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Review: The Bong Connection

Anjan Dutt does piece together a decent-looking dramedy on a dhoti-budget, and lets his heart out on the sad, mad ways of the Indian diaspora, writes Khalid Mohamed.
None | By Khalid Mohamed, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2007 07:42 PM IST

The Bong Connection
Cast: Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Raima Sen, Martha, Shayan Munshi, Peeya Roy Chaudhary
Direction: Anjan Dutt
Rating: **

Quite a guzzle puzzle, this. Practically everyone from Kolkata to Houston is downing beer till it all becomes so lager-than-life. Hic hic.

It’s difficult to understand the big beer binge. Essentially, Anjan Dutt’s Binglish The Bong Connection, strives to say that Bongs are Bongs, eating machhar jhol and singing Tagore ballads and dropping such hallowed names as Satyajit Ray, Buddhadeb Das Gupta and wow, even Mira Nair who actually summons one of the beer boys to compose the music score for The Namesake. Is that Nair’s Indo-Japanese project about sake drinking? You never find out. Hic hic hic hic.

To be fair, Dutt does piece together a decent-looking dramedy on a dhoti-budget, and lets his heart out on the sad, mad ways of the Indian diaspora. Snafus: the lumbering screenplay, the artsy direction (yo, those swinging hand-held shots) and the eager-beaver tendency to comment testily on everything from dollar-greed to homophobia in two hours. Indeed, your head hurts with too much blah-blah, besides the drinking sprees. Slur, slur.

Over to Apu (Parambrata Chattopadhyay). The young technocrat swigs beer when he lands up in the US, carrying an ear-ring of his gal friend (Raima Sen, eye candy), who actually switches to a Martini for a scene. Naughty thing.

On the other hand, a guitar-toting dude (Shayan Munshi) arrives from New York to Chowringhee Lane to drink some beer, too, and make Baul-room fusion museek. Now, Apu’s in the west, Dude is here, and Ear-ring is nowhere. Heaps of inter-cuts between Texas and Kolkata.. okay, okay, their cultures are different. Got it, got it.

Next: Apu’s beaten up by Spanish goondas, his roommate has a male lover, and bhaalo bhaalo, a cutie in cargo pants (Peeya Rai Chowdhary, eye toffee) shows up to do some heterosexual bonding. Most oddly, the screenplay keeps wandering off to a Bangladeshi taxi driver (Infuriatingly Hammy) who’s always lusting for bedroom meetings. Aieeee, do you care about what happens to any of these mixed up maniacs?

Nope. Mr Dutt isn’t too comfortable with the light stuff. And when he gets heavy duty which is very often – note the Guitar dude’s conflict with his property grabbing uncle and dear old Soumitra Chatterjee in a laidback-on-the-mattress cameo – you need an ice-pack on your head. Oof.

On the positive side, Neel Dutt’s music is innovative and the lead performance by Parambrata Chattopadhyay as the geeky Apu is likeable. But for the unintentionally funniest act in decades, check out a Lady Martha who rolls in a trolley of booze including beer. She is not at all sure whether to pour herself one or serve another one to Victor Bannerjee, quaffing a liquid and going ho-ho-ho all over a villa in Texas as if it were already X’mas. Hic.

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