Take look around and what do you see? SRK in side locks and bell-bottoms, Mehbooba O Mehbooba playing on the chartbuster list, a rerun of Sholay in the form of Aag and of Victoria No. 203 being staged somewhere in town! Don’t you feel as if you’ve woken up in the 70’s once again?
And then there is Johnny Gaddaar. Sriram Raghavan’s throwback to the pulp fiction of the 70’s is a cutting edge caper film. Right in his debut film, the darkly sinister Ek Hasina Thi, Raghavan showed us what he is capable of. In Johnny Gaddaar, he goes a furlong further as a technician and a storyteller. The rats of Ek Hasina Thi have been replaced by the black cat in Johnny Gaddaar but Raghavan’s love for the by lanes of suburban Mumbai and all things 70’s especially the Bollywood of the 70’s shines brighter than ever. The 70’s hangover starts from the opening credits itself where Raghavan pays tribute to Vijay Anand and James Hardley Chase with black and white pictures of the legends, if you please. The background score accompanying the title (in bright reds and oranges to gel well with the movie feel) is the familiar Don (of Amitabh Bachchan fame) theme.
As the enterprise roles, the film almost becomes like a ‘spot-the-movie inspiration game’. If Raghavan expects us to guess the next twist in the plot then he also expects his viewers to figure out the movie references. Dharmendra even has a dialogue to that effect when in a scene where all the five-gage members are counting their share of the booty, he laughingly says, “Yeh kaun si picture mein tha? …Haan Scarface mein.” Great touch, this!
Raghavan has sprinkled the film with more movie nostalgia like this. Rimi Sen is shown reading RK Narayan’s Guide. Another character is credited with this cult line from the hilarious dirty old men comedy Shaukeen, “Hum log Shaukeen buddhe hai”. In another movie moment, Dharmendra is seen listening to the beautiful Bandini number Mora Gora Ang Lai Le - not surprisingly the 1963 classic by Bimal Roy also starred Dharmendra.
There is a huge Amitabh Bachchan tribute section also especially to his lesser recognized film Parwana. In face the major plot point in the first act of Johnny Gaddaar is unabashedly inspired by the film. And credit to Raghavan that he gives the film its due. Even the Dev Anand caper Johnny Mera Naam gets its due. In face the first half of the title owes its genesis to the Vijay Anand film.
It’s great to see a film that celebrates movies with such gloriously refined irreverence. For that reason itself, it’ll be nice to see how Farah Khan has treated the milieu of the Bollywood of the 70’s in her film Om Shanti Om. In the song Dhoom Taaana and the posters of the film are any indication then it’s going to be nostalgia trip that we can enjoy with samosas and chai. The retro feel of the film seems intriguing especially when we get to see Deepika Padukone and SRK in the familiar costumes of Helen-Shammi Kapoor, Leena Chandravarkar–Jeetendra and Hema Malini–Dharmendra.
In the same vein, it’ll be nice to witness how Sudhir Mishra has reinterpreted Bollywood of the 50’s in this Khoya Khoya Chand.
For lovers of Bollywood, there can be no greater tribute than this.