Review: Shakalaka Boom Boom

Posted on April 7, 2007


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‘Amadeus for Dummies’ would have been a better title for a musical that can’t even bother to give us a couple of good tunes.

APR 8, 2007 – IMAGINE, just for a minute, that Becket hadn’t been adapted into Hindi, and that Suneel Darshan had laid hands on the property. Here’s how the film would play out: the two heroes hug and launch into a buddy-buddy number, a misunderstanding causes a rift in their friendship, they retire to their respective girlfriends and sing sad songs choreographed in the desert, they come to their senses but it’s too late because one of them dies. I mean, this is what happens on a barebones level, but there’s just so much more to the story than just the skeleton. The tissue and the muscle and the blood come from the psychological underpinnings – not just from what happens, but why. Luckily for us, Hrishikesh Mukherjee understood this, and his affecting Namak Haram reflected this understanding. And if only someone from that generation were still around to adapt Amadeus, we’d have gotten something more than just this badly acted spectacle with lots of what but very little why.

This musical – with the very musical name of Shakalaka Boom Boom – slavishly follows the story of Mozart and Salieri as filtered through the feverish imagination of playwright Peter Shaffer, except that the setting is no longer the Classical period of Western music in Europe; it’s now a New York that boogies to a bunch of utterly generic Himesh Reshammiya numbers. AJ (Bobby Deol) is the Salieri character, a hugely popular – but also mediocre – musician who burns when upstart-genius Reggie (Upen Patel) effortlessly churns out the greatest of melodies. (All this is solely at face value. There’s so little difference between AJ’s music and Reggie’s music, it’s like the creator of What is your mobile number genuflecting to the talents of the man behind You are my chicken fry.) So AJ dedicates his life to destroying Reggie, until – spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph – he gets hit on the head by a glitter ball, during a performance at Madison Square Garden, and goes deaf. I’m not making any of this up, and this outrageously funny moment results in the movie’s sole bit of entertainment. I mean, come on, going deaf thanks to a glitter ball has to rank up there with going blind by surfing for porn. Besides, I don’t see why this counts as a bad end for AJ, because now he won’t have to listen to any more of Reggie’s hits, while we in the audience have no such luck.

Darshan is one of those directors whose work you have to be very careful about panning – for, you never know, he’ll come out with something worse the next time around and make you look back fondly on the lesser atrocity that was the previous film. You thought Barsaat was bad, and he followed it up with Dosti: Friends Forever, which was worse – and, suddenly, Barsaat repositioned itself in your mind as a criminally underrated romance. You trashed Dosti, and he came out with Mere Jeevan Saathi, which made Dosti look like it came from Raj Kapoor. And so, when I say Shakalaka Boom Boom is dreadful, what I really mean is that this rating stands only until Darshan’s next outing – by which time, this would probably have become, oh, the film that at least had Anupam Kher to show us what a decent performer can do in the most ridiculous of bit-parts. Everyone else is horrible – even Kangana Ranaut, who plays one of the girlfriends. After watching her emote her guts out in Gangster and Woh Lamhe, I thought she should do something light next – but in the early romantic scenes here, she’s next to unwatchable. The only time she lets sparks fly is when she’s humiliated by AJ. He asks her to strip and then orders her to leave, as if he changed his mind about sleeping with her after seeing her naked. Her eyes well up with tears as she puts her dress back on – and you sense the hurt and the embarrassment and the effort at trying to exit the situation with a shred of dignity. Is she going to turn out to be one of those actresses who can only do heavy-duty acting?

Every once in a while, there’s a Darshan flourish that deviates from the original – I certainly do not remember a fan commenting about Salieri, “Woh kuch bolta bhi nahin, to mere andar drums bajne lagte hainâ€? – but otherwise, this is a pretty literal copy, right down to Reggie’s illness that saddles him with the kind of consumptive cough not heard in Hindi cinema since Leela Chitnis vacated her deathbed. But by not getting deeper into the conceits of the original, Darshan trivialises AJ’s motivations, making it appear that he was jealous of Reggie’s talent and success, while what was driving him round the bend was actually the profound sense of his own mediocrity. One aspect of this trivialisation, though, does seem oddly insightful about the times we live in. In Amadeus, in the segment where Mozart stages The Marriage of Figaro, we learn that this opera flopped because the short-attention-span audience was unused to such a level of complexity. Indeed, the dilettante emperor had advised Mozart, on an earlier work, that it had “too many notes.â€? In the parallel sequence in Shakalaka Boom Boom, Reggie’s album bites the dust – but not because it’s too complicated. AJ attributes the failure to the lack of proper publicity, the underlying message being that with enough time on TV channels and with enough billboards on the roadsides, the album would have become a hit – work of genius or not, “too many notesâ€? or not. And if the likes of Shakalaka Boom Boom succeed, that theory would really prove itself, wouldn’t it?

Copyright ©2007 The New Sunday Express

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi