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Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! is Shah Rukh Khan’s one lost gem which deserves to be seen.
Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! is Shah Rukh Khan’s one lost gem which deserves to be seen now more than ever.
On the 54th birthday of Shah Rukh Khan, let’s talk about one of his most overlooked cabochons, Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! directed by the veteran and often underestimated Ketan Mehta. It was 11th of August 1995 when the movie came to the cinemas and went in a flash leaving no trace behind. The same year SRK gave mega Hits in the form of Karan Arjun before August and DDLJ later in October.
People in general preassumed the film to be a dark art house project even prior to the release because of Maya Memsaab, the previous Ketan Mehta-SRK-Deepa Sahi controversial niche film.
Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! was also not well promoted, or rather I would say it was wrongly marketed as a conventional Musical Entertainer. People went to the theaters in the search of entertainment and they understood nothing, absolutely zilch.
The songs were also not popular and melodious like Karan Arjun and DDLJ, few naive critics like always failed to get the film and called it anti-national while others praised it but nothing changed the fate of the film at the box-office.
Let me tell you, all of the above happened because the movie was an intelligent unconventional dark satirical musical parody, too many hidden metaphors and subtexts for the audiences to understand.
Ketan Mehta made this film to make fun of masala Hindi films, our society and politics, in a tongue in cheek manner.
Mehta’s idea of entertainment is so intelligent that not everyone can digest it, he is like Vishal Bhardwaj (remember Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and Kaminey).
He deliberately made Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! a farce to comment on the lack of continuity, logic in Bollywood masalas and also on the sociopolitical scenario of the country.
In Hindi films usually songs are melodious but it stops the flow of the story that’s why Ketan wrote the lyrics of all the songs which are more of dialogues which made sense instead of just being speed breaking melodies. Ranjeet Barot smartly made those dialogues rhythmic in a true musical way, years later we had a proper musical Jagga Jasoos which also failed, what a shame!
Shah Rukh Khan’s child like ebullience suited 200% in this very theatrical kind of film, which might have been regarded over the top performance in other regular films but again Mehta wanted him to do this way and how well he delivered.
SRK’s presence lights up the screen and makes this dark film colorful, Deepa Sahi after her national award winning performance in Maya Memsaab gave another winning act, she also helped her husband Mehta in the screenplay. And Jaaved Jaffrey, man he has some brilliant dance numbers, other cast members are delightful and enjoyable led by Amrish Puri who mocks his own screen image as Don Quixote. Nitin Desai’s art direction is so fresh even today.
But more than everything it was Ketan Mehta’s brave and weird sort of filmmaking which takes the center stage and makes it a classic. How nicely Ketan Mehta showed us that India, a democracy is majorly filled with gullible clods where both politics and cinema consolidates this fact almost every single day.
There’s a scene in jail where SRK’s character Hero so humorously talks about the illogical possibilities in India, and another in the pre-climatic scene when the imposter of the then President played by Anupam Kher sells India in an auction for 6 billion then SRK picks up his calculator and says ‘Only RS. 67.49 per person, chiii’, amazing no? This scene tells us that we have to understand our worth in a democracy to run it nicely otherwise it is no better than a monarchy or an autocracy.
Today thankfully cinema is making more sense than politics, so it is the right time to see this film more than ever and it deserves to be seen.
Now that the movie is streaming on Netflix it is now highly regarded by critics as a smart and evocative satire of Bollywood cinema conventions but trust me it is much more than that.
Leaving you with few lines from the title track ably sung by Shankar Mahadevan, Hema Sardesai and Raghubir Yadav;
‘Yahaan pe sab hai thoda thoda
Thodi si nafrat thoda sa pyaar
Thoda backward thoda forward
Thodi si der thoda sa darr
Thodi thodi hai sabako fikar
Thoda sa daan thodi si loot
Thodi si ghaas thosi si ghoos
Thoda america thoda russia
Thoda thoda sabse sikha
Thoda thoda bhula diya
O darling yeh hai india’