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Movie Review: Gunda (1998)

GundaEntertainment Factor: 4 Stars (out of 4)
Quality: 0 Stars

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Gunda was brought to my attention by a reader named Harry in the comments about my review of Boom, a movie I considered to be so bad that it’s actually good. Turns out Boom has nothing on Gunda: the ultimate So Bad, It’s Good movie.

Director Kanti Shah’s Gunda is a B-movie with blockbuster aspirations. By failing to allocate the obviously modest budget for optimal use, the quality of every aspect of the movie suffers. As a result, not a single component of the film bears even a hint of competence. And that’s what makes it so great.

To call Gunda a revenge movie is to underplay the role revenge plays in the story. It’s the whole plot! Someone kills a member of someone else’s family or entourage, which precipitates a retaliatory murder, which precipitates another retaliatory murder, and so on. That’s it. That’s all the story is about.

The presumptive lead character, Shankar (Mithun Chakraborty), doesn’t appear until about twenty minutes into the two-hour-long movie. By that point, there have already been five murders committed at the hands of warring dons Bulla (Mukesh Rishi) and Lambuatta (Ishrat Ali). Also by that point, Lambuatta and the man who hired him to kill Bulla are dead, making their inclusion in the movie totally unnecessary.

Unnecessary, but not worthless. Lambuatta is my favorite character in the film. He repeatedly shouts Bulla’s name while hanging out on an airport tarmac. Why an airport tarmac? Who knows?

Lambuatta provokes his own death when he rapes and murders Bulla’s sister. More accurately, Lambuatta rips open her shirt in public, killing her. In Gunda, rape — or the PG-rated, fully clothed version presented — is always fatal to the woman. Always.

Shankar enters the story when he stops one of Bulla’s goons from fleeing the police after committing a murder, prompting Bulla to “fix a date” for Shankar’s death. But first, Shankar and Bulla have to kill off everyone else associated with the other party.

Bulla merits a place in the American cultural lexicon as one of the greatest villains of all time. He pronounces every line of dialogue with an extended enunciation of the last syllable. He and his crew are prone to speaking in couplets that make no sense when translated from Hindi to English. Take Bulla’s catchphrase, for example:

“My name is Bulla, and I always keep it open.”

I read somewhere online that Bulla may be indicating that he’s not wearing underwear, but who the hell knows? Does it even matter? It starts to sound pretty awesome after the thirtieth time he says it.

The majority of Bulla’s scenes are shot with him and his femmy brother, Chutiya (Shakti Kapoor), sitting two-feet from the camera in the living room of their mansion. There are only a handful of sets in the whole movie, most notably Bulla’s living room, the airport tarmac, a quarry, and a dock. All of them are apparently located right next to one another.

The rest of the scenes are shot in public places, usually in parks or in the middle of busy streets. A fun drinking game would be to take a drink every time a bus tries to plow its way through the middle of a shot or is forced to skirt around a huge crowd of spectators.

Shoehorned in between all the revenge killings is a romance of truly awkward proportions between Shankar and Ganga (Verna Raj), who navigates the world with a pair of basketballs stuffed in her bra. Shankar and Ganga engage in several stiff, goofy dance numbers in which the then 51-year-old Chakraborty appears to be actively trying not to dance.

Scenes go on far too long, especially the dance numbers. Much of the film can be fast-forwarded through, but I found something charming in the relentless dullness of many of the scenes.

Many of the events in the second half of the film are beyond ridiculous, and it would be a shame to spoil them for those new to Gunda. The less prepared one is for this movie, the better. I will point out that the climactic battle in Gunda — which, again, takes a really, really, really long time — is one of the best, wackiest things I have ever seen. Ever.

And then the movie just ends. It’s brilliant.

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Movie Review: 3G (2013)

3G0 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s been much discussion recently about the role the Hindi film industry plays in perpetuating negative stereotypes of women and encouraging male violence against women. Those who hold Bollywood responsible need look no further than 3G for supporting evidence. The movie is a masterpiece of misogyny and an inept horror movie to boot.

The film starts with a laughable premise. Onscreen text informs us: “4.3 billion mobile users in the world. Every minute 60 thousand calls of unknown sources of origin received worldwide… People believe these calls are spirits trying to connect to our world.” No one believes that! Those calls from “Unknown Number” aren’t from ghosts. They’re from telemarketers.

The text disappears to make way for scenes of a happy couple at a secluded lake. Then the guy stabs the woman in the eye with a lit road flare. Roll opening credits!

We don’t see the guy again until later, as the story shifts to a couple vacationing in Fiji. Sam (Neil Nitin Mukesh) makes an absurd entrance via speedboat, only to have his girlfriend, Sheena (Sonal Chauhan), accidentally knock his cell phone into the ocean. The used 3G phone he buys as a replacement is haunted.

Sheena is apparently terrible at reading people, and she laughs at the increasingly haggard-looking Sam when he confesses that he gets calls in the middle of the night from a strange woman. At first, the woman confesses her love. Then a video shows her being murdered. Then Sam starts seeing her in person, culminating in Sheena turning into the dead lady while Sam makes out with her.

This would seem to be the classic horror plot device of a ghost contacting the living to obtain posthumous justice. Typically, Sam could rid himself of the specter by finding the woman’s body and the identity of her killer. Instead, Sam becomes periodically possessed by the spirit of the man who killed the woman, during which times he tries to kill Sheena. Or himself.

Just who exactly is haunting this phone?

The identity of the woman, Chaima (Mrinalini Sharma), and her killer, Mong (Asheesh Kapoor), are revealed late in the film. I’m not spoiling anything as there are no clues to their identities earlier in the story. They are brand new characters introduced at the last minute with no connection to other side characters, despite some nonsensical retroactive continuity.

There’s no way to explain the nature of the haunting, because the filmmakers threw a bunch of horror clichés at the wall to see what would stick. The phone is haunted because of an ancient Greek cult! Fijian witchcraft! Science!

The scientific explanations are hilarious. Apparently, Mong was a programmer trying to find a way to contact the dead by getting cell phone signals to interact with the “God particle,” or Higgs boson. Here’s the thing: THE GOD PARTICLE IS NOT GOD! It is not supernatural!

Catholic symbolism is tossed about as well, though the rosary Sam wears has no effect on him when he’s possessed, nor does the priest they consult offer any useful information.

3G could be forgiven were it just an inexpertly made horror movie, but the way it depicts women is reprehensible. According to 3G, women are objects of male lust who deserve punishment (by men) for having been objectified (by men).

Take the way that directors Sheershak Anand and Shantanu Ray Chhibber portray their lead actors. There’s one shot of Mukesh emerging from the pool shirtless, but dozens of voyeuristic shots of Chauhan. Her character is introduced emerging from the ocean in slow motion wearing a bikini. She writhes around in the sand, on a bed, and on a kitchen island, arching her back and contorting her face in simulated orgasm. The camera pans across her legs, lingering on her breasts and her buttocks.

The saddest part of the film comes when, via flashback, Chaima admits to being a porn star, the “crime” for which Mong ultimately kills her. She pleads with him for mercy, saying, “You have no idea what I escaped from.” So, Chaima left a situation so bad that working in porn is a step up, yet Mong has no sympathy for her.

The film ends with another bit of text almost as dumb as that which started the film: “13000 adult clips are downloaded every minute on mobile networks worldwide… Resulting in 27% of personal relationships breaking up.”

I’m skeptical of the stats supplied by Shantanu & Sheershak, let alone the conclusions drawn from them. Their solution to the scourge of porn is typical victim-blaming. According to them, the problem isn’t due to the millions of men who download the clips, it’s caused by the women who make the movies. Kill all the porn stars, and there will be no porn!

This is exactly the kind of sexist bullshit that Bollywood is rightly criticized for. Crimes against women aren’t committed because of movies (just like video games don’t cause mass shootings), but there are thousands of men who will watch 3G and take it as confirmation of their twisted opinions: “Women are greedy, lying sluts who will do anything for money.” This kind of misogyny is toxic and needs to stop.

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