Netflix added a bunch of Hindi films to their streaming catalog today, according to Instant Watcher. Most of the titles are old favorites that were temporarily dropped from the service. I’ve reviewed many of the movies, so here’s my ranking of the films just added to Netflix:
When a character chooses to do something he or she wouldn’t normally do, that’s character development. When an outside force makes a character do something he or she wouldn’t normally do, that’s plot-driven development. By confusing the two, Dulha Mil Gaya keeps its two selfish protagonists from becoming the heroes they’re supposed to become.
Dulha Mil Gaya (“I Found a Groom”) is primarily about Shimmer and Donsai, a model and a playboy enjoying the single life in Trinidad. Shimmer (Sushmita Sen) has a wealthy but absent boyfriend she has no intention of marrying. Donsai (Fardeen Khan) is a serial heartbreaker who lives off of his recently-deceased father’s fortune.
Donsai’s lawyer finds a clause in Dad’s will stating that Donsai needs to marry a particular Punjabi girl he’s never met within 15 days or he’ll lose his money.
When Donsai and the lawyer meet the girl in Punjab, she’s shy, conservatively dressed and wearing glasses; there is undoubtedly a makeover scene in her future. The girl, Samarpreet (Ishita Sharma), consents to wed, and she and Donsai get a quickie courtroom marriage. He leaves on a “business trip,” promising to come back for her. He never does.
After three months with no contact, apart from a monthly check in the mail, Samarpreet flies to Trinidad, where she sees Donsai carousing with another woman. Distraught, she runs into Shimmer, who agrees to help, out of a small degree of compassion and a larger desire to cheat Donsai out of his yacht.
The movie proceeds as expected. Samarpreet gets madeover and reborn as Samara, and Donsai pursues her. While Samarpreet is just happy to finally have his attention, I wanted to tear my hair out. Donsai may not know he’s pursuing his wife, but the audience does. So why are we supposed to root for him to get with Samara?
When (spoiler alert) Donsai finally remembers that he ditched a wife in Punjab, it’s only because his butler finds out about it and makes him feel guilty. Donsai doesn’t independently realize that he’s a louse. Even after the predictable “happy ending”, I couldn’t help but feel that Samarpreet got cheated out of a relationship with someone who really loved her.
Shimmer’s love story is just as unsatisfying. Her boyfriend, PRG (played in an extended cameo by Shahrukh Khan), shows up for the last 50 minutes of the movie, announcing his arrival with something like, “Everyone’s been talking about me, and now I’m finally here.” We understand that casting SRK was a stunt; you don’t have to point it out to us.
PRG is a version of his “Shahrukh Khan” character: charming, brave and irresistible. Shimmer puts off committing to him until Samarpreet gives her the stock “It’s time to give up your career and start having babies” speech. As with Donsai, Shimmer wouldn’t have chosen to marry PRG unless someone else told her to.
In addition to the problem of mistaking plot development for character development, Dulha Mil Gaya stereotypes gay men with the character Lotus, Shimmer’s butler. He wears a peach-colored suit and flounces about, exaggeratedly calling everyone “darling.” It’s not until halfway through the movie that he gets to deliver dialog without affectation.
It’s a shame that the only Hindi movie I’ve seen that portrays gays as real people is Dostana, where two straight guys pretend to be gay. They do so by being themselves, but professing to prefer romantic relationships with men rather than women. You know, like real gay people.
Note: Dulha Mil Gaya‘s listed runtime of 1 hr. 48 min. is wrong. It’s more like 2 hrs. 35 min.
In 2008, the Indian film industry proved that it’s still the most reliable source for romantic comedies. International settings made Dostana and Kismat Konnectionstand out from the crowd, while Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi closed the year on a high note.
Taking a slightly more serious tone, U Me Aur Hum effectively combined comedic and dramatic elements in a touching story about love and responsibility.
Beyond the romantic comedy genre, historical epic Jodhaa Akbar featured gorgeous cinematography. Rock On!! took the movie musical format in an exciting new direction. And Black & White thoughtfully addressed the subject of terrorism. I only wish it had been India’s official entry into the Oscar competition for Best Foreign Film, instead of Taare Zameen Par.
But the most accomplished, satisfying and entertaining Hindi-language movie of 2008 was another romantic comedy: Bachna Ae Haseeno. The high quality of the acting, cinematography and story-telling gave the film universal appeal. Actor Ranbir Kapoor redeemed himself after an awkward debut in Saawariya, and Deepika Padukone’s charming performance demonstrated that she might be Bollywood’s best young actress.
A hunky photographer (John Abraham) and a male nurse (Abhishek Bachchan) pretend to be a gay couple in order to share a Miami apartment with a beautiful girl (Priyanka Chopra) they’re both in love with. This comedy of errors isn’t trying to make a political statement, nor does it rely solely on cheap gay jokes to generate laughs. Dostana is a genuinely funny and romantic story about friendship, enhanced by captivating performances from some of Bollywood’s top young actors.
No Rating (language); 145 minutes
This review originally appeared in The Naperville Sun on November 21, 2008