Apart from the songs, of course, all of which are fantastic to watch (even when they're a little bit dumb, like "Ticket to Hollywood"). I got a little tired of the repeats of the title theme with Amitabh (Bulla Man, is that what Rikki calls him?) in the train station, but during the end credits, when the whole soundtrack was woven together, all repetition was forgiven.
Anyway. The little things. Things like watching all the interestingly-dressed backup dancers in the streets of Paris, Rikki teaching his French chef chum to swear in Hindi, Alvira pausing her narrative as she walks through Steve's office to turn to us and tell us her worries directly. Oh, and my favorite: Alvira jumping around with delight when Steve first calls her, then falling over, hitting her head on some of his flowers, and actually huritng her foot - and then we cut to Rikki laughing and laughing, pointing at her saying "You lied!" and her admitting it, grinning.
But when they got up from the café table - leaving the setting that made their lies seem necessary, abandoning their stories and opening themselves up - ah, how cute they and the movie became. I didn't mind their scheming after that because they were so adorable and they finished their charades pretty quickly.
The other thing I really liked about this movie is how, at least according to the subtitles, there was acknowledgment that young adults can have relationships, kiss, and have sex - and they can even have fun talking about those things! - and not be bad, tacky, or immoral people. Everything sounded fresh to me - but I'm getting that from the subtitles, and I'd be interested to know if that flavor in the Hindi. And how much does that relate to them living in London, I wonder? It was almost as though some classy high school students wrote it - most of the time they handled sex with a "let's not make a big deal of this" touch (did you notice how all four leads get to kiss not only their real-life love but their fake-pretend partners too?), they also couldn't resist having a tacky-looking prostitute who swears or having a girl dream up her Prince Charming and then melt into his arms when she finds herself in a filmi savior scenario. And think about the older generation of relatives: they basically weren't there. No overbearing fathers or weeping mothers. There's hardly a mention of family, except for mama's-boy Satvinder, and then it's a joke. The plot may be standardly filmi, but it felt both light and relatively relatable in some of its outward features. Obviously I don't have many problems with filminess, and I don't think realism (what's the right word here...relatability? "Closer to my world than Hindi films tend to be"? You know what I mean) is something every movie needs to have or that its presence is automatically a virtue. But whatever you call the tone of this movie, it worked for me. We got imaginary sequences, great songs, fun costumes and sets, and a sweet romance, but with no tiresome bits like contortions to set up obstacles just to overcome them a few scenes later. It's not the best thing I've ever seen Abhishek or Preity do, but to me it felt like a successful experiment at a spin on the typical style: a lean, mean Bolly machine. (Okay, it's not mean. It's cute and affectionate. But those don't rhyme.)
I should also add that had I known when I watched that this was by the director of Bunty aur Babli, another of my very most favorites, I would have been seriously disappointed. First of all, Preity is no Rani, and neither Alvira nor Rikki is anywhere near as interesting, compelling, or lovable as Vimmi or Rakesh. As with Om Shanti Om, it's not that the subsequent effort was so bad but that the earlier one were so good. Oh goody, now I'm even less excited about Jodhaa Akbar.
As usual, I saw some other things I want to share but can't work into the flow of the rest of what I wanted to say, so here's the house special: a Beth Loves Bollywood List of Stuff Beth Noticed - now with commentary!
- "Late but still too soon, isn't it?" This wonderful line - as the Birmingham train arrives, drawing Alvira and Rikki out of their magical first meeting into the real world - so captured for me the feeling of not wanting time with someone to end. It can be so hard to say "I am not ready to leave," but we can feel it so strongly. Sigh.
- I adored how the passers by at Waterloo Station danced with Amitabh. They looked like they were having such fun. There's a great little moment when, in one of his "Oh Rabba!" lines, a guy in a suit joins in the hand gestures (you see him here on the right in the periwinkle tie)
and then Amitabh notices and looks surprised and annoyed that someone is stealing his dramatic thunder.
- There are nods to and awareness of movies throughout, I'm sure I didn't catch them all (particularly the music that plays in the background in Southall whenever Rikki and Huffy are plotting): the across-the-street neighbor looking at Preity through a telescope
echoes Jaan-e-Mann, Rikki does a "Kajra Re" dance move
while mugging for the camera in "Ticket to Hollywood," and Huffy sits outside a theater playing Don (you can see its poster behind his head) and another Indian film in a language I can't recognize.
- The heavy-handed Sholay reference is belabored. Why are they in a motorcycle with a sidecar? Why are they wearing bobby (not the Deol kind) helmets? Ditto Rikki saying "Our Bachchan" when listening off Indians in Madame Tussaud's. Har har. That would have worked better if our Bachchan hadn't been lumbering around in eyeliner with a two-necked guitar. But I digress.
- Stop the presses. A gay man in a Hindi film who is not a ridiculous flaming stereotype.
He's just a person! He happens to like men, but that's all there is to it. Finally. To be honest, I think this is one of the facets that really made the movie feel different from other meet cute/wacky scheme romances.
- And speaking of gay best friends, here's Ameet Chana from Bend It Like Beckham. Yay!
- "Bol Na Halke Halke"'s imagined sequence of Alvira and Rikki meeting and falling in love in India was adorable and beautiful and made me squeak "Cute! Cuuuuute!"
- A real museum!
Yeah yeah, they don't go in or anything, but still. And check out the backup dancers: I see a butcher in an apron (somewhere else in the song there's a guy with a cleaver) and a guy wearing a pink beret and scarf. Okay, what we avoid in gay stereotyping we make up for in French....
- Haters may disagree, but I lurve Abhishek's hair like this.
It's kinda stupid, but he rocks it.