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Namastey London is a fun ride
Sukanya Verma

Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar in Namastey London
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March 23, 2007 17:48 IST
She's all British. He's all Punjab. They are a perfect mismatch. This antithesis provides the premise of Vipul Amrutlal Shah's, Namastey London.

Seeing as this is a romantic comedy, there is no room for reality. Consequently, issues like confused upbringing of desis born and raised abroad, though, mentioned are never tackled.

In Shah's London, desi kids gulp down vodka shots like banana milkshake and spend all free time burning the dance floors. Some others (an insufferable Upen Patel in a wasted side track) idle around shirtless bathing in the sun with their white girlfriend contemplating a live in relationship.

How do their parents react? The son is thrown out of the house. While a groom hunt commences for the daughter.

All this is established in an incoherent but fast-paced narrative. Essentially though, Namastey London revolves around Jasmeet aka Jazz (Katrina Kaif), a clearly pampered and indulged daughter of Mr and Mrs Manmohan Singh (Rishi Kapoor and Nina Wadia). Being the only child, she pretty much gets away with everything, which includes her desire to marry her thrice divorced English boss, Charlie Brown (a mediocre Clive Standen). The whole theatre knows Brown is a self-centred, chauvinistic brat. His marital screams it so. But Jasmeet is evidently all Jazz no brain.

Sensing trouble in Brown, her dad quickly plans a trip to India under the pretext of tourism. (That, my readers, in the language of cinema means a two minute tour of the picturesque Rishikesh, Haridwar, Agra and Hyderabad, which surprisingly Jonathan Bloom's camera hardly does any justice.)

Singh, actually, intends to get Jazz married off to the next best lad available. What follows instead is a hilarious series of goofy contenders obsessed with Indian Idol, K-soaps and Numerology gurus, slyly hinting the impact of television on Indian youngsters today.  

After a series of misadventures, he makes a final stop to his village in Punjab, giving Akshay Kumar his much-awaited chance to make a hero's entry into the screen/scene. Astride a bike, balle balleing in a bubblegum pink kurta, Arjun (his name in the film) makes his introduction to Jazz and family. It's love at first sight for this Punjab da puttar.

Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar in Namastey LondonMeanwhile, Jazz nauseates through the noisy camaraderie of her caricature relatives about dripping ghee, lassi shassi, parathas and makhan and desi daru. Soon enough, her adamant father tricks her into marrying Arjun.

We know she'll play along. We know she won't let the marriage get consummated. We know that Arjun is going to burn his heart. Then again, we also know, how despite telling Jazz's sympathetic father he isn't up to any herogiri, Arjun will exactly do that.

Post-intermission, Namastey London becomes a guidebook for herogiri-waltzing with the heroine, winning rugby matches, doing bhangra in night clubs or waxing eloquent about India Shining to Englishmen, still hung up on East India Company.

In retrospect, one wonders why all the British characters come across as so horribly shallow in the movie. They are ill-defined and one-dimensional.

In that sense, everything about Namastey London is rather obvious -- the motive, the move and the outcome -- as per rom-com tradition, it's specific but unrealistic.

Despite its predictability and lack of detail, the caper doesn't quite jar the senses. It has its share of light-hearted moments, especially the recurring groom fiasco and a rollicking rugby match. Also, the cast comes up with a rather believable act.

A still from Namastey LondonRishi Kapoor is adorable as the worrying father. The man has such an incredible sense of humour and charm attached to his persona making his screen antics a delight to watch. Whether he's enthusiastically posting his daughter's profile on a matrimonial website or getting into a giggling fit at the dinner table or defining rugby as 'Yeh ball pakad kar saand ki tarah us goal post tak bhaag' (Take the ball and charge like a bull towards the goal post), the man rocks.

Katrina Kaif suits the role to the T. As Jazz, she is sassy but gentle, confused but stable and petulant but glamorous. The actress brings the zingy mix of her character alive with style and substance. You cannot not mention just how luminous she looks on the silver screen. Also, good job with the wardrobe, girl!  

In contrast, Akshay Kumar doesn't quite look 'all there'. The auburn highlights don't suit him one bit. But he's a terrific on the emotional front. Even though this role is pretty much like the one he played in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye -- chasing a confused heroine about to marry someone else -- the actor adds in his brand of vulnerability. He's especially effective in the scene where, for a change, his Arjun takes a beer break from herogiri, 'Kabhi kabhi bhool jaata hoon, aakhir main bhi toh ek insaan hi hoon' (Sometimes I forget that I am human too).  

Director Vipul Shah curbs down his tendency to stretch melodrama, as seen in Waqt: A Race Against Time, to a noticeable extent in Namastey London. On the flip side, the jokes are not always funny and Himesh Reshammiya's songs show up more often than not.

With all its minuses and plus, this fancy repackaging of the East-against-West-values featuring vivacious stars, light humour and cool locations, is effortless to watch.

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