10 September 2007 | bob the moo
Far too empty to really work as a story despite colour and being sporadically lively and entertaining Bollywood homage
The Bakshi family have several daughters, all of whom are of the age where they really need to be getting married off. One likely suitor (Balraj) arrives from the UK with his wealthy American friend William Darcy in tow. While potential suitors come and go around the Bakshi family, Darcy's initial attraction to daughter Lalita is dashed on the rocks as their first impressions of one another sees them treating each other with contempt. However as times goes by, relationships change.
This Western/Bollywood crossover is not the easiest to watch if you are a bit cynical (which, being Northern Irish, I am) because the use of India, the UK and the US in the storyline does seem designed to market the film to the maximum audience. I did get past this though and tried to see the film as the delightful crossover that others had commented on it being on this site. Problem was, that is not the film I found because aside from the crossover novelty appeal, I found little else to recommend it for. As director, Chadha has done well to capture the colour and vibrancy of Bollywood films but she also has captured some of the faults that your typical Bollywood film has as well.
By this I mean that the story is not that great and isn't helped by the characters being so very weak. There are lots of relationships within the story and the aim clearly was that the dynamics and chemistry of these would carry the film. Sadly there isn't anything real or engaging in this script and I found it to be quite distant from me. Even as the conclusion approached I still found myself thinking "I don't really care about these people or what happens to them", which is a bit of a problem. The musical numbers were varied. Some were enjoyable and worked really well within the context of the crossover. However some others were surprisingly weak and clunky and just didn't work. With all these problems I was not surprised that the novelty value wore off and I tired of the film before it ended.
With the focus on the style rather than substance it is no surprise that the performances are mostly mediocre. There is no denying that Rai has the charisma and the looks needed to lead the film but she cannot get a character out of her. Of course next to the wooden and miscast Martin Henderson she comes across as quite brilliant but his stiff Darcy has no character and the couple have zero chemistry. Andrews is OK but more notable for his fame in Lost than his performance. Gillies is sinisterly camp even when he is meant to be charming. Ganatra is amusing but perhaps a bit too basic as a source of humour. Choudhuri is the only other standout but only because she has a "sexy, sassy lil' sister" character not because she is good.
Overall then, an interesting crossover film but nowhere near good enough to be memorable for anything other than this. On top of that, it is a bit distracting to see it put so much effort into appealing to as big an audience as possible by covering the globe but to have put so little effort into everything else.