Gunda - Cryptic cultural references

Cryptic cultural references in

Interviewer: Do you feel good that your album is doing well?
Roger Waters: Define ‘good’.

Kanti Shah was truly the godfather of thinking deep shit and not giving a flying fuck. His movies have been among the most important rites of passage in most engineering campuses of our country, for only when a boy is exposed to this avalanche of higher knowledge can he claim to be called a man. His Magnum Opus (at least one of them) is the great ‘Gunda’ of 1998. Generally believed by the non-discerning as the melting pot of all mindless clichés of the 90s, Gunda has been called something that challenges the viewer to think of the most ridiculous thing to say/think/do at any instance, and then beats them at that. But even them lesser souls have certified it as ‘unputdownable’, claiming there is “something” about this movie.

Well, I am not cool enough to be able to encapsulate the godliness of Gunda in an article, a book or even a lifetime, no sir! I mean, what can you really say about a movie whose complete background score came from just a Casio SA-21?! A lot of people have already attempted to analyse the movie (ha!), some quite well, at that. What I will try to do in this article is to point out to the subtle but clearly-out-there cultural references that the great mind of Kanti Shah planted at key moments in the movie (well, the whole movie only has key moments, but, whatever). The reader may choose to agree, disagree, comment, fuck off, who cares!

#1: Assassinations:

About one hour and twenty-two minutes into the movie, Shankar (the protagonist, played by the superman residing in the body of Mithun Chakravarty) comes to believe that the time has come to assassinate the neta Bachchu Bhigona, who has conspired with the main man Bulla in inflicting evil on society in general and his family in particular. Shankar decides to act.

First of all, he changes sunglasses from the previous scene. His choice of frame in this regard is most peculiar – the shades are perfectly circular, reminding us of two of the most famous assassinations of all time at the same time.

Who is it, do you ask?

Why, John Lennon and Mahatma Gandhi, of course!

            "That's some clever thinking you did                                "Imagine there's only Kanti..."
                            there, Mr. Shah!"

Next, Kanti adds to the scene a motorcade, with an assassin hiding somewhere in the background, a la John F. Kennedy.

As a matter of fact, Zack Snyder tipped his hat to Kanti Shah by imitating the perpetrator-behind-the-barrier assassination act in Watchmen. Or maybe Kanti Shah looked into the future and made a reference to the Watchmen movie here. We shall never know!

Finally, there’s the Bhagat Singh – Saunders murder case reference in the shot with the cycle-chain-fixing – the revolutionary element of this murder.

The essence of this slew of mentions is that in a state of utter political chaos, when a man’s right to live and prosper is violated and ‘when violence is the only way’, to defend his fundamental rights, a peace loving man is forced to kill a very important public servant. Kanti Shah, you bloody genius!

#2: The Matrix:

This one is devastatingly shocking.

You can’t really exaggerate the sheer might of Shankar (no, Mithunda) in Gunda. He is the all-powerful savior of all that is good in this world. He faces legions of reverse-jumping hooligans (who draw pointy-ended weapons with a swooshing sound) with great aplomb, and reduces them to pulp with slight play-like motions of his left hand (a.k.a. baayein haath ka khel). He is the monkey-talking, evil-threatening friend of the weak man that busty females swoon over and hit on with utter shamelessness and extremely tight clothes. He is the devout son, the protective brother and the faithful lover.

He is the defender of them all. He is the man.

He is the one.

Wait, where have I heard that expression before?

Holey moley! It was…

OK, I know you sore cynics and sachhai ke dushman type folks will not see the implied reference, so I here’s more evident (literal) frames. Remember the bullet dodging in The Matrix?

Well, get a load of this:

                                     <Dhishkiyaon!>                                                                                   <Swoosh!>

This is the Matrix shrieking out loud from the frames of Gunda! Shankar (no, Mithunda) doesn’t even need to bend much; he can achieve with a slight shift of posture what Keanu Reeves took a whole Hrithik Roshan act to establish. Such is the might of the Shankar (you know who!).

Another one? OK, take a look at this:

And in Gunda world…

Again, effort taken by Mithunda is much less. In the words of Chutiya, “he’s so strong, so tough he is, so strong!”

‘Nuff said?

Now, for the purpose of shock, check the release dates of both movies.

#3: Catcher in the rye

Not as elaborate as the rest of the references, but nonetheless, as clear and relevant as each of the others. This reference is embedded in Shankar’s choice of work clothing.

About fifteen minutes into the movie, as Kaala Shetty is running away from cops after having assassinated the kaphanchor neta who used to side with good old lambu aata (lambu? HOW?!), he is confronted at the dock/airport by Shankar. Shankar is a railway coolie at an airport (or at least the airport section of the airport-dock-mine-oil field-construction site complex – ref. to the chopper in the background).

Upon the slightest straining of one’s memory, one is reminded of Holden Caulfield’s dilemma in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ when he is asked by his sister what it is that he wants to do. Caulfield describes a scene where he wants to be the ‘catcher’ who saves the children playing in the rye fields from falling off the cliff – an imaginary job description that one can only dream of in adolescence. The reference here signifies Shankar’s adolescent crime-fighting status – this is his first rendezvous with the dark side of the force, so to speak. He clearly has a lot to learn, which he shall do by losing near and dear ones, as we see later in the movie.

                     Notice the attire (except for the topi, which is worn by bahadurs in Indian
                         movies, and the cigarette, which is unbecoming of an upright man)

#4: Quentin Tarantino:

The first and most striking exemplification of Kantibhai’s love for Tarantino is the recurrence of names from his previous instalment of awesome, Loha. The protagonist is once again Shankar. The corrupt inspector is called inspector Kale one more time. This pattern is typical of Tarantino, whose movies constitute a universe of their own, and characters in different movies are related/the same. The shifting of actors portraying the aforementioned roles (in Gunda) is probably an indication of the transgression of society – while the earlier inspector Kale (Ishrat Ali) has now ‘evolved’ into the crime kingpin Lambu Aata, the new Shankar (Mithunda) is played by the guy who was Shankar’s (Dharmendra paaji’s) sidey in the previous saga. A.k.a. ghor kalyug.

Another piece of evidence is the burying of a live Ibu hatela (the banana-offering goon of an extremely illustrious, pure-blooded evil pedigree – get it?) into the ground, Kill Bill style.

                  Kanti Shah could never let the whole guy be buried live – that would hurt his
                    low-budget spirit in life. Kanti Shah believes in all things cheap – the editing of
                                                                                     Gunda is evidence.

My favourite reference is planted in the murder of Pote. You know, the one who has abandoned his patriarchy. In this scene, Shankar has trapped Pote, leaving him no escape. Pote is first panting, then uttering words without making much sense, trying to give an explanation for his actions and ultimately, pleading for mercy. Shankar, paying no heed to all this bull, delivers a few lines, then shoots the fucker.

Remind you of something?

No? OK, here’s a little help:

Need some more? Here:

Shankar’s equivalent for the Pulp Fiction Bible passage: Lahoo ki lehron se khelne waalei, ab samandar ki lehron se khel!

I leave it to the reader to draw meaning out of this reference, explain it to their friends and bask in the glory of the coolness of Kanti Shah. I say download that bad print of Gunda off Torrent once again, and let it rock your world one more time! Just like Pink Floyd, what you will infer from Gunda will depend on what crop you're smoking!


{ HAb } at: April 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM said...

The round sunglasses-assassination seems more like a reference to Leon:The professional.
Just my opinion.

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