So over at the Litterbox, friend of the blog and occasional crossover poster Miyuki has been having a theme month, inspired by “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. She’s been looking at a wide range of films in the “Thrilling Adventures!” sort of genre, and she kindly invited me to share some Bollywood action in one of our joint review postings. Yes.. Finally Bollywood proper! With songs and everything! Whilst I normally constrain myself to the cinema of South East Asia, we have to remember that the continent also includes the second biggest movie industry on earth, and whilst I have occasionally dabbled, I really have been somewhat remiss in covering films from India (I think 3 have made it over the years). So I take up the invite gladly as ever, and welcome Miyu back (her comments are in Italic Purple, because that’s just how I imagine her talking). Oh, and don’t forget, you can see her review by clicking here, with my comments. But let’s hope on the DVD plane, and take that trip to India!
Hehehe… a much more consice and condensed synopsis than mine…. But yep, that pretty much spells things out. The main difference in Hindi storytelling compaired to Western stuff is their obsession with taking a simple straightforward story and cramming as many extra side plots into it as they can. I can tell you, this one is actually fairly “stripped down” by Hindi film standards, even so the extra musical nimbers pad out the running time by nearly 30 minutes or more. I’ve always felt that if more efforts were made to tighten up scripts and reduce the “clutter”, the Hindi film would find much more acceptance world wide than it does. But then again, they would probaby lose much of their quirky charm and character in the process…
I am going to make the assumption this is meant to be a comedy as well as an adventure film. And to be honest, whilst it might be rather ropey in terms of story and acting and special effect, I can’t deny it is quite a fun little romp. Vivek Oberoi is clearly mugging to the camera most of the time, but he does have a charming twinkle to his performance which means you do forgive the film a lot. Which is lucky, because Sunny Deol seems to be here under some kind of duress, he seems to not quite be sure whether he wants to be in this movie or not. I have zero idea what Sameera Reddy brings to the film though. She’s a pretty girl (and refreshingly NOT stick thin), and I can see why they want to have some kind of romantic subplot.. but honestly? I cannot fathom how on earth she even got to the point where she met our male leads in the middle of nowhere. It involves white water rafting in her best going out clubbing clothes. Best not to dwell. It hardly matters. She hangs around to swing her hips in one of the song and dance numbers, and has the good grace to not get involved when the real battle starts. Think of her as the exact opposite of Marion Ravenwood!
Oh yes…. Hindi stories are like that. They don’t easily fit into any single genre and often mix the comedy elements with some melodrama and action… or even horror. Hmmmmm? Can’t say I really warmed to Vivek Oberoi as much as you did. That first scene at the bachelor party really annoyed me and gave him a mindless “frat boy” feeling that stuck with me for the rest of the film. I realize they were probably trying to make him that “lovable rogue” character, but overplaying it kind of ruined it for me.
I actually rather liked Jackie Shroff’s performance as our baddie, he was not just having a bit of scenery chewing fun,but the guy looked genuinely world weary after spending his life looking for the mystery artifacts.
As I said, the visual side of the film is a little ropey, but that’s ok. If I can accept and enjoy a movie that is equally restricted by budget and style as say Jackie Chan’s “City Hunter”, there’s no reason to be harsh on “Naksha” for the same reasons. The punching and kicking is all reasonable enough, and we have some explosions, and actually quite a fun sequence on the water. Best of all is a delightful animated sequence that tries to explain the provenance of the mysterious artefacts that everyone is looking for.
Ah! The song and dance numbers. I am really not a guy that enjoys musicals or musical numbers in movies (there are exceptions, but on the whole? Not really my thing). Luckily (?) there are only four in the film, and actually they aren’t too bad. Though the first one confuses me – I understand it is used to introduce Vicky and his personality, but it also tricks us into attempting to know a bunch of other people who never appear again in the film! In fact, none of the musical interludes really inform the film in terms of story or character. But it’s what Indian films like to do, and as I say, there are far worse things going on. I might even admit to a little foot tapping!
The music can be catchy, can’t it? The pygmies… For me they were just really strange. I’m wondering if they were suppossed to be one of those mythical peoples from the legeds of the Himmapan? I didn’t find them particularly offensive, but then years and years of vintage “Tarzan” and “Sheena” films have those stock sterotypes firmly imbedded in my mind as just part of the genre.
We also had one of the clumsiest product placements I have seen for a long time with an extended and irrelevant advert for Western Union, but again, that’s something we are all used to now. Proper international film star Anil Kapoor also gives us huge pieces of narration to explain the backstory. And these two things pretty much sum up what I didn’t like about the film. The first half particularly is just so stodgy. It takes an age to set everything up, and explain to us what is going on. And then we spend ages with the Pygmy’s.
Yep…. that’s often the feeling you get watching one of these until you’ve seen enough of them to get used to the looooong runtimes that Hindi films have. If it makes you feel better, that eventually gets easier the more of them you watch. I should look into my collection and suggest a few that are actually easier to watch.
However, after that? Things do rather speed up, and I actually found myself enjoying the film. It’s no award winner, and it’s got huge issues with how it represents gender and disability. But it is a fun little romp. I really did enjoy the animated sequence a lot, and whilst Oberoi might not be my ideal hero, but he has got charm and charisma. It’s not art, it’s far too long, but you know what? I kinda enjoyed myself.
Next time though? I am choosing 😉
***The DVD blurb says step-brother, but that doesn’t make much sense in terms of the story. In fact the DVD blurb and the subtitles are occasionally somewhat at odds with what I watched. But that’s not unusual for us fans of Asian cinema! Though it has given me a new favourite subtitle gaffe – very early on Vicky starts a rendition of “Sway”, and rather than “when the marimba rhythm starts to play..” we get “when the rubber rhythm starts to play..”