Director: Vipul Shah
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
First half of Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, a lovably nostalgic take on ‘70s Bollywood, I suspect, also inspired the first chapter of several films planned after that movie’s release.
Om Shanti Om was part-cinema, part-spoof, enjoyed by all, and the Diwali blockbuster of 2007. Two to three years is roughly how long it should take for an inspiration to be green-lit and turned into full-on, big-budget film. Hence, Action Replay (this one), Golmaal 3 (the movie at the theatre next to it), some you’ve just seen (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai), and are likely to watch soon (Yamla Pagla Deewana etc). You’re certifiably old when your own entertainment is considered retro for its time.
This one isn’t intended for those who grew up in the ‘70s. It’s for those who can imagine the decade from its films and fashion alone -- the kind of nostalgia that demands no realism; is perfect for charming, escapist, candyfloss entertainment. This film bears all of it, but in merely small, scattered parts.
The movie claims to be adapted from a Gujarati play of the same name. I’m not sure if the said play had the Hollywood movie Back To The Future for its premise. This picture certainly does.
A young boy (Aditya Roy Kapoor, almost the picture’s hero: an unusually chunky role for a newcomer boy in a blockbuster) travels back in time, on a time machine, to save his parent’s failed marriage. His dad and mom can’t stand each other. He believes hooking them up better at young age should ensure them a healthier married life later.
The kid walks into a city where Julie is the cinema of the weekend at Capitol, the little theatre opposite Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus (which wasn’t Chhatrapati Shivaji yet, when Bombay wasn’t Mumbai either). There are fewer cars on wide roads, houses are huge, love marriages a taboo, and men and women parade in fashion, of well, the ‘70s (longish hair, nylon shirts, polka dots…).
The boy’s young, under-confident dad (Akshay Kumar) certainly needs help. He’s buck-teethed like Bugs Bunny, kitchen is the place he feels most at home. The son-to-be becomes the dating instructor (Andy Tennant's Hitch), pumps Kitchen Kumar with attitude, cool quotient, updates his fashion sense, even turns his Suryaprakash Bhojnalay into a Bollywood café (a word of the ‘90s).
Aishwarya Rai plays the girl next door. She is the object of desire. There’s another admirer (Ranvijay) to contend with. The dating guru pits the two suitors against each other in a music medley contest, inspired from the blockbuster of the ‘70s, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.
As the songs play out, you figure why this movie hasn’t worked as much so far. Scenes may well be dull and weak in parts. And they are. But for a musical, the soundtrack – a number lifted up from Bombay Rockers (Teri Toh), another one from Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock... – is pure third rate.
Kumar, the hardest working Indian film star (averaging four films a year) remains the only thing to look out for then. This is his career's best performance. But then again, that may not be saying much, given Mr Kumar’s chosen career so far.