Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ajooba (1991)



Today's review of 'Ajooba' is a curious choice for a post over here at Doc Bollywood. When a viewing of it was suggested my initial impulse was to say no and sit in the corner just rocking back & forth from the bad memories. But wait I said to myself, just because there are moments in history that one dislikes, that is no reason to gloss over them like they never happened. 'Ajooba' is one such moment and too much time has passed since my initial viewing to submit a proper review of it. Instead I will attempt to provide an idea of the historical significance of this movie as it relates to the beginning of the end of the Amitabh era - an event that profoundly changed this Bollywood fan for years to come...

For all practical purposes, Amitabh Bachchan was THE biggest star in Bollywood from the early 70's (beginning with 'Zanjeer') right up until the early 80's. I remember going to movies in the theater in India as well as renting them in the US on that antiquated medium VHS and the general rule was that if it was an Amitabh movie - you just rented it, no questions asked. And for a good while the Big B delivered and did so with an amazing run of blockbuster after blockbuster. The runaway hit train careened off the tracks when he got hurt on the set of 'Coolie' - the news of which not only brought India to a halt but was covered on '60 Minutes'. His career lurched forward while he recovered with some movies that were sitting in production for awhile but then came 'Gangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi' and with it the Amitabh Bachchan party finally shut down for good. And although it would start up a few years later with 'Major Saab', it would never quite be the same. The unthinkable happened in the Indian community with 'GJS' - a general feeling that Amitabh was done, that his movies were bekaar and for a true old-school Amitabh fan it was (with apologies to Don McClean) - the day the music died.



'Ajooba' came along during that dark time and although some bad Bollywood movies are so bad that they are actually good, this one I just remember as being bad. I am sure that if I saw it again today it might be different but the memories of seeing my favorite actor reduced to playing a mythical hero donning an aluminum foil Mardi Gras mask were just too painful. Amitabh was rumoured to have done it gratis for his buddy Shashi Kapoor's debut as a director and the movie turned out to be his only directorial venture (thank goodness). The movie was apparently co-directed by a Russian film director and according to IMDB it was released in Russia a full three years prior to it's release in India. Shashi produced the entire thing and his son Kunal as well as the actor Feroz Khan served as executive producers. Alas, even an all star cast consisting of Dimple Kapadia, Rishi Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Amrish Puri could not save this movie from being one of the costliest train wrecks in Bollywood history. But maybe I have too much emotional baggage attached to this movie and thus encourage you to check it out for yourself. Our friend Beth from Beth Loves Bollywood did and from the looks of it had a grand old time.



The musical score was provided by the legendary team of Laxmikant-Pyarelal and is one of their final efforts. While none of the songs was a bonafide hit (or even that memorable) they all had their signature sound attached to them. Are Tajub Hai is the one I remember the most for the sole reason that it brings back memories of one of my favorite Amitabh/Rishi Kapoor duets, Chal Mere Bhai from 'Naseeb'. The idea of seeing Shashi's nephew as well as one of his best friends on screen together knowing that Shashi is actually directing them in their scenes (along with the dolphin that I think Amitabh referred to as his mother) just might be enough to warrant a re-watch of this movie...

9 comments:

ajnabi said...

Wait--the dolphin is Big B's maa? Wow, the combined effect of Beth's and your posts is making my head spin. LOL

Nida said...

Sanket,

Hmm...don't know if I'll be checking this one out anytime soon...not sure I'm at the same level of appreciation (yet) with this stuff as Beth so lovingly is!

Thank you for the info on Amitabh...I watched a movie called "Hum" with BB in it, and thought that one awful...do you know where it fell in terms of this chronology?

So I conclude from your post that you won't be rewatching it either anytime soon?

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I thought this was the funnest movie ever :D In fact, I think I will watch it again- early 90s excesses? bring em on :D

Beth said...

YES! The dolphin is his mother...OR IS IT?!?!? [Cue suspenseful music.]

Side note of trivia: in the Kapoor family bio by Madhu Jain, Shashi says he lost 3.5 crore on this movie...and that the Soviet backers abandoned the project towards the end of the shooting schedule, and the Russian crew left with, in his own words, "many of the special effects still to be done." One could insert a snarky joke here about the effects, but in the context of the chapter on Shashi's life, it's just distressing. :(

Nida - Hum was one of the movies that came out the same year as Ajooba; I see that both Rajnikanth and Govinda are in it as well, which is more than enough to make me want to run away screaming! :)

bollyviewer said...

The late 80s and early 90s were certainly dark days for Big B fans. As one who grew up in those days my first memories of him are from those terrible movies (Indian TV rarely showed his blockbusters and I didnt get to see most of them till a few years ago) and I am afraid my love of Big B has always been tainted by memories of Akayla, Mard, Khuda Gawah, etc.

In retrospect Ajooba was probably better than those! As Beth suggests on her Ajooba post, we should have a global watchalong to help each other through these difficult movies!!!!

Nida said...

I agree with Beth and Bollyviewer on the watchalong idea AND would probably get a kick out of this if I had you guys to laugh at it with, even if only online (I suppose I could always watch this with my brother--he appreciates my love for Bollywood and sat through Hum Aapke Hain Kaun with me in its entirety without complaining).

Aww, Beth, thanks for the trivia but that's really sad--poor Shashi. And thanks for the info on "Hum"---I got stuck with this one when the cashier at my Indian grocer got it mixed up with "Hum Tum"--talk about an unfortunate mix up!:)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

You have to applaud Shashi's creativity- its such a fearless, campy, bad movie that I cant help but wish that Shashi would send me a Ajooba/Star wars sword too :)

Sanket Vyas said...

Ajnabi - I think it was but at that point my whole head was swirling as well so still not sure ;)

Nida - These masala movies are an acquired taste - 'Hum' was close to unwatchable. There are several AB movies released around that time that I would stay away from: Gunga Jamuna Saraswati, Toofan, Shahensha & Jaadugar. Although the 'Chumma De' song from Hum is quite catchy and was a pretty big hit.

Shweta - I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out why I just love some insane masala movies yet find others unwatchables. After much contemplation I came up with Doc Bollywood's three requirements for a great masala flick: 1. Lots of stars 2. Killer outfits 3. Amazing tunes... It's on that third one that 'Ajooba' failed me, I will sit through some serious crap for the tunes (i.e. Hum Kisise Kum Nahin).

Beth - considering how amazing Shashi was in so many ways I really wish his directorial venture would have been better. Govinda makes me run screaming the other way no matter what :)

Bollyviewer - dark days indeed! Try to go back and watch his stuff from the 70's, imho it was when he did the bulk of his best work. Abhimaan, Mili, Kaala Patthar, Sholay, Don, Suhaag & Amar Akbar Anthony. Oooh, I do feel a watchalong coming along and these 70's masala flicks really DO make the best group experiences.

Bheem said...

The executive Producer Feroz Khan is Not the veteran Film Actor but is renowned Theatre Director.