Let's just get it out of the way right now; I loved this movie. It's a very enjoyable comedy (even though most of the in-joke references to earlier Bollywood filmstars went over my head) because there was still more than enough fun to be had in this 2 hour and 42 minute film without them. Bollywood definitely gives you your money's worth and more. It manages to give us a story filled with love, drama, laughter, reincarnation, karmic revenge, and some really wonderful, eye-popping song and dance numbers with tunes so annoyingly catchy that I'll probably be singing them for the next two weeks. This review is full of minor spoilers although the film's ending isn't revealed.
Shah Rukh Khan stars as a love struck bit player with the unfortunate name Om Prakash Makhija in the Bollywood of the 1970s. He's desperately in love with gorgeous megastar Shanti (Deepika Padukone) and he frequently converses with her image on a giant billboard, completely oblivious to the stares of passers-by. One day Om and his brother have the good fortune to be cast as extras in a film in which Shanti is starring and it seems as if fate has cast them together. And for quite awhile it does seem as if Shanti will fall for the charming Om, especially after he rescues her from an on-set fire. But alas, Om over hears Shanti telling her director Muhkesh Mehra (with whom she is secretly having an affair) a terrible secret that will make Om's love impossible. When faced with leaving his wife and marrying Shanti as he has promised, the director (played by Arjun Rampal) does what most men would do--traps her in one of the extravagant sets they are filming on and lights it ablaze. This time there's no escape from the fire for Shanti, and Om dies as well in a futile attempt to rescue her.
We go immediately from a sheet being pulled over Om's body in the hospital to the new and improved reincarnated Om, 30 years old and still played by SRK. He's the person our deceased Om had always dreamed of being, he's a famous actor with a name to match-- Om Kapoor! His life comes complete with a round bed, velvet slippers, and servants at his beck and call. When we first meet him he's waking up at the crack of noon to go to work at the film studio--surrounded by screaming fans (who can't help observing "He's so much shorter in real life"), fawning studio executives, and a frantic director who's trying to film a really weird script.
That scene leads into the film's BEST dance number to a song called "Dard-e-Disco" which I've since learned is a parody of a number by Hrithik Roshan, one of Bollywood's number one studs. Roshan and his father also have a cameo as themselves in this flick. I doubt that he knew he would be parodied at the time. I had no idea he was a paroding anyone in particular but by the time SRK got to to the part where he was shirtless and dancing provocatively while wearing a hardhat and a toolbelt with a rope slung over one shoulder and singing "My heart is filled with the pain of disco", I was laughing in spite of the fact that he looked really hot. You can always count on Bollywood for a little comedy. But it's during the "Pain of Disco" number that Om Kapoor first begins to remember his past life as Om Makhija. Later at the Filmfare Awards (which feature hilarious send-ups of other stars images) Om's memory clears even more, and afterwards when he spots the director who had killed both of the not-quite-lovers 30 years ago Om, remembers everything and begins to plan his revenge.
OM SHANTI OM is a throwback to the films of the 1970s for its entire first half, which is to say it shows both the worst of the decade's fashion trends and the best of Bollywood's over indulgent opulence. The sets and costumes are magnificent beyond imagining and damn near knocked my eyes out. There are 7 or 8 musical numbers in this film, with the standouts for me being the "Pain of Disco", and "Deewangi Deewangi" with the lyrics "All the cool boys come and make some noise and sing Om Shanti Om". It's also a good practice for seeing how many Bollywood stars you can name since it's sung at Om's party as an entrance number for all the guests (who are playing themselves) as they arrive. I'm not very good but I was able to identify 6, maybe 7. Still it's an exuberant, catchy tune that will drive you out of your mind. Director Farah Khan also choreographed the film and she's done an outstanding job. Each number is done in a completely different style from the others, very refreshing. If you've never seen a Bollywood film this might be a good place to start even if it's most subtle parts will be lost on you as it was on me. Be sure to watch the end credits where almost everyone connected with the film gets to dance down the red carpet.
The title for my review comes from Om Kapoor's favorite vulgarity. Whenever he's angry he yells, "What the fish!"