Amitabh Bachchan in and as Ajooba.
Amitabh Bachchan in and as Ajooba.

Before 102 Not Out, a millennial watches Ajooba. Verdict: Amitabh Bachchan’s Twitter is more fun

We watched Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor’s last film together from 27 years ago, Ajooba before 102 Not Out. Here’s what we thought.
Hindustan Times | By Soumya Srivastava, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 05, 2018 05:32 PM IST

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?

Ever seen a film so bad it was good? Well, sometimes that really works for a film and other times, you just lose a few brain cells in the exercise. Stepping into Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor’s 1991 movie Ajooba, I didn’t expect a lot. A believable story, graphics that didn’t make me laugh, clarity of intentions was all I asked but was handed a cheap, excruciatingly long episode of Alif Laila. That one television show from our childhood that no one wants a reboot of.

From Arabian Night’s flying carpet, to Arthurian legend’s magical swords jammed in the ground, to Warner Bros Iron Giant, it employs everything to fill the 3-hour run time. You may judge millennials as the sensitive snowflakes who believe the world owes them the best of everything, but this big ol’ pile of mess wouldn’t see the light of day if it was made today.

Ajooba is an uncomfortably ambitious attempt at telling a fantastical story about a masked vigilante and his fight against the oppressive, devil-worshipping ruler of a kingdom. In this live-action version of Lion King, a scheming wazir attempts to murder a benevolent king, his wife and their young prince. Because the film’s cinematographer, I assume, took his camera to beach on a family picnic and got a really cool shot of a dolphin, the plot shows that the prince is found by a dolphin and delivered to a common man. Of course, the same ‘really cool’ shot is played every time the dolphin mommy makes an appearance.

The prince grows up watching his countrymen suffer at the hands of the evil king, get taxed heavily and get flogged in the street but we are shown none of that. We are simply shoved in the direction of a tall, masked Amitabh in his very first scene and told there you go, he will save y’all. The hero is great, brave man in the first scene and a great, brave man in the very last. His character changes no more than Dimple Kapadia’s hair and make up after taking a tumble down a cliff, through the entire length of the film. He merely learns that he is a prince, which, of course, is the last scene of the film so we do not know if that changed him at all either.

Then there is the comedian sidekick, played by Rishi, who when not dreaming about getting laid, is dreaming about getting his friend laid. Dimple, the Lois Lane to our Superman, is an independent, fierce woman who travels through countries on her own, which frankly is a lot more unbelievable than magic carpets as a mode of transport. She threatens horrible men with dire consequences should they touch her but still needs rescuing four times by the hero: from runaway horses, from slave traders, from horny princes and from guard tigers. Sure they had the good intention of showing her as the free-spirited strong woman of the new world in the words that she was made to speak but not in the actions she was made to enact.

Even with three paragraphs of scorn, I have still not scrapped the mucky, crusty bottom of the barrel. Someone had the idea to give the hero more depth by showing him longing for a mother’s love. He cries in the arms of an elderly, clearly Russian woman pathetically trying to mime Hindi words while his adoptive dolphin mother leaps behind them in the sea. This is Ajooba’s idea of trying to add dimension to the film with sensitive scenes.

The film also thought introducing a rusty, 60 feet tall iron giant was a great idea for a climax. It could not walk straight for a metre, hilariously rocking from side to side and I am supposed to feel scared of this loser? I don’t think so.

For those who appreciate to see the glass as half full, maybe this will be your new Gunda. Gather up your friends, get some pizza, put this on and laugh away for 20 minutes before it gets tiring and excessive. For others, I suggest you steer clear.

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