Deepa Mehta’s “Bollywood/Hollywood” is so obviously a parody of Hollywood romantic comedies and Bollywood melodrama that once you realize this, everything else is irrelevant. Like the South Korean movie “Resurrection of the Little Match Girl”, “Bollywood/Hollywood” loses its charm as soon as you realize what the purpose of the movie is. Beyond this great “insight” (yes, I am being sarcastic), you can only hope for a couple of chuckles to tie you over to the inevitable ending. (And even if the film admits the inevitable ending is inevitable on purpose, the result is still the same — a big, “Eh, whatever.”)
Here’s the basic rundown of “Bollywood”: Indian family member Rahul (Rahul Khanna) is ordered by his highly traditional family to marry. Since the family dismisses Rahul’s first choice, a white girl who the sassy grandmother calls a “big white whore” (or something to that affect), Rahul goes in search of an Indian girl to make the family happy. He encounters Sue (Lisa Ray) in a bar; convinced that she has the skills to fool his family despite the fact that she’s not really Indian (or so he thinks — she is, in fact, really Indian), Rahul hires Sue to be his fake fianc’e to get the family off his back. Not surprisingly, rich boy Rahul ends up in love with poor girl Sue, and the rest is easily forgettable. Gee, didn’t see that coming.
“Bollywood” offers so many winks and nods at the audience that you would have to be incredibly dense not to know that this is nothing more than a parody of Hollywood romantic comedies and Bollywood melodrama. There are the requisite dance and song numbers, which are strangely muted in volume. Like the disastrous “The Guru”, “Bollywood” attempts to re-invent culture shock by having yuppie white people get involve in the whole dance and sing numbers. Forgive me for saying so (and I never thought I’d say this), but “The Guru” did it better.
As is the case with all Ethnic Movies, the leading man is not so enthralled with his ethnicity’s insanely closeted customs and traditions, but by movie’s end will learn to embrace them fully. Which leads me to this observation: If the West offers up so much corrupting influences that it causes these Indian families so much emotional distress (as “American Desi”, “Bend it Like Beckham”, and now “Bollywood” seems to attest to), why are they here in the first place? I guess hypocrisy doesn’t stop at the ethnicity border.
Of course all of the above can be cast aside in the name of parody, although I do wish “Bollywood” had offered up a stronger cast and screenplay. Lead Rahul Khanna is a lump of uninteresting rock, and while Lisa Ray is as hot as they come, her dialogue delivery is atrocious. In fact, much of the movie’s direction is atrocious. Director Deepa Mehta shows almost no skill with the actors, or how else do you explain all the potentially funny lines that are completely ruined by awkward pauses? It’s like the actors are waiting for the laugh track to kick in right after they say their jokes, only none is coming.
I am told that director Deepa Mehta is known for dramatic movies about her native India. Maybe this explains her ineptness with what are supposed to be funny dialogue and situations. The screenplay, although quite clunky in spots, still showcases a variety of inside jokes about Bollywood, Indian life, and insights into the foolishness of what it means to “be Indian”. Then again, maybe I’m missing the point of what “Bollywood/Hollywood” was trying to accomplish, but somehow I doubt it. Even so, I’m surprised by how static “Bollywood” looks. The movie has almost no energy, and for some reason Mehta throws in a couple of scene transitions that features flaring effects.
The film has some laughs, but for the most part it’s not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. I like parodies of established genres, but if a genre has become so stale and predictable that it warrants parodies of its conventions, and you make a movie that really offers nothing new except a wink here and there, then I have to ask: what is the point?
Deepa Mehta (director) / Deepa Mehta (screenplay)
CAST: Rahul Khanna …. Rahul Seth
Lisa Ray …. Sue
Rishma Malik …. Twinky
Jazz Mann …. Bobby
Moushumi Chatterjee …. Mummy ji
Dina Pathak …. Grandma ji