Of all the things I expected of Om Shanti Om, I didn’t expect it to be such a blatant “fuck you” to the rest of the world.
You people out there have probably already seen the movie, trashed it / adored it, blogged about it and moved on but I’m still playing catch up here so indulge me, will you please? By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie but plan to and are extremely (or even mildly) spoiler-phobic, then this would be an excellent time to go read something else because this is not what I would term a review and is going to spill the beans all over the place in about a second.
Okay. So I’d heard from various people (like the makers and the actors) that OSO was a labor of love and a tribute to all that they loved about the 70s, the era when “Bollywood” came into its own, an aesthetic distinct from what I would call “Hindi cinema”. It should come as no surprise to regulars here that I love this stuff to bits so of course I made my way to the theater the first chance I got, which was yesterday. 😳
And I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. From the opening sequence set around Rishi Kapoor’s Om shanti om number from Karz to the Akshay Kumar crotch-shot-with-a-difference bit, I loved it all and laughed my ass off. And that’s a considerable bit of laughing, folks. It also reminded me of a few gems that I’d forgotten all about – Sunil Dutt in Amrapali for instance (I need to get the DVD!) and I found myself jonesing for a bit of Hema Malini after I heard the charming Madrasi lisp affected by Deepika Padukone as Shantipriya.
There were also a couple of places where some great scenes were let down by outright crummy filmmaking like the one in which Om rescues Shanti from burning haystacks a la Nargis and Sunil Dutt (what happened there exactly? Did you blow your entire special effects budget on Dhoom Tana?) not to mention the Manoj Kumar gag (you heard how MK is really mad about it? Right reaction, wrong cause – if I were him, I’d demand to be better made fun of. That’s the lamest, most prehistoric Bharat gag ever! It might have worked more though if they’d gotten a better double than the cartoon they wound up with but then again, I guess this is not an age where a Bharat Kumar imposter finds himself in great demand so quality was bound to take a corresponding drop).
But aside from all that, what really struck me was OSO’s utter lack of anything resembling the term “crossover” at a time when everybody and everything connected to Bollywood is screaming for it. Somehow, through all that talk of OSO being a tribute to 70s Bollywood, the insular nature of the final product never quite struck me until I was sitting in that darkened theater. In fact, I can pinpoint the moment when it all came together for me: Mohabbat Man.
Raja Sen called OSO a collection of “award-show skits, loosely tied together by a reincarnation story dhaaga” and he’s absolutely on the money. In fact, the Farah / Sajid Khan household (he’s only made one movie so far, Heyy Babyy, but I think it’s safe to say this) seems to have an obvious weakness for this school of filmmaking (given recent releases like Dhamaal, I think it’s on the rise. I can only hope that this too will pass) . The difference between the siblings however, is that Farah does it much better.
Mohabbat Man, for example, has very little to do with the overall movie. It’s a great gag but has next to zero impact on the actual story especially since the Dard-e-Disco sequence did a great job of telling us exactly what Om Kapoor was all about. Fine, it takes us to the scene of the crime but that’s pretty much all it does story-wise. However, wrapped in it is a little dig at the tech-crazy but badly made superhero movie; the oldest joke in the world about superheroes wearing their underwear on the outside; a crack at Shahrukh’s lover boy persona… and a reference to a VIP Frenchie ad from years ago that set all the little granny hearts aflutter (or so I presume. My own granny would affect a dignified blindness whenever it came on).
Come on, guys, you remember this one – some two bit thug is apparently so overcome by some girl in a red (?) dress that he decides nothing would do but to rape her right then and there on the hood of a car in a residential area. Oh, Rapist Man, you should have seen some 80s movies instead of turning to a life of crime because then you’d have known how to do the deed to better effect. Anyway, so this guy in a purple (?) bathrobe hears her screaming for help and so jumps out of his window – robe billowing wide to reveal his briefs – no, not to his death after seeing such sin, but to beat up the (incredibly weak) baddie and rescue the grateful girl who then cuddles up coyly next to him.
I can’t be the only one to have seen this! It was the most hilarious thing on Indian TV while I was growing up!
Anyway, it all goes to make my point – OSO is very deeply, firmly rooted in a certain mold and has no desire whatsoever to break out of it. In fact, some of its references are so vague that it occasionally lapses into a treasure hunt for the Bollywood addict and might just leave the rest wondering what’s so great about such-and-such a sequence. Which I thought was pretty brave. Special mention here for Shahrukh Khan who goes over the top in a way that would spell professional suicide for any other actor, A-list or no, and does it all with the kind of zest that just can’t be faked. This is a man who loved making this movie and it shows in every frame.
The movie itself, however, gets dropped by the wayside. Like the other Diwali release this year (Saawariya) it suffers because of the relationship shared by its lead characters. Om and Shanti are so charming and lovely together that OK and Sandy are left looking like the pretenders they are. We’ve already seen the two people we care about in this movie and the replacements are sort of meh. Sandy is a cute kid but who’s she kidding? She can’t compete with a long dead chick full of poise whose roasted body was buried alive! And OK the star brat can try all he wants but he doesn’t stand a chance against a guy who’d get beaten up, burnt and then blasted from a building before getting run over by a car – all to save a woman who doesn’t want him.