Color me genuinely shocked. I went to to Bollywood's first zombie comedy with very low expectations and came out completely enthused about the finished product. Directorial team Raj & DK took a lot of very broad references and influences and melded them into something not exactly new, but certainly very entertaining. I've seen a lot of Bollywood horror films, but this is the first one that I feel I can recommend to general audiences without reservation or qualification. Go Goa Gone
is a top notch bit of fun.
Bunny, Luv, and Hardik are roommates. While Bunny works his little ass off trying to move up in the world, Luv and Hardik spend most of their energy either getting high or trying to get laid. Through a madcap combination of coincidences, the three end up in India's party capital, the seaside mecca of Goa, and things get rowdy. The trip is a result of Bunny's hard work, but the other two tag along, unable to resist the charms of Goa and the inherent debauchery therein. Luv is coming off of a rough breakup and looking to dip his wick in anything that moves, while Hardik is just a ladies' man from the word go.
While in the process of following their dicks around, the loser pair hear about a massive underground rave being held by the Russian mafia on a private island and decide that the only thing to do is crash the party. Bunny is the only one with a car, so he gets roped into the shenanigans even though he's in Goa on business and has a major presentation the next day (a fact which disappears in the script when it fulfills its goal of getting the trio to Goa). The three rent a boat, The Tatinic, and cruise themselves out to the private mafia rave to make a scene. When an assortment of unknown red pills starts to make the rounds, things get a little weird and before you know it, boom. Zombies everywhere.
Rave zombies? I'm pretty sure Uwe Boll already made that movie. However, unlike House of the Dead
, Go Goa Gone
is genuinely and intentionally funny. The film is just self-aware enough to move the plot forward and explain a bit of the action, but not meta in a way that distracts from the story. We get nods, large and small, to Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead
and many other like minded films. In fact, at one point we see a small crew of zombies with one dressed as Shaun with white shirt and red tie and a second dressed like Army of Darkness
' Ash, and you know what, it's so brief that instead of making me groan, it made me smile. There are good ways and bad ways to pay homage, and Go Goa Gone
does a solid job of wearing their influences on their sleeve while still telling a very Indian story.
Here's the rub, Indians have made many, many horror films. They've explored monsters, witches, vampires, ghosts, and all manner of other ghouls, but zombies are a new thing in the culture. The characters in the film are befuddled by these undead, slow-walking, flesh eating ghouls, and it takes them a long time to figure out what they are by searching their knowledge of Hollywood films to even come up with the word "zombie." This realization comes organically and naturally, it isn't the centerpiece of a scene, it's just another moment, and that's what makes it work. Their lack of knowledge about zombies, for example: aim for the head, leads to all kinds of great moments as they start to learn how to attack and avoid their pursuers. It isn't flashy, it's just good, solid character work from our five leads, who have fantastic chemistry and deserve credit for taking what could have been terrible and making it shine.
The three main leads, Kunal Khemu (99, Golmaal 3
), comedian Vir Das (Delhi Belly, Love Aaj Kal
), and Anand Tiwari do a wonderful job of conveying their individual personalities without becoming caricatures. The biggest name in the film, however, is producer/star Saif Ali Khan who plays the Russian mafia in charge of the party. Khan wisely takes a step back and plays second fiddle with an amazing amount of grace, not something Bollywood big-shots are known for having. I'm generally not a fan of Khan, just read my review of Agent Vinod
from last year, but this time around he's really excellent and serves his purpose well.
The very difficult balance of making a Bollywood zombie film is handled with extraordinary aplomb by Raj & DK who take the opportunity to create something fresh out of a genre that feels like it has run its course in the west. That actually may be its downfall at the box office in India, unfortunately. While the film is great, it is so different that audiences just may not know what to do with it. As an example, there's a scene near the end in which Kunal Khemu's Hardik (yes, that's his name, and yes, a joke is made. Seriously guys, it's a common Punjabi name) is called upon to woo a zombie out of a boat in order to capture the vessel to take them back to civilization. It plays like a twisted Bollywood romance, the girl chasing Hardik in slow motion around a tree, both of them wet from the sea. If she's were wild-eyed and covered in blood, it would be very romantic. It's the only moment in the film where they transgress the slow-moving zombie rule they've created for themselves, but it works splendidly and will really knock 'em dead with the right audience.
I think I am the right audience for this, I think you probably are too, but I'm not so sure about the Indian marketplace. There's so much that is new and fresh here that it will probably only appeal to the more world cinema friendly crowds and not so much to the meat and potatoes Bollywood types. This is the kind of film that needs to find its audience abroad, I know it's out there. I liked it a lot and I'm very skeptical of Bollywood horror and genre films. If you never thought you'd see a decent Bollywood horror movie, I implore you to check this one out. Go Goa Gone
is definitely a winner!