Cast: Gopi Desai, Aditya Lakhia, Anita Kanwar, Lalit Tiwari, Lakshminarayan Shastri
Director: Kamal Swaroop
I’ve just stepped out of Om-Dar-Ba-dar, and I am gobsmacked all over again by this theatre most absurd.
I’d seen it before, on TV screens and on laptops, but this digitally restored version by NFDC was my first big screen showing, and a renewed delight.
It’s hard to put `Om- Dar-Ba-Dar’ in a box. You can see Kamal Swaroop ticking off his charter : put in corrosive anger against the system, cock a snook at tradition and superstition and religion and rites ( the film is shot in Ajmer and Pushkar, and has `pandas’, and astrologists). Poke fun at `progress’, ( or what passes for it), and advertising, and commerce. And what Holden Caulfield would have termed ‘phonies’.
Om ( Lakhia) lives with his father ( Shastri) and sister ( Desai) , loves frogs, and likes to hold his breath for a long time. The sister has a boyfriend ( Tiwari). There’s also a girl in dark glasses and no money ( Kanwar), and a `lala’ who swallows all his diamonds and then seeds his ground with them.
I’m not sure whether Swaroop was aiming for consistent profundity in all these random characters doing random things. But in all the seemingly disconnected things, you can see the dots being joined in a wonderfully bizarre way, and the creation of a world in which tadpoles can be terrorists, and where, hallelujah, the status is not quo.
Om Dar-Ba-Dar is a classic protest film because it rebels against everything, with lines which perhaps sound wiser than they are, especially when you hear them again. One of my favourites is included in a “letter to the Prime Minister”, written by the father, former government servant, now astrologer : “please ban googly in cricket and life in general”. Amen.
Welcome to the trippiest film made in Indian cinema.