My weekly column for Yahoo! Movies, first published here.
This week, Saif plays a blond, wannabe-Russian, zombie-hunter operating in India’s Party Capital – Goa. Be it a band of comrades fighting for independence or be it a trio of friend living it up in a Merc convertible, Goa has been a big hit with moviegoers. Here’s a look at ten of those movies.
Saat Hindustani went on a mission – ahead of Indian troops – to destabilize the Portugese rule through a symbolic protest of raising the Indian flag atop seven buildings in occupied Goa. Hailing from different parts of India and following different religions, these seven Indians were symbols of unity in diversity. Even the actors who played the roles had their actual identities and characters criss-crossed. Bengali actor Utpal Dutt played a Punjabi while Malayalam actor Madhu played a Bengali. Actor Anwar Ali (brother of comedian Mehmood) played a Hindu while a new actor called Amitabh Bachchan played a Muslim character (called Anwar Ali)!
KA Abbas directed this patriotic drama that wasn’t about idyllic Goa but more about the mission to free it.
Amitabh Bachchan returned to the Goan liberation movement in Pukar as Ramdas a.k.a. Ronnie. He was the good guy (and freedom fighter’s son) who crossed over to the dark side (due to a misunderstanding with this father’s comrades). He sported a mean moustache and wooed a Goan girl – Julie (Zeenat Aman) – with what was probably the most famous ‘sea song’ in Bollywood. Samandar mein nahake could have only been set in Goa – if not for the beach setting, then certainly for Amitabh’s flashy blue-yellow-striped jacket.
(And to restrict the number of Amitabh Bachchan movies, I am skipping Bombay To Goa since it is more about the trip and less about the place!)
After the pop-patriotism, came Shyam Benegal’s brooding family drama – Trikal – where a Portugese family struggled to come to terms with the Indian Army’s takeover of Goa. With superb art direction and lush depiction of Goa, the film was vintage arthouse fare that made Benegal famous. Naseeruddin Shah was the narrator who told the story in flashback and a wonderful ensemble cast populated the story.
Trivia Alert: Three playback singers – Lucky Ali, Remo Fernandes and Alisha Chinai – made screen appearances in this film.
The moment Goa got free, drug peddlers came and settled down. One of their first victims was Cyrus Broacha (WHAT?) who made his cinematic debut in Jalwa as heroine Archana Puran Singh’s drug-addicted younger brother. The battle against drugs was led by Naseeruddin Shah who threw aside his ‘art film’ subtlety and put on some serious muscle for this role. Archana Puran Singh made her name with the Yeh hai jalwaaaaaaaa song with the sea in the background as Remo did his brand of vocal calisthenics.
Trivia Alert: Farah Khan was a backup dancer in one of the songs.
Shah Rukh Khan countered his villainous turn in Baazigar with a super-cute role in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na, where he played the forever-flunking, musically inclined Sunil in Goa. While the beaches and fishermen remained only as props, the laidback attitude, the music and the Portugese priests were all there. Add to that a band of musicians, a Mafia Don called Anthony Gomes, a restaurant called China Town and you had the perfect picture of Goa. Wait… why a Chinese restaurant in Goa? Arre, just!
“Welcome to Goa, Singham!”
Villain Prakash Raj made this ominous invitation to Ajay Devgn and that was pretty much the only Goa in the movie. The sea food and siesta got replaced by flying kicks and revolving SUVs. Playing the title role of Singham, Devgn got down and dirty with the goons of Goa and the fabled susegad didn’t have a chance. Not venturing anywhere near the beaches and shacks, he was content tearing lamp posts off promenades. Clearly, a philistine!
A champion con-man came to Goa, followed by three women whom he had cheated earlier. And the game was afoot.
Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl chose Goa as the venue of the final showdown between Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma as they scouted idyllic locations for the perfect restaurant she wanted to start. That restaurant was part of an elaborate con the ladies were playing to recoup their money but Goa’s languid pace and verdant surroundings play the strangest of tricks on the most hardened people. And somebody fell in love with somebody. As I said, the game was afoot.
In the new wave of low-budget, off-beat films, we had Love Wrinkle Free. It was a comedy set in Goa where a salesman (Ash Chandler) planned to start his own business of – hold your breath – edible underwear. The obsession with soccer and siesta was brought out beautifully as our protagonist bumbled around his new business, his old wife and his mid-life crisis. Apart from the nostalgic favourites, the movie touched upon the new problems of Goa too.
Talking of Goa’s new problems, Dum Maaro Dum – as the title indicated – looked at the drug smuggling and mess that it has created among the young people. Abhishek Bachchan was the dour ACP chasing drug heists as a pretty airhostess (Bipasha Basu) and a confused youngster (Rana Daggubati) flitted in and out of love and jail. And finally, we had a movie that touched the Holy Grail of Goa entertainment – the rave party! (Complete with Deepika Padukone sporting a sexy tattoo. Beat that, God’s own country!)
The final name of the list has to be that film that made Goa ‘cool’. It is my contention that Goa’s ascension of the top holiday destination in India was largely brought about by Dil Chahta Hai.
Farhan Akhtar’s tale about three Bombay dudes doing cool things in Goa (even though it was for a short while in the film) was super-aspirational and was almost like an ad film for the destination. The montage of places in Goa – as part of the title song – playing incessantly on TV probably did more for Goa than any tourism development initiative. Of course, we didn’t have Merc convertibles to zip off in but Akash, Sameer and Siddharth’s capers in Goa would have prompted many a trio to get into their rickety cars and take off. After all, Goa is a place jo dil chahta hai…