There was a time, long ago now, when I expected a lot from this movie. Then it came out, everyone said "enh," and I lowered my hopes accordingly. I finally got my hands on it and...enh.
I was really hoping that I would have a flash of insight and be able to state definitively what went didn't work in this movie, why it seems to inspire so many middle-of-the road reactions. (I don't think it's the number of stories or the length - we've all seen Hindi films longer than this that were perfectly good or even great, such as Lagaan - although I do think the DVD version has been trimmed down, because there are scenes and plot points that I had heard about but didn't see.) My hunch is that it's the characters, who for me were either really annoying and not fleshed out or likable but still just a sketch, and the stories, most of which felt equally skeletal, as though I had been plopped down in the middle of a novel and not allowed to read from the beginning. I also wasn't entirely sold on some of the romances implied to be Great and Epic and Amazing. In the case of Vidya and John (Tezheeb and Ashutosh), Priyanka and Salman (Kkamini/Kamna and Rahooool/Rahul), and Govinda and Shannon (Raju and Stephanie), I didn't get any of the flippity-flop* in my stomach that indicates really good romance - and would have helped a lot in supporting very silly plot elements like abandoning your career for a stalker-ish near-stranger or driving all over the place for a cranky one-mission tourist with whom you can't really communicate. For example, what on earth does Raju like about Stephanie? I have no idea. She's not icky or anything, but I don't think we got much of a sense of her personality.**
I understand that there isn't time to give a full back story on everyone in this movie, but if you can't explain things to me, then I need evidence of their existence, and I just didn't get that. Given how much disbelief I have suspended in my two-plus years of watching Bollywood, maybe Nikhil Advani and crew figured I would be willing to do it for them, too, but I wasn't inspired. I've certainly accepted far sillier things - Alien gives boy magical powers? Great! Street thug fakes his way around medical school? Sure! Man pretends to be married so as not to have to tell woman he has a fatal heart condition? Aw, cho chweet! New Yorkers dance along in the street to a man rapping to "Pretty Woman"? Wait for me! - but always in cases when the story had momentum that took me along or the people were engaging or interesting enough that I wanted to follow along with whatever they were doing.
The story I had the most problems with was Anil Kapoor's. First of all, I was a little skeeved that a grown man would be attracted to someone who writes her name in glitter on the front of her daytimer - and dots her Is with hearts, for chrissake.
(And yes, this is a bit rich coming from someone with a screaming pink blog littered with references to a FPMBF, but I'm not a plot point in a major motion picture.) Even if it is a magical daytimer into which she pastes moving-image polaroids of herself.
We get that she is young and carefree - and I did like how most of the scenes with her have a warm, golden light, where as the ones with Anil and Juhi (Seema) are grayish and grim. What bothered me is that in his speech to his wife about what the heck is going on with him, he says he wants more out of life. I'd like to point out that cheating on your spouse isn't necessarily so much "more" as it is "other." You can have more with the same person you're with. You never agreed to give up "more" - but you did agreed to let go of "else" when it comes to other partners. He did come off as short-sighted and self-centered, though, so I'm relatively satisfied. I'd like to know what other people thought of Seema, who struck me as a little bit meek and bland (which in no way is an excuse for what he did, of course), and the "oh no he didn't!" side of me was annoyed that she sat there wishing for his happiness when he had done so much to jeopardize hers.
Let's see, who else...oh right, how can I forget Kkamini and Rahooool? Kkamini is a dreadful character. She reminded me of Miss Piggy, egomaniacal and screechy and tending to stomp off in a huff. I also don't understand why she can't be with Rahul and do the KJo film, even if that isn't tradition, but whatevs.
Side note: I thought I had heard that there was an actual point in the story about her spelling her name with two Ks, but I didn't catch it. And would she have two Ks in Devanagari, too, or just Roman letters? 'Cause here she has one.
Also, it's really saying something when my favorite segment of a film - a film with Akshaye in it! - is kicked off by Salman and features him heavily throughout. I love the title track, and I enjoyed its picturization thoroughly, even though I felt bad for Sohail and Isha's couple, who weren't in it. I think the song was even better in the movie than it is on CD because there are fun dance moves and hand claps in the movie - I love good songs made better with hand claps! Right on!
Here are some other things I enjoyed:
- Govinda! He was funny, he was sweet, he espoused noble philosophies, and even in this rather understated performance he was the best dancer
And I liked his talks with Hanuman too. He came off as a dreamy yet very grounded person. Very appealing.
- Silly white people being hippies in India. Always funny, both on film and in real life.
- These guys. I can see how one might find them annoying, but I liked how they made Kkamini get fussy.
- As unlikable as his character Shiven was most of the time, Akshaye had some good comedy, including falling over a chair, being drunk, and getting advice from Raju.
So, so cute. What a great smile. I rewatched the little clip of him being all happy at his engagement many times.
- Do you think anyone ever falls into the water during rehearsals?
* Term courtesy of Filmi Geek.
** Not that I blame her - I would no doubt behave the same way, right down to remaining hopeful despite his brush-off and saying weird things to strangers in my broken Hindi, if I showed up in India to track down the ladka who vanished and broke my heart. I like Stephanie, actually - I admire her pluck, even though we all knew she didn't stand a chance with cowardly Rohit - and she surely ranks among the least annoying goris in Hindi cinema, probably because she was supposed to be lost, look confused, and have crappy Hindi.