The macabre spirit of George A Romero meets the crazy core of a Bollywood comic caper in an outré terrain never seen before in a mainstream Hindi film – part Goa, part Mauritius, part tropical paradise swarming with zonked-out zombies fresh from a rave party gone horribly wrong.
That is a whole lot of words, but it is actually rather easy to describe Go Goa Gone. It might be easier still to dismiss it as a misshapen genre monster.
Yes, it is difficult to make sense of the film in its entirety. But that is as much its strength as its weakness.
First the film’s strengths. Go Goa Gone is full of surprises: it is as if Delhi Belly on acid has strayed into Zombieland.
It is anything but a mindless zombie film. It is visceral yet humorous; over the top yet perfectly controlled.
It is a wild, wacky ride crammed end to end with wicked twists that all but outnumber the famished living dead that are on the trail of an unsuspecting trio of buddies, Hardik, Luv and Bunny, two of whom are high on girls, booze and cocaine. No prizes for guessing which two. The names are giveaways.
As ghastly and ravenous ghouls lumber through the remote island in search of human flesh to gorge on, a bunch of four – the aforementioned friends and a footloose girl – run for cover with the help of an auburn-haired half Russian-half desi mobster called Boris. The last named is a sharpshooter who knows how to tackle the zombies.
Made by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK (whose films thus far have demonstrated a healthy disregard of things predictable), Go Goa Gone thrives on an imagination that is allowed to run riot.
True, not all of it clicks into place without leaving behind a bit of a mess, but the sheer audacity of the act – transporting the zombie flick to an Indian landscape puts this film in a league of its own.
Go Goa Gone goes so insanely off-kilter at times that it is hard to see that the film also has an obvious underlying “say no to drugs” message.
Thankfully, the message isn’t the medium. The directors stay true to the demands of the genre, but they approach it with a tongue-in-cheek shuffle that randomly mixes up the key devices of the narrative.
It all begins when a newly imported hardcore rave drug turns revelers at a clandestine island party into zombies, dead creatures with only a small part of the brain still working and egging them on to look for the living to feast on.
And it’s about two hard-drinking, chain-smoking, coke-snorting big city drifters – one loveless, the other jobless – who drag a career-minded, straight-laced pal into a misadventure of epic proportions. Their trip quickly turns into a nightmare.
Mercifully, it’s a nightmare only for the characters caught in the middle of weird muddle. For the audience, it is a source of befuddled mirth.
Go Goa Gone is so manic that one guy, on discovering that a Russian girl that he had a nocturnal roll on the beach with hours earlier is now a bloodthirsty zombie on the prowl, can only say: “She was so alive last night.” Dead right!
And the swaggering Mafioso, who has a wonky accent but can hurl the choicest Lajpat Nagar expletives when provoked, declares: “I kill dead people.” He is the go-to man when the zombies on the loose.
Go Goa Gone is only mildly scary, but it is often very, very funny. What works is its refusal to pull back and away from its chosen course. It goes all the way down the path to the bitter end, even at the risk of turning far too jokey to be effective.
That is the film’s major weakness. The zombies are, well, zombies. They multiply like maggots and after a point cease to terrorise. The film relies more on verbal exchanges than shock effects to carry itself forward.
But it remains engaging despite some of the slack stretches. The acting by the principal members of the cast – Saif Ali Khan, Kunal Khemu, Vir Das and Anand Tiwari – go along with the zany spirit of the film.
Puja Gupta has the easiest job: as the sole eye candy in an environment in which all other women have turned into flesh-eating creatures, she doesn’t have to break into a sweat in order to stand out.
Saif lays into the character of the Russian gangster with apparent relish, and both Khemu and Das, who get most of the one-liners, make an impression.
The actor who steals many a scene is the deadpan Tiwari. He is the one who is supposed to provide ‘comic relief’ in a film that is essentially a comedy. That couldn’t have been a cakewalk, but he keeps his composure through the madness.
Pretty much the same could be said of the film as a whole – it’s crazy but cool. It gives you what you least expect and in ways that you least anticipate. That is a rare attribute for a Hindi film. I am going with three stars for Go Goa Gone.