Okay, let’s do this! I’ve only seen this movie straight through twice, and the last time was over two years ago. But I have faith I can still remember and review this!
Forget Shahrukh, this is a great cast! Naseeruddin Shah, Urmila Matondkar, Shammi Kapoor, even Deven Verma. It was that magical moment of the 90s when mainstream Hindi film was a big big tent. You had up and comers like Urmila and Shahrukh rubbing shoulders with art actors like Naseerji, and aging big names like Shammi and Deven Verma. All brought together by a crazy crazy plot to which they all gave complete energy and faith.
I’ve watched a fair number of 90s movies, half of them are silly and fun like this one, and half of them are just silly. Oh, and I guess there is a third half that is really more like a 10th and those are the actual GOOD movies everyone has seen. That 10% is what most people talk about and remember, which is too bad, because there are a lot of silly fun movies like this one that deserve attention.
Along with being fun, this movie has some nice messages in there. Shahrukh plays his first classic passive hero. In his first movie Deewana he was the classic active Shahrukh hero, so active that he treads a line between scary and sexy. Now his second movie, the other Shahrukh! So scared of the girl he runs away from her and forces her to chase. That’s fun, and a nice message being pro-female aggression. There’s more than that too, the usual 90s story of the brave humble for-the-people school against the Evil Developers (now of course the Evil Developers are the Heroes of Capitalism). But it is Urmila, not Shahrukh, who leads that fight. Also cool! And Naseerji’s romance also has a strong woman who refuses to compromise, in a way I can’t get into without Spoilers.
This is a fantasy movie a little bit, but the parts I find most charming and escapist are the bits that are “real”. The school all pulling together, the aggressive heroine, Shammi as a doting single parent, Shahrukh as a sweet decent young man who comes to the city to help people not get rich. And Naseerji as a person who has done bad things but can still be redeemed.
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Shahrukh is an overwhelmed teacher at a small village school. His introduction is holding a crying baby and trying to carrel an escaping goat. To get money for his school, he takes the train to the Big City. On the train he meets peppy aggressive Urmila. He arrives in the city and is promptly ripped off, losing everything. He goes to sleep in a cemetery because he can’t afford a hotel and, while in the cemetery, meets a cheerful ghost of a gangster, Naseeruddin Shah. Naseeruddin saves him from goons and agrees to help him if he, Shahrukh, helps Ghost Naseeruddin. Ghost Naseeruddin was killed because he was trying to go straight in order to please his new wife. Shahrukh goes with Naseeruddin to visit his wife’s father, Shammi Kapoor. They learn his wife died of the shock of Naseerji abandoning her, after giving birth to her daughter, Urmila. Urmila and Shammi run a college and Evil Developers want to take over their land. Shahrukh is hired as a coach, despite not knowing anything about sports, and Naseerji helps the team win their games by flying around invisibly. Urmila and Shahrukh fall in love, Shammi fights the developers, in the end Right Prevails, Naseerji clears his name when his body is found so Shammi and Urmila know he didn’t abandon him, Naseerji goes up to heaven to be with his dead wife, Shahrukh and Urmila are united.
I am positive I got stuff wrong in the above summary, please correct below! But what I remember clearly is Shahrukh’s introduction. This is not a capable perfect hero, this is a falling apart guy trying to hold things together. And very feminine, with a baby and all that. The gender bending continues with the absolutely delightful first meeting between Shahrukh and Urmila. Usually, the song is a group of young men following and singing to a young woman. This time, it’s a gang of women teasing and taunting a young man. Even better, it is a classic “sexy” set-up, young women in nightgowns preparing for bed when a young man stumbles into the carriage with them. Only instead of the young man making nasty jokes and stuff, it is the young women turning the tables on him.
Naseerji’s ghost is a slight table turning too. He isn’t an “angel”, some magical wise figure from beyond the grave. And he isn’t a demon either, some terrifying creature being all spooky. He’s just a kind of funny kind of bad guy trying to be better. Heck, even as a gangster that is refreshing! Not a dangerous threat to society, just a guy who took a few wrong turns without ever meaning or doing real harm.
This is also a great example of the 90s remake. That is, a remake which takes the kernel of an idea from some other movie and then runs with it so far and so fast no one can find the connection any more. It’s not a remake as they are now, with all the publicity connecting the new one with the old one. Or the remake that’s more of a rip off either, this isn’t cheating by doing a shot for shot of some movie without acknowledging it. This is a legitimate “inspire by” kind of thing. And, of all things, it is “inspired by” Blackbeard’s Ghost, a Disney movie about the ghost of Blackbeard who comes back and helps a college football team.
There are basically no plot points shared between the two films, beyond a ghost helping a college team, but there is the right feel to it. This movie feels like a 1960s Disney movie. Kind of goofy, kind of innocent, kind of trying to be cool and failing.