I don’t actually remember when I first heard about the movie. It’s just that over the past couple of years, I’ve been asked countless times by various people if I had seen Mithun Da’s Gunda. They have usually peppered that baffling question with an equally baffling, memorised anecdote or two from the film: The auto-rickshaw action sequence; the fight scene while prostitutes swing on khatiyas; or You know that part when the hero, says to the open-mouthed villain with a sing-song voice, “Bulla, ye teri beti hai.” (This is your daughter), who then says, “Oh! Toh ye hai Hasina ka paseena.” (This is the sweat of sin.) I must desist from literariness that’s lost in translations!
It was just one of those times when me, Aditya and Vijay were trying to pick a movie to watch, and all of a sudden the name popped up. With unanimous harmony, we gave in and sat down to watch Kanti Shah’s Magnum Opus.
The synopsis can also be read on Wikipedia (Yes, it’s there), which is a masterpiece in itself. Some lines from the same have also been quoted below:
Mithun plays a coolie, Shankar, equally at home on airport runways and docks, where he has frequent run-ins with the villains as they take their pet leopard for a stroll or organise fighting contests. “...the protagonist, who works as a coolie in a shipyard airport...” (Yup, That’s Wiki). Not only was there a Shipyard Airport (?) in the film, it was serviced by labourers dressed à la Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie. Shankar represents the typical hard-working Indian man forced to balance time between an overweight girl friend, an even fatter sister, an overacting father, alcoholic friends and a pet monkey who can drive a car. It is Shankar and his family that is crushed underneath the “system” of the 90s—a system that Shankar rises against through the inspirational “Do, chaar, chhe, aath, dus. BAS!!” reciting of even numbers and associated retributory cleansing violence.
The most memorable sequence in the movie, however, is when the villains introduce themselves.
First there is Bulla, the main ‘evil man’. “Mera naam hain Bulla, rakhta hoon main khullaaaaaa.”
Next there is Chutiya(!), played by Shakti Kapoor(!!!), Bulla’s hermaphrodite brother(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Bulla feeds him “London se sex-vitamins ki goliyan” and like a kind elder brother provides him girls to rape. Till one day Chutiya emerges a man —an occasion he marks by disco-dancing with eunuchs to the tune of “Haye haye mere bhai jawaan ho gya, toota hua teer kaman ho gya“. And yet just when “tere tube main light aaya tha”, Shankar despatches Chutiya to his maker (as Bulla says: “tera fuse uda diya”) by cutting off his organ. The scene that almost got Aditya reacquainted with last night’s dinner!
Then there is Pote—jo aapne baap ki bhi naheen hote. He declares a gangwar, with barely controlled glee: “Hum aise lashein bicha denge jaise kisi nanhe-munne bacche ki nuni se peshaab tapakta hain…tap tap.” When the sound of dead bodies falling on the ground resonates like the pitter-patter of an innocent baby’s urine striking the cobble stones, you know its war.
And don’t forget Ibu Hatela, whose patented introduction is “Mera naam Ibu Hatela, Ma meri chudail ki beti, baap mera shaitan ka chela,[pointing downwards] khayega kela?” No comments!!!!
It’s really hard to be creative these days in the era marked by blatant piracy and copyright infringement, Gunda managed to defy the masses by bringing out original dialogues. While the dialogues may not be accepted by the elite (sample: Super-pimp Lucky Chikna screams at a sex-worker who is doing “liptam chipti chipkam lipti” with another guy instead of servicing her client. When she protests that “Woh buddha kuch karta naheen hain. Sirf bolta hain choos choos meri ungli choos“, Lucky Chikna delivers the line:”Dhande pe baithi hain to buddha kya, jawan kya, chotha kya bara kya, baitha kya khara kya.”), but kudos to the sheer originality of the writer, director and producer.
And who can forget the conclusion of the film where Shankar squares off against a legion of rickshaws with a grenade launcher — pausing only to look down the barrel of his weapon, to see if there are any more grenades where those came from — truly mesmerising, provided you are a viewer magnanimous enough to overlook the tacky production values.
“In the climactic scene, Bulla and Shankar have a showdown in the shipyard airport complex. Bulla his backed up by several auto-rickshaws who run helter skelter and attack Shankar. Shankar is well prepared for this, and he takes out a grenade launcher and takes down the auto-rickshaws.
The action quickly switches to a coal mine, where Bulla tries to use the adopted baby which he thinks is Shankar's daughter to gain leverage in the fight. Soon Bulla realizes that the baby is his own, he still uses the baby as a shield, Shankar rescues the girl with the help of his monkey, Tinku [Actually just throws the baby in the air mid-fight, who is and then ‘caught’ by the monkey] and kills Bulla.” (You guessed it.... Wikipedia to the rescue)
The Mithun Chakarborthy-starrer has gained a surprising amount of cult popularity over the last few years, with several adulatory reviews and even fan-sites cropping up. Gunda is a triumph of style over substance — essentially the same old rape and revenge saga that several thousand Indian films are built around, packed with a truly bizarre and original assemblage of characters and situations. Gunda discards several of the rules, conventions and concessions to tastefulness that plague many Hindi films. The characters speak in rhyming couplets, laden with double entendre for around 50% of the film. But that’s essentially the charm of the film — a very casual put-together-on-the-fly vibe. It seems refreshingly unpremeditated, the spawn of a dozen ‘what if we...?’ and ‘wouldn’t it be cool if...’ conversations on the day of shooting. The dialogues are almost absurd in their crudity; like a desi Quentin Tarantino ranting on country liquor.
Gunda is on IMDB at 8.4/10 with over 1400 voters. It is uniformly accepted as a masterpiece. Golden Plaza, one of the companies that’s released the film claims to have sold in excess of 5,000 copies at Rs 99. A few dedicated fans even uploaded it on google video. It has all the trappings of a cult classic like The Rocky Horror Picture Show: a legion of fans who spend time obsessing over the minutiae of the film and who can quote its dialogues verbatim. Kanti Shah’s creative partnership with his writer Basheerbhai Babbar has been compared to the likes of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, or Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune!
There are so many questions over which fans have agonized over the years. Why does the hero’s father’s moustache disappear and reappear between scenes? Why does the Mithun-da character, a coolie, have a cellphone in the mid 90s? And also a rocket-launcher? Why does 70% of the movie take place on a tarmac? Is the relationship between Bulla and Lambu Atta homoerotic (as Lambu says: Bulla ke naam leke tune khara kar diya hain mera)? Why did Chutiya think that the bathroom is the only place Shankar will not look for him? Are the Ambassadors in the movie remote-controlled? Why is the Vidhan Sabha and the High Court the same building? Why…
Some true fans have tried to find the solution to these questions through the Gunda FAQ. But of course, trying to find total coherence in Gunda is ultimately a self-defeating experience. The amazing thing about it, as noted by Vijay, is that, at no point does the movie actually try to be funny. This is probably the only time you’ll find yourself laughing your lungs out over a death scene.
My advice to you: don’t watch Tashan, Rock On, Hello, or, God Forbid, KARZZZZ – save your money, save yourself from the agony, save the film industry by not buying/downloading any CD/DVD (original/pirated) of any of these. Instead, simply watch Gunda on Google Video!