Director: Anurag Basu
Actors: Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori
Two people (Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori), respectively romance another from the same family (Kangana Ranaut, Nicholas Brown), purely for the love of the money. The girl’s an illegal immigrant into the US from Mexico. The boy is the American half of various green card marriages on sale: “$1,000; honeymoon charges extra.”
Both gatecrash into a Mafia home, hoping to settle in with the riches. The premise from hereon could take the shape of a slight comedy of deceit (Woody Allen’s Matchpoint), or follow an aggressive drama (Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley).
This is, but, a ‘massy’ desi movie. The said Mafiosi home belongs to one, Bob Grover (Kabir Bedi), the “owner of one of the biggest casinos in Vegas,” no less. Senators, governors etc swim under Bob’s pant pockets – “Vegas mein Bob ko koi naa nahin kehta (No one says no to Bob in Vegas).” You sense what’s replaced the ‘Singhania group of industries, and villas with spiral staircases in Bollywood’? Vast expanses of a fake First World, peopled by butlers in BMWs and Indians alone.
The attempt, of course, is still to please you with the masala. The screenplay tightly alternates genres: romance before action, a little comedy, after a crackling chase sequence….
The story is credited to the producer Rakesh Roshan. When given the story idea to adapt into a screenplay, the director suggests in an interview, he couldn’t see a two-hour film in it. That, sort of, shows. Neatly lined assemblage of some really fine shots, can often conceal a lot of the hollowness in a script. It helped for the producer that the director he chose was Anurag Basu.
Few filmmakers in mainstream Bollywood light up their screens the way Basu does (Gangster, Life In A Metro). His patent colour, you can tell, is deep red, and favoured scenes concern rains, with strong back lighting; or a top shot looking into a city from a ledge. Basu’s greatest achievement as an aesthete may well be making Emraan Hashmi look good (Murder).
It helps far more for the director that the leading man before him this time’s Hrithik Roshan: hair blonde-dyed, body sharp and straight like blade, flexi like rubber, suitably under-stated in its moves. No Hindi film actor ever, I suspect, has worked himself up this much to make the super-star grade. Hrithik remains the perfect foil for an action piece across the barrenness of Nevada. It matters little that we know nothing of his character, besides his insane love for a girl, and an extreme sense of adventure.
The film, as you may already know, is largely in English. The hero attempts an accent that is more confused than American. The heroine speaks in Spanish, which is sub-titled into English; something only a minority of Bollywood's core audiences can satisfyingly read. This should be of concern to financiers of this Rs 140 crore bonanza, or those who closely follow box-office numbers. The language alone turns it into a cut-piece made neither wholly for Peter, nor quite for Patel.
It’s a passionately romantic pic, or at least hyped as one in ways that few films can live up to. The expression of that intense love, its most important element, is often lost in translation - what many might rightly perceive as lack of chemistry between the leading pair.
The producers of course were seeking mainstream international viewership. Aspirations of such kinds can sometimes spell trouble. This is no foreign language classic; God, no. It is, but, an ambitiously big-budget Bollywood summer flick. And certainly, not a poor or boring ride at that, at all.