I'm not real big on Bollywood, in large part because I'm not a fan of the musical. I'm just not enamored with narrative told through song. I've tried, believe me, bit it is just an aspect of cinema that just doesn't suit me. But, I am in love with how over the history of Bollywood cinema, they still keep making musicals, how unwavering the public is in their desire for every film genre to have some song and dance. I'd also count myself as a fan of Amitabh Bachchan (aka. Big B), a huge Bollywood star in the 70's and 80's, I really like his action, tough guy films like Don. Every time TCM runs a monthly marathon of Bollywood films, I make sure to check them out. Unlike most of the films I review, I'm not a fan or self-styled expert of this particular genre of films. So, this review is a more outsiders view.
Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya aka. Picture Perfect (2000) is a Bollywood remake of the Jennifer Aniston 1997 romantic comedy of the same title. Being a cynical bastard with a taste for dark and/or abstract comedy, I avoid romantic comedies and almost any film with a Friend like the plague. So, the story was all new to me, but it was pretty easy to imagine how the film played originally and the cultural alterations the Bollywood folks used.
Poojah (Kirti Reddy) is a modern Bombay gal who works for an advertising agency. Her work life is a bit scattershot. Tardiness is a problem as well as credit for her ideas. Recognizing Poojah more for her lateness than her inspiration, her boss begrudgingly throws a three day weekend at her so she can attend a friends wedding. She goes to Agra for the wedding and literally catches the eye of the wedding photographer, Kabir (Aboshek Bachchan). Kabir is a bit of a local hero, a confident ladies man and scrapper, but despite his attempts to woo Poojah, her mind is only on work and her ideal man a more polished, wealthy sort than the country bred Kabir.
Leaving the lovelorn Kabir back in Agra, Poojah goes back to Bombay a whole day late. Her boss promptly decides to fire her, but Poojah is bailed out by her assistant Maggi, who, thanks to some playful photos of Poojah in the bridal chair, concocts a lie about Poojah having gotten engaged over the weekend.
Things complicate further when Poojah meets her boss' son, Raj, a slick dude with Armani suits and a Mercedes. Raj meets Poojah dream image of the perfect man. Kabir also makes the trek to Bombay in order to profess his love to Poojah and ends up running smack dab into her boss. So, this sets up our little romantic triangle. Kabir has to pretend to by Poojah's fiancee so her boss wont catch onto the lie. Kabir goes along with the ruse, all the while pining for the girl that doesn't want him. They have to figure out a way to make Kabir look bad, publicly, in front of her boss, so that she can break off the engagement and set her sights on Raj. And, of course, we all know Kabir is the right guy for her, and that somehow, by the end, she'll figure this out because that is the way a romantic comedy works.
I had to do some digging for any English language background info on the film. I found less than a handful of news blurbs and one review. The film did okay business in Bollywood but it wasnt exactly a breakthrough or a huge hit. The films leads are relative newcomers. Aboshek Bachchan is indeed the son of my man Big B/Amitabh Bachchan, so he has the unfortunate baggage of having to live up to a superstar father. He's a tall kinda gangly guy. Though his role is that of a stud, he's less macho than his father. He kinda looks like Ray Romano. He was better in the comedic scenes than the ass kicking ones. Kirti Reddy was also a newbie. While looking around, I kept finding the same negative reactions to her, suggesting that the Bollywood audience must have not accepted her as "lead" material, and I have to agree. There just wasn't anything particularly engaging or charming about her. But, hey, doesn't that make sense if she's playing the remake part of a Jennifer Aniston film? Kirti Reddy is pretty, but is not very photogenic. In profile, her jaw looks like you could build a house on it, or a the very least stop flood waters from destroying a small town.
Light comedy. High romance. Some melodrama. But nothing really bold or striking. It is all pretty by the numbers. The bottom line in any romantic film is selling the characters and their connection. In Picture Perfect I didn't buy it. I'm not sure why anyone would fall for Poojah, much less an assured, sensitive, though rough and tumble guy like Kabir. I haven't seen a mismatch this bad since Mallory and Nick on Family Ties. Bottom line, they forgot to add any attractive qualities to the character and Poojah comes off as selfish, superficial, and materialistic. By the end, when Kabir is heartbroken and dealing with his unrequited love, it comes off as groundless and he looks like a stalker obsessed by some intangible we just cannot see.
I don't think it is a great film, by any means, though it does have its moments. Of course, being Bollywood, though it is a sketchy romantic comedy, it still clocks in at a whopping, epic length two hours and thirty-seven minutes, thanks in large part to the eight musical dance numbers sprinkled throughout. One of the things I enjoy about Bollywood films is the randomness. For instance, Kabir has a fight scene thrown in early on, just to establish he's a tough guy, likewise a comedic, rube-in-the-city gag when he comes to Bombay and doesn't understand why the toilet attendant is following him around the bathroom. The same goes for a courting scene between Kabir and Poojah at the wedding. And of course, there is the stereotyped gay assistant, Maggi. It is so un-PC, you gotta, love it. I just wish the romance was believable.
The DVD: Pathfinder.
Picture: Non-anamorphic Letterbox. I'm pretty sure this transfer was taken from an analog source. I played two instances over and over where, what looked to be, tape tracking errors fuzzed across the screen for a split second. The overall details seemed a bit less than refined with slightly bright image, dulled colors, and shallow shadow details. While the transfer was certainly watchable, it wasn't perfect or fit for high end systems.
Sound: 5.1 Surround, Hindi with optional English subtitles. The film, like most Bollywood films I understand, was shot without sound so there is dubbing. So the fx and dialogue do have a rushed tone to their production with stock fx or slightly canned voices. Thankfully, the soundtrack is where the audio really springs to life, and the elaborate musical numbers really show where the majority of the production budget went. The subtitles were okay but lacking in two areas: the font was quite ugly and for some reason only the first few lines of the musical numbers were translated, leaving English-only speakers at a loss.
Extras: Song Selections.
Conclusion: Picture Perfect is far from perfect. This saccharine Bollywood romantic comedy has a few standout moments, gags, and two or three good musical numbers, but the central romance is totally unconvincing. The DVD transfer is a middling, making this flick best reserved as a rental.