Mumbai:Anurag Basu’s Kites has already become the Hindi film to have the widest theatre release worldwide. At Cannes this year, StudioCanal bought the distribution rights for France. Other European markets, and the Latin American and American markets are also covered—in the US alone, it is releasing in 215 screens.
But it’s difficult to say what kind of audience this film is made for. European and American audiences will find little of what they expect from a big “Bollywood star” film—Kites’ visual language is more second-rung Hollywood than opulent Indian. For audiences at home, it’s a throwback to the 1970s’ thwarted love stories of commercial Hindi cinema—love stories predated by fate and propelled by weepy scenes and dialogues. Yet Kites is not a stereotypical modern “Bollywood” romance. For Mexican audiences, it will perhaps be a bit like home—the genre Kites is closest to is melodramatic, edge-of-the-seat Mexican telefilms.
But don’t be entirely disheartened. The first half hour of the film is bursting with eye candy. Hrithik Roshan returns to the movies after two years, and is in great shape. He is our only really big, flamboyant superstar with killer good looks and the kind of screen presence that commercial cinema anywhere thrives on. There’s a customary dance sequence in the beginning that I loved; Roshan’s moves have gotten better. Barbara Mori—a vibrant, feisty and sexy actor—and Roshan make an attractive and endearing on-screen pair.
But beyond the first half hour, the film goes sharply downhill and isn’t lifted back up even for a minute.
To begin with, it is an extremely poor script. The dialogues will ring false even to a Hindi-movie novice, unless you still remember bad lines from the commercial movies of the 1970s and 1980s. The elderly villain of the film, a casino owner in Las Vegas, played by Kabir Bedi, says, “Yahan ke ek ek senator hamari pocket mein hai (every senator here is in our pocket).”
Roshan plays Jai, an Indian who’s doing the Vegas struggler’s drill—which includes marrying women in need of an American passport for money. He befriends the daughter (Kangna Ranaut) of the casino owner, a brutal Indian millionaire. The young girl, who learns dance from Jai, is besotted by his charms and is easy prey for him. He is about to marry the girl for money when he meets Natasha, a Mexican woman, a hustler and gold-digger like him—and of course, like him, with a heart.
Natasha is engaged to be married to the casino family scion, a sorely stereotypical Indian chauvinist who could be any character played by Gulshan Grover in a bad 1980s’ film.
The family gets cursory treatment in the script. Ranaut plays a psychopath in yet another film and she is noticeably deplorable even in the small role.
The Indian version of Kites is a censored one; a sexually explicit scene has been cut down to barely a kiss. But I wonder if there were more cuts because there are no moments when we see Jai and Natasha fall in love. The second half, where they are transformed into a tender, sugar-coated and much-in-love version of Bonnie and Clyde, is not justified by the beginning of the relationship.
The camerawork has certain flourishes, but overall in technique, Kites has nothing innovative to show off. Car chase sequences are reminiscent of antiquated Speed and Demolition Man kind of blow-ups and flying cars. One particular shoot-out scene between cops and two Texan hooligans at a motel is straight out of a Mexican TV serial. I was bored by then.
But despite all the obvious weaknesses and loopholes, Kites has a centre—its lead couple. There are moments that bring out the pain and passion of lovers courting constant danger, and at the same time desperately clinging to the hope of a life together. Their relationship is laced with warmth and humour—the few good lines in the film belong to Jai and Natasha. I only wish there was some sex to make the relationship more real.
Roshan dances, fights and romances with ease; as usual his superstar aura overwhelms him. Mori is a better actor. Throughout the film, she infuses a flesh-and-blood warmth into her role, making easy transitions from scene to scene and yet remaining in character throughout. The rest of the actors are merely puppets.
The worst, though, is the film’s music—because it is jarringly mismatched to the tone and canvas of the film. While you’re cruising on a brown, barren Nevada highway in a sexy convertible, you don’t want to hear soppy Rajesh Roshan-style tunes. For me, “Kites in the sky”, in Hrithik Roshan’s own voice, killed a bit of the man’s magic forever.
I recommend Kites to those who will suffer a bad film just to satisfy their curiosity: What the heck is the big deal about Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori? You won’t be entirely disappointed.
Kites released in theatres on Friday.