Sunday, August 3, 2008
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.