Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Monday, 20 January 2014


Disclaimer: The story or scenes described here may be totally different from what is intended by the filmmaker. Blame it on the poster tagline which says: The greatest Indian LSD Trip.

Ever seen a film with a 17 year old boy who holds his breath to live, tadpoles, a “frog land” which is a treasure trove of diamonds, a stolen shoe, a gun, pilgrims, Bollywood and Guinea world record dreams, a romance through a  radio request programme, a discussion on a terrace( “samosa waali chat”) about man landing on the moon, Nehru, worldwar, Brahma all thrown in?

Om Dar Ba Dar is a deliberate jigsaw puzzle of nonsense that compels you to continue watching, simply to know exactly what is the trip all about. The film challenges, at times, engrosses and disturbs, with its crazy narrative that breaks all rules of storytelling.

The film has an interesting history. It was directed by FTII graduate, Kamal Swaroop in 1988;premiered in Berlin film festival and is supposed to have gathered a cult status over the years. It has got a commercial release now, thanks to NFDC and PVR Director’s Rare.

The film breaks rules in every possible manner, in story, screenplay, visuals, sound and edit. It is the kind of film where you reach the end and not question ‘what was the story’ in the way you would with a nonsensical, commercial film. But instead, it makes you unravel just what was the storyteller trying to tell through the story?

Here is what has been vaguely understood.
There is an Ajmer based astrologer with a loud pitch voice, Babuji Shankar (LaxmiNarayan Shastri) who predicts that his son (Aditya Lakhia) may not live beyond 17 years. He decides to name him Om because that name does not exist in the list of Yamadev, the God of death. The story follows Om’s growing days in school with a friend who gives up studies to cycle nonstop. Om becomes a part of his sister, Gayatri’s (Gopi Desai) budding romance with Jagdish (Lalit Tiwari), on a radio ‘farmaishi’ programme, one of the high moments in the film in the way it captures radio days in the 80s,particularly a running commentary on the city of Taragarh.

Om’s journey is littered throughout, with random vignettes and humour. Om attends classes on frog dissections where the lecturer calls it Rana Tigrina.He has a hard time concentrating at home as his nose comes in the way of his eyesight. He is also distracted by the fascinating famous actress, Phoolkumari who has come to visit Babuji because he had told Hema Malini that there is an actress in every woman. Phoolkumari, incidentally, has been a porn writer in the past. She stays on with the family until she is blamed for stealing Babuji’s shoe (with diamonds inside, another subplot). Babuji’s frustration with Om drives him to dictate a letter, which says, “please ban googly in cricket and in life in general.”

Om also has a rare gift of being able to hold his breath. This is used in a most absurd and bizaare segment and assorted images of pilgrims and devotees of Lord Brahma in Pushkar, mythology, a stange political movement called “Non Cooperation of Breath” where a 3 minute Pranayam is the mode of protest, documentary footage of Nehru, dream sequences and a thriller involving diamonds.

The film reaches a crescendo with an impending war and a thriller to boot and eventually, on the edge of a cliff with Gayatri and Jagdish chanting “Om Namo Narayan” and abruptly ends with one word: “gobar”.

The film stays with you for different reasons, be it random and strange imagery that simply doesn’t make sense, just like disconnected dreams, which stay but are difficult to fathom. Apparently, Kamal Swaroop is said to have mentioned that he made the film based on his own dreams. The jarring cuts, the rather uneasy on the ears soundtrack and the incomplete and sometimes funny dialogues may seem like a deliberate nonsense at times. To what end is anybody’s guess but it seems to be some sort of a satire on mythology and superstitions, probably as unbelievable and strange as the characters themselves. Or as the poster says, to take you on an acid trip.

The dialogues only add to the bizarreness of it all. Sample these
“Aatankari tadpole mendhak banne se inkar kar diya tha”
 “Rocket kaun udaa raha tha?”… “Roos aur America.”
The songs are the best part of the film, be it “Babloo Babylon se, Babli telephone se” or “Rana Tigrina” or “Meri Jaan A-A-A”, with lyrics by Kuku aka Kamal Awaroop and music by Rajat Dholakia. Amongst the actors, Anita Kanwar as Phoolkumari,is a delight to watch, her voice wickedly gleeful in her voiceovers.

It is best left to you to waddle through Om Dar Ba Dar and decide whether it strikes gold or diamonds in experimental cinema or gobar (cowdung).Or a googly.

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