I'll give the movie this: it helped with my occasional investigation into the all-important question, "What is with Govinda?" Here's what I learned. When he was younger, here not even 30, he was cute and spry and a spirited dancer. In any of the songs in which all four leads were dancing, he's the one to watch.
Look how bad Neelam's got it for Govinda! Dang!
But the rest of the time...zzzzz. I suppose the frequent mentions of the year the movie was set (1986, of course) are meant to emphasize modernity or youthfulness or generational identity, but the movie is dull enough that it's hard to imagine it did much to bond people to any ideas or feelings. We don't get to know our leads very well. They're depicted only superficially, and the little bit of interest I had in their story was owed to them being the focus of the story rather than me being grabbed by any kind of meaningful conflict or emotions. The various plot elements feel perfunctory, especially the completely predictable romances; the good cheer of the lead actors gives this movie whatever sparkle it has. It tries to be dramatic, with Tanuja as a cartoonily stern and protective mother and the boys learning a few things about life from a mysterious stranger, and at the end there is a barrage of "We're young and free and you can't keep us down!" exclamations hurled at a priest and a government official. It tries to be funny here and there, with Johny Lever offering his standard eye-bulging side character, the girls trying to out-maneuver the boys, and the boys pulling tricks on some bumbling cops (Satish Shah and Ravi Baswani).
This movie doesn't really do anything for me one way or the other. Maybe it was aiming for masala goodness, but it missed that, too, because none of the components of comedy, family, romance, and social commentary was substantial on its own, and the collection never cohered. It's just not an interesting movie, with the the exception of some of the songs, and Govinda gets most of the credit for that. His entrance scene (featured in the previous post) combines Michael Jackson moves, breakdancing, and West Side Story with a bar brawl, in the kind of scene that makes even your non-Bollywood-watching friends clap their hands in delight. Said friends might like the title song, too, which features leg warmers, studded arm bands, and robot costumes.
The 80s nostalgia works in the movie’s favor now, and several people have emailed me to say “Oh my gosh, I watched that all the time as a kid, you’ve got to see it!” I can imagine that if I had grown up with this movie I’d be happy to encounter it on cable, flipping channels back and forth hoping to catch a few of the songs.
I don't know if "to eighty-six" is an expression in Indian English, but for those of us for who already have a meaning associated with that number...well, this movie had a lot working against it from the get-go, let’s just say that.