Director: Pushpendra Nath Misra
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Ragini Khanna, Raghuvir Yadav
Streaming on: Zee5
If I had a dime for every time a Hindi movie begins with a “Bambai” voiceover, I’d be rich enough to produce a Hindi movie that does not begin with a “Bambai” voiceover. Having said that, I don’t know where to begin with Ghoomketu, a dated and mesmerizingly sloppy film about a small-town UP man (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who runs away to become a Bollywood writer in Mumbai. For almost 100 minutes, we see a nightmarish cocktail of skit-level humour, uneven sequences, pretentious odes and unrelated threads.
Ghoomketu is not just bad but bizarre, like an incoherent acid trip that disorients the viewer by the sheer weight of its rhythmless, random filmmaking. There’s no sense of narrative continuity, pace, storytelling, performance or craft, with absurd bouts of kitschy movie-within-movie imagination and vein-popping characters hastily stitched into what looks like a rejected film-school editing project. The animated opening credits actually belong to a 1990s children’s film, featuring a blue bird (Twitter?) in a forest. The disjointedness is almost audacious, as if nobody bothered to keep an eye on the big picture. I feel like I’ve written these lines before. And I probably have – in my review of the nostalgia-drunk Netflix series Taj Mahal 1989, which is also incidentally directed by Pushpendra Nath Misra.
Ghoomketu opens with the ominous sight of the protagonist breaking the fourth wall to narrate his tale to us. It’s downhill from here. This character, Ghoomketu, from an influential family in Mahona composed of colourful members (a montage is dedicated to each – the father, played by Raghuvir Yadav, has Donald-Duck-level rage issues; the aunt has a burping problem), wants to be a writer. He applies to the local newspaper, whose editor instead hands him a Bollywood Screenwriting For Dummies book, instructing him to try his luck in B-town. Our naive hero escapes to Mumbai – because who can’t be a writer these days – while his family parallely launches a search for him by applying political pressure. A bumbling cop, Badlani (not Anurag Kashyap’s finest moment), is assigned to the case in the city. He has 30 days to not get transferred. Little does he know that the man he is looking for is actually his tenant.
The rest of the film is an orgy of B-movie vignettes according to the genre (horror, romance, sci-fi) Ghoomketu is writing. Scenes from campy fictional titles like Khooni Bathroom pop up like fever dreams – the spoofy style is far from original, with everyone from Ranveer Singh to Amitabh Bachchan making surreal cameos in a film that seems to be about everything but writing. The tone is all over the place, the greed to infuse a flesh-and-blood story with cheesy tributes is immense, with Ghoomketu reminiscing about his family (at one point, Raghuvir Yadav appears as Spock on a desi Star Trek set) while pitching his scripts to sleazy directors. Needless to mention, this also allows for an item song. There’s also a particularly painful black-and-white silent-movie scene that is gimmicky enough to put the most self-aware parodies to shame.
The final ten minutes are marginally more interesting than the rest of the film, but that’s not saying much – for once, I could understand what was happening because the narrative wasn’t trying to act cute. It’s difficult for filmmakers to get films about filmmaking so drastically wrong. Yet, irony writes itself into a corner here. In that sense, Ghoomketu can serve as a perfect how-not-to module. How not to use a solid ensemble cast. How not to cut scenes. How not to be innovative and indulgent. How not to present Nawazuddin Siddiqui. How not to get carried away by the budget. How not to make sense. How not to make. How not to. How not. How.