Om Shanti Om and Saawariya premiered the same time as the offerings for the Deepavali holiday, and to see how Hollywood money had influenced a Hindi production, I opted for the latter first. In its opening weekend in the UK, Om Shanti Om had trounced Tom Cruise's Lions for Lambs, so OSO went straight to my must-watch list this week. Moreover, while I have watched movies starring Bollywood King Shah Rukh Khan, I have yet to see him in action on the big screen, so this provided the best opportunity to do so.
And he's not called The King for nothing. Here, his roles of Om Prakash Makhija the junior actor in the studio system, and Om Kapoor the superstar, allowed for plenty of room to put his acting chops to good use. For his stature, watching him play a lowly rated actor with big dreams was a hoot, especially when teaming with good friend Pappu (Shreyas Talpade) in sharing those dreams of stardom, and hamming it up for the camera. In a tale of two halves, the first is set in the 70s in a major movie studio where Om Makhija works, and Fate has it that he will become romantically tangled with the hottest starlet of the era, actress Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone in her debut, going head to head with Sonam Kapoor's debut too in Saawariya). But of course the star crossed lovers (aren't they always) are dished a cruel hand, and the movie lunges into the second half, which I should avoid specifics, suffice to say that Shah Rukh's new character Om Kapoor (nicknamed OK), is now a bastard of a superstar, full of arrogance and standing for everything that Om Makhija isn't.
Naturally there is a running theme connecting both portions together, along the lines of the circle of life, karma, retribution and reincarnation. Having two characters essentially allowed the audience a fun time in comparing and contrasting which Om one would prefer, offering a glimpse of what Om Makhija could possibly become if success went to his head. What I always liked about Bollywood, is its run time allowed for plenty of songs, dance (which of course are the enjoyable bits with the colourful sets and costumes all put to good use), and while certain plot development might be cliche, it does take its time to properly develop the characters, or the leads at least. Om Shanti Om is no different, though there were some overly melodramatic moments, sometimes tongue-in-cheekily offered courtesy by actress Kirron Kher as Bela Makhija, Om's junior actress mother.
The song and dance again take centerstage, and they were nicely composed for specific purposes in the narrative, one of many reasons why I admire Bollywood. Om Makhija's fantasy sequences with many beautiful costume changes during his scenes of courtship is memorable, but even audacious was Om Kapoor's superstar-like performance with entourage of scantily clad blondes (yes, you read that right) in Dard-E-Disco, where you'll get jealous watching Shah Rukh's well toned abs, and remind yourself to hit the gym more diligently.
But what made Om Shanti Om truly enjoyable and stand out, is its almost self-deprecating jokes that it cracks on the industry, the movie it makes and the studio system, but then, it's really a celebration of their cinema and how far they have come. For those well versed with Bollywood, there are tons of references and inside jokes that you can't help but to chuckle at, including very well known stars all being very sporty about their cameo roles (hats off to Abishek Bachchan, hahaha!). There were the obvious self-indulgent moments like the post-awards ceremony party, where you'll realize why the opening credits had a huge Thank You list to the Who's Who in Bollywood - having appearances by the stars in one 10 minute segment, is a real treat and a good introduction to rookies like me, who become interested in trying to figure out who they are, besides the recognizable few from movies I've watched before. Performing to Deewangi Deewangi, I thought the other scene that was equally fun, was the Filmfare Awards Ceremony, which was almost laugh-a-minute. Thinking about it while writing this still brings back the laughs!
As usual, you'd come to expect some moments of familiarity in the movie, and I don't deny that the storyline does seem deja-vu, but again what makes it a delight, is primarily Shah Rukh's magnetism. Director-writer Farah Khan managed to string together comedic moments and balance them with a tender love story that I thought was pretty sad, given its unconventional (but not unpredictable) treatment. Sometimes Bollywood movies are guilty of having set pieces which resemble Hollywood, just like Krrish had a set which looked straight out of John Woo's Paycheck, and here, adopting the special effects sequence for Confession of Pain is hard to deny. But what I thought was a full circle, was the finale song-dance sequence which had the proceedings mimicking screen life, just as how Moulin Rouge had theirs resemble the doomed love affair between Christian and Satine, which in itself had heavy Hindi influences during its own musical sequence.
Om Shanti Om has everything - romance, drama, mystery and the supernatural all rolled into one, and if I had just one word to describe it, it will be "Remarkable". Do yourself a favor, and watch it! While I don't usually include (pirated) clips from the movie itself, I thought I had to include this particular favourite. If this doesn't put your bum in a seat watching Om Shanti Om, I don't know what will! Feel the energy, feel the groove! If you need someone to accompany you just because you are interested and not want to go alone, hey gimme a buzz!