In a dimly-lit flat in Mumbai, we see a man ruthlessly killing another; then peering curiously over the body. That’s Sanjay Singhania (Aamir), owner of Airvoice Telecom Company…wondering who he just murdered, as he suffers from temporary memory loss. But the name `Ghajini’ on the dead man’s phone brings back a flash of disconnected images that Sanjay cannot comprehend, leading him to futile aggravation.
Each morning Sanjay wakes up wondering where he is; he sees the house littered with instructions: the one in the bathroom orders him to remove his shirt and he sees messages, phone numbers, the name Ghajini, and `revenge’ inscribed all over his body. He knows he must settle scores – just against whom, and for what, is the question.
Meanwhile a cop, on Sanjay’s trail for the murder, gets hold of his diary. Sanjay’s laddie picture on the first page, such a departure from what he is today, takes us to the back-story. High flying businessman Sanjay meets sprightly, mischievously lying Kalpana (Asin) who works as a small-time model with an advertising company. (Lots of laughs in this portion, courtesy Asin’s natural flair for comedy)
The scene where she, mistaking a journalist for an agency honcho, makes up details about her love life is hilarious. Sanjay, posing as a struggling model, woos her and then starts the most soulful, breezy love story you’ve seen in a long time.
In most films, we rue that we don’t feel for the characters enough to be involved in their story…here, you care so much, you sit in fearful anticipation at what’s going to happen to the pair.
That Sanjay and Kalpana’s bond is resolute, we understand not through passionate hints, but everyday gestures…things people in love do for each other that surprise even themselves. Kalpana selling her new prized possession to fund Sanjay’s mother’s operation (a story he concocted) is what their love is all about.
What raises Ghajini above other revenge dramas (and Hindi films have had their fair share) is its ability to sweep us off with the tender, real romance, and bring us back to coarse violence without much warning. Experiencing this contrasting milieu makes the film at once a thriller, a love tale, a drama.
The violence is gruesome yes, but Aamir excels in the action scenes, and his wounded animal-like passion for retribution has us cheering blatantly.
Like Uma Thurman’s hunger for vengeance in Kill Bill, wiping off any distraction on the way, Sanjay doesn’t rest till he gets to Ghajini, who, on his part, is one of the most spine-chilling, despicable villains in recent times. This, despite his character written as a largely single note one (the Tamil version was a double role). Pradeep Rawat as Ghajini (he was seen as Aswadhama in Mahabharat and Deva in Lagaan) is believably intimidating.
Aamir Khan gives a layered, intense performance yet again, and is especially effective in the scenes where his frustration and rage is desperately looking for direction.
Asin is the revelation here. She’s a beautiful face, but that aside, the actress renders Kalpana so spunkily, you can’t help fall for the character. Jiah Khan as the medical student Sunita who embroils herself in the clammy situation is good, but the character seems an intrusion.
Thankfully, the resemblance to Memento (a film that Aamir had earlier admitted to neither liking nor caring for) is restricted to the tattooed messages, the Polaroid snaps, and the plot involving the murdered love of the protagonist. A R Murgadoss, while skillfully crafting the story together, sadly adds in improbable elements like Sunita risking her life to follow Sanjay’s trail, Sanjay’s 15-minute memory span expanding to accommodate a full-blown action sequence, or him getting back on his feet despite all his clues wiped off.
Background score is persistently present and its obviousness invades into the scope for audience interpretation. Music is one of its high points, though one found the picturisation too conventional for AR Rahman’s experimental tunes. Ravi K Chandran’s (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Saawariya, Black) first-rate camerawork aids the storytelling. Editing is masterful and, though tad long, the film unfolds efficiently.
For the four As—Aamir, Asin, A R Murgadoss and AR Rahman, this revenge drama gets a Grade A; recommended watching this extended weekend.
Verdict: Three-and-a-half stars