I've been in India for about 10 days now, and visited two movies so far. (Might have to increase the frequency a little ;-0) The first one was Jab We Met, your typical lovestory with beautiful mountainscenery, a catchy panjabi-style song and a very happy ending. The empty cinemahall indicated this would probably not become a superduperhit, as the posters sometimes announce. The one that is currently running to become at least a superhit, is called Om Shanti Om, starring today's legend Shah Rukh Khan. (When he appears on the screen, half of the audience start screeming and whistling in adoration.) The story in short is the following. In the 1970's, Om Prakash (SRK) wants to become a famous moviestar. Partly because of the lifestyle that comes with being rich, but also because he's in love with the filmstar Shanti. Some romance arises between the two, but unfortunately, Shanti is married to and pregnant of the succesfull but sly director Mukesh. When Shanti gets in the way of Mukesh's success, he decides to burn her alive in a filmstudio. Om fails to save her, and dies half an hour later when he gets hit by a car that is taking the pregnant wife of filmstar Kapoor. Om's soul however, reincarnates in the baby that is born. This baby turns out to become the biggest superstar ever, Om Kapoor. Slowly, Om starts realizing in flashbacks and through his fobia of fire, that he used to be Om Prakash before. Besides that, one girl who auditions for the role of the heroine, Sandy, appears to look exactly like Shanti. He decides to take revenge on Mukesh, who just so happens to want to make a movie with Om as the leading star. You'll have to see for yourself if Om gets his revenge or not... Ok... He gets it. But not without the help of Shantis ghost, who still lives in that burned studio.
The joy and the meaning of this movie is however not that much in the story. Mainly, it is because the film is a movie about movies. It is a tribute to Bollywood in the shape of a big wink. The first half being shot in the style of the seventies, gives us a look on how film used to be back in the days. By overacting even more than SRK usually does, fun is made with the way they danced and pants with huge flairs.
When Om fantasizes about a speech he gives at the Film Fare Awards, he expresses his passion for film. In short, no matter what the problems in life are, movies provide us always with happy endings. Director Ms. Farah Khan seems to be saying that movies are like the ghost of Shanti, who suddenly come and give you some help when things get bad.
Then in the second part of the film we indulge ourselves in todays Bollywood, with an abundance of female beauty, latest gadgets, high technology and the lifestyle of the more-than-extreme rich. The funny and sort of cute Om of the first half, is now a cool and not 6- but 12 packed superstar. During scenes in the filmstudios, we cannot but see the words Maybelline and Nokia every minute. Even the dialogues are paid for it seems when Om tells how much he likes his Nokia-bluetooth headset, so he can talk to more people at the same time. Then as a sort of grand finale, during the very catchy song Om Shanti Om, an array of big stars from the past and today are appearing for some steps in the dance. The applaud they get from the bystanders onscreen, are hard to seperate from the noise in the cinema offscreen.
As a viewer, one gets a small overview of the changes in the form of the films themselves but also of the happenings on the set. A little hint is given of corruption happening in the production, with the character Mukesh. The movie takes us a bit behind the screens, on the set, and makes us think about what movies could be about.
Unfortunately, the wink to films of the seventies in the first part, disappears for an abundant appraisal of the almost divine Shah Rukh Khan, a good friend of director Farah Khan. If the second part of the film is also an ode to the movies like the first part, then we see that todays Bollywood is about SRK, and nothing else. But for all the Dutch (or other) readers who want a good introduction to what Bollywood is all about: Go put on your pink sunglasses, watch this and sing OM SHANTI OOOOM!