Thursday, November 30, 2006

and if this ever-changing world in which we're living makes you give in and cry JUNG

Revisiting a classic dud

First, some disambiguation is in order. This is not the 2000 film directed by Sanjay Gupta that filched from Face/Off and Desperate Measures. This is the truly original 1996 vehicle bearing the likes of Ajay Devgan, Aditya Pancholi and Mithun Chakraborty. Yes, this is the Jung that filched Rahman's tilaanaa tilaanaa (from Muthu) and made it diiwaanaa diiwaanaa (persons responsible: Nadeem and Shravan and lyricist Anand Bakshi). This is that T Rama Rao film we talked about a few years ago. Since enough venom has gone under the bridge, one may be tempted to ask why. Now this is a question that has plagued viewers (like YT) of Bollywood's folderol for eons. However, in the context of this Rambha rompfest, an answer is available: we failed to address the greatness of the film; we merely scraped some flakes off the tip of the smallest ice cube floating at the surface of this cesspool.

It's a portent of slippery times ahead when the movie is presented by someone called Dinky. Then you have a villain (good old Sadashiv (H)amrapurkar) called chakradhaarii chaudharii, who spouts the following delicate ego-fondling nugget:

is sa.nsaar me.n do hii to chakradhaarii hai.n
uupar sudarshan-chakrawaalaa
aur niche mai.n usakii Takkarawaalaa

Everyone's favourite pillar of superhuman honesty and integrity, Mithun Chakraborty, plays eii!-CP arjun (translation: bright, shining, radiant), an honest, sincere, A-grade cop. Ajay Devgan plays his younger brother ajay (translation: he who cannot be defeated; also: we were too bored to think of a name for his character, so he kept his own), who, pursuant to the Bollywood Cliché Act, is an honest lawyer (which, is a contradiction in terms, and hence makes this stock character unique). Aditya Pancholi rocks the joint in a double role: we have the innocent fair-complexioned raam (translation: dark/black [according to wikipedia]; pleasing/charming according to another page), wrongfully accused, tried with the secular docket number 786/25, and rotting in the oft-worn outfit of prisoner #117 in a prison on some backlot; and we have billaa (from the genus of Bollywood villains that inundated movies like Gardish and continue to haunt us even today with Musafir), the villain who decided to rob a train and then frame train-driver raam (aah the trains of coincidence) for his misdeeds. In keeping with tradition, billaa and Co. also tie raam's pregnant wife siitaa (meaning: furrow; straight out of the epic to the railway tracks. The framed siitaa dumps her baby at the doorstep of lakshmii (translation: wealth, fortune), the wife of ACP arjun and manages to flee prison.

In order to get a tax exemption from the CoincidenceMeter by providing a stellar implementation of the StronglyConnectedCharacterGraph, screenplay writer Santosh Saroj (translation: lotus of happiness ... or is it the kiLukkam-e-kamal?) whips out his Kevin Bacon strips and links our characters up.

Like free cable, ajay, convinced of raam's innocence, begins to represent a ray of hope for him (that is, to say, on a professional level). He takes up his case and thus aligns himself in conflict with arjun, who's busy filing his nomination for the Guinness Book of World Records for arresting raam over and over again. Meanwhile, wifey dear (who insists on conjugating English verbs to the continuous form ostensibly as an attempt to provide some humour) hires a nanny for the baby -- if you haven't already figured it out, sitaa's the lucky nanny. Also in the mix is a jallaad (translation: executioner) played by Tinnu Anand, who also has his own axe to grind with billaa (the man responsible for his son's death). On the artistic front, Rambha plays madhuu, over-fed romantic foil for ajay; madhuu also happens to be the daughter of chakradhaarii. This sets up a rich interlocking set-up of Kekule closures and things begin to boil slowly with a rising conflict of truth, justice and melodrama.

Those looking for a simple dramatic narrative will find solace in the number of twists and coincidences that the film sports. Santosh Saroj also scores a coup with lines like kisane mere pyaar ke tave pe paanii chi.Dakaa diyaa? ye ##papa## nahii.n paapii hai, and mai.n har hi.ndustaanii kaa bhaaii huu.N magar tujh jaise gaddaaro.n ke liye kasaaii huu.N. The scenarists do well with their limited supply of spiked lassies by writing a historical voyeuristically satisfying scene featuring madhu bathing against the aural background of Hotel California (appropriated without due credit, but you already figured that out). As if this wasn't enough, Rambha shows up again later dressed up as a Sikh pilot. The giddily swinging cake gets its cherry with Ajay Devgan's drag act.

This belongs to the equivalence class of Mithun films where everyone else seems to get more screen time than the Bengal Tiger himself. Such movies work best when they sport enough villains to fill up a lunch thaalii, but we have a shortage here. The combination of the doppelgänger, the benzene bonds among the characters, the faux physics of the collisions and the visually overwhelming Rambha-nctiousness augment the value of this ham sandwich just enough to make it memorable as events draw to a close with a crackerjack emotional ending where a mother donates her biological baby to its surrogate mother. It's time to catch the 8:55 goods train to Pune.

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