26 May 2007 | VirginiaK_NYC
Fresh grownup romantic comedy
At the point in this romantic comedy where they are definitely getting interested in each other, Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu are sitting on a bench in a park in London, and she tells him animatedly to run to a tree across a meadow and touch it and run back. It's the kind of thing you tell a little boy to do -- a brilliant touch that captures so much of what's good about the movie: their fresh dynamic, her self-possessedness, his readiness, if reluctant, to step out of a somewhat ossified "grownup" character. I think you'd be sorry if you missed this, supposing you had a way of finding out what you'd missed.
I don't think light romantic comedy is easy to do - at all - and this movie does it very well -- there's not a sloppy or wince-inducing moment . Moreover there's the pleasure of a love story between grownup characters, an especially rare pleasure. Tabu and AB are really good together - it's nice to see them both matched in terms of their size, for one thing, and Tabu emanates the kind of intelligent, self-confident, unsentimental, serious young woman who often is happiest with an older man -- like Jo in Little Women.
Story takes place in both London and Delhi, which is fun. As everyone who's seen the previews knows, AB is an irritable and perfectionistic chef of 64 who owns a very successful restaurant, realistically filmed and with a pleasing cast of comic minor characters. He meets Tabu, a 34 year old visitor from India, via a character-establishing quarrel when she sends back a dish. And eventually there's her father in Delhi to deal with.
AB lives with his 90-year-old mother (Zora Seghal, she's the grandmother in most movies) and one of the great things about the movie is their totally mutually insulting relationship -- she is a horrible cook and he is very mean and funny about it; she watches wrestling and Sex and the City or something on TV all day and nags him to go to a gym. This is delightful in an Indian movie, as relief from the standard Mataji of the brimming-over compassionate gaze -- and we also unexpectedly see his deep reliance on her, and her availability, when something very distressing happens to him.
Alongside the AB-Tabu story is the story of AB's relationship with a little girl next door who has leukemia. She gives him advice and he promises her the "adult dvds" she wants to watch. And the scene where he goes into the video store and demands "adult dvds that are suitable for small children" is the kind of thing this movie excels at.
The presence in the story of people of all ages, from little girl to 90-year-old Mother, as well as Tabu's father who is younger than AB and thinks of himself as elderly (and carries on to AB about how AB is so-lucky to have been "old enough to see Gandhi-ji") -- all of them written as anti-stereotypes -- makes a very nice philsophical background score about life, love, and mortality.
I like the actual music a lot too - no "singing" by characters, but some nice scored passages that won't leave you, if Bollywood is your home, feeling exiled.