Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Main Hoon Na, or, Ooohh, I Get It Now!

Very nice.

Way back a few months ago (I can't remember exactly how many) I watched Main Hoon Na. At the time I was very, very new to Hindi films and had no idea that it was supposed to be a pastiche of Bollywood conventions. I think it speaks to Farah Khan's talent that I ended up really enjoying the film anyway.

Now, of course, I know better. And since I've listened to Farah Khan's fabulous commentary on the DVD for this, her first film, I've learned much more about filmi history and standards. She's chatty, hilariously irreverent, and self-aggrandizing in the most charming way. I'd rate her commentary as highly as the actual movie.

Main Hoon Na (translated "I'm here now" in the subtitles but more accurately "Am I not here?" according to other sources) is a 2004 release starring Shah Rukh Khan, Suniel Shetty (whose name, darn it, is spelled differently everywhere I look--here it is in Tulu, I give up: ಸುನಿಲ್ ಶೆಟ್ಟಿ),

Farah's comment: "I loved shooting Suniel from the ground; he has such a stylish walk." Uh-huh.

Naseeruddin Shah, Kabir Bedi, Kirron Kher, Zayed Khan, Amrita Rao, and Sushmita Sen. It also features performances from Satish Shah, Boman Irani, Bindu, Rakhi Sawant, and a bunch of other people whose names I'm too lazy to look up. Oh! And Tabu has a blink-and-you-miss-it special appearance.

So much has been written about this film that it seems redundant to recap the plot, but I'll give it a shot anyway. During a television show that's taping an interview with the head general of the Indian Army (Kabir Bedi), terrorists invade the studio and start a firefight. Seems they object to Project Milaap (helpfully translated "peace" in the subtitles), a program to release wrongfully held Pakistani prisoners back to their homeland. During the ensuing gunfight, Major Ram Sharma's father (Naseer) is killed. His dying wish is that Ram (SRK) make peace with the general's estranged wife and their son, of whose existence Ram remained ignorant until his father was on his deathbed.

Ram buries his father (Farah's comment: "Those are the columns from Asoka. See, producers, I am very frugal.") After getting vital info from the standard family servant, he discovers that the reason his father's wife left was because she discovered he had an affair--the product of which was Ram. (Farah's comment: "I used this plot device from one of my favorite movies, Masoom.") We see a beautiful Kirron Kher with her hair down pack her bags and leave with a screaming baby. (Farah's comment: "I was going to shoot this scene in silhouette but Kirron threw a fit. She said if I didn't show her face until Interval she wouldn't do the film.")

Ram's about to embark on his quest for family peace when General Bakshi (Kabir-ji's character) asks him to head for Darjeeling where his daughter Sanjana attends college. They're estranged because he refused to give her love (girls suck! boys rule! is the general impression I'm getting from Hindi films) since he wanted a son. Now he regrets it but she won't have anything to do with him. And the terrorists have sent him photos of Sanjana, marking her as a target.

Ram sympathizes but almost turns the assignment down until the general reveals that another student attends Sanjana's college who Ram might be interested in: Lakshman Sharma--Ram's brother. Oh, and Ram has to pose as a student because otherwise he won't be able to keep a constant eye on Sanjana. Ram has some serious reservations but accepts the assignment.

In a Harry-Potter-homage moment, the photo the terrorists sent of Sanjana (where they apparently told her that they were fashion photographers so she would pose adorably beside some collegiate columns) turns into live-action Sanjana (Amrita), who runs through a tunnel and embarks on a fantastic big dance number. (Farah's comment: "I'd wanted to do a dance without any cuts, all in one shot, for a very long time. Now finally I didn't have anyone telling me why it was impossible.")

This is where the subtitles begin sucking even more than usual for a Bollywood movie, because someone somewhere decided that it'd be a great idea to translate the lyrics into rhyming English. This is utterly incomprehensible to me. Why would anyone rather read, "Let the nymphets come to me," or "like the bumblebee's affair," instead of "If beautiful women appear, let them," or "like butterflies flocking through a garden?" (My apologies if you prefer the Mother Goose version of the lyrics. And my sympathies.)

So, Ram shows up and totally does not recognize his brother Lakshman in the loser Lucky who's failed "thrice" times and shoves Ram down almost the moment they meet. Lucky (Zayed) is a greaseball who clearly doesn't just have tobacco in his cigarettes, but Sanjana loves him anyway. Not that he cares, or even notices for that matter. For a while, Ram seems to be failing at both his assignments until he discovers Lakshman's true identity and by chance is able to save him from a dangerous situation. This gives him the "in" he needs to guard Sanjana and befriend his brother--undercover, of course.

Then the terrorists and a hot chemistry teacher (Sushmita) show up--separately--and complicate Ram's mission and his life beyond all bearing. It's total masala loveliness as one plotline crosses another and another until they all become a narrative cat's cradle.

I love almost everything about this movie. The music totally rocks, especially the fantastic qawwali:

As you can see if you watched the whole song (watch it! Ajnabi Overlord demands it!), the chemistry between SRK and Sushmita (chemistry! ha!) can't be beat. These two are hot together and she is clearly having the time of her life.

(Note to Aishwarya: I love you. But this is what a person looks like when she's really having fun. Please file away for future reference.)

Also, the nods to just about every single popular film from Bollywood and Hollywood over the past 20 years keep coming like an avalanche of hokey goodness. Plus, SRK's inability to stop singing around the object of his affections is so stinking funny I've probably watched this scene a million times (Farah's comment: "It was Shah Rukh's idea that he should have a hard time keeping his arms down").

There are some things that are unintentionally bad. Zayed's acting leaves something to be desired when emotional intensity is required (although he is a good dancer, yay). The lighting at times resembles that of a bad British sci-fi serial ("Dr. Whoooo! Dr. Who!"). Some of the incidental music is blatantly lifted, which is a Bollywood tradition but not one that needs even the briefest of acknowledgment.

Still, these are minor quibbles with a majorly fun movie. Main Hoon Na is worth every penny.


  1. There's disagreement over whether this is a good movie for a newbie, and I come down heartily on the side of "no," because while it might be good without understanding, it is so much better with it. Ditto Om Shanti Om, though I don't feel as strongly about that one because I just don't think it's as good a film. When pressed, I usually say that this is my very most favorite Bollywood film, and I get more and more out of it every time I see it.

  2. It's definitely in my top three, but I agree with you that it's not for newbies, despite the humor and kickin' soundtrack. Either most of the parody-parts go completely over your head, the way they did for me, and you think "this is a normal Bollywood movie," or someone with you has to explain all the jokes, which is just not that funny.

  3. I dont even know how many times I've watched this one :D and every time, enjoyed it jsut as much- Sushmita absolutely rocks- ur so right- she does seem to be having a really good time

  4. Shweta, I lost count around a dozen. LOL And I *loved* Sush's performance. I like what I know about her in real life but this was the first movie I saw her in.

  5. I remember liking the movie but dont remember much about it. For one who was brought up on a diet of pure Bollywood masala, I dont remember catching any of the clues to movies past that you are talking about (hanging my head in shame). The song Gori gori gori gori did remind me of my favorite 60s numbers, but that is all. :-(

    On a totally disconnected note, just read the list of favorite books on your profile and discovered some of my favorites there. I love Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Peters and Georgette Heyer, too! Have you seen the Lord Peter Wimsey TV series? There was even an old movie starring Robert Montgomery as Peter Wimsey called Busman's Honeymoon. Georgette Heyer sadly never made it to the screen - her novels are so much fun!

  6. Yay! A fellow fan of genre classics! Oh, man, I *so* wish I could see the old Wimsey TV series. I wonder if Netflix has it? And much as I love La Heyer, she was too much of a snob to ever let her works of art be polluted by such a common medium, hai na? ;-)

    On topic: you should give Main Hoon Na one more shot, or at least listen to Farah's commentary some time. It's as good as the movie IMO.

  7. I like the movie very much.Especially SRK.

  8. Saheli, SRK was definitely a highlight of the movie for me too. His goofy expressions made the film twice as fun. I love a guy who's not afraid to poke fun at himself!

  9. Such a lovely film that made Farah Khan one of my favourite people ever. <333 I can hardly think of criticism for this awesome film. The songs and dances, story, characters, acting-- all excellent. Though I'm not a huge fan of Sushmita here or her role because they up the 'sexy' factor a little too much for my tastes so it almost gets slutty in 'Tumhein Jo Maine Dekha', but Ram's affections towards her are so damn cute!

    I agree that Zayed wasn't perfect, but he was good imo, and definitely could improve if someone gave him a good role and some guidance.

    And WHEEEEERE is the Tabu cameo?! I've watched this movie 3 times and still can't find it! *cries*

    Anyways, this one is a perfect sleepover movie. Well, it would be if I actually had friends who would come over for sleepovers. XD But I should seriously do a 'live' review of this movie sometime in the next week. You're my inspiration! ;)

  10. I blame Main Hoon Na for ruining Om Shanti Om for me. If she hadn't raised my expectations so high I wouldn't have been so disappointed in the pieces of OSO I saw. Never did make it through the whole film.

    Tabu's in the moment where SRK is demonstrating how he can't dance, and everybody's left, and there's one girl left staring in disbelief and clutching a 3-ring binder. The girl is Tabu.

    You should totally do a live review! I'd love to read it!


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