Overhyped, extremely loud and way, way overblown. To put it simply, that is Ghajini. Enough has been said about its basic inspiration and simplification from Memento and the fact that it’s a remake of the 2005 Tamil blockbuster of the same name starring Suriya. So how does this version stand on its own? Not very well, actually. The film is a major, major disappointment to say the least and a total assault on the senses.
The story and screenplay is full of huge loopholes and logical problems. It is essentially the story of a man (Aamir Khan) who can retain his memory for only 15 minutes as he tries to keep his mission in life alive, which is to find his girlfriend’s killer. We come to know Aamir Khan’s back story through characters (first the police officer and then Jiah Khan) reading his diaries. But when the makers cut to these portions, instead of seeing events unfold from his side, what we get is a narration which, in fact, is more from Asin’s perspective than his. This is a problem that has plagued our films for years and years. We cut to flashbacks from a certain character’s POV and then resort to neutral storytelling giving multiple perspectives so the audience gets the ‘full story’ and understands the film. Aamir’s character is supposed to be able to retain his memory for 15 minutes. But when all his work has been destroyed, Jiah Khan makes him read his diary to recall his life. Each diary is full of writing and would take him ages. He reads both, gets out of the hospital, traces out the goons, beats them to a pulp and reaches the main villain, Ghajini, before suddenly having his memory loss. 15 minutes anyone??? In fact, this short term memory phenomenon on which the film has based its premise is used causally and conveniently by the makers as and when they want to, rather than following the dictates of the story. Then, after all the hoo ha about Aamir being chased by cops claiming him to be a murderer, he is conveniently free not just through the film but even in the epilogue after having eliminated all the villains. Oh yeah, who remembers?! And let’s not even go into the logics of his depiction of a young contemporary CEO with his army of right hand men or him suddenly being a fighting machine post Kalpana’s death which is never hinted once in his earlier avatar.
The other problem in the script is the love story. This is the biggest addition to Memento with a back story of the romance between the girl the hero loved and lost. The love story takes up a sizeable portion of screen time and is neither well developed nor engaging enough to merit so much time being spent on it, even if does have the odd breezy moment. The three hours plus length of the film tend it to make it go on indefinitely and it needed a much tighter and shorter script to deal with what is little more than a revenge story with a somewhat interesting take.
Then there are the problems of integrating various elements into a cohesive film. For instance, we see that the Aamir character has messages, names and numbers tattooed on his body to help him remember but strangely he never refers to any of this throughout the film sticking instead to his notes, maps, labels and photographs. So was this just a style statement or what? And considering his diaries have the whole story, couldn’t Aamir repeatedly just brush up his memories from there?
But above all, the biggest flaw of Ghajini is that the makers are unable to take you into the hero’s mind. Suffering as he does from short term memory, this could have been a fascinating process but one suspects also too complicated for them to explore. Memento’s masterstroke was presenting the events backwards which helped one get right into Guy Pearce’s mindset and go along with him to with some flashes of memory and some cryptic clues as one tried to figure out what really happened layer by layer. The film then unfolded with a series of innovative and logical revelations, something totally missing in Ghajini. Ultimately, the film is nothing but a big-budget superficial, illogical, playing-to-the-gallery action drama.
Coming to the performances, a key problem is the central performance of Aamir Khan. Khan has played the role the role of the revenge-seeker too over the top and much of his face-making in this avatar looks absurd and even unintentionally funny as he plays it like a wild animal stalking its prey. As the shy tycoon finding love with the good Samaritan, Asin, he is efficient enough but looks far, far too old for the role. It is only in the moments that he is truly bewildered when his memory runs out and he has to express himself through his body language and eyes that he reaches the heights in his performance that he is normally known for.
Of the rest, Asin makes an average debut in Hindi cinema. Replaying her role from the Tamil film, she is well over the top in her bubbly and so-called endearing part of her role rendering her irritating more than anything else, which was not so in the Tamil version. She, however, has her moments in the more serious portions as when she is stuck in her apartment with the killers inside. She is also photographed quite inconsistently with her make-up clearly shoddy and unflattering in several sequences. Jiah Khan is an absolute disaster, having neither screen presence nor looks and possessing not even an iota of any acting ability whatsoever. But by far, the biggest problem in the histrionic department is the titular role of the villain essayed by Pradeep Rawat. Weak characterisation and an insipid performance make him out to be the weakest villain seen in recent times in a Hindi film and takes much away from the hero getting his revenge. in fact, he appears to be a cardboard villain that one saw in the films of the 1980s. The golden rule according to Hitchcock (rightly so) has always been ‘Better the villain, better the film’ and Ghajini fails dismally on this account.
Technically, everything is overdone like rest of the film. The film is overlong, overstylised (what were those to-show-my-bicep corporate shirts Aamir sports in the film???) and overproduced. AR Rahman’s music is a let down by his standards even if Ae Bachchu, Behka and Guzarish are decent enough compositions but let down by some very ordinary choreography and picturization. The sound design, in spite of the high level of sync recording and great quality of sound recording, is used terribly to create an unsubtle, LOUD and DEAFENING soundtrack, made even more unbearable by Rahman’s heavily overloaded background score. Is this the same ARR who is up for a Golden Globe for his fine work in Slumdog Millionaire?! The editing too is obviously flashy as is the cinematography. The action and violence is again over the top. In fact, every department is crying out to stand by itself at the cost of the overall narrative flow of the film.
All in all, a big letdown. Stick to Memento or even the Tamil version, which though sharing a lot of the similar problems of its Hindi counterpart (most of the latter is practically a frame to frame lift from the Tamil film), is given a solid lift by Suriya’s stunning and admittedly more subtle performance and a great musical score by Harris Jayraj.
Hindi, Action, Color