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Ghajini

Rating: 3

December 25, 2008

Cast: Aamir Khan, Asin, Jiah Khan, Pradeep Rawat

Director: AR Murgadoss

Watching him in Ghajini, I don’t think I’ve seen Aamir Khan having this much fun as an actor in a long time.

It’s an old-fashioned entertainer with a half-convincing plot, packed with enough gratuitous violence to qualify as a B-movie really; and like the most popular B-movies ever, the biggest strength of Ghajini lies in the fact that it’s a fast-moving roller-coaster ride that seldom gives you a moment to stop and think how stupid it might actually be.

In a premise clearly inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Aamir Khan plays Sanjay Singhania, a hot-shot industrialist who turns into an obsessed killing machine dedicated to tracking down his girlfriend’s killer. Having been hit on the head with an iron rod, he suffers from short-term memory loss and can’t remember anything for longer than 15 minutes; as a result he must tattoo his body with instructions that will lead him to his prey.

Abandoning Memento‘s fantastic non-linear narrative and opting for the more conventional flashback device, writer-director AR Murgadoss throws in an engaging back-story in the form of leading lady Asin (playing smalltime model Kalpana) and a love story brimming with originality and the kind of gentleness that you don’t see at the movies anymore. It’s a romance that takes you by surprise, and to an extent puts the film’s intense action into perspective too.

Faithful remake of the director’s Tamil blockbuster, Ghajini is over-the-top and exaggerated in its comedy, its action and its drama, but what irks you most are the half-dozen or so creative liberties and coincidences that the makers resort to, in order to bail themselves out of tricky screenplay situations. Here’s a little sample – you’re expected to believe that Sanjay Singhania is a well-known millionaire industrialist, and yet no one has seen him in pictures or in person.

Logical loopholes like these would be the albatross of any half-decent film, but Ghajini works despite its shortcomings because it’s a reliably dumb film that is unpretentious in its intentions. Unlike many dumb films that take themselves way too seriously, Ghajini is a dumb film that celebrates its dumbness.

Of course much of the film’s appeal lies in watching leading man Aamir Khan approach his role with an unmatched fervor. Whether it’s beefing up for the part, or oozing that schoolboy charm, or then the manner in which he explodes in rage each time he’s reminded of Kalpana’s brutal death, you can’t take your eyes off the screen when he’s up there.

He finds a worthy nemesis in Pradeep Rawat who plays bad guy Ghajini, your stereoptypical 80s Bollywood villain, complete with gold chains, white shoes and menacing sneer. Rawat is decidedly loathsome, especially in the scene in which he enjoys watching our hero writhe helplessly as he offs his girlfriend in front of his eyes.

At the emotional heart of the film is Tamil actress Asin making her Bollywood debut as the mischievous, happy-go-lucky Kalpana, who benefits from a superbly-written character that is hard to get out of your head even when the film’s ended. Asin has undeniable screen presence and such joie de vivre that you can immediately relate with the hero’s anguish over losing her.

In a thankfully small role as the medical student who helps our hero achieve his goal is Jiah Khan who has a screechy voice and a forgettable presence.

Ghajini isn’t a particularly good film, but entertainment it delivers by the bucketful. At a running time of 3 hours, the film seldom drags and therein lies its victory. For the Singh Is Kinng generation, here’s another time pass entertainer.

I’m going with three out of five for director A R Murgadoss’ Ghajini, this is Aamir Khan’s way of telling us, ‘Anything that Shah Rukh or Akshay can do, I can do just as well.’

Watch it for the ride.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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