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06.26.02 - 6:44 p.m.

While riffling through the consistently fascinating Google Groups, I came across an movie review I wrote some years ago. I reproduce it here in the interest of posting an unfocused, overly long review of a horrible foreign movie you've never heard of. (Look, let's not kid ourselves. It's a really long review. Even I can't get through it. It would probably be best for you to skip it entirely and move on to the next chapter in this exciting saga... a saga I like to call MY LIFE.)

One of my friends from work is this guy named Mahesh. His name invites stale puns, and we often accept this invitation. Mahesh going to the ATM: "Get some Macash!" Mahesh being bad: "Give him 50 Malashes!" At various times he's gone by "Mahashish", "Mahashtable" and "Moesha". You can see we don't get out much.

Anyway, Mahesh has lived all over the world. He was born in India, went to school for a while in Europe and most recently shacked up in Nigeria. People like him really fascinate me. Maybe they gravitate to each other; Mahesh's girlfriend, Tania, was born in Singapore, lived in Russia, spent time in Malawi and Sweden, and is also Indian. (As a result she's fluent in English, Russian, Swedish and Hindi! Kinda makes your pathetic American-high-school-educated "vamos a la playa" ass cringe, doesn't it?)

So, last week cosmopolitan Mahesh invited me and our friend Pedro (fluent in Spanish, German and English; I swear I'm the only loser at NI who can't curse in three languages) to go see a Hindi movie with him and Tania. This sounds like a nice offer, but I was suspicious. What little I had heard about Indian cinema was not encouraging. Supposedly all Indian movies could be summed up in two words: long and stupid. I'd heard they all have the same plot, they all have lots of musical numbers that break out without warning, and they all last forever. In general, the consensus was that if you have to choose between watching an Indian flick and undergoing that torture where the Vikings nail your intestines to a tree and then make you walk around it, you should go with the torture.

But Mahesh knew Indian cinema better than us, and he assured us this was no average Bollywood bunk.

"How long is it?" we asked.

"Two hours and fifteen minutes," he replied with a straight face.

"Does it have subtitles?"

"No, but don't worry, I'll translate. And," he added, going for a weak spot, "there'll be gorgeous Indian babes."

That made it pretty appealing. Pedro and I cracked like eggshells and went along. The movie was called Gupt.

Gupt: A Frank Review

Gupt, (Hindi for "hidden") , is a movie about many universal themes:

  • Love
  • Betrayal
  • The Twin Faces of Comedy and Tragedy
  • Flabby People in Skin-Tight Clothing
It is this last theme that I wish to bring up, because Mahesh clearly stated to me and Pedro, quote, "There'll be gorgeous Indian babes." I can only assume he meant in the audience, because on-screen it just wasn't happening. In his defense, he says the leading ladies in this movie let themselves go since their last picture. Whatever the excuse, the fact is that Gupt's starlets, purportedly sleek and sexy, were in fact decidedly chunky-style. Given that their acting ability didn't exceed the average "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" shill's, I feel like we had a right to at least expect some tantalizing flesh. But though the Heroine and Bad Girl both wore lots of revealing clothing, they would've been better off keeping it "gupt". And lest you think I'm a victim of Western-standards-of-beauty brainwashing, let me point out that both Mahesh and Tania, who've been around the world and back a thousand times, murmured "Damn! Those girls got fat!"

So Gupt is not a movie for those who wish to ogle. It's also not a movie for voyeurs. They're not even allowed to kiss in Indian movies, let alone do the horizontal rhumba. Mahesh explained this all to me during the movie's intermission (yes, it was that long). Since anything sexual is taboo, they use big metaphoric dance numbers to suggest what they can't show -- which I guess explains all the cornball mountain-climbing / plunging into river shots.

This brings us to two other what's-the-opposite-of-selling-points: the dancing, and the fact that the movie was THREE AND A HALF HOURS LONG. If you've never been to a Hindi movie where you don't understand Hindi and the movie's three and a half hours long, let me just explain: this is a long, long time. I wouldn't listen to a joint address from Buddha, Jesus and Elvis for three hours, let alone Gupt. Yet somehow there I was. Sometimes I would semi-doze off into a serene, meditative state, and when I'd come to the movie would still be chugging along, usually in the midst of song and dance.

No matter what's happening in Gupt , there's always the danger of a song breaking out. The hero goes shopping, and suddenly every grocery clerk's tap-dancing in the produce section. The heroine's washing her hair, and suddenly there's sixteen well-toned dancers getting funky in the bathroom. The music actually wasn't so bad (though I'm sure it would've been worse if I'd understood the lyrics), but the dancing was criminally inept. The hero's 'dancing', for instance, was no more than a tepid strut, occasionally paired with a nauseating wink. Sometimes he'd do something like throw both of his arms up at once, and that would be the highlight of his whole routine.

But wait, you say, at least Gupt was redeemed by the plot, right? Ha ha! The plot, in a nutshell:

Politician arranges marriage between his son (Hero) and Random Girl but son is in love with other girl (Bad Girl, though we don't know this yet) and also Heroine is in love with Hero, though he doesn't know it. So anyway Hero gets mad and threatens to kill father because of arranged marriage, but then someone really kills father and Hero is framed and goes to prison and does a dance number then escapes Shawshank Redemption style and then he's framed again and now he's being hunted by the Indian version of Dirty Harry (this guy shoots somebody like, every ten seconds; think 'McGarnikle' from the Simpsons") and somehow the dead father's locket is the key to who's really behind the killings and the suddenly it turns out the Bad Girl has a fatal attraction and she's been killing everybody to get to the Hero and that's when the Hero decides he really loves the Heroine and the Bad Girl tries to kill her but at the last minute Dirty Harry appears and shoots (natch) the Bad Girl and they all live happily ever after except for the Bad Girl, who unfortunately has a bullet in her head.

I just want to point out that I got all this without translation. Tania and Mahesh told me some of what the characters were saying, but the thing about this movie was, you didn't really need to pay attention to what the characters were saying to follow. This is not a quality possessed by your typical award-winning cinematic masterpieces.

So, to sum up: Gupt = Viking intestinal torture. I hope I am conveying my opinion clearly here.

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