I owe my abiding love for B-movies to Dabba.
The official name was Sri Ganesh Talkies ad it was located a couple of kilometres from the campus gate at BITS, Pilani. It had four walls, a makeshift ceiling, and the projectionist’s dhoti for a screen. I’m guessing he diligently washed it every February 29th. Front bench (and I really mean bench) seats cost 3 bucks, back bench seats cost 4 bucks and luxury seating in the back row cost 5 bucks. When they increased ticket prices across the board by one buck, we even bargained with the guy at the counter for a few weeks and got a discount. The front row seats were convenient — you could stretch your legs out on the bench. (The fact that there were rats scurrying around might have had something to do with it as well.) They changed the movie every 3-4 days — not enough film-goers around to run a movie for a whole week.
Much of what made its way to Dabba came direct from Ooty, where Prabhuji Mithun Chakraborty ran a film factory that produced movies as often as Ram Gopal Varma (but with less variance in quality or box office appeal). The immutable physical laws that govern the universe state that Prabhuji must have either a sister (who usually gets raped/killed) or a brother (who gets killed, leaving him to look after said brother’s girlfriend/fiancee/wife who may also have gotten raped in the process). It seemed to us that there was a virtual glut of interchangeable, well-endowed starlets vying for this role, because I don’t remember seeing the same actress playing his sister twice.
Mithun didn’t have a monopoly on this industry either: a movie called Rakhwaale (not to be confused with the Anil Kapoor starrer, Rakhwaala) remains seared into my neurons for all time. Sure, it had a preposterous plot and a no-name hero who delivered the Great Sequoia of wooden performances. What really made it special was that, every once in a while, there would be a shot of Mukesh Khanna in a tan overcoat and matching fedora watching the action from a discreet spot and then glowering significantly at the camera. Right at the end, it is revealed that he is a CBI officer or some such thing. Absoslutely sublime, I tell you.
But here’s the thing: I do not remember disliking any of these movies. They were honest, sincere efforts at making a B-movie and we received them in that spirit. Nobody went into Dabba expecting Citizen Kane. Nobody came out disappointed.
It was when I went to watch some big name star/director make an ass of himself that I came away disappointed. Mithun delivered exactly what he promised. But Aamir Khan in Mann — that was another matter entirely. These were the real cinematic turkeys, the ones I plan to roast in this post. This is a short, non-exhaustive list of some of the worst such offenders that I have come across. These don’t fall in the category of Locomotive 38 movies — they’re just plain crappy, period.
Aside: You’re probably wondering whether I really needed to take this long to get to the point of this post. I like to digress, okay? If you ever hear me say Abhivaadaye, you might notice the name Polonius slipped in between Bhargava and Jamadagni.
1. Mann: Indra Kumar’s remake of An Affair to Remember, starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala. The first half, set aboard a cruise ship, involves ninety minutes of such abominable filmmaking that it ought to have been banned by the Geneva Convention. A few scenes from that nightmare : as soon as Manisha boards the ship, she collides with… no, not the hero, as usually happens, but a desi version of Mike Myers in all his shagadelic glory. (Funny as the original? Not so much.) One character on the ship who keeps laughing like a hyena being sodomized by a cattle prod inside a room filled with nitrous oxide. Imagine hearing it at the end of one scene, and just to make sure that you stay on the wall you’ve been driven up, a continuation of that in the beginning of the next scene. On top of which, Aamir and Manisha act like a Lifetime Achievement Razzie is up for grabs on the strength of this one performance. I have never prayed harder for icebergs.
2. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom: You get Abhishek Bachchan, Priety Zinta and Amitabh to act in the same movie and what do you do? Put them in something that looks like a musical, sounds like a musical and wants to be a musical but ends up being a pile of guano gone bad. Dress Amitabh up like he had an unfortunate incident involving a peacock and a quantum teleportation device. Painful to the point where regular readers of this blog, such as there are, will immediately understand what I mean when I call a movie a JBJ experience. (Full review here.)
3. Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag: Apparently, the Large Hadron Collider has been working fine for a few years now. RGV tried to produce antimatter by running Sholay from two separate projectors and smashing those beams together. The result so unnerved the scientists at CERN that they shut it down and made up a story about eddies in the spacetime continuum and somebody stealing magnets for their fridge.
4. Baba: I don’t mind the fact that Rajni wanted to showcase his spiritual side in this movie. Nor the fact that he and Manish Koirala looked like the Hobo and the Hippo (some people look good with a quadruple chin, but she isn’t one of them). What I do mind is the fact that Rajni thought he could mix up little bits from the Amman movie genre (the bits involving magicians with diabolical plans and much sinister laughter) with standard Rajni movie staples, add some mystical stuff about immortal ascetics in the Himalayas and get away with it. And that a whole raft of actors and a director like Suresh Krishna (who, as it happens, directed Baasha) went along with him. Couldn’t somebody — anybody, really — have whacked him upside the head with something hard, blunt and radioactive? Was the money really that good?
5. Anjali: Of the lot, this is the most disappointing. Its child stars won special National awards for their performances. It has a few really good moments and a beautiful story about prejudice and acceptance in various forms. But to get to all of that, you have to get past a bunch of loud performances, annoyingly precocious kids and and scenes set in an apartment that Howard Roark would’ve blown up on general principle. And to top it all off, the most annoying death scene in the history of cinema. If that little girl had screamed “Ezhundiru Anjali, ezhundiru” one more time, Mani Rathnam could’ve made Anjali 2: Night of the Living Dead as his follow-up feature.
Dedication: I don’t know if there is such a thing as dedicating blog posts, but I would like to dedicate this one to two of my friends, Renugopal and Tarun, with whom I have watched more crappy movies than anyone in their right mind ever would.