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A millennial watches Golmaal before Golmaal Again: Don’t take its name in vain

Before Ajay Devgn and company return for the fourth time with another Golmaal film, a millennial watches the original film to see if it holds up.

bollywood Updated: Oct 19, 2017 11:44 IST
Soumya Srivastava
Soumya Srivastava
Hindustan Times
Golmaal,Golmaal Again,Golmaal 1979
Amol Palekar shines as an unlucky genius in Golmaal.

How well do films age? In this series, we will be taking superhits, blockbusters and cult classics and putting them through a trial by millennial. Could a 90s action drama or a 60s musical still feel fresh to a Netflix-binging, avocado eating, Starbucks sipping 20-something?

Short clothes, gelled up hair and a bleak sense of identity are perhaps things you would except from a film released a year or two ago but what I have described here is one from the ‘70s.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal, with its characters lying through their teeth, a comedy of confusion and a joyful end, turned out to be the most random and impressive find I have had on YouTube recently.

Of course, landing upon it wasn’t really random. This exercise was conducted in the sarcastic ‘honour’ of Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal which has birthed yet another offspring in an already over-populated franchise. I cherish life enough to not put myself through the first in the series, hence decided on its namesake from decades ago.

I was told it is not only tolerable but one of the better comedies made. However, what few older Bollywood comedy films I have chanced on, nothing really managed to make a dent. But to know it was from the same director who made Chupke Chupke, I didn’t dismiss the idea entirely.

And so I felt it again, that indescribable feeling when you do not expect anything from a film, a book, a song and it leaves you in awe of it. To not expect anything and receive so much in return makes one feel if luck really shined bright that day.

Golmaal was mature even as a comedy, a trait rarer than unicorns in films made today. It was intelligent even at the bridges and not lazy with how the story was planned. Almost every scene, every action and reaction had a purpose to the story, even a cameo from Amitabh Bachchan.

A man wants a job and tells a small lie to land it. The lie, however, snowballs incredibly over the course of the film but the job is too good to let go and so he puts up with it even after it’s become a mountain that could crumble any moment.

Through references to Elizabethan literature and modern sports, the films also establishes that no one here lives in a bubble, untouched by the real, like it usually feels in most similar Hindi films. To have those references, built a familiarity to the world the characters lived in and in my case, watching it decades later, to the time they lived in. I could now place it somewhere on a timeline rather than just let it float anywhere as it’s no more than a piece of fiction. It wasn’t just a story conjured in someone’s mind. But a story that was influenced by what the storyteller saw and read around him in the 70s.

Golmaal, as a comedy of errors, looked and felt so heavily inspired by Shakespeare’s own comedies. Finding laughter in confusion and fooling people by changing identities to ultimately have their way, was clearly an ode to As You Like It. To have Shakespeare as your source of inspiration and doing it well, showed in the careful and non-chaotic direction and how the story progressed even as you watched the characters in the film struggle through the confusion. Just how it should be done.

The confusion should not make the one watching the film scratch his head, but only the characters. The closest a recent film has come to it would be Hera Pheri, which isn’t really ‘close’ if you think about it.

Amol Palekar, whom I had never experienced as an actor, already gave me one of my most loved Hindi film ever, Paheli. While he was not met with a positive reception for the film upon its release, it was and remains, one of better, beautiful films that carried a heart in its core like very few can. In Golmaal, he is a genius skimming through life with ease until he meets a suspicious but rather gullible Uttpal Dutt as his boss. His smooth words and the chameleon-like ability to change personalities charm the boss like a flute would a snake but only until the snake hasn’t had the opportunity to think for himself. Be it as a Ram Prasad, wearing uncomfortably short kurtas or as Lakshman Prasad, in his bright red shirts, Palekar was a treat to watch and listen to.

The one thing that kept the film from becoming perfect was the rushed ending which was literally nothing more than rounding up every character and asking the boss to ‘chill’. So what if his daughter married without his permission, his rage, which landed him in trouble with the police a few hours ago, subsides only because everyone tells him to chill?

This ending, which was almost the same and worked with Chupke Chupke, fails to justify why everyone was dancing around to keep the secret from Dutt’s character when it was really so easy to turn his mind around. However, it was only the last few minutes of the film and maybe he was just impressed he got to marry his daughter to a good CA and a great singer all-in-one. I’ll let it slide.

What I wouldn’t let slide is Golmaal Again. Stop it now. It’s enough. There is no pride in making the first fourth film in a franchise in Hindi films when you are really just putting people in Ku Klux Khan costumes in the name of comedy.

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The author tweets @soumya1405

First Published: Oct 19, 2017 11:07 IST