Friday, November 23, 2007


This is pointless excercise, 2-3 weeks after the film has released. It would have been equally pointless at the time of release, seeing as how all MSM people are gaga over Shah Rukh and Farah Khan. But hey, it allows me to think about a Hindi movie, and to compete with friend lexicomaniac (whom I've now beaten to the review. Poor chap's in Amsterdam)

People say Om Shanti Om is a remake of Karz. I disagree. Karz was about reincarnation - specifically of Rishi Kapoor's character, and the impact on other characters in the plot. This movie isn't.

What Om Shanti Om is is an adaptation of ''The Truman Show''. Like Jim Carrey in the Truman Show SRK acts as someone who is in a movie, as opposed to a person of flesh and blood. Like Truman in the Truman Show, SRK reaches out to the audience, unshackled by the confines of whoever he is supposed to be, rather than to his fellow cast. And like in The Truman Show, the broken fourth wall context is required so as not to mistake the protagonist's actions for overacting.

But, you will ask, is that not the same case with any Shah Rukh film since Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa? No, for the simple reason that unlike any previous SRK (or non-SRK for that matter) film, everyone and their respective characters - who coincidentally are all movie people - is aware they are in a movie.
Farah Khan is aware of SRK's Truman-esque behaviour (he, unlike Truman, is aware he is in a movie) and recognizes its potential dissonance (to put it mildly) with the narrative flow of a film. She solves this problem by tearing apart the fourth wall altogether, and making every character (save Arjun Rampal) conscious of his/her role in the grand scheme of things both sides of the silver screen. It's no coincidence that "Om Shanti Om" - the film title - is not only the compounded name of the lead pair, but also of the film being made within the film. Very Shakespearan. On the upside, this fissure in the fourth wall (widened every few minutes) makes Shah Rukh's Khan-isms and hamming (which could compare with the output of Oscar Mayer's largest factory) easier to bear. On the downside, when everyone knows they're in a film, what exactly is it that you're seeing? Greatbong calls it a product, which I guess it is, for the reason that it is something that makes money.

The plot is exceedingly simple - Boy (SRK) meets girl (Deepika). Both die. Both are reborn. Both meet again. Somebody else (bad guy - Arjun Rampal) dies. In between, the whole of Bollywood does an extended cameo in a party, for no other reason than to blur the lines between fact and fiction even further.

A note about this cameo by the way. It included Akshay Kumar in a Khiladi avatar that has to be seen to be believed - something for the archives of YouTube. It included Jeetendra, who looks remarkably well preserved for his age, and Tushar Kapoor, who presumably got in by supergluing himself to his father.

Shah Rukh Khan is, well, Truman with the self-awareness and a six-pack. Deepika Padukone is HOT. I mean it. The only song worth a dekko in the whole film is the one where she's a cabaret dancer from the 70's. She's got a beautiful smile too. Unfortunately, that's about it. She's eye candy, and in this flick, has a role comparable to one of the 295 unnamed Spartans from 300.

Arjun Rampal does a decent job as a villain. More significantly, he
is the one person in the whole movie who is unaware he is in a movie. Kudos to him for that. He and his shifty-eyed villain though, are perfunctory characters, comparable to one of the thousands of unnamed Persians from 300. Considering his similarly sidey role in Don, I wonder if he has to shine SRK's shoes or clean his trailer on set or something. Poor fellow.

OSO in all is a weird thing, a sort of Powerpoint presentation where Shah Rukh is slide template, layout and 90% of the content. It knows itself to be one. The question is, do we?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Beowulf - The Review

One of the common resentments against Bollywood movies is that you inevitably see the same stuff over and over again, whatever the title, theme or (for lack of a better word) plot. Coming to US, I find the same applies to a lot of Hollywood movies, the difference being that Bollywood films all pretty much rank as ''family entertainment'' while Hollywood films tend to fall into several genres - romantic comedy, heroic action, college flick, chick flick, slasher and so forth. Know the genre, however, and with a lot of films you will know the plot. Beowulf is one such film.

Beowulf falls under the "mythological recreation" subcategory of "heroic action". You can therefore figure out several things about it, even if you don't know the legendary Old English poem.

Since the movie is about a hero not in a war, there has to be a hero-requiring situation. Hence the opening fifteen minutes when King Hrothgar's feast, on opening night of his mead-hall is wrecked by Grendel, Gollum's twenty-five-foot cousin who speaks lispy Old English, has the skin of a Ramsay Brothers' zombie and hates the sounds of festivities - he'd have been a hit with the Taliban.

Prior to his attack we see Hrothgar, the drunken fat old king. His Queen is much younger, wayyy thinner and a good deal more refined - clear indications of romantic tension and triangles once Beowulf turns up.

He does, leading a crew of people all but but one of whom have no dialogue. It's clear - Beowulf is going to kill Grendel, just after the monster has wiped out this entire valiant gang. The guy with dialogue might just get in a dying inspirational speech or give Beowulf his wife's amulet or something.

He meets the King and Queen and in no time, the air's electric. Hrothgar offers him a golden dragon-shaped cup if he kills the beast, but it's clear Beowulf would prefer something to put his dragon into.

The beast comes, kills about 75% of the dialogue-less crew and wrestles Beowulf, who wierdly takes it on naked. He deals with it by yelling at it and chaining it to a chandelier and swinging about the rafters and so on - general naked hero stuff.

All this takes place in about 45 minutes. Since it's an hour-plus till the next show, the threat's not dealt with yet. It reveals itself as Angelina Jolie, who can slay men silently, appear in dreams and, when Beowulf confronts her, walk nude so sinuously as to cause a penis explosion. Highly dangerous, this mother of Grendel.

Seeing as it's Angelina Jolie, you know she can't die before the credits roll, and so must do some Satanic seduction stuff with our naked (Again!!) hero.

Beowulf, like any red-blooded male with functional sausage and meatballs, is taken in by this sinuous beauty, and ''agrees'' to ''give her a son'' (Oh the mortification of selling one's soul so!!!).

The rest of the movie deals with the consequences of his ''sin'' (And no, it does not end with Angelina Jolie and him moving in together a la ''Knocked Up'' to raise the baby. Neither am I talking something out of Masoom or Salaam Namaste). Suffice it to say that Beowulf's mighty dragon begets more of its kind.

The movie's motion capture based animation was unique, allowing CGI to blend in nicely with actual acting done by actual actors. But cinematography alone does not a good movie make, and when your plot is so riddled with cliches as to be checked off a list, the end result is sheer boredom.

Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and Brendan Gleeson play Beowulf, Hrothgar, Hrothgar's minister and the sole survivor of Beowulf's crew. The real show stealer (and, when you see the trailer, the USP of this movie) is Angelina Jolie, who looks golden skinned, flies, has a serpent tail behind her and is mostly nude throughout her parts. Her digital body remains about the only worthwhile thing to see in this otherwise predictable film.