Cross cultural problems are inherently rife with humor – unless you happen to be caught in the middle

BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD

An Illusion review by Joan Ellis


            The extraordinarily active film industry of Bombay, now known as Bollywood, has stirred the film world with some notable movies.  Watching the newly released “Bollywood/Hollywood,” we come perilously close to muttering the old cliché, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.”

That’s a comment not nearly as mean as it sounds in light of Bollywood’s own delight in stringing clichés together.  Their movies are good humored, light, and punctuated by song and dance numbers simply dropped into the script for no reason whatsoever –like Carmen Miranda suddenly stepping into the spotlight of a ‘40s musical with “Yes, We’ve Got No Bananas.”

Bombay is making good use of a theme much in vogue since the day the world collectively proclaimed itself a global village.  Cross cultural problems are inherently rife with humor – unless you happen to be caught in the middle of one – and the one giving the most mileage to film makers now is the parent/child conflict.  Most of these movies have as their central theme the struggle of acclimatized children (of whatever age) trying to drag their parents from their old world to the new one they have chosen but don’t understand.

 In Bollywood movies, a mother is usually in some sort of state of cross-cultural anguish that draws out into melodrama as her wishes are thwarted.  In this case, Mrs. Seth (Moushmmi Chatterjee) orders her son Rahul (Rahul Khanna) to acquire a proper Indian fiancé before his sister’s wedding.  If he doesn’t she will cancel the wedding.  Rahul, in no hurry to marry, hires a girl in a bar to act as his fiancé (Lisa Ray as Sue).  The masquerade produces a string of mishaps before ending with a smile.  The film is diminished by some very stiff actors, and the worst imaginable case of flubbed dubbing, notwithstanding a Shakespeare quoting grandmother (Dina Pathak) who wrings good laughs from her lines.    

The wildly rich Seth family lives in Toronto in a compound that insulates them from the new culture knocking at the door – until Rahul and his sister bring their romances home to meet the family.  Rahul Khanna and Lisa Ray do a good job of transcending the bad dubbing and awkward lines.  In spite of the flaws, we root for them.  As Rahul, self-designated techno-geek with the soul of a poet, and Sue, the master of multiple identities, they are appealing performers. 

The luxury of the family’s wealth is a feast for the eye.  The textures and colors of the Indian clothes and furnishings are brilliant and rich.  It’s always good fun to watch how people spend it when they’ve got it.  How can you stay irritated at a movie that bursts into irrelevant song practically in mid-sentence and runs funny quote lines at the bottom of the picture?  Still, it’s time for Bollywood to add something new to its theme.  We have seen enough parents dragged kicking and screaming into the new world.


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