Is Fight Club: Members Only (aka "Bollywood Fight Club") a Rip-Off of the American Movie?

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Sunday, 31 May 2009

(15:36:59 CDT)

Is Fight Club: Members Only (aka "Bollywood Fight Club") a Rip-Off of the American Movie?


That is the short answer. The long answer is "No, and here is why...". The Bollywood movie "Fight Club: Member's Only" made a minor wrinkle in some of the circles I hang out with online because amongst certain folks, Fight Club is about as close as you are going to get to a "Bible" of the human condition. Anyone daring to steal from such a fine fount of human knowledge is clearly an ass, a toad, and is deserving of death to a most horrid degree. While several of Chuck's fans openly mocked or bristled at the short Youtube clips that were "TV spots" for the film, I found a curiousity to see where they were going with it. The clips showed them counting down the rules (including the then inexplicable rule number 3: the "left hand rule"). There was something that looked a lot like the underground area under Lou's. Then there was punching and punching and girls in short shorts rubbing bats between their legs. Maybe Fincher deleted some scene involving baseball burlesque?

Even now that the movie is available for purchase online (all regions, English subbed, kind of cheap), most of the vitriol against it starts with the phrase "Well, I've seen the trailer, and it clearly..." and whatever the next bits out of their mouth are, they are wrong. The trailer barely taps into into the better part of three hours movie. In order to show why this is not a rip off of the American movie and book, I am going to give you a quick, as spoiler free rendition of the plot as I can.

You have four friends who are still in college (or fresh out of college) looking for a way to make money after three of the four are fired. One of them notices a copule of guys wanting to fight it out and he gets the idea: why not provide a fight arena of a sort where they can fight it out with rules and get it past them once and for all? They get a number of people to attend the first night, sign up four matches, and then let the people fight it out. Yes, they list five rules of fight club in a way that is an homage to Palahniuk/Fincher's rules, with the rules being "One on One", "No weapons", "You lift your left hand to tap out", "You agree to put your differences aside after the fight", and "There is no fight club, so are you going to follow the rules?" A generous translation of the last one might lead you to say "Do not talk about fight club", but these are fairly standard rules for such a club over all. There is no doubt these are in reference to the original, but does not make the movie a "total ripoff". There are a handful (I think three or four) of these fight club events carried out, with the cops getting more and more excited and more active each time. Each time they also leave huge calling cards laying around which just makes the cops' job a lot easier, I guess, though I have trouble understanding how these fights are illegal. At any rate, towards the end of the first hour we get a fifth character introduced, a couple of love interests come into play, and one of the guys loses a relative and inherits a club.

From this point on, the majority of the movie remaining, we leave the "fight club" motif behind. Sure, there are fights, but the movie is much closer to Roadhouse than Fight Club. In fact, the only reason the fight club plot was used seems to be to introduce the tough-as-nails Sameer, who had a vendetta against one of the guys but ends up becoming his friend. Outside of that, maybe it shows the four men are willing to break laws to make ends meet, or just shows the friends in action? Probably just to justify having two college age girls rip each others clothes off in a fight? It also introduces a couple of animosities, but in no way that could not have been introduced elsewise.

After the movie changes to be about a club, and not a fight club, the actual plot progresses. Turns out some bad guy types (identified by the fact that they drink Coke, while the good guy types drink Pepsi) are looking to start trouble. They end up creating brawls, threatening folks, that sort of thing. They manage to corner the plucky, alcoholic, comic relief friend in one scene and try to beat the crap out of him. This builds up to a construction site battle with some of the bad guy types being tricked, as it were, into thinking the good guys were bad guys, too, and a huge over the top fight (complete with two scenes of someone punching through a pillar) concludes with the plot being unravelled and everyone gets closure.

There is no Marla, there are no space monkeys, there are no pranks, there is very little philosophy outside of the limits of friendship and family. There is no growing underground movement. There is no "We have to take his balls". Sure the comical fight between the fat guy and the "sucked up mango" might be a reference to Bob versus the narrator, and sure the lyrics of "Yeh Khuda" suggest that they would rather rely on each other than God (a Fight Club sentiment, for sure); but anyone expecting any of the actual meat of Fight Club is going to find none. I know there are those out there who will claim this is only because Vikram Chopra did it wrong, but I do not think so. I think he did use the name in reference, and some of the scenes in reference, but I do not think he ever intended this to be a remake, ripoff, or any such thing of Fight Club. For those up in arms, you can let them go. Your honor is secure.

In review of the movie, I am not a huge fan. I was delighted by some of it and groaned through other parts. For the most part, though, I just watched and was moved to neither tears nor delight. I think the hour long divergence into the "fight club" at the beginning did little besides to make the movie appear to be about something that it was not (of course, the same could be said about the American movie). Also, the plucky comic relief (the alcoholic friend alternatively called Riku, Diku (the most common), Diggu, and a couple of other names) came across as annoying. The three romance subplots took up less than 5-10 minutes apiece, despite being played off as kind of important. The family subplots were stronger, but being introduced so late into the movie, felt like a graft rather than a part. If they were to cut out the full first hour, beginning with the events leading up to the bar, they would have a much more interesting movie. If needed, they could have reintroduced a few points through flashback. Sure, we lose the catfight, but sacrfices must be made. Then, they could have introduced the "Yeh Khuda" dance number towards the end, maybe right at the credits, and it would have been a tad better. I think if I show it to anyone else, I will start where I said, and then see how it goes down.

My rating for the movie is probably Meh, but let's give it a fair shake at least. There are issues with it, but being a rip-off is not one of them.

Si Vales, Valeo


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