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Ghajini (2008)

CRUMBLIES… 5 crumblies


I mean…genuinely…wow.

That just happened.

Watch Ghajini. The 2008 version. You’ll need three hours, but they’ll fly by and I’ll have gotten over my bed-bath. Health took a turn for the worse, catheter did its thing, everything is okay again, thanks for asking. Don’t worry about old Jack, he gets bed baths.

Seen Ghajini?

I know! Terrific fun!

And if you haven’t. Oh, look, you must. Everyone on Earth deserves to take three hours of their lives, sit back and bask in the crazy entertainment of this film. Vibrant Vinay had left me and Gert alone with the download, saying he watches it once a year and it isn’t time yet. Cos it’s crazy.

And it really is.

Ghajini is named for its villain. It stars Aamir Khan as Sanjay Singhania, gazillionaire and sweetheart. Alas, we join him in early middle-age when his memory reboots every fifteen minutes, he’s skin-headed, scalp-scarred, tellingly tattooed and a jump-cutting murderer. Oh yes. Vinay had led me to believe Khan was playing early-onset dementia. Nope, he’s been whacked in the head by an iron bar and is on a personal loop of post-it notes and photos to keep him on the murderous path. The tattoos are clues, though. The biggest yelling KALPANA WAS KILLED…

Khan is fantastic as a nutjob with revenge issues. The direction is dark, jumpy to the point of jagged, and his world is grey, rainy and vicious. He has a ton of those so-fast-it-hurts fights that Daniel Craig was also partaking of in the mid-noughties. There are a few lingering shots of his buffed-up torso that made Grabby Gert edge nearer the screen and me a tad further away from it, but, hey,  the film is resolutely macho and action-fun before it becomes…well, that’s for later.

Now, this will get confusing. You’ll love it….

Sanjay kills. Word gets back to Ghajini, who knows himself to be the ultimate target, for Ghajini is a majestic panto-villain snarling at the camera in sensible slacks, and he did awful things to Sanjay… Ghajini also has a crowd of interestingly haircut henchmen and a deeply violent streak.

Now, Khan’s Sanjay has a problem. His fifteen minute memory makes him easy to find. Ghajini and a quaintly quiffed copper, Yadaz, do it very quickly (Riyaz Khan has a mesmerisingly unconvincing detecting-montage before getting the shit beaten out of him by mad Sanjay). There’s also a medical student, Sunita, played by Jiah Khan, who is investigating Sanjay, finds him in five film-minutes and shares photos of herself with him labelled “my friend”. That’ll matter later. Critically, Yadaz knocks out the animalistically nutso Sanjay, and finds his diairies…

This is gripping. Clumsy in places, and anterograde amnesia gets an action-movie level examination (and director’s note) as a rare, poorly understood condition that really only drives the plot. And, somehow, not in the roaringly tasteless manner dementia drives Remember (2015).

And then a massive – and I mean total – change of pace. The diaries tell another story, of a happy Sanjay, chairman of a mobile phone company (or something). It’s two years before, lit colourfully (to the point of camp).

Cue comedy: Kalpana is a kind-hearted model who fibs her way through the day in a company making video adverts. She’s fun, kooky and modern. And – it has to be said – strikingly beautiful. It is heartening to watch 22-year-old Asin bring joy to all her scenes. Okay, the acting can be a bit in-your-face-comic in places, but, bloody hell. If you want contrast, these scenes deliver.

Cue musical: Kalpana and Sanjay begin a love story. She lives in a building where his company could put up an advert. She blags that she’s his girlfriend, he goes to challenge her and, well, Aamir Khan was 43 at the time, so what’s he going to do but fall instantly in love? And by instantly, I mean musically.

Yup – music videos ahoy. From grimness and jump-cut grime, Ghajini camps it to the tits. She’s beautiful and sweet to blind old men and disabled kids. He is stary and smitten. Hell, even old Jack was a bit in love with both of them. Age gaps’ll do that…

Sanjay, being loaded, pretends not to be himself. Sweet Kalpana and pretend-poverty Sanjay fall in love. He admits it to her and asks for marriage one new year’s eve. She…asks to make her mind up tomorrow…

And that’s barely half way through! There’s so much good stuff to come. Back to the present day and the evil of Ghajini and his friends (and, really, it’s bloody, violent, melancholic and travels from nasty to tragic at a pace that catches your breath). Back to the diaries and the reason for Sanjay’s ghastly tattoos and memory issues. There’s a train, children trafficked for their organs, more Kalpana gorgeousness and dance numbers. Really.

Look, this is wrecklessly fun film-making. Ghajini bounces through genres like Tigger on ten daiquiris. Asin gives a performance ranging from comic clown, to sexy-flirt, to dramatic hero, horror heroine, to a moment that must have won her prizes: for the light dying in her eyes makes perfect sense of Sanjay’s future madness. Aamir Khan shows why half the world loves him, centring scenes of violence, body horror, light comedy and desert-based camp romance. Jia Khan, as the flimsily written medical student, carries off nosey-youth and runs with character through some of the properly unnerving chases in the final hour.

You’ll have to look hard to find a better smörgåsbord of genres in something this enjoyable. Grubby Gert was nose-to-screen for the second half. Old Jack here could barely summon the will to call Nurse Stabby-Finger for new pads. Okay, I did, because, you know, catheter; but I kept watching past her fat, grumpy head. Because Ghajini and nutso Sanjay have their show-down. And, honestly, this film protects none of its characters from what comes next. It’s like channel-hopping for a night, only the hopping creates a coherent story with an ending you pretty much feel rather than just watch.

Watch Ghajini once in your life. It’s three hours of brilliance.

With an intermission.

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