Sunday, August 3, 2008

Terminagin



Clearly, clearly, I need to give Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani the full, multi-thousand-word Teleport City treatment. It is, after all, the ill-fated product of a man's love for his son, and if that story doesn't deserve an epic presentation, I don't know what does. In the meantime, I'll just say that, despite its reputation, JDEAK is not the worst Bollywood movie I've ever seen. I've seen plenty of other Indian films that were just as poorly acted, scripted and constructed as this one, and many of those were boring, while JDEAK proved impossible for me to look away from.

I think what happened here is that Raj Kumar Kohli, rather than updating his style, simply made the same film he would have made in the seventies, and then tried to make it palatable to 21st century audiences by grafting onto it elements taken of a piece from various contemporary Hollywood blockbusters. The way that these rote homages pop up with absolutely no rhyme or reason (why, for instance, does the ancient snake demon suddenly start buzzing and whirring like Robocop, or turn into molten steel like the T-1000 in Terminator 2 -- or, for that matter, start affecting the sartorial style of Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix?) almost makes JDEAK function as a broad, Scary Movie-style parody of 1990s action movie tropes, and I imagine that if every producer in Hollywood were forced to watch it, many of them would be shamed into avoiding such tropes in the future.

As for the rest of the film, Kohli uses the same type of bright, cartoonish palette and stagey, artificial sets that he did in the 1976 Nagin -- the film which JDEAK is more or less a remake of, despite bearing the name of a completely different Kohli hit from the seventies. Even JDEAK's appalling computer effects can be seen as simply the state-of-the-art equivalent of the bizarrely primitive effects used in the earlier film. While all of this gives most of JDEAK a quirky, anachronistic look that I find vastly preferable to the slick, MTV-inspired look of most of its contemporaries, I can totally understand why audiences of the time hated it. For my part, though, I can't put that much passion behind what negative feelings I have toward it. Neither can I claim to have found it lacking in certain stupid charms -- such as the way Sunny Deol showed such a predictably dogged commitment to settling the hash of the ancient supernatural evil with his meaty fists.

So, despite all my masochistic bluster, my viewing of Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani was nowhere near the punishing experience that I had anticipated. I only hope that Houseinrlyeh over at The Horror!? fared as well. It was I, after all, who suggested that he match my effort by watching Papi Gudia -- and I fear that, by doing so, I may have, in my own small way, worked to undermine the goodwill on the part of the German people that Barack Obama has recently worked so hard to engender.

He did, on the other hand, suggest the idea of watching Dhoom to me, so I suspect that things are going to end up balancing out in the end.

12 comments:

houseinrlyeh said...

That doesn't sound bad at all.
My part of this special kind of Russian roulette turned out to be damaging, not necessarily to American-German relations, but the the fabric of reality.

Todd said...

I have to admit to having a little survivor's guilt over this round. At the same time, I've got to say that I got a lot more laughs out of Papi Gudia than I did out of this one. That's not to say that I didn't laugh at Jaani Dushman. It's just that I remember there being moments in Papi Gudia that really had me howling.

houseinrlyeh said...

Oh, I had lots of fun with "Papi Gudia". Now I plan on venturing deeper (I don't think I can find much that could be considered "lower") into Bollywood horror - my first two Ramsay brothers films are already on their way.

Todd said...

Incredibly, I have yet to watch any of the Ramsays' films. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about them.

Beth said...

Todd, do you really want to spend your precious time with Dhoom? There are far loonier and more amusing ways to waste an afternoon. (But whatever you do, stay away from Dhoom 2 at all costs. Seriously. Trust me on this one.)

You gonna add Asambhav to your list any time soon?

houseinrlyeh said...

I can only second "Asambhav" as a choice piece of...something, unless you tend to get epileptic seizures. Then I'd recommend you stay far away from it.

Todd said...

Hmmm. Should I trust you guys? Let's see what Mr. Keith Allison had to say about Asambhav:

"It's a crummy action film with awful direction. It's a completely soulless, paint-by-numbers action film that could have been churned out by a computer. It's never thrilling, and the lead male and female character disappear for large swaths of film, and you don't even notice or care because they were pretty boring anyway. This movie is a total bomb."

He then, of course, goes on to proclaim it "Pretty much the greatest movie ever made".

Gosh, so torn...

houseinrlyeh said...

See, it is such a great film.

Seeitissuchagreatfilm.

S u c h a g reatfilm.

(You will understand this joke after you've seen it.)

Beth said...

It's SO STOOOOPID, Todd. I know I'm not helping any. But in terms of wacked-out stupidness, it's going to be better than either Dhoom. Plus it has Naseeruddin Shah in it, slummin' it BIG TIME.

I will say that it inspired me to write one of my favorite reviews ever, though, so all is not lost.

And house's joke is very clever.

Todd said...

You both make a good case. However, I've lately been entertaining this crazy notion that it might be time to watch some Bollywood movies that might be enjoyable without being entirely painful. Right now in my viewing pile I have your beloved Parvarish, Hare Raama Hare Krishna, Bullet (the one with Dev and Parveen Babi) and Faraar, which looks like sort of an Amitabh version of The Desperate Hours. So, while I'll most likely be sampling the fragrant delights of Asambhav, it might have to wait awhile.

houseinrlyeh said...

What a bizarre notion! Watching movies that are actually good...

Beth said...

Parvarish yay!!! Can't wait.