No one and I mean no one could have been having a better time at the cinemas than I did last Sunday. If they claimed they did then they’re fibbing. That or they were part of the raucous crowd who were cheering along with me. Such was the effect of Farah Khan’s sophomore effort – a splashy, cheeky and retro-looking masala film that made everyone walk out with a smile on their faces and no socks on (they were blown away).
With a rocking start, Om Shanti Om takes the audience straight into the heart of Bollywood in the 70s on a film set. There’s so much glorious eye-candy with colourful and lurid visuals that a retinal overdose is a distinct possibility. Visual pleasures aside, the music by duo Vishal and Shekhar is also quite terrific throughout. The song numbers are endlessly inventive with great sequences and genuinely clever choreography. It’s gorgeous to look at and very funny to boot. It features real dancing too; boy was I excited about that! This much fun can’t be legal.
Sure there are flaws, I’ll be the first to admit that OSO is not a complex, nor is Farah Khan a stand-out director of story but believe me you won’t have much time think about it. I recall moments of trying to ponder a point for a nanosecond before the freight-train momentum bull-dozed my thoughts away. That and the staggering 40+ cameos from Bollywood biggest stars, which sounds ridiculous and is ridiculous but acts as the perfect distraction when the drama gets heavier in the second half. It is also the perfect cue for the audience to get excited and cheer for their favourite star. You may think that one needs to know about Bollywood history and the celebrities to get all the jokes but I only understood a handful of the jokes and wondered who the old dude was who got the biggest applause. Doesn’t lessen the experience at all.
The second half is where the audience will have the most to gripe about (ok, so just maybe some members of the audience may have had their socks intact). The jokes thin out to make way for the drama and that’s a notable absence when you
didn’t stop laughing in the first half. Possibly the more significant difference is how the 2 eras are presented in each half. While the 70s are looked upon with with a lot of affection and nostalgia, the presentation (although I’m unsure if it was deliberate) of the contemporary industry comes across as, well, quite frankly a bit ugly. From Shah Rukh’s annoying rich-boy poseur actor to highlighting shallow movie practices and coupled with less gags and at times off-kilter balance of humour/drama there is certainly less to love in the second half.
However, like I said there are plenty of distractions, including the much-hyped arrival of SRK’s six-pack killer abs. His newly-chiselled assets were given plenty of screen time in the item number ‘Dard-E-Disco’ but I was gratified when they were used by Farah as her cheeky comment on the gaudy but common-place practice of putting a gorgeous somebody in an item number. The other much-hyped arrival is the casting of Deepika Padukone, a relative unknown in the movies (although she’s a well known model). The girl has the looks and I won’t be surprised if some old fogey’s pacemaker gives up the ghost when she comes out of a cage dressed like a Las Vegas showgirl. There are many beautiful faces in Bollywood but it helps to have screen presence as well which, thankfully, she does.
It’s clear that Farah Khan has written about what she knows best, the result being an affectionate but tongue-in-cheek look at the industry in its yesterday and today. She does an admirable job of it too. The end credits give due respect to the people behind the camera but also reminds us that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, so why should you?