In 10 Words or Less
Straddling the line between East and West
Likes: Bollywood musicals, romantic comedies
Fans of Bollywood films have plenty of choices when it comes to new movies to watch, as the Indian musical movie genre pumps out films with the frequency of the porno industry. It seems like no matter how many movies they release though, they can't break through in America, with India's biggest impact so far being minor crossover successes like Bend it Like Beckham, a film that isn't even part of the genre.
Some recent releases have attempted to bring the genre to new viewers, including the recent feel-good Pride & Prejudice. They didn't just translate to English, but stripped out some of the more foreign aspects of the films and cut down the length dramatically. These examples of Bollywood Lite are a decent way for new audiences to dip a toe in the Indian waters.
Bollywood/Hollywood is another attempt, a Canadian production written and directed by indie Indian auteur Deepa Mehta, who, to this point, has been known for personal, controversial films like Fire. Somehow, she decided her follow-up should be a comedy of misunderstanding, in which Rahul, a rich bachelor, hires Sue, a beautiful woman he believes to be a prostitute, to pose as his fiancee, in order to help trick his mother into allowing his sister to get married. As with most stories of this kind, it's hard to not fall in love with your fiancee, fake or not, and the growing feelings between Rahul and Sue complicate their business deal. It's an odd choice of plot for Mehta to be certain, on par with Curtis Hanson's post-Wonder Boys career.
Subtle, this film is not. There's barely a scene that doesn't have a TV nearby playing a Bollywood film scene that corresponds to the scene in this film, so as to serve as a constant reminder of the connection. There are also numerous subtitles throughout the film, indicating what's going on on-screen, acting as a visual guide for the uninitiated, to the hallmarks of Bollywood that are parodied or referenced.
The visuals aren't the only obvious parts of this movie, as most of the characters are one-dimensional, with a massive quirk that is there only to attempt to draw a laugh, like the grandmother's quoting of Shakespeare or Sue's father's love of film. Romantic comedies rarely call upon complex characters to fill screen-time, and this movie is no different, right up to the silly, pointless ending.
Though Mehta has shown herself to be a quality filmmaker, better choices in her crew would have helped. Having a cinematographer and choreographer without any experience in the Bollywood genre robbed the film of some of the energy and look of those movies. When you're attempting to parody or pay homage, you need to get as close to the material as possible, and this film failed to do so on some key points. While trying to do the good things that Bride & Prejudice and My Big, Fat Greek Wedding did, this film came up short.
Despite its shortcomings, the movie is hardly painful to watch, thanks to the entertaining musical numbers and a likeable lead, Lisa Ray, who is in many ways similar to Bollywood giant Aishwarya Rai, right down to the last name. A beautiful, lively girl, she is probably the best actor in the film, a title that won't go on her resume. Her main attribute is her mix of Western and Eastern style, which helps bridge a culture gap in the film.
A single-disc release, Bollywood/Hollwood is packaged in a standard keepcase, with a double-sided insert that lists the chapter stops. The DVD has a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes and set-up the subtitles. The scene-selection menus have still previews and titles for each chapter, while the subtitles are available in English. There are no audio options or closed captioning.
The video is clear, but suffers from a problem more commonly seen in BBC productions, in that the 2.35:1 transfer looks like it has a very light film over it, making the whole production soft and the colors dull. The level of detail is decent, but without real sharpness, making it feel like British TV instead of a feature film. Some edge enhancement is noticeable, along with dirt along the left side of the frame, and the film may be misframed, a possibility made obvious when an on-screen graphic is cut off near the end of the film. Overall, it's not the greatest video quality I've ever seen.
The audio doesn't serve to impress either, with a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 track that sounds very flat, despite the many musical numbers. Most everything is clear and easy to hear, but everything sits front and center, on the same aural plane. There's nothing special to this really.
There's not an extra to be found on this DVD.
The Bottom Line
A Bollywood film tends to be a good time, and Bollywood/Hollywood is no exception to that rule, even if it's not really a part of the genre. But despite the positive vibes, the film is far from perfect, riding good music and a solid lead actress for over 90 minutes, instead of...say...a good script and acting. The DVD neither looks or sounds great, and is entirely barren of any extras. If you're looking for a relatively easy entry point into the genre, this isn't the worst choice, but there are better options out there.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.