All images from the Billu Barber official site.
That's what kind of movie this is. It makes you believe in sweetness and goodness and the beauty that can come if you open your heart.
Just two problems, and then we'll get to the good stuff, of which there is plenty. One, Deepika looked like she was rehearsing, rather than performing, her dance steps in "Love Mera Hit." That whole number was a letdown; SRK could have done much more, Deepika couldn't keep up, and the lyrics were stupid. (Maybe it was supposed to be silly, like "Dard-e-Disco"?) (I should admit I enjoyed the...what do you call them, shiny pleather legwarmer thingies on the otherwise kinda naked backup dancers.) Two, I wish there had been more female characters, especially among the townspeople who have interesting relationships with Billu.
Everything else in the movie was utterly adorable. It fulfilled many of the items on the checklist of A Movie Beth Will Love:
- friendships triumph and are valued
- a community plays a starring role
- stars who can dance get to dance
- stars who maybe cannot dance still get musical numbers
- characters are earnest, nuanced, and allowed to learn, change their minds, and grow; characters seem to understand these things about each other as well (and the one intractable person got what he deserved)
- good things happen when people express themselves
- education is valued
- outrageous moments are recontextualized within an even keel
- movie and movie-making references and in-jokes; fun integration of an actor's real-life persona and biography into his film character; commentary on movie fans and the role of film in culture
- no grating comic relief
- Shahrukh wields a lightsaber
The complex characters were especially appealing and endearing. No one was flat, and everyone wrestled with temptations or fear or worry or other parts of their darker sides.
Despite a superstar in their midst, his presence tempting people to behave badly, the characters and the actors seemed so realistic to me. While realism isn't a required trait in a Bollywood movie, it made these people so empathetic. Despite a superstar in the cast, the telling and emotional impact of the story relied as heavily on everyone else as it did on him. This could have been the Shahrukh/Sahir Khan show, and it wasn't. If anything, it was the Irrfan show - he was brilliant, playing Billu with vulnerability and and humor and affection! Absolutely bang-on! If I needed another reason to seek out all his performances, it was certainly easy to see here. Lara Dutta seemed like a real person, not a caricature! Cute kids who weren't saccharine! Om Puri showed the chinks in the ego of the money-grubbing village thug! Manoj Joshi was so convincingly smug! Rajpal Yadav was so charmingly unaware in his poetic fog!
The idea of Irrfan Khan and Shahrukh Khan together was so attractive, and it totally worked in the few minutes of actual interaction they had. If they'd had more screen time, we could discuss whether they could be the new Shashitabh - that is, a male friendship jodi of magical powers. As is, it's too soon to tell, but I'm having fun thinking about it.
There were many little details I loved as well - as if the overall message and performances weren't enough! - especially in the design of Bindiya and Billu's house and the village streets and shops. That wall of mirrors, for example - and how Billu catches his own reflection in them when he finally submits to everyone's pressure to try to meet Sahir. (Ooh: Sahir acts as a funhouse mirror in the village - in his presence, they come worse versions of themselves. And that would maean that all his shiny clothes had a metaphorical purpose!) (Not that I am complaining about his shiny clothes. I am decidedly pro SRK in shiny clothes - and all the giant flowing trousers he had in the songs.) I loved having a song introduced from a passing bicyclist's radio. I winced when some mentioned "mother's back will be spared" as the screen showed women bent over working in the fields. YRF was included in Sahir's work world as he left the theater viewing the rushes of his film and waved to fans from behind his wall of security. There was a nice nod to masala heritage as the filmmakers discussed adding long-lost brothers and a means of recognizing them. The effect of the little slips of paper fluttering in front of the train of cars as the Sahir arrived in the village was beautiful and so simple (like the movie overall!). I loved Sahir's jacket with "King Khan" in chains on the back, as well as the giant red "King Khan" banners with an icon of his stylized face at his rock concert (a term used very loosely). The whole branding of King Khan managed to poke at both SRK and those of us who have turned him into precisely that, but it did so gently and with empathy. I had a few other things I wanted to share, but I'm nowhere near as skilled at scribbling on my notepad in a darkened theater as Without Giving the Movie Away, and I can't read most of what I wrote. Samples: "SRK as Mshi." "Uinkunguma." "Kidn SRK mash." Sigh.
Icing on the cake: Kareena got the best song, musically and visually! (I could do without the electric guitar solo, but that's usually true.)
"Marjaani Marjaani Kasame" is the latest thing to take over my ipod.
Yummy chocolate shavings on top of the icing on the cake: my very favorite ridiculous publicity image of SRK (fugged here) appeared several times on signs held by the cheering throngs around the film shoot. This movie should get green points for naming Shahrukh's character "Sahir Khan" (and apparently going by "SRK" as well) so they could use actual existing SRK posters and paraphernalia and not have to print up new, fake signs and posters.
And miracle of miracles, the nice man who brings Hindi films to my area said he'll have Delhi 6 next weekend! Even if Abhishek weren't in it, I'd be prepared to love it based on the very cool poster and title text.