Movie Review: Zila Ghaziabad (2013)

Zilla_Ghaziabad1 Star (out of 4)

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When a movie is as crude and inept as Zila Ghaziabad, it’s hard to know what to prioritize when describing why it’s so horrible. The bad acting or the nonexistent story structure are both good places to start, but they miss what the film is really about: cigarettes.

Zila Ghaziabad is preceded by a two-minute video that graphically showcases the ways cigarette smoke ravages the human body. A voice-over implores the audience not to smoke. Then, throughout the entire film, every single time a character is shown smoking a cigarette or puffing on a hookah, a subtitle appears in the bottom right corner of the screen that reads: “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.”

Because the vast majority of the characters in the film smoke, the warning appears on screen through almost half the movie, becoming the dominant image of the entire film. With just a hint of foresight into the likely dictates of the Censor Board, director Anand Kumar could’ve trimmed out a few shots of his characters lighting up and kept the audience focused on the story.

However, perhaps the focus is exactly where Kumar wants it to be. I posit that Zila Ghaziabad is really an anti-smoking parable and not a gangster movie. Vivek Oberoi plays the presumptive hero, a teacher named Satbeer. He’s admonished for smoking early in the film by his elder brother, and he abstains ever after. By the end of the movie, Sanjay Dutt’s maverick cop character, Pritam Singh, takes pity on the teacher because, “There was something about Satbeer that touched my heart.” Avoiding tobacco equals moral righteousness.

The short version of Zila Ghaziabad‘s story is that a guy named Fakira (Sunil Grover) gets jealous of his boss’s increasing reliance on Satbeer and causes a whole bunch of problems because of it. Lots of people get killed and nothing is solved by the end.

Arshad Warsi’s character — a hoodlum named Fauji — reunites with his gang in Ghaziabad and is welcomed home in spectacularly homoerotic fashion. Dozens of dudes break into a song about what a bad-ass Fauji is while firing long-barreled shotguns into the air and thrusting their pelvises with abandon.

The air-humping doesn’t stop there. Two item numbers feature a lone female gyrating while surrounded by dozens of horny guys. Since the lovely lady is obviously heading home with whatever rich guy hired her to dance in the first place, and there aren’t any other women in sight, one can only guess as to how the lathered-up lackeys will expend their sexual energy.

Fakira tricks Fauji into fighting with Satbeer in order to get back into the good graces of his uncle/boss, The Chairman (Paresh Rawal). This sets off a string of retaliatory attacks that draw national media attention to Ghaziabad. The overwhelmed police force turns to the only man who can fix this mess: Pritam Singh.

To say that Singh is a maverick is putting things mildly. While Singh has the requisite super-human strength of other movie supercops (e.g., those played by the likes of Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn), Singh lacks the moral righteousness supercops always have. Singh is at best a trickster, and at worst amoral.

A flashback shows how Singh resolves a dispute between a trio of lawyers who beat a food vendor demanding that the lawyers pay their bill. Singh slaps the lawyers around before handing his gun to the vendor and forcing the man to shoot one of the lawyers in the face.

That’s just par for the course in Zila Ghaziabad, a movie that has no moral center whatsoever. If anything, it appears to advocate violence over non-violence. When Satbeer decides to stop being Mr. Nice Guy, a song proclaims, “Forsaking his studies, he’s out to wage war.” Satbeer, with tears in his eyes, roars and shoves one of Fauji’s guys onto a pile of spikes. He then uses the dead guy’s own cell phone to break the news to Fauji. Satbeer tosses the phone over his shoulder, and I was disappointed when it didn’t explode on impact.

The point is that it doesn’t matter how many people Satbeer kills. He’s the hero because he doesn’t smoke.


14 thoughts on “Movie Review: Zila Ghaziabad (2013)

  1. Vivian

    I have nothing to comment on the movie, but the two minute video which shows the effects of smoking are being shown here for quite some time now, at the beginning as well as after the interval, I remember seeing it the first time during Jab tak Hai Jaan and those warning messages at the bottom of the screen are going on even before that. Now a days even when movies are shown on TV they have this warning, we are getting used to it.

    Other than that, we also have different videos of the National Anthem played just before every movie starts, especially in Mumbai, in case you are not aware of. Just information, if u happen to watch a movie some day in Mumbai you need not be surprised.

    1. Kathy

      I didn’t know that theaters in Mumbai play the National Anthem before movies, Vivian. Because nothing’s more patriotic than “Housefull 2!” When teams change positions during the 7th inning in a baseball game, fans have always sung a song called “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” After 9/11, teams started bringing someone out to sing “God Bless America” right before “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It’s a forced patriotism that really annoys me. People of different backgrounds gathering to watch a baseball game or a movie is a public exercise of freedom and patriotism. We don’t need to sing about it, too.

      With that political rant out of the way, I’ll say that filmmakers need to understand the reality of the censor board. I’m not saying they need to accept it, but they need to acknowledge the board when they shoot their films. Rather than forcing the audience to learn to ignore warnings on screen, filmmakers need to decide if it’s necessary that their characters smoke. In “Zila Ghaziabad,” they didn’t need to smoke as much as they did. The bad guys smoke, and Sanjay’s character is sort of a bad guy. Got it. If you’re film has warnings on screen for half of its runtime, you’ve failed as a filmmaker.

      That said, I think it’s worth taking a stand against the board in the case of period films. If your film is set in the ’60s or ’70s when everybody smoked, I think the board should acknowledge that and not force filmmakers to include warnings on screen. Those movies aren’t advocating smoking, just showing historical reality. The declining rate of smoking in the U.S. has been reflected on screen; there just aren’t as many movie characters who smoke these days. Because of that, it was almost shocking when the TV show “Mad Men” came out, and everyone was smoking all the time. But, as the show points out, that was the way the world worked. Advertisers in the ’60s were still promoting cigarettes as healthy. The Indian censor board needs to acknowledge context when enforcing their rules.

      1. Vivian

        Exactly Kathy, it is forced patriotism, till date I am unable to find the reason behind playing of the National Anthem before a movie, and from what I know its only done in Mumbai since years now, have a few friends in other cities of India, no where else its done. Did not get what u meant by Housefull 2?? (The movie)

        And talking about the censor boards, it was like a few years back the censor board had put a ban of scenes of smoking in films and serials, the ban was on for few years but due to continous protest from the film industry “restricting creative freedom” they decided to lift a ban but agreed to put this warning messages whenever a character would smoke on screen. To some extent its much better watching movies at theatre cos if you compare the same movies when shown on tv its much more edited. I had read some where the film makers have to edit movies twice, one while releasing it in theatres and once when its shown on television, The Dirty picture and Delly Belly are recent examples of such movies.

  2. Shah Shahid

    *standing ovation*
    I think this is, from what I’ve read thus far, your best Review to date!
    I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Most of all, I wanted a smoke by the end… maybe I didn’t get the moral. Although, I’ve been cig-less for the last 6 months and 21 days… therefore I’m a hero! πŸ˜€

    I didn’t have high hopes for this. The first promo didn’t impress me at all: featuring all the supposed bad ass looking characters, all dancing to the title song, which is the name of the movie… repeatedly. Yes… dangerous guys these.

    Glad to know I won’t be missing much. Thanks Kathy… as always!

    1. Kathy

      *takes a bow*
      Thank you, Shahid! I’m pretty proud of this one. My husband said, “You know, if it didn’t mean you actually had to sit through these shitty movies, I’d wish every film you reviewed was that bad.”

      Shahid, since you are now smoke-free, go right ahead and start a killing spree. The cops will look the other way because you will have touched their hearts. I’ll even sing about it: “Forsaking his writing, he’s out to wage war!”

  3. meeradarjiyr1

    Wow seems like such a rubbish film! Though I have to admit when I first saw the trailer I was like “what?” in terms of what the hell is this film about. It seemed like a waste of time….and your review supports that πŸ™‚ The cigarette sign on screen must have been pretty annoying! Definitely not on my watch-list. By the way great review, as always.

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  5. JustMeMike

    Since you mentioned it, I now recall that I took note of the smoking warnings which are now even on the DVDs. Barfi and Jab Tak Hai Jaan have them. Of course, I had these shipped over from India so it isn’t a surprise..

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