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.
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.