Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bollywood Movie of the Week? Bas Ek Pal

JUST for those of you who might be thinking that I love every Bollywood movie I see . . . is this movie. Which, I have to say, was terrible. Boy oh boy. Mountain View Library! You have failed me in this!

Bas Ek Pal, 2006

Directed and Written by: Onir (why, Onir? Why? Wherefore hast thou wrought such a film?)

Produced by: Manohar P. Kanungo, Shailesh R. Singh

Starring: Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar, Jimmy Shergill, Sanjay Suri, Rehaan Engineer, Yashpal Sharma

Do you see the photo at left? This is the cover under which I rented this film. Would you expect that in a film advertised with such an image -- look! Pink! dancing! smiling! happy-ness! -- most of the film would be concerned with domestic violence, prison rape, broken friendships and weird, creepy revenge?

No. I did not either.

The *concept* for the story is *sort* of interesting, if I tell it to you in words. (And since you're probably not going to watch it, or care if I spoil it, I will this time!) Bas Ek Pal means, cavalierly translated by me, "One Moment is Enough." Nikhil (Sanjay Suri) has returned to India from college in Boston, determined to settle back down to a hip Mumbai life -- though he's going through some culture shock. HowEVER, at a club, he meets a girl and becomes obsessed with her. She refused to tell him her name, so he starts repeatedly showing up there in hopes of meeting her again. The next time they meet, he's with friends and she's with a boyfriend -- a boyfriend with a GUN! Yelling! Fighting! And in one ill-timed split second: Shooting -- doh! Nikhil's best friend Rahul (Jimmy Shergill) is shot! From a gun that was in Nikhil's hand!

Nikhil, fresh from the USA, goes to horrible, developing-world jail. There are totally creepy dudes there. (Including an unexpectedly welcome creepy dude: Yashpal Sharma, playing "Swamy" -- he was a low-level bad guy in both Lagaan and Aaja Nachle. This is how weird the movie was -- I was happy to see a BADGUY I recognized.) No one will help poor Nikhil, including his relatives and the friends who were present at the shooting incident. Commence the languishing in prison and the working-out montages.

Fast-forward some large amount of time. He's out! He's free! He's got a badass goatee! But his friends don't want to see him anymore, the chick he was obsessed with--the dream that sustained him through his horrible prison sentence--is engaged to his sad now-paraplegic friend, and basically his life sucks.

So what does Nikhil do? Why, helplessly stalk her because he's got nothing left. Meanwhile Rahul blames him for his new disability, but he's secretly afraid the chick just pities him, not loves him. Creepy love-triangle things commence.

AND, their creepy alcoholic friend Steve (really, people? Steve?) is not only alcoholic but also an abuser -- and there are revealed some love-triangle things happening on THAT front, involving his wife.

Stalking! Attacking! Domestic violence! Blood! Murder! Boy, it really makes you think of two people dancing, doesn't it?

Now, this story on its own has the potential to be . . . at least an OKAY film, right? The idea of a guy taken straight from Boston to an Indian prison for a crime he didn't commit -- that has some pull, right? The idea that one ill-conceived moment can throw your life *radically* off course has SOME merit, right?

ExCEPT that this film managed to execute this story in the world's most shallow, creepy, unfeeling way possible. And the dream woman, the instant mystery, the comfort in times of sorrow -- she's played as the most plastic, languid, artificial, Barbie-tastic girl I've ever seen. Even her crying/whimpering/emotional sounds (there's a lot of crying in this movie) are afterdubbed -- DUBBED! as if she couldn't quite swing it on set -- and it STILL sounds horribly acted. Urmila Matondkar -- this was not the role for you.

This movie started out plastic and unaffecting and just got . . . weirder and weirder. Note to filmmakers: surprising suspenseful events close to the end of the movie, especially those involving guns and/or shooting people, should NOT make me laugh out loud.

Not one character was really likeable -- OK, the main character was pretty likeable in the beginning. And then he became a CREEPY STALKER. Why on earth anyone would fall immediately in love with the Barbie chick, let alone this guy, is pretty unfathomable. So then the irrationally passionate language he would use to describe her, coupled with the crazy desperate way he was spying on her, and her DUBBED CRYING, combine for a Gale-Force Weirdness from No-Sense Town. (And she appeared ickily older than he was, because she was so plastic -- it was like the world's youngest cougar.) Everything about the movie is slightly skeevy; the setting, the acting, the club, the music, the actors, the relationships, the dialogue, the people's names (STEVE?), the listless way they would drift through their lives and languidly betray and/or attempt to kill each other -- after the movie I was left feeling like I needed to take a shower. (And no, not in a good way.) Those creepy dudes from prison were like a breath of fresh AIR, next to the halfhearted main characters!

And, get this -- after this tirade of creepy, including betrayal, stalking, double-stalking, and bloody murder -- there's a HAPPY ENDING. I KNOW, right? What? From whence came you, o happy ending?

Yeesh. I can't even show you a clip because no one likes this film well enough to post it to YouTube. So let us all now, instead, think of rainbows. Rainbows!

See, I CAN hate a Bollywood film. So you really should see the ones I like, right? ;o)