Sunday 18 November 2007

Om Shanti Om (2007)

The PPCC does not normally review films which haven't made it to DVD yet. It's kind of a rule for us, since we like to do the screencap stuff. But the PPCC is a democratic institution and some members decided it was time to review a movie still in the theatres, mostly because (1) it's timely and (2) there are some pretty awesome movies coming out soon. Also, we're gonna see if we can out-reference it. Our goal is to hit 31, for the number of shameless cameos in one of its songs.

Well, Om Shanti Om (kind of a remake of Heaven Can Wait) should appeal to several types of people:
(1) 1970s Bollywood nostalgists
(2) 1990s Bollywood + Shah Rukh Khan apologists
(3) Phantom of the Opera fans

We at the PPCC are everything except (3), and hence we liked everything about Om Shanti Om except the bit when it becomes a bizarre Gothic horror/romance with protracted violence (of the People Burning Down in Mansions sort) and overwrought revenge plots. Unfortunately this "bit" takes up half the movie. As several other bloggers have noted, however, the cuddly joy of the first half - when Shah Rukh and we, the audience, are just loving life and loving movies - more than makes up for the long, arduous drag to the finish. So basically we'd see it again, but we'd walk out thirty minutes before the end.

The story starts in 1977, in the halcyon days of Bollywood's Golden Era. We are introduced to Om Prakash Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan), the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed extra ("junior artist") who comes complete with mutton chops, outrageously-patterned polyester outfits and a big heart. Om Prakash (yes, named after that Om Prakash) is like Hero Hiralal on hyperdrive: naive, optimistic, alone except for his mom (Kirron Kher) and loyal best friend Pappu (Shreyas Talpade), he lives in poverty but has big dreams of becoming a filmi star. Like Iqbal, Om takes his passion home with him: he and his mother engage in melodramatic, staged arguments where Om is inclined to pose and mug, declaring, "Father was a junior artist! You were a junior artist! And now I'll be nothing but a junior artist too!"

Apart from his movie fantasies, Om, appropriately enough, also harbors an intense crush on Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone), the current superstar. Since he and Pappu are regular gatecrashers to premieres and movie sets, Om bumps into his Shanti more than once. These scenes deserve note; they are reminiscent of Roberto Benigni's courtship of Nicoletta Braschi in Life is Beautiful (or, for that matter, Johnny Stecchino or Il Mostro or La tigre e la neve). She is frothy and elusive, he is joyous and smitten, chasing after her. When the security guards drag Shah Rukh Khan away, and he clutches his heart with a dreamy smile on his face, we at the PPCC were quite smitten ourselves. It was, as Greg Kinnear describes the porn magazines in Little Miss Sunshine, just sweet... sweetness. Similarly with the songs Dhoom Tana, Ajaab Si, and Jag Soona Soona Lage - all three beautiful little snapshots of Om's epic crush on Shanti.

Dhoom Tana. Thank God for the guys in the theatre with the video camera. A perfect capture of the fun and glamour of 1970s Bollywood, as well as the visceral escapism Om and Hero Hiralal and the PPCC experience when watching these things. When Om is compelled to shake out of his theatre seat and start dancing in the aisle, sublime. We've done that too, except at home. And the tennis?

Ajab Si. A gorgeous song. Gush gush.

Jag Soona Soona Lage, featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and his shrieking. There are so many genius shots in this song. Our favorite moment is when Om and Pappu join the Holi filming. Touching and meta, perfect.

Indeed, it's the first half of the film which hits all the right notes. The post-2000 Shah Rukh Khan seems to have only two settings, and they are bubble gum romance (which we prefer) and Darth Vader (which we generally do not, especially when he starts threatening people in English). He plays both settings in the film, with the first Om being bouncy and fun (and wonderfully stupid, a la Raja in Jab Jab Phool Khile) and the second Om being kind of an arrogant dick (a la Shah Rukh in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna... or Don... or even Chak De India...) who does that whole thing with the tight jaw and the sarcastic English-isms, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Brrr. Remember Shah Rukh in KANK? "I love you and dammit, you love me too." Ughhh. Is English the Evil Language? Apparently for SRK it is.

We know that the Evil Shah Rukh is, in some circles, considered the better of the two, but we'll take Bubble Gum SRK any day.

Anyway, unfortunately Bubble Gum Om must die in order to move the film forward with its reincarnation theme and get all the satire of modern Bollywood going. Evil mega-producer Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal) decides that the best way to achieve his career goals is to burn down one of his sets and lock his wife, Shanti, inside. No, it's not commentary on widow-burning practices. It's all set-up for a painfully contrived melodrama (and we hate using that word, but here it just is, man). Anyway Om tries his darndest to save Shanti, but he succeeds only in being beaten to a pulp (not dead yet), catching fire (not dead yet), exploding out onto the street (still not dead), and finally getting hit by a car (dead now). Yet, just as Om declared that:
1. If you want something with all your heart, the entire universe conspires to get it for you. (In this case, Shanti.) And,
2. Life should be like movies, with only happy endings (or, as Om said a la Raja, "happees ending"). And if life ends unhappily, the movie isn't over yet!

Hence the film fasts forward to 2007, where Om has been re-born into the illustrious Kapoor dynasty, complete with all the pampering and stardom that that guarantees. Here the film finds time to poke fun at nearly every aspect of modern Bollywood: from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's taking-itself-very-seriously Black to Abhishek Bachchan's taking-itself-very-seriously ego. And everyone shows up, old (Rekha! Rishi Kapoor! Dharmendra! Shabana!(!) AMITABH!) and new (Salman Khan! Saif Ali Khan! Akshay Kumar! Kajol! Rani! ABHISHEK!). But then Farah Khan remembered she had some plot strings to tie up, and hence we are subjected to a laborious revenge plot which is part-comedy and part-horror and leaves everyone unsatisfied, except for those damn Andrew Lloyd Webber fans.

There were a few moments when we found ourselves laughing very hard at something that should not have been quite so funny and was actually a bit offensive. The entire satire of South Indian films, reportedly more outrageous than even Bollywood and its Industrial Strength Escapism, with Shah Rukh sporting a handlebar moustache and red pleather, as a hero who continually reminds the villains to: "Mind it!" (While hippie on-lookers twist their hands, "Vah! Vah! Kya acting hai! Kya flying hai! Kya tiger hai!") Also, and we are ashamed of ourselves, but the parody of Black, where Shah Rukh is reduced to a Monty Python-esque Black Knight-esque torso (who is also blind, deaf and mute). (Another time when we laughed similarly hard and were similarly ashamed of ourselves was during a skit depicting Lincoln's assassination.)

For those who love SRK, the Chia pet of your love will be cultivated and well-fed during Om Shanti Om. For however much he is criticized, and we agree with much of the critics' criticisms (mostly the one about how he's become a pre-packaged media product with a pre-packaged selection of five faces), he is nonetheless an intelligent performer with great timing and instinct. He hasn't lost his magic ability to channel vulnerability; of particular note being Jab Soona Soona Lage, where the man is, once again, not afraid to cry. Newcomer Deepika Padukone barely registers; she's a pretty face and, while cute in some scenes (such as her melodramatic 1970s "Ek chutki sindoor!" scenes), she lacks the charisma of other, more formidable Barbies to SRK's Ken (notably Kajol, Juhi Chawla and Rani Mukherjee, who often not only hold their own but out-charisma him). In fact, Om's friendship with Shreyas Talpade's Pappu has more electricity than his supposed romance with Shanti. But that could be, of course, Shreyas Talpade's excellentness, playing on his own strengths of sidekick goofiness and, later, gravitas. Kirron Kher is, as we've already mentioned, our all-time favorite Hindi Movie Mom, and she continues to be. We especially loved her own melodramatic faux acting in the early scenes. Arjun Rampal is flat and bland enough that we still confused him with John Abraham.

And of course, the final and most ultimate reason to see Om Shanti Om is to get a faceful of THIS, BABY:


Final count: 19. Damn!


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I can't add anything to your OSO stuff because I agree completely. and as usual am glad to see someone else saying in third person what I also think.

re: the preview, I'm sorry, but it just looks like Hrithik playing dressup. Which has its own special pleasures, but still. My fingers are crossed and all, because Swades is one of my favorites, but this looks like too big a film to rest on Hrithik (although maybe it won't rest on him and they're just showing us lots of him to get us to come see the movie) - not because he sucks, but because I like him in lesser roles. He doesn't strike me as an epic kind of guy.

Sanket Vyas said...

Completely agree with your review - wish the energy of the first half could have continued into the second but alas it was not meant to be :( The first half (up until the item number) was worth the price of admission alone! The 2 songs you wrote about are the same ones I put up on my blog too - just great tunes.

The preview looks very intriguing & I am very excited about the movie. Hrithik speaking classical Urdu is the X factor though - I would hate to sit through the movie just noticing his enunciation much like Kevin Costner's on again-off again English accent in 'Robin Hood'. But if Sridevi did it in 'Khuda Gawa' as a non native speaker of Hindi/Urdu then Hrithik has a shot.

a ppcc representative said...

Such doubts regarding Hrithik!

Beth, I am no fan of Hrithik, but I must say that his boy band good looks hand a ring of ultimate pleasantness in such an epic setting... it was like he was Prince Charming, or some other legendary boyfriend.

Sanket, arrgh, these are things I wish I could pick up on. And I wish I could appreciate: hearing classical Urdu! Unfortunately I just won't be able to comment on it, but for the sake of the film's integrity, I hope it's a passable accent. (Yeah, Kevin Costner in Robin Hood is a good example of the perils of bad accenting. Brrr.)

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I wouldn't know good Urdu if it bit me on the nose. As for legendary boyfriends in swanky settings, I was certainly quite pleased by the appearance of Abhishek in the new Umrao Jaan. Mmmm.

penguinsong said...

SRK does not have only 5 faces.

I myself have seen him employ a total of 7 (seven) completely different different facial expressions in several movies.

He only needed 5 for this particular movie because the title does not begin with the letter D, but in Devdas, DDLJ, Don and Darr, just to offer examples, he used the other two, and sometimes more than once.

Anonymous said...

Actually this movie borrows heavily from Dilip Kimar starrer B&W movie Madhumati

Anonymous said...

Oh, also, the scene in the beginning where Om saves Shanti from fire is inspired by the real life incident where Sunil Dutt saved his future wife Nargis from fire during the shooting of Mother India.