Film Review: Om Shanti Om

Om Shanti Om film posterAbout halfway through the 2007 Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster Om Shanti Om it struck me what a fun film it was.

It had already started well with an Austin Powers style view of the past, though in place of swinging 60s London it focused on 1970s Bollywood. But it really hit me during the song Deewangi Deewangi when I saw how much fun all the cast seemed to be having.

The dance number saw Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Kapoor joined for the (perhaps obligatory these days) night club dance scene by a galaxy of Bollywood stars. From Saif Ali Khan to Sanjay Dutt, Rani Mukherjee to Shilpa Shetty, a total of 31 actors and actresses featured in the 10 minute song.

The film itself is a supernatural thriller that skips about from emotion to emotion more than most, covering comedy, thrills, romance, heartache and more. But the different moods gel together remarkably well, with none diminishing the impact of those that follow.

The story begins in the 1970s with Om Prakash Makjila, a Bollywood extra who yearns for both the big time and starlet Shanti Priya, played by Deepika Padukone in her first major role.

Shanti is in love with her producer Mukesh Mehra, played by Arjun Rampal. But blaming her for the expected collapse of his career Mehra traps her in a burning building. Om unsuccessfully tries to rescue her and is fatally injured in the process.

The film then flicks forward to the present day with Om is reincarnated as Bollywood superstar Om Kapoor. His past life is gradually revealed to him and he takes revenge on Mehra, first with a Shanti Priya lookalike and then with what he later realises is Shanti’s ghost.

The reincarnation theme and even the ending is borrowed straight from 1950s black and white Bollywood classic Madhumati, but Om Shanti Om manages a far more convincing presentation of its past and present sections, with both given room to breathe – not just the past, as in the case of Madhumati.

Om Shanti Om was first shown on UK television this January in the unprecedentedly viewer friendly time slot of 10pm on a Saturday night – compare this to the usual insomniac-friendly hour at which they’re shown.

Since then I’ve already watched it again. No mean feat for a three hour film and my current time-poor hectic family life, but even more so given that in the first half of this year I’ve also been working my way through the films shown in 2009’s Bollywood Classics season. So that’s probably the best recommendation I can give it.

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