Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shah Rukh Khan Is on Nostalgia Trip in Reincarnation Film 'Om'

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The unlikely figure drawing together the two big Bollywood releases this Diwali is Rishi Kapoor, who played the romantic lead with a certain cherubic sparkle in the 1970s and part of the decade that followed.

``Om Shanti Om,'' which stars Shah Rukh Khan, bases its plot on ``Karz,'' the 1980 hit that starred Kapoor and Tina Munim, later Mrs. Anil Ambani. As with ``Karz,'' revenge and reincarnation are the themes of Farah Khan's second directorial venture after her successful 2004 debut with ``Main Hoon Na.''

The film starts 30 years ago with Om (Shah Rukh Khan) as a movie extra dreaming of becoming a star and besotted with top actress Shantipriya (model Deepika Padukone, making her Bollywood debut). Om gets close to Shanti after rescuing her from a fire, but she has a secret, one that will lead to both their deaths. Thirty years on, Om reborn is a big film star when Shanti comes back into his life.

As with Farah Khan's first film, ``Om'' is, more than anything else, a tribute to Bollywood, with citations and signposts to the 1970s strewn about in the form of the comic send-up. So you have Om and his pal Pappu (Shreyas Talpade) kitted out in flares, checked jackets with lapels you could land a plane on and large sideburns doing imitations of Rajesh Khanna.

``Om Shanti Om,'' an invocation to peace and a reference to the film's characters, is also the title of a song from the original. The sequence is inserted at the beginning, complete with fake cutaways of ``Karz'' director Subhash Ghai, looking unwittingly camp.

No Subtlety

Farah Khan doesn't have any time for subtlety and it shows in an energetic style of filmmaking that borders on the manic. It helps that she has the one film star who does manic to perfection -- Shah Rukh Khan. After an admirably restrained performance in ``Chak De'' earlier this year, Khan is back to what he does best -- pulling out all the stops to the extent of self-parody. His over-the-top portrayal is pretty much the only thing that keeps ``Om'' a going concern.

Still, the ensemble around him does hold its own. Padukone makes a strong showing with her portrayal of Shanti and is clearly a star in the making. Arjun Rampal is, for once, well cast as the villain and brings a nice menace to the proceedings.

``Om Shanti Om'' tries to seduce you with its too-obvious references and by pandering to all that's base in Bollywood. This isn't a delicately made homage, it's full-on, fierce and passionate -- not meant for the uninitiated or the faint of heart.


Sanjay Leela Bhansali's ``Saawariya (Beloved)'' could have been a cinematic counterpoint to ``Om.'' It starts promisingly, looking sumptuous in saturated blues and greens with the highlights picked out in neon. Cameraman Ravi K. Chandran, take a bow for a gorgeous film shot on an indoor set.

Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story ``White Nights,'' which is the inspiration for the film, is the kind of tale that would appeal to Bhansali, who brings an overwrought but poetic sensibility to most of his films. When it works, it's riveting, and when it doesn't, it's unwatchable.

``Saawariya'' alternates between these two states. The setting is supposed to be a red-light district and the opening exchanges between the lover boy Raj and the prostitutes are absorbing. That's as good as it gets. Soon our hero spots the heroine sheltering under an umbrella on a bridge (yes, there are gondolas too) and falls in love. Ah, but does she love him in return?

Rishi Kapoor's son Ranbir makes his debut as the young lover, while the female lead is played by Sonam Kapoor, also a debutant and the daughter of a Bollywood star, Anil Kapoor in this case. Rani Mukherji has a substantial role as narrator and one of the prostitutes as does nonagenarian Zohra Sehgal as the lover boy's landlady. However, it's Salman Khan, grizzled and taciturn, who steals the film and much else besides in an all-too-brief part.

Awkward Newcomers

Bhansali seems to have focused too much on the ``look'' of the film and fumbled by getting newcomers to play difficult roles. Ranbir Kapoor is awkward, and not in an endearing way. Sonam Kapoor does better with what she's given but this week's best new artist is definitely Deepika Padukone.

``Saawariya,'' the first Indian film made by a Hollywood studio, should have been a more auspicious beginning for the Columbia Pictures lady with the torch who appears at the start of the film. Maybe Bhansali was just trying too hard.

(``Om Shanti Om,'' produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, was released in India on Nov. 9. ``Saawariya,'' produced by SPE Films India Pvt. and SLB Films, was released in India on Nov. 9.)

(Nabeel Mohideen is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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Recent Comments

    Tarun said...
    its a bautifull film. i like its song, and i like king khan. i am his bigest friend. he is cool film
    October 07, 2007 8:14 PM

    Anonymous said...
    All Myself and My Family were staying at the same hotel in Dubai as Sharukh and his family, he was also there with Chunky Pandey. We sat next to these guys at the swimming pool. Was quite dissapointed they didn't speak to us or look at us We saw them quite alot.
    September 27, 2007 8:40 AM

    Nili said...
    Om Shanti Om the biggest Movie of the year 2007.
    Shahrukh u are the king.
    August 27, 2007 9:14 AM

    Shan said...
    SRK You Rocks Forever
    August 27, 2007 9:12 AM

    Anonymous said...
    Cool Trailer............
    August 26, 2007 10:16 AM



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