Koi... Mil Gaya

"I found you... now give me my panties back!"

There are few things that are a given in this world. Death? Sure. Taxes? Yep. Another FOX reality show built around the abject humiliation of all participants? The Simple Life 2: Road Trip premieres this week.

Another thing you can count on is that rip-offs of E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982) will be awful. Perhaps it’s that only the most crassly commercial motives can drive someone to try to recapture the sentimental alchemy of the original film.

That brings us to Bollywood, quite possibly the most crassly commercial film industry on the planet. They produce hundreds of movies a year, almost all of them exactly 165 minutes long, all of them romantic comedy dramas, all with six colorful musical numbers, and a surprising number of them are scene-by-scene rip-offs of popular American movies. Koi… Mil Gaya (I’ve Found Someone) was the most popular film in India last year, and it was much bollyhooed (hee!) as being the first science fiction film ever to come out of Bollywood. At the time I got kind of excited about the prospect, but now that I’ve seen it I’m less thrilled. Koi… Mil Gaya is nothing more or less than E.T. crammed uncomfortably into the Bollywood formula.

Buddy, I think that's called a stroke.

In a prologue we meet a scientist and his wife. The scientist is using home computer system to send the Hindu mantra "om" into space as part of musical melody that sounds suspiciously like the one from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978). He tries to convince the scientific community that he's getting a response, but they all laugh at the idea of hindu aliens. As he and his pregnant wife are driving home after the humiliation a UFO flies over their car, distracting the scientist and causing him to drive off the road. The scientist is killed but his wife survives.

"My Bruce Campbell lessons are going well!"

Twenty years later we meet Rohit (Hrithik Roshan), the son of the dead scientist and his wife. He was brain damaged in the wreck, so he has the mentality of an eight-year old. He has a group of multi-ethnic friends in the third grade class he attends (he's apparently been held back 12 consecutive years), and some of the local men, led by Raj, are very mean to him for no reason. One of Raj's friends, Nisha (the outrageously beautiful Priety Zinta) reads on the internet that you should be nice to the mentally handicapped, so she starts a friendship with Rohit that becomes a romance, basically because they are the only attractive people in the movie. No one in the movie seems to notice that romance between an adult woman and this mentally handicapped man is not exactly appropriate.

All this stuff takes up the first hour of the movie. After Rohit and Nisha play around with Rohit's father's old computer a UFO flies over town Close Encounters style. The next morning Rohit and Nisha follow some footprints in the forest and find Jadoo (Magic), an diminutive alien who was left behind when his spaceship had to leave suddenly to avoid detection. In one of the only nods to originality in the entire movie, the makers of Koi... Mil Gaya decided to make Jadoo not look like a turtle with no shell like E.T. Instead Jadoo looks more like what might result if Yoda were to mate with a dolphin.

That's a pretty nasty visual image. You should probably not think too much about it.

I'll take a little break here. Please don't think about Yoda making sweet, sweet physical love to Flipper.


Why does this make me think of Mac and Me (1988)?

The plot follows E.T., with Rohit and his friends trying to hide Jadoo from the adult world. There are also shades of Charly (1968) because Jadoo uses his powers to repair Rohit's brain. Jadoo doesn't stop his fix-it-upper approach to Rohit there, though. He also fixes Rohit's sight and gives him big muscles, so Rohit can rip-off that scene from Spider-Man (2002) where Parker finds out he doesn't need glasses any longer. And there's a basketball game out of Flubber (1997), a dance contest with lots of wirework, and a musical number where Hrithik dances with his own shadow.

Of course the authorities find out about Jadoo, and Rohit but rescue his alien friend from the police and return him to the alien spaceship. There is the requisite tearful farewell, and after Jadoo leaves Rohit reverts to his old mentality. It's kind of tragic, and quite unexpected in a Bollywood film, which often go to ridiculous lengths to make sure every worthy character gets a happy ending. I shouldn't have been surprised that right before the end credits roll Jadoo's ship comes back and Rohit is smart and strong again. The End.

If I were Rohit, I'd be worried about anal probes about now.

It's pretty tough to imagine that E.T. would have been as beloved if E.T. had come back at the end. Now I don't have to imagine. It's a big cheat to undo your sad ending in the final seconds of a movie.

Leaving behind all the ways Koi... Mil Gaya is a bad rip-off of American films (and I didn't mention nearly all the rip-offs there are), how is it as a Bollywood film? It stars superstar Hrithik Roshan, who looked like he was on course to rule South Asia in 2000, but since then he has made a few bombs. Koi... Mil Gaya is practically a comeback for him. He's handsome and not a bad actor, but he tends to come across very insincere in nice guy roles. That's why many of his films feature him as both a nice guy and kind of a jerk, either by being twins or using the passage of time. Here he has to play the mentally handicapped, and it's clearly beyond his abilities and, frankly, pretty offensive. When Rohit gets smart he gets arrogant, which is more in line with what Roshan can do. Roshan also has two thumbs on his right hand, an odd deformity (it looks like the kind of thing that could have been easily corrected when he was kid) that his movies generally seem to ignore, though if you know it's there you can spot it. There is one very good close-up of the two thumbs in this movie, and it almost seems to be a plot point because Jadoo also appears to have two thumbs on that hand, but it's never mentioned in the dialogue.

"Stop following me!" Y'see, because he's being shadowed.

The musical numbers are disappointing. I was hoping for chorus lines of E.T.s and and flying bikes doing acrobatics to 80's dance riffs. No such luck. Of the six musical numbers in Koi... Mil Gaya three of them are completely standard "We're in Switzerland, let's dance around" numbers that could be from any Bollywood film and are completely forgettable. There is a nice one with Rohit and Nisha dancing in the rain, but only the two others (one with Jadoo, the other the super powered dance contest) are plot specific to Koi... Mil Gaya, and even they are pretty sedate. Koi... Mil Gaya may have been the first Indian science fiction film, but it's still a Bollywood film, and not a terribly remarkable one at that.

Posted: Sun - June 13, 2004 at