One of the 'lessons' it outlined was: Stick to the Knitting . Simply put, the lesson is that if you want to excel in your business, then stick to what you do best.
Last night after walking out of the cinema, I could not help but wonder if Deepa Mehta could have benefitted from that advice.
Anyone that has seen Mehta's previous films like Fire, Earth, Sam and Me can be forgiven for having a certain expectation of "Bollywood/Hollywood". Let me tell you now, you will be disappointed.
This is an out-and-out commercial film (and therefore uncharted waters for Ms. Mehta). I would have liked to think that it is really a subtle parody of bollywood movies but the attempt at satire in that aspect throughout the movie is so lame that it is more annoying than funny. There are some glimpses of witty satire and some effective one-liners that do make you laugh.
This is a masala movie, complete with drama, songs and twists of any typical bollywood movie. The story is one that has been used in countless indian movies already - nothing original there. It's about a wealthy family - the Seths. The son (Rahul Khanna) is asked to find himself a suitable bride in time for his younger sister's (Twinky) wedding to Bobby (none other than TO's Jazz Man).
So he contracts with an escort girl (Lisa Ray) who eventually ingratiates herself into the family, endears herself to all and the two of them fall in love. Except that she is only an escort girl and he, the son of a wealthy family (who seems to conduct all his business with a cellphone and a PDA)..and then it's time for some tears and drama.. No prizes for guessing what the ending is either.
What disappointed me most is not that the story itself lacked any originality but the facts that the screenplay itself is also so weak. It sounds like something a group of college students would get together and write. There's no rationale for so many events that are just sort of loosely embedded into the movie as crutches to support the movie or to inject some more ill-fitting humour.
There's a cross dresser, a white model who levitates during her meditation, an italian housekeeper with huge bosooms who is quite besotted with bollywood songs. None of these segments add anything to the main story and are ill-fitting pieces to a jigsaw puzzle.
I say a puzzle, because after all the rave reviews this movie has got I'm wondering if it's just me that doesn't "GET" it? I could not make up my mind if the movie is sarcastic in its humour as some captions that pop up from time to time during the moview suggest, or if it's a bollywood masala movie packaged for mainstream American cinema. On either count it fails miserably because it does not deliver either message convincingly.
If you've ever ordered butter chicken at an Indian restaurant that caters to a very 'white' clientele and hated it.. Well, this is what the movie is like. At best, it's our bollywood tikka masala but dressed up to appease a 'white' audience. At worst, this is the desi version of "Pretty woman"
Pity is that from what I saw in the cinema, the ^Qwhite^R audience appeared as confused as me because, of course, the sarcastic humour of the film that was enjoyable...these people did not get it at all! How could they, they are not familiar with all our bollywood trash!
That said, the song and dance sequences are quite nice. The grandmother (played by Dina Pathak) by far gives the best performance as an elitist 'brown' memsaab who quotes Shakespeare's sonnets for kicks! Lisa Ray is refreshingly beautiful and both her and Rahul Khanna give better than average performances. I liked the raunchy sister Twinky (played by Rishma Malik)! I think she acted her part (which was quite small) well.
The film is almost entirely shot indoors - in a house or a condo. There's lots of downtown Toronto skyline and you get to see what the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore might look like without traffic.
Had it not been a Deepa Mehta movie...I might have even enjoyed it. If it were some obscure, up and coming director i would have certainly said.."it's a good effort".
But from Deepa Mehta...I expect more.
My rating: 4.5/10
Film description: A light-hearted, family-friendly film which pokes fun at traditional Indian stereotypes, as well as at Bollywood (it features several Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers).