Monday, January 5, 2009

Ghajini: I see these things so you won't have to

Titles like these are useful. Saves me the bother of telling you that Ghajini is a fruitcake. But just how fruitcake is it?

I’m hoping you’ve all seen Memento. Smart, funny and violent, it propelled Christopher Nolan into the big-time and made non-linear narratives cool again. Gripping and unusual enough to have worked as a straight-ahead thriller, it was instead sliced up and presented in reverse order. The break-neck pace kept pushing you to keep up, and the ending, one of the most delicious in movie history, made you realise that you would have to repeat all that running again.

Ghajini adopts this basic structure but refuses all the risks. What one gets instead is an overheated hybrid of Hindi and Tamil commercial cinema clichés. The film starts out as a dark thriller, with a genuinely scary Aamir Khan seemingly on steroids and very angry (he’s been hit on the head with a rod, someone called Kalpana has been killed, someone called Ghajini may be involved). He’s also incapable of remembering anything beyond fifteen minutes, and it was wasn't long before I found myself praying for a similar affliction. Anything to shield me from the eternally irritating Jiah Khan, and the almost equally bugging Asin (whose screen time, to be fair, is dominated by cringe-worthy comedy sequences). Also hamming it up are a cartoon villain, his henchmen and a cop who runs really fast.

The narrative lurches between revenge saga, psychological thriller, Rajnikant action flick and Rajendra Kumar romantic comedy. This, of course, is not something new in this country, and is not the reason why this film is so bad. The best masala flicks are so much fun that you don’t feel like asking questions of them. They are delivered with a wink and a sense of joy, and that is the crucial ingredient which this film misses. To dumb for art school, to dark for commercial potboiler, and too clichéd for its own good, Ghajini ends up like its lead character, staggering around in the dark.

P.S. The movie is a HIT!!!!HIT!!! So don’t take my word for it.

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