Om Shanti Om is a landmark film for Bollywood. It’s redefined the business of the trade – set all sorts of pre-release financial records; taken the No. 1 star and put him in orbit, beyond reach (if that’s even possible); and has validated the Diwali season releases as analogous to the summer blockbusters of Hollywood . So what if the film is unmemorable?
There are many reasons that despite being an average film, OSO will not fail to win over its audience. Though the cinematic quotient is low, the film has got something for everyone. It’s got tons of in-jokes for the cinema buff and industrywala, it’s got a breezy masala-laden story idea for the stall squatters, it’s got SRK’s 6-pack for the ladies and the aspirants, it’s got Deepika Padukone for the not-so-faint-hearted, it’s got songs that make the film look good, and it’s got a touch of class for the masses.
As usual the script is the problem factor – because really, everything else in the film falls into place nicely. There are just too many assumptions and the film requires an elastic imagination. I understand that you really can’t crib given the kind of film it is, but it detracts from a complete movie experience. You’re just left wondering how and why and come on… At times, it borders on the ridiculous, and you can’t help but think that the kind of money involved – was it really so difficult to get a writer on board who could fix these glaring problems? The first half of the film is fresh and unique and it totally helps that it has the entire history of cinema to fall back upon. You know, it’d just be a great film if it was set in the 70s in its entirety. Certainly there was nothing real about it, and for those who were part of it then will note that the setting and depiction of the movie-world is romanticized beyond recognition. And yet for those who weren’t around then – it’s a singular world they see. It is in this world that Om Prakash Makhija, an extra in Bollywood, is driven by his aspirations and love for the new-launched Dreamy Girl Shanti to sing and dance his way into… friendship. To cut a long story short, they both die in a fire. And Om is reborn moments later as Om Kapoor – the hottest star in the 21st century – despite his phobia of fire.
The second half of the film is regressive to say the least. Against all expectations, it turns into a revenge drama that is dependent on co-incidences, doubles, supernatural phenomena, an end straight out of Madhumati, and is devoid of any kind of logic or commonsense. Even the film that inspired OSO – Karz – had a scientific explanation and plot progression, which made it dramatic and interesting. OSO doesn’t even try. How the new Om realizes his the old Om, and traces back his memory without given it a second thought will always remain a mystery. And why does he decide to scare Mukesh Mehra is never quite explained. Was he trying to get him into an asylum by driving him to madness? If yes, why? If no, then?
Anyway, forget the story and plot. Forget it. Screenplay writing in India still has a long way to go – let’s just leave it at that. It’s shameful that canvas so big couldn’t afford someone who could write.
OSO may not be entirely unmemorable though. Deepika Padukone makes a stunning debut. Really. We are given to understand that her voice is dubbed – but it cannot detract from her screen presence and sheer natural grace and beauty. SRK is at his best. You can literally feel his energy every time he is on screen. Arjun Rampal seems to have made a career-defining decision to play the suave bad-guy opposite SRK. First in Don and now in OSO. It seems to work for him and audiences.
The film is technically serviceable. Camera, editing, all okay. What really stands out is production design. Some very imaginative and magnanimous set design makes the look stand out. A pat on the back of Sabu Cyril.
Farah Khan’s direction is worthy, even though nothing’s original in the film, she knows her craft. She made the film exactly how she envisioned it – that much comes across. There weren’t many (if any) compromises and her style of doffing her hat to every little nuance of cinema is noteworthy and at times very unique (what a great end titles’ sequence.) With this film, Farah Khan has established herself as one of the Bollywood’s biggest mainstream directors. It’s heartening to note that as a woman, this is a first for our industry.
Yes, Om Shanti Om will be remembered for several things, except few will recall it as a good film.