Film: Om Shanti Om; Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Shreyas Talpade, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal, Kirron Kher; Writer-Director: Farah Khan; Ratings: *
Welcome to Shanti town, a.k.a Farah Khan's filmi fudge-quake.
Is it homage to the zany anything-goes spirit of the Hindi potboilers from the 1970s? A kind of Manmohan Desai dolled up in the crispy, corny, catch-me-if-can-can spirit of the new millennium?
Or is this supposed to be a straight-off adaptation of Subhash Ghai's 'Karz'?
The hasina in this case is the much-awaited, much-hyped Deepika Padukone. A pretty face, sweet smile and an old-world charm... That's about it.
The deewana is of course the irrepressible Shah Rukh Khan, who gets to slip into two eras, and never mind the aura. Farah, who's a close ally and collaborator of the star, provides no breathing pace in this wheezy take on the infamous formulae of our commercial cinema.
Some of the film's bona-fide comic romps come during awards functions when Subhash Ghai and Rishi Kapoor fight to give away an award, Abhishek Bachchan tries to hide a scowl or Akshay Kumar gets nominated for his umpteenth 'Khiladi' film.
And yes, that title song with all the glorious screen kings and queens, parading in pirouetting pleasure, is nearly priceless in choreography and spirit.
But that's about it.
Farah Khan's agitated screenplay takes quivering pot shots at one and all, from the bombastic dialogues of the cinema of the 1970s, to Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna to the infamous on screen mother, played here with delightful spoof by Kirron Kher - she talks in maudlin rhetoric and embraces cliches of maternity with unconditional ecstasy.
The same, alas, cannot be said about the spirit with which 'Om Shanti Om' embraces the spirit of our cinema. The mood is one of patronising and condescension rather than genuine admiration for an era that's gone with the wind.
Farah's narrative careens between maudlinism and satire. It sometimes spoofs, sometimes tilts its hat to the films that came in the era of great aura and elan, the two qualities sorely lacking in this work of confounding kitsch.
There are some terrific moments of satire in the plot. The opening scene, in which junior artistes (Shah Rukh and Farah) cheer Rishi Kapoor as he jives on stage to the 'Om Shanti Om' track in Subhash Ghai's 'Karz', is a masterly piece of homage to a way of cinema that's gone-bye-bye.
Soon, however, Farah forgets the satirical mood of her narration, which keeps swinging from homage to imitation with artifice.
Often the devices that are used to generate nostalgic amusement in the first-half are deployed after interval in dead earnestness.
A song sequence in the first-half has Shah Rukh and his object of adoration Deepika riding a stationary car in a studio with back-projection simulating movement.
In the second-half the same device is used without any spoof when the second Shah Rukh, a spoilt bratty specimen of vivacious vanity, rides in the wilderness on the arch-villain Arjun Rampal's limousine.
Rebirth, which would be considered fodder for 1970s' style of suspend-your-disbelief cinema in the past, here becomes a matter of immense thematic propulsion.
The climax is an insult to all enthusiasts of traditional commercial cinema.
Bimal Roy's 'Madhumati' finds its nemesis in the hands of these fun-seekers.
Caught between the mawkish and the mockery, the film's creator thinks smart-aleck one-liners are enough to sustain a three-hour feature film, 'Om Shanti Om' barely survives its own arrogant self-regard, thanks to some genuinely entertaining moments provided by Shah Rukh.
His take-off on a South Indian masala matinee-idol in the scorching sun of a humid studio premise is first-rate. So are his expressions of not-so-furtive adoration for the rather pale heroine.
'Om Shanti Om' is like a cracker that fizzles before the promised sizzle occurs. The studio atmosphere where the junior-artiste and his buddy (Shreyas Talpade) hang out with self-conscious nonchalance would have made Guru Dutt smile.