Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW 649: NAMASTE ENGLAND


Release date:
October 18, 2018
Director:
Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Cast:


Language:
Parineeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, Aditya Seal, Alankrita Sahai, Mallika Dua, Satish Kaushik, Anil Mange
Hindi, Punjabi


You know feminism has been identified as the hot, saleable fad and formula of the season, when producer-director Vipul Amrutlal Shah starts caring about the concerns of the womaniya in his film. This is the same Vipul Shah who produced Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty (2014), in which Akshay Kumar’s character relentlessly stalks the heroine (Sonakshi Sinha), treats her disinterest with disdain, physically assaults her in public – shortly after which she falls in love with him, because as conventional wisdom in Bollywood has long held, the way to a woman’s heart is through molestation – and later tells her that women like her intentionally send misleading signals to men but slam men for responding to those signals.

Yes, THAT Shah who backed THAT misogynistic film, has now decided that women’s views matter. And so in his directorial venture Namaste England, which is in theatres this week, he makes a bizarre, garbled attempt at advocating the rights of one Jasmeet played by Parineeti Chopra. She is a jewellery designer whose conservative Granddaddy thinks women should not have careers. Convinced of her uterus’ duty to the world, the old fellow gets her future Dad-in-law to promise never to ‘allow’ her to work. In this Punjab of Shah’s fantasy, far removed from the conservative Punjab of reality, the ladkewaale actually let the ladkiwaale dictate terms to them.

All this comes after Jasmeet has been sighted, selected and courted by Param (Arjun Kapoor) through passing seasons, successive festivalsmultiple costume changes and the long Hindi-Punjabi song Dhoom dhadakka with the refrain “Tim lakk lakk te / tim lakk lakk te / tim lakk lakk te re...”, which my tortured soul now chooses to remember as “Dim luck luck te / dim luck luck te / dim luck luck tere” being hurled as a taunt at us unlucky critics professionally compelled to watch this dim-witted film. 

After seeing Namaste England, I happened to catch a few minutes of an interview with Chopra and Kapoor on NDTV in which the gentleman laughingly said his co-star is such a fan of Shah’s Namastey London (2007) that he thinks she agreed to do this film on hearing its name, without bothering to read the script. That could explain why Chopra, who comes across as a reasonably intelligent woman, would have hitched herself to this ridiculously illogical mess. But what of Kapoor himself? He actually spoke in that interview of Namaste England operating at multiple levels. All I spotted was one level: sheer stupidity. A more appropriate title would have been Alvida Common Sense.

Bollywood villains of the past have committed murder and other unspeakable acts of violence, burnt entire villages and abducted children to take revenge on righteous heroes, but the bad guy in Namaste England commits the ultimate 21st century act of villainy, the very worst thing you could do to any Punjabi munda: he uses his clout to ensure that the leading man never gets a  – wait for it! – visa for Europe.

And so Jasmeet comes up with a seriously hare-brained idea to get herself to England, a move which – I am not sure how – is guaranteed, in her view, to fulfill her dreams. Param, who we are pointedly told is a farmer and an MSc in Agricultural Sciences, seems to have nothing better to do than hatch another hare-brained idea to get himself there too and track her down. Along the way there are lectures on love, India’s greatness and illegal immigration, a wan second male lead played by Aditya Seal who is well suited to this insipid film, and a second female lead played by the interesting Alankrita Sahai who deserves better than this rubbish.

I still have no clue why Jasmeet thought getting to England would help her conquer her grandfather’s narrow-mindedness or why Param sagely stated that this is the first time he has heard of a wife having an affair with another city rather than another man. I stopped trying to make sense of this contrived plot when I noticed that in scenes in which Jasmeet is supposedly crying, Parineeti Chopra looks like she is trying hard to suppress her laughter. I swear I am not imagining this.

Taking a cue from her, I am not trying to decipher the rest of the story for you.

I realise this may not be the popular opinion this week, but I do think there is untapped potential in both Ms Chopra and Mr Kapoor. She lit up the screen in her debut film Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl (2011), but is yet to match up to that early spark. His brooding intensity could evolve into something special in the hands of better directors and scripts. Obviously, he gets neither in this ludicrous project.

Namastey London, which Shah directed, was fun even if occasionally silly and intermittently stereotypical, and was elevated to more than it might otherwise have been by Akshay  Kumar and Katrina Kaif’s combined charisma. To call Namaste England merely silly would be a compliment. It is a cinematic zero.

Rating (out of five stars): 0

CBFC Rating (India):
UA 
Running time:
135 minutes