Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mixed Doubles+Holiday 

Mixed Doubles

Bollywood films, flying in the face of all the social change happening around, still believe in lovers walking-into-the-sunset happy endings.

Rajat Kapoor’s Mixed Doubles takes up the story after the honeymoon is over, and what a good idea it was, if he had been able to tackle it with honesty, depth, or at least genuine humour.

Still, in the first half, he establishes the problem quite convincingly—Sunil (Ranvir Shorey, surprisingly good) and Malti (Konkona Sensharma) have no sex life left after ten years of marriage and a bratty kid. One blip-- do people routinely discuss intimate details of their sex lives with office colleagues, as both Sunil and Malti do? But let that pass in the cause of some humour. You also notice that in a supposedly modern marriage, Malti does all the housework—in fact she is constantly seen washing mounds of clothes at night!

Sunil’s NRI buddy tells him that he solved the boredom problem by swinging. How does a “jhoola” do it, asked a bewildered Sunil. He must be incredibly naïve, or doesn’t read the results of all the sex surveys constantly being carried out by mainstream publications.

But the idea of wife-swapping appeals to Sunil, and in the film’s few really funny scenes, he goes about meeting prospective partners in ‘crime.’ Malti is horrified at the suggestion, but when Sunil feigns a heart problem due to “stress”, she goes along to meet Vinod Khanna (Rajat Kapoor) and his clearly mentally-unhinged wife (Koel Purie).

Without revealing the end, let’s say it’s a cop-out. It seems as if Rajat Kapoor, after setting up the provocative situation chickened out of dealing with the moral aftermath of what might happen if the couples did swap happily–he does, rather prissily, call Mixed Doubles a “Moral Tale.”

He tries to sidle out with a oops- haha-fooled-ya scenario, which is not witty enough to make one laugh, or dark enough to make one think.

The look of the film – Sunil-Malti’s drab, functional apartment in contrast with the odd brightness of the Khannas’ eerie home—is unusual and cinematographer Rafey Mehmood has done a good job.

As always, the actors come to the rescue of the sagging script—and almost all of them, including Vinay Pathak as the philandering Punjabi buddy whose marital life goes for a toss (it’s a moral tale, remember!) are excellent.


Dirty Dancing was one of those simple films, in which all the wrong elements also miraculously worked to turn it into a cult movie. Remade (copied, actually) by Pooja Bhatt (who is no master!) nearly twenty years later, as Holiday, it looks as if all the clichés of the original came tumbling out, but none of the magic.

Muskaan (Onjolee Nair) is the clumsy, bespectacled bookworm—why must ‘plain’ also be ‘moronic’?—who comes for a holiday to Goa with her parents and ditsy sister Samara (Nauheed Cyrusi).

She gets involved in the problems of the hotel’s dance instructor (who does he teach, there are no scenes of his class?) Dino (Morea) and his partner Eliza (Kasmera Shah). She is pregnant with the cad (Sanjit Bedi), who is now wooing Samara with cheap one-liners.

Muskaan lends money for Eliza’s botched abortion (it’s legal in India, why pay a fortune to a back alley hack?) and also offers to stand in for her as Dino’s partner (why can’t he find another partner in all of Goa?). So Dino has to teach her to dance, and the supposedly gawky girl learns all the complicated splits and leaps in a matter of days.

Her father (Gulshan Grover), thinking that Dino is the one who left Eliza in trouble, frowns at Muskaan’s growing relationship with the dancer. Even those who haven’t see Dirty Dancing, would know exactly where the film is headed.

Bhatt, flattens out the drama completely, so there are not a single moment that stays in the mind a few minutes after seeing the film. Forget any spark between Dino and Muskaan, even when Samara stumbles on to her boyfriend with another girl, she has no reaction! The class and race differences that marked the Hollywood original are glossed over.

Still, if the actors had any zing, they could still have made a difference by spicing up the slow and bland movie a little bit. Dino Morea is perfectly cast, but except for his excellent dancing, is given no scenes that define his character. As for Onjolee Nair, it hurts to diss a newcomer, but if the girl can offer anything more that one blinky-eyed expression, it isn’t evident from this film. Then the music (Ranjit Barot)-- it is nice to hear on the radio, but when you see the Salsa being performed, heck, you want rousing Latino rhythms, not the soporific tunes that ruin the two great dance sequences.


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