Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Om Shanti Om - No Method in Madness

As I walked out of the theatre after watching Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, there was just one question in my mind – what will she come up with next? Rather, what can she come up with next? If all that inspire her are the masala movies of the 70s and the only thing she can do is spoof, then one thing is guaranteed – we will not see many movies that will have Directed by Farah Khan in the credits. After all, there's only so much you can do with spoofing. And going by what she has done in Om Shanti Om, there isn't much left to be played around with– or spoofed - in her subsequent ventures. It's time she re-invented herself.

After sitting through Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om I emerged thoroughly confused. Why was it that I didn't care much for the entire film, even though I was laughing uncontrollably at almost every single gag (the faux Filmfare Awards sequence, for one, was a hoot!!)? Why did I think it was a bad film, when there wasn't anything that I particularly disliked? I still don't have the answer but it was like watching multiple episodes of brother Sajid Khan's shows on TV – they are usually hilarious but never fully engage you. That is my main problem with Om Shanti Om.

I read somewhere that Farah wrote the script for Om Shanti Om in 2 weeks flat. It shows!! The film is nothing but just a collection of Bollywood in-jokes spread over a dangerously thin plotline. Rather, the plot seems like an afterthought. Of course, one knew it all along that it was a spoof on the masala film genre and the film industry of the 70s, so expecting a 'plot' was foolish. But is it too much to expect a coherent flow, even in a masala movie? Even the worst masala movies of the 70s had a coherent and smooth structure. Om Shanti Om, on the other hand, just goes on the overdrive jumping from one spoof to another with complete disdain for coherency. How could someone who made the hugely entertaining Main Hoon Na, which was also a spoof on the masala genre, get it all wrong the second time round? That brings me back to my original thought – there's only so much you can do with spoofing.

Not only that, the difference between Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om lies in the screenplay – the much ignored aspect of film making in the Hindi film industry. Main Hoon Na was a very intelligently woven script executed skillfully by a director who juggled through seemingly ridiculous situations with the amazing legerdemain of a cardsharper. It spoofed the masala movies without being so in-your-face, and it had such a remarkable flow that some people actually didn’t get the spoof part of it. Then why did Om Shanti Om stumble so badly in the screenplay department? Was it because Abbas Tyrewala didn't collaborate on the screenplay this time? Or was that by design? Maybe it was Farah's way of making fun of a film industry where the writing department is criminally neglected... Now I’m being a bit too charitable.

The first half of Om Shanti Om, with its disjointed montage of truly hilarious spoofs, was something that I could sit through, but once the real 'plot' (or whatever it was) took over in the second half it was a bumpy ride downhill . After a while, I just didn’t care if the reincarnated Om took his revenge or not. The writer/director also seemed confused about how she wanted to wrap up the story. After wanting to do a Karz like resolution, she suddenly changes tracks to impose a Madhumati on us. Nothing wrong with that, but why did it have to be so hasty?

I must say that the irreverence that Farah shows in Om Shanti Om is commendable. She doesn't believe in being politically correct and can be very blatant in spoofing prominent personalities. Not only that, her ability to laugh at herself and her producer (Shahrukh Khan) is noteworthy. To laugh at oneself requires a very mature sense of humour. The best part is that she managed to convince other people to be party to ridiculing themselves (Subhash Ghai and Shabana Azmi for example).

The other thing I really admire Farah for is the importance she gives to her crew. Both in Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om, she lets the audience see the faces behind the camera, the people who have a big role to play in making a film but never get their due. My truly 'emotional' moment from Om Shanti Om was when Pyarelal (the surviving half of the LP duo) walks the red carpet during the end credits. It was great to see him emerge from oblivion through this film. Truly a superstar in his heydays (along with partner Laxmikant), it is sad that the only role he gets to play now is that of an arranger. I appreciate Farah's intentions of asking him to be the arranger for a song that captures the spirit of the 70s, but I would've loved it if Pyarelal had composed all the songs from the first half of the film at least. After all, the posters of 'Dreamy Girl', the film within this film, prominently display 'Music by Laxmikant Pyarelal'.

Despite the fact that Om Shanti Om has been such an underwhelming experience for me, I will still look forward to Farah Khan's next. Who knows, she might stick to what she knows best and surprise us with an innovative take on the masala movies of the 70s. Or she might completely reinvent herself and come up with something drastically different. Whatever it is, she needs to redeem herself.