I did watch a real classic for this week! Really really! I watched Andaz and everything! But I just didn’t feel like writing about it, maybe yesterday’s epic “how to make a film” post exhausted me, maybe something else. Anyway, that review of a “good” movie will be going up at a some point, probably next Friday. But in the meantime you will have to make do with this review of a not-so-good movie that my friends badgered me into watching with them on Tuesday night.
Oh the early 2000s! How I miss you! Back when Preity was perky and her shirts never covered her navel, and Arjun was handsome-in-a-different-way-than-he-is-now and Rekha looked exactly like she does now because Rekha is timeless! And also when plots were INSANE.
But kind of charming at the same time! This romance makes no sense at all, but I found myself more interested in it than plenty of the “logical” romances we get today with hero and heroine that have commitment issues and work conflicts and I don’t even know. In this, there is an escalating prank war and concussions and just general illogic, but also High Drama, which is so nice to see! Oh, and Jimmy Shergill is here too! Being all reliable and Jimmy Shergill-y.
Really, it would be a more or less entertaining but forgettable film if it weren’t for THE PUPPET! THE PUPPET!!!! It’s behind you RIGHT NOW!!!!
That may not have been nightmare inducing enough, let’s look at another photo in higher quality.
I saw this movie years and years and years ago, back when I was in college and just randomly watching whatever I could rent from the local video store. And my big memory was THE PUPPET and also that the romance didn’t really make sense. But really, THE PUPPET loomed over all.
(Loomed over us with it’s magical flying powers)
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This plot starts bonkers and never really slows down. Bonkers, and yet also non-melodramatic? Rekha, happily married to Sachin Khedekar, gets a call in the middle of the night that her husband was in a car accident. And learns that he had a secret life and a secret other wife and a secret daughter. And as he is dying, he asks her, his legitimate wife, to take in his now orphaned illegitimate daughter (since Sachin and his mistress were in the car crash together) and raise her as her own so that her future will not be tainted.
Does this seem like a bad idea to you? It seems like a very bad idea to me! Yes, it worked fine in Kal Ho Na Ho, but in that case the husband was still alive (well, at first), and also Jaya Bachchan is A Saint. And Rekha is not.
Sure enough, it does not go well! Rekha is terrible to lil’ Preity, blaming her for her father’s sins. Not like abusive or anything, just doesn’t give her love. Which is very confusing for lil’ Preity, since the whole “not my real daughter” thing is a secret from her. Meanwhile, lil’ Mahima Chaudury (the real legitimate daughter) gets all kinds of love!
It’s a human tragedy, but it is all done in bright colors and girlish running around and cool modern clothing and stuff. Very odd. And Preity’s whole damaged loveless childhood is dealt with in one teasing conversation between the two sisters. A different kind of film, and this whole story with the older sister giving her sibling the love their mother denied her would be HEARTBREAKING. In fact, in some ways this is the story of Sujata. Only Sujata with bright colors and songs and a puppet.
Yes, let’s talk about that puppet! Jimmy Shergill is Preity’s best friend, and also a ventriloquist/puppeteer. Which is treated as though it is a normal thing to be. Oh, and Jimmy Shergill in real life of course isn’t actually a ventriloquist. Which means the puppet voice is done by someone else entirely and then dubbed on. Which somehow makes it more disturbing? That this puppet really is autonomous and capable of speech?
And then there’s Arjun. Who, wow, is a TERRIBLE actor! Not now, but then. Uff! Or maybe he was good then and this is just a terrible director? Never mind, it’s Kundan Shah. OH MY GOD, It’s KUNDAN SHAH????? WHAT HAPPENED???? Did he have a stroke? Some horrible mental disorder? A psychotic break involving puppets? How did the man who made Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa make THIS!?!?!?
Although I guess if it is Kundan Shah, I can kind of see that. Mostly in the Arjun storyline. Maybe that’s why it feels so strange? Arjun is off in this kooky black comedy about a nice traditional old businessman and his overly corporate son who he hates, and then Preity and Mahima and Rekha are in this very human drama kind of plot, and the two of them and up getting smashed together.
It’s not just that the two plots don’t make sense together, it’s that they keep conflicting with each other. Baadshah, for instance, is a bad movie because you have a kind of silly romance, a kind of silly crime comedy, and then right at the end suddenly a serious action sequence with actual high stakes. This film is a bad movie in a different way, because you keep having a human romance interrupting a corporate farce or vice versa. It’s not that it suddenly changes halfway through the film, it’s that it suddenly changes scene by scene, even line by line within a scene! I think I am watching a strangely happy melodrama, and suddenly I am watching a wacky comedy. With a puppet (I cannot say that enough).
The romance is where this is most noticeable. First, Arjun arrives in the small mountain town and Preity, realizing he is an outsider who has no appreciation for the village, tricks him into walking all night to reach the Khanna Factory, only to see the next morning that he was standing right under a sign for it when he first spoke to Preity. Now, this is classic Kundan Shah kind of humor. Elaborate set-up (Preity gives exact directions of how to walk over a mountain, take a boat over a lake, go through the sheep, etc. etc.), and then absurd visuals showing it, and all of this to make a social point that the overly educated westernized businessman can’t see what is in front of them, the sign board pointing the way, and are easily fooled.
Things continue in this vein, their conflicts come out of her being an agent of chaos/village society, and him being an agent of structure/globalization. Okay, this is also very Howard Hawksian and Bringing Up Baby rom-com like. Which is why this romance feels so special, having that extra element of kookiness to it.
The problem is when it has to suddenly switch from kooky to serious. And Kundan Shah just doesn’t know how to do that. To the point where I had to fanwank amnesia to make sense of it all.
See, Preity is trying to save the town and needs to drive to Delhi in the middle of the night to talk to the head of Khanna Industries, not knowing it is Arjun’s own father. And she drags Arjun (in disguise as a humble driver) out of bed to take her there. So far, we are all screwball and fine.
But then, in the middle of the night, the car stalls and they stop and Preity starts dancing alone by herself while Arjun fixes the car. And this makes him love her? I am confused. But that seems to be what happens. He literally goes from “I hate this girl she makes me so angry and frustrated” to “Love Song Fantasy!” in a second. Just because she dances (not very well) in the moonlight? Has he never seen a woman by moonlight before or something?
And then, even stranger, he forgets this all immediately! Love song fantasy, ends with him trying to embrace her, she hits him in the head with a wrench, and it isn’t spoken of again! They go right back to bickering and hating each other! So, I decided the wrench-wound gave him amnesia, it’s the only way to make sense of it.
Or else it’s that they had written this whole story about a MBA-type son who is in disguise as a driver for his corporate reasons and gets constantly tricked by the humble locals, couldn’t get funding for it, had to throw on a romance somehow and add on this whole backstory for the heroine that was way dramatic, and the two never really gelled so scene by scene the whole character dynamic had to change.
Or maybe it is just a bad movie?
See, Arjun falls in love for no particular reason all at once (I know, I know, you are thinking “that’s what happens in every movie”, but this is really really bad!), and then is back to bickering and trying to destroy Preity in literal the next scene, and several scenes after that. Then she gives him a speech about doing stuff for the little people, and all of a sudden he is in love again? And she is in love with him? But, why? We never even got a moment of watching him dance in the moonlight with her, never a moment when she even seemed to like him, and then poof! They are making out in her bedroom!
Oh, and Mahima is in love with him too (obviously, sister’s always fall in love with the same guy). For slightly more reasons, she keeps falling and he keeps catching her and carrying her around, which would make any woman fall in love with Arjun Rampal. But the sisters never seem to actually talk to each other, Preity is making out with Arjun at work all day every day, and Mahima is dreaming about him, and it never comes up at the dinner table? Or in the bedroom they share?
Oh oh! The other thing I remember from this movie! The INCREDIBLY UGLY statue! Arjun sends this, this THING to the house, and the covers are taken off, and it dominates the entire living room, and Mahima looks at it and her mouth falls open and I sincerely think every time that it is just shock at how hideous it is. But no! She LIKES it! This ugly ugly thing! And then Preity comes home and likes it too! But they both think it is for them, and FINALLY Preity figures out that Mahima is in love with Arjun and decides she has to give him up.
(See that one extra recoiling in horror? He is me)
Blah blah, we’ve all seen this movie, right? Preity is ready to sacrifice, Rekha is a total b—- about it and makes darn sure she sacrifices, Mahima doesn’t know anything, Arjun is just the manmeat tossed between strong women (as is always the case in the best melodramas), Rekha finally realizes Preity’s nobility and mother and daughter are reunited, then Mahima realizes what is happening and sacrifices in turn, happy ending!
Couple of things here. First, my sister and I made a vow years ago when we first started watching these movies that we would never sacrifice for the other this way. Because who wants a guy that’s in love with your sister? That’s just so WEIRD!
Second, aaaaaallllllllll the family drama comes out and gets solved in no time flat once the truth is revealed that Preity is Rekha’s stepdaughter not daughter-daughter. So maybe they should have told the kids this ages ago instead of keeping it as an unspoken secret? Naaah, that’s crazy talk! If families just talked to each other, we would never have movie plots!
But the happiest part of the ending is that the puppet doesn’t end up with anybody. Although it is apparently a major star in this universe? Like, Arjun’s company hires Jimmy Shergill and Puppet (named “Rangeela”) as a spokesperson for their ad campaign (aimed at children! Poor shivering terrified psychologically scarred children!), and the whole board of directors is all “oh wow! Jimmy Shergill and Rangeela! They are so famous and amazing!” So I guess the puppet doesn’t want Preity or Mahima, because he probably has a bunch of cheap groupies waiting for him in his dressing room every night.