The Second Chance (Ghajini movie review)

“If life gives me a second chance…”

“…I would do the same mistakes again.” is what A. R. Murugadoss, who directs the Hindi remake of the “original” Ghajini in Tamil, is likely tell you.

“Well yes, accurately and vigorously, may be. After all, they worked the first time around!”


Yes, there are no twin antagonists here – in Tamil version they merely existed so that the cinematographer can play some cool tricks during the fighting sequences. Yes, in spite of her immensely limited acting skills, Jiah Khan does look more convincing in her role as compared to the actress who played this role in Tamil version. Yes, arr’s background score is relatively easy on ears. (I loved the alaap in the final scene, right after Sanjay kills Ghajini and basks in his 15-minute glory of the satisfaction from revenge.) Yes, the final scene when the second antara of  ‘Kaise Mujhe’ plays in the background (a beautiful melody by arr that pours like honey* see footnote), elevates it to a level that the Tamil version was never able to reach. And yes, Aamir’s acting is superb. Mostly. But not quite enough to make the cut.

The reason why I did not like Ghajini is threefold:

  1. I saw the Tamil “original” and did not like it mostly because of the way story was executed. The exaggerated expressions of the protagonist (along with the ear-deafening background score) and loop-holes in the script were real downers. But I saw a lot of potential in the content. When Aamir signed-up to do a remake, I was hoping that this man realized that potential, and will better the script. Keeping his perfectionist personality in mind, I was hoping he would do his due diligence in researching the anterograde amnesia syndrome and also help to better capture the precarious condition of Sanjay’s character. There were many opportunities that could have been easily reached. Murugadoss completely failed to explore or even capture the depths of Sanjay’s sentiments. Instead, he gave us a character that shrieked like an animal, who goes from a state of utter confusion and helplessness to bursting rage in rocket speed. Foaming at the mouth and all.
  2. There are probably many things that Bollywood can learn from Tamil cinema. But the exaggerated fight sequences (with necks bending at 180 degrees), few speedy-snappy zoom-in zoom-out camera shots followed by a slow-mo shot of the Hero walking towards the camera, utter disregard to characterizing of the antagonist (he merely exists so that the Hero can beat him up in the final scene), addressing every other man as “sir” (as Sunita does), referring to your boyfriend as a “lover” (as Kalpana does) are not one of them. 
  3. I am a big fan of the movie Memento (Christopher Nolan, in general). The greatness of Memento (ah, the sheer genious of the script and screenplay) and mediocrity of Ghajini is so wide and deep that it makes all the flaws of Ghajini even more perceptive. Granted, the additional layer of Lenny’s (Sanjay’s counterpart in Memento) motivation which is revealed in the end with a pull-the-rug-from-under-your-feet twist, and the chronological order of the screenplay put Memento in a totally different genre than that of Ghajini. But after all, Ghajini is inspired, quite heavily, by Memento – so a comparison is unavoidable.

Sanjay’s character is shown to be suffering from anterograde amnesia. We’re informed by the doctor that he lost all of his memory (except some fuzzy recollection of what happened during that unfortunate incident). First, this is inaccurate description of anterograde amnesia. The patient actually retains all of his memory before the incident and looses the ability to store any new memory after the incident. And second, this actually weakens the core subject of the movie – revenge. If Sanjay doesn’t remember anything else about his previous life (how he fell in love, his time spent with Kalpana, the awesome-ness of Kalpana’s character etc.), then I think the degree of Sanjay’s aggression and extreme desire for vengeance falls somewhat short of justification.

The emotional precariousness of Sanjay’s character is left unexplored, as I’ve mentioned earlier. Even in the movie Memento, with half running time than that of Ghajini, the lead character is given few dialogues that gives us an idea of his resolution (for wanting to take a revenge that he’s not going to remember after 15 minutes) and the pains of loosing one’s ability to sense/track time (his wound becomes “fresh” every 15 minutes):

  • “My wife deserves her vengeance. Doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are things I don’t remember doesn’t make my actions meaningless. The world doesn’t disappear when you close your eye, does it?”
  • “I lie here, not knowing how long I’ve been alone. So how can I heal? How am I supposed to heal if I can’t feel… time?”

Also, it was another failure of the director that the final fight sequence (although much better than the twin-dragon-in-girl’s-hostel fight sequence in the Tamil version) was not able to generate an adrenalin rush that a movie like Ghulam, for instance, was able to.

I am more disappointed by Aamir than anyone else though. First Fanaa and now Ghajini. I am not sure if I am going to retain my enthusiasm for the release of Aamir’s next movie now.

Previous movie reviews: Aamir, No Smoking, Satya. 

* Footnote: I still can’t help but notice every time I hear Benny Dayal (mis)pronounce Jheel as Jeel. The exact same word that he mispronounced in ‘Aawaz Hoon Main’ from Yuvvraaj! I guess there’s someone else (apart from Murugadoss) who doesn’t appreciate the value of second chance, huh!


10 responses to “The Second Chance (Ghajini movie review)

  1. A B

    I saw the movie and agree with you to quite an extent that the director failed to capture the mental state of Sanjay’s character. The type of memory loss they portrayed was indeed different from anterograde amnesia. I could easily see “Anterograde Amnesia” written on Sanjay’s file when the doctor opens it to show to Jian Khan during the initial reels. So, yes, there was a grave inconsistency in terms of that.

    However, as for Sanjay’s aggression and desire for vengeance, I think he did keep a diary where he had jotted down the memories of time spent with Kalpana. The same diary which the police inspector and Jian Khan stumbled upon. So I think that might have served him as reminders. But yes, why care for much logic in a masala film. 😉

  2. Vishal

    We can call it “The Curse of Perfectionism”! Because of Aamir’s reputation as a perfectionist, I was looking for logic in this rather mindless masala thriller. One might say that this is unfair (with Aamir) but I was actually disappointed with Hindi Ghajini more than the Tamil version. Because when I was watching Surya’s portrayal of Sanjay, I was “expecting” over-acting, I was anticipating exaggerated fight sequences. Although I did not like it much, it was something that didn’t disturb the preconceived notions in my mind.

    Unfair? Probably. But there’s a price that one has to pay for being a perfectionist, no? 🙂

  3. Great review! I have not seen the film, nor am I really in the mood to see it, since it’s been criticized by most – or all – of the people I trust in their judgment of Hindi cinema. Including you now! And I do agree on Aamir Khan living the “Curse of Perfectionism”. Sometimes, when we strive to achieve perfection, we fail simply because we don’t allow truth to happen. We are all not perfect and thinking otherwise is an act of hubris…

  4. Rizzi P.

    Nice review.But yeah as with every individual’s ups n downs this one is a down for Aamir(at a moderate level) in terms of performance.Curse Of Perfection??-You r right.Think Aamir and we expect nothing but the best,the works.Too much expectations I would say.But hey,the film’s doing good on the numbers’ front.What more would anyone want from a masala,commercial movie?I think the director didnt fully exploit the character’s role.Cuz anyways,Aamir was good at both ends-the business tycoon & the ravaging,raging protagonist.Loved the murder scene,which is truly touching.Aamir portrayed his helplessnes to save his love superbly.Almost had tears,but friends were with me 😉
    Action,as in any other South movie was exaggerated;so keeping in mind where the director is from,we can take it with a pinch o’ salt.Atleast there were no insane jumps,superman-shaming punches,bruce lee-wannabe fights.
    Asin is very photogenic.Not too bad for a Bollywood debutante.And Aamir looks the youngest of the three K’s.My opinion
    Hmmm….waiting for somethin good Aamir

  5. Vishal

    @ Rizzi, no doubt the movie is a blockbuster hit – can’t complain on the mass appeal front. But then again, Singh is King was superhit too, you know. We can’t measure the quality of the movie by looking at the inflow of cash.

  6. Natz

    Aamir’s my favorite actor. But Ghajini is probably his worst movie so far.

    Even with a story such as this one, I wonder why I was not touched. This was the first Aamir movie where I did not feel for the protagonist. Did not have any tears in my eyes. I have had tears for Aamir’s characters in Andaz Apna Apna and even Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin because I felt for the protagonist there. So when I watch an Aamir Khan movie without a tear, I know it did not touch my heart.

    Ghajini could have been so much better. Aamir could have done so much better. In my personal opinion, the film could have been more heart touching if Aamir had directed it himself. He would probably have done a lot more research before making a film on such a subject.

    • @natz: sorry i couldn’t help noticing.. you had tears for Aamir’s character in Andaz Apna Apna?? surely, that’s gotta be a mistake.. even a baby won’t cry watching that movie!!

      • Heh!

        May be Natz meant to write ‘Akele Hum Akele Tum’ instead of AAA. The climax scene in that movie – when Aamir defends his rights to his son’s custody – was such a heart melting performance.

  7. Vishal

    @ Natz, Amir Khan does have the reputation of being a “ghost director”… so I am not sure him being the actual director would have change much. His worst movie is undoubtedly Mela, Ghajini is far from his worst.

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