In Go Goa Gone, the comedy could be funnier and the zombies, more realistic
Go Goa Gone is open about its status as a film, and with a series of knowing references invites its audience to share the joke.
By Aishwarya Subramanian
Conventional wisdom has it that one of the reasons that India does not have a rich tradition of reanimated corpses is that there aren’t that many corpses to reanimate. In a country where the vast majority of corpses are cremated, zombies never really had much of a chance to terrify us all.
So how does a movie like Go Goa Gone transport what is essentially a Western cultural artefact to India and make it work? Partly by freely acknowledging this. The three hapless young men (Luv, Bunny and Hardik, played by Vir Das, Anand Tiwari and Kunal Khemu) at the centre of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s film are stranded island off the coast of Goa, where everyone around them seem to have transformed into zombies.
When they figure out what’s wrong they briefly wonder what zombies could be doing in India before choosing to set this mystery down to “globalisation”. And while the movie clearly owes much to previous “zom coms” like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, it’s just as indebted to the stoner comedy genre, its trio of grown men with the emotional maturity of teenagers seems straight out of a Judd Apatow film.
Go Goa Gone is open about its status as a film, and with a series of knowing references invites its audience to share the joke. The cinematic convention of the “smoking kills” warnings is mocked at the beginning (something we also saw earlier this year with Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola).
An encounter with a man who seemingly speaks only Russian causes our heroes to demand subtitles—and the audience promptly receives them. Later in the film one character calmly explains that he is the funny sidekick, therefore doomed to die by the rules that govern this genre. This is a film that assumes its audience has watched the same sort of movies, likes the same sort of pop culture, as its writers and directors. For the target audience this constant reminder that People Like Us made this film is great fun.
Which is why it’s frustrating when the film slips up. The characters occasionally sit down and take stock of what they know about zombies (ans: not very much), and for a large chunk of the film seem unable to recognise these shambling, dead-eyed, flesh-craving creatures for what they are.
It seems ridiculous to complain that a comedy about zombies in Goa is unrealistic, but occasionally the writers go with the forced joke that is inconsistent with the film’s own internal logic — as when the characters are somehow able to remember the titles of classic zombie movies but not, somehow, the concept of zombies themselves.
Audiences may not care whether the zombies are realistic (may even accept the deeply silly solution to this film because sometimes the more outlandish explanation is the funnier one) but we do care when such moments aren’t true to the ways in which we experience and remember film.
Similarly, the otherwise sublimely funny dialogue occasionally descends to the painfully obvious reference. Saif Ali Khan introduces himself with a heavily-accented “I keel dead people”, a line the writers apparently found so funny that we had to hear it twice. Hardik’s name is the source of more than one joke; there’s a Schwarzneggerish “I’ll be back” —this is the sort of thing Khemu and Das’s characters might have come up with, and it’s unworthy of the movie’s cleverer moments.
This is very much a movie about male friendship, and women characters who have more to do than reject one of our heroes are rather scarce (and when will we get a movie about women who are friends?). But Puja Gupta’s Luna is a bright spot, good at killing things, alternating between pity and amusement at our heroes, and fortunately never enough of the former to sleep with them. Luna and Bunny’s responses toward their awful friends come close to mirroring my own towards this movie- sceptical, frustrated, entertained, and yet inexplicably fond.
(Aishwarya Subramanian is a reviewer and critic from Delhi. She can be found online at http://www.practicallymarzipan.com/blog)
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