by Muffy St. Bernard
Stars: Bobby Deol, Karishma Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Johny Lever
This review contains spoilers, because I didn't much like the movie and don't think you should see it.
Maybe I should explain, right at the beginning, why I bought the Aashiq DVD, even though I don't like anybody in the film and the plot synopsis didn't appeal to me.
I am, unfortunately, an impulse buyer -- I rarely look before I leap -- and when I saw a Gaja Gamini three-pack DVD set at Indian Blockbuster, I assumed it was a collection of somewhat "arty-farty" Indian films. Afterall, why sell a collection of DVDs if they have nothing in common? So, with my capitalistic consumer blood boiling, I plopped down my credit card and bought the collection without even wondering what the other films were about.
Well, as it turned out, I was saddled with Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi and Aashiq, not to mention Gaja Gamini itself which reminded me of a lot of the avant-garde splooges I saw on TV in the early 80's. But that's another story. I was thrilled with KKKM, but Aashiq...well, let's talk about it.
Maybe I'm missing something because I got a copy which wasn't subtitled. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood to watch a "heinous flesh-peddler" flash his terrifying teeth at the camera every five minutes. I certainly wasn't prepared for the cavalcade of freaks so lovingly displayed during this movie. So, maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance, or I was in the wrong state of mind or something, but Aashiq is one of the few films I wish I hadn't bothered to watch. Let me tell you why.
First off, I don't like Bobby Deol. I initially thought I would like
him because he's Sunny's brother (and Dharmendra's son), but he's silly
looking and he can't act. My only other Bobby experience comes from sitting through the equally annoying Kareeb, so maybe I'm suffering perceptual bias here: any film starring the monkey-like Bobby Deol must be terrible.
Next off, I don't much like Karishma either, I think she's silly looking and she can't act.
Now, this film is part of what I call the "slap and rape" genre, which I don't think is meant to explicitly degrade women, but portrays them as constant victims who must be continually rescued by the hero. As an added bonus, in this one we get to see a woman set on fire during the first minutes of the film. I have difficulty watching assault or rape on screen, especially when it happens out of context, and there is no context here: the atrocities are only meant to show what a nasty guy the villain is, and -- I suspect -- to give a cheap thrill to those in the audience who wish they had the opportunity to extinguish a burning lady, beat up the villain, and become a hero. That scenario's all fine and good, except that a woman needs to be set on fire first in order for it to happen, so somebody loses no matter what.
All moot of course, since instead of being rescued, the
woman suffers a slow agonizing death that the filmmakers thoughtfully allow us
Don't get me wrong, though...it isn't all about setting women on fire. In this film, Karishma is in love with Bobby, but her father doesn't approve. Her father is a nasty man, and he starts hitting Bobby with a stick. Bobby is more than a little miffed about the stick thing, so he gives the father a big push, and Karishma objects to this and says something nasty to Bobby. Bobby gets angry with Karishma and he starts to choke her...because he loves her, I suppose. The word "aashiq" means "true lover," loosely translated as "a guy who will try to choke you if you get mad at him."
You can probably see exactly what's coming: Karishma is
betrayed by a close friend and sold to a bunch of Arab flesh-peddlers. The rest
of the movie involves Bobby trying to find out where she is and rescue her,
meanwhile dealing with a progressively more grotesque series of
Now, the actual plot is horrible, though the last half hour gets pretty intense and interesting: the flesh-peddlers sell her to a man who looks remarkably like Bob Christo (and may be him), they drug her, and try to get her through customs by putting her in a wheelchair and a burgha. I was on the edge of my futon as Bobby ran helter-skelter through the airport, whipping off burghas and arousing the anger of the Moslem men. There are more close calls and moments of painful irony than you have any right to expect in a chase scene...but they work. To add to the fun, in the last few minutes the villain sticks his fingers into Bobby's stomach wound and starts wiggling them around, and there's a Matrix-styled bullet effect that is definitely not for the squeamish.
That's it for the important stuff. "How does Johny Lever fit in?" you're wondering. And therein lies a curious story:
JOHNY LEVER, UNLUCKY IN LOVE
Johny is the funny guy -- totally unrelated to the plot -- who is always trying to get married to different women. The first woman he tries to marry becomes a demon with giant eyebrows and Dracula teeth, which in my opinion is more than Mr. Lever deserves, though people with softer hearts than mine may feel sorry for him.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger, Johny gets himself a different bride -- one who, persumably, will not turn into a demon -- but she is accidentally crushed by a falling policeman during their marriage ceremony. She becomes a midget, played -- presumably -- by an actual midget. This sounds a little bit like the plot of the cult series Phantasm, where the evil mortician turns people into undead dwarves by mashing them into little barrels. The procedure in this film is much simpler, though.
Johny is furious about this turn of events -- how can he spend his wedding night with a midget? The solution to his dilemma is a brilliant one: the same luckless police officer accidentally falls on Johny and turns HIM into a midget as well -- this time a computer generated one. He and the real midget dance happily around and perform a song which was far too short and potentially the highlight of the film.
Sometimes, while watching Bollywood films, I find myself wistfully wondering, "why can't real life be like this?" When Johny Lever's on the screen, however, I just count my blessings hope he's happy in whatever alternate reality he's in right now...even if it's one where he's being crushed in a Phantasm barrel.
As an added bonus in this film, there's a smart dog named "Rocky," a German
Shepherd, who is not, I think, an actual trained dog. Whenever he
performs an interesting trick, it consists of about 15 camera shots during which the dog accidentally did what it was supposed to do. This includes being physically thrown onto the back of the aforementioned police officer, who you are probably realizing is the butt of most of the jokes in the film. Unlike the rest of the characters in the film, I liked the police officer...in fact, I've always liked the actor who plays him, who has an enormous nose and always portrays bad guys who turn out to be good guys. His role in this film is no exception...he redeems himself in the end, even though he'd previously done some really terrible things to a woman I think was his daughter.
This film doesn't just stop at police officers with big noses, however...it ups the ante in terms of grotesque scenes and characters. Since pictures of these scenes are far too shocking for young viewers, I've placed them on a separate page.
Let's see...have I missed anything? Oh yes, this film features the first and only "near-death dance number" I've ever seen. Otherwise, the songs are forgettable.
Basically, this movie had no redeeming features except for some
inspired lunacy (the irrepressable Johny Lever, some silliness with the
dog, and a strange skinny banana-eating guy who stutters and grosses everybody out). It's strange when the comic relief is more captivating than the actual film, but that's the case here. The emotions are hackneyed, the plot is repugnant, the acting is dull, the fights are poorly executed, the blood is...well, the blood is sort of fun, I have to admit. If that's the best thing I can say about this movie, then I don't think it's worth seeing. Unless you like watching Bobby Deol howl like some sort of werewolf/Frankenstein monster, and Johny Lever making that strange screeching noise and showing the whites of his eyes.