Ghajini: A Review
Ghajini – Dir: A.R. Murugadoss – *ing: Aamir Khan, Asin, Jiah Khan, Pradeep Singh Rawat
Every once in a while a film comes along that defies the boundaries of its genre, that transcends its given parameters as a mere source of entertainment, that defines a generation, that becomes a sign of its time.
This is not that film.
Sure, Ghajini has kicked all manner of box-office ass, even outstripping the monstrous hit that was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge – till now, the all-time Indian b.o champ. But does the mere fact of it being a big, fat money muncher automatically qualify it as a ‘good’ film, an instant classic? Some might interject here with the time-tested and highly credible ‘eat shit, 50 million flies can’t be wrong’ argument, but forgive me if I don’t bite. For all its posturing as an intelligent, ‘intense’ thriller, Ghajini is really just an 80s masala revenge flick with holes in its plot large enough to push a herd of pregnant buffaloes through.
By now, most everyone (or at least every carping film reviewer) knows that the film borrows generously from the Chris Nolan-directed ‘backwards’ thriller-rama Memento (2000), in that the hero, Sanjay Singhania (Khan) develops a form of short-term memory loss after being bashed on the head, and has to rely on polaroids and tattoos to remind himself of significant events and people. And let’s not forget (tee hee!) that he is out to avenge the murder of his lady-love Kalpana (Asin), a fact of which he has to remind himself afresh every morning by way of the ‘KALPANA WAS KILLED’ and ‘FIND HIM KILL HIM’ tattoos helpfully emblazoned on his person. Which also sets up a neat little opportunity for Aamir to pose and preen in front of the mirror as he snarls and grunts in fury and we gape in awe at his hulk-proportioned physique. At least, I presume we are supposed to, though how a mild-mannered-busy-bee-millionaire-head-of-a-mobile-phone-company-turned-layabout-amnesiac manages to maintain such a merciless bod, is beyond me. Shouldn’t he be genuinely forgetting to do his daily heave-ho, just as we mortals pretend to do in real life?
Anyway, there are also flashbacks aplenty as we witness Sanjay and Kalpana’s meet-cute story, wherein, let’s face it, he’s an impostor and she’s a bit of a social-climber, but who cares, right? He’s just rich pretending to be poor, not an asshole in sheep’s clothing, while she’s just using his name to get ahead in her profession, even though she doesn’t know that he’s really… ah, forget it, it has zero bearing on the plot anyway. Fast forward through A.R. Rehman’s rather tepid songs (except for the mildly infectious Guzarish) to where Kalpana, through an asinine plot contrivance, is offed by a bunch of gangsters, led by the evil, enigmatic Ghajini (Pradeep Singh Rawat).
Or at least, he would have been enigmatic had the filmmakers not revealed his identity LESS THAN HALFWAY THROUGH THE FILM! I mean, where is the mystery then?! The only one I can think of is, will Sanjay get around to clobbering the nasty man before one needs a bathroom break again?
And Ghajini is full of such smack-on-the-forehead moments. Not least of which is the opening scene, in which a professor of neurology (or some such thing) actually has to inform a group of what appear to be adult medical students, that the brain controls all the other organs in the body. Really, what is this quality institution – The Truly Basic Medical School for Dunces?
There are other such quibbles: where do Sanjay’s coterie of helpers and assistants disappear after his near-death episode? Why isn’t he given any security detail even though it’s known that he was violently bashed up to give him that annoying memory problem, and didn’t just accidentally brutally slash himself on the head while shaving? Why is the police all lazy-assed about finding Kalpana’s killer but leaps into action when a two-bit gang henchman is put out of commission by avenging Sanjay? Would Kalpana’s death have been less tragic if she was, like, a real person as opposed to a cloying, underwritten, overplayed do-gooder? Do all female med students have to perform slicker-than-oil item numbers at college functions like Jiah Khan as doctor-in-training-cum-budding-gumshoe Sunita?
With such a terrible script at hand as we have on display here (just listen to Kalpana’s social-worker spiel to the thug Ghajini), any and everything else is almost irrelevant. Aamir Khan tries to bring his usual integrity and dynamic intensity to his role, but the role itself is so badly written that it lets the actor down. South Indian Asin, making her Hindi-film debut here, is pretty and has potential, but tries a tad too hard here – she aims for charming but is often just grating. The cinematography is splendid, and some of the action sequences have a certain visceral energy, but none of it is remotely enough to make up for the shoddy plotting, cringe-worthy dialogue and poor character development.
I’m sure there are hordes out there who will disagree and fight me point for point. So let’s agree to disagree. You have your fly food, and I’ll have mine.