Rajiv Rai's "Asambhav", which opened this week, is the latest in the longish line of slick hi-tech spy thrillers that he has been turning out since his first directorial venture "Yuddh".
Hindi cinema has largely ignored that slick-and-exciting genre. Or perhaps never possessed the resources to make the spy thriller genre look convincing.
Sean Connery and James Bond came long before Tom Cruise and "Mission
Impossible". In Hindi cinema, the espionage thriller was for a long time relegated to the tawdry stunt genre, featuring wrestler turned actor Dara Singh, his brother Randhawa or Dev Kumar in the lead in the 1960s.
The only spy thriller in the 1960s that created a lasting impact at the box office was Ramanand Sagar's "Aankhen". With the debonair Dharmendra at its helm as an affable desi James Bond, "Aankhen" succeeded in creating an opening for the spy genre in India.
Who can forget Mala Sinha as a Japanese moll or Lalita Pawar as a Pakistani spy in "Aankhen"? Though the gadgetry in the film was seriously laughable, the film did manage to take the spy genre look halfway respectable.
When he made his directorial debut in the 1960s, movie mogul Manmohan Desai also took his cue from the James Bond tradition to make "Kismet". The film featuring the hot duo Biswajeet and Babita had all the guns, gadgets and glamour associated with the genre.
It also got the hero and heroine to swap sexes and sing the super-hit number "Kajra mohabbat wala" in drag.
And so the spy thriller dragged on. In the 1970s, Mithun Chakbraborty did a whole series of espionage thrillers modelled on James Bond. Calling his character Gun Master G-9, Mithun thrilled the lower stalls and gyrated his way to moderate success in films like "Suraksha", "Saahas" and "Vardaat".
But it was Rajiv Rai whose films brought a certain special slickness to the spy genre.
Lately, director Anil Sharma also attempted to take the espionage thriller to a higher level in "The Hero" with Sunny Deol cast as the local Bond and cross-border terrorism serving as the spy centre. Though the film didn't recover its huge costs, it did invest a kind of compelling polish to the product.
If the hi-tech thrillers and the theme of international terrorism works in "Asambhav", then Rajiv Rai who had earlier swerved away to make a disastrous romantic film "Pyar Ishq Mohabbat" will prove that it isn't asambhav (impossible) for Bollywood, with its relatively restricted resources, to make Mission Impossible.
In fact, a producer is planning to remake the Hollywood sensation "Spider-Man" into Hindi with Sammir Dattani (of "Uuf Kya Jadoo Hai") in the title role.