GO GOA GONE. Director: Raj & DK. Players: Saif Ali Khan, Kunal Khemu, Vir Das, Anand Tiwari, Pooja Gupta. Music: Jigar-Sachin. Theatrical release (EROS). Hindi with English sub-titles.
The shlock-horror genre in Hindi movies has traditionally been reserved almost exclusively for creature features that give rise to a sub-species of creepy, shadowy, sometimes-bandaged ghouls (the Raaz series, any offering from the Ramsay Brothers). Veering away from that has-been class of other-worldly lower life vermin, and taking a cue from Hollywood, where the zombie tradition has been revived to tap into not so subtle post-9/11 anxieties witnesses by the mega cult following of AMC’s cable TV superhit The Walking Dead series, it was only a matter of time before a wide-release Hindi language zombie entry would ploddingly stumble out of the woodwork to invade matinee screens far and wide. Intentionally clumsy, often funny and sometimes downright scary, Go Goa Gone overcomes improbable odds and ends up taking a victory lap around Goa, which the movie virtually christens the zombie-land of Bollywood.
As zombie plot lines go, Goa also starts out tame. Three friends, slacking from their jobs in Mumbai visit Goa on a whimsy. Their instigator is Hardik (Khemu), a slacker supreme who cajoles his buddies Luv (Vir Das) and Bunny (Tiwari) to make a bee line south from Mumbai. Goa is inviting enough and, eager to pick up chicks, they accept the first invitation they get to rave at an offshore island. Arriving on the island—which is soon to transform into a microcosmic universe about to be overrun by you-know-whats—the trio learn that their only hope in escape may be in the hands of a certain Boris (Khan), a trigger happy, blond desi-Russophile and self-made zombie-killer with a penchant for shooting first and asking questions later.
Unlike conventional zombie entries where no explanation is provided as to how the zombies got to be, well, zombies, Go Goa Gone spins a quasi-plausible trigger factor for what maybe giving rise to zombie symptoms. It’s the ‘shrooms, you see—beware the funny little pills being passed around at beach-front raves—as side-effects, those afflicted can eat you! As the trio fumbles their way across the island in hopes of rescuing Luna (Gupta), a fair damsel the trio is convinced as having saved from being turned into lunch by her former cabin-mates, they must crisscross a zombie-infested terrain where serio-comic danger awaits them.
Bollywood zombies, we learn, are a formerly fun loving bunch. That means that the former fun-loving beachgoers and current ne’er do well undead are comprised of day-trippers, bhang-seeking Euro trash and twenty-something urban foragers from Mumbai on escapist B&B junkets. Strangely, the zombie class is averse to saris—there is not a one zombie in a sari! Hello, what country is this movie staged in again? As our questionably heroic trio gets chased around the island by shirt-pant-kurta clad ravenous marauders, one secretly hopes that at the next turn our scaredy cats will come face to face with a zombiefied cabal of former suburban aunties in bright silk chiffons unleashing their inner cannibal on unsuspecting “normals.” Maybe there will be a sequel.
Directors Raj & DK are actually two California-based Indian-American filmmakers Krishna D.K & Raj Nidimoru, who have a credible repertoire of successful internationally-flavored entries (Short in the City, 99, Flavors). Partnering with Khan’s production house for Go Goa Gone, the duo brings to play an American-inflected filmmaking style —a camera that appears attached to a target zeroing in on a zombie’s half-face, a humorous sequence where certain characters must strip in public to prove they are not infected and, also, guns, guns and more guns.
Khan, who has never been one for subtlety in his delivery, plays Boris in an over-the-top, get-off-my-island physical brand of acting that befits his limited histrionic range while Khemu, Das, Gupta and Tiwari are credible carefree city slickers who must shed their wimpiness to overcome a horrifying enemy. Lightly borrowing from Hollywood zombie standards Shaun of the Dead andNight of the Living Dead, the script by Raj, DK and Sita Menon projects a self-perpetuating energy. If Bombay could be turned into Bollywood, and Lahore can be turned into Lollywood, Goa being transformed into Zombiewood was probably just a mere formality.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.