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Joker - Hindi Movie
Saturday, September 01, 2012

Firstly why’s this film called Joker? Well, partly because the joke here is probably on your own intelligence. Apart from that, it refers to the joker in a pack of cards that belongs to no colour or denomination. This is metaphor for a village called Paglapur that is attached to no state.


Knowing that a mob of mad men had set themselves free from the village’s mental asylum, were causing a riot, the cartographer at the time of independence decided not to record this village’s existence on the Indian map. But of course, the self-sufficient village does exist. A dam withholds water that they could have used for agriculture. Fishbowls with fireflies inside light up this secluded jungle at night. A population of 600 are reasonably well dressed, speak fluent Hindi, though one of them (Shreyas Talpade) has developed a language of his own. One old man (Asrani) believes he’s living in the 1940s while WWII is still on. Another one passes on a heavy metallic globe, whispering to the other, “Kar lo duniya mutthi mein.” Clearly you can escape the influence of the state in India, but Reliance? No chance! People belong to different age groups in this isolated hamlet. Given there are absolutely no women around, their reproduction process remains a biological mystery.


Askhay Kumar’s character is one of those born among men in Paglapur. He managed to step out of this jungle and land himself a job in America. Nobody else had any clue about his escape route, it appears. They could find a phone to call him though. They want him back to save them. Their problems are simple, or at least not very different from the rest of India’s: water and electricity. The solution is just as easy: directing the attention of politicians to the plight of these villagers.

Akshay Kumar plays a scientist Agastya with “dunia ki pehli machine”that can connect with aliens! He’s been given a month’s extension in his project to discover life-forms outside Earth. One month should be given enough, of course. Sonakshi Sinha (for the first time in a role that’s longer than a song) plays the hero’s girlfriend, obviously. The two get to the isolated village. Agastya does what he knows best – convinces a bunch of people of sightings of crop circles in his village. Crop circles confirm alien landings. It also tells us the filmmakers are fans of Manoj Night Shyamalan’s The Signs (2002), and perhaps The Village (2004) too. The news-media buys the story. Outside broadcasting (OB) vans line up in the ignored, rural hamlet. Politicians attempt to cash in on the attention. This proves the filmmakers truly believe Anusha Rizvi’s film Peepli Live (2009) should’ve been made with much bigger budgets. Well, they have remade it here all right.

If I’m not mistaken, this film was initially planned as a 3D sci-fi adventure. Clearly if songs can have a Bollywood remix, so can a sci-fi story. India’s own movie contribution to aliens is Steven Spielberg’s ET (1982), no less. The original thought behind Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster is believed to have been a script of Ray’s, which was bought by Columbia Pictures, and had been floating around in Hollywood for a couple of decades. This is not a Bengali conspiracy theory. There is grain of truth in it.

The aliens you see in this film though are made of vegetables. This is deliberate. They’re not supposed to be aliens at all. The film isn’t quite exactly a science fiction either. What is it exactly then? Only Shirish Kunder, the film’s writer, director and editor, could best answer that question. Compared to his past movies (Jaaneman, Tee Maar Khan), at least this has an idea, to begin with. It may not be the world's best, but an idea nonetheless. A version of the lovely Kishore Kumar song “Paanch Rupaiya Barah Aana” (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi) plays all through the film. The background music has also been scored by Kunder. Eventually troops from the American FBI enter this village, they fire from machine guns, tanks and armoured vehicles start charging.... This is when you know someone needs to get this director’s creativity to calm down a bit. Of course, that’s not going to be Akshay Kumar! And it's not going to be the audience, or the lack of one, either.

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