Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Shreyas Talpade, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal, Kirron Kher
Written & Directed by Farah Khan
Gosh, nudge me, pinch me, slap me....I am numb with confusion. What is Farah Khan's second directorial (m)ad-venture supposed to be?
Welcome to Shanti town,a.k.a Farah's filmi fudge-quake.
Is it a homage to the zany anything-goes spirit of the Hindi potboilers from the 1970s? A kind of Manmohan Desai dolled - up in the crispy corny cutsie catch-me-if-can-can spirit of the new millennium?
Or .....wait wait wait....Is this supposed to be a straight-off aaj-ka-adaptation of Subhash Ghai's Karz? You know...ek haseena tthi, ek deewana thi. Whatever.
The hasina in this case is the much-awaited, much-hyped much-aired Deepika Padukone. A pretty face, sweet smile and an old-world charm...That's about it. Nothing in the film offers Deepika a chance to prove she's
anything as special as we wanted her, or this film, to be.
The deewana is course the irrepressible Shah Rukh Khan who gets to slip into two eras, and never mind the aura. Farah Khan who's a close ally and collaborator of the star, provides no breathing pace in this wheezy
almost-asthmatic take on the infamous formulae of our commercial cinema.
Tradition is a titter away from damnation in this to-yell-and-back ode to phillum-fare.
Some of the film's bona-fide comic romps come during awards functions when Subhash Ghai and Rishi Kapoor fight to give away an award, Abhishek Bachchan tries to hide a scowl or Akshay Kumar gets nominated
for his umpteenth Khiladi film.
And yes, that title song with all the glorious screen kings and queens parading in pirouetting pleasure is nearly priceless in choreography and spirit.
But that's about it.
Farah Khan's agitated screenplay takes quivering potshots at one and all, from the bombastic dialogues of the cinema of the 1970s, to Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna to the infamous cine-Maa (played here with
delightful spoofiness by Kirron Kher) who talks in maudlin rhetorics and embraces clichés of maternity with unconditional ecstacy.
The same, alas, cannot be said about the spirit with which Om Shanti Om embraces the spirit of our cinema. The mood is one of patronizing and condescension rather than genuine admiration for an era that's gone
with the wind.
Farah Khan's narrative careens cornily between maudlinism and satire. It sometimes spoofs, sometimes tilts its hat to the films that came in the era of great aura and élan, the two qualities sorely lacking in this work
of confounding kitsch.
There are some terrific moments of satire in the plot. The opening scene of the junior artiste-hero (ah, the contradictions that irrigate the plot-trot of our movies!) cheering Rishi Kapoor as he jives on stage to the Om
shantiom track in Subhash Ghai's Karz is a masterly piece of homage to a way of cinema that's gone-bye-bye.
Soon, however, Farah forgets the satirical sur of her narration which keeps swinging from homage to imitation with infuriating artifice.
Often the devices that are used to generate nostalgic amusement in the first-half are deployed after interval in dead earnestness.
A song sequence in the first-half has the junior artiste and his object of adoration riding a stationary car in a studio with back-projection simulating movement. In the second-half the same device is used without any
spoofy intention when the second Shah Rukh (a spoilt bratty specimen of vivacious vanity) rides in the wilderness on the arch-villain Arjun Rampal's limousine.
Punar-janam (after life) which would be considered fodder for 1970s' style of suspend-your-disbelief cinema in the past here becomes a matter of immense thematic propulsion.
The climax, with a bland and
bare-paced song droning on with smirky sinisterness, is an insult to all enthusiasts of traditional commercial cinema.
Bimal Roy's Madhumati finds its nemesis in the hands of these fun-seekers.
Caught between the mawkish and the mockery, the film's creator thinks smart-aleck one-liners are enough to sustain a three-hour feature film, Om Shanti Om barely survives its own arrogant self-regard, thanks to
some genuinely entertaining moments provided by Shah Rukh Khan.
His take-off on a South Indian masala matinee-idol in the scorching sun of a humid studio premise is first-rate. So is his expressions of not-so-furtive adoration for the rather pale heroine. But weren't the same
expressions used by Ms Khan for King Khan in her first directorial stab Main Hoon Na?
Om Shanti Om is like a cracker that fizzles before the promised sizzle occurs. The studio atmosphere where the junior-artiste and his buddy (Shreyas Talpade) hang out with self-conscious nonchalance would have
made Guru Dutt smile.
He would finally know why he made Kaagaz Ke Phool so ahead of its time.
Only a phool would dare to go where angels fear to tread.