Good parody is perhaps the hardest form of flattery to nail. A huge star (Shah Rukh Khan) who has spent the last two decades creating a prized personal visual signature suddenly aping the style of other performers is a startling visual gag for sure. After hyping up the appeal of Khan mimicking some of Hindi cinema’s most lasting imagery from the 1970s, what the Khans—star Khan, his producer-wife Gauri Khan, and director Farah Khan—end up doing is mostly flattering themselves.
Starting out in a non-specified year in the 1970s, Khan initially plays career-challenged film extra Om Prakash (surprisingly parodying no one in this pivotal role) who gets into just enough misadventures to catch the eye of the reigning screen queen, Shantipriya (an appealing Deepika Padukone, who deftly pulls off a slimmer, taller Hema Malini while resembling Aishwarya Rai). Taking liberties from reincarnation dramas that featured Rajesh Khanna (Kudrat) to Hrithik Roshan (Kaho Na Pyar Hai), the plot fast forwards to 30 years later. Khan, now the ultra successful Om Kapoor, scion of a highly successful star from the ’70s, must enlist help from a Shantipriya look-alike (also Padukone) to plot revenge for a murder committed three decades earlier.
The Khans pumped up Om Shanti Om as the First Coming (together) of the 30 or so biggest names in Hindi cinema (yes, you can count them—the laundry list of cameos unnecessarily extends both ends of the movie). It turns out that those “extras”—if distinguished blokes with last names Bachchan, Ghai, and Chopra can be called that—are actually the single best reason to tolerate Khan’s belated good-Halloween-costume-party-gone-bad. If the best reason to catch Om Shanti Om is anyone other than Shah Rukh Khan, perhaps this Diwali would have been better celebrated visiting that Uncle Yogesh you’ve been avoiding all these years.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.