There is much to love about Bollywood movies, including those that bare a striking resemblance to Hollywood movies. There have been Bollywood takes on many popular movies, from The Matrix to The Terminator. One of my particular favorites has got to be Bollywood's 'Ghajini', the retelling of Memento, Christopher Nolan's psychological thriller from 2000.
When I first saw Ghajini, I did not have the best impression of Bollywood movies. It was this movie that made me realize Bollywood can be so awesome. It made me understand that to enjoy Bollywood movies, I had to watch them in a different way to Western movies. If you see them through a Bollywood lens (TM pending) they can be fantastic.
There are many ways in which Memento and Ghajini are the same movie, but they also have their differences. As a huge fan of both movies, I thought I'd share what makes them great. So, without further ado...
Ways Memento and Ghajini are the same
Ghajini follows the core concept of Memento. Both films feature a man with short-term memory loss using photographs and tattoos to search for the killer of their loved one. Ghajini is over three hours long (you better buy extra popcorn) and Memento is a vastly complex film, so this is a very condensed version.
Aamir Khan as Sanjay in Ghajini and Guy Pearce as Leonard in Memento both give excellent performances, but in two completely different ways. Pearce does not get to dance and do rom-com and Khan does not get to do the more serious acting of Memento’s style. They are both great in their own right and differences are a good thing. They also both look good half-naked and tattooed up, so that is a bonus.
Ways Memento and Ghajini are very, very different
One description for Ghajini reads ‘Indian romantic psychological thriller film’. I would add ‘comedy’, ‘action’ and ‘musical’ to that description and there is probably more besides. This is the main reason I think Ghajini is well worth a watch. The fact that it has comedy, music, dancing and romance in a movie based on something as serious as Memento is to my mind just fantastic. It is a bit crazy, but it is that craziness that I like and despite all logic (and who needs logic all the time?) it totally works. Go with the flow of what a Bollywood movie is and you can enjoy it. Suspend that disbelief, people.
Aamir Khan is in serious ass kicking mode in this film and man, is he ripped. The sort of ripped that makes me want to go to the gym right now and then makes me feel guilty because I absolutely know I am not going to the gym today.
See what I mean? He is also pretty bloody scary in this movie and I definitely would not want him chasing after me. What makes me love Khan in this movie is that he also plays the romantic comedy sections (yes, there is romantic comedy inside the action and thrills) so well. He is genuinely likeable as a CEO falling in love, which shows his versatility as an actor.
Another reason to love this movie is the performance of Asin as Kalpana. She is charming, funny, effervescent and Bollywood beautiful.
For me, she actually makes the movie. She is so lovable that you actually forget about that fight scene you saw five minutes ago. Asin brings heart to a dark movie.
I found it very interesting how much of a boost in screen time Asin had in Ghajini over Jorja Fox in Memento.
Asin is virtually given half the movie and this chance to shine is fully taken. This is not to pit one performance against another, but it is nice to see a female character given a lot of room to flex their acting muscle.
The song and dance routines in this movie are also really good and I love Bollywood dance routines. Now, I do understand why people might think it incompatible to have dance routines in a psychological thriller. My answer is that this is how Bollywood makes movies. It is like asking why Greek theatre uses masks. It is just how they do it.
Also, do not underestimate how much work goes into the dance routines and putting these sections together. In the very first song, the scenes shift from a glamourous movie premiere to a fashion show to gangsters in purple suits and then finishes with a marching band, nuns, school children and Asin playing air guitar with a shovel on top of a car. Seriously, what is there not to love about that?
The comedy love story is actually really well done. It is almost a movie within a movie. Again, I understand why people might think it is incongruous to have comedy/romance in a psychological thriller, but this is where I think it works in a way that you would not get anywhere else but a Bollywood movie. It actually adds to the movie. The love story is so well done that it is the heart of Ghajini and the bigger the heart, the more it hurts when it gets broken.
The change of tone from funny and playful to dark and sinister is palpably uncomfortable. I wanted to shout at the screen for it (I won’t tell you what the ‘it’ is) not to happen and it is real edge of your seat stuff and certainly gets you in your feels.
If, like me, you enjoy slightly over the top and brutal fight scenes, then boy are you in luck with this movie. I did a rough calculation and about twenty-five minutes of this movie is people getting punched in the face. Or kicked in the face. Or having their face smooshed into a wall. Basically, faces fare not well.
The last twenty minutes is a full on rampage of retribution. Sanjay punches one guy so hard his head turns 180 degrees around. Frankly, I cheered. Then I cheered some more for every bad guy he laid some smack down upon.
Ghajini is a slickly shot, well made film with great acting and a wonderful script. It is a visual feast for the senses with so much colour in places you might need sunglasses.
If you have seen it, or you give it a go, please let me know what you think.