Papi Gudia (1996)
Cast: Karisma Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor, Avinash Wadhavan, Poonam Dasgupta, Mohan Joshi, Amar Bhardwaj.
Director: Lawrence D’Souza
Nutshell: Unauthorised and completely loopy remake of Child’s Play. Not to be missed.
The film begins with a voice of sage and authority delivering an explanation as to what the motive for creating it was. The voice claims the film was essentially made for the empowerment of children and to develop their self-confidence and awareness to such a finely tuned level that just in case they are ever to find themselves in a similar predicament as to the events of the film, they can tap into that resourcefulness and stand a minute chance of survival against all odds. The children of the future ought not to be phased by computers, flying saucers, “Roe-Butt” and even apparently harmless little dolls. All these potential evils need to be handled with a calm, collective head and this film aims to help develop such skills. Clearly the causes are noble indeed and the voice has that resonance that tells you that he just knows what he is talking about.
In the opening scene a Bombay Police station is heavily under fire from a large and extremely irate crowd. The crowds has turned violent and the precinct is receiving a battering or rocks, sticks, stones and some choice words about how the police has failed thus far to catch the killer or killers of a number of young children who have gone missing in the locality.
The police commissioner takes a rock on his face as he arrives at the precinct to put heat on Inspector Yadav who is responsible for the case. Yadav suggests that there might be something more sinister behind the disappearances and promises to throw himself into the case even more vigorously than before.
Meanwhile a menacing dreadlocked figure is watching children at playgrounds and talent shows prowling for victims for his evil black magic scheme which requires him to slay 12 children for the 12 moons of Puranmashi. There is just one night to go and he needs one more victim. His eyes are set on this supremely talented kid in a talent show who is dazzling the audience on his way to victory. Moments later he is abducted but fate intervenes and he gets away, but not for long. Meanwhile the evil Black Magician Channi has his plans thwarted by Inspector Yadav most unexpectedly. He is forced to flee without Raju the young boy and makes his way to a department store where he is chased down by Yadav who has him cornered. As lightning crackles above Channi summons his powers of black magic and grabs a doll from one of the shelves and begins to chant his magic spells in an attempt to transfer his spirit and soul into the doll before his physical body is destroyed. Yadav is upon him but Channi manages to follow the script of Child’s Play to the hilt and manages to inhabit the doll successfully. Channi’s lifeless corpse is taken away by the police authorities, but we all know that he lives inside a new willing host.
Shakti Kapoor turns it on in his role as the dreadlocked Channi with the black magic chant he comes up with on the fateful night is arguably the finest ever black magic chant ever encountered in the annals of Indian cinema and there have been plenty of black magic chants over the years. This one is spectacular. Unfortunately all aspirations the film had as horror go flying out of the window when the audience lays eyes on the Doll. A doll that is supposed to have the soul of a serial killer and be the perpetrator of untold horrors including cold blooded murder induces instant pained laughter and resounding guffaws instead of any sense of dread or malice. Of all the dolls in the world the producers of this film could have used, they have to find this doll!
I wonder if anyone has ever asked the producers or the director of this film why they actually chose that particular doll that they did for the role which is essentially the title of the movie itself. The doll is so pitiful and wrong that you have to think they must have done it on purpose, but the thought process is bewildering all the same. Maybe doll beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the director and producers felt this was going to spawn millions of nightmares and half a dozen sequels like the Child’s Play series that this film so shamelessly lifts from.
Basically it follows a path close the Child’s Play storyline with Dance showgirl Karisma Kapoor picking up the possessed doll from a man who sells stolen and dodgy goods on the street at cut price. Raju who is the young brother of Karisma insists on her buying him the doll and the nastiness begins from the moment Channi the doll arrives in her new home. It appears as though Channi the criminal has chosen a female body unlike Chucky who was very much man! The first victim is dealt a brutal hammer blow on the face and sent flying out of the balcony of a high rise flat. Yadav is mysteriously murdered and the policeman in charge (Avinash Wadhavan) believes that the 8 year old is the killer.
Love blossoms between the charming police officer and the pretty and pert dancer Karisma but unknown to them, Raju and Channi are on a murderous spree all over Bombay. After Yadav’s murder Wadahavan and Karisma’s budding romance is put to test by the situation with Raju and Channi. Karisma has a realization the same way Alex’s mother had, with no batteries in the cell compartment; we have seen it all before. Convinced, she now tries and fails to convince her boyfriend but it’s not long before he himself is on the receiving end of a vicious attack and only barely survives. Meanwhile Channi now wants to transform his soul into the body of young Raju and live on as the soul of the young kid.
Karisma and her boyfriend finally turn to Channi’s old associate for guidance but Channi’s power has grown tenfold since the days of his apprenticeship and he won’t be toppled so easily. The battle is on to save Raju from Channi’s evil intentions but not before the producer and director shove another half a dozen songs after the interval point. What was an utterly goofy but engaging film until half way now begin to falter under the weight of its musical interludes which deflate whatever momentum the movie was beginning to thrive on? The first two songs would have been more than enough but the fact that the two are followed by close to six more songs means that the film is unable to build any momentum and lags because of its own self-induced fodder. However, things move along at a brisk pace whenever there aren’t any laborious songs especially those by the dreaded Kumar Sanu.
Shakti Kapoor steals the show with his typically vigorous depiction of the child serial killer black magic dreadlock Rasta evil Sadhu gone awry. Karisma is adequate especially as she has to go through a range of typically tacky 90’s style disco moves to some cringe-inducing songs with words that should cause more than a few giggles along the way. Sadly it’s another case of the film losing steam badly to accommodate half an hours’ worth of painful music numbers including the painful Kumar Sanu, the most potent reminder of the dreadful 90s. Other than the fact that the film works only as comic relief and not in the least bit as a horror film, it can be enjoyed and admired for what it is; a ridiculous and marvelously inept reworking of Child’s Play.
Perhaps the best unintentional moment is the connection between those hideous Kiddie Talent Shows they have in India where little pre-teens are made to cavort and twitch to sexually loaded film songs while the audiences and judges are all on the wrong side of 40 and either demented parents who beat their children to become stars or those who look more like disturbingly like closet pedophiles. There is not a child to be seen in the entire audience. These shows are far more disturbing than anything in Papi Gudia and it is entirely appropriate that Shakti/Channi is just one predator among many.
The fun moments of Papi Gudia are fortunately in fair supply but the songs negate most of that fun and unless you had a FF button handy on the remote it’s unlikely that you would survive the true horror which is the music and the songs of this otherwise insanely enjoyable horribly misfired shoot-yourself-in-the-foot piece of Bollywood dementia. Highly recommended but for all the “wrong” reasons.