Monday, June 18, 2007

Namastey London (India, 2007)

Director: Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Year: 2007
Music: Himesh Reshammiya; Lyrics: Javed Akhtar

This cheerfully dimwitted film is so inept that I kept blinking my eyes in amused disbelief. It was like sitting next to a guy on the subway who keeps laughing to himself – you are glad he’s happy but you sure wish he were somewhere else. What surprises me most though has been the generally positive reception that this film has received – making me wonder if global warming has begun to affect our brain patterns or whether people simply judge Bollywood films on totally different criteria than films from anywhere else? I have been guilty of this latter condition certainly and in truth you have to watch Bollywood films with a different set of sensibilities than you do others – because they are so culturally different – but no matter where you are bad acting is bad acting, bad editing is bad editing, bad cinematography is bad cinematography and bad story telling is bad story telling. This film reeks with a painful lack of imagination that it tries to cover up with cute performances and apparently it worked.

Jazz (played by Katrina Kaif who is most famous for being the girlfriend of Salman Khan and for not getting a black eye yet) is short for Jasmeet, but living most of her life in London she has tossed her Indian culture overboard and just wants to be an English girl – though thankfully not to the point of eating bad English food. As most Indians living in England are portrayed in Bollywood films, her family is enormously wealthy though her father (Rishi Kapoor) never seems to work and she lives in a house large enough to play a game of cricket in. She also likes pale blond bad boys and has latched on to her boss who goes by the name of Charlie Brown – which passes for wit in this film. He has an even bigger house and meets with Prince Charles from time to time when he isn’t shagging other girls or getting divorced. Charlie that is, not the Prince.

Of course, dear dad isn’t too thrilled with Jazz hanging about with British boys and so takes her to India where she goes through a round robin laugh-a-thon of boorish boys and their silly parents meeting to discuss marriage. But dad thinks he has struck gold when he meets the son of a friend who falls in love with Jazz at first sight. Why Arjun (Akshay Kumar) loves her at first sight is one of those mysteries of the universe – could it be a. she is a total spoiled air head, b. she has no respect for Indian traditions, c. she can't speak Hindi, d. she turns up her nose at everything Indian, e. she ignores him, f. she can't dance worth a lick, g. there are no eligible single women in India, h. she has very nice breasts. I put my money on h. Not that he is a great prize either as he is past forty and drinks milk right out of the cow’s udder and thinks that’s how you impress women. No wonder he is still single. In fact, it wasn’t until after the intermission that I realized he wasn’t mentally disabled. Her brilliant plan is to do the marriage circle thing with him – postpone the honeymoon night shenanigans - and then back in London tell everyone that they aren’t really married because nothing was registered. After she does this, it of course only makes him love her more with a desire to continue to pursue her - even after she announces that she is marrying the weenie Brit. Gosh, I wonder how this film is going to end.

Filled with more bad acting than a convention of Republicans pretending to be compassionate towards the poor, this is like watching a very long high school play. Akshay in his oddly dyed brown hair just looks so bored that he gives off an attitude of tell me my lines and let me get this over with please. But this doesn't even come close to how bad Katrina is in acting and it's not only that she has to wrestle with the language like a Brazilian grappler - she just has no clue how to add shades or depth to a character. Her scene when she tells the family and Arjun that she didn't consider herself married was so poorly read that I felt embarrassed for her. It’s not really her fault. She lived abroad most of her life having been born in London and came back to India with a smattering of Hindi. This is the first film in which she wasn’t dubbed. She modeled and hooked up with Salman – became a gossip commodity and moved right into films. Who needs to learn how to act?

Worse than the acting though is the stereotypes this film targets for humor – that wealthy Brits are snotty, prejudiced, immoral and can't even play a good game of rugby – likely true but rather tiresome and blandly done. Considering that Katrina is from mixed Indian/English parents, it seems rather odd to push the point that good Indian girls should marry down home Indian boys. At one point when your typical effete Brit makes fun of Indians and quotes Churchill to support this, Arjun nobly lectures him with a litany of stats about how many newspapers there are in India and engineers and so on – not bad for a farm boy. I guess Indians really are good with numbers (stereotype intended). Here is another number:

My rating for this film: 3 out of 10

Song 1

Song 2

Santa Promo

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