“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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
* 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!