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Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Ghajini": Aamir Khan and joie de vivre

(Originally published here on
I'm part of a theatre troupe in my college. I remember, about 18 months ago, it was my first day in the group, and the very first thing I was told was "exaggerate"...... A.R. Murugadoss sure seems to guy who knows the meaning of that word! For "Ghajini" is exaggerated with a capital E.....and this is likely to be the bone of contention among those who love it and those who trash it. It is a throwback to the "good old times", where Bollywood films were very much the sum of their parts, comedy, action, romance, tragedy; each emotion drawn out with a measuring cylinder, and doled out in the requisite amounts....(I understand many Tamil and Telugu films still rigourously follow this regime)

First, the obvious questions and the banal stuff out of the way.....Ghajini is NOT, repeat NOT, Memento, nor does it aspire to be. Ghajini is your more conventional revenge saga, with the anteriograde amnesia angle only adding the sting in the tale. Aamir Khan plays Sanjay Singhania, a telecom tycoon who falls for a bubbly, vivacious girl-next-door(who just happens to channelize the spirit of Mother Teresa every now and then),Kalpana, played by Asin. After the usual comedy of errors and rollercoaster-like romantic sequences, they are set to be married, when Kalpana rescues a bunch of girls who were being trafficked as part of an organ racket(if you can believe it), gets into trouble with the big bad wolf, gets whacked and Sanjay gets hit on the head.....voila amnesia!

So far so good. The screenplay is cliched, there are head-scratcher moments liberally strewn and the lingering, gratuitious close-ups and flashing pan shots are, I'm sure, cringe-worthy for many. But the bottom-line is: In spite of all this(or as I'm about to elaborate, because of all this :) ) Ghajini works........over the three hours, you cannot take your eyes off the screen. Here's why:
1. Aamir Khan: There's a considerable slice of the media which is enamoured by Khan because of what they perceive is the "different" cinema he pursues....he has long been painted as the "thinking actor". What they don't realize is that while Khan's versatility was never in doubt, his films have always strived to excel while staying very much within the general purview of "commercial" cinema. Take a good long look at Dil Chahta Hai, Rangeela, Lagaan, Sarfarosh, Mangal Pandey......of his mega-successful trio of DCH, Lagaan and RDB, RDB is perhaps the furthest off the line. Aamir simply imbues his films with his searing honesty and intensity, never, NEVER pulls his punches and has an effortless skill for getting under the skin of his characters. These qualities are on ample display here in this time......there is an unmistakeable sense of...I suppose the right word is joy; about him.

He excels in the romantic portions, bringing to mind the chocolate boy of yore, as well as the loveable imp of Rangeela, especially in the song Behka Behka, (check out the half-a-dozen Aamirs dancing in step!). And, my God, when he gets all bald and brutal, the angry, adrenaline-pumped, yes with all eight packs in place(and how!).....Aamir is mesmerizing. Again, there are no half-measures with Aamir. When he screams, he screams till his veins are about to pop, when he howls with pain, he sounds like a staked animal. Just can't take your eyes off that guy........

2. Joie de Vivre- If I had to describe the film in one catchphrase, this would be it. Ghajini is a film which steers clear of any pretentions about its artistic status......, I'm just too much in love with Gunda (Mithun-da's cult classic....if you've yet to see this one, your cinematic education is incomplete, trust me....) to call this one Aamir's Gunda......but yes, the spirit is very much there. When the baddie swings away with his bolted iron rod, he cackles in delight. Khan himself despatches scores of goons with a Rajni-like flourish and I swear, once or twice, I thought I even saw a shadow of a chuckle beneath Khan's gnashed teeth! Sometimes this leads one to laugh out loud even during the gory portions, but it's all part of the show, rest assured.

No one embodies the spirit of joie de vivre better than Asin. You will find it incredibly difficult not to like her....... She matches Khan shot for shot when they share screen space, and is effortlessly ebullient throughout. All this and minus the annoying accent inflicted upon us by the likes of Genelia D'Souza. The director gives her plenty of scenes to show off her acting chops, and for the most part, she's upto scratch.

3. Rahman- Rahman follows up the magnificent score of "Yuvvraaj" with another good soundtrack. "Guzarish" is incredibly easy on the ears, and its opening strains are used pretty frequently. "Behka Behka" is Rahman at his experimental best, with quirky and unusual rhythms. It helps that the cinematography of the songs, especially, is brilliant. "Kaise mujhe" is superbly sung by Benny Dayal who has already made waves with his spirited rendition of "Tu Hi To Meri Dost Hai" from "Yuvvraaj". "Aye Bacchu" is a snazzy, upbeat number which captures the cheerful spirit of Asin's character to a T. Ghajini's score might not be among Rahman's more memorable ones, but it is very much in sync with the film.1

There you have it, then. Aamir, joie de vivre, and Rahman is the recipe for success as far as Ghajini is concerned. A word about the director. I watched an interview recently in which Aamir described the "pocket rocket" A.R. Murugadoss. Aamir described how diminutive in stature Murugadoss was, before going on to describe the unbelievable energy levels of the man. That frisky, restless energy which pervades the film, I believe has its sources here.You can feel it in the way he approaches even the most trivial of scenes. The simple act of drinking water from a plastic bottle has never been rendered with such outrageous urgency, for one! The hero as well as the villain crunch and gnash their teeth with gusto, the bad guy is complete with gold chain and faux-comical's all there! For me, this is the masala film of the year.....a film which doesn't fight its lack of erudition, but embraces it.

In an year in which we've watched some brilliant and intelligent Bollywood films like A Wednesday, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Dasvidaniya, Welcome To Sajjanpur, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye et al, let's celebrate the new year with the ultimate no-brainer of them all....Ghajini!

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