Saturday, March 23, 2013

100 Crore Club Member Badge No. 4: Golmaal 3

How can there be any bad music? All music is from heaven. If there is anything bad in it, I put it there - by my implications and my limitations. Nature builds the mountains and man puts in the fences and labels.

- Charles Ives (1874-1954), American composer

They keep speaking about Kurosawa. But what about our directors, like Naseer Hussain and Ramesh Sippy? I’m sure they haven’t even heard of director Brij Sadanah, who has made a brilliant film Victoria No. 203. What about Manmohan Desai, Ramesh Sippy and Prakash Mehra? We have so many great directors. Just because some people have read too many books and watched too much cinema, they think they are superior. I’m sure even my driver has watched a lot of films but that doesn’t make him a critic.

- Rohit Shetty, Indian director

Golmaal 3 (2010)

For the intro to the 100 Crore Club series click here. Then see Member Badge No. 1, Member Badge No. 2, and Member Badge No.3.]

One of the many irritating side effects of the rise of the “multiplex film” in Hindi cinema is that it has encouraged critics and entertainment journalists to put everything that is not a “multiplex film” into one giant category - the Timepass, One Time Watch, Leave Your Brain at Home, Only For Dummies category. Films in this category are often tagged with another term: Bad.

A single pratfall is enough to set off a thousand keyboards in Pavlovian response, furious typing out condescending reviews.* How dare anybody find this funny?! But in reality the Only For Dummies category flattens out a wide variety of films of widely varying quality and the audience knows this. It’s why Ajay Devgn-Sanjay Dutt starrer Rascals was firmly rejected; why Arshad Warsi-Ritesh Deshmukh starrer Double Dhamaal did only okay; and why Golmaal 3 was a genuine word-of-mouth 100 Crore Club smash. All three are the same Only For Dummies genre and were reviewed equally poorly but Golmaal 3 had something special. Magical, even. And audiences responded.

Golmaal 3 is - as the title implies - the third film in the Golmaal series. The breezy, light-hearted adult comedy of Golmaal: Fun Unlimited (2006) was a surprise hit for director Rohit Shetty. So, he made a sequel of sorts in Golmaal Returns (2008), which kept most of the same cast (Laxman I, Sharman Joshi, declined to return, so Shreyas Talepade was swapped in as Laxman II), added a strong female lead with Kareena Kapoor, and ramped up the comedy. Golmaal 3 adds yet another Laxman (Kunal Khemmu) along with a set of parental figures and, smartly, drops the adult comedy in favor of some old-fashioned masala dil. The films aren’t related narratively but stylistically - each Golmaal linked only by the actors and the style of comedy.

Set in cotton candy-colored Goa, Golmaal 3 is the story of brothers Gopal (Ajay Devgn) and Laxman II (Shreyas Talpade) and their mother Geeta (Ratna Pathak) and brothers Madhav (Arshad Warsi), Lucky (Tusshar Kapoor), and Laxman III (Kunal Khemu) and their father Pritam (Mithun Chakraborty). And Daboo (Kareena Kapoor). And Facebook the dog.

Gopal, Laxman II, and Daboo really don’t like Madhav, Lucky, and Laxman III and vice versa. And the two rival gangs get into a lot of (hilarious) trouble trying to one-up each other. This doesn’t change at all when Daboo finds out Pritam and Geeta are old sweethearts and decides to get them together, leading to more (hilarious) trouble. Meanwhile, assorted creditors and gangsters are trying to extract money and secretly hidden gems from the (not so) happy joint family. All of this culminates in a giant Rohit Shetty-trademark car stunt action sequence-cum-Johnny Lever comedy meltdown before finally settling into a happy ending.

For a film dismissed almost universally by critics** as Only For Dummies, there is actually quite a lot to discuss, from the brilliant editing to the visual feast of colors to the many, many laugh lines. But I want to start with what makes Golmaal 3 feel so refreshing and - dare I say it - subversive.

Recently, especially in the wake of the Delhi gang rape case, there has been a lot of discussion going around about “women’s roles” in films and how item songs are bad and cause rape but flab is also bad and bikini bodies are good and drinking alcohol and wearing mini-skirts is liberating! See, if Daboo was here, she would have punched me in the face before I could have finished typing that sentence. Daboo isn’t a “women’s role,” she’s just part of the gang. She starts the film in a polo shirt and khaki shorts and ends it... in a polo shirt and khaki shorts. There’s no romance, no awkwardness with the boys because she’s female, no moment of revelation where she swans down a staircase wearing a gown (though I’m sure Bebo would have enjoyed that), and nobody telling her she can’t do this or that. Daboo is just Daboo. A person. She’s smart, kind, caring, and just as hilarious as any of the boys.

One scene in particular that exemplifies all of this comes as the two sets of brothers finally come to an understanding of sorts and mush together in a big group hug. Daboo, who is standing to the side, asks if she can join in, too. A space is made for her and Daboo squishes in and wraps her arms around the two men beside her. There’s no sexual overtones or undertones or anything. Just a group of friends who care about each other. And as the camera catches their hug from underneath we hear Daboo say, “Don’t we look like the Indian cricket team?”

Daboo strikes a radical blow for equality and I hope that her easy comradeship with her friends and her confidence in her abilities left an impression on the little girls and boys watching with their families. It would have been really easy to have made Daboo a caricature, pointing out how “manly” she was at every opportunity or to make her a generic fashionista bikini babe. That Golmaal 3 did neither speaks volumes about the thought that went into scripting and character development.

And then there are Geeta and Pritam - Ratna Pathak and Mithun Chakraborty, a pair of superb actors who happen to sport some grey hairs and wrinkles. What more radical statement can there be in today’s Bollywood than to make the hero and heroine of your film a couple of old timers and have them play it straight. Geeta holds up an old glamor shot of Pritam and we see her eyes flash mischievously. “With just a little hair dye, you’d look just like this again.” Pritam, overflowing with love, tells her she’s beautiful. If your heart didn’t flutter just a little, I can only assume it was replaced by a lump of coal. Or moldy cheese.

It’s also worth mentioning that the characters of Golmaal 3 actually work. At jobs. Jobs that aren’t bullshit upper middleclass white collar office jobs or in Bollywood. Pritam drives a school bus; Daboo’s auntie runs a fish stall; the brothers (and Daboo) have rival jet ski rental shops and fireworks stands and a toy store. They are - more or less - productive members of the community, with no angst about it. Just like most people.

But that’s just extra gravy for viewers like me who enjoy picking things apart.

The most important part of Golmaal 3 is that it’s really fun to watch a pile of scene-stealing actors and comedians (and Tusshar Kapoor) let loose. Rohit Shetty will pack a frame with characters and every last one is doing something worth watching. There is one scene which has Daboo, Gopal, and Laxman II pranking the Gangster Vasooli (Mukesh Tiwari) into calling Police Chief Dande (Murli Sharma) and threatening him. Dande shows up with his deputy (Vijay Patkar) in tow and as Dande is scolding Vasooli, Vijay Patkar carefully removes the phone from Vasooli’s hand and drops it in a plastic evidence bag. It’s just a little thing but when every scene is packed with little moments like this, it makes for a film that can be watched and re-watched, every time catching something new that you had missed before.

Even the just the reactions are fun to watch, like Bebo’s face changing from disdain to disgust as Tusshar Kapoor starts to wail.

For all of its slapstick and filmi puns, Golmaal 3 is at its heart a character driven comedy and there is a lot of comedy to be mined from the relationships between the characters. The plot of Golmaal 3 fixes the major problem of Golmaal Returns by bringing Arshad Warsi back into the main storyline while maintaining the antagonism between him and Ajay Devgn. Because the two of them are a very funny pair - wit versus muscles; grace versus brawn; and (a classic) short versus tall. Ajay is not a natural comedian and needs Arshad’s lightening quick reflexes to play off of.

Kunal Khemmu and Tusshar Kapoor are another excellent pairing. The conceit of Tusshar’s character Lucky is that he is essentially mute and can only communicate through a series of vowel sounds. Kunal’s Laxman III acts as his interpreter... sometimes. Sometimes he hangs back and just laughs at whatever quip only he (and Madav) can understand Lucky making. It’s a fine balancing act but they really nail it. Lucky isn’t the dumb one; we’re dumb for not being able to understand the burn he’s delivering.

And the absurd relationship between the parents and their “kids” - at least two of whom are over 40. Arshad, in particular, has a lot of fun with this and really plays it up. He and Mithun have a great exchange early on where Mithun asks, “Why aren’t you like so-so’s son who is a bank manager now?” and Arshad snaps back that at least he’s not like this other guy’s son, who’s in jail.

Of the main cast, Shreyas Talpade alone is somewhat underused but he does get a few good lines here and there.

Finally, it would be criminal to neglect the huge supporting cast, to include stalwarts like Johnny Lever as the memory challenged Puppy-bhai and the immortal Prem Chopra who turns up in a flashback as Geeta’s father. Mukesh Tiwari, Murli Sharma, Vijay Patkar, Viju Khote, Vrajesh Hirjee, and Sanjai Mishra all had minor roles, along with the lovely Ashiwini Kalsekar, who simply glowed as Daboo’s auntie. And there were more! The small bit players and junior artistes who added so much - the guy who showed up at Pritam’s house not because he had a debt to collect on but because he thought it would be fun, the guy returning a jet ski and almost getting one of Daboo’s tight slaps, the dancers on stage with Mithun as he relives his Disco Dancer days...

And speaking of the Disco Dancer flashback, I must call attention to the stuffed tiger that decorates Geeta’s house in the flashback. Is there any other prop that can call up so many filmi memories than a giant stuffed tiger at the foot of a sweeping dual staircase? THAT is the attention to detail in Golmaal 3 and THAT is why this film is fully deserving of the 100 Crore Club Membership Badge, despite what the critics may have to say. They were probably too busy trying to think up quips to notice the tiger. Or maybe had never seem Pran whippin Dilip Kumar in front of one in Ram aur Shyam. (Too busy catching that Spielberg panel.)

Nobody really expected all that much out of Golmaal 3. It’s not an auteur film and there was no build up with a hero-driven, months long, advertising campaign. Rohit Shetty isn’t one who courts the critics and both Ajay and Kareena (the nominal hero-heroine of the film) were both tied up with other projects during the release. Bebo was doing Ra.One and Agent Vinod and Ajay had a more serious, “grown-up” film to think about with Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, directed by Madhur “NATIONAL AWARD” Bhandarkar. In fact, much of the press surrounding Golmaal 3 was quite negative. Extremely minor fines for public smoking became national news; the stars were called out for demanding too much money. The hive mind of the Bollywood press had Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Kumar’s Action Replayy kicking Golmaal 3’s butt in the big fight for the Diwali Box Office 2010.

Sometimes, audiences really get it right. Golmaal 3 isn’t serious cinema but it is a good film - thoughtful, well-crafted, and seriously funny. Rohit Shetty’s cotton-candy Goa is a dream-world I really enjoyed visiting and far more subversive with far more heart than it gets credit for. A two and half minute sodomy mime battle? Very sweet, middle aged love? Johnny Lever aping Shahrukh Khan as Don? CAR STUNTS ON A FERRIS WHEEL?!

Go... go... go... GOLMAAL! Go... go... go... GOLMAAL! Go... go... go... GOLMAAL! Golmaal is back again!

[Next up in the 100 Crore Club Series... Ready.]

*Unless the film in question stars multiplex approved Ranbir and Shahrukh, whose Barfi and Ra.One I will have the “pleasure” of reviewing later for this series. Fart joke in Kambakht Ishq: insult to humanity; fart joke in Barfi: deliciously clever.

** And especially by the Times Group outlets, who must not have been paid off because there is a chain of negative stories and reviews in the months surrounding the film release.


Mo Pitz said...

Excuse me! No mention of my starring role as Beach goer #32?? I'm shocked...SHOCKED.

Nice work, FG. I guess I should check it out!

eliza bennet said...

You convinced me! I'll check this one out.

And Arshad seems to bring out the best of comedy in otherwise stoic actors (his Circuit brought Munnabhai alive)

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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