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Let’s talk bond

One started watching James Bond films at age five, another in Class III. They’ve devoured all 22 previous films in the franchise countless times and read up Ian Fleming’s novels. As the collections for Skyfall soared sky-high, t2 got chatting with six Bond buffs on Saturday

t2: Skyfall is being billed as the best Bond film. Do you agree?

Neera Majumdar (second year English, Jadavpur University): In the last half of the movie, yes, it’s the best Bond film. The first bit might be a bit slow but compared with Daniel Craig’s other two Bond films — Casino Royale and Quantum of SolaceSkyfall is definitely the best. I think in the last two movies, Bond was more Jason Bourne than Bond himself, so this movie took him back to the roots.

Agent Eve [Naomie Harris] says ‘Old dog, new tricks’... that kind of sums it up. Here Bond is back to using the Aston Martin DB5, which was there in Goldfinger. Also, this film is more realistic. But it maintains the Britishness of the franchise, also its sexiness.

Karan Kar (second year, B.Com, Bhawanipur College): For me, this was one of the best Bond movies, just below Goldfinger. Many of the scenes, like the chase sequences, were similar to the older movies, like Goldfinger or Dr. No. And as Neera mentioned, I loved the fact that the DB5 is back! As James Bond fans, we all love that car. Also the fact that James Bond’s old house was shown in this movie made it special for me.

Shrestha Saha (third year, English, Presidency College): Well, Skyfall is the best Bond film by Daniel Craig. But I wouldn’t call it the best Bond movie. Then again, I’m prejudiced towards Pierce Brosnan. I feel they should have just stopped making Bond films after he quit.

Skyfall, I’d say, is less of a Bond movie and more a movie about an agent and his mission. It doesn’t have that flamboyance, that spark that makes Bond. Bond is supposed to just look at someone, crack a one-liner, point a gadget at him to poke his eyes out or whatever and just walk off!

Here they actually show (for a while) Bond dying. Bond for me is invincible but in this movie he’s very human. I think Skyfall is a brilliant movie but not really a ‘Bond’ movie. But I loved the opening song. I thought it was absolutely beautifully shot... one of the best animations of our times.

Ankit Saha (third year, mechanical engineering, Jalpaiguri Government Engineering College): As Shrestha said, Skyfall does lack the typical Bond gadgets but that’s what I liked best about this movie. It’s like in Dr. No, where they give him his Walther PPK. Then we see Bond fighting with a country rifle in Skyfall. We have the Aston Martin DB5, instead of what Brosnan drove or the DBS V12 Craig got in Casino Royale. So, it’s back to the classics, where they stick to the basics.

The best thing I liked was the starting. The chase through the streets of Istanbul, then on the train top. Also, the movie was shot beautifully. I wouldn’t call Skyfall the best Bond movie, but yes, for me it’s up there.

Anuraag Bose (graduate in sociology from Asutosh College): I disagree with the view that this is the best Bond movie. However, I also disagree with the view that this is Daniel Craig’s best Bond movie. Honestly, the plot of this movie is extremely thin and there’s an attempt to cover it up with pointless nostalgia… bringing back the Aston Martin DB5 and all that. This movie suffers from the basic idea that we have to show Bond without the things that actually make who he is. Yes, it does go back to his roots, and that’s a decent point, but that does not make up for the fact that people went in expecting a ‘Bond’ film. We don’t want to see some generic special agent doing what he does, there are far too many movies out there showing that.

But I’ve read Ian Fleming’s novels and what I like about this Bond is that it’s very true to the books. Overall, I feel this movie is not as good as it could’ve been. It’s average-ish, rather on the lower side.

Alankar Das (second year, English, Asutosh College): I support what Anuraag said. This wasn’t Craig’s best, neither was it one of the best Bond films. But I liked the opening song by Adele very much. It was brilliant. I also liked the use of the DB5 because it brought in a classic touch but I missed the gadgets and the action. There were only two or three action sequences — the first chase, the last bit where the house is on fire and the train falling through the ground.

t2: Okay, so you missed the gadgets… which ones?

Neera: I’m not much of a gadget buff but there’s this Lotus Esprit in one of the Roger Moore films [The Spy Who Loved Me] that transforms into a submarine under water, that I think was the coolest James Bond vehicle ever! Having said that, I really liked the fact that in Skyfall, given that these are tough economic times, they show that a simple radio can be very ‘Bond’ as well.

Shrestha: In Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan has a mobile phone that controls everything. He uses it to kill a man, to control his car to come near him, open the window, lie on his back in the backseat and drive the car from there with that device, even as a bunch of people are firing at him. That is pretty much Bond for me! Bond does not need to get down to hand-to-hand combat, he has the cool gadgets.

Ankit: For me it’s the Walther PPK that Q gives Bond in Skyfall. Only Bond can use it, it can’t be used as a random killing equipment.

Anuraag: But Bond underplayed the value of the gun.

Shrestha: Yeah, that’s so true. He left it for the iguana. I mean, dude, come back for it!

Neera: I was expecting the iguana would burp it up later at least!

t2: And what did you think of the guy behind the gadgets — the new and young Q?

Shrestha: We love him. Ben Whishaw is so cute! But not just his cuteness, he had this confidence about himself that perhaps the old Q did not have. Because, I remember, in the movie I just described, Tomorrow Never Dies, Q is standing with the gadget and tells Bond, ‘I can’t control this, but you’ll get the hang of it.’ Bond being Bond, Brosnan just comes and does it, like that! But Whishaw’s Q knows his stuff and he’s out there and he just nails it.

Anuraag: I felt that the inclusion of a young Q was very cliched. Like, they show Bond is ageing, so automatically you must put in a brand new Q, right? Who’s young and whom Bond can’t relate to... I expected it, honestly. I thought Q would be some sort of a computer genius, a code hacker, and yes, there he was!

t2: What about the cars in Skyfall?

Shrestha: The cars were a bit of a disappointment for me.

Ankit: We expected better cars. The DB5 was fine but a Jaguar? Eh…

Shrestha: I mean Bond has had cars that can melt into the background, fly and do what not!

Neera: For me, James Bond driving M’s Bentley was more exciting than them going to Scotland in the DB5. The DB5 does fire at Silva and his men, but that was too little, too late!

t2: So, who’s the hottest Bond?

Shrestha: Pierce Brosnan. Period. Daniel Craig is NOT a hot Bond.

Neera: Yes he is, when he’s wearing his Armani suits. But for me the hottest Bond is Roger Moore. When he drives a bus, he still looks so hot!

Shrestha: See, Daniel Craig was the first blonde Bond and that does not do it for me. Because you get used to a concept that Bond is dark-haired. So for me Craig never fit in. And why Pierce Brosnan? He’s just yummy. He has these pretty blue eyes... ah! Also, the original Bond was Sean Connery, who was super. I couldn’t accept Timothy Dalton or Roger Moore. And I think one of the reasons why I did like Brosnan so much as Bond was because he was similar to Sean Connery, the cut of the face and everything. And Connery was a little too old for my fancy, so it’s Brosnan.

Karan: I think Sean Connery was the one. I mean, girls would be able to say better but I think he suited the image of Bond, you know, the charismatic presence, the physique, the fights, the coolness… everything.

Ankit: I would go with Sean Connery too, because he set the benchmark for what Bond is, his voice, the way he talked to M and others, or his flirtatious tone with Miss Moneypenny, or his commanding tone with his subordinates, the way his hair parted, the way he dressed… it was Sean Connery’s Bond that set the tone for us.

Alankar: I can’t rate a man on hotness since I’m a guy but I like Brosnan as Bond the most. But on the factor of strength, I must also mention Craig, particularly in that sequence in Skyfall where he takes out the bullet pieces from his shoulder while looking at the mirror, I thought that was quite something.

t2: Okay, let’s move on to the women…

Karan: In Skyfall, the women were totally under-utilised. There were hardly any scenes with them. If you see the past Bond movies, Honey Ryder [Ursula Andress] in Dr. No, in the very first scene when she walks out of the sea in a white bikini, we got an idea that Bond girls are like this. Then there was Tracy Bond, who was present in four Bond movies.

Here I would like to mention Eva Green in Casino Royale. She was a very nice Bond girl. She had a very strong character in the movie, in fact, much of the next one, Quantum of Solace, is based on avenging her death. But in Skyfall, Naomie Harris as Eve or Berenice Lim Marlohe as Severine play hardly any part. They had, what, four prominent scenes at best?

Shrestha: And Severine’s death was so abrupt!

Neera: Eva Green was the most charismatic Bond girl. And she carried herself so well. In this movie, when I saw Naomie Harris, who turns out to be <beep> (spoiler alert!), I thought Eva Green would’ve been so much better.

Anuraag: I think the whole idea of Bond girls is becoming forced, to a point where they are not required by the plot but because we expect Bond girls in a Bond film, they’ve been added to the script. And this was very apparent throughout Skyfall.

Neera: : Yes. Eve had just a desk job at that moment but she still was made to come into Bond’s hotel room in Shanghai. If you ask me, Judi Dench was the real Bond girl. At 77, hats off! We’ve seen her commanding MI6 and secret service agents but she can still break light bulbs and make them into weapons!

Anuraag: What I liked about Judi Dench’s portrayal is how she effortlessly shows that M puts her profession before her emotions at any point. Of course she is affected by her agents’ deaths but the character is so hardened.

Shrestha: I would say she has perfect balance because even when constant messages keep popping up that she’s in danger M continues to do her job but you can see the fear in her eyes when she is walking away with Kincade and she looks back at Bond’s burning house. I think Judi Dench was perfect in portraying that balance of M.

t2: From the babes to the badmen. Where do you place Javier Bardem?

Anuraag: I feel Javier Bardem, who played Raoul Silva in Skyfall, was completely under-used. His range is massive, and this is not just any cliched antagonist.

Shrestha: But it was sad that they made such a good-looking man look so bad. Why can’t a sinister villain be great looking? But Bardem was brilliant, nonetheless.

Neera: I agree. Javier Bardem in this movie had the capacity to be another Joker [Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight]. And he did act like that, you know, like a psycho. And what he was doing was far more interesting than what the entire MI6 was doing. But he just wasn’t given more screen space.

Anuraag: Not just the actor, even the character had so much potential, who could do much more than have a train falling through the ground.

Karan: Javier Bardem was very good but I don’t agree that he’s the best Bond villain ever. According to me, Auric Goldfinger, played by the German actor Gert Frobe in Goldfinger, was it. He was also the Bond villain that was truest to Fleming’s novel.

Anuraag: I liked Jaws, he struck you visually. He was there in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Karan: Yeah, he was very good too. And he’s present in a couple of James Bond games too.

t2: If a Bond movie were to be shot in Calcutta, what location would you pick?

Shrestha: A car chase down the second Hooghly bridge.

Alankar: Or he could be made to climb the Howrah Bridge in hot pursuit.

Karan: How about a chase across Kumartuli, just before Durga Puja? It would be something unique and very Calcutta.

Anuraag: They could also try Dakshineswar temple on a festival day, when it’s thronged by thousands. It would be next to impossible to find a man in that crowd.

Neera: Then may be Park Street on Christmas night.

Alankar: Or the Kidderpore docks, where the bridge comes up.

Shrestha: I want to put forward a question. Who would you pick as the next Bond, if Daniel Craig was to retire?

Ankit: George Clooney.

Shrestha: Yes, yes!

Ankit: Clooney would be a bit old but Bond is ageing himself. As we’ve seen him as Danny Ocean, we know he has the charisma to portray a Bond.

Shrestha: And he has the looks about him. Yes, he was a d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r as Batman but he was awesome as Danny Ocean and Bond as a character is closer to Ocean than to Batman, I feel.

Anuraag: Clooney has the class but he’s not hands-on enough to pull off a Bond. My pick would be Jon Hamm of Mad Men. I feel he will do a fair job, provided he can pull off a British accent.

t2: No one from India?

Neera: Well, Abhay Deol, if he exercises enough, enough, enough... he might just be able to pull it off.

Shrestha: Abhay Deol can pull off anything he wants! But he’s balding a little (giggles).

Neera: You know, if you ask around, I’m sure everybody will say they want Shah Rukh Khan as Bond.

Shrestha: No, man! Shah Rukh should just quit, not try to become Bond! If Saif Ali Khan built his body a little more, may be…

Neera: You’re saying that despite Agent Vinod?!

Shrestha: I haven’t seen Agent Vinod. May be that’s why I’m still suggesting Saif… Actually, Indians don’t make the cut to play Bond. They can play Feluda, not BOND!

Samhita Chakraborty of t2 sat in on the conversation