Director: Sachin Kundalkar
Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Prithviraj, and a few other ineffectuals.
Okay let’s address the elephant in the room and get that out of the way. I’m pretty sure that most of you are not going to bother watching this movie because, well, the trailers scared you off.
Read this, and if you’re inspired, try it out for yourself.
The screen lights up with an ultra filmi score and a Rani Mukherjee in the most enormous sunglasses I have ever seen. It’s hilarious because it’s just so frickin’ random! She goes from a tribute to Madhuri, Sridevi and Juhi (for more reference, wait, nobody needs reference for these veteran actresses) and each fantasy is destroyed by this giant garbage truck. And indeed overflowing garbage runs through the movie like a haunting echo. I guess that’s what makes Meenaxi (Rani’s character) wander through the streets and hallways, sniffing out Surya (Prithviraj) like a police dog. I want to leave the sniffing bit for later, but the fact that it runs rampantly throughout the movie is too hard to ignore. If one is to keep the straight-up weirdness of it aside, it’s actually a sombre analogy for the way Meenaxi is desperately searching for an escape from her life.
From the Stephen-Hawking-esque grandmother with her Nelly-gold-plated-teeth to the Lady-Gaga-on-steroids librarian, Aiyyaa constantly teeters on the edge of being gimmicky in its humour and, more often than not, spills over. This will put you off. If you were thinking that the humour would fall flat, it does, but it also had me reeling with laughter when it crossed the boundaries of absurdity.
The entire subplot of the crazy librarian could have been done away with; the main storyline could have been strengthened a touch more. Meenaxi’s own story addresses enough topics like a family desperate to have the daughter married off, a young woman desperate to get a job, the misconception that good art can only stem from hallucinogens or alcohol, etc.
At the base of it all, Meenaxi is a simple girl who can’t help but dream. A lot of times, while I was trying to tune out the fat aunty arguing on her cell phone behind me, I could see a connection to the critically acclaimed French film, Amelie. If I had done the editing for this film, I would have used probably forty five minutes worth of the footage and made it into a really crisp short-film.
Now I want to leave you with an open mind, form your own opinion about the film.
Let’s get to the background score. I guess the cynical ones would immediately draw a connection to the background score of a certain Oscar-nominated Barfi!, but I like to think of it as a new movement in Bollywood. Let’s get rid of the swelling music of Karan Johar movies, bring in a Hans Zimmer or Yann Tiersen inspired score. Keep it minimalist. Of course, on the other side we have songs like “Dreamum Wakepum” and “Aga Bai” which are just the perfect dosage of masala.
So, in conclusion, enough factors bring Aiyyaa down, but if you really have the patience and an eye for the just-out-of-the-ordinary, it’s really not that bad of a movie.
I’d give it a 5/10 for being brave enough to attempt an Indian take on Amelie; Rani’s dancing –which has been talked about enough already, the extremely tongue-in-cheek humour which is just the perfect level of inappropriate and, without giving too much away, the absolutely ridiculous ending.