Ram Gopal Varma’s Ki Aag
If you’re a long time reader of our blog you may remember way back near the beginning we utterly failed to find the Danish movie Danes Without a Clue. Well it turns out that obscure Danish comedies aren’t the only European imports that are impossible to find. This time round we failed to find a copy of the Norwegian movie A Story About Love (Dis - en historie om kjærlighet), so it was back to the subs list. I however didn’t relish the prospect of having to watch an extra film, so like I did with Sura (see here) I tried to revisit some of our past failures, and with a lot of searching, and some luck, managed to find separate copies of one of the movie and the subtitles needed. So now we were equipped with a copy of Ram Gopal Varma’s Ki Aag and we wouldn’t have to face the punishment of an extra movie. But was this punishment enough? Only one way to find out…
Bodyguards Heerendra Dhaan (Ajay Devgan) and Raj Ranade (Prashant Raj Sachdev) are forced to flee to Mumbai after they assault a police officer. Once there they are employed by local gangster Shambhu, but it isn’t long until they are arrested and they agree to help bring Shambhu to justice. However once this happens they still get a year in jail. When they are released they are met by Inspector Narsimha (Mohanlal) who wants their help in taking down the gangster Babban Singh (Amitabh Bachchan). For some reason (well about 800,000 reasons), they agree and set off to Kaliganj to capture this notorious criminal. Will they succeed? Will Babban realise that he could probably just sneak away whilst Heerendra and Raj are singing and dancing? Why didn’t we consider that two movies probably have about the same running time as this film and wouldn’t necessitate having to read subtitles when bored?
Reading the reviews, this movie seems to be in the IMDB bottom 100 mainly because it’s a rip-off of a beloved Bollywood movie, Sholay, so much so that that Ram Gopal Varma was fined by the Delhi High Court for copyright infringement. Now never having seen the original movie I can’t comment on that, however I can confidently say that this is one of the most boring movies I’ve watched in a long time.
Now I have no problem with watching movies with subtitles, however if a movie has subtitles and is nearly three hours long, then I’m going to have a lot of trouble paying attention (Seven Samurai and Kwaidan are the only two exceptions I can think of right now). Hell, it takes something like Schindler’s List or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for movies that long to keep my attention without subtitles, so Aag really never was going to fare well, especially as the subtitle file I had found looks like it was for a different cut of the movie and kept going out of sync.
I had the same problem with the length of Sura, however that movie was made bearable by having a charming lead character. Unfortunately all of the characters in this movie have the combined charisma of the speakers at a pro-Brexit march. At no point do you even remotely care about the fate of anyone in this movie. Amitabh Bachchan, who seems to be held in high regard in India (even presenting the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire) is laughable as the villain Babban. He’s as menacing as a new born baby equipped with a gun that fires rainbows instead of bullets. The fact that he looks a bit like Al Pacino kept making me think he should have been better, unfortunately he wasn’t the Pacino of Tony Montana or Michael Corleone, but more that of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (does anybody know the Hindi translation for “ho haa!”?).
Helium addict Rajpal Yadav as Rambhabhai Is probably the most irritating out of the bunch though. His high-pitched voice, that I hope is supposed to be for comic effect just brings to mind Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Unfortunately his performance is neither funny, nor is it convincing as a gangster coming across more as Joe Pasquale than Joe Gallo.
Aside from the poor acting, the film isn’t helped by the fact that it looks like it was filmed by someone who’s just discovered that you can add movies to Instagram complete with filters. Honestly it’s like watching a movie that’s entirely made with badly developed Polaroid film. I’m not sure if this was to give it some form of gritty urban feel, or if they just couldn’t afford to buy decent film stock, and just used some that they found abandoned in the bottom of a well.
I still can’t get used to the whole Bollywood thing of inserting seemingly random songs into a movie. Not only do they interrupt the flow of the film, and just seem like filler, but they also distract you from the barely present storytelling to such a degree I found myself not quite following what was happening for much of the movie. I honestly don’t understand the point of them unless it’s to sell more copies of the soundtrack (just like Suicide Squad seemed to be doing). But it wasn’t just the songs that irritated me; the background music is wildly over dramatic and even more distracting than the songs.
Aag is an overly long movie, where nothing much really happens, and having to pay attention due to the subtitles made this film feel like way too much hard work. The only thing that I’ve taken from this movie, is that I really must watch Sholay one of these days. But until I get this movie far from my memory any desire to explore the wonderful movies that I’m sure Bollywood has to offer have gone up in the Indian Flames that this movie claims to be.