Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan zara kabool kar lo,
Tum mujshe pyar karne ki zara si bhool kar lo.
Bhool. Yes bhool.
If Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 24 months, then the Mohabattein Law hypothesizes that the number of love stories you can pack into one Bollywood quagmire doubles every 7 years.
Which is why Nikhil Advani’s “Love Actually”-inspired Salaam-e-Ishq (2007), an obese celluloid flab-ball that weighs in at more than three hours of vacuous vapidity, has six romantic stories—a vast improvement over Mohabattein (2000)’s three (yes I know technically Mohabattein had five love stories [the three pansies, SRK and Anupam Kher], but cut me some slack here please.)
John Abraham and Vidya Balan are a happy couple. The fact that they love each other a lot is established by Mr. Advani in a cho-chweet opening sequence where we see how John Abraham has sold his bike to buy wife Vidya Balan an anniversary gift. If only he had read “Gift of the Magi” , perhaps John Abraham could have sold his marvellous locks of hair and kept his bike. On second thoughts, I think he would prefer giving up his bike than his mane—-which I have to accept was exquisite, flowing, dark with a healthy bounce and no dandruff. Even a strongly heterosexual man like me felt some uncomfortable stirrings in my loins as he went hair-to-hair with Vidya Balan, beating the lady by a good margin.
Hair. Or the lack of it. This is the thread by which the second story is weaved in. Akshay Khanna who, in sharp contrast to John Abraham, has a scalp that looks like a Cuttack pitch on the fifth day, has a love problem. He cannot commit to his voluptous girl friend, Ayesha Takia and chews up much scenery to back out of his marriage. Very exciting.
Before you can grab your breath, Mr. Advani with great directorial adroitness swings from the hair-Sahara that is Akshay Khanna to the Amazonian rainforest of hirsuteness that is the great Anil Kapoor Mr. Kapoor is doing a “4-2-ka-1 1-2-ka-4” extramarital dalliance behind wife Juhi Chawla’s rather substantial behind and we as an audience are supposed to care as to whom he chooses. I was betting that he goes the Boney Kapoor way of “ek se mera kya hoga” but unfortunately Mr. Advani is not for giving any kind of relief.
Which brings us to Priyanka Chopra and Salman-e-Ishq Khan and their quaint love story. With Priyanka hamming to high heavens, I was hoping that Salman as “Raul” (not Rahul) runs her over with a jeep or shoots her between the eyes but again no relief. Salman does lose his shirt of course but that is like saying Sourav Ganguly got out off the short ball. As inevitable as Uday Chopra in a Yash Chopra movie.
Bored already? Wait. There is more. Govinda, Congress Member of Parliament, a golden hearted taxi driver with a bulk like an Ambassador car (the oodles of fat giving a hint as to where his constituency-development funds ultimately landed in), is looking for his true love (in another directorial misfire, Advani does not cast Shakti Kapoor as his “cleaner”, which would have rescued the movie to an extent) when a foreign lady lands up and sweeps him off his feet (and no she is not from Italy). And newly married couple Suhail Khan (whom I am sure came free with Salman —ek lo ek muft) and Isha Koppikar are looking to consummate their marriage.
But like most Indian men, all Suhail can do is say “Hurrrrrrr” before he gets “interrupted”.
As the movie continues, strange things happen—Anil Kapoor shaves his moustache. tries to bring in the “Lamhe” look and ends up resembling a baboon’s buttock, John Abraham announces to a crowd of appreciative secular-progressive Pakistanis how he being a Hindu and his girlfriend Vidya Balan being a Muslim has caused so many problems in his native land, Govinda acts as if the ghost of Chunky Pandey has taken possession of him, dot com Paaji materializes out of somewhere and a doctor announces, right on cue, that one of the protagonists is suffering from memory loss because the flow of oxygen to her brain has been constricted.
Which was exactly what Salaam-e-Ishq had done to me by that time—killing off my brain cells by cutting off all nourishment. I must confess the rest of the movie slowly became a blur of pain as I slipped off into a diabetic coma with the blood in my veins being replaced by starchy rose-water. I do not remember what happened to whom, or who anyone was any more or why those who were there were there or why I should even care.
All I could hear, like a persistent drone in my head was “Hurrrrrrrrrrr” and the echoes of days gone by when even three love stories seemed a few too much.
Bhool. Bhool. A gigantic woolly mammoth of a bhool.