Friday, March 4, 2011

Kambakkht Ishq: Once upon a time in La-La Land!

Before the Oscars, I heard a reviewer on NPR say that there were better films out in 2010 but
The King’s Speech will probably win the Oscar because it’s always enjoyable to watch two talented actors play off of each other. While the dialogues in Kambakkht Ishq are nowhere near the quality of The King’s Speech, that review swam back into my mind while watching the film because the real fun in KI is watching two talented filmi actors (Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar) play off of each other. Despite having “ishq” in the title, in a lot of ways, KI is closer in style to a bromance than it is to a more romantic film - it’s Muhjse Shaadi Karogi without the comedic deadweight of Priyanka Chopa; Partner without Katrina and Lara...

Set in the fantasy La-La Land of such esteemed American cultural products as
Beverly Hills 90210, Kambakkht Ishq is the story of a Hollywood stuntman named Viraj (Akshay Kumar) and a high-fashion model/medical student named Simrita (Kareena Kapoor.) Viraj loves sexing up women but thinks love, commitment, and marriage are for suckers. Simrita is convinced all men are exactly like Viraj and rebuffs any male interest. The two end up thrown together when Viraj’s best friend (Aftab Shivdasani) and Simrita’s best friend (Amrita Arora) end up falling in love and getting married - much to the chagrin of Viraj and Simrita, who immediately try to put a stop to it. Will Viraj and Simrita succeed?! Will they end up falling in love... with each other?! (Um... have you seen movies before?)

(Yes, Bebo, tell us! Inquiring minds want to know...)

The plot is delightfully unrealistic and packed full of meta-narrative humor. Viraj, the womanizer, and Simrita, the cold-hearted bitch, are essentially caricatures of Akshay and Kareena’s off-screen personas. Viraj only becomes able to fall in love
after a heart-shaped watch that regularly plays wedding prayers is literally embedded inside his chest. Simrita is nicknamed Bebo (Kareena’s real life nickname) and sings a song about it. Clearly, this isn’t going to be a epically romantic film.

It’s a real shame that Bebo won the Golden Kela award for Worst Actress of 2009 for this film (a year that included Deepika biffing it in
Love Aaj Kal and an extremely dull debut from Shruti Hasaan in Luck) because I feel like it’s a fine piece of filmi acting, the kind that never gets rewarded at awards shows. If Bebo was a man, she’d be giving the Khans a run for their money. She nails all the laugh lines; works the physical humor; stirs up chemistry; and is convincingly melodramatic when necessary.

Bebo’s main task, however, is standing up to the force of nature that is the
khiladi. Akshay is so confrontational in the role that a lesser actress would have wilted under the pressure; she was like Buffy taking on a pile of vampires. There was one scene in particular - the picturization for the song “Lakh Lakh” that could not have worked with any other actress. Akshay and a bunch of male dancers eve-tease Bebo all around Venice, yet because of Bebo’s strong persona, I never once felt that she was in physical danger. She just hits Akshay in the face with her purse and goes about her business. Where is the bad acting in that?

(See for yourself - and Bebo appreciaters should note that she is not wearing a bra during that last bit where she runs in slow motion.)

(Akshay also removes his shirt for no reason, if that's your thing...)

If I remember correctly -
and I do - reviewers were really harsh on Kambakkht Ishq for both being crude and for being sexist. Both things are true but I would stress that Kambakkht Ishq isn’t really any cruder in its humor than something like Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and it was a lot less sexist than your typical mainstream Bollywood film thanks to Bebo’s nimble performance. The film opened great and did well enough at the box office but it lingers on in the Bollywood media memory as a bomb!

The only reason I can think of for this strong negative reaction to the film from critics is the Hollywood setting. Trust me when I say that I've read my share of articles from the Bollywood media praising Hollywood and its "realistic" films to the high heavens.
KI may have been set in California but its heart was 100% masala. There was absolutely nothing borrowed from Hollywood - except some D-list talent in the form of Denise Richards, who actually performed her role fairly well. On top of that, there is a certain very loud segment of Bollywood that wants everything has to be 'just like Hollywood' - scripts, special effects, acting... I think they didn't like the reminder that Hollywood is at its core just as ridiculous as Bollywood. Sure, Hollywood puts out the occasional amazing film - but it also puts out dreck like Transformers, which was the Hollywood that Kambakkht Ishq was conjuring up.

I think you should ignore that negative buzz from crabby reviewers who want every film to be just like
American Beauty and take the film on its own terms - a ridiculous and highly entertaining romp through fantasy land.

(You wouldn't want to disappoint Akki by not viewing it, right? Look at that face!)

“Bebo main Bebo... dil mera leloooo!”


Ness said...

I LOVE this film. So much I had to buy a new copy when my first dvd got wrecked. Akki and Bebo own it - yes, there are some...questionable parts, but it's SO entertaining.

Bombay Talkies said...

Bebo looks like Jafar in that pic. You know the one I'm talking about. The one where she looks like Jafar.

Louella said...

I don't understand why people hated this one. It's not an art cinema, it's a shallow entertainer and I really pity those ppl xD I love that movie!

larissa said...

I thought this movie was two hours of vulgarity, misogyny, tastelessness, and people being mean to each other. Akshay and Kareena deserved to be in a much better movie than this was.

Magpie Ima said...

One of the very few Bollywood movies I couldn't finish. That's saying something.

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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