I am so happy, I have been wanting to see this movie for almost 20 years. Well “wanting”. Maybe “vaguely curious” that was transformed to “want” after it was forbidden to me by The Universe. And now The Universe has relented, and I have watched this movie, and I never have to see it again. And you never have to see it even once because I watched it for you!
17 years ago, Lil’ Margaret was browsing the DVD shelves at her favorite Indian movie rental place on Devon, not Al-Mansoor, and not Star Video, and not the weird one with the Southern movies, but the one on the corner of Rockwell and Devon with the pink awning. You know the one. Anyway, I had gotten pretty sophisticated about my film choices, I was looking for something with one of the 3 Khans or Hrithik, and an actress I recognized, and bright primary colors on the case. Pretty much guaranteed to be a cheerful fun film, and to have subtitles. I’d seen almost every DVD fitting this description already (this was after I had already watched Tum Mere Ho and Sangdil Sanam), so I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel, heading towards stuff like Om Jai Jagadish and Daud. And then here was a brightly colored fun DVD case for a movie with Salman and Rani!!! And, bonus, an English language title I could actually read/pronounce! I was so excited! So I added it to my weekly stack of 5 DVDs and went to the counter and checked out and then got back to the dorm and popped it into my laptop and PHOOEY! No subtitles! Even trying all my little tricks to make the file pull up by going at it different ways! I would be forever separated from seeing the Wonder of this Great Film, “Hello Brother”.
Since it had the English title, and was Rani and Salman, I was kind of curious about the movie and I kept my eyes out for the next few years for a copy with subtitles. And I finally found one! At Al Mansoor in their old location that is now the fancy Patel Sweets shop, but used to just have boxes and boxes of messy cassette tapes. Anyway, I bought it, and followed my usual rule of not letting myself take the DVD out of the packaging until I was on the bus on the way home. At which point I was able to read the fine print and, in fact, No Subtitles! At first glance, yes. But at closer look, no. So I got off the bus, went back, got my money back, and tried to forget.
For years and years I have hidden away and buried my crazed “Hello Brother” urge. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. And then, like a bolt from the past, there it is on Netflix! Finally!!!!
The thing is, in the intervening years, apparently my tolerance/interest in Really Really Bad Movies has lessened. Or, more likely, I’ve just learned more Hindi so I can fully and deeply understand just how baaaaaaaaaaaad they are. When I was 19, I probably would have enjoyed this movie as much as I enjoyed Chaand Kaa Tukdaa or Bombai Ka Babu (not the classic with Dev, the one with Kajol and Saif). But now, not so much.
And so I give this warning to you. If you are still young and fresh and capable of enjoying a movie which is 50% fart jokes and 30% Salman leaping around like a maniac and 20% Arbaaz being unable to move his face, go to it! But if you are old and cynical and fart jokes no longer make you laugh, perhaps avoid. Oh, unless you are unable to resist a young Rani movie, MY GOD was she sexy and gorgeous and charismatic!!!!
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Ready for a dumb dumb and also stolen plot? Apparently the original movie had Denzel Washington playing Salman and Bob Hoskins (from Roger Rabbit) playing Arbaaz, huh! It was back when everyone was very VERY excited about the idea of ghosts haunting people only they can see.
Oh oh! I can tell another Margaret story! Back before I was watching every movie at the Indian DVD stores, my sister and I used to make our mother drive us alllllllllllll over the city to check out the VHS rental places and try to find a Cary Grant/Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire movie we had not yet seen. Following this policy, at one point we ended up watching Topper. It wasn’t as gosh awful depressing as Only Angels Have Wings, but it wasn’t the best. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are drunken crazy fun rich partiers who die in a car crash, but stay on earth as ghosts. They decide their purpose is to teach their boring lawyer “Topper” to have fun. So there are all these hijinks where Topper can see them but no one else can and ha-ha-ha. I found it unfunny and lame when I was 9 watching Cary Grant do it, and I continue to find it unfunny and lame when I am 35 watching Salman Khan do it.
First, at some point, wouldn’t you just STOP RESPONDING when the ghost only you can see starts talking to you? You know only you can see him! You know people won’t know who you are talking to!!! WHY DO IT???
And second, as a ghost, wouldn’t you realize that you are making your haunt person look crazy? Why not find another way to communicate??? Why insist on loud conversations and, even worse, sing alongs and dancing??? UGH!!!
I’ve kind of skipped some bits in the “plot”. Salman is a neighborhood boy who is in love with his female best friend Rani. He works for Shakti Kapoor who runs a seemingly legit delivery service but is really into Drugs. Arbaaz Khan is the new honest hero cop who arrived in town and is investigating Shakti. He and Salman have various run ins, and then there is a big shoot-out and Arbaaz almost dies and wakes up in the hospital able to see Salman when no one else can. At which point they explain that Salman was found dead, so they took his heart and put it in Arbaaz to save Arbaaz’s life. So now Arbaaz can see Ghost Salman (and has no other after effects from the heart transplant, he’s fine). Arbaaz meets Rani at Salman’s funeral and falls in love and starts romancing her, Ghost Salman tries to sabotage the relationship out of jealousy, but also starts helping Arbaaz go after Shakti Kapoor to avenge his death by Shakti. Shakti ends up kidnapping Rani, Arbaaz and Ghost Salman save her, and then Ghost Salman fights Ghost Shakti, and Shakti goes to Hell and Salman goes to Heaven and Rani and Arbaaz unite.
If that seems like not much plot, it isn’t. To pad out the film, we have many MANY fart jokes. Also, Razak Khan as “Ninja Uncle”. And Jonny Lever just kind of existing. The only saving grace is, as previously mentioned, Rani is AMAZING!!!! I forgot just how special she was back in the baby fat-dark skin-dumb roles era. Oh Rani! I am so happy you were rescued from these terrible TERRIBLE movies!!!
The real meaning of this film is that Salman was desperately trying to make his brothers self-supporting. Now, over 20 years after this film, we of course know that will never happen. Why should they work? Their life is great! Anyway, he had Sohail write a script and direct. And he gave Arbaaz the big hero build up and made himself the supporting Ghost. But the problem is of course, Sohal can’t write or direct, and Arbaaz can’t act. Thus this film is more about improvised fart jokes and Rani being super special than anything else.
So, don’t watch it! Or do watch it and just fastforward to the Rani bits. Or put it on while you are entertaining small children who giggle uncontrollably at fart jokes.