Sunday, March 25, 2007

Namastey London 

If one took Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s Namastey London at all seriously (and there’s no reason one should), it could be accused of racism, sexism, parochialism, patriarchy and what not.

Even in an increasingly globalised world, you still see the old stereotypes—white people are debauched drunks, who marry and divorce for a lark; Indian people are all good souls, family-oriented and loving. Of course, if an Asian guy gets a while girlfriend it’s ok, but if an Indian girl wants to marry her white boyfriend, it’s not acceptable. If an Indian woman is unsophisticated the husband will feel embarrassed by her, but he doesn’t mind his daughter marrying a coarse farmer. Ultimately women are happiest in the heart of rural joint family, dressed in a salwar kameez and churning butter!

Still, if this ancient, creaking-at-the joints East vs West story was told with a smidgen of good grace and humour, it might have been palatable. As it is now, it keeps one gagging just like the British babe does at the smell of ‘asli’ ghee. There’s just one funny bit in the film, when the girl is going around meeting Indian men for ‘matrimonial purposes’—one of them says everything thrice, because he sees too many Balaji soaps.

Jasmeet or Jazz (Katrina Kaif) is fed-up of being forced to meet prospective Indian grooms. She gets rid of the latest (Riteish Deshmukh) by telling him the usual yarns about drinking and serial boyfriends. She wants to marry her boss (what does she do except flounce in and out of what looks like an office!) who has the unlikely name Charlie Brown (Clive Standon) and the reputation of having married and divorced thrice.

Naturally, such a man—rich and manor-born though he may be—is no match for Ajrun Singh (Akshay Kumar) from a Punjab ‘pind’, who displays no greater quality then being able to put in huge amounts of booze. When Jazz’s dad (Rishi Kapoor) sees him, he is indulging in what is called ‘eve-teasing’, still he thinks Arjun is a “good boy” and forces Jazz to marry him.

Jazz’s Pakistani buddy Imran (Upen Patel), who has been thrown out by his parents for daring to move in with a white girl, tells her to bring the guy to the UK, where an Indian unregistered marriage will not be valid. Arjun is heart-broken, but determined to win over Jazz from her ‘gora’ suitor, because he has Indian values on his side—though what they might be, except yelling ‘pairi pauna’ to a lot of elders, Shah doesn’t say. Manoj Kumar sang of India’s glories in Purab Aur Pachhim, Akshay Kumar rattles off statistics to a sneering Brit who talks of the Indian rope trick.

The film ends up falling in the watch-and-forget category. This must be Akshay Kumar’s weakest role in a long time— one can’t see him staring moodily at the sky instead of taking on the whole British army. He does win a rugby match, if that counts! Katrina Kaif is lovely and sprightly, but surely in 2007 leading ladies could be allowed a brain?


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