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Joker (2012): Bollywood’s Worst Beats a Lot of Hollywood

Joker (Shrish Kunder, 2012)

 

photo credit: India Today

The headline on the article where I pulled this poster: “Shrish Kunder’s Joker bombs at the box office.”

I’m afraid to ask my Indian friends what they think of Joker; every Hindi critic I’ve read on the subject called the film awful, many of them including it in their five worst movies of the year. My going hypothesis on why I enjoyed this movie as much as I did (aside from “I Want Just You”, which at least one Bollyspice critic was compelled to say was the only good thing about the movie): Indian viewers have not yet been desensitized to utter crap by Hollywood. I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that the average movie viewer in Bangalore wasn’t subjected to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Island, About a Boy, the last four or five Hellraiser sequels…

 

photo credit: IBN Live

“I can find all the answers I need… by staring into this big light.”

Plot: In 1947, when Pakistan was separating from India, the surveyors left out the village of Paglapur, which spent sixty-five years lying just outside the boundaries of three separate states. Now Agastya (OMG!‘s Akshay Kumar), the only resident of Palagpur to ever leave the village, is called back from America after an urgent message from his brother: his father is very ill and will not live long. He goes back with his girlfriend Manali (Rowdy Rathore eye-popper Sonakshi Sinha), who asks why Agastya never told her he had a family. “You’ll see,” he tells her, and she does: Palagpur is, literally, a town of lunatics. It was previously home to India’s largest asylum, and the reason it was never surveyed is that on the night that was supposed to happen, the lunatics escaped and, in essence, took over the town. (In the movie’s opening scene, we see a surveyor attempting to get to Palagpur; later in the movie, we find he stayed on, and his grandson is now part of Palagpur’s ruling elite.) Turns out the village has a water problem: a dam that was recently completed has cut off the town’s water supply, so Agastya needs to figure out how to restore the town’s water while working under a deadline for the American company he works for, building a machine capable of communicating with any intelligent life that may be found in outer space. None of the three border states are willing to take responsibility for the town, so Agastya comes up with a plan that will both draw attention to the town’s plight and help with his deadline: the town creates a crop circle, and of course the media flocks to Paglapur…

photo credit: indianexpress.com

Insert big musical number.

 

Like almost every other Bollywood movie I’ve seen, it’s chock full of big song-and-dance numbers that my fifteen-month-old son was enchanted with. It’s also got more than its share of references to other films (most obviously M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, though in an absurdist-comedy framework), which I found amusing, if not overly subtle. It’s stupidly funny, if predictable. But again, I say this as someone who lives in a culture where our idea of “comedy” is Jackass, Chris Farley, and Adam Sandler. Obviously, it doesn’t take much to amuse Americans. ** ½

 

“I Want Fakht You”, the original version of “I Want Just You” that was considered too obscene for inclusion in the film.

 

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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