Namastey London

Why do they spell Namaste that way? This film opened last weekend in London and my curiosity could not be contained. A spate of Indian-theme cinema releases are gracing the silver screens this month; notably Shakalalaka Boom Boom (silly name, with equally silly title song) and The Namesake (which I would rather not go see since I love the book too much) and Provoked (which stars Aishwarya Rai meaning I will see it when it opens next week). So Namastey (sic) London it was.

Rubbish story. B-movie acting. Great cinematography of London and Punjab.
(Watched at Cineworld Staples Corner, NW London)

The caption above tries to summarise my thoughts about this film. I cannot understate how rubbish the plot was. And how badly acted it was. Even though I psyched myself up for a cringeworthy comedy, I couldn’t help but feel waves of cringe sitting there in in the cinema hall. Luckily there were only a handful of other people in the theatre at the time given it was the first (late morning) showing on a Sunday, so cringing could be done in relative privacy. There are precious few aspects to this film that made it worth spending the time and money:

The actors: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Rishi Kapoor, Upen Patel and Parvez Khan are the main billing, and they make for an interesting combination. Interesting because Katrina Kaif and Upen Patel (who play the parts of two British Asian twenty-somethings) were both raised in London and would represent a great start in the credibility stakes for a film with a story like this (British Indian girl marries a Punjabi boy from India). Interesting also because Rishi Kapoor and Parvez Khan, both very well established actors from India and Pakistan respectively, play the fathers of the former two youngsters. So you can bet that there’s going to be some politically-correct Indo-Pak thing going on in this film. And, of course, there’s Akshay Kumar, who plays the Punjabi boy. The combination works very well in my opinion; there’s plenty that will work for everybody, of every age, gender and affiliation. Even though the acting is apalling, the overt comedic-kitschness of it all is overcome by the actor/actress combination.

The setting: London of course! Most of the backdrop to the film is London, and I have to say that the cinematography is incredibly sumptious, beautiful and stunning. Londoners will not fail to recognise the locations, and the film really does us proud. Top marks to whoever chose the locations for the shooting, which include, a trendy bar in King’s Road, the London Eye, a boat on the Thames amongst many others. Although I have to say that if the storyline to this film was a little more serious I would probably expect filming to capture aspects of real London rather than touristy London. By the way, the filiming in Punjab was also excellent, and full of eye-catching colour.

The music: by Himesh Rashammiya. This guy seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. The soundtrack is classic Rashammiya, and is most definitely not your typical mega-hit Bollywood formula. The music works very well throughout the whole film and does not explode garishly in song and dance sequences. I would say that there are very few Indian films where the music/dance interludes are not laughable, and this is probably one of them.

So, despite the fact that the British “gora” roles in the story were portrayed rather moronically, that the film was full of overt India-Pakistan political correctness, the Lagaan-style “we are better than the British” India-rising speeches and rugby match, that the acting was awful and and story was crap, the redeeming qualities of the film kind of compensated for them a little. Not a film for a fun-night out. I’d wait for the DVD. Although the London imagery probably works much better on the big screen.

I’ll finish this review with one thing that I think was the absolute highlight of the whole film: there is a scene in the middle of the film where the family are sat around the kitchen table eating. I’m not sure what the director had planned here because it seems the most natural and unacted part of the entire film. It’s full of spontaneous laughing and I’m convinced it was probably going to be treated as an outtake, but it’s in there and it’s absolutely brilliant.

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