Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 04/29/03 00:54:17

"The Idiot's Guide to the Bollywood Musical"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

I've never seen an actual Bollywood flick. Considering I'll watch just about anything (and often do) I find this a bit distressing. Fortunately Deepa Mehta's colorful and generally charming Bollywood/Hollywood seems a worthwhile introduction to those highly-adored Indian movies. Plus it's a lot like that Greek Wedding flick.

I didn't really know what to make of this flick going in, but I suppose that's why we watch 'em. Canadian-Indian Director Deepa Mehta has worked on both ends: she's done both traditional Bollywood and "North America" style filmmaking and Bollywood/Hollywood joins the two together quite capably.

The plot sees a likeable young millionaire who hires a Hispanic escort to pose as his Indian girlfriend. Rahul's family, despite living in Canada, has a strong devotion to their religion and culture. And in these modern days of waning cultural traditions, Rahul doesn't want to be bound by tradition.

Since he needs a nice Indian girl as a date for his sister's wedding, Rahul strikes a rather lucrative arrangement with a seemingly Hispanic young woman. (Were this movie a total stinker, and it's not, it would still be worth seeing for the ethereally wondrous presence of Lisa Ray as Sue.) Various mild and predictable rom-com complications ensue, each of Rahul's family members are affably goofy and laden with pithy wisdom, and only a few paper-thin roadblocks stand in front of the overwhelmingly happy ending.

Oh, and there are several musical numbers. They may be a bit off-putting to those unfamiliar with the Bollywood musicals. But I fit that classification to a T - and I found them quite a painfully innocent way.

There's not a whole lot here that hasn't been covered in dozens of other romantic comedies, but the pleasantly weird amalgam of Canadian-style earnestness and Indian-style sincerity somehow manages to grow on you. I suspect the singular beauty of Lisa Ray may have shaded my opinions a bit, but hey - they cast her for a reason!

Yet another example of why you should never bypass a flick just because it's not something you'd normally watch, Bollywood/Hollywood is a charming and affable film, and one that should stand as a great "gateway movie"; moviegoers who enjoy this one will hopefully search out other Bollywood titles. And if one little cross-cultural romantic comedy can do that, I'd call that an impressive accomplishment indeed.

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