Om Shanti Om Review
In a word - Brilliant! Om Shanti Om (a Hindu mantra; an invocation of peace... though it has no relevance in this context) is a masala movie parody cum tribute to Indian movies of the 70’s and 80’s. This is Bollywood kitsch personified in that it gladly incorporates and celebrates every cliché in the book. That too with sheer glee, much admiration and some cheeky irreverence.
The film tells the story of Om Prakash (Khan), a young film extra in 1970’s Bombay with dreams of becoming a huge star; a Hero. Egged on by his histrionic-laden chum Pappu (Talpade) and overly-dramatic mother (Kher) he pursues this with aplomb trying to make the gaudiest of bit-parts work, in order to get noticed. Om also happens to be in love with a certain Shanti Priya (Padukone), the biggest actress on the silver screen and star of classics such as 'Dreamy Girl'. He gazes into her eyes as he confesses his feelings, well to her billboards at least... and lets his imagination do the talking.
A chance encounter in which he accidentally saves her life, as you do, leads to them striking up a friendship. But soon after follows a calamitous series of events during which both Om and Shanti die, only for him to be reborn in the incarnation (leading man) he so badly wanted. Cut to present day, where Om Kapoor (Khan) is a superstar actor with the world at his feet, but plagued with harrowing flashbacks from an unknown past. Slowly things begin to unravel; in his own words “They say if you truly want something from the heart, the whole universe conspires to bring it to you” and how...
Om Shanti Om is a movie that never takes itself too seriously and that's where its' success lies. It simply celebrates all things Bollywood, as A-list choreographer-turned-director Farah Khan has stated, the seventies and eighties is a much loved period for her and her superstar lead Shahrukh (who also produces) and this - their homage to it. A step up from their first effort Main Hoon Naa; hammy as hell, but classily done. Whilst the ultimate reincarnation movie 'Karz' is cleverly merged into the opening sequence, it also incorporates some of yesteryears greats (Sunil Dutt, Rajesh Khanna) into its' songs.
It also exhuberantly showcases every cliché in your classic Indian film script. Not just your typical love story or revenge drama, but also life after death and reincarnation; saving the damsel in distress and subsequent wooing; mother and son lost and re-united; ‘double-roles’; South-Indian stereotypes as well as many in-jokes.
Essentially it’s a homage to the formula film and classic makers such as Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra whose films in the 70’s and 80’s were commercial pot-boilers with a mixture of drama, music, comedy, romance, action and a high quotient of cliché as highlighted above. These were essentially secular multi-starrers designed to give the audience a smidgen of, well, everything. Oft-included with these was usually a yearning mother whom almost always manages to lose her kids (somebody call social services), the Muslim samaritan, the underdog overcoming better-off tyrants and somebody called ‘Vijay’.
It is highly enjoyable as it’s superbly done, technically and visually brilliant, tongue-in-cheek and clever at that. The performances are superlative and apt, especially Ramphal as villainous producer Mehra, and debutante Padukone. There are a lot of set-pieces including a song and awards parody during which the who’s who of the industry feature. A celebration of the seventies - If you like Bollywood for essentially what it is, you’ll love this. If you don’t like Bollywood, this may answer a lot of questions, and likely leave you with a smirk on your face regardless.