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1 review, 21 user ratings

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Hari Om
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by Chris Parry

"Indian filmmaking gets a sniff of global commercial potential, and uses it."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I'm not one to generalize (actually, truth be told, I am) but the Indian film industry, as mammoth as it is, has never really understood the concept of cross-cultural appeal. The best films of Bollywood have seldom been accessable outside of India and its immediate surrounds, because of cultural differences that make 'their' films so much different to 'ours'. But the world be shrinking, and it be shrinking every dang day, so the time would inevitably come where these two giant filmmaking worlds would collide, merge and mutually benefit, and with the emergence of Hari Om, perhaps that time is now.

Hari Om (Vijay Raaz) drives a rickshaw. Not the kind that you pull, mind you, but the kind you see all over Asia that look like bizarrely decorated van cabs, without the actual van behind them. These odd vehicles zip around streets packed with cows and bicycles and stray people the way a New York Yellow Cab could never manage, but they also come with a downside - they're very conspicuous, for one. This isn't a good thing if, like Hari Om, you owe money to local gangsters.

Hari zips around town trying to make enough money to keep the knee-breakers at bay before they catch up with him and duly shorten his life, and while doing so he finds Isa (the gorgeous Camille Natta), a French woman looking for a ride. This is a great thing for Hari because tourists pay much better than locals, but it seems that she's on her own odd mission - she was late for her train, and her boyfriend (Jean Marie Lamour), rather than wait for her and miss a business appointment, decided against sticking around. Now she's all alone and desperate to catch up to the train, even though it means hiring Hari out for days on end. He's fine with that, however, as it will get him good money and see him out of town for a while.

And so the two set out on an Indian road trip in a dinky rickshaw - it's essentially The Straight Story set in India, with a little romance thrown in.

What really sets this film apart from any other road movie, however, is what isn't said on screen. Hari Om and Isa get on well, but not so well that you start to think they'll sneak off with each other. There's a definite love/hate thing going on here, and though Hari is a hopeless mess of a guy, Isa brings out something within him that makes him a better man. He wants to be good enough for her, but to have such thoughts would be to set yourself up for a bigt disappointment... she is, after all, pursuing her boyfriend. Her rich, successful, white boyfriend. What hope does a poor Indian rickshaw driver with a contract out on his health have against that?

And that's where this movie steps up into something better. Way up. The scenery is astonishing, the performances superb, the directing amazing (especially for a first time filmmaker), and the story is a combination of meandering Lost in Translation style combined with Bollywood slapstick and action, combined with the sort of slow moving romance that I can only relate to a film like Bridges of Madison County.

You want Hari and Isa to find a way to be together forever, and deep down so do they, and as they struggle with the meaning of it all, encountering characters and places that even locals might not usually see, the point becomes less and less about 'do they hook up' and much more a case of 'what happens next'?

What's interesting is that Hari Om was not created to burst through onto the US market. Indeed, it was made with Indian and French actors, and drifts along using Indian, French and English dialogue, seemingly with a view to showing the European market (moreso than the US market) that India is a place that not only makes a lot of films, but is capable of making a film every bit as poignant and romantic and beautiful and stylish as Lost in Translation.

I loved every second. I want to own it on DVD. This is the future of Indian filmmaking, and that it came from a first timer is probably appropriate. If Indian cinema is to really push into the mainstream across the rest of the world, then it needs a breath of fresh air to break through the old traditions. Director Bharatbala and screenwriter Sanjay Lafont are exactly that.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/22/04 06:07:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/22/15 greg davidson lol 1 stars
1/06/15 thomas ahjhaszhhzs 1 stars
7/30/08 David Jones I saw this film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and could not stop praising h 5 stars
4/09/08 Prashant Pednekar well done movie, vijay raaz on steroids !!! 5 stars
1/19/08 N Patel 5 stars
6/07/07 Subramanian Sankaran Saw the premiere in Dubai. Simple yet rivetting. Bharat Bala & team take a bow! 4 stars
12/24/05 Dawn Amazingly Beautiful!!! 5 stars
12/19/05 KC The best Indian movie I've seen since Monsoon Wedding! 4 stars
10/02/05 Priya Pamtham Superbe!Magnifique! 5 stars
9/01/05 Sally Fantastic scenery, great story-a great combination. Completely overwhelmed 5 stars
8/21/05 B.H. Mann Superbly acted. Visually arresting. A lovely story touchingly told. 5 stars
8/02/05 Andrew Ecclestone Excellent film. Many good laughs and touching moments 5 stars
6/10/05 B.Blackbrain A fluffy travelogue, thin plot with beautiful scenery 4 stars
6/07/05 Steve Schonberger Very pleasant movie about my favorite part of India. Camille Natta is stunning. 5 stars
4/23/05 Christina Johnson Awesome Film! A Must See. A whole world I hadn't known 5 stars
4/19/05 Michelle Hagen This was a wonderful movie. It was filled with wonder and delight. It made me miss India! 5 stars
4/14/05 Maria It is really a wonderful film that deserves to been seen by many people 5 stars
3/31/05 Jim Hollarn This movie really builds to provide a wonderful view of India, culture, and a fun story. 5 stars
3/19/05 Bruce Anderson I was pleasantly surprised. Hari Om was the best film Iíve seen this year. Highly recomme 5 stars
10/06/04 bolly -critic a must see movie, refreshingly different, magnificent 4 stars
9/28/04 Callie Absolutely Amazing!!! 5 stars
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Directed by
  Bharat Bala

Written by
  Bharat Bala

  Jean-Marie Lamour
  Camille Natta
  Vijay Raaz

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