|Suriya in a still from Ghajini|
Alright, you can stop shuddering just about right now. Please allow your sense of utter disbelief, downright disgust and mock shock to make way for a passive resignation of sorts to your fate. You might want to take your warmly-moist palms off your mouths to stop cupping it in a vice-like grip. Pretend for a while you weren’t horrified. During this time, you can also attempt to reattach your down and out lower jaw to its well-to-do, upmarket cousin – the upper jaw (duh). So far, so good?
What you had just undergone was a 30-second, almost TV AD-spot like recreation of the emotions that I, as an unsuspecting viewer had undergone around six years ago. It was the fateful month of October when I had gone to see the Tamil film Ghajini. What you felt for half a minute is what I experienced sitting through those godforsaken 180 minutes of Ghajini when it jumped from pillar to post, with no lubrication to speak of.
Yesterday, after almost being dragged to watch the latest offering from the union of AR Murugadoss and Suriya, 7aum Arivu, I wisely decided to sell off my tickets for some peace of mind. I am glad I did, for it saved me a lot of heartache and prodded me to dig out this six-year-old blog posting. Ladies and gentlemen, the following article was my very first attempt at putting together a movie review. Its genesis was a result of the anger and frustration I had felt upon watching Ghajini. More than anything, I had felt cheated and that's never a good feeling.
However, channelizing my angst into words and lambasting the film proved to be a very cathartic experience. It helped me find some sense of closure in my moment of pain. It taught me a few valuable lessons that I haven't forgotten to this day. Chief among them happens to be, "Never take a film at face value." Inadvertently, almost every other film released in India, or even abroad, prides itself on going so overboard on face value, it's almost inevitable that the inside reveals itself to be hollow.
I won't bother touching upon how the so-called Diwali releases fared in the market. Primarily because I am not the audience for whom films like 7aum Arivu, Velayudham or Ra-One are made. I am happy living in the cocoon spun by my auteurs. Their works will last me a lifetime. Every so often, I shall abandon the comforts of my utopia and step out to sample the wares of a promising new talent. And then, I'll return back to my shell with the hope that someday, I get to spin that cinematic cocoon around a few good movie geeks. I am sure you already know who you are, if you are reading this.
So, without further ado, here's the review.
The allegoric title of “Ghajini” may seduce you to think that it’s a hi-concept new wave Tamil thriller in the making. Unfortunately it succeeds at being nothing more than a shameless, unworthy, pitiable and blasphemous rip-off of one the most tightly wound and intricately structured Hollywood thrillers of recent times, “Memento”.
Among the list of things that are wrong with Ghajini, the most disturbing was the lack of restraint in direction and acting. Despite the nature of Memento’s genre i.e. a thriller, its director, the enigmatically gifted Christopher Nolan, asked his cast to metaphorically stay in the background of the film and let the narrative run its course. Resultantly, its characters seemed subdued even while they were seething with anger. And that questions the perception of the viewer in smart ways and lets him do a little more of the thinking.
But in Ghajini, the whole plot is laid bare; split wide open for the viewer’s taking. There is nothing that is hidden from the viewer. Visual clues every now and then cue you on the bare bones of the story. Repeated imagery of Surya’s body tattoos, replete with errata (jeez, he’s a mobile baron for god’s sake) and doctor’s synopsis informs the viewer of the protagonist’s condition. A flashback, the size of King Kong drives the final nail into the coffin of the intelligence of the audience. The whole non-linear narrative approach which made “Memento” so special has been completely abandoned here. The fractured structure was a keystone to the success of “Memento”, without which it would have been just another “Primal Fear” spin off. Just like Anniyan. And that's what Ghajini ends up to be. To be fair, even Anniyan had a dangler/cliffhanger kinda ending. Ghajini just plain sucks.
“Ghajini” is a disaster of Shakespearean magnitude when considered on terms of narrative form, structure, technique and craftsmanship. The lack of continuity is appalling. Songs blast off right onto your face from the middle of nowhere, timed at the most inappropriate moments, like a gust of flatulence that permeates your nostrils while you were basking in the wet warmth of a French kiss from your girlfriend (I know it's a bit extreme to say that, but that's the closest equivalent I found). Had the director and the editors been a little more slack in their jobs with respect to continuity and flow, you would’ve found the “Killing of Kalpana” scene immediately followed by Nayan Tara’s disturbingly titillating rendition of X-Machi (with a special appearance by Twin layers of Cellulite flab from her abdominal region… Cheers).
The director leaves no stone unturned in his quest for copying scenes. He goes so far as to pick out Jean Pierre Jeunet’s delectable French film “Amelie” to accomplish this Herculean task. Remember the scene where Kalpana helps a blind man cross the road and she explains to him the sounds of the street that they pass by. Want more? The opening credits of the film features a CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) based flight through the neural networks in our brain. This is a shot by shot rip off of the opening credits scene of David Fincher’s “Fight Club”.
Speaking of which, even Harris Jayaraj follows close in the footsteps of his director trying to rip off tracks from known and unknown Hollywood film soundtracks. The fight at the end of the film features a minimally distorted version of the music which originally plays in “The Matrix Reloaded” during the Ducati bike chase scene with Trinity and the Keymaker on the freeway. More..? The music which plays during the killing of Kalpana (Asin’s character) was originally played in Gladiator when Maximus (Russell Crowe) comes to his villa, only to find his family murdered. Bottom line: Harris Jayaraj does a lousy job with the background score. Sounds like the doodling of a raving lunatic. Uninspired music and deafening, ear piercingly hi-pitched male choruses inspire ads for Aspirin.
The “Killing of Kalpana” scene in Ghajini is a copy in the truest of sense. Because Murugadoss makes Surya drip a decent quantity of saliva from his mouth as he lies wounded, looking at the corpse of Kalpana. And maybe this is his homage to Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” where Maximus does the same secretion as he cries at his villa, albeit a little less spit and a lot more emotion. And then there’s the perfunctory tribute to the Matrix films with stop motion camera work and a horribly replicated bullet time camera pan. At least Anniyan was good in this department.
Following are a few other notable craters in the plotline of the film:
1) Incoherence — Kalpana has never seen the face of a mobile baron whom she claims to be the lover of. Surya’s intro from the past lavishly shows that he’s a hi-flying, media friendly, industrial magnate. To top it all, Kalpana works in ads and even her boss hasn’t seen Surya. Clearly a cell phone company will have a lot of ads to do. And the head of an ad agency should know better than to stay ignorant of potential cash cows like Surya’s company. The icing on the cake is the New Year party clustered by media people where everyone knows him by face except our ad maker and Kalpana of course.
2) Unmotivated characters — remember The Policeman… why was he even there? Just to read out the first half of the story and to get run over by a truck at the end of it? Same goes for Surya’s flat security, business associates, Nayantara’s friends, and the list can go on. You would never even miss these characters, were they not in the film. (OK, you can count in Nayantara in this category if you want).
3) Stale and time killing humor — Self Explanatory.
4) Treatment of women — Hope you didn’t miss the scene where Nayantara got punched in the face and kicked in the belly by the big bad bully. Oops, wasn’t that a Rhyme Scheme. I bet you didn’t miss the scene where she had to run in the rain, get all soaked up n wet in her undersized pink shirt and her oh-so innocently visible black innerwear. Most men wouldn’t miss that. Or for that matter, most women too wouldn’t miss that.
5) Powerless Actors — who have no say in the final draft of the film. Inequalities and inconsistencies obvious to the most naive viewers have been ignored by cast and crew.
Ghajini is a dishonor to the legacy of the original Memento. If you haven’t seen Memento as of now, get yourselves a copy of the DVD from Amazon.com and cherish the experience of the original. And save your brain the excruciating agony of sitting through this scatological pot Pourri of cheap thrills and a car crash of a film.