Go Goa Gone is India’s Harold and Kumar, and I am so glad Bollywood has tapped into this ridiculous “stoner” genre of movies. India has long had a drug culture (I mean, “Bhoom Shiva” is a thing and bhang lassis are both prominent and legal all along the Hummus Trail), and movies have basically avoided it until Go Goa Gone. The fact that GGG speaks to a previously untapped genre is reason alone to love it.
So, Harold and Kumar begins: The opening scene is two guys sitting on a sofa smoking weed and watching “Indian Thriller”. For the next 2 hours, they engage in a series of ridiculously random events caused in part by drugs, and interact with a token weird guy who doesn’t make any sense (Saif Ali Khan), reminiscent of NPH’s character as himself in H&K. Somehow, all these incredibly random and hilarious events still propel the plot further, as they figure out how to escape from the zombie island they have found themselves trapped on in the aftermath of a Goa rave.
Every movie referencing drugs that I know of that has been made in the last twenty years has been about marijuana, alcohol, and occasionally (as in Requiem for a Dream) heroin. In the past few years, MDMA and cocaine have regained popularity, and this is the first movie that has actually been made about either of these since this new upsurge [to my knowledge]. It didn’t even glorify drug use; it just managed to sort-of subliminally speak to the dangers of rave culture in a hilarious and exaggerated way. No one is actually going to turn into a flesh-eating zombie by taking a random pill given to them at a rave, but people do take pills from random strangers at raves, and this often leads to bad things. At the end, there is even a nice PBS-special-type conclusion where everyone goes around the [figurative] table and says what they’ve learned from their experiences. None of their conclusions are exactly profound, but they’re all pretty relevant and at least make the audience think about taking a moral away from an otherwise purely reality-escaping stoner film.
Just like in H&K, there is also a token hot girl in Go Goa Gone. It could easily be argued that the movie perpetuates rape culture because the men are constantly objectifying and harassing the token hot girl, but I would actually argue that this was done well in GGG (it’s at least done much better than in any of the H&K movies). She isn’t really shown to be “strong”, but she does save the boys’ asses sometimes by killing a few zombies. Mostly, though, this movie’s portrayal of male/female interactions is accurate, as far as my experiences can attest to. The boys are constantly trying to hook up with the girl by using cheesy lines and manipulation, but it doesn’t work. She calls them out on their bullshit; she emphasizes to them that she is only with them because they all need to get off the island. None of the boys have any chance of getting with token hot girl, which she makes very clear and stands by the entire movie. It’s not in any way revolutionary, but at least it acknowledges sexual harassment in a way that doesn’t glorify it a la DDLJ.
The leads refer to girls as “items” (something that was unfortunately omitted from the subtitles), and at some point the following line was actually said about our token hot girl: “Admission isn’t first come, first serve; it’s based on merit.” I wanted to punch the male protagonists in the face during Go Goa Gone just as much as I wanted to punch Shahrukh in the face during DDLJ. The difference is this: I also wanted to beat some sense into Kajol during DDLJ, but no sense needed to be beaten into GGG’s token hot girl. The characters are also all relatable: We all know boys like Hardik and Luv, and we all know girls who don’t want to be harassed by them. I just can’t complain about the fact that sexual harassment is prominent, when at least it is portrayed in a realistic, non-glorifying way. If it’s prominent in real life, why not show it in a movie?
The stereotype of firangs was a bit offensive, but since they were Russians instead of Americans I didn’t really care. Plus, a majority of the foreigners (and Indian tourists!) in Goa are probably doing drugs and going to raves, anyway. The fake-Russian-script subtitles were hilarious; they were a total reversal of how in America we use the fake Devanagari font to portray “Hindi”. The discussion about where the zombies came from was not only 10 minutes of straight-from-the-diaphragm laughter, but also was fairly intelligent commentary on globalization. Even Saif Ali Khan’s ridiculous portrayal of Boris subtly spoke to the way some Indians really are trying to escape their own culture and be more like firangs (Fair and Lovely, anyone?). The film was definitely completely ridiculous, but within this there was actually a lot of very intelligent social commentary.
Go Goa Gone wasn’t perfect, and I don’t even necessarily recommend it to everyone. Just like the first two Harold and Kumar movies when they originally came out, Go Goa Gone is just a very relevant and timely comedy that used a framework of drugs and complete randomness to comment intelligently and hilariously on a million things that have recently affected my life. If you’re thinking of watching Hangover 3 this weekend because you want to watch something that is more intelligent than but just as random, hilarious, and chemical-induced as the first Hangover, just see Go Goa Gone instead.
(Note: I actually hated the first Hangover movie so if you really love them you might not actually want to take my advice.)