absolute KLPD. ”
“No he does not shoot her. With his gun shaking, Tiger asks the pretty ISI agent—-Was that what I saw in your eyes love?”
With a shake of his head, Bond reaches for his martini “Maybe the same reason why the Indians keep Kasab alive for so long. For the love they see in his eyes.”
“You know what Tiger drinks?” asks Bourne.
“Considering what a philistine he appears to be, let me guess. Dom Perignon 53 at a temperature of above 38 Fahrenheit?”
“No. Milk…” sneers Jason Bourne, ” That too from a doodh-wala”.
James Bond seems shaken as well as stirred.
Bourne says “As part of our pysch-ops training in the Medusa project, I was made to sit through a lot of romantic Hindi movies. It was only a matter of time though before I cracked. There is just so much of Saeed Jaffrey’s hamming as the father of the heroine one could take. Any ways, most of the oldies had this formula. Boy and girl from rival clans fall in love. They sing and dance together at girl’s eighteenth birthday where she is betrothed to USA ka mashoor business man Mr. Sam ka eklauta beta. After that, the love-birds elope. In “Ek Tha Tiger”, the warrning clans become RAW and ISI. And the formula is brought back, yet again, down to the “dance at the party” and the “They won’t understand our love.” as both ISI and RAW are reduced to the same standards of villainy and manipulation.”
Bond asks “But what is Bhai’s problem? The Indian and the Pakistani could just have gotten married and settled down in Dubai. Like Shoaib Malik and Ms Thunderball…”
“Evidently not. Which is why they escape to Cuba and lie low by dancing about on the streets and fighting in front of security cameras.”
“You seem to have finished the entire movie already Mr. Bourne. Why call me then?”
“Oh this is my second-time. The reason I called you was that this is a direct challenge to you, my friend. Not that I am not afraid.”
“Me? The James Bond. Perceive a threat from this incompetent RAW spy, Tiger? And that muscled beefcake who plays him? The Bhai? Well I am Bond, James Bond. I have been played by Connery, Niven, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig…it’s my character that is important not the actor who plays it.”
“Aha. That is it. Bhai stands for exactly the opposite. As he has proven time and time again, it is the actor that is supreme and not the character. Bhai can play the front right tyre of an Aston Martin if he wants to and it will still rake in 100 crores in 3 days. Story, logic, script—-everything is redundant. You can get your privates almost burnt by a laser ray. No one cares that much. But as soon as Bhai stand in front of the camera, strikes a stud pose, the Money and the Penny will all pour in. Only For him. ”
“So what should I do to this Bhai? Do you expect me to fight?”
“No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die. In shame. You. Me. For all of us secret agents, there is no quantum of solace.”
And just at that moment, Ethan Hunt drops in from the ceiling, like a spider descending on its prey
Bourne says “Aha look who is finally here. Didn’t you get that self-destructing “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” memo I sent you. What took you so long?”
Ethan Hunt gives a small shake of his perfectly set hair and says “Kya karein. Bhai ka picture laga hai.”