November 22, 2002 
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Deepa Mehta
Bollywood film with Hollywood humour
Are we seeing a new Deepa Mehta with Bollywood/Hollywood?

Rupa Gawle

Deepa Mehta tries to enact Bollywood magic on the Hollywood-fed generation with Bollywood/Hollywood, and she succeeds. The movie has a Pretty Woman twist to it, but done with much humility, charisma and class.

Unlike some Bollywood movies that leave no room for creativity and just copy popular Hollywood movies, Bollywood/Hollywood doesn't irritate you.

The movie features a charming Rahul Khanna as the protagonist of the film. I am partial to Rahul Khanna. He provides for major eye candy. He has been in all of three movies, including this one, and it is apparent Deepa Mehta has a soft spot for him. Playing a millionaire banker type who rides around in a limo driven by the veteran actor Ranjit Chowdhary of Lonely To America (1991) fame, he is supported by a colourful caste of characters that find their way into your heart and provide for much comic relief.

The sublime and alluring Lisa Ray, whom I have never seen on the screen before, plays the female lead. And what a lead it is, full of secrets and surprises. Playing a very unconventional role for an Indian heroine requires panache and Lisa Ray lights up the screen with her presence. Playing Rahul Khanna's mother is Moushumi Chatterjee. And playing a very endearing, and funny grandma is the late Dina Pathak, who reminds us all what made her such a fantastic and larger-than-life legend of Indian cinema.

Rahul is single, much to the agony of his very melodramatic mother. Moushumi Chatterjee is irritating initially with some overacting and over crying crossing the threshold of funny. And perhaps she was miscast for this role, but she eventually finds a way into your heart and does tickle your funny bone. There is the every mother in her that one can identify with and laugh at for being overly dramatic.

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The grandma is more composed and levelheaded, and does not believe in holding back. With his sister's impending wedding and the rejection of his very White Canadian Britney Spears-like girlfriend, Rahul must find an Indian girl in a short time to please his grandmother and mother. A promise he made to his dying father that he can't break. And how could he, because dear old dad appears from time to time to remind him of it and it is done in true Hollywood style.

Enters the scene a 'ray' of sunshine Rahul so desperately needs in his life. Sue is poor and broke and leads a rather unsavoury lifestyle. He makes her a business proposal she cannot refuse and the deception is on. She is to pose as his fiancee just until the sister's wedding is over.

He assumes she is Hispanic, she doesn't mind being anything he wants her to be. After all he is paying her well. He trains her to be Indian and brings her home only to find out that she is indeed Indian. And anyone that meets her, including mom, grandma and his siblings, falls in love with her. Playing a surprising, funny, but earthy and candid role of Lisa's dad is the veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda.

When her past comes to haunt her in the form of accusations from an Indian businessman, Rahul is torn between believing her and believing the accuser. And he loses her.

Will Rahul find a way to win her back? Will Sue (short for Sunita) come back to him? Will Rahul's realisation that he has fallen in love with her despite everything make him overcome his suspicions and deepest fears? Check out this very fun-packed, 1 hour and 35 minute film.

. The movie does promise slapstick comic relief, Hollywood style. With Dina Pathak dropping Shakespearean sonnets and quotes at the drop of a hat, the humour is rightly placed. Of course, if you don't know Shakespeare, you won't get her humour. But it is a treat to watch her speak English with the fluency of a native and funnier to watch her old movies playing on television in the background.

Lisa Ray, Rahul Khanna This is where Deepa Mehta did well. The subtle comedy that creeps up on the audience members is refreshing. Colourful characters like --- Killer Khalsa Singh, a real life bodybuilder; Rakhina (Ranjit Chowdhary) in drag; Kimberly (Jessica Pare), the Britney Spears of Canada as Rahul's girlfriend; the local Syed desi population of Canada; the frat boy desis; and the quintessential angry desi chick that thinks, 'What a bunch of losers' all desis are, yet chooses to mingle among them --- add a lot of texture to this lighthearted flick as do captions placed appropriately during different scenes that are quite familiar and funny to the Indian-American crowd.

The only thing I wished was that Deepa Mehta had hired a language coach for Rahul Khanna to make him a bit more believable as a Canadian since all the other characters, including those that play his siblings and Lisa Ray, are Canadian with no Indian accent. But his charming and vulnerable character is warm and funny and you soon learn to overlook his Mumbai accent.

I would certainly recommend this witty, sweet and humorous Bollywood film with Hollywood humour. I loved the attempt at breaking the stereotype of the quintessential Indian-American woman and appreciated that it was real. The heroine wasn't your run-of-the-mill, sweet, homely, innocent gal in distress in need to be rescued and neither was the hero.

My only warning: if French kissing is a put-off for you and you find it uncomfortable to watch it with your very traditional family, skip watching the movie together but do watch it on your own.

As for the music, Sandeep Chowtha has outdone himself with some fresh new young voices among the mix of veterans like Sonu Nigam and Alisha. Catchy fun songs like Rang rang mere rang rang main, Jawani aai hai kayamat aai hai and Dil kabootar khana hai and romantic ballads like Suni hawa suni ghata, the soundtrack is certainly going to go far.

It was surprising and invigorating to see a lighthearted romantic comedy by Deepa Mehta, from whom everyone has come to expect nothing but racy and controversial films. This one interrupts your senses and breaks your stereotype of Deepa Mehta.

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