Om Shanti Om, was the movie I watched on the day of its release, that is this year's Diwali. I do not think I am the sorts to watch movies on Diwali. My university has a lovely International Food festival on Diwali evening. The festival had been a regular feature for the last four-five years and provided a great way to get through the meloncholic autumn evening around which the festive Diwali atmosphere wrapped itself. Getting high on liquor from different countries and checking the multicultural/national crowd out was a perfect way to go through the motions. Though, I am able to recollect another Diwali more than ten years ago in Chanakya Cinema. The theater was hardly occupied, there were just a few us, I suppose wastrels and exiles for our own personal reasons. The sounds of fire crackers seeped in through the theater's soundproof walls in bursts and gasps while we gulped the lump in our throats at the travails of the drama being played out on screen. I was watching Maachis, probably for the third or maybe second time, with my most enthusiastic film buddy. But that is a digression and a story for another time.
Getting back to the post at hand, so this year there was no indication of the food festival, like it had never existed before and that it was a figment of my imagination. Under such extenuating circumstances and faced with the prospect of a empty Diwali evening, I took a quick decision as time for the 7:40 pm show was short and rushed to Priya Cinema to procure the tickets. So there we were at the theater and we met many friends who were escaping the prospect of a dark and lusterless Diwali night at Jhelum Lawns. The theater was reasonably occupied, though not by the commercial standards of such a huge week when two big movies OSO and Saawariya, opened on the same day. We also saw many families who were there to watch the movie, which surprised me cause I invariably thought such festive occasions hardly call for movie outing or maybe I am merely exhibiting my regional-religious-caste bias!
I was keen on watching OSO as I had found Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na, adorable, self indulgent and with interesting characterization and conflict (the eternal good versus evil). Main Hoon Na was in simple terms a Ramayana redux. The execution of the eons old plot invigorated with Farah's flippancy made it all so special. So there I was waiting for her second outing with Om Shanti Om.
I suppose I am losing my ability to write lengthy pieces on Hindi films, my first and deeply entrenched love, or its the aging which is responsible for this current brevity or maybe it is a fatigue generated out of a stagnant life. But getting back again to the plot in focus, I really loved and laughed by way through the first half of OSO. The setting, the cross referenced hindi film jokes, the lead actor cast as a junior artist, the feel of the 1970's and such things that the first half consists of. The first shot beginning with the awesome Rishi Kapoor number from Karz was a scorcher for anyone with a reasonable sense of nostalgia with respect to cinema in India. I did find the melodrama in the first half flinching but to the credit of the movie, it stays away from the norm while merely hinting at its possibility and trajectory, for instance, the mother-son saccharine relationship or the drunken speech making. The new actress Deepika Padukone, is sumptuous in her role as the super actress, maybe cause she spoke little, carried herself with reserve and a precocious dignity, qualities seriously missing in her reincarnated avatar!
OSO is about one man, Om Praksh Makhija, an aspiring film actor, spending his days as a junior artist in love with the super actress of his time. The love remains unrequited as does his ambitions to stardom. For the actress is caught in the web of love and deceit of a scheming producer ably etched by Arun Rampal. So the actress is burnt alive on the sets of a film, while the smitten junior artist-hero dies trying to save her. The film then goes into the reincarnation mode, which has been an interesting device, for poetic justice for hindi film script writers for a long time and continues even till our recent times. Karan Arjun (1995/6) with Shah Rukh and Salman, before SRK's superstar days to even Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, if one can casually include the look-alike into the larger reincarnation theme, to name two big commercial hits.
So Om Prakash Makhija is re born as Om Kapoor in the house of a successful actor. This is where the parody, on the bloodline that runs through most of our actors who come from film families, is played. With time and convenient coincidences (another useful hindi film tool), Om Kapoor or OK, pieces together the past and sets up a successful plot to seek vengeance. In the process, discovering a Deepika look alike, flaunting his digitally enhanced six pack abs while Dard-e-Disco-ing, making us laugh through the the satire on hindi films which includes SRK's own successful films and exhibiting a parade of stars (31), which is a testimony to SRK's status, in one song. The second half is long and while not really taxing, did not grip me in the least. Reincarnation themes have run their course, or atleast in the manner in which hindi films handle them, and there can be nothing compelling or remotely engaging about them, unless you come up with a believe it or not sorta real story, and so it was with OSO. I didn't either enjoy the characterization nor the plot development in it, unless parody was what was happening. OSO is a classic marketing tool in terms of using raw, naked, star power to keep the eye balls glued and the theater's full while the director escapes with a wafer thin treatment.
In summation, not a bad outing, for star power has its own charismatic pull for the suckers in all nameless-faceless anonymous masses like us. I would also recommend the parody on South Indian/Tamil films with SRK masquerading as a Rajni-look alike acting in a movie called, "Mind It". Mind it is said with the peculiar Madrasi accent, Ena...rascal-aa (a lilting aa at the end of rascal)...mind it (a casual mind and a sharper it...depending upon the drama in the plot). I would also like to add that some of the songs turn out very well and are rather good, I particularly loved Ajab Si and the date song in the studio as well as the multi star song, which has a good dance beat to it. And so it was with OSO, a project for the furtherance of the SRK cult and star.
Bonus Picture since Rajni was mentioned, I think he deserves this little pamphlet from a North Indian Bhaiya and an admirer.
Click for bigger view and you will have the world at your feet, for there is nothing Rajni cant do!