Monday, June 3, 2013

Archive: "LA Weekly" review of Aamir Khan's jackhammer thriller "Ghajini"

Bollywood star Aamir Khan as one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World 2013"

GHAJINI (2010)

Aamir Khan, a teen idol of the early ‘90s turned dashing romantic leading man, has for several years been Bollywood’s most exportable overachiever: producer-star of the Oscar-nominated "Lagaan," director-star of this year’s Indian Oscar submission "Taare Zameen Par." In his latest offering, "Ghajini," Khan goes aggressively down-market, indulging a midlife urge to kick ass and snap necks in slow motion, like some of the South Indian action behemoths who have recently been kicking Hindi cinema’s ass at the national box office. The result is an experience almost too stimulating for the non-Indian nervous system, a blockbuster layer cake of full-strength escapist entertainment. In a series of gaudy, tuneful flashbacks, Khan is the sleek CEO of a cell-phone company, a prince of industry passing as a commoner so that a radiant young actress will fall in love with his soul and not his money. In the much darker present-day sequences, he’s a revenge-obsessed victim of anterograde amnesia, complete with shaved, scarred cranium, bulging muscles crawling with tattoos, and a pocketful of annotated Polaroids.

The movie does, indeed, owe a large debt to "Memento," albeit once removed: This version of "Ghajini" is an exceedingly detailed redo of a 2005 Tamil/Telegu carbon of Christopher Nolan’s film. Although there are some variations, especially in the second half, long stretches of the two Ghajinis are virtually identical. The new cast includes several prominent holdovers, including leading lady Asin Thottumkal, bad guy Pradeep Rawat, and muscle-bound cop Riyaz Khan, with Aamir seemingly pasted in over original star Surya, who won a regional Best Actor award for the role. If Khan was hoping some of the commercial mojo of South Indian action icons such as Superstar Rajnikanth ("Sivaji the Boss") might rub off, he could scarcely have picked a better collaborator for the project than A.R. Murugadoss, the writer-director of both versions of Ghajini, auteur of the legendary headbanger "Stalin: Man for the Society" (2005), a master of the pile-driving Southern style. (Key YouTube clip: “megastalin intro.”) The reinvigorated performer strides into battle in Ghajini haloed with bullet-time clouds of glittering water droplets, wrapping his opponents around tree trunks and perforating them with iron pipes, already half-transformed into Superstar Aamirkhanth. (Culver Plaza; Fallbrook 7; Laguna Hills Mall; Naz 8 Artesia; Naz 8 Riverside) (David Chute)