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Cover Story

70mm big guns

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A still from 'Agent Vinod', a soon-to-be released film where actor Saif Ali Khan plays an R&AW agent investigating the mysterious death of a colleague

Dulhan ki bidaai ka waqt aa gaya hai, " says hardline Pakistani soldier Dost Khan. Of course, these are the exact words needed to defuse a nuclear bomb, otherwise set to kill many innocent Indians. But why did Dost Khan suddenly have a change of heart? He didn't. Officers from India's Revenue Intelligence Wing (an allied service of R&AW ) were smart enough to make him say all these words separately, putting together the fragments just in time to save the nation. Take a bow, Indian intelligence;you sure know how to get the seetis and taalis, if only in the movies. That unbelievable scene was from a Hindi movie called December 16, named after the day the '71 Indo-Pak war ended.

Bollywood may not be anywhere close to getting its own Bond movies, but there have been more than one occasion where the leading man in a Hindi film has been working 'behind the scenes' to ensure catastrophes are averted. While Aankhen (1968) catapulted Dharmendra into the big league and was considered one of the foremost spy films in Hindi cinema, characters in the movie are not formal intelligence agents, just a group of concerned citizens. It was the evergreen Dev Anand who actually pioneered this genre with Prem Pujari (1970) where the director-actor stars as an Indian spy working against China. Soon after the Indo-Pak war, Dev Anand's brother Chetan Anand made Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973), where Priya Rajvansh is an Indian intelligence plant in Pakistan.

Over the years, intelligence agents have made enough appearances in Hindi movies, with both men and women playing spies. And because a movie is not a Hindi movie unless it has songs, dance and drama, all these are elegantly woven into the plot. Anil Sharma, the man who made the blockbuster Gadar: Ek Prem Katha in 2001, returned to his favourite Indo-Pak theme with The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy in 2003. As the title suggests, the movie went beyond portraying only "call of duty" scenes and had a strong yet subtle romantic track. "Of course, spies and intelligence agents have personal loves and lives, " says Sharma. "It's just that even those closest to them have no idea what they really do. In fact, my vast research has revealed that the unlikeliest of people could be part of the intelligence. What do I know, maybe you're a spy too, " he adds.

The next big spy in Bollywood will be Saif Ali Khan, who plays a R&AW agent investigating the mysterious death of a colleague. He goes on to uncover a global conspiracy in December-release Agent Vinod. As part of his homework, director Sriram Raghavan met some intelligence officers and got a gist of their lives and activities, read the Kaoboys of Raw and other books and articles. "I love this genre in books and films and the challenge is to mix the real and fictional spies I love and come up with an original character, " says Raghavan. So is Saif's character going to be more fact or fiction? "Agent Vinod is as real as can be but with a dash of fun and flamboyance, " says the director.

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