Ghajini is an action movie but it is mainly propped up by romance. It is a good thriller that boasts of an interesting concept with a lot of possibilities. It has very few dull moments and is consistently entertaining. But at the same time, I couldn't help being a little disappointed at how little it did with the concept it picked. What Ghajini does, it does well. But in the end, I was left wondering how much more it could have done.
Sanjay Ramaswamy(Surya) has been afflicted with Short-term Memory Loss ever since he was hit on the head with an iron bar. He remembers the incident clearly but apart from that, he cannot remember anything beyond the last 15 minutes. So his whole life is guided by clues he leaves himself through notes, photographs and self-inflicted tattoos. And all these clues seem to lead him towards killing Laxman(Pradeep Rawat), who in turn is wondering who is after him. A police officer(Riyaz Khan) catches up with Sanjay and from his diary learns of his past as a millionaire businessman and his romance with Kalpana(Asin), an ad-film model. Meanwhile, a final year medical student Chitra(Nayanthara), who is interested in Sanjay's case from a medical point of view, becomes more involved in his life than she wants.
Whatever the source may be(and in this case its Memento), Ghajini is based on a very interesting premise. The short-term memory loss and the means Surya uses to overcome the affliction offer some tantalising possibilities for the film's direction. The initial scenes where we realise how difficult even day-to-day activities(like returning home from an outing) are for Surya and see how he manages to accomplish them are most interesting parts of the movie. But they are just too short. Its like the film offers some interesting taste samples but doesn't serve the full meal. For instance, I would've loved to see the story behind the photograph marked "Don't believe him".
The film sets the stage for a very clever and interesting thriller. And then changes track completely as it jumps to the love story between Surya and Asin! From a pure entertainment standpoint, I have no complaints because the love track is a complete delight. It is based on the rather weak point that Asin doesn't know(and doesn't try to find out) who Sanjay Ramaswamy is but easily makes us overlook the point with its cuteness, wit and humor. The fact that Surya and the audience are privy to a secret Asin isn't makes the proceedings very funny. The track keeps us smiling throughout and there are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. Murugadoss proved in Dheena that he knew how to craft a very cute and endearing love story and he proves it again here.
My disappointment arises from the opportunities lost with the main track. As the Surya-Asin track carries on(and on, after a break where we come back to the present), there is always the feeling in the back of the mind that it is cutting into the time the story will have after getting back to the present. And the feeling turns out to be right. The short-term memory loss part is rarely brought into the picture after the flashback ends. Interesting complications(like all Surya's clues being destroyed) are resolved in simple ways and the movie turns into a regular revenge film filled with chases and fights. So it even seems to drag a bit.
The 'lost opportunity' phenomenon is seen on a smaller scale in the screenplay too. There is a nice twist regarding the villain that could have thrown up a great complication. But it is dealt with in a lame way and serves no purpose other than to throw in some nice special effects in a few scenes.
Surya once again pretty much lives his role. His expressions and body language as he deals with his problem are superbly done. And he is every inch the rich businessman in the flashback. He oozes class and is very believable. Asin proves to be the Amala of today - slim, pretty, expressive eyes, bright smile, good acting and a great knack for comedy. After a subdued role in Ullam Ketkume, she is back to her playful, jolly M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi persona here. And I loved her. She impresses in the few scenes she acts serious too. When she is scared, we are scared for her too. And she has the ability to touch us too with just her eyes.
I always thought that a single movie wouldn't make me change my opinion about an actress but Ghajini proves me wrong! I'm talking about Nayanthara. She looks bad(whose bright idea was it to give her a nose ring?!), fat(and her dresses do nothing to hide the fact) and overly made-up. Her costumes in the X Maatri... song sequence made me cringe and make her look very vulgar and cheap. And its a double whammy in her case since her character is badly etched too. She does some pretty illogical things at many places in the film. Ghajini was a bad career move for her. Asin simply eats her up. Pradeep Rawat doesn't shout as much as he did in Thotti Jaya but isn't too menacing either.
I don't usually notice the background score in a movie unless it really stands out(as in, say, Idhayathai Thirudaadhey). Harris Jayaraj's background score here stands out too but not for the right reasons. It is a virtual cacophony of sounds and a full assault on our ears. The background music in many scenes just doesn't match the mood of the scene or even what goes on during the scene. He makes up for it with two very good melodies in the soundtrack but Murugadoss makes a mess of their picturization. Oru Maalai... is inexplicably picturized as a group dance(and not a very good one at that) and only the scenes that show Surya and Asin in their regular personas save it from being a complete disaster. Suttum Vizhi... is atleast not a group dance but Surya's steps in that one look plain weird. Its like he's part of a one-person aerobics class or something. Rangola... is fun to watch and Rahatula..., Asin's introduction, looks like a rap video
Someone who does make us sit up and notice is the cinematographer. There are some nice angles and camera effects(there's even a 'dogcam'!) throughout the movie. The digital effects in Suttum Vizhi... are neatly done and the climax fight has some nice digital tricks too.
Ghajini is a marked improvement over the recent string of disappointments in Tamil cinema. But it could have been so much more.