Land Of The (Boring) Desi Undead

Attribution: Simple zombie arm by ~801crow, CC-BY-3.0

The carefree, drug-addled, wisecracking trio of Go Goa Gone are the kind of characters that exist in a generation consumed by pop culture: their actions are drawn from what they’ve seen in movies (especially Hollywood) and in a subgenre as done to death (you never know with the undead) as the zombie horror flick, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK know that these are the few character types that can walk the line between familiarity and novelty. And yet, though Hardik (Kunal Khemmu), Luv (Vir Das) and Bunny (Anand Tiwari) say variations of “I saw X in movie Y”, they don’t know how to deal with the shambling creatures at all.

While the blood spilling classic Shaun Of The Dead (paid a tribute that’s borderline plagiarism) clearly gives rules on how to deal with zombies in less than two minutes and the recent cult flick Zombieland has its survival tips spread throughout the film, Go Goa Gone’s heroes spend a lot of time asking “What do we know, and what have we learned?” You’d think they’re the kind of guys who illegally download episodes of The Walking Dead and watch them when they get home from their bloody khooni jobs.

The one guy who knows exactly what’s going on, and does something about it, is Boris (pronounced Ba-REES), a pseudo-Russian mafia don played by Saif Ali Khan, with a straight face of course (you can’t do fake Russian accents with a smile). He’s basically Tallahassee from Zombielandminus the eccentricities and plus a Russian accent. And yet, even after it’s revealed that he’s not really Russian, he stays in character and no one questions him about it. Khan, also producing thus film, milks the opportunity to blast desi brains with his endless arsenal of weaponry in slow motion and elevates Go Goa Gone beyond the average zombie comedy.

The plot is pretty basic to the point that it can be reduced like so: Three guys in their ’20s. Goa trip. Zombies attack. Need to survive. The zombie flick doesn’t require elaborate plotting as long as its characters are compelling to watch (Night Of The Living Dead, the first zombie horror film, takes place mostly in an abandoned cabin). Here, apart from Boris, only Kunal Khemmu really brings in the laughs though he plays a stock character we’ve seen before: the aimless yuppie who can bed any girl he wants and asks for nothing more (see: Barney Stinson). The other three leads have their moments, but there are more misses than hits. 

The most frustrating thing about this film is how close is gets to being great, but squanders its ideas like a poor cricket fielder drops catches repeatedly. Much of this has to do with atmosphere; the zombies in Go Goa Gone could be used as toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals, not thrown away with fright, disgust and revulsion. These are slow, ambling zombies, not the fast, athletic ones from 28 Days Later, and I’ve always imagined you could outrun them if you wanted to, unless you were completely surrounded by them. This apparent lack of conflict lowers the stakes and leaves the film loose and flat and takes away from the zombie fight scenes that are sprinkled through the narrative.

The directors have trouble in deciding what their film actually is: a zombie film with comedic and romantic elements, or a comedy with zombie elements. This spills over into the treatment of the material, but the jokes that are placed at the right moments bring large laughs, especially the final “dance around the trees”. Raj & DK also strangle their story with anti-drugs PSAs throughout the film so as to make sure that they’re not responsible for influencing their target audiences to go to Goa to party by making the connection that drugs turn people into zombies, a strategy akin to telling a child about the Boogeyman to get him to eat his vegetables. But even as the film ends with an anti-drugs message, there’s a stoner dream song that runs through the end credits, thus nullifying all the preachy statements that were made in the movie.

So should you watch Go Goa Gone? I would say it’s a lightweight film that engages all the way through, but approach it with lowered expectations so that you might find yourself a bit surprised. That’s more than you could want from India’s first zomcom, right?

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