Retrospective: Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Pt II

wbhh-tourists.jpg In a curious sequence of affairs, an ad copy writer, Punit (Arshad Warsi), finds himself on wrong end of an sixteen hour bender, initiated by his brother's death and his subsequent eviction from his girlfriend's house. He wakes up in the midst of a gangland shootout and unwittingly saves the life of one of the biggest hitmen in Mumbai. In the days that will follow, he, again without any clue whatsoever, will be responsible for the demise of two of the Mumbai underworld's biggest gangs.

Writer/director Shashanka Ghosh makes no bones about hiding his influences. The film opens with the statement "the plot has been plagiarized from several films" and concludes with the statement: "This film is a reaction to Bollywood." Then follows the name of a list of directors including R. G. Verma, M. Manjrekar, R. Sippy, and B. Kitano, Q. Tarantino, and J. and E. Coen. The inclusion of R. Sippy is signifcant - as director of Sholay, Sippy was responsible for the first "curry western." Presumably, Ghosh is aiming for quirky curry pulp fiction in the line of films such as Snip, Mumbai Matinee and so on.

The film opens with the inevitable music video shoot, a staple of Bollywood directors trying to shoehorn a song sequence into the film flow. If your impression of India just came from watching films made in Mumbai, you'd think half the folks there are nothing but film directors, ad copy-writers and singers struggling for a living and the other half were somehow connected with the underworld. Not promising. But, the lyrics of the song being sung (something to do with smelly lovers reeking of onions) and the fact that they are being lip synched by some very fat crew members immediately tells you this film is trying to make a statement. Cut to a Baristas coffee house, where a disaffected trio of two desis (who talk in Hindi) and an Aussie gentleman (who speaks in English but has no trouble understanding the other two) provide running commentary on the headlines of the day. Cut to a bunch of rowdy Sikh mundas crowded into a Tata Sumo, careening towards Mumbai and looking for some fun. And this is just Aisa Bhi Hota Hai Part I! We then get titles for Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II. Will the rest of the film be as madcap as the first five minutes?

The short answer is no. But it does entertain greatly in many places. Arshad Warsi plays straight man with aplomb to a procession of ruthless gangsters and even more fearless, psychotic women. There is much grandstanding and cursing a la Tarantino, severing of body part (a la Tarantino and Kitano) and, of course, quirkiness (a la the Coen brothers). Using the Barista trio as Greek chorus is a great idea as well. However, I just couldn't help the feeling that I'd seen all of it before. Given that Ghosh himself claims the film is inspired from various sources, perhaps that's not surprising. But whereas Tarantino is past master at filching from many places and producing something original out of the mix, that spark of demented genius is missing here. Two songs are standouts: Allah Ke Bande and Gurdeepa (which really should be called Punjabi Rap although it features no rapping, not in the strict sense of the term, anyway).

Okay, rant alert: do all of Mumbai parallel cinema have to feature the shenanigans of ad agency employees? Just off the top of my head I can think of Jhankaar Beats, Mumbai Matinee, Phir Milenge, and I am not even thinking of mainstream Bollywood!

However, the film did turn heads, deservedly so, and I'll be following what Shashanka Ghosh does next with great interest.

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- June 12, 2005 8:54 PM // Bollywood , Film , Review