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KHAN’T DO WITHOUT THEM

 
I’m a sucker for Aamir Khan. Have been since I was 13 years old and he waltzed in to forever colonize my heart wearing itty-bitty shorts and high-topped sneakers in QSQT (Mansoor Khan, 1988).
His private empire is very much alive and ticking in Chicago; he doesn’t know this but that’s his loss, I’ve told myself for almost two decades. To add to all this, I also adore tattoos. Put those together—a fabulously tattooed AK—and I swoon. That’s what happened with Ghajini. I had heard very mixed reports of the film—euphoria from reviewers and disappointment from some colleagues—and approached it with considerable trepidation. But within the first 20 minutes or so I was genuinely hooked: as a lover of Hindi cinema, not just of the undeniably dreamy, impressively 6-packed AK.                                                
Ghajini’s kinship with Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) has already been much discussed and need not detain us here. What particularly struck me about the film is its ability to maintain its grip on the spectator until the very end. The pacing is perfect; the film simply never flags. It remains until the end a masala entertainer with all the Bollywood goodies we so love: romance, spectacular song sequences, loss, revenge, and a satisfying ending with the villain decisively vanquished by the hero. This is your basic melodramatic tussle between good versus evil, but executed with both style and seriousness.
 
      Make no mistake, this is also an out and out AK show. The others—Kalpana (Asin), whose insouciant benevolence I found vaguely irritating, and Jiah Khan (Sunita) were, I suppose, competent, but really quite secondary to the show. Ghajini is all about Sanjay Singhania—anguished, angry and grimly committed to his bloody vendetta. AK is truly spectacular. Kudos to him for resuscitating an artifact of that almost obsolete type: the “all-India-film”. In an online video-clip, I saw him articulate as much, which goes to show just how canny the man is.
    
  Ghajini is a fairly violent film. But that’s what a good masala film is; think back to the 70s and 80s and you’ll know what I mean. The cinematography and editing are stylish. Also, a note on AK’s fashion: while the bright, barely-there shirts with dupattas are fine—especially while crooning in the desert—the dress shirt with vest will revolutionize the sluggish universe of men’s corporate fashion. Dressed up because the ensemble is most of a suit of course, but also dressed down with the sleeves rolled up. Funked. Mark my words and remember where you first heard this. 
 
 
 
      And what about that other Khan who so nattily filled out a black suit at the Golden Globes? After, I might add, boldly having tucked the tie inside the shirt! (You thought that was a scarf? Ascot? Well, pause the clip and be more observant!) SRK has come of age. And so has Aditya Chopra with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008). The film is not without flaws, but I’ll get to those later. One chilly Chicago afternoon I cuddled on the couch with my best girlfriend and a large bowl of junk food to watch the film.  It was a delight and I was charmed. Utterly so, and I’m not easy to charm.
     
 First things first, there are Amritsar neighborhoods in Rab Ne. Real neighborhoods in a Yashraj-Aditya Chopra film with narrow streets, garish hoardings and grime!! And there are at least some real people with real faces—you will understand my thrill if you’ve seen Mohabbatein (2000) or even DDLJ (1995) really. The color palette is lovely: canary yellow dominates with some blue—Van Gogh surely cheered from his moldy resting place in Auvers. Suri Sahni (SRK) humble employee of Punjab Power bathes under an outdoor faucet every morning, before having toast with eggs and ketchup for breakfast. It’s the attention to banal details like this—very astonishing for YRF—that makes Rab Ne endearing.
   
   You know the story, so I won’t rehash it here. SRK fully takes advantage of the doppelganger theme. Halfway through Suri morphs into ‘Raj’—the yuppie dude prototype from countless earlier films; SRK plays himself with lots of hair product, loads of gab and the tightest denim on this side of the Himalayas. All this along with killer dance moves to woo his reluctant bride Taani (Anushka Sharma), who desires a more desirable man. But it’s as the dweeb extraordinaire Surinder that SRK really shines: every awkward gesture, every hesitant gaze, every longing overture tugs at your heartstrings. Suri is, simply put, so incompetent that he is every one of us—inadequate and terrified to be a disappointment in love.
  
    It takes a star very secure in his masculinity to play Suri Sahni. And perhaps SRK can confidently put on the dweeb mantle precisely because he is as spectacularly successful as he is. Either way, after Om Shanti Om (2007), Rab Ne continues a welcome queering of the Bollywood hero.
  
    The film, as mentioned above, has its flaws, and I don’t want to overlook these in my giddy appreciation of new images of maleness in Hindi cinema. The film is too long—the plot sags like my tired old futon in the middle. Raj’s exploits are too many and too repetitive. More Suri and fewer Rajs would’ve been lovely, but that may be just me. The music is mediocre at best. Anushka Sharma is fine, but she did not knock my socks off. Apart from these—in my view minor problems—Rab Ne remains delightful.

 

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Ghajini

I think 'Ghajini' is a very overrated film, with an overrated performance by Aamir Khan. I would even say, its one of his worst ever films, in league with films like 'Raja Hindustani' or 'Mela' or 'Fanaa'. Like one of my film aficionado friends says, "'Ghajini' is Aamir's 'Gunda'" :). Even 'Rangeela' seems like a classic when compared to 'Ghajini'.
I think we have gotten used to better movies (and Aamir has given us some great stuff himself!), and we deserve better stuff. I just can't bear to see anymore B-grade stuff like 'Ghajini' or 'Dhoom 2'. If you cut out the time Aamir Khan is screaming or making his eyes bulge, the movie running time is cut almost into half. And hey, Aamir's character is supposed to have a 15 minute memory issue. How many times does that come into play? And I am not even comparing it to Memento! Because, Memento simply doesn't deserve to be compared to this stupid ego-trip of Aamir's. Masala films are just fine, but I beg to disagree with you that Ghajini is a good masala film. If I am to leave my brains behind to enjoy a movie, I'd rather watch a Devid Dhawan movie.
Aamir is a terrific actor and a very intelligent film maker too. But if he doesn't grow up and start looking beyond himself, he's soon going to turn into another Kamal Hasan.

Rab Ne....

I think the basic problem with 'Rab Ne....' is that it starts out very real, and when you start believing it, it goes on to become a fantasy.
All said and done, Suri was fab! (even if some of his dialogues were regressive)And so was Suri's friend. I even liked Taani initially... but the Raj part of the film was overdone. But there is still hope for Aditya Chopra :).

Ghajini again :)

Sorry, I just had to say this - There is so much talk about Aamir's 6 pack. I personally felt, Aamir's chest looked more like a silicon job :)....

Great Post! Great Title too.

Music Lover's picture

Totally agree with you except the Tatoo part. I hate Tatoos.
:-)
Ghajini is an excellent film. Superbly played by Aamir. In one minute he is this menacing hero trying to beat the living daylights out of the bad guys and in the other he is totally lost.
Jiah Khan, somehow I find very difficult to tolerate. But it has got to do more with her looks than her acting. Biased me.
No complaints about Asin. She just plays it so naturally.
Aamir Khan once again proves that he can pull off any type of role. Even that of an action hero. Hats of to the gentleman.
In fact I somehow can't imagine anyone else being suitable for this role.
BTW Amir took a year to get those 6 packs in place. His body was perfectly chiselled and proportionate. So sad to say "no silicon job there". Unlike SRK who is known to have had make-up artists work thir magic on him for that 6 pack shot. All natural Aamir, you rock! So do you Mehili!

BTW Aamir Khan has produced or directed the following films which I believe were not so much centered round himself Jaane Tu ya Jane na, Delhi Belly (side role), Taare Zameen Par (supporting role).
Aamir loves acting and is one of the best actors in Bollywood. So producing/directing movies with himself in the thick of things is but natural. For now even if he is egonomaniacal (whew)... As long as he produces gems like these...I am ready to live with that. :-)

Rab Ne rubbed it in

Music Lover's picture

For me Rab ne.. was a bit of a drag. Questioning SRKs wife's intelligence. Why could she not recognize her hubby? Not even a "Shak ya sawal".
I actually left the movie halfway to get some chores done then came back to see it from half way. It lacked the pull effect if you ask me. Like someone said "Aamir forgets everything after every 15 minutes in Ghajini. Yash Chopra forgot that he was making a movie in Rab Ne..." Needless to say I kind-a agree to that.
There will be many who will shoot me at sight... but SRK seems to be more of an over-actor to me. More of a theater category in my books.
I like his ads though... Jet Airways, ICICI. Its another story, that Jet Airways has stopped all flights to US. I am sure that the advertisement has nothing to do with it. "It's the economy" the SRK lovers say with a sigh. I don't want to hurt their feelings too much. ;-)

movie magic

Nice post, Meheli. Reading it made me think of how I would steal glances at any thing glass while walking down the street and try to compare myself with the Khans and Kumars of the day. That was some 20 years back, and at that point, I was not as good-looking as I am now :).

But maybe some of that charm always remains somewhere in us. In these post-intellectual days, it is always nice to be able to get back to those primitive movie-watching instincts. Just for that stupid magic that is probably the most concrete form of teleportation to your world of dreams.

Mulan.

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