Tag Archives: Lara Dutta

Movie Review: Welcome to New York (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Note: This is a review of the 2D version of the movie.

Welcome to New York has plenty of laughs for the hardest of hardcore Bollywood fans, packaged in an enjoyable fish-out-of-water comedy.

When I say “hardcore,” I mean it. It’s not enough to be familiar with the biggest Bollywood hits of recent years. Welcome to New York requires an appetite for industry gossip, knowledge of awards shows, and a fondness for Karan Johar–particularly his talk show, Koffee with Karan.

The extremely meta setting for Welcome to New York is the 18th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, which were held in New York City last year. As in real life, Johar plays the host of the awards show. His actual co-host, Saif Ali Khan, is replaced in the film by Riteish Deshmukh, playing a self-deprecating version of himself who bemoans his underpaid, B-list status.

In order to boost viewership in India, awards show organizers Gary (Boman Irani) and Sophia (Lara Dutta) create a talent contest, giving two winners the chance to perform onstage during the show. Sophia uses the contest to sabotage the show and get back at Gary, choosing the two worst entries among all the submissions as the winners.

Those winners are Teji (Diljit Dosanjh), a small-town repo man and wannabe actor, and Jeenal (Sonakshi Sinha), a feisty fashion designer. Whisked away to New York, the two must overcome their differences to navigate their flashy new surroundings and make their dreams come true.

Meanwhile, an angry Karan Johar doppelgänger named Arjun (also played by Johar) plans to kidnap his lookalike before the awards show. Teji accidentally foils one kidnapping attempt, thinking he’s playing a version of the Rapid Fire Round from Koffee with Karan.

The plotlines aren’t well-integrated, but it hardly matters, given how silly the movie is. Teji’s and Jeenal’s budding friendship is sweet to watch, and Dosanjh and Sinha are both effortlessly likeable. Dosanjh’s Teji gets most of the fish-out-of-water jokes, such as when he calls Jeenal’s terrycloth robe a “coat that looks like a towel.” Their characters have some amusing interactions with Aditya Roy Kapur and Sushant Singh Rajput that play off of people’s mistaken tendency to conflate actors with their roles.

When it comes to playing a role, no one in Welcome to New York does so more enthusiastically than Karan Johar, who plays the most outrageous version of himself imaginable. He’s vain, snarky, and snobbish, and he’s hilarious. He gets to spout lines like, “You are a traitor, Riteish Deshkmukh.” The payoff to subplot in which Karan advises Rana Daggubati on his career after Baahubali is worth the price of admission alone. Lara Dutta and Boman Irani being as great as always is a nice bonus.

The most disappointing element of Welcome to New York is its music. Songs range from forgettable to annoying, and there’s precious little dancing to speak of.

Casual fans may find Welcome to New York too “inside baseball,” but Bollywood junkies will see their obsession pay off in a multitude of self-referential gags. The actors seem like they had fun making the movie, and that quality translates to an enjoyable experience for the audience.

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Movie Review: Azhar (2016)

Azhar_Hindi_poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A film about the scandal-plagued life of a former Indian cricket captain deserves a grand scale, but Azhar feels like a made-for-TV movie.

I can’t testify to the accuracy of Azhar‘s story, as I know nothing about Mohammad Azharuddin. I never saw him play a minute of cricket, which puts me in the same boat as almost every Indian under the age of twenty.

That said, Azhar requires no foreknowledge, since all the dialogue is on the nose. Here’s how the cricket chairman drops the bombshell on Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) the night before the captain’s hundredth appearance for the national team: “Azhar, I have some bad news for you. You have been accused of match fixing.”

In case the dialogue isn’t direct enough, the actors go out of their way to make things extra clear. When Azhar decides to fight the cricket association’s lifetime ban in court, the prosecutor, Meera (Lara Dutta), tries to question M.K. Sharma (Rajesh Sharma), the bookie accused of bribery. She tells Sharma that she wants dirt on Azhar, causing Sharma to make an exaggerated gulping noise, leap out of his chair, and whip his head over each shoulder to see if anyone is behind him.

During the course of the eight-year-long court case, we get flashbacks to Azhar’s earlier life, including his relationship with his grandfather, his marriage to Naureen (Prachi Desai), and his affair with Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri). The romantic plotlines make Azhar seem like a jerk, in which case he’d better be a helluva cricket player.

This brings me to the movie’s single biggest failing: it makes cricket look totally boring. According to Azhar, cricket is just a sequence of slow-rolling ground balls, with a few balls occasionally bopped into the stands. There’s no tension or excitement whatsoever.

Director Tony D’Souza uses so many tight shots during the cricket scenes that it’s impossible to tell what a match actually looks like. The entire frame is filled by a ball skittering past an outstretched hand or a ball plucked out of mid-air by another hand. Did the fielder have to run to catch it? How high did he jump? Where were the other fielders in relation to the play? D’Souza’s direction offers no clues.

The director applies this same framing to Azhar, so we never get a sense of how good a player he is. Hashmi spends most of his time on the field standing with his hands on his hips. Never has an actor playing a star athlete seemed so non-athletic.

Another problem with the main character is that he looks exactly the same throughout, whether Azhar is supposed to be twenty or almost fifty. It’s impossible to tell by looking at Hashmi when any given scene is taking place.

This is not one of Hashmi’s best performances, but it seems as though he’s doing what’s asked of him. D’Souza’s style doesn’t allow for subtlety. Periodic reverb on the dialogue recording further distracts from the film’s performances.

Neither Desai nor Fakhri have much to do, though Desai proves herself the better of the two at crying. Kunaal Roy Kapur is proficient in the thankless role of Azhar’s lawyer. Dutta’s no-nonsense performance is the best in the film.

There are a lot of people in the world who never witnessed Mohammad Azharuddin at his peak. We don’t know him. Azhar doesn’t give us a compelling reason to care.

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Movie Review: Fitoor (2016)

Fitoor3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Abhishek Kapoor presents a compelling look at the way money and power influence romance in Fitoor (“Obsession“), his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

The scenery and set design of Fitoor are its defining features. From the very opening, one is blown away by the beauty of the setting: a small village in Kashmir with wooden walkways crisscrossing a lake. Everything — from the sky to the snowy ground to the characters’ clothes — is in overcast shades of grey, blue, and white.

Noor first appears in a flashback as an 8-year-old boy (played by Mohammed Abrar), a poor kid with a gift for drawing and sculpting. He helps his brother-in-law Junaid (Rayees Mohiuddin) with some repairs at the mansion of Begum Hazrat (Tabu). The brightly colored tapestries and decorations inside the mansion contrast the drab colors outside, but there’s a run-down quality to the interior. The mansion is a haunted house, with Begum the witch shrouded in a haze of hookah smoke.

Noor falls in love with Begum’s daughter, Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma), immediately upon seeing her. Her clothes are every bit as expensive as Noor’s are disheveled. Begum arranges for Noor to work at the mansion and serve as Firdaus’ playmate. It’s clear that Begum is manipulating Noor, but not to what end. When Begum unexpectedly ships Firdaus off to boarding school in London, the matron tells Noor that he must grow to be a man worthy of her daughter.

Flash-forward fifteen years to the present, and Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) is an accomplished artist. An anonymous benefactor sets Noor up with a residency at an art gallery in Delhi, where Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) just happens to live. Though she remembers him fondly and enjoys his company, Firdaus’ plans for her future don’t include Noor. He, on the other hand, has a room full of paintings of her face.

There’s a great scene in which Firdaus tears apart the notion that, just because Noor loves her, she must love him in return. When she realizes her insistence that she doesn’t love him is falling on deaf ears, she says, “You won’t understand anything but your love.” Noor’s friend Aarif (Kunal Khyaan) backs Firdaus up: “It’s not like she lied to you.”

Besides love, the other force directing Noor’s life is money. Namely, someone else’s money, which compromises his ability to control his own destiny. A confusing sequence that reveals the truth about Noor’s benefactor feels shoehorned into the narrative. Though it needed more setup, the point is made that Noor will be a puppet until he can afford to pull his own strings.

Kapur gives a solid performance as the flawed lead character, tweaking his smile ever so slightly to communicate a range of emotions. Kaif is fitting match, playing Firdaus as warm but aloof, conveying the sense that she’s also been manipulated by Begum.

Tabu is creepy and hypnotic as the lonely heiress, who no longer sees people as people but as tools. She even refers to her daughter as “my doll.”

Two other supporting roles are worth noting for their quiet excellence: Khyaan as Aarif and Lara Dutta as Leena, the art gallery owner. Their characters attempt to stop Noor from causing a scene at an auction, and they convey their instructions to one another through glances. One brief shot consists of Dutta’s face in profile, the muscle in her jaw clenching. It’s great.

Fitoor is thought-provoking and lovely to look at. If nothing else, the beautiful Kashmir scenery makes for a rewarding trip to the theater.

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Movie Review: Singh Is Bliing (2015)

SinghIsBling2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Singh Is Bliing is an imperfect but entertaining action comedy, and one of Prabhu Deva’s better directorial ventures. The movie offers one of the year’s best comic performances, from an unlikely source.

Akshay Kumar stars as Raftaar Singh, a totally different character from the one he played in 2008’s Singh Is Kinng. The two movies have nothing to do with each other, except that calling Singh Is Bliing a sequel provides a reason for Kumar to play a Punjabi Sikh again, as if one needs a reason.

Raftaar is a typical Bollywood layabout, far too old be mooching off his parents (Kumar is 48). He’s got a pair of lackeys — Pappi (Arfi Lamba) and Pompi (Anil Mange) — who follow him about. Raftaar’s father gives his son an ultimatum: take a job with Dad’s buddy in Goa, or marry an overweight woman, which is apparently a form of punishment.

Dad’s buddy (Pradeep Rawat) assigns Raftaar and his boys the task of guarding Sara (Amy Jackson), daughter of the boss’s friend, who also happens to be an international arms dealer. The problem is that Sara only speaks English, and Raftaar and his friends only speak Hindi.

They hire a translator, Emily (Lara Dutta), who immediately steals the whole film. Dutta is hilarious. Emily gets so into her role that she starts imitating Raftaar’s mannerisms, not just translating his words. She busts out some funky dance moves in a bar after matching Raftaar shot-for-shot.

A particularly clever song sequence sees one of Raftaar’s romantic daydreams about Sara made manifest. Pappi and Pompi notice Raftaar staring into space and decide to join him in his dream, dragging Emily in with them. As the boys provide the background music, Emily serves as Raftaar’s romantic surrogate, herself wooing Sara as she sings in English what Raftaar has just sung in Hindi. It’s very funny and smart.

Unfortunately, the rest of the plot isn’t as intelligent. Multiple story threads fail to come together in a satisfactory way. The big villain of the film — an arms dealer named Mark (Kay Kay Menon) who is a rival of Sara’s father — is a total afterthought, and his few scenes are poorly integrated into the rest of the story. He doesn’t steer the plot until the very end of the film, so Raftaar and Sara are in little serious danger for the bulk of the picture.

This is a shame, because Menon is a skilled scenery chewer. Sporting a ponytail, Menon channels Terry Silver from Karate Kid III, enhancing the similarity by shouting “I like it!”

In a surprising reversal of gender norms, Jackson gets to perform the best fight choreography, while Kumar plays Raftaar as brave but bumbling. Jackson is perfectly suited for action roles, but her acting and dancing could use some work if she wants to branch out. Kumar is likable as ever.

Though Singh Is Bliing isn’t overtly misogynistic like some of Prabhu Deva’s earlier films, there’s a disappointing sequence of victim blaming. Raftaar instructs a pair of women being manhandled by a pair of lecherous men to fight back. He takes the idiotic view that women can prevent sexual assault simply by slapping their attackers.

When the ladies kick their attackers into submission, Raftaar feels vindicated in his opinion (never mind that the two attackers know that Raftaar is waiting to pummel them should they overpower the women).

Later, Sara annihilates a room full of goons, and Pappi and Pompy credit her success to Raftaar’s speech. It’s unclear if this is meant to be a joke, but the statement is followed immediately by a shot of some dancers — one of whom had earlier been punched in the face — hitting the fallen goons, seeming to validate Raftaar as deserving of credit.

Though Singh Is Bliing falls short of its potential, surprisingly fun performances by Dutta, Menon, and butt-kicking Amy Jackson keep the sequel from ever being dull.

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Movie Review: Housefull 2 (2012)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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When is a sequel not a sequel? Housefull 2 is a strange, boring spectacle that has nothing to do with 2010’s Housefull.

Okay, not precisely nothing. Both are wacky comedies about mistaken identities and concealing romantic relationships from one’s parents. Both starred Akshay Kumar and Ritesh Deshmukh. But Kumar and Deshmukh don’t play the same characters as they did in the first movie.

In Housefull, Deshmukh played a card dealer named Bob while Kumar played an unlucky doofus named Aarush. In Housefull 2, Deshmukh plays millionaire’s son Jolly, while Kumar plays a sleaze named Sunny. Sunny then pretends to be Jolly. Confused, yet?

Jacqueline Fernandez and Malaika Arora Khan were both item girls in Housefull and also return as different characters in Housefull 2. Fernandez plays Bobby (not Bob, Deshmukh’s original character), and Khan plays a different item girl.

Here’s where things get weird. Boman Irani plays a character named Batuk Patel in both movies, but it’s not the same Batuk Patel! In Housefull 2, Batuk seeks to marry off his only daughter, Parul (Shazahn Padamsee) to the son of his best friend, JD (Mithun Chakraborty). In the original Housefull, Batuk’s daughter is Hetal (played by Lara Dutta), which is incidentally the name of Batuk’s deceased wife in Housefull 2.

The only character and actor to make the transition from one movie to the next intact is Chunky Pandey’s funny half-Indian, half-Italian schmoozer, Aakhri Pasta.

As if all this half-baked crossover isn’t bad enough, the plot of Housefull 2 is thin and stupid. Two feuding half-brothers, Daboo (Randhir Kapoor) and Chintu (Rishi Kapoor), want to secure the richest husband in England for their respective daughters, Bobby and Henna (Asin Thottumkal). When Chintu insultingly rejects the family of one possible groom, Jai (Shreyas Talpade), the young man vows to get revenge by making sure Henna is dumped at the altar.

Jai is pals with Jolly, England’s most desirable bachelor. They hire their college friend, Max (John Abraham), to pose as Jolly and trick Chintu and Henna. Max accidentally gets engaged to Bobby, so Jai and Jolly call Sunny to trick Chintu. Max and Sunny hate each other, but Daboo and Chintu live in adjoining townhouses, and — OH, NO! — what if they see each other?!

This covers the first forty-five minutes of the plot. Things only get stupider and more annoying until the end of Housefull 2‘s unbearable 155 minute runtime.

In addition to the sloppy story construction, there are continuity errors throughout. Henna has a pet “crocodile” that is really an alligator. Sunny falls asleep in a raft out at sea, and when he wakes up in the raft the next morning after it washes ashore, there’s already sand on his shoes. Henna puts her finger to her ear to indicate that she’s talking on a Bluetooth headset, but she’s not actually wearing one.

All these mistakes — combined with the crap story– point to the fact that Housefull 2 is just a cash grab designed to trick people who enjoyed Housefull (myself included). A cast full of stars can’t save something this inept and nonsensical.

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Movie Review: Don 2 (2011)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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2006’s Don was the first Hindi movie I saw in a theater, so it has a special place in my heart. It is a fun thriller with a sense of humor. Don 2 doesn’t do its predecessor justice.

In fact, Don 2 hardly even acknowledges the movie that spawned it. Sure, the international supervillain/anti-hero Don (Shahrukh Khan) is back, as is his archrival, Vardhaan (Boman Irani), and the cops Malik (Om Puri) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra). But five years have passed since the audience last saw this group together.

A few lines of dialog explaining Roma’s desire for justice — in the last movie, Don tricked her into falling in love with him after killing her brother — would’ve been helpful reminders for the audience. The movie’s few indirect references to past events are meaningless to anyone who missed the first movie.

Don 2 opens with a European drug kingpin putting a hit on Don. This sets up a huge fight scene in Thailand, but the storyline is subsequently dropped until the very end of the film. Surely, there must have been a way to trigger a fight scene in a way that relates to the rest of the plot.

The story truly begins when Don gets himself thrown into a Malaysian jail in order to help the imprisoned Vardhaan escape. Don wants to steal some money-printing plates from a bank in Germany, and Vardhaan has information that can be used to blackmail one of the head bankers. The former enemies put aside their mutual hatred and work together.

The story of the heist is amusing enough, and the cast members act their parts well. But the whole affair feels underwhelming, due primarily to the film being presented in 3D.

3D has the effect of dimming the images on screen, so Don 2 lacks the vibrancy of recent Excel Entertainment productions like Game and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It’s a shame not to be able to see Thailand, Switzerland and Germany in their usual splendor. The 3D also dims the tiny English subtitles to near illegibility.

Apart from one exciting car chase through Berlin, there aren’t enough scenes that warrant the addition of 3D. Fight scenes in close quarters feel muddled by the effect, and the gimmick doesn’t enhance the story.

More disappointing than the lackluster visuals is the lackluster story, specifically Roma’s role in it. The film emphasizes a lingering romantic tension between Roma and Don but drops the ball in regard to her real reason for being in the film: she’s foremost a police officer intent on catching a notorious criminal. As she’s written, she’s not a very good police officer.

Roma is not only a step behind Don at all times, she’s a step behind the audience. She struggles to discern the identity of a man in a police sketch so accurate it might as well have the guy’s name written on it. The two times she manages to “capture” Don, it’s not a result of her police work. The first time, he turns himself in. Later, he’s ratted out by a co-conspirator.

It’s a real disservice to Chopra that her character is so poorly written. In Chopra’s hands, Roma is tenacious yet likeable, and handy in a fight. Lara Dutta’s moll character, Ayesha, similarly could’ve been better developed.

The experience of watching Don 2 isn’t entirely unpleasant. It’s a mostly-competent heist movie that gives a nod to earlier films in the genre, particularly in terms of its evocative musical score. But it could have — and should have — been so much more.

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Movie Review: Chalo Dilli (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Chalo Dilli is a road trip comedy in which a mismatched pair of strangers are forced to rely upon each other to reach their destination. It’s basically Planes, Trains and Automobiles, only with Steve Martin’s uptight character played by a woman.

That woman is Lara Dutta, who also produced the movie. Dutta plays Mihika, a picky investment banking executive used to getting things her way. She heads to the airport in Mumbai wearing a tight skirt and high heels that look as uncomfortable for air travel as they will be for her inevitable trek through the hinterlands.

Mihika’s journey is disrupted by Muna (Vinay Pathak), a crude cloth merchant with a chivalrous streak. His incessant yammering on the plane prompts Mihika to put on headphones, causing her to miss the announcement that the flight to Delhi has been diverted to Jaipur.

What should be a six-hour drive back to Delhi turns into an overnight adventure for Mihika and Muna, who assumes the role of chauffeur when the driver Mihika has hired falls asleep. The car breaks down, and the odd couple spend many hours together making their way to Delhi any way they can.

This premise should work particularly well in India, with its stark contract between urban and rural environments. The contrast sets up plenty of fish-out-of-water scenarios for city-bred Mihika, who starts the movie disgusted at the thought of flying on a “budget” airline instead of in first class.

But the movie never takes full advantage of its opportunities for comedy. None of the situations Mihika and Muna find themselves in are especially unusual or outrageous. The people they encounter are generally normal and helpful. It makes for a boring trip.

Mihika does get to wake up to a beautiful sunrise in the country and meet friendly locals, which is supposed to open her eyes to Muna’s somewhat odd life wisdom: Don’t sweat the small stuff, because there’s probably something much more serious in your life that you should be worried about.

As much as Chalo Dilli fancies itself an uplifting film, it isn’t really. Manu’s happy-go-lucky demeanor masks an inner pain that manifests itself in cruel jokes at his wife’s expense. The final scene between Mihika and Manu is uncomfortable to watch.

Rather than ending there, the movie tacks on an epilogue montage voiced-over by Mihika detailing the ways the lives of the villagers she and Muna encountered were improved by the experience. The movie gives the contradictory message that the simple life is beautiful, but not so perfect that it can’t be improved by a little attention from some city dwellers.

Chalo Dilli also takes a conflicted view of gender equality. Mihika and Muna argue after he wonders why so many men would be willing to work for her. She accuses him of believing that women should stay home and have babies. So what does Mihika decide to do in the epilogue? Stay home and have babies.

If Mihika had expressed career or life dissatisfaction earlier in the movie, perhaps the choice would’ve made sense. But it’s quite a leap from Mihika making a small gesture, such as delaying a business trip in order to attend a party, to her chucking her whole career to have kids. Axe the unnecessary epilogue and this mixed message isn’t an issue.

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Opening April 29: Chalo Dilli

Chalo Dilli is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area on April 29, 2011. The road trip comedy stars Lara Dutta and Vinay Pathak.

Chalo Dilli opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Last weekend’s new release, Dum Maaro Dum, earned $327,523 in its first week in U.S. theaters. The movie carries over at AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville.

Thank You continues for a fourth week at the South Barrington 30, having earned $451,923 in the U.S. so far.

Not sure why, but the Golf Glen 5 is carrying the 2006 Hindi-English drama Return to Rajapur, which features Frank Langella.

Other Indian movies showing near Chicago this weekend include Akkara Kazhchakal: The Movie (Malayalam), Ko (Tamil), Mr. Perfect (Telugu), Nenu Naa Rakshashi (Telugu) and Vaanam (Tamil) at the Golf Glen 5.

Movie Review: Housefull (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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These days, it’s safe to assume that any movie starring Akshay Kumar is a slapstick comedy. Such is the case with Housefull. Yet the strength of the cast and some well-executed bits make Housefull better than the average Bollywood screwball comedy.

Kumar plays Aarush, a guy whose luck is so bad that a casino pays him to walk around the gaming floor when the house is losing too much money, jinxing the players just by being near them. When his girlfriend turns down his marriage proposal, he flies to London to commiserate with his childhood buddy, Bob (Ritesh Deshmukh).

Bob, a card dealer, is married to Hetal (Lara Dutta), who works as a cocktail waitress. Within hours of his arrival, Aarush accidentally destroys Bob & Hetal’s home, along with their pet parrot. Hetal takes pity on Aarush, who has no other family or friends. She herself is estranged from her father, Batuk (Boman Irani), who wanted her to marry a wealthier man than Bob.

The couple arranges a marriage between Aarush and Devika (Jiah Khan), the daughter of a wealthy casino owner. But on their honeymoon in Italy, Devika reveals that she agreed to the marriage only to pacify her father, who disapproved of her Anglo boyfriend. Distraught, Aarush tries to kill himself, only to be rescued by the lovely Sandy (Deepika Padukone).

Aarush’s bad luck inspires most of the jokes in the early part of the movie but becomes less important the more characters are introduced. Housefull transitions into a comedy about mistaken identities, usually involving characters pretending to be married to someone to whom they are not.

The slapstick humor in Housefull is, at times, surprisingly funny. One example is a fistfight between Aarush and a monkey. On paper, it sounds stupid. But slow-motion closeups of a human fist hitting a monkey in the jaw, followed by a closeup of Aarush taking a small monkey fist to the cheek, accompanied by a Rocky-inspired soundtrack, manage to be hilarious onscreen.

Chunky Pandey also deserves praise for his turn as Akhri Pasta, the half-Indian, half-Italian hotel owner (his father was named Spaghetti Pasta). He wears a leisure suit and speaks in a jumble of Italian, Spanish and celebrity names: “Mama mia! Gracias. Al Pacino.” Pandey takes the role far enough to sell it, but not so far as to be annoying. It shouldn’t be so funny, but it is.

Besides being a bit predictable, the movie has two big flaws. The ending scene is too long and unfunny. If a movie is going to last more than two-and-a-half hours, it had better be for a good reason.

The second problem is a moment of racial insensitivity. It’s minor compared to some other Hindi films (Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, for instance), but it points to a lack of understanding of when a joke crosses the line.

In order to validate a lie, Hetal borrows a baby to pass off as her own. The only kid to be found on short notice is the son of her black co-worker. When Hetal’s father remarks on the unexpected race of his grandson, Aarush (who’s pretending to be Hetal’s husband) blurts out that his mother was from Africa.

That’s where the joke should have ended. But Aarush begins to jump up and down holding an imaginary spear, mimicking a Maasai tribesman.

It’s not a joke born out of malice, but it trades on a stereotype in a way that lacks self-awareness. It’s awkward enough to draw attention to itself, ruining the sense of being immersed in the movie.

* Housefull has a posted runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min., but it’s actually closer to 2 hrs. 35 min.

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Opening April 30: Housefull

The end of the IPL tournament marks the return of Bollywood movies to theaters. This weekend’s big release is the screwball comedy Housefull, about an unlucky guy who tries to lift his curse by finding true love. The impressive cast list includes Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ritesh Deshmukh, Lara Dutta, Arjun Rampal, Jiah Khan and Boman Irani.

Housefull opens on Friday, April 30 at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Darling (Telugu), Pappy Appacha (Malayalam), Simha (Telugu) and Sura (Tamil) at the Golf Glen 5.