I just can’t believe that its been 10 years since this film’s release, I feel like it happened yesterday. BTW, I am talking about Tamil version, not Aamir’s. 😛
Ghajini is the blockbuster film released in 2005 and it boosted Suriya’s stardom and introduced 2 heroines into a steadfast mode until each of their plunge. Ghajini is a very special film for Keralites because it features two actresses from Kerala; Asin and Nayan Thara. The movie is loosely based on Christopher Nolan’s cult film “memento”. The movie ran for months and was even re-released on demand. Ghajini is one of the most remembered films in Tamil film history, but even then it is flawed.
The movie is about Sanjay Ramasamy (Suriya), a mentally handicapped person who desperate for revenge against the man (Pradeep Rawat) who killed his girlfriend Kalpana (Asin Thottumkal) and due to the fact that the assault during the tussle led to his brain damage. The damage led to Short-term amnesia, a condition where it is difficult for the person to make new memories and he forgets everything after 15 minutes. He keeps notes and photographs from his Polaroid camera to remind him of what is going to happen next. Eventually, he is aided by a medical student named Chitra (Nayan Thara) who chooses his case for her research project. She ends up in his cat and mouse chase where he tracked both by the police and Kalpana’s killer himself.
First of all, the premise is excellent. It was a different touch used in Tamil films as it presented a scenario that has a potential for better plot developments and a thrill sequences. This movie is only based on memento and is not a remake of the Hollywood film; only similarity is the idea that involves a man suffering from short-term amnesia seeking revenge. The story and scenarios are completely different. So if anyone called it a remake of memento and if they try to compare the two films, then they are, in blunt words, out of their minds. When the film began, I was very intrigued by the build-up and the flashback structuring where we are slowly introduced to the relationship between Sanjay and Kalpana, based on writings in Sanjay’s diary. But then, the film is not spared by any of the traditions that makes one cringe, villains who are too bad to be believed and heroes who have enough power to send a man flying. Won’t the testosterone filled audience be satisfied unless it is present? This film couldn’t do justice to the premise and the build-up and definitely, it couldn’t do justice to two female characters, therefore, women in general; until Mr Murugadoss introduced a “shero film” Akira this year. Fingers crossed hoping that the character will be free of masculine overtones. Sanjay is a very interesting character and Suriya’s talents created quite a persona. We see a bipolar version of Sanjay; a young and smart chocolate boy who is shy and awkward and the football headed angry man. Suriya as the angry guy is worth all the accolades, not to mention Aamir Khan personally rang him up to shower his appreciations. He has a very tangible chemistry with Asin and they created a fine blend of romance and comedy and thus the first half can be viewed several times. But the one aspect I didn’t like is the hyper-masculinity. If he developed that characteristic after his injury, during his revenge-seeking days then again fine, we could identify with him. But, by the second half, Kalpana was under attack by the goons and we see Sanjay step with the fire of heroism in his eyes and he shoves people away with a single punch in “Rajinikant” style. A guy who was awkward and hardly raised a word of protest when he was asked to model in an underwear ad, became a macho man out of the blue. That was very hard to digest and not to mention that sequence itself was unnecessary as Kalpana seemingly disappears under unbelievable circumstances and she was back at her apartment where the tragic incident occurs. That fight sequence was created for the sake of satisfying the male audience and to redefine Suriya’s image but it affected the flow of the pacing.
The movie introduced two daring and strong female characters who are in contrast with each-other based on audience’s perception. Kalpana has a personality while Chitra is objectified. Kalpana is adorable, sizzling and she is a kind hearted soul who wouldn’t hesitate before lending a helping hand. Her strong personality earned her a lot of fans and Asin, in her lifetime in Tamil and Bollywood industry, has never done a role like this. Most of her characters were limited to background decorations, damsel in distress or annoying love interest of the hero, one of the reasons why I despised her film choices. Kalpana’s character depth and development raised the potential for a scope. She is the person who fearleslly took down Ram/Lakshman’s sex racket business and could have been her own feet while confronting their sadistic deeds. But, it came to a complete full-stop and the role simply transformed into a revenge tale where the guy took over. I, personally have nothing against revenge films but I had a lot of expectations from this movie and in Kalpana’s contributions but she could only be an inspiration for the hero, it was a huge letdown, especially after the massive build-up. Indirectly the movie was saying, “ladies, don’t try to be a hero. It is a man’s job” and that’s what the Indian films have been saying for a while and our elders emphasized our status. It was like watching a beautiful balloon inflating, you expect to see something on the surface and at the end, it explodes midair. Aside from my rants, Asin did a fantastic job in her role. Her happy-go-lucky nature, sweet gestures, bubbly and vibrant attitude made the first half fun to watch along with her combination scenes with Suriya. Her performance during the murder scene is astounding and she will make you believe that she is being murdered. Suriya’s performance made it haunting and we will never forget it. Another character development disappointment is Chitra who was also developed as an interesting character. Her major letdown is nothing else but this song.
This is probably the start of Nayan Thara’s status as an item girl or the sex symbol. Most of the Ghajini posters highlighted two aspects; Suriya’s machoism and Nayan Thara’s sex appeal. I was under the impression that she was a stripper in this movie. It was just the one song and Chitra is remembered only for that, not to mention this song, which have half naked dancers (men and women) twerking and chest heaves, is part of a college cultural program, around this time cinematic dance was banned in school campuses in Kerala.
Chitra did many daring (although stupid) moves and she played a major role in Sanjay’s success. Nayan Thara was lively but she had her overacting and underacting moments.
I enjoyed the film and people have been showering positive reviews for Murugadoss’s attempt on bringing a different theme but it was overdone by filling it with every typical tradition used in Tamil cinema; slapstick comedy, good looking heroines, fair actresses, hyper-masculine action and item numbers. The cinematography and editing created pacing and the difference during each scenario is felt. Action scenes have a tone, romantic scenes have a light texture and the song sequences are well visualized. My favorite being “suttum vizhi“.
Pradeep Rawat made a convincing performance though his character needed better development. Riyaz Khan delivered a great performance as always though his acting is stereotypical. He plays the cop who investigates Sanjay’s deeds and most narration takes place from POV as he reads his diary first. then this character simply disappears from the screen, just like that. It would have been much better if he helped Sanjay and got the criminals at the end. Harris Jayaraj composed haunting melodies which create an impact even today. I remember the countless number of times the songs were played during the time of this film’s release. But most of these songs were unnecessary in the film’s pacing; notably “rangola” and “X machi”. Why was the second song even used? The transition of the plot from a romantic comedy to an action thriller seemed like a big shift and the script needed better polishing to smoothen the transition. And, who or what is Ghajini? That was a big question raised during the film’s running. The Hindi version had the villain’s name as “Ghajini”. In Tamil version, it is just another name.
Overall the film was good and based on your taste you will enjoy it better and it is a much watch film for Suriya fans due to his bipolar portrayal of a character. With proper polishing and removal of all the “typicals” this would have been a great movie. But even then ignoring my rants, people see it as a great film.
Featured image: youtube.com khafaexports