Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Namastey London

I think this movie struck a chord in me / my family far more than it would in most other Indians as we (having been NRI’s with kids) have experienced first hand some of the questions / dilemma’s it raises.

If you were an NRI based in London/UK, would you teach your children to speak in Hindi or English as a baby ? Would you put them in a normal English school, make sure they had English friends or would you rather put them in an Indian style school and make sure they stuck to a primarily Indian circle ? Would you want your child to have Indian roots or be primarily British in orientation ? And then, when it came to marriage would you want a desi spouse for your child or you would be fine if they chose a Brit ? In short, would you try to make them conform to the society they live in or continue to be a proud Indian ? Or both ?

These are the kind of questions which most NRI’s abroad face almost on an everyday basis. And this is what the Singh family (especially the father, Manmohan Singh) face when their darling daughter is now getting ready to choose a groom. She is Jazz (short for Jasmeet), thinks nothing of downing a few vodka shots and sharing quite happily with a prospective groom (after the above mentioned shots) her experiences with boyfriends / one night stands / kissing etc. She is also the current love target of the ultra-rich, ultra well-connected Charlie Brown (the director / script-writer obviously cant get enough of Peanuts), who is a thrice divorced, very English Casanova. Horrified at the thought of losing their daughter completely, the father manages to convince her (through emotional blackmail) to take her to India and then, while there, reveals his true motive…he wants to show her some good, desi boys. She reluctantly agrees, they meet some hilarious characters (watch out for the one who loves Hindi soaps… brilliant !) and finally they meet Arjun…a Punjabi boy from Manmohan Singh’s own village. Somehow, again with large chunks of emotional blackmail, Manmohan Singh gets Jazz to marry Arjun. Her only condition is that they will fly back to London immediately after the wedding, and will celebrate the wedding night there. What happens next is the subject of the second half.

The movie has a brilliant first half and a OK second half. The first half is bubbly, natural, hilarious, balances the serious issues raised above very nicely with light hearted humorous moments. It never gets too moralistic or ‘heavy’. The second half also has its moments of brilliance, but they are fewer. Also, the melo-drama starts to creep in and the solutions / emotions being shown of the leading characters are not necessarily so realistic anymore. But overall, the movie is still fun and doesn’t drag or lose its momentum. The 16 reels go by with scarcely a glance at the watch.

Amongst the other things I liked about the movie was that for a change it showed normal NRI’s – a taxi driver / a clothes shop owner, living in normal places like Hounslow etc – not the stereo-typical rich tycoons, normally seen in other movies like Aap ki Khatir / Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, who own houses the size of Windsor Castle and Hampton Court and have butlers / drivers etc. These are so few in number in reality that I feel showing primarily their ilk distorts the picture for the Indians living in India and perpetuates the myth that everyone abroad does very well / enjoys a life far exceeding what is possible in India. This movie is more real, raises some questions which hit home and are closer to the truth. There are also some very unabashedly jingoistic moments – but again they are done in a very lighthearted way and you actually feel like clapping when Akshay is kicking (figuratively speaking) some Brit ass...

I’ve always liked Akshay Kumar (Arjun) and this movie confirms why. He has developed a very good sense of comic timing over the past few years, to go along with his spontaneous acting. He somehow always manages to fit in his part very naturally / credibly. I had this perception of Katrina Kaif (Jazz) being a very poor actress (I think its driven by the extremely cheesy Veet commercials she stars in, as this is actually the first movie of hers that I saw). But she was excellent in this movie – without getting soppy / sentimental / screeching or screaming (as a contrast to, say Kajol, in DDLJ), she does what she wants, makes her life’s decisions herself as you would expect her to. She manages to act and looks perfectly comfotable with friends of Indian or Western origin. If she is confused, she doesn't wear it on her sleeve. She has a very natural accent, is quite effervescent and charms her way through the movie. The rest of the cast were good / nothing special here. The music was a bit of a disappointment – again nothing special here & I don’t think any song from here will really dominate the charts.

So ! Does the movie answer all the above questions. The answer is an emphatic no. But does it matter ? The answer is an even more emphatic no ! I dont think there actually is one ‘right’ answer...i also think that the movie is not a masterpiece but, like Katrina's vodka shots, they make three hours go by pretty easily and smoothly. Cheers !


Daddy's Girl said...

I agree with your assessment of this movie - I liked it because it raised important questions about cultural, national, and personal identity, but also did not try to do too much. As you say, it doesn't really answer the questions raised, which is great, because the answers are really subjective and are almost not really the point. The point is to remember to ask the questions and to work through them. I thought all the performances were good, some better than others (I loved Rishi Kapoor's performance). The leads were good, especially Akshay. All in all, a surprisingly pleasant and engaging film. I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I want to know if anyone knows where i can get that black purse she carries in the movie.. and yes fun family movie!