Saturday, January 19, 2008

BOMBAY TO BANGKOK: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Lina Christianson
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Runtime: 120 min. (Citation needed)
Rating: Zero Stars
Genre: Comedy, Romance

If one were to stand at all the exit doors where this film is being screened, for a comment, I could bet it would be one word – Why? Why the trouble? You get the chance to make films, and you turn up with this, a dead end of a journey. Some might view this as a wasted opportunity, to make a fun-filled joy-ride about a fish-out-of-water, or some cockamamie about the interaction of two cultures. This is neither, and most importantly this is nothing. I’ll save you the reading, the sentences attempted below are as futile as the film. Let me get it real straight – Bombay to Bangkok is the kind of film you’ll curse yourself for, and you’ll get cursed for. I’m angry, I’m tired and this film is worth neither, not even remotely. And now, get back to the celebrations, no one gave us a chance at Perth. I didn’t.
While driving back from the theatre, I was rounding up all the methods at my disposal to warn you from watching this film. I still am. That is the best I can do, you know, for it is still a free country. The plot involves a dhaba cook Shankar (Talpade), who by a stroke of mother fortune lands his hand on a purse full of money. The money belongs to a, yeah you guessed it right, gangster. He flees off to Thailand, assuming the identity of a doctor. He crosses paths with a Thai beauty Jasmine (Lina Christianson) who happens to be a prostitute, and yes, she’s the lady on the poster. I am wrestling with the idea of writing down the entire story, to keep you off this film, but something inside me is warning me it would just be a cure. I rise up to the occasion, and as the old medical adage goes, I aspire for prevention. Weed it out.
The film, at least in theory, was never supposed to be a film about money, or chase in the first place. That is just a Maguffin; the film though finds its roots in its intention to enjoy itself through its various moments. It wants to be a big party, but it doesn’t look even it is invited to the bash. The atmosphere is fun in that morose way when it is raining outside, and there’s a blackout inside, and there’s no other option. You know you’re in trouble when a major part of the humor is derived from old age libido, Viagra, farts and the sound of oriental language. A Thai security guard shoots off his name, and we’re supposed to laugh since it is unpronounceable. There’s a jewellery store masquerading as a rapping gangster, too, and his part of the bargain is to struggle with rhyming dialogues, a la Gunda I guess. What’re we? Eight? Anyways, there’s too much flesh around for those impressionable minds.
Slapstick used to have significantly better players (David Dhawan), and used to be considerably more fun. Here, under the pretense of the ‘new’ face of Indian cinema, it is the same old dish, but a tasteless one at that. Consider this – as Shankar walks into Jasmine’s room, the soundtrack plays John Strauss’ Blue Danube. Just as it is with this film, and most of the films nowadays, it is a dead end. It has no purpose, other than to show off. The sequence goes on to that music, and just as the comedy assumes the slightest color of romance, the score unashamedly and abruptly drops the waltz for the conventional twinkler. The innocent love. Good lord. The romantic moment passes by, and the waltz remains on the floor. A dead end, just as the film and the supposed new face. Let me tell you though, I’ve seen the new face, and its love for the medium, and it doesn’t remotely look like this. This is good old fashioned showoff riding high on pretense.
Predictably, the film aspires to come of age, mature, by gradually moving from comedy on language to romance transcending the boundaries. But that is just theory. In practice though, it takes one scene, on the beach, under the starlit sky, and abracadabra. And yeah, one page, for each of them, containing enough words in the other language for both our transcending birds. The script does a roll-call of all the necessary plot markers – the money-purse following a different itinerary, the birds having a small pre-romance fight (I couldn’t find no reason), the final drama surrounding our male-bird’s identity –each of them a number, yell out – Present, Sir. I’m not sure, but just as with Iqbal this script too seems to have been written in record time. And just as that time around, it feels like it, maybe even shorter.
If I was in the job, and this was supposed to be the training, I sure as hell couldn’t have come up with a more agonizing film to test my endurance. I hungered for the exit, those four red letters and the dial of my watch offering the best visuals through the entire film. I have not set foot on foreign soil, but for its entire cultural trip, the film doesn’t boast of one insight that is novel. Just the good old shallow idea – we’re all the same but different. It is so ecstatic at discovering it that it decided to jump into a gratuitous song, it seems was written on the spot. I have often wondered why a professional film critic might gripe about his job. Kyle Smith, Raja Sen and many more, from time to time. I could only imagine the answer, now I can understand. Reviewing a film is a great joy, and such films suck it out in its entirety. All they leave at the end is a nagging little headache, which if closely introspected, would reveal to be frustration. And deeper still, at the core, a question written, seemingly in gold– does such a film deserve to be viewed to be reviewed?

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