July 19, 2002 
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Why did Anupam Kher make such a film?
The Om Jai Jagadish review

Priya Ganapati

Family drama meets cyber age.

A dreamy-eyed wimp is dominated by his NRI wife who has her Evian and juices imported straight from the US while she lives in Juhu, Mumbai.

An MTV veejay settles into a life of domesticity and exchanges her skirts for demure salwar-kameezes when she meets Mr Right.

And a computer genius gets his reality check when he is caught hacking, whose revelation subsequently shatters his mother and family.

Om Jai Jagadish redefines the old wine in a new packaging adage. Its plot harks back to the days of the family drama genre of movies that dominated much of the sixties in Bollywood. The story, except for a few nifty modern touches, still holds on to the ideals of the perfect joint family --- the loving, sacrificing elder brother, the foreign bahu (daughter-in-law) who cannot appreciate her Indian family.

Here's a lowdown on the main characters:

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Om (Anil Kapoor), the eldest, works in a music company. He is the upright moral crusader who has to fight music pirates, conniving bosses and ungrateful artistes.

Jai (Fardeen Khan) is the glitzy toy boy. He looks gorgeous, speaks heavily accented Hindi, hangs around with an omnipresent American friend, studies automotive engineering in Atlanta, and never forgets to say his prayers every day.

And yeah, he dreams of making the fastest car in the world. (As an aside, why are Hindi films so removed from reality? Dreams of fastest cars by Indians who only hope the roads they travel on every day need not get too pockmarked in the rains!)

Fardeen Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Anil Kapoor play the three brothers Jagadish (Abhishek Bachchan) is the cyber geek with all the right values. He is a computer whiz who seamlessly weaves in and out of his university computers. With a 'Bill Gates, here I come' attitude, he dreams of creating an alternative to the Windows operating system. The cyber world finally comes of age in Hindi cinema.

The trio live in a sprawling house, Gulmohar Villa, with their mother Saraswati (Waheeda Rehman) and ooze love, affection and ditto touchy feely things for each other.

The snake in the grass is Neetu (Urmila Matondkar), Jai's NRI ladylove who wants to him to settle down in the US rather than India, which goes against Om's dreams of a happy joint family.

Neetu pressurises Jai to return to the US, while Jagadish is thrown out of university after he hacks the exam papers.

Woe befalls Om when his boss Shekhar (Parmeet Sethi) throws him out of Gulmohar Villa in lieu for the money Om had borrowed for Jai's education.

But yeah, yeah, finally it is a happy ending. No surprises there.

The story does not inspire too much confidence, yet the film passes muster.

The slick cinematography, the small percentage of credulity Kher injects into the film hold it together.

A still from Anupam Kher's Om Jai Jagadish Kher made an unconventional debut as an actor in Mahesh Bhatt's Saaransh (1984). He was 28 when he essayed the role of a retired schoolteacher with a conviction that instantly set him apart from the other wannabes that flock to Bollywood.

Unfortunately, his debut as director lacks the individualism that will set it apart from standard Bollywood fare.

Sure, Om Jai Jagadish is entertaining. It has the right gloss, the necessary Bollywood ingredients and may even work at the box-office. But for Kher, it is an opportunity missed.

For Om Jai Jagadish does not touch a chord anywhere. It makes you want to shake Kher up and ask him why a talented actor would waste himself like this. Kher has had a better debut as a producer with the acclaimed Bengali film, Bariwali, (The Lady Of The House) which starred wife Kiron Kher in the lead role.

When Bariwali released, Kher had declared it was his homage to quality cinema. This makes you wonder more why he would make a film like Om Jai Jagadish.

To his credit, he puts together a good star cast and extracts fairly competent performances from them.

Waheeda Rehman, who makes a comeback, is effervescent, passionate and poignant. She proves that a good actress can rise above the most hackneyed role. Simplicity, which was her hallmark in her heyday, still comes across clearly.

Anil Kapoor glides through his role. Om is a part he has done many times and in this version, he does not have much to add to elevate his mundane character.

Fardeen Khan could do with another course at acting school. He looks good and smiles sweetly whenever the camera zooms onto his face. But he needs to learn there is more to playing a part than just looking good.

Abhishek Bachchan and newcomer Tara Sharma in Om Jai Jagadish Abhishek Bachchan is much better here than in his earlier films. He looks and acts well enough to show that perhaps he has a chance at the box-office which has so soundly rejected all his films till date.

The three heroines, Mahima Chaudhary who plays an MTV veejay at the beginning, Urmila Matondkar and Tara Sharma have little to do.

Om Jai Jagadish is popcorn fare, best watched with a couple of friends who will gorge on the popcorn with you and pass a few snide comments as well.

Brother in Arms-Slide Show
Anupam's moment in the sun
The music review
Waheeda Rehman on the art of playing mother
On the sets of Om Jai Jagadish
All you needed to know about the film online

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