Tag Archives: Sid Makkar

Movie Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Note: I’m deviating from Bollywood fare in order to review a British film set in India that features Hindi-film actors Lillete Dubey, Rajendra Gupta, and Sid Makkar.

Early in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, married couple Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) tour a retirement home. The apartment they tour features a wall-mounted emergency call button to be used in case one should fall and need assistance. Jean caustically notes that the button is handy if she should happen to accidentally fall right next to it, but not so much if she falls anywhere else in the room.

My parents recently moved into a retirement community with a similar setup. To access their emergency call button, one of them would have to fall and land wedged between the TV set and the wall. I’m as skeptical of their button’s usefulness as Jean is of hers.

That sense of pragmatism pervades a movie with a somewhat a fantastical premise: starting a new life of luxury in exotic India. A brochure promises opulent retirement living for British pensioners at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful.

But it’s not a sense of adventure that leads the characters to move from England to India. For Jean,  Douglas, Evelyn (Judi Dench), and Muriel (Maggie Smith), it’s financial worries. For Graham (Tom Wilkinson), it’s a desire to right a youthful mistake. And Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) want to improve their romantic prospects.

When the group arrives in India, they discover that the hotel is not as luxurious as promised. The brochure depicts the vision young owner Sonny (Dev Patel) has for his family’s property, not its current derelict state. The manner in which the retirees deal with their situation makes up the meat of the story.

As my parents, in-laws, and their friends approach (and, in some cases, surpass) age 70, they’ve all repeated the same refrain: “Getting old sucks.” The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is so effective because it acknowledges that reality. No matter how well you think you’ve prepared for your later years, there always seems to be something — money, health, or family troubles — that makes a difficult stage of life even more so.

Acknowledging this reality allows the funny parts of the film to be that much more humorous. And The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a very funny movie.

Given the caliber of the cast, the performances are universally terrific, as each character adapts to the surroundings while addressing the issues that got him or her there in the first place. Penelope Wilton (Mrs. Crawley on Downton Abbey) is effective to an uncomfortable degree as Jean resists settling down in her unfamiliar new home.

Maggie Smith steals the show with her ludicrously inappropriate jabs, which are funny only because of how powerless she is. Awaiting her hip transplant in an Indian hospital, she reacts in shock to discover that her doctor is Indian. Predictably and appropriately, she takes strides to shed her prejudices over the course of the film.

Sonny’s storyline is the only aspect of the movie that doesn’t really work. Rather than intersecting his storyline with those of his tenants, his runs parallel to theirs. When new characters (e.g., his girlfriend and his disapproving mother) are introduced solely to augment Sonny’s story, it just highlights how separate that story is from the rest of the action.

That said, Dev Patel is very funny, and his storyline doesn’t detract much from what is overall a really enjoyable picture.

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Movie Review: Turning 30 (2011)

Zero Stars (out of 4)

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Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava wanted her debut film Turning 30 to portray young, urban Indian women in a fun yet realistic way. I hope Shrivastava’s portrayal is inaccurate, because the female characters in Turning 30 are pitiable.

Days before her 30th birthday, Naina (Gul Panag) seems to have an ideal life: a house, a good job at an ad agency and a boyfriend, Rishabh (Sid Makkar), who’s ready to propose. When Naina’s ideas are stolen at work and Rishabh abruptly breaks up with her, Naina falls apart.

This is a fine set up for a story, but a set up is all it should be. Instead, Naina’s despair over her unsettled life is the story of Turning 30. Any time she sees or thinks about Rishabh, Naina gets a forlorn look in her eye and cries in the rain. She begs him to take her back, accosts his parents and belabors anyone who will listen about how lost she is without Rishabh and how she doesn’t know what to do with her life. It’s pathetic.

That’s not to say Naina’s reaction is unrealistic. It’s just that being sad isn’t the interesting part of getting dumped: it’s how a person gets over it. Naina doesn’t make any attempt to get over Rishabh or take charge of her career until the last fifteen minutes of this two-hour movie. Her plight devolves from dull to excruciating.

After Naina is dumped, she quickly rebounds into a sexual relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Jai (Purab Kohli), a successful artist who’s ready to settle down. Despite knowing that Jai’s in love with her, Naina sleeps with him repeatedly, but always with the caveat that she’s not over Rishabh yet — as though her honesty absolves her from leading him on.

This level of self-absorption would almost be forgivable if Naina were a nice person, but she’s not. In addition to her cruel treatment of Jai, she’s short-tempered with her mother, her maid, and her coworkers. When her friend, Malini (Tillotama Shome), breaks down in tears and discloses that she’s a lesbian, Naina looks at her as though she’s a freak and makes no attempt to comfort her.

As uninspiring a heroine as Naina is, Shrivastava is almost misogynistic in the way she writes Naina’s other best pal, Ruksana (Jeneva Talwar). Ruksana discovers her husband is cheating on her at the same time she learns that she’s pregnant. The pregnancy temporarily puts a halt to hubby’s wandering, but he strays again as soon as the baby is born. Ruksana tells Naina and Malini that her husband’s cheating no longer bothers her, now that she has a baby to love her.

Excuse me?

What’s worse is that Naina and Malini don’t even challenge Ruksana. No “you deserve better than that” pep talk. Just a shrug and an “as long as you’re happy” that seems to indicate that this is to be expected.

So, in a nutshell, Shrivastava’s realistic portrayal of the life of a modern Indian woman amounts to this: Get educated. Get a job. Land a husband before you get too old/before the unrelenting parental pressure to marry becomes unbearable/before he finds somebody with more money. Get knocked up and quit your job. Hubby will (and, judging by the women in this movie, maybe should) ditch you for a younger, hotter woman. But, hey, at least you’ve got a baby.

Why bother?

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