Bollywood/ Hollywood

dir. Mehta

Opens Fri Jan 9

Hollywood Theater

Bollywood/Hollywood hurls us right into its unabashedly campy humor, with a dying father speaking in golf analogy to impart final words to his only son: focus on a goal, and don't get distracted by "the cheerleaders." The film slaps us on the forehead with its premise: this is a film about irony, finding humor in the conflict of Desi immersion in Western culture. True to its title, director Deepa Mehta sets out to challenge conventions of Hollywood in the form of a crack romantic comedy, and to challenge conventions of Bollywood by copping its dance numbers--winking and nudging all the while. Cloaked in the friction of two young East Indians living in Toronto, fusing and reconciling familial tradition with Western values, Bollywood/ Hollywood should be a funny, wry flick about cultural hybridity. But, in the end, it only manages a thin Pretty Woman pose. It abandons the subtlety that could have made it great, in lieu of in-your-face comedy.

The male protagonist, Rahul (Rahul Khanna), is all set to marry a white pop star, Kimberly, much to the horror of his mother. When Kimberly dies in a freak accident while trying to levitate above the "Hollywood" sign, Rahul is appropriately devastated. He throws a TV out a window, and immediately hires an escort (Sue Singh, played by Lisa Ray), to pose as his fiancée, pleasing his mother and grandmother (Dina Pathak) and enabling his sister to marry her true love. Sue convinces Rahul she is Spanish, but looks vaguely South Asian and so, after a brief, kind-of-funny schooling in old world decorum, she is presentable. Predictable plot twists, choreography, and purposely bad lip-synching ensue. Cultural immersion is defined by Bollywood song-and-dance sequences-turned-drag show, performed by a cross-dressing chauffer. The GAGS OUTPOUR. And still, Bollywood/ Hollywood's context makes it more interesting than most Hollywood romantic comedies, but less beautiful or elaborate than Bollywood musicals. Do with it what you will.