Saturday, July 24, 2010

Khatta Meetha: A Movie From Another Era

Yet again I find myself on the opposite side of the critical divide because I did not think Khatta Meetha was the worst film ever made. Actually, I found it quite charming and endearingly sincere – like a picture of another era, which makes sense since it is a remake of an older film. The slow pacing and dusty scenery may bore people looking for a De Dana Dan but thankfully I was in the mood for something a little more sedate.

The story of
Khatta Meetha is fairly simple. Akshay Kumar plays Sachin Tichkule, a hardworking but hapless builder and Khatta Meetha is his journey from pawn of the system to major player. Directed by Priyadarshan with a light masala touch and starring a veritable who’s who of quality Bollywood character actors (including Rajpal Yadav, Johnny Lever, Aruna Irani, Tinu Anand, Manoj Joshi, Asrani, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, and Markand Deshpande) Khatta Meetha rewards the patient viewer with a film that explores the small aspects and unfairness of everyday life – the everyday tragedies and the everyday comedy and the everyday romance.

Sachin Tichkule is an interesting and unusual character but fits Akshay Kumar’s image perfectly. Akshay is, was, and will always be a man of the people and as Sachin he looks right at home among the working people. He looks natural riding his bike, wearing his low-fashion clothes, and rifling through his pockets for 20 paisa. Sachin is not a bad man but he is an intellectually lazy one and we see him getting pushed about by fate for much of the movie, including a very sad scene involving his sister. We, the audience, sit in anticipation for the Hero to emerge from Sachin.

Akshay’s emotional performances were up to par. Gone is the tired-looking Akshay of
De Dana Dan and Housefull. Here, he looks rested, refreshed, and fully engaged – selling me completely on Sachin’s transformation.

As for the rest of the cast, Trisha performs admirably as the Municipal Commissioner. Her role is actually fairly small but she plays it well. (I honestly don’t know what critics are complaining about in her performance. It’s not her fault her role is small.) The film isn’t a romance and what romance there is, is mostly kept to the song picturizations, which suited me just fine. Rajpal Yadav stood out as Rangeela, Sachin’s right hand man. The two of them were hilarious together and the fact that Akshay does have such great chemistry with comedians like Rajpal Yadav makes me like him that much more. No other Hero really plays off of comedians the way Akshay does. Can you image Saif and Javed Jaffrey sharing screen space for an extended amount of time? Salman? Aamir?

I also want to mention Tinu Anand’s role, which is small but very important. He plays the faithful driver of the Tichkule family. Tinu Anand has that hang-dog face which is just so instantly sympathetic that his fate, which comes early in the film, is really quite shocking and signals that
Khatta Meetha is not going to be a playful romp.

More so than
Billu, Khatta Meetha uses the masala film-making techniques but on a more naturalistic scale. The mix of family melodrama, slapstick, music, politics, wordplay, and romance works exactly like it is supposed to. Just as I would start thinking, “Gosh, I wish there was a song,” up would come a song and just when things would start to get too serious, Johnny Lever would show up. The crowning moment of the film is a big dishoom-dishoom sequence towards the end – it explodes in a shaky-cam, uncoordinated burst of violence. Akshay is very graceful at stunts and here he uses his physical abilities to give us a fight that looks like how people who don’t fight would fight. It’s another unusual choice in an unusual film.

So, do I recommend
Khatta Meetha? Yes, I do, but be warned that there is blood, death, violence against women, and Johnny Lever. While it has comic moments, Khatta Meetha is not a comedy and you will be very disappointed if you go in expecting a Laff Riot. If you go expecting an earnest masala film about a man who learns to take a stand, then you will be rewarded.


Tady Rox! said...

Great review....i can't wait...but I will say that i'm a bit worried with that last warning at the end...hopefully it doesn't offend me as much i think it will...but then again Akshay has done black face on film {KI} being offended by him is not that easy anymore...a each his own...

KJ@SLA said...

Phew! Thanks for the warning about Johnny Lever! I would have just bowled right in there and been horrified! :D

Excellent review, might even give it a go. (@kalikaliankhen)

eliza bennet said...

Am the only one who likes Johnny Lever? I think he is hillarous and he is the one that got the most laughs out of me in De Dhana Dan.

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.

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