I live in what you could call a heavily Indian populated area of suburban Chicago, and our local movie theaters are nice enough to cater to that. At any given time, there’s two or three screens devoted to Indian films. Now, I consider myself someone who watches a *lot* of movies, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that one genre that I’ve never even attempted to sit through is Bollywood, which is one of the largest producers of film in the world. I’ve always planned on going to one of these movies for years, and finally, I followed through this weekend. The result was… “Uhhhhhh… Whoa…”
The Bollywood movie I chose to see was Gunday. I was really hoping that the title meant like a “Gun Day”, kind of like a Sunday but with way more guns, but it turns out it’s just the Indian word for “The Outlaws”. See, now we’ve all learned a word in a new language. Let’s move on. Gunday follows two refugee boys named Bikram and Bala [oh yeah, I’m probably just going to spoil the entire movie in this review, so stop reading if you actually care], who form a bond with each other after almost getting molested by a prison guard (yeah, that was kind of an intense way to start the movie), and eventually make their way to Calcutta. Still as youths, they start robbing coal trains and selling it for half price to undercut their competition. JUMP 10 YEARS. They are now two grown up dudes *WHO RUN WITH THEIR ARMS AND LEGS IN SLOW MOTION UNISON* (which is something that needs to be pointed out), and they are still robbing coal from trains, but are instead just taking the whole train to themselves. They go on to become the richest coal sellers in Calcutta, despite the fact that literally all of their products come from stealing other people’s stuff, and the police have never really questioned this for some reason. Until present day, when the government sends their coldest, most hardcore secret agent, Captain Satyajeet Sarkar, to try to stop them.
The whole coal story kind of comes to a halt when they meet cabaret dancer Nandita (a former real life Miss World), who they both fall in love with the day they meet her. She’s all like “Yeah, I like one of you, but I won’t tell you which one I like for a while.” And the two bros are all excited to find out. There’s even a scene when Bala literally says out loud “No matter who she picks, we should be happy for the other guy, OK?” Then they both Predator arm lock out of friendship. Well, Nandita ends up picking Bikrum. CUE TWO SCENES LATER. Bala is shooting bullets at Bikrum while literally saying out loud “I’m going to burn Calcutta to the ground!” I guess he wasn’t happy for Bikrum. FRIENDSHIP OVER. FOR NOW.
There was an intermission in the middle of this movie. I went to go pee during it, and realized there was still over an hour left. This was a long movie (over two and a half hours).
So, now Bikrum and Nandita are falling in love with each other, to the point where Bikrum has asked Nandita to marry her, and she says yes. RECORD SCRATCH. Nandita is a government agent. DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN. This was kind of like the most random, non-logical twist they could have thrown in the story. It was almost like the screenwriter got stuck on where the movie was going, and then stood up and yelled, “WHAT IF SHE WAS A COP THE WHOLE TIME?” And his bong smoking roommate sitting in the chair by the computer is all like “Yeah, man, that’s kinda cool.” It was such an implausable long con that it bordered on amazing, especially considering that Sarkar and Nandita’s master plan after months of being intimately involved with Bikrum and infiltrating every aspect of his life and business was to just try and kill them in a random gunfight on a completely random day. They could have achieved the same plan the day Nandita met them.
Anyway, after Nandita reveals that she’s a cop, Bikrum gets some major hurt feelings. And Nandita still has love for the guy she’s been engaged to marry for some reason. Captain Sarkar had the hilarious balls to say to Nandita, “Sorry, I didn’t realize that this job would have such an effect on your emotions.” Yes, please spend a year of your life going undercover with this rich, handsome, loving man, engage to marry him, live in his house, buuuuuuuuuuuuuut try not to get emotionally attached, alright? So anyway, Bikrum and Bala get back together as super bros, under the same sentiment of “Nandita was a cop? Wow, fuck that broad.” They have a big showdown against Captain Sarkar and Nandita in a coal mine, and somehow Bikrum forgives Nandita and Sarkar learns to respect Bala, I guess (I don’t know?), and the movie ends in the best possible way; as Bikrum and Bala flee the scene, smiling, in slow motion, running in unison, Sarkar and Nandita shoot them in the spines and kill them. I am being 100% serious. I audibly laughed when the credits started rolling.
Of the few things I knew about Bollywood movies before I saw this, I knew that they would break into song periodically, and it was just about as weird and jarring as I assumed it would be. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the music/dance scenes are fun and catchy, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they always seemed hilariously out-of-place. And one of them was Bikrum singing shirtless on top of a bunch of mountains, which was fantastically chuckle worthy. The unintentional comedy in Gunday was the kind of humor an intentional comedy would kill to have. One of the best aspects of Gunday was how amazingly sincere and earnest it was in all of its over-the-top intensity. In one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments of the film, Bikrum and Bala are having a simple conversation about Nandita, only they are yelling it at the top of their lungs with their faces three inches away from each other. Needless to say, I was the only person in the theater to laugh at stuff like that. Everybody else seemed to be eating it up, and cheering during the heroic moments and getting excited during the fight scenes. It was kind of a fun audience experience. Everyone else loved the dance numbers, including stuff like this; that mind you, isn’t the opening credits scene, it’s just a random scene in the middle of the movie.
What I would have loved to have seen, though, was a movie made entirely of Indian fight choreography. It’s great. It’s so unrealistically absurd and cliché that it also became hysterical. It’s not quite martial arts, but it seems like they were attempting to do so, but instead just throw people through pillars and break chairs over people’s backs. It’s hard to explain in words how crazy the fight scenes are, but they are worth watching for sure. At one point, Bikrum enters a fight scene in slow motion and doves fly past the camera. Again, 100% serious.
The tone, however, was ALL over the place. There will be a zany scene of Bikrum and Bala taking a nap in the same bed wearing matching boxers with giant hearts on their butts, and this will be followed by a scene with someone getting murdered in a grimy movie theater. It’s like the filmmakers wanted to take every aspect of cinematic storytelling they could possibly think of and try to cram them into a single movie. That’s why it was over 150 minutes. If they could have contained the random lunacy to a 90 minute pure concentrate of bizarre elements, this might have been a Black Dynamite level of crazy awesome that would have been one of my favorite movies of the year. As it stands right now, it was kind of just a fever dream of a million different unfocused elements; some good, a lot bad, even more that were so bad that they’re good.
As a Fully Functional Film With Competent Writing: 5 out of 10
As a Work of Complete Insanity: 8.5 out of 10