The 90s was when Bollywood really opened up to techniques and the world of CGI. This decade saw the releases of several fantasy films and one of them was Ajooba (Miracle). Ajooba, at that time, was one of the most expensive films ever made and was also ambitious. Ajooba was by Shashi Kapoor. Audiences today will see Ajooba in a totally different light, but back then, Ajooba was an experience and a visual that few Bollywood films could be.
The King of Baharistan (Shammi Kapoor) is pleased at the announcement of his son’s birth, but at the same time, he is also worried that he has traitors in his kingdom. His fears come true when his Chief Minister Vazir (Amrish Puri), usurps his throne after killing him. But all this is not before the King meets his brother-in-law, who gifts him a sacred sword. After the King’s death, the Vazir imprisons the King’s brother-in-law, who coincidentally has a pregnant wife back home. The Vazir strives to wipe away the entire blood line of the King and even thinks that he has succeeded in doing so. Years pass, and the Vazir’s tyranny has only increased – until a masked man named Ajooba tries to bring peace back to Baharistan.
As I said earlier, Ajooba was a spectacle and a visual delight. The audiences could see where the money was spent. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into a great experience. Fantasy films had been around in Bollywood since forever. While it was a unique experience to see a freshly shot fantasy film, it wasn’t a new experience. The screenplay was also quite lethargic, for an audience who had opened up to Hollywood films. However, Ajooba was one of the few films to firmly keep its fantasy core.So there’s the magic sword, the sleeping demon who can be revived by only magic and several other aspects of magic, like men shrinking and then returning to their original size. In fact, Ajooba had one of the longest CGI scenes at that time, as an entire song sequence had used CGI.The film also had too many secondary characters to actually allow the audience to pay attention to what’s going on. The hero, his friend, their girlfriends, the father, his wife, her brother, the main villain, etc. etc.
In retrospect, the two main flaws of the film were:
An ageing Amitabh Bachchan looked pretty clumsy in the traditional suit -which was not tailored well too. Of course, one cannot even compare the aspect of superhero clothing then and now, but even for those times, the costume looked silly, and made Bachchan move around in a silly manner. The action sequences were awkward sword fights and there wasn’t any choreographed action for the audience to get the ‘wow’ factor. For a fantasy film, the thrill factor should have been much higher. The CGI, which was still very nascent, was only a couple of white blobs on the screen to denote hypnosis, etc.
The screenplay, as I said earlier was lethargic and didn’t really make good use of the source material. Why would they keep the magical sword reveal until the very end? A sequel was in mind, who knows? The CGI was passable and nowhere was worth the hype that was made out if it.
Ajooba might not be remembered for the fantasy aspects or the grand sets, but it will be remembered for the public juggernaut that followed. This was one of the first Indian films to have official merchandise – which was quickly ripped off and fakes came up all over. It was also one of the few films that are spoken about even today, long after it cast its shadow at the theaters. It’s a shame that this film isn’t available on any of the online sellers. This is a Collector’s Item.