Ghajini (it's here!): Your thoughts? (And mine)

**This note added 12/27: Happy birthday Salman Khan!**

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Wishing you all the very best in life. Have fun and be safe. And try to make Ghajini a part of the holidays (it even features a lead dressed as Santa's helper!). My initial review is at the bottom of this post. Those of you who saw it, what did you think? Liked it? Loved it? Didn't like it? What's the verdict? If you have yet to see it and are willing to give it a chance (and I highly recommend you do, see bottom of post for more), here are some links you might find interesting:

Official website | Theater listing
Music review and lyrics and translation of each song
All other posts, including all promos/trailers
Aamir Khan blog post discussing the release

interview (in English). CNN-IBN serves up a very interesting round of questions, and presents discussions with directors who have cast Aamir including Indra Kumar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Farhan Akhtar, and Ashutosh Gowariker. There's Aamir trivia time with the audience (easy, easy :P), and there's even discussion around an Andaz Apna Apna (1994) sequel (I love the case is gaining traction) and Shah Rukh Khan's insistence of a joint project. The complete interview, which is fittingly kicked off with a discussion on Ghulam (1998), is available at these links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8. If there's one interview you check out, make it this one.

Aside: How about Shammi Kapoor voluntarily quoting Aamir?! Listen to a fantastic Shammi interview about 2:22 into the Sunday edition of Love Bollywood by Raj and Pablo, at this link; it'll be gone this weekend.

Asin interview (in English): Part 1 | Part 2; Also, from this Asin interview:

Any exciting moments you can recall?
We shot on real locations in Mumbai, the roads, the buildings, etc. We hardly put up sets for the film. I remember I had to ride a scooty with Mr. Aamir Khan behind me. It was real fun because imagine one fine Monday morning when people saw Aamir on a scooty in Mumbai. The excitement and the experience on real locations with Aamir was truly unique.

Here's a Jiah Khan interview. I expect to be totally floored by her character. In case you've been wondering why she's been kept hush hush:

Ever since the common man has heard about Ghajini's first look, the promos and the songs, the only thing they haven't heard about is Jiah Khan. What say?
I'd like to say that Jiah Khan does exist in
Ghajini (laughs). It's up to Aamir Khan and the producers of Ghajini and the way they want to publicize the film. What they've done with my role and my image is going to be a big surprise.

There have been some very interesting and seemingly effective marketing campaigns for the film, and if you're a fan of the cast, there's a lot to appreciate.

There's the Ghajini clothing line by Van Heusen
A multiplex staff voluntary adopted the haircut
The haircut is quite popular -- here's Aamir with fans
And here's Santa with the haircut!
Aamir mannequins have been all over the cinemas

My favorite move is the development of a 3D video game, the first ever for a Bollywood film. The game by FX Labs and distributed by Eros Entertainment is set to release alongside the film. Here's a sample frame:

The game is available for purchase at this Eros Entertainment link. Mine is on its way :)

Of course, there is reaction from the film fraternity as well. Aamir doesn't typically hold premieres (for Jaane Tu was an exception), and this was no different. But there were a few interesting faces at a private screening held in Bandra in greater Mumbai. From this link, here are Waheeda Rahman and Salim Khan (Salman Khan's father):

The link also has pictures of Rani Mukherji and Sridevi, and here are Asha Parekh and Helen.

And finally, Salman Khan liked the film so much, he gifted Aamir two of his paintings (done before seeing the film)! From this link, here's Asin alongside the paintings. That's good stuff, Sallu:

There is a Salman connection with Ghajini, Director A. R. Mugradoss notes that when he approached Aamir for the film, Aamir recommended Salman for the project.

All right, I'm off for my pre-Aamir-release routine (okay, I'm kidding, the routine is reserved for the Miami Dolphins -- I'm superstitious only when it comes to my favorite sports teams :P). About four hours away from the first show here in Los Angeles, and I'll hope to add my thoughts to this post following.

Would love to hear what you all think!

Initial thoughts (added 12/24 ~6 PM PST):
Just returned from the first show, and my initial reactions are extremely positive. All through Ghajini's supply chain (since a couple years ago), we knew this was Aamir's first all out commercial/masala entertainer in quite a long time. Based on this, I think Ghajini sets new benchmarks, especially in its action sequences, production values, and yes, performances!

The plot, music and choreography (and their almost seamless integration), screenplay and dialogue, cinematography, and mostly acting (Aamir -- but we knew that, Asin -- who is easy to fall in love with, and will be around Bollywood for a while, Jiah - the weaker link relatively but still very good, and Pradeep Rawat -- the villain who has Lagaan (2001) in his filmography), are all phenomenal. The result is an extremely engaging film which is well, well worth watching (in fact, it's gripping) from start to finish, with no scene out of place, and even a surprising dose of romantic comedy that provides an effective balance to the screenplay.

It is not a perfect film -- there are minor details that are quite obviously deliberately overlooked (e.g. uncontrolled sharing of original medical records, perhaps I'm being too picky), and the film is so fast-paced, **spoiler** it doesn't let your mind wander into thinking too much about how the powerful Sanjay Singhania can maintain another identity with so many people **end spoiler**. But these stay true to the genre, and I do not think they hurt the film at all.

The narrative arc is beautiful, and allows Ghajini to walk the talk. The film meets my expectations, and know I expect a *lot* from Aamir and his films. I think it's fair to say that it is the best, most complete and most engaging film of 2008, and I highly recommend you see it in theaters. They worked very hard to achieve the final product, and it shows. Aamir had said last week that if the film is substantial, one shall not leave with the image of his physique as a principal memory. That appears to have been accomplished, amid all the moments that induce laughter, tears, anger and sympathy, in what is testament to his acting, which is superb.

Four and a half stars for a fantastic cinematic experience, one that had me and many others at the edge of our seats. Masala entertainers and action films are hardly my favorite genres, but this package effectively challenges that view. I am all set to rank it alongside (if not above) Aamir's other major masala film that was a humongous commercial success in Raja Hindustani (1995), only this one is a lot more believable (although it does require taking off thinking caps every once in a while, true to its genre) and even carries many more subtle messages of civic responsibility. If you enjoyed Aamir's Ghulam (1998) and Sarfarosh (1999), you'll most certainly enjoy this.

Movie rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
Here's a film that gives us reason to believe in the masala recipe and in suspending disbelief.

My classification: R (for violence)


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

omg- the Shammi Interview- totally love! And I am really enthu about the game- need to find a copy- asap.

theBollywoodFan said...

The video game idea is very cool indeed. I'm not expecting a game with playability even similar to PS2 platform games, but I'd take a 2D game based on a Hindi film any way, let alone a 3D game based on an Aamir film! :)

The game is available at this Eros Entertainment link. I'll add the link to the post as well.

And yes, that's a great Shammi interview! I really liked the bit in which he discusses his passion for driving -- something I can relate to, as I'm about to head out on a three day drive around Southern California, I hear the drive along the coast is wonderful, and it's a shame I haven't done it already. Better late! :)

Darshit said...

man, you are going mad mad mad.AWESOME TRIVIA YOU HAVE COLLECTED..HATS OFF TO YOU....

And i AM already gone.... I have seen this amazing flick...and LOVED LOVED LOVED it. .....
going to watch it after tomorrow....and day day after tomorrow...
check out my views

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you Darshit, all I read of your review was the last paragraph -- less than two hours away for first show here, and it sounds really good! Can't wait! :)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

You will totally love the drive- though u may encounter some fog at this time- good luck!

theBollywoodFan said...

The weather had to play a role this week and this week only, LOL. Should be okay, though. Cannot wait!

theBollywoodFan said...

All: Added my initial thoughts to the bottom of the post.

Darshit said...

Edge of seats-

true. Well said.
I was LITERALLY seating like that through many parts of the movie.

So when r u giving it a re-watch? I m going this friday.

theBollywoodFan said...

Seriously, what a movie, na?! Some of us caught each other sitting like that and nodded in approval of the work. I hope it does as well as it deserves. It's all so masala and for a change, I love it all. Rooting for Sanjay was very interesting. The twists were all effective, and I swear my pulse was quickened by more than just Asin, who was fabulous, by the way ;)

I might go early tomorrow. We'll see. It's going to play for six weeks at my local theater, so there's time. I'll be sure to take a few friends who are not huge Bollywood fans...this is pure Bollywood at its finest, and the screenplay is really quite different from Memento too, as was advertised.

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet watched the movie (though, I am sure I'll love it). In India, it didn't release yesterday (at least, where I live). So I have to watch it today.

Review the movie and add the thoughts later... cool idea!

theBollywoodFan said...

Saurabh, I guess we were lucky here. My local theater had only two screenings today, there will be many more starting tomorrow. Usually, they open the same date as the nationwide release date in India, but I was willing to travel an hour's distance to catch it today :)

India had paid preview screenings at select locations only, right? It's such a good movie, I was tempted to give it an even greater rating, but perhaps after I've seen it five times or so once it's out on DVD, LOL. I didn't think Aamir would beat his own performance action-wise and anger-wise in Mangal Pandey, and I think he did here, by quite a bit. It's all so *not* over the top, no matter how much so it might seem. I loved it, and I think you will really enjoy it too! Have fun!

Anonymous said...

So are you saying Ghajini is better than Ghulam and Sarfarosh?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: As a product of film, it is certainly better than Ghulam at least. I really liked Sarfarosh for its political commentary, so I'm not sure after seeing Ghajini just once whether it's *better* than Sarfarosh on the messaging front; as far as completeness of a film goes, it is definitely as engaging and thrilling as any other film, including Sarfarosh, yes. Go see it!

Nicki said...

Thanks so much for your review. Now, I'm more confident to see it. I know how your expectations are for this film.

theBollywoodFan said...

I'll look forward to your insights, Nicki, especially since you've seen both the Tamil version and Memento! It worked very well for me, and I can see why Aamir had initially suggested Murgadoss cast Salman Khan. I think Aamir's performance is just excellent, though, and despite having seen it only once, I think it's safe to say he's outdone himself. Cheers.

Pitu said...

Ooh I'd have seen this first day first show with my mom in India but I just flew back. I am gonna catch it at the theater though :-D

Nicki said...

Hey there. I plan to watch in Sunday. Just wanted to let you know a tidbit from a friend who has seen the Tamil version (unfortunately not Momento though).

She disliked the Tamil version but enjoyed the Hindi version. She says how it starts off is basically the same but the climax is much different and better than the Tamil version. The only thing she would complain about the Hindi version is that Aamir's clothes are awful, hehehehe.

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Welcome back, and trust you had a blast on your trip! Do stop by once you've seen it -- it has its share of violence, and I'm usually the first one to complain about it if it isn't in the context of politics or war, LOL, but I couldn't help but root for Aamir here. :)

Nicki: Sunday sounds great! What your friend is saying is very interesting. The wardrobe was actually quite good for Aamir the business tycoon. Aamir the street fighter was pretty standard, yes, true to the character. I want to see the Tamil version now! It's pretty obvious to see why Surya would convince Aamir to play this role. Cheers.

Nicki said...

Hey, one of my friends was very disappointed in Ghajini. You can read her review here

srivatsan said...

Hi Bollywood fan,

It's great to see you have collected many raw data.When Gajini was first released in Tamil, i saw the acting of surya was great. But with the same story, Aamir's acting was awesome. I thing Aamir should do the remake of Kakha Khaka(Surya's Film)

theBollywoodFan said...

Nicki: Thanks for sharing that link. It's true that there is quite a bit in the film that requires taking off thinking caps (as noted in the review), but that's a major ingredient of masala film! It is somewhat confusing that one who really enjoyed DDLJ and Devdas would complain about the masala-ness of Ghajini, though :) I think you'll like it, don't see how it would disappoint if the Tamil Ghajini didn't (I hear about 80% of this has a similar screenplay).

Hi Srivatsan, welcome, and thank you for your comment! Glad you liked the film, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the Tamil Ghajini now! Surya seems to be extremely popular, it's great he was able to convince Aamir to do the role. Any more you'd recommend from his filmography?


Anonymous said...

Hey, the movie is awesome. A good thing is the style of Aamir (his wardrobe, haircut etc.). The way he keeps and reads his notes, make me crazy! Still, this is not the best movie I've seen, but certainly is the best of this year.

theBollywoodFan said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Saurabh. It is easily the best and most complete film of the year. Its overwhelming success at the box office validates that. Don't think it was ever going to be the best movie of all time :)

Anonymous said...

I have to recommend a movie to you--though it has nothing to do with Ghajini. It is called Slumdog Millionaire. I want to know your views and opinions about it. Thank you.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous and thank you for your comment and recommendation. The response to Slumdog Millionaire seems to have been unanimously and overwhelmingly positive, and I'm really looking forward to its DVD release! Cheers.

Shahid said...

Watched it on thursday,n without being too harsh,the story is a bit too loose,n the ending was masala hindi style,which was not expected from Aamir Khan.!!

On a whole pasia wasool,good acting by both the leads n supporting cast.!!

To be honest,i don want such films from a serious actor like Aamir,may be this was just Aamir's way of showing Srk n Akshay That what they can do,he can do as well,bt i hope he goes back to his cinema which is gr8888 not goood.!!!!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hey there Shahid! That's a concern that's been voiced by a segment of the fans, and it's warranted, but I would argue it is absolutely expected of Aamir when he's been saying for the past two years that Ghajini is his first all out masala/action flick of the decade! 'Paisa vasool' is a good way to describe it. And yes, Aamir will get back to his strongest brand asset, not sure if another 'entertainer' like 3 Idiots will provide it, though.

Having said that, he really doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, not any more. He delivered extremely successful masala films BEFORE either SRK or Akshay even acted in their first film, so that's a comparison I'll very respectfully disagree with (besides, he's in a league of his own acting-wise, even when it comes to masala film). A relatively well known film critic has been going all over the place drawing these comparisons -- sounds like a newbie Aamir film consumer :)

Thanks for stopping by dude. Hope you're having a good holiday! Cheers!

salek said...

Hey BollywoodFan,

Thanks for compiling all of these links. I'll make sure to go through them after I see the film (as is usually case after I watch a great movie). Can you believe the hype or what? I don't think there was anything like this surrounding RNBDJ. Evening shows for Ghajini at my local theater were sold out in advance this weekend, the first time that has ever happened for a Bollywood movie, and so many friends have been raving about how awesome it is. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see it later this week.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Salek, hope you're having a good holiday! I'd love to know what you think of Ghajini. It seems to have taken off really well almost everywhere, and marketing it right, as you say, has a lot to do with it. I do have one minor complaint with the messaging, but I'll save that discussion for until after you've seen the film :)

Overall, it's nice to see a film back up the hype. I really liked the combination of the elements, much more so than in Rab Ne (which I have seen too) -- from the standpoint of an engaging and entertaining film, I think Ghajini has much, much more heart (and hard work!) behind it, and I hope you enjoy it in all its 'masala' glory!

Anonymous said...

I am new to Bollywood, but have an extremely hard time taking off my 'thinking cap'. Ghajini is playing at a theater near me, do you think I should see it?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous, and welcome to Bollywood! I can relate to your situation, because the vast (vast!) majority of what I read is non-fiction :)

If the taking off of thinking caps is a big deterrent, then yes, avoid Ghajini. Without knowing much of what genres you prefer, I would certainly recommend you include two of my favorites in your first few: Lagaan (2001) and Pyaasa (1957). Over the years, I've learned the former is fun for film aficionados regardless of their taste (a testament to the universality of the theme). Both are extremely well made, combine the elements of Bollywood cinema very well, and are rightfully considered to be among the finest cinematic works of all time.

Having said that, as is the case with other film industries, countless good films require suspension of disbelief, and I would certainly give some of those a shot as well, to see if some work for you. Assuming you don't mind action films that are rated 'R' for violence, Ghajini might just work for that purpose, because it does share several elements with commercial Hindi cinema. I took some of my non-Indian, non-Bollywood initiated friends with me (men and women), and they quite enjoyed it).

I would also recommend you visit some of the blogs listed in the sidebar to the right. There are several great Bollywood bloggers whose recommendations I'm sure you'll find interesting, given they've likely been through a similar introductory phase.

Hope you enjoy the films, and do stop by again to share your progress!


Pooja said...

Hey, I just wanted to say a big thank you for putting together all these stories in one place. Really enjoyed that Aamir interview!!! LOVED the film. 'Nuff said.

Filmi Girl said...

I totally loved Ghajini, yaar! You were 100% right about the modern masala! I'm going to wait to review it until I see it a second time - and I *am* going to see it again in the theatres. I haven't been this moved by a film since Fanaa or maybe even Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam!

I'm disappointed that people are nitpicking plot holes! The best masala/entertainer films are never strictly realistic. If they were, how would all those brothers and sisters reunite after being separated at the fair and then raised by either cops or robbers?

Asin really impressed me as the love interest. She was perfect! Ziah Khan's role was trickier as she had to be the audience stand-in for plot developement but I still loved how she went from romanticising Sanjay to demonizing him to seeing him with pity.

Anyways, when I have time, I'm going to further investigate all your links. :D

ajnabi said...

I'm really glad you enjoyed it, since it's such a bummer to be really looking forward to a movie and then find it doesn't work for you (*cough* Vivah *cough*). I love reading so many points of view on the film. Can't wait for it to be released on DVD!

theBollywoodFan said...

Pooja: Welcome and thank *you*! 'Nuff said indeed! That Aamir interview is well put together, lots of good information.

Filmi Girl: *Really* glad you enjoyed it! It certainly lived up to what it always promised (and then some). All quite moving, absolutely. Look forward to your review!

The best masala/entertainer films are never strictly realistic.

Absolutely! As my colleagues from Mensa say, taking off our thinking caps at the right times while consuming commercial film requires above average intellectual capacity as well. I don't think we'd be fans of Bollywood if we weren't capable of this :)

I guess I'm disappointed with the intellectual card played inconsistently. If one has a benchmark, it's a matter of integrity to apply it across the board. So, if Ghajini is bad because it is difficult to believe, then please oh please don't ask me to critique films of another Khan (ahem) or any Bachchan in that context.

Besides, I don't think the trailers, music, and gee, even the original (!) ever promised a film that was high on the sensibility quotient and low on the violence, so maybe some just weren't paying attention.

What I am not at all disappointed in is that Ghajini has crossed, by quite a bit, the opening weekend box office collection records in the history of Hindi cinema!!! For a purely commercial film, it's achieved the objectives while striking some chord with the masses, and I think it's very, very well deserved for the amount of work that went into it.

The links are fun. My video game hasn't arrived yet, and I'm not sure whether you're into gaming, but I can't wait to find Ghajini Dharmatma and beat him up, LOL ;)

theBollywoodFan said...

Ajnabi: Ghajini worked wonders, and I'll admit when I first heard of it, I was less excited than I usually am for Aamir films. The music and trailers solved that.

There's a lot to enjoy, and it might just be a good example of when tastes converge with those of the box office, for once! I was never really 'looking forward' to Vivah, perhaps that's why I didn't dislike it much :)

Anonymous said...

After watching the film 4 times, I'd say it's a takes a bit negative turn in the middle (especially the role of Jiah Khan, who steals Aamir's dairies).

So, in the middle, we all feel that this is 'wrong'. I think it was to make audience 'feel' what is happening with the character, no? Btw, how many times have you watched it?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Saurabh, Jiah's role is interesting, and I think she did quite well. That mid-point is particularly effective. Good thing she stole those diaries! And yes, it was all quite touching, really.

I've only seen it twice, but I'd see it four times, totally. It's a crazy time with the holidays, work and travel, and I'll be at it another week and a half or so...

Emily said...

This is quite long..but yeah. :)

It is definitely one of the best films I've seen. Everything was almost perfect. The clothes, the cinematography, the acting, the sound, the songs, the picturisations were all good. I'm quite happy about the changes in the climax in the Hindi version, since the climax in the Tamil version didn't quite work.

Aye Bachchu - Asin's introductory song. I love the way they introduced Kalpana, since it showed her character very well. It really fits her.

Guzarish - definitely mesmerizing. Asin looked very beautiful and Aamir was smoking hot.

Behkha - Very fun to watch. Of all Aamir's six avatars, I really like the pink collared shirt, gray vest and the neck tie look since he looked very adorable. He looked 29, not in his early 40s. :)

Latoo - I wish that Jiah's song and dance number was longer since she looked very fabulous in the Latoo song. She looked like Jennifer Lopez when she the wore the white outfit.

Kaise Mujhe - I really loved the last part, where Sanjay opens his gift from Jiah. Very sweet, emotional...very good.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Emily! Thank you for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it! The production values were excellent, no doubt. Aye Bachchu was so well choreographed, wasn't it? You're a better judge of Aamir's looks, but Asin and Jiah were both fantastic in their songs. Part of me liked how Latoo was used, but as you say, it could have been slightly longer. And JLo! Kaise Mujhe was great, I liked it all. The bit at the airport and on board the jet was pretty too.

I'll be watching the Tamil version soon enough. Thanks again for the info from before!

Anonymous said...

You've probably already seen this recent interview of Asin about Ghajini, but here's the link in case you haven't. I was mildly amused to see who the interviewer was, considering this same critic/host had some harsh things to say about the movie in his review last week.

Nicki said...

Hey. I wanted to share this article with you. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Salaam Salek, and thank you for the link! I too was really amused at that critic -- why can't they just be honest and say what they think to their faces?! There is little integrity where there is little consistency (at least in this case), so it's not at all surprising.

Hi Nicki, and thank you too for sharing the link! It's so true. Can we not already hear the critics and Aamir haters say that about the film (and him) if he hadn't acquired all that muscle?

He's on top (been there a while), and I guess all the criticism (and sadly, often hatred from segments of fans and media as a result of sheer jealousy) comes with it. Unless you're a populist, of course, which he isn't (given he hasn't ever hesitated to call out on those he thinks deserve it), lol...

Bottom line is, the success of the film with the audience is what guides the final verdict. Ghajini is a blockbuster for good reason!!!


Anonymous said...

I really think all the Aamir fans on his website in Mumbai should just start blogging here to discuss Aamir specific topics. Since you respond to comments (the ones you choose at your discretion to post that is) fans are going to have much more fun.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ghajini is a well made masala movie. It is a Bollywood take of a huge South Indian hit for which Asin won an award. So Asin is getting two awards for the same film, only the languages are different!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi, Anonymous, and thank you for your visit and comment. That's an interesting thought, and I appreciate it. But...for any Aamir fan, Aamir's blog is the primary place to be. He might not be replying to all comments (who can, to thousands of comments, at that level?), but he's likely reading them all. What I hope we can do here is only complement discussions on his films!

I thought Ghajini was awesome. For what it always promised to be, it went above my expectations, because I cannot apply double standards to my appreciation for art, so it worked for me. And Asin was quite fabulous in both. I hope she can become the next Sridevi!

Anonymous said...

Asin, a Christian from Kerala, is beauty and brains. She is going to be around a long time, now that she had got her foot in the door of Bollywood in a big way with a Filmfare award in a big time hit. She has already bagged films with the other big Khans - Salman and Shah Ruck!

I doubt if Aamir can possibly read all the comments posted on his blog. He must be getting someone to read through them on his behalf. I just read that he gets his manager to keep a log of regular bloggers. So you do have a chance of getting noticed in a special way if you blog often enough in Mumbai.

Your blog must flatter Aamir immensely. It provides space for topic specific comments on his films and with your ability to filter out what you don't want posted here, it has both advantages and disadvantages.

American bloggers in general make maximum use of their freedom of expression which is natural to them. It can toughen up people a lot and one learns a lot in the process. It is outright silly when people feel attacked because somebody disagrees with them. Such bloggers should be exposed to freedom of expression Made in U S of A.