The front row

So Bad, They’re Good

Anupama Chopra is a film critic and author. She tweets @anupamachopra
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There are films, just those few, that become cult classics by virtue of being bad. Dunno Y belongs in that pantheon

One of the perks of being a film critic is that I get to watch bad films. By this I don’t mean the run-of-the-mill, routinely mediocre movies that plague theatres week after week—think Pyaar Impossible! or What’s Your Raashee? These averagely bad ones are soul-suckers.  I mean the gloriously, deliriously, monstrously bad ones that are in fact so bad that they are good.

Not many bad movies can attain these heights. So Mallika Sherawat’s snake superhero soft-porn saga Hisss was ridiculous but also boring in its unmitigated clumsiness and lame attempts to be cool.  But Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun, though flat out ridiculous and clumsy, is an instant classic.  Pitched as India’s answer to Brokeback Mountain, Dunno Y is pure, unintentional comedy, starting of course with that irresistible title. 

It is a film that exists in a parallel universe—as you watch, you wonder: was the cast smoking something strong or perhaps suffering from a collective tropical malady?  Most sentient beings wouldn’t walk into a film named Dunno Y.  I didn’t have a choice and emerged from the experience a happier person.
What made Dunno so good?  For one, the film is mostly in English, a language that proves challenging for the writer Kapil Sharma and actors, including Kapil himself in the lead.  So characters routinely mouth dialogue such as: “Bro, may your wish comes true this Christmas,” or “I don’t want a relationship of which we be ashamed of,” or “I have always fulfilled my duties of an husband.”  When the dialogue isn’t making your sides ache, the acting kicks in.  This is a film in which the strongest performance comes from Kabir Bedi.  The rest of the gang, which includes Zeenat Aman and Helen, deliver their lines in hammy, school-play style, and the icing on the cake is National Award winning actor Rituparna Sengupta as the unfulfilled wife of a closeted gay man.  When he takes off to Goa with his lover, she spews fire and venom.  At the preview, I had to put fist to mouth to stop myself from laughing out loud.

Dunno Y enters the pantheon of classic so-bad-they-are-good movies, which includes the legendary disaster, Manoj Kumar’s Clerk.  Over the last decade, the film, which features the fifty-plus actor-director as a college student, has acquired cult status.  But for me the Holy Grail of bad movies is the little known Honey, which, at least according to its marketing, was a watershed moment in Indian cinema. An ad for the film declared that it was the first time in history that one person had done the story, screenplay, dialogue, set-paintings, art direction, costumes, lyrics, music, dances, fights and also edited, produced and directed a film.  And who was this?  ‘Wonder-girl, actress, film-maker Sheetal.’  According to the ad, Honey was ‘made in only 20 working shifts.’  Which was instantly apparent. In one scene, the hero angrily smashes his fists into a wall—and the cardboard caves in. The airport set is a sofa with a chart of planes pinned to the wall. And did I mention that the buxom starlet plays a teenager?

Over the years, few films have rivalled Honey. Mother, directed by Saawan Kumar Tak, starring Rekha as a single mother and Randhir Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan and Jeetendra as her beaus, had a few inspired moments. At one point, Jeetendra sings: “Tum abhi beautiful ho, tum abhi loveable ho”  while Rekha, playing Ms Britannia, flounces around in gold from head to toe. 

Jimmy, the launch pad for Mithun Chakraborty’s son Mimoh, was splendidly idiotic —my favourite moment: the heroine’s father tells a nasty suitor that his daughter cannot marry him by screaming, “You are a rejected person.”  As was Sushmita Sen’s Karma aur Holi.  In the Hindi version, an American actor cavorting in an inflated tub with two women, says: “Mein jacuzzi main item ke saath mazaa kar raha hoon.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.  Which is why I love my job.