From the very first introduction, where we meet Om as an extra in the crowd dreaming away that he was Monty (Rishi Kapoor) singing Om Shanti Om in the 70's classic Karz, Om becomes the character you will relate to for the next 3 hours or 30 years whichever way you see it. As soon as I saw this impressive introduction, I though, boy they're in trouble if they don't keep this level of comedy up, fortunately they did. In fact they surpassed it. What follows is on one hand a mockery of the star system that film industries have, yet on the other hand it's such a laugh-a-thon it seems strange that nobody has taken it to this extent before.
The whole first half is pretty much a total golden comedy. You are gripped by the witty dialogue to such an extent that the subtle underlying seeds that buildup to the events that will reflect in the latter half are seeded without your noticing. The award ceremony on the street is a good example of this. The attempt at a south-indian film will be loved by all, kids will be sure to pickup lines from this film "Mind it. Raaskalo" and "Atti Katti Patti" are sure to be heard in the streets for the following weeks for sure.
As the interval point comes so fast, you are given a jolting shock, even if you knew the story as most of the crowd did, the way it is executed raises a chill down your spine. The latter half doesn't waste time. There is no re-introducing Om Kapoor in depth. It just gets on with it, if I was seeking a flaw this would be it. The entire re-incarnation track is somewhat secondary. I'll comment very little on it as that's the more predictable part of the film. This could have done with some more detail, but if I'm honest I don't think this was their highest priority when they set out to make this.
What comes as a pleasant surprise is what they have focussed on - The film industry. The level of effort put into incorporating the industry as a whole is perfect. I'm not even talking about the 31 track song that's had so much hype around it. I'm talking about the details: how surnames matter if you're out there trying to become a star, a Kapoor or a Khan is more likely to make it, the award ceremonies and their own politics, the trade-marked gestures that can make a star, the way one actor can try to take over the story and direction of an entire film, the way some conniving producers make their profits, the way a married star loses market value, the way ideas are stolen, the way one actor can be nominated for multiple awards for what seems like almost the very same film, it's all in there. The whole film is taking real examples of things we've seen & known about the film industry and making it an enjoyable experience.
So you may be thinking, it's all about the in-jokes and what's it like for an outsider? Someone who knows little to nothing of the Bollywood industry?
Well, I'd say it still holds up as a terrific comedy entertainer, you don't need to know each actor who happens to be playing themselves in the film to know their role. It's made pretty obvious who is playing who in the film, which is what matters.
Ajab Si begins the story as 'boy meets girl'. It seems to have been cut short and blends soon into Dhoom Taana which progresses the story of the superstar and the extra working together, so close yet so far. What is fantastic about this whole montage is the usage of original 70's footage blended in with the actors. The visual effects deserve special mention here for being so utterly convincing. Seeing young 70's stars in their prime, interacting with a starlet from today is a visual treat. It's sure to start a trend for sure. Naturally they've incorporated dream sequences where the hero is replaced by Om such that the on-screen pair get to bust a groove together in nostalgic 70's fashion.
Main Agar Kahoon progresses the relationship that has now developed between Om and Shanti, It shows you around the sets, while showing you how much he loves her, through the efforts he puts into this date & the poetry surrounding it. All the above said songs have a sound that is in synch with the theme and they're certainly a treat. When Om learns that his love is one-sided his world falls apart with Jag Soona Soona Laage. It's a required song that fits the mood but probably is seen as the weakest on the soundtrack if one had to be picked, bringing us nicely to the intermission point.
Since they're spoofing the film industry throughout the film, Dard-e-Disco mimics the item number variety of song, there's no real need for it as far as plot is concerned, but it's there & will be the one the girls will take home with them. This type of song is usually a glamour quotient picturised on some stunning woman. Here they've turned it around and made SRK the centre piece. Showing off his new found six-pack abs, it's the chartbuster song that has had all the media hype around it.
The post Filmfare award ceremony song 'Deewanagi' boasting of 31 movie stars in one song and reminiscing the 'John Jani Janardan' track from the timeless classic 'Naseeb', is the one that stands as seeming too long. After the first few wow's and whistles from the crowd, the novelty does fizz away a little. Though it's a spectacular song, arguably the best on the whole soundtrack, it could have been more of an impact if shortened. If I recall correctly, even in the song from Naseeb, they chose to have this star-studded entrance to begin and swiftly moved onto the principal character of the waiter (played by Big B), something of this sort could have worked better, but then this would have been in line with the post-award party theme. The song will still be a sure crowd pleaser none-the-less, by this stage in the film, after much melancholy, a thumping cheerful song is just what was needed to rejuvinate the crowd's spirits before reacquainting themselves with the villain..
The final pre-climax song Dastan-e-Om-Shanti is my personal favourite, in essence it replays the whole story for the one man that hadn't seen the larger picture. If you listen to the song, in essence it covers the entire film. In the screenplay it's been nicely integrated with the making of a film called 'Om Shanti Om' thus allowing the viewer to relive the issues in a short pungent five minute track, visually as well as the sound of this song is very theatrical, it oozes grandeur and importance.
Deepika Padukole looks stunning and seems extremely confident with herself. She does a great job for a first-timer, you really wouldn't think it's her first film. That said, the scope of her character doesn't allow her any extreme strain, so we'll keep an eye out for her future films before beginning to have any huge expectations from her.
Arjun Rampal as the vilain of the film, is a complete surprise. This guy has totally turned around his playboy image into quite something else. If I'm honest I had my concerns about how his character would play out after a 30 year gap, but the actor and the make-up guys deserve a pat on the back there, they nailed it. It would have been a little disturbing seeing an old frail man, who looks as though he's on his deathbed, getting a can of whoop-ass. Could have been funny though :)
Shreyas Talpade is probably the one sensible character in the whole film, in both halves he leaves an impact, which is quite something bearing in mind he's a 'junior artist' sharing space with the biggest star of this era. Kirron Kher as the melodramatic mother couldn't have been any more melodramatic.
Shah Rukh Khan -- It's fair to say that the film totally belongs to him. (After all he is the producer ..lol). He returns to the popcorn flick genre with a bang. Whether it be the simpleton Om Prakash of the 70's or arrogant Om Kapoor of today, this man makes it look easy. Comparing it to Chak De! would just be inappropriate due to the huge difference in style, but it has to be said seeing him manage both sides of the scale in a span of months is a simply a reminder to all that he has earnt his stature & he's here to stay.
I could break this film into 2 parts, one part is about the film industry of India, the other about re-incarnation. What comes through as stronger of the two is the highest budget spoofing of the industry that I've ever seen. To say nothing of this magnitude has been done before would be an under statement. The re-incarnation track though functional seemed to be more a tool to make the film about the industry span into the current years. To be honest I was slightly disappointed by this as I've yet to find a film on re-incarnation that I feel justifies me giving it full marks. I was hoping that would be this one. What they've done here is give me something else entirely. That said, I can't complain for what we are served is in itself quite an impressive package.
Though not the film I was expecting, it still holds as the "MUST SEE" Bollywood film of the year.