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Spies we love

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s biggest spy series — James Bond. The first Bond film, Dr. No, had a budget of only $1 million, but it spawned a series that has grossed over $5 billion.

hollywood Updated: Mar 21, 2012 14:11 IST
Anupama Chopra

James Bond in 23 films from Dr. No (1962) to Skyfall (2012).
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the world’s biggest spy series — James Bond. The first Bond film, Dr. No, had a budget of only $1 million, but it spawned a series that has grossed over $5 billion.

The Bond formula of a suave but lethal spy accessorised with women, gadgets and exotic locations worked across generations and demographics.

Bond, who famously takes his martini ‘shaken and not stirred,’ and has an alarming appetite for women (In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Bond sleeps with his Scan-dinavian language tutor and remarks: I’ve always enjoyed learning a new tongue), did seem an anachronism in the new millennium. But the franchise was successfully rebooted with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (2006) — the 23rd Bond film Skyfall, releases in October.

Jason Bourne
In The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).

Jason Bourne is a CIA agent with amnesia, who has gone rogue, which is a somewhat precarious position to be in. He is a highly-trained killing machine, who has an attack of the conscience, and starts to ask questions. His bosses naturally aren’t amused.

With their gritty realism — emotional and physical — the Bourne films were the ‘Anti-Bond.’ Or as a New York magazine article put it ‘Jason Bourne is James Bond for a new generation — his initials are JB for a reason.’

Director Doug Liman set the tone for the Bourne films with the first one and Paul Greengrass followed the template with the next two.

Lead Matt Damon said in an interview: Bourne is about authenticity, not fashion, frippery and style. He is about essence and unlike Bond, you’d never see him watching a girl coming out of the sea with a bikini on. There’s none of those old-fashioned macho attitudes. All the three Bourne films were big successes. Subsequently, the Bond films also shed some of the macho attitudes.

Austin Powers
In Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

Austin Powers is a hipster fashion photographer in the mid-60s in London, which is, of course, a cover for his real job: secret agent. When his archenemy Dr. Evil is cryogenically frozen in 1967 and reawakened in 1997, Austin follows suit.

Both hero and villain continue the epic battle of good versus evil in another era, except now both are hopelessly out of touch. Powers, who has a few delightful catchphrases (Oh behave, Groovy Baby! and Do I make you horny baby?), is cheerfully foolish. As are Dr. Evil and his henchmen, which includes a smaller cloned version, Mini-Me. These films are politically incorrect, outrageously vulgar and always, side-achingly funny.

Agent 116
In Farz (1967)

What can you say about a secret agent who is introduced in a song sequence that has him wearing tight white pants, best be described as awkward, as he leaps and rolls down hills while singing Mast baharon ka main aashiq Like all good spies, Agent 116 or Gopal is a ladies’ man.

But he also has an insight into human behaviour (or as he puts it, psychology pronounced psy-cho-logy), and a nose for anti-national villains and assorted nefarious activities. This enables him to eventually defeat a weird and white-faced oriental villain named Supremo. If you’ve ever wondered why Jeetendra was called ‘Jumping Jack’, you will find your answer here.

Agent Vinod
In Agent Vinod (1977)

Agent Vinod is a man who has a lomdi ka dimag(fox’s mind) and a sher ka jigar(heart of a tiger). So he can defeat an evil gang that is chasing a secret formula even while he spouts shayari (poetry) and flirts with anything in a skirt.

Of course this is a gang so dumb that the members retain their insignia (a scorpion on the thumb) even when they work as moles in the intelligence bureau so nobody has trouble identifying them. Apart from a delightfully expression-less Mahendra Sandhu, it also features Rehana Sultan as a feisty agent and Sheetal as a bad girl decoy. Which makes it essential ‘so-bad-that-it’s –good’ viewing.

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