Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Original Title: Gunda (Hooligan)
Year: 1998
Director: Kanti Shah
Writer: Bashir Babar
Genre: Bollywood Action

Shankar, a coolie, comes in the way of the bad guys, Bulla and his cronies. They kill his father and sister. Shankar vows revenge and eliminates all of them in bizarre and gruesome fashion.

I really want this on a shirt

This is the sort of movie that introduced me to Bollywood. It's a B-movie in every sense of the term. And believe me, a Bollywood B-movie from this time feels like a D-movie for us here in the US. I've seen people compare Gunda to Plan 9 From Outer Space, a sentiment I can somewhat get behind despite there being a lack of stock footage like in Mr. Wood's opus. Sorry, movie fans... no octopus here!

But at least half the film takes place on a tarmac... that's good for something, yeah?

Full of completely odd directorial choices, one has to wonder if much of this film is a tongue-in-cheek parody instead of simply borderline inept, but I must say it's a bit more fun to think about it in terms of the latter.

Gunda stars Mithun Chakraborty as Shankar, a normal guy that gets tied up in a gang war and takes matters into his own hands when things become very personal. When recommending this movie previously, I had always laughed about this character with his little mullet, his little bit of chubbiness, and his KICK ASS WINDBREAKER FROM HELL, but last night when actually researching the film for the first time, I came to the realization that Mr. Chakraborty is a pretty damn big star in India!

I had no idea!

At one point number two only to the great Amitabh Bachchan himself, Mithun has made over 250 movies in his career, was once known as a great dancer which was highlighted in films... and here's the kicker...

I've seen some of his movies!

I'm so ashamed.

Not because I have seen them... ohhh no... but because I never put 2 and 2 together. Not even close. In my defense, the couple films I have seen him in, he looked completely different. He aged quite a bit from the 80s to the late 90s. And when I watched this, taking the production quality into account, I never would have imagined that a big star would be in it. I honestly thought everyone was just normal ol' shlubs just having fun in front of (and behind) the camera.

Upon reading Mithun's wikipedia, I learned that in the 90s, he decided to leave Mumbai and the big film industry and moved to a more rural location, opened a making over 80 low budget films over a decade. "These movies were mainly produced to cater to the audiences of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, where Mrithun has a cult-following even today."

Would this be like a Tom Hanks quitting Hollywood and making B-movies for residents of Alabama?

Shankar has his humorous moments - you can really see Mithun's personality shine through despite is obvious declining dancing abilities - but his true talents lie in his fighting ability. This guy can kick anyone's ass! ANYONE! Don't focus on the fact that he carries a rocket launcher in the trunk of his Hyundai (and wears a Michael Jackson jacket 15 years after they were cool)... this guy will use his bare hands to rip dudes in mesh tank tops apart.

He is so amazing that a kick that misses by a foot will still do massive damage. The air movement created from his masterful foot movements send fools flying.

If you love corny fighting, then you will have a blast with Gunda. The punches... hell even grabbing someone's shoulder!... makes a giant punch noise. Kanti Shah uses some awesome reverse footage to have guys jumping up from the ground. And he doesn't fuck around with finding stunt doubles that look like the actors because that would take too much time. Here you will see a fat dude jump in the air, cut to a skinny man in khakis FLIPPING 10 FEET IN THE AIR, then fat guy landing.

And then I think Shankar kicked the piss out of his fat face.

I really found myself laughing out loud at the action scenes. They don't waste a lot of times with guns in the film... at least not against people. Most confrontations here end up in some sort of hand to hand (or foot to face) combat. But there are some great explosions (by great I mean L-O-L), slow motion, a car crash that made me so happy I could pee... it's silly fun.

The actors around Mithun are all over the top. Very much so. Mithun is hammy, but not nearly the most ridiculous. The characters that appear in the film speak in rhymes, look at the camera, and all seem like parodies of some villain somewhere. The villains in particular are the reasons for feeling that the film is at the very least a comedy at heart and most likely an intentionally cheesy action romp.

The main villain Bulla played by Mukesh Rishi has a fanfuckingtabulous stache and always repeats a rhyme when he is doing something badass like stabbing fat fuckers or threatening funerals. I believe the rhyme is something like "Mera naam hai Bulla, mai hamesha rakhta hoon khulla," translated in the subtitles to something like "My name is Bulla, and I do it in the open," but I have read that the line can be translated to something about him not wearing underwear. I'd love to find someone who could tell me exactly what he is saying... at least how it translates into Hindi.

He doesn't seem to be anything remotely approaching a good actor, but Rishi as Bulla has become one of my favorite bad guys because of how strange and campy he seems. The manner in which he delivers his lines is drawn out and over dramatic. It's a bit hard to describe, but it's very unrealistic... so much so I couldn't help but believe it was done in a humorous way.

The murderous guy walks around with a pet leopard on a leash, loves to dance with eunuchs (yep), and has an oddball hermaphrodite brother that he gives a certain pill to that makes him into a violent rapist.

Holy shit.

More evidence that Shah at least somewhat knew what he was creating here was the breaking of the fourth wall that goes on. For instance, as the villains are initially introduced, and rhyming their lines, they are speaking directly to the camera. The writing and dialogue is so bad, one has to believe on some level it was intentional. I realize that some of it may be due to something being lost in translation to the subtitles, but the things that some characters say when attempting to be threatening will make you chuckle before anything else in how crazy it sounds.

There is even a moment near the beginning when a character references another Kanti Shah film, even quoting it to make a point.

I can't say I have ever seen that in a movie ever!

Ultimately, Gunda comes off as very bizarre in its presentation. I'll be amongst the first to say that Bollywood has its fair share of melodrama, but this film takes it to another level. It's overlong for such a film, but we've learned that comes with the territory now. The comedy is very broad, but not to the point where someone is going to rub their ass after getting kicked or you're hearing a bell sound with a shot to the nuts. The singing/dancing numbers feel more out of place than normal, but the style of dancing and the matching outfits had a different feel than usual... again almost as if they were sarcastic? I'm not sure.

I talk a lot on my blog about movies toeing the line of something, and I think Gunda is a prime example of toeing the line of ridiculousness without ever making me want to give up on it. At times the movie even feels surreal in its madness. Backgrounds and such will just change from scene to scene.

For ultimate ridiculously bad action, you cannot do much better than this film. I could go on and on just talking about little parts from the movie, but honestly it's something that will be much more appreciated when seen. I'm not sure how to score the film as I love it, but it's so terribly made.

We'll just say I love how bad it is.

Technically speaking, the film is probably a 2 / 10
It's a film made in 1998 that looks like 1973, the scenes are lacking, the story is recycled and its presentation sometimes doesn't even make sense, the acting is absurd

But as far as my enjoyment of it... I'm going 8.75 / 10
I just love Gunda and it's faults. It is overlong and some scenes in particular were too drawn out, and the obligatory romance was 'meh' at best, but I smile through this movie and recommend it to anyone who loves finding beauty in the nonsensical.


Emily said...

I just emailed myself the title of this film to search for at home. Everything about it sounds amazing! And hey, it takes a big man to wear a thin windbreaker.

pickleloaf said...

this is the only place i have ever seen to buy a dvd of Gunda