Sunday, February 21, 2010

Salaam Namaste or Greetings! You're Pregnant? Goodbye.


Salaam Namaste is the story of two 20-something NRI's, Nick and Ambar, living in Melbourne. She has defied her family's expectations and left India for Australia where she's a radio “RJ” and medical student. He studied architecture as his father wanted but became a chef instead because that's what he wanted. They meet, sort of, hate each other, really meet, love each other and then things get complicated.

I don't like most of the Indian comedies that I come across. I find the humor too broad and slapstick for my taste (There's a reason I consider a love of the 3 Stooges a deal-breaker in any and all relationships!). So, I was afraid from the first 20 minutes or so of Salaam Namaste that the movie was going to be awful. Weird sound effects, that whole freeze-a-character-on-screen-while-a- narrator-introduces-them-and-then-quickly-cut-back-to-the-action thing complete with wacky sound effects, and the clownish side characters had me poised over the stop button on my remote control. Add to that the fact that Nick and Ambar were both really unlikeable at first. Nick is an irresponsible man-child who refuses to apologize for bad behavior and Ambar is no better. She stoops to Nick's level and the first 20 minutes is like watching two five year olds play “I know you are but what am I.” Saif acts poorly in the first few scenes and Preity is at her shrill, overly bubbly worst. The one thing that kept me from turning it off after 10 minutes was Ron (Arshad Warsi). Meet Ron, Nick's best friend, we like him.

Sweet, clueless but goodhearted, Ron is pretty much the only conscience that Nick has for the first 2/3 of the film.

Still, even Ron's goofy sweetness couldn't keep me from giving up but then one of the best parts of the movie happened...this kid

Seriously, he made me laugh out loud so I decided to sit down and commit for the duration of the film. It was not a bad decision as soon after, Nick and Ambar finally meet face to face and the chemistry between Preity and Saif kicks in and they are kind of adorable together. I'm not saying the scorch the screen but they're like two exuberant puppies that are just too cute to ignore. When Nick first sees Ambar:

Maybe it's her nipples! That's the first female nipple I've ever seen in a Hindi film. I've been thinking they must tape those babies down because in all the rain scenes and dancing in the frozen Alps, I've marveled at never having seen one.

What follows is your typical, tropical, Fame-goes-to-the-beach item number. See the mulletted groom?

I did love the dance sequence in the water.

If there's one thing that Hindi films have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that people are sexier when you just add water (though maybe not the pasty white groom). I think Hollywood should take note. I wouldn't mind seeing George Clooney in a rain scene or two.

The next hour or so is filled with much squishy sweetness that had my dil going Mmmmm which, by the way, is the name of the next item number which I enjoyed despite the toothache it gave me, plus Preity in the cutest outfit ever:

Nick finally shows up at the radio station for his interview. Who wouldn't melt?

His proposal to her that they live together is one of the most sigh-worthy speeches you will ever hear. So, Ambar and Nick have moved in together, they've fallen in love and so have I despite their rocky start with each other and my rocky start with this movie.

Unfortunately, just when things are going well for me and our heroes, consequences must be faced. Ambar discovers that she is pregnant despite the fact that they use protection ALL the time. In the awful scene where this conversation takes place, she reminds Nick that no birth control method is 100% effective. I almost expected her to then say “except abstinence.” But she couldn't because Nick was too busy saying this:

A piece of advice to the men out there, that's probably the worst thing you could say to a woman who just told you that she is pregnant with your child.

Nope, actually, that is.

The next 20 minutes or so play out like some Christian school Health class video on the evils of abortion. Let me just say here that I'm not comfortable with the abortion debate as a whole. I used to be strongly pro-life but as I got older, I realized that no one can really know what the best decision is until they find themselves in that position. Which is the point, it's a decision that a person has to make one way or the other. I am passionately against abortion as a form of birth control and in a perfect world, no one would ever become pregnant without planning for it but the world is far from perfect. Women have to make the decision for themselves and answer to their own conscience and belief system as they see fit. So, the movie has its soap box and I've just had mine. Let's move on.

Ambar does not have the abortion which infuriates Nick and has him accusing her of ruining both of their lives. Ambar refuses to leave the home they have already paid a year's rent on so for the next 9 months, conveniently, they live together while Ambar nurses her heartbreak and Nick nurses his petulance at not getting his way. Eventually, of course, Nick realizes that he loves Ambar and wants to spend the rest of his life with her and their twins...yes, twins and we end with a filmi delivery that only Bollywood and Father of the Bride II could give us.

Overall, the movie was OK. I had the same reaction that I have for many movies I see. As a whole,not very clear in its message or purpose but it definitely had a scene here and there that was worth the watch. My remaining gripes are that I think Nick showed himself to be an immature, selfish a-hole and I didn't see anything in the story that convinced me that he had gone on any kind of journey that changed him or matured him. I don't quite know why Ambar would really take him back after the way he acted. My heart genuinely broke for her during the Tu Jahaan item number, one of the best parts of the movie, in which she keeps imagining Nick being the loving partner at her side that she wants him to be. I also don't know what they really have in common that they could base a marriage on. I have a hard time believing that he will make a good father. I actually see Ambar as a divorced, single mom not too far down the road. I kept hoping for Ron to have a "Snap out of it!" talk with Nick and give him a couple of tight slaps but, alas, his character was underused in that capacity. In addition, I find the film follows that old about-NRIs-film cliché of glorifying the “NRI lifestyle” of living alone, away from family, engaging in premarital sex, etc. Then, BOOM! Hitting you with the devastating consequences of living that life i.e. the thinly veiled “this is what you get for having pre-marital sex” scene and the pro-life propaganda film. But in the end, having the characters do the “right” thing that all good boys and girls do and get married. To the extent that he actually stops her during hard labor for a proposal scene so they can be engaged before the babies pop out.

All to reassure the aunties and uncles back home in India that their wayward families and the boys they want their daughters to marry, are acceptable despite being raised wrong. It's OK if you want to make movies with that message but it's been done before, more directly and more convincingly.

Anyway, maybe I took this movie too seriously. I didn't intend to until the whole “Kill it!” scene. That, I could not ignore. Two things to be praised:

Abhi makes everything better!! Loved his special appearance as the bumbling doctor. Yes, he's ridiculous but he's Abhi...he makes me smile no matter what.

The crazy landlord, well-played by Jaaved Jaffrey, was funny at times though the interaction with his brainless bimbo (the only recurring white character in the movie, of course) girlfriend got really old really fast. Still, someone should have won an award for the perfectly calico side burns!

Anyway, quite a bit to laugh at and quite a bit to bitch about but then I have a talent for bitching. Still, I think most people could definitely miss this movie and not be missing much.


ajnabi said...

I couldn't agree more with your final assessment. It had a lot of potential and then just... *poof*! Wasted it! :-(

Anishok said...

If there's one thing that Hindi films have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that people are sexier when you just add water

So true!

I really don't like Saif in Salaam-Namaste...I don't know why, though. After all he's playing the variation of his Hum Tum character and I lurved him in that...maybe it's the "kill it" line? My jaw hit the floor, when I heard that.