OM SHANTI OM (2007, d. Farah Khan)
If one were to select the ideal Bollywood film to show a newcomer to Hindi cinema, then 2007’s smash hit blockbuster Om Shanti Om would a prime example of one of the worst possible choices. Not because it is a lousy picture (though it is far from perfect), but because this comedy spoof of Bollywood itself is so chock-full of in-jokes, self-referential humour and genre parodies that any viewer unaware of Indian cinema’s colourful history will doubtless find themselves utterly flummoxed by it all. For those who’ll manage to grasp even half the jokes however, there is much fun to be had here courtesy of writer/director (and former ace choreographer) Farah Khan’s ode to all that is ludicrous in Bollywood. OSO tells the tale of Om Prakash Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan), a geeky film extra - or ‘junior artiste’ - working in 1970s Bollywood, struggling to make it big as a star and win the affections of his favourite leading lady - ‘heroine’ - Shanti Priya (the debuting Deepika Padukone). Tragedy strikes however, as they are both killed in a fire set by Shanti’s husband producer, the evil Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal). But there is life after death, literally, for both Om and Shanti as they are both reincarnated and again grow up in the Indian film industry - this time though with Om as the top-billing superstar and Shanti as the adoring extra. As the lovers reunite, their killer Mukesh finally looks set to pay for his crimes thirty years prior.
The stars are out in Om Shanti Om:
(L-R) Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Lara Dutta, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan
With a plot suitably over-the-top enough to cope with the many equally absurd clichés that this postmodern satire aims to send up, Om Shanti Om works terrifically well as an excursion in cheerfully mocking the Indian film industry. Genuine belly laughs abound as stars both past and present find themselves spoofed in creative and hilarious fashion, often with the actors themselves (both in person and via impressive use of Forest Gump-esque CGI) taking part at poking fun. My personal favourite was Shah Rukh Khan’s dead-on impression of South Indian superstar Rajnikanth in a genius sequence aping the notoriously hokey Tamil movie business. Another scene to savour is the frighteningly accurate re-creation of a bitchy Filmfare awards presentation that sees the admirably game-for-a-laugh Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumer both send up their careers and images so brilliantly, it would make even Garry Shandling proud. As this near-three hour gag-a-thon starts to wind down however, the increasing number of celebrity cameos do tend to outstay their welcome somewhat and by the time we reach the celeb-saturated title song sequence where nearly thirty performers appear one after the other, it does eventually become a case of: “Next!”
Pastiches and parodies aside, as an actual film - even a comedy such as this - Om Shanti Om does not work nearly as well as it should. With its one-dimensional characters and paper thin storyline that sadly becomes progressively more dull, the film winds up ever more reliant on the next batch if lampoons to hold both itself together and the audience’s interest. The lead actors’ performances are likewise below-par with Arjun Rampal positively tree-like in his wooden turn as the villainous Mukesh and newcomer Deepika Padukone offering little more than a pretty smile in terms of talent. And as for Shah Rukh Khan, well, even in intentional self-parody mode there is only so much one can stand of his characteristic über-hamming. Besides his actual performance being at times painful to watch, even his appearance this time around makes for an uncomfortable sight - particularly in the horrific ‘Dard-e-Disco’ song number that sees a hideous-looking Khan sporting a gaunt face and bulging physique that would look more at home in the ‘roided up world of professional wrestling than in a Bollywood flick. Despite the numerous imperfections though, Om Shanti Om still remains a highly enjoyable adventure overall full of good-natured jesting and guffaws aplenty. Just make sure you buck up on your book of Bollywood masala trivia before jumping in headfirst.
“Mind it!”: Shah Rukh apes Rajnikanth in Om Shanti Om
The available 2-disc DVD set from Eros Entertainment unfortunately does not offer the kind of superior quality the label has lately been offering consumers. Instead, problems arise in the form of lacking sharpness (despite allegedly being mastered from an HD source), an unfavourable amount of pixellating and less-than-stellar 5.1 audio. Still, it is a far better effort than the Eros of old would have provided and the extras on the second disc are certainly plentiful, including bloopers, deleted scenes and documentaries among other such goodies. Adequate English subtitles are provided for all content, but are marred by spelling and grammar errors on occasion.