Go Goa Gone was a film I enjoyed quite a bit when it came out in the theater, enough so that I’d had an itch to watch it again. So I did. I purchased the DVD. And I don’t regret a penny. Despite surface similarities--the lack of sync songs, the casting of Vir Das, the use of a “global” trope like zombies--Go Goa Gone doesn’t feel like one of those Hollywood-chasing “indie” films, it feels like what it is, a modern Hindi film made for people with modern attention spans. The film is certainly aware of globalization--hilariously punctured in the dialogues in regards to why the zombies have finally come to India--but Raj & DK make no concessions to “international” anything in their storytelling or otherwise. This is a Hindi film.
The action starts off in Mumbai where we meet our heroes, three buddies Hardik (Kunal Khemu), Luv (Vir Das), and Bunny (Anand Tiwari) who both live together and work together in some sort of generic white collar office job. Hardik passes his days in clouds of marijuana smoke, Luv is a “m’lady”, and Bunny resents both of them and overcompensates by taking all his responsibilities very seriously. In other words, the three are comedic gold.
After Hardik gets fired (way past due) and Luv gets dumped (really way past due, m’lady), the two tag along with Bunny on a business trip to Goa, hive of scum and villainy and bikini babes looking to party. While on the prowl, Luv stumbles into Facebook-friend-not-real-friend Luna (the lovely Puja Gupta), who invites the buddies to a super-secret-super-cool rave being held on an island just off the coast.... a super-secret-super-cool rave held by Russian gangsters looking to test out a new drug.
One trippy song picturization featuring a friendly appearance from Pitobash later (“Slowly Slowly”), the buddies wake up the next morning to find their world turned upside down. Zombies. They rescue Luna from certain death, are rescued themselves from certain death by Russian gangsters “Boris” (Saif Ali Khan, who simply nails it) and Nikolai (Ross Bucharn?), and get in a lot of good bonding moments while running for their lives.
Revisiting the film, I already knew how the plot would unfold so I was able to really sit back and enjoy the characters and storytelling (and great filmmaking) itself. The mix of comedy, horror, action, mysticism, and just enough melodrama to make us care about the strength of the bond between the friends. That interplay of emotional tones is what I love about Indian filmmaking. No country in the world does it better. (One of the biggest disappointments in “indie” films I’ve suffered through was the paucity of tones. Whether dreary or whimsical or “authentic”, too much of anything leaves this audience member feeling fatigued and bored.)
Zombie movies generally mean bodies and Go Goa Gone does not disappoint. My favorite special effect was obviously the incredible charisma contained in Kunal Khemu’s megawatt smile but I thought the use of zombies was really well done. Rather than pile them all on screen at all times, scenes alternated between crowded and sparse, from the packed rave to empty beach to a trickle of zombies back to a dreadful absence of zombies to one zombie to a pile of zombies… again, the interplay of tone. Instead of a driving, relentless slog through zombies, I really enjoyed how both the audience and the characters were given a few chances to catch our breath before having the rug pulled out from under us… again.
But above all else, I really enjoyed spending time with these characters. Hardik’s easy charm and quick wit, Bunny’s hapless existence, the glee in which Luv’s “m’lady”ing is shut down time and again by Luna, the fact that Luna herself is treated like an actual real person and not a “lady”, even Boris and Nikolai’s bittersweet ending… it was oddly relaxing, despite the zombies. I didn’t have to worry about a buffed up producer’s son with monotone dialogue delivery or a shrill bikini bimbo invading my screen, just filthy ex-hippies on a blood bender.
As long time readers have surely noticed, I am not even remotely as invested in Hindi films as I was a few years ago. Partly this is due to access, for example even Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was out of my local theater in a week and only had one show at a very inconvenient time at the next closest theater… and the other areas it’s showing in are at least an hour of travel time away. Would it be worth it? Probably, but the friend I used to go to films like this with has long since had two children and no longer has the free time to spend all day in pursuit of a Salman Khan film. Additionally, watching online or even on DVD can be really unsatisfying. A movie I might have enjoyed well enough in the buzzed atmosphere of a packed theater might turn into a movie I flip off after 30 minutes watching at home because, well, I have better things to do than suffer through an adaptation of Hamlet that seems to have left all the manic energy and mysticism of the original on the cutting room floor in exchange for extra self-seriousness at making High Art.
But when it comes right down to it, there aren’t many Hindi films coming out that interest me anymore… I don’t care for Miramax-style “international cinema” films. I don’t care for those write-what-you-know slice-of-life films about wacky families living in Delhi or rom-coms and subpar Southern masala remakes. Some may find them enjoyable and that’s fine. They just aren’t for me.
But all that said, what I do still enjoy is the overwrought melodrama of a film like Brothers, Akshay Kumar and Jackie Shroff and Siddharth Malhotra, all manly and on the verge of tears. I love the beauty of the Rakesh Roshan worldview in a film like Krrish 3. I love the sharp meta-masala of Vicky Acharya’s films… and I love the Hindi films from filmmakers like Rajat Kapoor... and Raj & DK. And I cannot wait for their next.