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Metamorphosis of 007: Is it China’s turn to help MI6?

opinionMetamorphosis of 007: Is it China’s turn to help MI6?

The audience may be in for a shock, as on the screen when M asks Moneypenny for 007, in walks Lashana Lynch, a black British actress.



Expectations rose sky high when Waller Bridge, only the second woman in history, was commissioned to finalise and polish the script for the forthcoming Bond film. But one never expected a coup of this nature, particularly as on an earlier occasion Barbara Broccoli, the producer of James Bond films had emphatically stated that there would never be a female Bond. Now the impossible has almost happened.

The audience may be in for a shock, as on the screen when M asks Moneypenny for 007, in walks Lashana Lynch, a black British actress. In the 25th Bond film, while Daniel Craig, called back from Jamaica after his retirement post Spectre, is still there as Bond, the code 007, which is now a world famous calling card, has been assigned to Lashana Lynch, earlier known for her role in Captain Marvel.

When Ian Fleming had written Dr. No, his very first book, more than six decades ago, little did he realise that he was not only creating a character but giving birth to a phenomenon. Foundations for the success of this phenomenon were laid by Sean Connery, who fitted the fictional persona of James Bond to perfection. Now with a female character there is bound to be a complete metamorphosis. It is not as if this is going to be the first time for a female actor to play such a role, as Ariel was a black woman so also Starfire, but then Bond has to be altogether a different class.

The character of James Bond has evolved over the decades with a style which oozes captivating charm and raw masculinity along with a mischievous glint in the eyes. Besides Bond’s on screen hi tech adventures borne out of the cold war politics, it was his flirtatious smile and lascivious bedside manner with some of the most curvaceous beauties of the time which brought hordes of people to the cinemas for repeat viewings. While Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan appeared to be natural and had such qualities in ample measure, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby were almost like square pegs in round holes who did not succeed. The audience could not reconcile to their persona with the image and perception of James Bond already imprinted. It would be of interest to see how these characteristics are carried by Lashana Lynch, or if she becomes just another lead actor of a spy thriller, segregating the character of Bond from 007.

One of the main reasons for the initial success of Bond was purely coincidental. Dr. No, was, for instance released in September 1962, with the storyline of a rogue, close to mainland United States, interfering and trying to commandeer and sabotage US space missions. Now this was too close to the Cuban missile crisis. While the crisis was handled during the famous 13 days of October 1962, the immediate beneficiary was Bond. Similarly, an unbelievably favourable atmosphere greeted the release of From Russia with Love, which hit the screens sometime during the summer of 1963. That was the time England was reeling under the Profumo-Christine Keelar scandal, with the possible involvement of one Russian military attaché, based in London. The fire lit by a small leak in the media and the initial denial by Profumo in the House of Commons, ultimately became an inferno, finally consuming Harold MacMillan, the Prime Minister himself.

The Profumo scandal appeared straight out of a Bond film—a lot of sex, call girls, Russian spies, and possible subornation in high places. It was quite natural for the mainstream media and the tabloids to thrive on this sleazy affair. Such an ideal atmosphere before the release of From Russia With Love, could not have been imagined even by the author himself. On top of it, around that very time President John F. Kennedy, in one of his interviews, rated From Russia With Love as one of his ten favourite books. This was the proverbial icing on the cake, taking the stock of James Bond sky high, never again to look back. This also gave the key to the producers of a successful formula, of which, the public never seemed to be tiring out.

But now with Anglo-US relations souring a bit, will it be a case of the Chinese helping out MI6, as with Pierce Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies? At this stage, one can only speculate.

Dr K.K. Paul served as Governor of several states after retiring from the IPS as Delhi Police Commissioner.


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