We’ve had more than one comment to my article on the top 5 Bollywood movies of last year that suggest Ghajini should have been given the top spot. Well, first of all, Ghajini was released after my vacation deadline and secondly, having seen the original in Tamil a few years ago, I was pretty sure there would be no error of omission on my part.
The Tamil/Telegu version of Ghajini, directed by A. Murugadoss, was released in 2005. Loosely inspired by the convoluted Christopher Nolan film Memento, it deals with a man suffering from anterograde amnesia who is searching for the killer of his wife. His only clue is a dying whisper from her -“Ghajini”. Since a blow to his head prevents him from remembering anything that happened more than 15 minutes ago, the protagonist tattoos the most important information on his body and uses pictures and notes to help him stay on track. Some visceral memories of her death keep the flame of revenge alive even though every day is literally a blank slate for him.
Unlike the complex and layered plot of Memento, Ghajini‘s plot is pretty straight forward. Girl meets boy, love happens after many cute misunderstandings, girl gets killed by gangster, boy takes revenge. This being an Indian movie, the romantic angle takes up a big chunk of time. What is different is the treatment, which involves chronological leaps back and forth and jump cuts to give some of the violent scenes an edgy, MTV feel.
Tamil movies can be inventive but loud and crude ( watch Anniyan if you doubt that statement) and I was hopeful that Aamir Khan’s steadying hand and fine directorial instincts would smooth out the rough edges in the Hindi version. Unfortunately, the Hindi Ghajini appears to be a frame-by-frame remake of the original. This leads to some temporal problems such as the use of a Polaroid camera which I believe is no longer in use. It seems strange that the owner of a cutting- edge cell phone company would not go digital. Ghajini is also technically a bit crude and leaves something to be desired stylistically, problems that are carried over intact from the Tamil version.
Aamir bulks up for the movie and while the boffo physique is impressive in the scenes where the revenge-crazed amnesiac takes on the bad guys, the man-boobs are a distraction in the romantic song sequences. Seriously man, cover up. He looks as uncomfortable as ever romancing the heroine Asin( carried over from the Tamil movie) but lets loose impressively as the memory-disabled Sanjay Singhania.
Asin, who looks sweet and chulbuli, plays her role exactly the same as in the Tamil movie. This means that her performance is slightly over the top as Hindi movies ( amazingly enough) are just a little more restrained than Tamil ones. As hubby astutely pointed out, Sridevi would have been great in that role.
Jiah Khan is the catalyst for the events of the plot to unfold and she is just plain bad. Rahman’s songs are pleasant and hummable.
I can see the fascination with Ghajini for viewers who have never seen Memento or the earlier version. It is an unusual plot, very different from the standard Bollywood fare and Aamir’s terrific instincts about what will work at the box office pay off once again. Still, there is no way the movie meets the film-making standards set by A Wednesday or Rock On, where the excellent scripts were embellished by subtle and sensitive direction and superb acting by the leads. I stand by my original recommendations.
As for those of you who thought Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi should have been a contender, what does that say about your taste ?