No new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area this weekend, but an independent American feature about South Asian couples hits screens on Friday, October 29, 2010. Walkaway is a drama about four male friends in New York struggling to balance the needs of their romantic partners with the wishes of their parents back in India.
There are still plenty of Bollywood movies commanding screenspace in Chicago area theaters this weekend. Jhootha Hi Sahi gets a second week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. Of last weekend’s other new releases, both the Hindi and Telugu versions of Rakht Charitra get another week at the Golf Glen 5, while Hisss does not.
Older releases still in theaters include Aakrosh at the South Barrington 30, Anjaana Anjaani at both South Barrington and the Cantera 30, and Enthiran (aka Robot) at South Barrington, Cantera, Golf Glen, and Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.
First-time screenwriter Pakhi succeeds with Jhootha Hi Sahi, thanks to its instantly likable lead character.
The movie opens with bookish Sid (John Abraham) sleeping peacefully on his couch, as the National Geographic Channel flickers in the background. A stranger calls in the middle of the night, asking Sid to talk him out of committing suicide. Two subsequent suicide calls (Bollywood fans may recognize the celebrity voice cameos) convince Sid that he’s the victim of a prank, but he still talks all three callers out of killing themselves.
In the morning, a counselor for a suicide hotline catering to Indians living in London informs Sid that they mistakenly printed his home phone number on their fliers. He agrees to serve as a temporary counselor, referring callers to the correct number for additional help.
His friends Omar (Raghu Ram) and Amit (Omar Khan), who co-own an Indian bookstore with Sid, are supportive of Sid’s good deed. Sid’s girlfriend, an intense flight attendant named Krutika (Manasi Scott), is not.
Sid becomes heavily invested in his humanitarian duties when a weeping woman calls but refuses to talk. He stays on the phone with her all night so she won’t be alone. She calls back the next day to apologize and opens up to Sid. The woman, Mishka (Pakhi, the film’s writer), begins calling every night to talk about her problems, nicknaming Sid “Fidato” since hotline rules prevent him from sharing his identity with her.
Mishka shows up in Sid’s bookstore one day, and he recognizes her when she asks for a book he’d mentioned on the phone. Mishka’s good looks reduce Sid to a stammering klutz, the opposite of the confident persona he adopts on the phone with her. He abuses his power as Fidato to steer Mishka into a relationship with Sid until she inevitably learns the truth.
Movies about dual-identities are tricky to pull off, as accidental meetings between characters often seem implausible and identities are revealed in absurd ways. Not so in Jhootha Hi Sahi. The circumstances of Sid & Mishka’s physical meeting are logical. Sid’s eventual reveal comes in a moment of self-sacrifice and not because Mishka finds out the truth on her own.
Further establishing Sid’s “good guy” credentials are his buddies, Omar and Amit. The three guys look out for each other’s best interests, even when it means revealing harsh truths (such as the fact that Sid doesn’t really love Kruthika). Ram is funny and authentic in his first film role as Omar.
Rounding out the group of pals is Omar’s pregnant, unwed sister, Aliya (Alishka Varde), and the father of her child, Nick (George Young). Aliya’s fine when acting as a mother figure to the guys, but she’s snippy to the unreasonably devoted Nick. The tension in their relationship is uncomfortable and adds nothing to the film.
But, aside from one awkward subplot, Jhootha Hi Sahi is a fun, comfortable movie. The secret identity plot convention is familiar but not tired. Sid and Mishka are nice people who deserve happiness. London looks beautiful, and there are books everywhere. I’m smiling just thinking about it.
This weekend presents a feast for Bollywood fans, with three new movies opening in the Chicago area. The movie getting the widest release is the romantic comedy Jhootha Hi Sahi, which stars John Abraham as a man who talks a woman out of committing suicide after she mistakenly dials his phone number.
Both of this weekend’s other new Hindi releases are scheduled to open in the Chicago area only at the Golf Glen 5. First is part one of director Ram Gopal Varma’s two-part biography of the life of Paritala Ravindra: Rakht Charitra. The Golf Glen 5 will carry both the Hindi and Telugu versions of Rakht Charitra.
I’m surprised and disappointed that this weekend’s other new Hindi film, Hisss, wasn’t released in any local theaters besides the Golf Glen 5. The horror movie — which stars Mallika Sherawat as a nagi, a fantastical human-snake deity — is written and directed by David Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch, who directed the oddly compelling Boxing Helena in 1993.