Film Essay: When A Movie’s Concept Is Ruined By Its Execution
Bad films are as old as the film industry itself. There have been plenty of bad films which have been released in the past, are currently in theatres (regardless of when this post reaches you) and no doubt, this shall continue into both the foreseeable and unforeseeable future. This is not necessarily a negative thing in itself, we need the yin with the yang. It helps provide audiences with perspective and develop appreciation for a film is executed wonderfully.
However, the thing that frustrates me as a lover of cinema is bad films with intriguing concepts, but which fall flat on their face when it comes to the execution. It’s like watching a gifted child deciding to pursue a life of crime, rather than apply themselves at school. To quote Robert DeNiro’s character, Lorenzo Anello, in A Bronx Tale “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
OMG – Oh My God!
The film which I am going to use as a case study for this film essay is ‘OMG – Oh My God!’, a 2012 Bollywood blockbuster movie. It ranked as the 11th most successful film in India in 2012 in terms its box office draw, and was ranked as a “Super Hit” by Box Office India1.
Please note that from this point forward, there are a number of spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
The film centres around an atheist named Kanji who runs a shop selling miniature idols of Hindu Gods to unsuspecting theists. In an ironic twist of fate, his shop is the only store on the street which is destroyed when an earthquake strikes. As any sensible shop owner would do, he speaks to his insurance company about making a claim. However, he soon learns that there is a clause in the insurance contract stating that “acts of God”, such as earthquakes, fall outside of the insurance company’s liability remit. Frustrated, Kanji takes the only option left to him – he sues God and his vessels, being religious institutions. He receives help from an unsuspecting stranger in helping to expose the corruption of many religious institutions across India. Upon learning that the individual who has been helping him all along is actually Lord Krishna, his faith is restored.
While I personally didn’t like the ending, you can’t deny that it’s an interesting premise, right? An atheist who sues God. With the right ingredients, it had the potential to be a masterpiece.
Before I start tearing into the movie, there were some redeeming qualities, which I feel are only fair to mention.
In addition to the interesting premise and concept behind the film, the main highlight of this movie was the acting. Paresh Rawal gives a solid performance through his role as Kanji Mehta. It is still fairly rare to see a Bollywood film being led, and to some extent carried, by an actor who would not typically be a young, muscular lead. Rawal often appears in supporting roles, however he had little issue in taking the leading role on this occasion. However, this is more of a criticism of the typical Bollywood movie model, than this particular film.
Mithun Chakraborty was also a pleasure to watch, each time he was onscreen. He didn’t miss a single comedy beat as the eccentric Leeladhar Swamy. The chemistry between the different actors also felt fluid and natural.
However, these positive aspects actually made the movie even more frustrating to watch, as it clearly had the potential to greater than it actually was.
The one point I have consistently praised throughout this article is the film’s concept. There is no denying that it is an interesting premise. However, after doing a little research, it is clear that the filmmakers cannot be credited for even coming up with the film’s concept. At the beginning of the film, it is clearly stated that the film is based on a Gujrati play called ‘ Kanji Virudh Kanji’, which in itself is taken from Mark Joffe’s ‘The Man Who Sued God’. To be clear, there is nothing inherently bad about a film being a remake, there are plenty of remakes throughout cinema. However, it is only fair to bring this point to the reader’s attention.
Screenplay and Story
There are many weak points which can be attributed to the film’s screenplay. Firstly, the plot is incredibly predictable. There isn’t a single point in the film where the viewer is unsure of where the story will take the protagonist on the next part of his journey. In fact, a typical film goer could easily predict the entire story from its concept alone.
This is because the storyline is incredibly simple. Yet, for some unknown reasons, the directors and script writers still insist on spoon feeding each aspect of the film to the viewers. If the film had a complex storyline, like Christopher Nolan’s Inception, I could somewhat forgive the need for the over-explanation of each part of the story, however the story in this case is too simple to justify this.
This is in part a fantasy story, with supernatural elements. As a result, the audience, especially if they are agnostic or atheist, are expected to suspend their belief, as part of the cinema going experience. This is not unusual at all. However, the story is still grounded in reality, with the fantasy element being known to only Kanji, Lord Krishna and the viewer. There are too many scenes in the films where the either the dialogue or the storyline are just too bizarre to take seriously. I’ll list a couple of examples below for your entertainment:
Firstly, whilst the court room scenes provide some decent entertainment and humour, some of the dialogue is incredibly unrealistic. I get that the point of these scenes is for Kanji to show the flaws in the religious institutions, but how come none of the high profile lawyers are able to provide a single intelligent rebuttal to his statements? Surely years of training at University and the Bar make them qualified enough to take on a sharp-tongued shopkeeper.
Secondly, the entire reason for Lord Krishna aiding Kanji in his mission is to expose the corruption of the religious institutions and especially how they are using religious as a money-making scheme. With this being the sole reason, it makes zero sense that God would help out an individual who did the same exact thing by selling his miniatures to religious audiences using deception.
The weakness of the story and the arguments throughout also weakened the ending. While the ending isn’t necessarily a bad one in itself, it fell flat in this scenario due to the weakness of the rest of the movie. The ending is essentially the character going through a full arc and entirely changing their entire belief system going from an atheist to believing in God. However, due to the poor execution of the character’s development throughout the movie, it is difficult to convince the audience that the conclusion Kanji has reached is a natural one. It feels forced and unfortunately doesn’t work.
The level of drama and comedy in the film felt unbalanced. The two are supposed to complement each other, whereas in this case, the film never fully committed to its dramatic moments and interspersed comedy in scenes where it was either not needed, or inappropriate.
The film’s cinematography was lacking in its production value. A review on sify.com noted that the film has a “lack of technical finesse and [an] outdated look”2. Times of India argues that the “production values are not high-gloss and it sags and looks stagey at times”3. The cinematographer appeared to be more interested in simply sticking the camera in front of the action than considering the composition, framing, colour pallet etc. A particular scene which stands out is where Lord Krishna is first introduced rescuing Kanji on a motorbike. Even for 2012, the effects appeared to be outdated.
The film has a runtime of 2 hours and 5 minutes. With proper editing, this film could have easily be reduced to around 90 minutes or so. There are plenty of stagnant scenes which do not seem to push the character development or plot forward. There is nothing wrong with a longer movie, but it needs to justify its length.
Lastly, while the film’s soundtrack was a lot of fun. The song’s didn’t seem to be tied into the film’s storyline, but just seem to be added for the sole purpose of the film having a soundtrack. Again, perhaps this is due to the expectation from the typical film Bollywood model.
Although the movie as a whole is not unenjoyable, it had such potential to be far more entertaining and thought provoking. I would recommend giving it a watch and making your mind up for yourself whether you agree or not. We would love to hear from you.
If you are not a native Hindi speaker, in the words of the legendary director Bong Joon Ho, it is always worth overcoming the “one inch tall barrier of subtitles.” Do not let the language barrier deter you from watching either this particular movie, or any other non-English film.
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