Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grudgeni: Why Aamir Khan's Ghajini is a major let down

Aamir’s grudge-thriller Ghajini – well on its way to becoming a blockbuster – will be discussed endlessly in the coming weeks, so instead I’ll restrict myself to a few salient observations.

Ghajini is a fairly garish mess of a movie

One of these days we’ll hit a mainstream filmmaker tasked with delivering a blockbuster who doesn’t try to keep audiences entertained by duplicating a music video. For now, we’ll have to make do with what we get. Ghajini has such low self esteem that every little moment is dramatized with camera angles, a blaring background soundtrack and post production shakes and shimmies. Stripped of Memento’s backward unspooling, which unites us with the protagonist’s torment, Ghajini doesn’t pause enough to help us understand the muddle that is in the mind of its central protagonist.

It’s inelegant

Seen through a very generous lens (let’s say I was director A. R. Murgadoss’ cousin or something), Ghajini is a fine masala retelling of the critically acclaimed commercial dud Memento. But it’s largely disappointing and I’m not complaining about the numerous holes where stuff happens inexplicably or fortuitously and characters behave in confounding ways – I wouldn’t go see a Bollywood movie expecting more than that. But without injecting any spoilers here, I’ll say that there are a number of problems that need to be solved in any script that have been solved in singularly inelegant ways.

Aamir is a disappointment

Aamir plays two very different characters in this movie: as the thoughtful business tycoon Sanjay Singhania, he mostly plays himself with a few puppy love stares thrown in. He’s appropriately entertaining here. As the traumatized ganju Sanjay, Aamir unleashes inner crazies during moments of acidic brutality. This is much fun to watch. But he gives his character a purposeful swagger and surety of intent which I thought were completely contradictory to a person who barely knows his place in the world. Sure, he pats himself down a few times and uses a quizzical expression to portray forgetfulness, but for the most part the way he plays ganju Sanjay is a misstep.

So is Asin (but its relative)

A large section of the pop media has already prostrated in front of Asin and hailed her as the next coming. So what is she like? Asin is drop dead gorgeous – carrying everything the movie stylists throw at her with ease and elegance. She’s awkward in her dance sequence, strutting rather than dancing and showing a surprising lack of grace. In the acting department she is very choppy. She's reasonably crackerjack when she plays a backslapping ditz whose heart of gold apparently outweighs her lack of ethics. There is one scene in which she depicts a cocktail of rage and helplessness really well. But in her key scene where she has to depict fear and panic, she is cringeworthy.

It’s a shame because her role is more than the customary window dressing. Fortunately for her, she is up against Jiah Khan , who - playing a medical student with a penchant for breaking out in a dance dhamaka - under performs in a high impact role by bringing absolutely no personality or verve to it.

It’s exotic by Indian standards

Ghajini has Memento’s basic framework but grossly simplifies the rest of it’s paraphernalia. Yet it issues a challenge to Bollywood moviegoers like few of its mass market predecessors. It’s a bold step to make a complicated movie which begins with the lead character on a murderous spree. The dhishoom dhishoom stuff is gritty, bone crunching and much fun to watch. A number of tricky shifts in the narration are handled without disorienting the audience.

Its redonkulosly gory!

A lot of blood flows in Ghajini – most of it unnecessarily if you ask me. Its one thing to depict violence to shock people out of their comfort zones. But I’ve always felt that depicting extreme violence to explain a character’s motivation (and help carry the story forward through nutty sequences like The Hero Who Survives Three Bullets But Still Punches Out Ten Guys Because He Is Just So Pissed) has always been an indicator of the lack of faith a director has in his story and actors.

I’m not the only one who thought so – when I did an informal poll of people in the audience they all mentioned the violence as one of the reasons they didn’t like the movie.

Perhaps encouraged by Aamir’s last kid-friendly flick, throngs of young ones were in the audience. A sensible parental guidance system of ratings in India is long overdue.

31 comments:

PensiveBuddha said...

I do agree to most parts of your review. I guess the film simply piggybacks on Aamir's physique and his aura to get the opening. Once the opening is sorted, the film anyways snowballs into huge profits. In this respect Aamir is similar to SRK.

However I guess Aamir has to work harder each time for that opening whereas SRK simply has to go through the same lover boy 'Raj' routine and voila a stupendous opening is ensured(only Om Shanti Om was diff, he had to 'work'). If ever there was a ROI comparative analysis between Aamir & SRK, SRK would win hands down!

Asin as the media puts it has arrived; but I do find her too annoying and hams a lot...she is pretty but she overacts, sounds and behaves like Madhuri (over the top). Jiah (sometimes) looks like a million bucks but on several other occasions looks pedestrain.

Secondly the movie doesnt go anywhere or doesnt build up the story on many fronts. Also what I really find surprising is that how can a person become a HULK when he suffers from short term memory loss? Also the contrast between Sanjay Singhania and the Hulk is no properly played by Aamir, which results in a big letdown

Pitu said...

Hmm I haven't seen it yet but my cousin saw it first day because she equates Aamir with 'good movies' and the violence pissed her off... I am very curious to see this film now :-O

Aspi said...

I think Jiah just didn't work enough on her look. I would have taken her seriously if she hadn't walked around that movie with hair the size of Texas. That look is not only hugely outdated but made her look plain silly.

Anonymous said...

Danke Mesuer !

SC said...

Inspite of all the loopholes...must say its a complete paisa vasool....!! 3hrs movie....n u hardly feel it...!!!

Compared to this, RNBDJ is absolute brain dead.....!!!!

MeganKahan Hai said...

Prachund Bhalo Review Aspida !

girlie girl said...

I'm sure the movie is stupid but I am curious about the story. I actually really liked Momento so either I'll really like this movie or completely hate it. it is nice for someone to do an honest review on an Aamir Khan movie, cause most other people just assume that since Aamir only does a movie a year (or so), that it MUST be good.

j said...

Haven't seen the movie but really dissappointed with Amir Khan just by reading the reviews.

I was hoping for this movie to be a masterpiece like Lagaan where attention is paid to each and every character and frame. Unfortunately seems like the movie focusses more on Amir super stardom and his body.

meena said...

Hey Aspi, I didnt have too many hopes up for this movie.. still, I saw the original long time ago and Surya made it watchable..while aamir -unfortunately I felt like giggling when he starts his demented screaming:)

Who made the casting decision to get Jiah in a konkana sen type of role? it made for some good comic relief, porn star hairstyle and all.

Disagree with you about Asin. Since when have bolly stars needed great acting ability? she has that captivating demeanor a la kajol (which Deepika does not) and that puts her way above any of the current contenders. I liked her in the movie and didnt notice her shortcomings too much. I think the next wave coming up will see Genelia, Asin et al climbing up.

BTW how was your trip?

Pitu said...

"porn star hairstyle and all."

Hahahahahahahaa!!!!

Anonymous said...

If ghajini is so bad.then what is your opinion about Sing is king, Rab ne bana di jodi,Om Santi Om.......For u i think this movies are mindblowing...........

Pri said...

like i was telling someone the other day i cant believe so much money went into making this movie twice. and i cant believe i watched it twice. i cant decide which version i hated more.

musical said...

Happy New Year to Aspibhai and all the drifters!

I haven't watched Ghajini yet, but it seems like the expectations from this movie were really high: a) because it is an Aamir Khan movie and b) becuase it is based on Memento and also on the Tamil version that did really well. Usually, (like GG pointed out so well) Aamir Khan's movies generate a lot of enthusiasm. I do agree that Indian Censor board needs a better rating system for movies. Sorry that Motorsandal had to sit through it.

I think Jiah wasn't probably the best choice for the role (i make this comment based exclusively on her get up and what i saw in the clips).

PensiveBudhha, i think SRK does what he feels he does best, in majority of his films ( i.e. playing a larger than life, savior, good at heart stereotype Raj/Rahul), and he does it unabashedly and enjoys it. So the audience enjoys it with him. Some of Aamir's movies portray him playing similar larger that life characters as well, but those movies are also trying to fit the "hatke/different" stereotype. I guess that might partly explain what you note.

Aspi said...

Anon, you raise a good question vis-a-vis the other movies. There is no consistent standard to apply to movies because each one tries to accomplish something different.

Take OSO for example: the framework of OSO pretty much made plot loopholes inconsequential for me. But on Ghajini I kept groaning all over the place. One of things that keeps Bollywood movies afloat for me is that the masala aspect of it makes me keep entertainment foremost.

But the minute someone expects me to apply my mind to it - they'd better get it right otherwise I lose respect quickly.

Aspi said...

Just an fyi to everyone, Blogger has been having issues with comments feeds for blogs that have more than 5000 comments. This blog does which is why the "Comments" section is showing comments from way back.

For some reason Google just doesn't seem to able to fix this issue.

musical said...

Aspi, this is off-topic, but what's your take on the music of "Luck by Chance"? I am totally hooked to "Yeh Zindagi and Baawre!

Aspi said...

musical, I need to catch up with my music. I have the CD but haven't heard it yet. Will give it a listen in the next day or so.

Mind Rush said...

Point number 1:
Loved your illustrated review. The "polaroid" type photos were a genius idea.

Mind Rush said...

Driftji, someone once said that "the mind is simply a collection of our memories and what we make of those memories." (Given my name, I have a special interest in this definition!)

Aamir's character in the movie is a person who has literally lost his mind. It needs to be played with great complexitiy and depth, not just some creative license.

mind rush said...

Point #3:
But I still really admire Aamir.

Aspi said...

Ah, I'm glad you got the Polaroid references - they didn't come out as well as I'd have liked. I still admire Aamir too, but I think as an actor he might be overrated.

I'm not complaining about his work within scenes - usually how people judge actors in India. But his sense of character construction is a bit off. To be fair he has so much box office pressure on him that he has to take a few liberties with everything.

He's still a great person to bring on board because he brings so much to the movie. I heard he rewrote the climax of the film.

Garjini Sinha said...

Drift Ji : Music of Billoo Barber is out that needs your expert comments. Music is by Preetam.

Ritha said...

very entertaining post Aspi! Luck by chance looks very promising and the music's very good. Luckily available on itunes and amazon mp3 store already...finally theres a way to buy legit desi digital music.

j said...

And there is a song by Amit Paul in there. One of the better music albums that has come out of bollywood recently.

Aspi said...

Thanks for the heads up on Billu. Will give it a listen. And I still need to give Luck By Chance a spin.

musical said...

Yes Aspibhai, Luck by Chance has some good surprises, truly! You won't be disappointed.

Trailblazer said...

Haha. Nice photos with captions. I agree. You might want to read my latest post.

workhard said...

I saw that movie, the telugu version was much better...it was kinda disappoiniting,

BPO work from home

Anonymous said...

I was watching "50 first dates" the other night. I wish Aamir would have gone that way, it would have made for a sweet movie instead of grosse killings!!

Aspi said...

Anon, he could have. But what would he be doing now given that he looks all of his 40 years?

Anonymous said...

I still like Rab na bana di jodi and billu more than Ghajini. I think after all SKR does get to the heart part part where sometimes Aamir misses. Don't get me wrong I love Aamir more as an actor but this was just not upto his level. Or maybe we keep raising their level so poor actors what should they do, get more creative!!!