When Logic Stood Still
Review of the Movie classic Gunda.
Can I review Copolla’s Godfather? Can I re-asses Sgt Pepper? Do I have the audacity to comment on Dali’s later works or give my take on pre-war German expressionist movement? No I cannot. And I wont. There are works of art and then there are works of art. The ones mentioned above fall in the second category. And they are best left untouched by amateurs like me.
So when I was asked to review Gunda, I was in a conundrum. Should I overreach myself and try to accomplish something which hasn’t been ever done before. But I decided to give it a try. Here lies an honest attempt of trying to decipher the most avant garde of bollywood movies which turned film noir on its head and redefined entertainment for ever.
There are two types of people I would put to death the moment dictatorship is handed over to me. The ones who discuss Gunda without having actually seen it. And the ones who have seen and don’t discuss it. But before going to the movie we should begin with the traditional paying of respects to the two stalwarts who have provided solace to the millions of Indians desperate for three hours of escapism. Prabhuji- whom some rascals just call Mithun and Kanti Shah on whom everyone from Tarantino to David Lynch have based their directorial styles. Kantian philosophy is much more profound and populist that that of the highly boring and totally irreverent Immanuel version. It follows a simple path of a congregation of the vilest of men who decide that it would be fun to ravage the life of a guy usually from the lower strata of the society. All goes fine till it is revealed that the protagonist is capable of extraordinary rage and destruction and the movie ends in a cataclysmic showdown. Sounds simple. Doesn’t it? Not when Kanti Shah is in charge and Prabhuji in the lead.
First the facts which separate Gunda from the rest. The movie is in verse. Poetry so insightful and so reflective of our times that one is forced to go back and hear them again just to be sure of what they just heard. A sample,
aaj gundagiri aur netagiri dono eki baap ke do harami aulaad hain.
Har kadam par khoon hai, har kadam par paap, paap karne mein yeh insaan, shaitaan ke bhi baap
I won’t give out the plot. I don’t want fatwas against me. But when you do watch the movie at one point you will realize that things like plot, logic and sense which forms a vital part of normal movies lose their meaning in Gunda. It takes you to a completely different level where you eagerly wait to see to what heights can the screenplay reach and what miracles has the action director have in store for you. The climax is like none other you have ever seen simply for the fact that it consists of countless number of remote controlled auto-rickshaws. Another vital nugget of information I would like to draw your attention to is the way each villain introduces himself. The list goes thus
Lambu Atta – “Deta hoon maut ka chaanta”
Bulla – “Sab karta hoon khullam khulla”
Chutiya “Acche acchon ki khadi karta hoon khatiya”
Pote – “Jo apne baap ke bhi nahi hote”
Ibu Hatela – “Maa meri chudail ki beti, Baap shaitan ka chela, Kyon? Khaayega Kela?”
Many critics have vociferously debated the significance of the reference to bananas in the last quote, but no explanation could conclusively prove anything. But then that’s just one of the numerous references peppering the screenplay.
The acting is top notch. When you have veterans like Shakti Kapoor for whom the role of the hermaphrodite was almost like playing himself in real life. Mukesh Rishi’s portrayal of Bulla is still referred to in the acting schools on the lanes of Byculla. Mohan Joshi, Ishrat Ali and Harish Patel still receive fan mail for their legendary rendering of Pote, Lamboo Ata & Ibu Hatela. And of course I can’t commit blasphemy by trying to comment on Prabhuji’s work. Prabhuji yet again proved that Rajnikanth isn’t the sole authority on logic defying stunts and mind boggling sudden assortments of rocket launchers and hordes of white ambassadors.
Now the final section is for people who have already seen Gunda. My suggestion: Watch it again. This time try to grasp the underlying vivid imagery and only then you will realize the magnitude of Kantian philosophy. Gunda is nothing but a brilliant satire on the turbulent nineties. “Rakhta hoon Khulam Khulla” is nothing but an allusion to the open market economics. Chutiya’s crave for ‘Sex ki Goliya from
So come on, join the cult. Trust me, you will define your life into two sections, the naïve pre-Gunda years and the significantly illuminated post-Gunda years.
* I am eternally indebted to Arnab Ray(Greatbong) for introducing me to this classic. His analysis of each aspect of the movie has helped me write this review. Please visit his website greatbong.net for a more detailed review of the movie.