It’s time for another dip into Disney World Cinema. This time the film is Zokkomon, who appears to be some kind of superhero? Or orphaned child? Spider-Man?
Kunal (Darsheel Safary) is a sad little orphaned child, who has to leave his home at a happy orphanage to go live with his shitty uncle (Anupam Kher) who runs a shitty school. He makes the best of the situation, though, and makes some nice friends who enjoy him and the saccharine platitudes he bandies about.
Things are all peachy-keen, until his uncle runs into legal/financial difficulties and decides to dip into the savings fund that Kunal’s rich mountaineering parents left for him. Unfortunately for everyone, sneaky evil uncle can’t access the funds while Kunal is alive. The obvious solution is driving a couple hours away and abandoning the kid at an amusement park.
There’s no way this could backfire!
Kittu (Manjari Phadnis), a kindly drifter, takes Kunal under her wing, and they hang out for one enchanted evening in a warehouse used to store movie props. This conveniently leads to a big dance number.
Meanwhile, the shitty uncle has faked Kunal’s death using a shitty dummy. Operation Inheritance Theft is a rousing success!
Mannequin 3: In the Grave.
Kittu convinces Kunal to return to his terrible family, despite the fact that they clearly do not want him. He agrees, on the condition that she comes with. Unfortunately, she gets arrested for being a squatter and a vagrant, so he has to go home alone. Kunal makes the poor choice of rollerblading into town during a rain storm, while wearing a flowing white poncho. Now the whole town thinks he’s a ghost!
GhostBlader would have been a decent alternate title.
With the entire town afraid of him, Kunal resorts to hiding in a supposedly haunted house at the edge of town. But, twist! The house isn’t haunted, a creepy old scientist just lives there.
And he’s got a very Frankensteiny lab in the basement.
The scientist, Dr. Vivek Rai (Anupam Kher), after initially telling the kid to fuck off, decides that maybe he can use him. See, Dr. Rai is pissed off at the superstitious townspeople for not respecting his science, and maybe burning down his house. I’m not certain. Anyhow, he suggests that Kunal go around pretending to be a ghost and scaring the shit out of everyone. Training montage!
Not sure how this helps you be a better ghost.
Add some science gadgets, and Kunal is ready to terrorize the village! And I really mean terrorize. For his first appearance, Kunal, who has taken the name Zokkomon, defaces a statue, hangs three men in trees by their ankles, and chases one of his old teachers through the woods while throwing knives at him. That will show him… something.
Oh, also, he can fly.
And so, Zokkomon’s reign of terror begins. And continues, as he strikes poses…
Writes his name on courtyards…
And throws balls full of goop at people…
Kunal has fun with all this mayhem, but eventually he has to stop to tell people why he’s making their lives a living hell. The answer? They’re too superstitious, and he wants them to reason through their decisions a bit more.
Dude, you are a ghost who just attacked them. You are the living embodiment of both fear and superstition.
Despite the inherent stupidness of a demon spirit telling people not to believe in bullshit like demon spirits, it works and the townspeople’s lives immediately improve. Oh, also the children of the town start a small Zokkomon cult and start training themselves in the martial arts. I guess having a science ghost floating around can’t be all roses and sunshine.
This certainly isn’t menacing.
But Kunal isn’t happy. He pines for Kittu (you know, that homeless lady he spent one evening with months ago) and wishes she were there. And as luck would have it, she gets out of jail and shows up. She’s pissed off that Dr. Rai is using Kunal to fight his battles for him. There is much drama. Eventually Kunal’s uncle shows up and tries to kill him, but gets stopped by the local gang of Zokkomon-loving kids. Everybody is happy and between the homeless lady and the terrifying scientist, Kunal almost has a family again. Hooray!
One of the first things we hear Dr. Rai say is, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who fool others, and those who are fooled.” And I guess this kind of explains why he tries to use fear and deception to get the village to accept science and reason. And I suppose there’s a certain logic to it, but it feels kind of irredeemably fucked up. And it totally works. The town is visibly happier after a few weeks of being terrorized into being rational. So, I guess the film fully endorses deceiving people into embracing the truth? That’s kind of terrible.
Or is that what the film is trying to say? Is the film trying to imply that Dr. Rai’s plan to turn Kunal into his ghost minion is as exploitative and wrong as Kunal’s uncle’s plan to extort his inheritance? Kunal nicknames the doctor “Magic Uncle,” implying that he plays the same role in the child’s life as his biological uncle. Also, despite the fact that I didn’t notice it till I checked the names on IMDb, evil uncle and Dr. Rai are played by the same actor. What a subtle twist, signalling perhaps that both are men to be distrusted? That’s pretty brilliant.
Ah, but as bad as Dr. Rai might be, Kunal never abandons his plan, and everything works out perfectly. Clearly the answer to society’s ills is to scare everybody with lies until they fix their problems. Terror ghosts are in! This clearly makes sense and isn’t extremely troubling and a little stupid.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
There’s something jarring about watching a somewhat cloying movie about an abandoned orphan trying to make his way in the world, and then all of a sudden the orphan is a pants-shitting menace flying around throwing knives at people for no easily explainable reason. Maybe that’s it?
God, go away.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
The whole thing, maybe? Forgoing that, here’s a picture of Kunal’s uncle as Hitler.
I mean, the guy did try to kill his nephew for money, but he wasn’t Hitler-level bad.
I really cannot recommend this film. Most of it is boring, and what isn’t is bafflingly awful. And yet, I can’t help feeling like it was really deep and I just wasn’t picking up on it. Right under the surface there’s a trove of hidden meaning that I simply can’t seem to wrap my brain around. I’ll probably get an intense desire to rewatch this in about a year. But I also keep going back and rewatching Nothing But Trouble too, so that probably doesn’t count for much. If anything, I dare you to make a friend watch this film without showing them the cover or telling them it has anything to do with superheroes, and watch them crap themselves when Kunal starts going apeshit on everyone.