Directed by Vikram Bhatt
Music: Jatin Lalit; Lyrics: Sameer & Indeevar
Running Time: 165 minutes
Bursting to the seams like an overstuffed grab
bag of 50’s film nostalgia, Ghulam spills over with nods to territory from
On the Waterfront to the Wild Ones to West Side Story and finally to a
Shane like showdown. With the long sideburns, motorcycle gangs, leather
clad beauties, youthful angst and games of deadly chicken the film revels
in its retro feel like a greasy diner hamburger and surrounds itself with
a thick explosive level of Indian melodrama. Like many Indian films, it
shifts quickly from a light romantic beginning to a dramatic action packed
finale, but what really pulls the viewer along throughout are the energetic
and highly personable performances from Aamir Khan and the dreamily beautiful
Rani Mukerjee. Their dramatic and musical scenes shimmer with sweet chemistry
and underplayed sex appeal.
Aamir (Siddharth) is a carefree scamp and a small
time thief who makes merry with his small band of followers – like grown-up
Artful Dodgers - who sing and dance their impudence on the streets of Bombay.
Sometimes though a reluctant Aamir is brought in by his brother to help
the ruthless neighbourhood crime boss, Ronnie, by using his fast fists
to intimidate certain people. Aamir doesn’t really like this side of his
life as it conflicts with the humanitarian message that his now dead father
tried to impart to him – but his loyalty to his brother makes it difficult
for him to say no. This moral conflict will widen and become too painful
to ignore as the film progresses.
A run in with a motorcycle gang headed by Deepak
Tijori and his tight leather attired glam girlfriend, Rani (when she takes
off her helmet and shakes her hair it is one of those movie moments), leads
to a game of chicken in which Aamir and Deepak run head on at an oncoming
train to see who jumps first. I am sure it wasn’t as dangerous as it looked,
but somehow they made it look incredibly real with Aamir barely getting
out of the way of the train – and it is shown from two angles ala Jackie
Chan. His courage wins the respect of the gang but even more importantly
some quality time with Rani – who turns out of course to be slumming from
a wealthy family – and when he climbs up to her penthouse window from the
outside – she is as good as his.
After her drunken father expresses his rage, the
two of them go for a walk outside and Aamir cheers her up by breaking into
“Aati Kya Khandala” that is a classic song and dance number (which Aamir
actually sings as opposed to a playback singer). It’s a wonderfully simple
but effective number – just the two of them alone on the street at night
kept company only by the streetlights above – and they sing back and forth
to one another and break into a playful jig, a waltz and other dance styles.
This popular number got a comical replay in Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham when
after finishing the “Shava Shava” number Amitabh breaks into the song,
forgets the lyrics and Kajol yells them out to him – and Shahrukh does
the lit match thing with his tongue to copy Aamir’s ending to the song.
Things don’t stay light for long as Aamir is pressured
to throw a boxing match (I could have been a contender) by his brother
– and stubbornly takes an undefended horrific beating in the ring and then
is forced by circumstances to stand up to the ex-boxing champ and now major
thug Ronnie for his honor, his pride and to save his neighborhood from
his tyranny. In a drag out knock down brutal mano y mano fight with the
town’s cowered citizens looking on, Aamir fights for his life and for his
love. Much of the film may seem cliché driven, but it’s done with
so much verve and good spirits that it is difficult not to get sucked in.
Though “Aati Kya Khandala” is the outstanding
number, all the songs are very solid but what I most appreciated about
them was Rani’s absolutely alluring presence – as she sizzles, soothes
and gives off sexual vibes in a number of the songs. She has rarely been
lovelier then she is in this film and though her role comes and goes during
the film, it is Aamir’s understandable fascination with her that drives
his moral change.
My rating for this film: 8.0