Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kites Review - Go See It Already!

I'm going to be honest with you - before I went to the screening of Kites, I was not excited for the film. I was sick of the gossip of Hrithik and Barbara Mori's alleged affair, burned out on the high pitched promotional campaign, and turned off by all the talk of how the film was supposed to be 'honest' and 'real.' So, believe me when I tell you to forget all of that as you enter the theater because Kites is exactly what you would expect the product of a mind meld between Rakesh Roshan and Anurag Basu to look like. In a word - amazing. In two words - paisa vasool.

Kites borrows the loopy timeline of Gangster: A Love Story which means we begin the film with a ravaged and scruffy J (Hrithik Roshan) wandering the foothills of Mexico before then quickly shifting 3 months into the past to meet up with J in Las Vegas, where he is a salsa instructor. J has no family ties and only a faint moral compass, personality traits tempered by his huge thirst for money. These factors lead him to the daughter (Kangana Ranaut) of the biggest casino boss in town (Kabir Bedi). It's when J goes out to their palatial mansion that he meets his fateful love Linda (Barbara Mori) and things quickly unravel from there.

The heart of the story is the love story between J and Linda but that doesn't mean that
Kites is a soppy meet-cute romance or a melodramatic star-crossed lovers romance. If there was one thing that Anurag Basu and Hrithik Roshan were correct about when talking about how real Kites is, it's the emotional growth of the characters. Throughout the film, we see J and Linda go from sharing an attraction and a wishful dream to actually being in love. This subtlety in romantic relationships is almost non-existent in popular film and it really added a lot to the narrative.

Another very nice touch in the story was the balance of power between J and Linda - it was equal. The very feminist friend I saw the film with said to me afterwards that at first she was concerned that J was always going to be rescuing Linda but she swiftly became aware that the narrative sets up scenes that you
think will resolve one way only to have Linda turn the tables and assert herself as a character. There are no damsels in distress here. Even Kangana's spoiled princess character gets a few human moments.

While the romance is the main focus of the film, as in any good Bollywood film, there are heaping doses of comedy, action, violence, and family values and Anurag Basu includes some scenes of gleeful campiness, like an old-fashioned Western saloon shoot-out. And the nod to the classic Western film is no accident as
Kites itself is a nod toward Americana good and bad - from the Las Vegas setting to the play on the American fear of illegal immigration.

There are songs but they are all montaged instead of picturized, with the exception of a 'dance competition' number that may be one of the best dances I've ever seen from Hrithik. Despite my severe misgivings about Hrithik's "Kites in the Sky," the song itself is expertly placed in the film and works surprisingly well - touching rather than embarrassingly saccharine.

The performances were uniformly excellent. I've already touched on Hrithik but he gives a magnificent performance throughout the film. There is only one way to play a Bollywood hero - 100% earnestly - and that is something Hrithik knows how to do. He commands the screen, daring you to remove your eyes from him for a second.

It would take a strong heroine to stand up to all that star wattage and, thankfully, Barbara Mori is up to the task. Like I said, I was very tired of the press scrutiny of Barbara and all the praise being lobbed her way by the
Kites team and was expecting to be underwhelmed. I assumed she was just a pretty face and I assumed wrong (mostly making an ass of 'me,' as the saying goes). There is a moment early on when Linda is greeting her finance (Nicholas Brown) that sold me. Linda smiles at him and gives a little crinkle of her eyes - something so natural that it seems unremarkable but the camera catches it and I just got this sense of Linda as a real person, not just a Mexican Barbie doll. Barbara Mori really does a fantastic job.

As for the supporting cast, Kangana does a version of her disturbed girl persona and, like always, I wanted to dive into the screen and give her hug, pet her hair, and tell her everything would be okay. Nicholas Brown is hot in that way specific to Bollywood villains and Kabir Bedi gives good casino owner.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and would jump at the chance to see it again. I honestly think it has real potential to cross-over to the international market but even if it doesn't, the merger of Anurag Basu's melodramatic indie style with Rakesh Roshan's bombastic populism is really refreshing and I would love to see more films made like this - films which, like
Ishqiya, manage to capture the masala dil in a package that will appeal to wider audience.

How could
Kites not be Bollywood when it includes the following things:

1. Product placement for Coca-Cola.
2. A dance competition.
3. An adulterous affair that's not really because the two involved are already married... to each other.
4. Copious amounts of non-ironic posing and shots of Hrithik Roshan's chest.

You will find all of this and more within
Kites. Do not pay any mind to the talking point that Kites isn't Bollywood - because it is. Gleefully so.

But that is just the perspective of a Bollywood fan. I mentioned the friend I saw the film with earlier in the review and I think it is worth getting her take on
Kites, since she is not a Bollywood fan - precisely the audience that Rakesh Roshan would like to capture. I quizzed her thoroughly on her opinions and here is the result (we saw the "Hindi" version, not the Brett Ratner version). She liked the film a lot but found it a bit long at just over two hours, especially towards the end. She found a few things a little over-the-top in a humorous way, which were not intended to be humorous but not so much that it ruined the flow of the film. She thought the songs flowed naturally in the story but that the style of music was not to her liking, although she did like the background score.

I have to admit that she did a double-take when I told her that the people making the film had been going around saying how 'real' and 'honest' it was because for viewers used to Hollywood, even Bollywood realism is over-the-top.

And I'll end with a rhetorical question she posed to me via e-mail the next day, "Why can't I stop thinking about Hrithik?"

That is a something we Bollywood fans have been living with since he debuted in
Kaho Na Pyaar Hai - now, the rest of the world can appreciate his enormous talent, too.


Ness said...

increasingly psyched for this! I am so ready for a full entertainer and A DANCE COMPETITION. Oh yes.

KeepingItSimple said...

Hey Seems Like a Pucca Bollywood Movie !!! Thank you for the early review.

Hope to catch it up this weekend !!!

dishoomdishoom said...

FilmiGirl jee, you just convinced me to spend my hard-saved money. "kites... in the sky" *cringes*

honeycombveils said...

I can't wait now..

Filmi Girl said...

@Ness You will love it!! The dance is amazing! I kept wishing I could rewind and watch again, like I do at home. ;P

@Keepingitsimple You are welcome! I hope everyone likes it as much as I did!

@dishoom Hopefully you'll be as surprised at "Kites in the Sky" as I was - it actually works in context of the film.

@honeycombveils IT'S SO GOOD!

memsaabstory said...

You forgot the Calvin Klein product placement (just below Hrithik's abs, above...ahem.) :)

I'm not the Hrithik fan that you are, but I was blown away by him in this. Love it and am happy to see that clued-in American critics like it too. It will def. be on my DVD shelf when it comes out! (the Hindi version)

Darshit said...

I too am sold over glowing beauty Barbara. Loved their chemistry in the song 'dil kyon yeh mera'

Feminist Review said...

We would love to cross-post your review. If you would like to give us permission, please email

ritesh said...

it is totally a rubbish movie.. don't know if u Hrithiks Fan or u have got some money to promote this hopeless movie.. I am a huge fan of Hrithik but here i am very much disappointed by this movie and upto some extend by his performance too.. Barbaa is totally overhyped and looks mature then Hrithik.. And thr is no enotion, no pace... nothing in the movie... Truely speaking.. It was hard for me to bear the ful movie.. somehow i just managed to see it fully :(

Filmi Girl said...

@ritesh I did not get any money to promote this and while I am a fan of Hrithik, I like to think that I am objective and am not afraid to critique films if I think they are not up to standard.

honeycombveils said...


Saw it.
LOVED it. LOVE him. The movie was fun, engaging and completely entertaining from top to bottom. We can debate Hrithik's acting abilities till the cows come home, but the fact is that he has that enviable, impossible-to-acquire gift which is a star presence on screen. Whatever he does or doesn't do, the eye reverts to him, and it's not just his devastatingly good looks. When he's gone from the scene, the movie dips and it goes right up again when he's on.
He really has pixie dust all over him.

Filmi Girl said...

@honeycombveils I'm so glad!!! I think Hrithik did himself a real disservice by trying to say that he is not a star in the film because he totally is! And it's magnificent!

I wanted to write something on how Kites is almost an extension of his Zafar Khan character in Luck By Chance but it ended up be way too pretentious sounding... :D

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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