First, warning, the Prime version of this movie cuts off a couple of significant moments including the ending, so DON’T WATCH IT THERE. You truly aren’t seeing the real movie.
Shahrukh Khan made 7 movies in 1995, the busiest year of his career; Manisha Koirala also made 7 movies that year, also the busiest year of her career. This was the 90s, films were made cheap and fast. Well, fast and slow simultaneously. When you were filming, you would squeeze in as many scenes as possible in one shooting schedule. And then there would be a looooooooooong break before the next schedule. Actors didn’t bother with character continuity, “feeling” things, building a backstory. And dressman didn’t bother with realistic costumes, set designers with fancy sets, and scriptwriters….didn’t exist. Technically the scriptwriter for this was the genius golden age writer Abrar Alvi, but it’s pretty clear he just had a story idea pulled from the trash and tossed to an uncaring producer. Someone or other dashed off the lines for the day and handed them off to the actors five minutes before the scene was shot. It was a wild and crazy time and resulted in some very wild and crazy movies.
The beauty of a film like Guddu is that it shouldn’t be remembered. If it weren’t for Shahrukh’s later fame (actually, just months later, DDLJ came out in 1995 too), and for one random hit song, this film would have sunk into the sea and disappeared like all the other movies of the same type. Guddu was a film no one cared about, the stars certainly didn’t, they did their jobs and picked up their paychecks but weren’t killing themselves over it. The producer Prem Lalwani had made a handful of films since 1980, clearly one of those part time producers like Yash Johar who must have had a regular line of work too. This time around he couldn’t manage to find a director, so he went ahead and did it himself. He lucked into two of the biggest stars somehow, maybe just by offering them big money, and then squandered it on a stupid stupid film. It released, it flopped, everyone forgot about it except for the one hit song.
But I remembered! Me, and other SRK fans, who were desperate to see every random performance he had ever given, even the terrible ones. So we all watched Guddu, and there’s some interesting stuff there. Stuff that wouldn’t be in a “good” movie, or at least wouldn’t be treated so casually in a “good” film.
What’s great about this movie is that it is so very sincere. And also so very casual. Our hero and heroine have sex, and it doesn’t matter. Like, it’s not even a plot point, just a thing that happened. On the other hand, there is a whole 5 minute scene around typing things into a computer and then printing them out (dot matrix spotting!). Because Computers and Science and Medicine are serious business and we should all care about them, but our lovers losing their virginity is kind of whatever and we should move on. It’s hilarious to watch, but also refreshing. Kind of like seeing an abstract painting where the sky is purple and the ground is orange. You know it’s all wrong, but there’s a strange beauty to the wrongness.
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Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala are two carefree wealthy young people going to different colleges in Bombay. They meet at a sports event and immediately spark. Unfortunately Manisha keeps run ins with Shahrukh’s overly confident lawyer father Mukesh Khanna. Also, Shahrukh starts to have mysterious headaches. The doctor prescribes rest and vacation, Shahrukh convinces his family to visit the same resort where Manisha and her doctor uncle are staying. Shahrukh and Manisha go for a horse ride and are trapped when a storm spooks the horses. They spend the night together in a cave filled with erotic carvings and have sex. The next morning, while the parental units are slightly uneasy, they are mostly okay with what has happened. Shahrukh and Manisha go out together again and a group of rowdies stop their car. Shahrukh gets into a fight and Manisha is knocked out when she gets in the way. Shahrukh loads her into the car and drives away quickly, only to get another headache and drive the car into a tree. Manisha is blinded, and Shahrukh is taken to the doctor again, this time Manisha’s uncle, and diagnosed with a brain tumor that only ha a 5% chance of survival if he has a surgery. His parents have a massive fight between science and religion, his father is determined that science will save him and wants to take him overseas for treatment.
Shahrukh is trying to stay away from Manisha now that he knows he is dying, but they bump into each other at the hospital. And Shahrukh overhears that Manisha is blind and her only hope is an eye transplant. He sneaks into her bedroom to declare his love again and when her uncle finds him, tells her uncle that he wants to donate his eyes to Manisha after he dies. Her family now supports the relationship, but keep from Manisha that Shahrukh is dying. She finds out the truth and is horrified, but then Shahrukh’s family friend takes them to his mosque and she feels better. Now the problem is Shahrukh’s father, who files a lawsuit to prevent him from donating his eyes and stopping treatment. Shahrukh gets his own lawyer and there is a lengthy dramatic trial. On the final day of judgement, as Deepti prays, suddenly Mukesh is unable to get to court, trapped in traffic and so on, runs to get there on foot, arriving just as he loses the case for failure to appear, drops down with a heart attack on the steps of the courthouse as Shahrukh exits and also drops down of his brain tumor. With both of them in the hospital, and Manisha still blind, Deepti locks herself in her prayer room and prays super super hard. A miracle! All the operations are successful! Mukesh comes home to find Deepti dead in the prayer room having left behind a note asking that her eyes be given to Manisha. Happy ending, Manisha and Shahrukh and their twin babies giving thanks to Deepti for her sacrifice.
This is all SO STUPID!!!! Like, for instance, everyone treats Deepti’s death and eyes thing as a miracle. But, the woman just fasted to death, right? You can’t lock yourself in the prayer room without food or water for 3 days and come out all fine. That’s hardly a miracle. Mukesh and Shahrukh being alive and healthy, that’s a miracle, but the eyes thing, that’s just suicide in order to donate organs!
And yet, I love the stupidity. Manisha and Shahrukh are attacked by random people we have never seen before for no real reason? Sure! Why not! Shahrukh is having terrible headaches and the medical advice is “vacation”? Totally fine! Mukesh almost dies of a heart attack despite no foreshadowing at all that he has any heart problems? Works for me! It’s the 90s, anything goes.
What makes the plot stupid work is that it is matched by the everything-else stupid. Like, the set design to make miscellaneous mansion set look like a the character’s home is to just put big blow up posters of Shahrukh everywhere. Not Shahrukh in character for this film, Shahrukh-the-movie-star posing in costume as other characters, just kind of taped up around the place. It’s surreal and delightful. The college party includes giant cardboard cut outs of kind of but not quite Archie comics’s characters. The Parents Day function features a huge song and dance that has nothing to do with parents, and includes Manisha even though she isn’t a student at that college. Really, the only set choice I take issue with is that the “Parents Day” banner has an apostrophe mistake, it should be “Parents’ Day” but instead is “Parent’s Day”. On the other hand, the only people we get reaction shots of in the audience are Shahrukh’s Mom and Dad, so maybe it is “parent” singular? A whole event, just for them, and tomorrow another event for another lucky set of parents?
And this brings me back to sex. Let me set the scene for you. We have a boy and girl who are flirting a lot. They go out alone together for the day (parents have no problems with this) and get caught in the rain and take shelter in a cave. They have no problem with this, none of that DDLJ “oh my, spending the night together alone? I couldn’t!” fussiness. And then Shahrukh gets cheeky and suggest they “share body heat” by trying one of the poses of the statues. Manisha taunts him that he would be afraid, he only does what his father tells him, it leads to a whole teasing song that turns super hot moment by moment as they keep getting close to each other and the Sex Cave starts to get to them. Finally, the song cuts away as they lean in to kiss.
And then we see Deepti, Shahrukh’s mother, worried because he is out all night. But his father tells her not to worry. Next morning, Manisha is happily home, and Shahrukh is happily tossing an apple hand to hand and also home. Manisha’s aunt is worried about them going out together again, but not because of sex, because of all the dangerous stunts Shahrukh and Manisha want to try. That’s their romantic dynamic, they are both young and fearless daredevils. The sex stuff, that’s unrelated, that’s just them being young and alone in a sex cave overnight, no one cares.
What’s especially good-bad is that a better structured film would have given us this whole thing about how their mutual diseases and daredevil dangerous sports are all just a metaphor for sex. Like, Shahrukh gave her syphilis or something and that’s why they are both sick (and she’s BLIND! See!!! SYPHILLIS!!!!), and it’s all about young kids being too wild and unthinking and almost dying from the consequences of it all until they get social approval (COURT CASE!) and religious approval (MOSQUE!), and then they can have sex without dying/going blind. And finally, babies.
See, the whole thing holds together. But this movie is just really really bad, and can’t even hope to make that sort of metaphor work. So instead, they have sex and then, unrelated, go on an adventure sport. And then, unrelated to that, are attacked by strangers. And finally, also unrelated, get in a car accident that blinds Manisha. Which is kind of related to Shahrukh’s deadly brain tumor, but not that closely. The metaphor the film is going for a little harder is religion versus science, with Shahrukh’s parents battling over him. But that’s not related to Manisha’s blindness, or Shahrukh wanting to donate his eyes really, it’s just about whether science or religion will end up saving him. And of course, it’s both, because he has the surgery but also his mother prays herself to death.
It’s just a mess! the whole thing is a horrible horrible wonderful mess. And Manisha and Shahrukh have sex in a sex cave and nothing bad happens. Well, nothing bad related to having sex in a sex cave. Moral is, if you find yourself trapped in a sex cave with mid-90s SRK, go ahead and have sex. It will have no consequences of any kind beyond making you really happy the next day.
(Okay, it might also cause you to hallucinate with desire later on, but that’s a consequence I can live with)