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God knows why this movie was made

By Anita Bora
January 17, 2004 13:12 IST
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A still from God Only KnowsIt is like Bharat Dabholkar knows exactly what is running in the audience's mind.

Wisely, he decides to add his warning right up front. The message: you are watching trash (just another flop to add to the pile of Bollywood fare that has met similar fate), you have already paid for the ticket (so you might as well grin and bear it) and God only knows why this movie was really made. So don't even try to figure it out!

Dabholkar, the man behind the Amul campaign, tries his hardest to be funny in his film, God Only Knows. Really funny. Slapstick funny. And he spares no effort. From derogatory comments about his own film to making fun of everyone, he pulls out all plugs. Sometimes, you hear a laugh in the audience (which consists of me in between two cozy couples). But most of time, you get a feeling it is a compilation of funny jokes that were waiting to be told and the script was built to  accommodate all of them.

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But, but. Before I get critical, as Dabholkar warns, this film is not for those who have no sense of humour and cannot laugh at themselves. He has something to say about everyone. From wannabe actors to politicians, doctors to bhais, income tax officials to God. He does not spare anyone, including the God of Kings (I mean King of Gods), Indradev.

So you have this light, frolicsome musical that cannot really be called a tale since there is no story. Actually, there is one but I won't spoil the fun for you (if you still venture to see it after reading this).

But to give you a brief outline: it is about the a man who represents 21st century India, his lust for power and how even heaven is not enough, much to the chagrin of the great lord Indra.

The lord wants to see a 21st century man and he gets his wish via Narada and Yamraj who bring him the most relevant sample. A politician. It is a mistake they regret later as the man, being a political animal, introduces power play to heaven. All hell breaks loose (in heaven) as he makes his intentions clear -- he will do anything to occupy the second biggest kursi in the universe (after the one George Bush is sitting on, that is).

To make things free and fair, elections are announced. Parties are formed. There is much campaigning and bribing. Alliances are made, broken and remade.

Remind you of something?

That is about it for the story.

Among the caste, veteran theatre and television actor, Anjan Srivastava leers and smooth-talks his way through his role as the politician trying to corrupt heaven. Indra, played by Dilip Prabhavalkar, is worth watching for his rather endearing gestures (like biting his nails) and confused looks when he realises things are going beyond his control.

Vijoo Khote plays Yamraj and you are almost sorry for this God of Death who is given the raw end of the deal by
the politician. There is the rather sultry Sharbani Mukherjee, who does a Britney Spears seduction number and manages look innocent after that. Johnny Lever does the holy man act with his usual trademark style. Look out for Dabholkar himself, who puts in an appearance. Others who support the cast are Vihang Nayak (Narad), Kishore Pradhan (Secretary) and Shahriyar Atai (Kamdev). There are also some cameo appearances.

Some of the funnier scenes.
* A politician goes to the hospital for an operation and thinks of Chameli's kothi, when he sees the red light of the operation theatre.
* The doctor explaining why the operation is necessary (to pay off his loan, his car, his wife's overseas holiday).
* The politician explaining the meaning of democracy to Yamraj (where the masses elect one fool they don't like to lead the country as opposed to dictatorship, where one fool, no one likes, elects himself) with obvious references to India and Pakistan.
* An agency called Low, which takes on the task of giving Yamraj a makeover (YumTV, Yum Airways), a parody on the ad industry.
* Indra dressing up as a woman to gain access to the secret plans hatched by the politician.
* Indra visiting Kamdev and then commenting he should visit more often as he sights couples practicing different positions (in dance, but that's open to interpretation)

Some jokes seemed forced -- like the one about Pakistani doctors. And naming the politicians party CROTCH didn't tickle my funny bone.

Dabholkar makes fun of item numbers in Bollywood. And then includes lost of women, skin, sensual moves and songs in his own venture. Since this is a musical, be prepared for lots of numbers -- all take-offs on popular film songs. Among the more enjoyable ones are the opening track God Only Knows and Vijoo Khote shaking it in I have a great bod, I am really God. The dance routines have been choreographed by Bosco-Ceasar.

With the cast comprising of mainly stage actors, most of them turn in seasoned performances but some in the supporting cast could give cardboards a complex. The dialogues keep switching between Hindi and English as do the songs.

The bottom line of this Bottoms Up performance is that one gets the sense of watching a play on the big screen. And though it tries hard to be different from the run-of-the-mill and 'other' low-budget films, one can't help feeling it should have probably worked better on stage.

All in all, some timepass and entertainment when you have little else to do. Just don't waste too much time wondering why. At the risk of contradicting Dabholkar, I don't think, even God knows the answer to this one!

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Anita Bora