For the first time, I saw a movie being touted as a Hollywood remake not being anywhere close to the ‘original’. And for another first, I actually wished it was a blatant copy, not an ‘original’. Of course, in Bollywood terminology, a frame-by-frame reconstruction is a remake, but if you pick up 3-4 good Angrezi films and make a messy cocktail, well that’s ORIGINAL. So there it was, a drop of Memento (just a drop, mind you), a bit of The Butterfly Effect, with a large serving of THE HULK. Add some good old Rajni-style action for some desi tadka, and that’s Ghajini for you!
So there’s this medical kaalij Professor assigning projects to final year students, but he wouldn’t let Nishabd girl Jiah Khan take the “short-term memory loss” patient (apparently the term “anterograde amnesia” is not good enough for a final year medical student researching neuroscience). Anyways, her heart yearns to know this guy, and next thing she knows, she bumps into him by pure chance. Knowing his past was a cakewalk using his journals. Oh did I miss the journals part.
Chairman/ Managing Director/ CEO/ Maalik (terms used interchangeably) of India’s largest telecom company, and very conveniently one of the world’s largest as well, with firangi execs scampering around like pooches, this multi-billionaire returns from the States and goes to office dressed in tight body-hugging almost-cut-sleeved office wear (now that’s corporate muscle-flexing). And like all good Harvard-bred Chairmen/MDs/CEOs/Maaliks, he maintains a regular journal in Hindi, on his affair with his oh-so-simple & ah-so-gentle goody-goody girlfriend. And while this Sridevi 2.0 (or make that 1.0) helps blind-old-baba cross the street while giving him complete and colourful descriptions of the kids playing and wives beating their husbands along the way (she guessed it compensates blindness), she’s all over the mass-media falsely telling the world she’s in [mutually] love with the tycoon. The catch here is that neither she nor anyone else in the country has seen a picture of Mr.Rich-n-Famous or have any idea what he looks like. Oh, and about the journal, no hindi Romaantick diary is complete without shayari, and no reading of the diary complete without a bit of dancing around the trees with a whole bunch of colour-coded extras (dance routines which also serve as an additional showcase for that elusive 8-pack and the bulging biceps). But there’s another side of the eight pack..uh… story as well. The Diary stops right before Mr.Eligible-8-pack-Bachelor turns into the hulk.
Didn’t I tell you about the Hulk? Man, this anterograde amnesia short term memory loss thing is getting to me. Anyways, the rich-guy-poor-girl candy floss love story gets all bitter and really f***ed up with the girl getting brutally killed and the guy getting amnesiacally injured by this Haryanvi gentleman, Ghajini (hardly a spoiler; this is revealed at the beginning). Against all expectations, Ghajini’s a minor character in the movie, and played by a [deservingly] unknown face. Don’t blame Amir for using that for a title, it’s a remake after all. Mr. Ghajini also happens to be a Chairman/MD/Maalik of a pharmaceutical company (again very conveniently one of India’s biggest) and comes complete with a whole ensemble of skull-cap donning body guards.
So while Ghajini moves around attending college fests and trading kidneys, our bhoolne-ki-bimaari patient brandishes his injury on his head and goes all the way eight-packing to avenge his fiancé’s death, armed with pecs and abs and a Polaroid camera (complete with a beep every 15 mins) and notes and tattoos… Wait, tattoos?
But why the tattoos? To remind him every morning of all that stuff that he can’t remember? Hmm… But he lives at his own home, which is full of post-it notes and helpful graffiti anyway. Maybe it’s just not the text, but rather looking at all that meat on which it’s imprinted that makes Mr.Mutton-ki-dukaan go into The Hulk mode. Anyway, don’t blame Amir. It’s a remake, remember. So what if the tattoos actually served a purpose in Memento. And unlike Memento, our avenger does not visit the local tattoo artist, and saves on his money in these difficult times by keeping a tattoo gun home. He’s obviously trained himself to tattoo on his chest and arms and legs all by himself.
So here’s our Hulk roaming around the city looking all over for… his own house at times, travelling in auto rickshaws and buses, in malls and jewellery shops, all the time looking helpless and confused, but at the same time ceremonially beating his breasts and pumping his breath furiously to keep the fire of revenge burning. There’s the medical student to help him (whom he, by the way, almost murdered once, not that he’d remember that) track the G-guy, and keep reminding him of his mission. She understood the whole story by herself from the journals and newspaper archives (Man, why didn’t the police think of that. Everything was there in the old newspapers to solve the murder mystery.), which also helped our avenger re-learn his own story (à la The Butterfly effect). The 15-minute memory span conveniently vanishes during such times. It of course, reappears mid-fights, when our guy doesn’t know why all these goons are piled around him like used polythene bags.
So while Amir throws around 15-20 goons at the same time, attacking them with bathroom fittings (At one point, he’s confused to see this tap sticking out from this guy’s tummy, only to turn it on and see blood flow. But damn the Censor Board!), the fight sometimes has to be choreographed by the to-be-doctorni. The fight sequences are doubtlessly Rajnikant inspired, and some of the old-school Bollywood dhishoom-dhishoom makes its way into the movie as well, mostly providing comic relief. But that sariya going through the navel, that’s gotta damage the picturesque eight-pack. Well, you win some, you lose some…
Till now everything you’ve seen is oh-so-bollywood-ishtyle, that even if I don’t tell you whether it’s a happy ending or not, you know it already. As for me, I was just happy it ended.
Maybe I’m biased in my opinion for having watched that masterpiece of a motion picture, Memento. Anyway, even ignoring the unique non-linear narrative of the cult film, Ghajini does not even remotely touch on the themes of memory, perception, grief, self-deception or reality the way Memento does. While the screenplay writer’s wildly swerving train of thought does seem to flirt with scientific coherence briefly, it may just be considered a chance event. The amnesia switches on/off as and when convenient. By the way, Memento has been cited by prominent medical experts as one of the most realistic and accurate depictions of amnesia in popular media and is recommended by neuroscience researchers to those interested in exploring the neurobiology of memory.
Anyway, I am still pretty sure this movie will do well in the first couple of weeks, and will probably be declared a hit. In case it doesn’t, there’s always the recession-excuse for the producers to cushion the fall. I am an ardent admirer of Amir, but the perfectionism is reflected not in the content but only in the marketing of Ghajini. Look who’s using the brand name now.
My advice to you: if you are planning to watch Ghajini, well, don’t. Run to your nearest DVD-rental shop and get a copy of Memento for the weekend. Or, contact your nearest IITian for another cult classic, Gunda.