(Netflix streaming of Bollywood movies = awesome!)
Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, 2009
Directed by: Shimit Amin
Produced by: Yash Raj Films
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Sharon Prabhakar, Gauhar Khan, Prem Chopra, Manish Choudhary
It's Kinda Like: If Wes Anderson directed Office Space, a little bit . . . mixed with some IT Crowd, but serious.
(Note: Beware of Netflix film descriptions; this is the blurb from their site: "Versatile Bollywood talent Ranbir Kapoor stars in this romantic comedy as Rocket Singh, a salesman hustling his trade in a flush economy. In fact, Singh is performing so well at work that he decides to start a company -- within the same company. In his effort to keep his venture under wraps, Singh soon adds con artist to his list of credentials." Did they WATCH the movie? Approximately 75% of this is Entirely, Entirely False. His name is NOT Rocket Singh, he's sucking at work, the economy is NOT necessarily great, and he's NOT a con artist; his whole thing is being completely honest with everyone. Nice going, interns who apparently wrote this blurb.)
This movie was really great! And with a very "Western Cinema Indie Film" aesthetic -- quirky, understated, actors that look like Real People instead of plastic heroes. The opening reminded me a little of something like Rushmore, or The Royal Tenenbaums, with its offbeat, stylized approach to cinematography and characterization. No dance numbers, no Hot Romantic B-story, but an excellent satisfying underdog story. A quiet, quirky comedy, or maybe a comedy-drama -- with the necessary Terrible Things happening around the intermission, as per the Bollywood structure.
Ranbir Kapoor performs admirably as our hero, Harpreet Singh Bedi (not "Rocket," Netflix!), a hopeful, earnest college graduate who didn't exactly get the best grades ever. But he knows how to deal with people. Kapoor is adorably forthright, decked out in a neverending palette of stripes (at once childlike AND an indication that he's on the Straight and Narrow) and a dizzying array of colored turbans. At the outset, he's kind of like a little old man-child (not unlike Rushmore): he wears horizontal striped T-shirts like Ernie, he dances in that embarrassing dad way, he wears *short-sleeved buttondowns,* he's rocking the turban and the beard (no one else is Sikh in the film but his grandpa, forcing him visually even more into the minority), and he seems cheerfully unconcerned by his uncoolness. "HP," as his friends call him, is determined to get a great job like all his friends, so he decides to go into sales--he's a people person, after all. Sales of what? Who cares! Wherever he can get an interview.
Here, look how cute he is:
Far from the suave con man that Netflix indicates he is, HP is actually wide-eyed and innocent, unaware of the cutthroat techniques employed by businessmen. His new mentor, Nitin (played with excellent smarminess by Naveen Kaushik, sporting some truly awesome douchebaggish facial hair), quickly shows him both the quick thinking needed by salesmen, and the routine dirty tricks. HP is appalled by the casual dishonesty employed by his new colleagues.
Through a complicated series of events, HP finds himself running a rival company from within the bigger company. In an Office Space type way, he's quietly subversive, while maintaining his own personal integrity.
The characters in this film are all slightly unexpected -- again a la Wes Anderson. Since it's not your typical Bollywood Romance, the characters have that real-life tinge; like in The Royal Tenenbaums they come off as *slightly* sad, with a hint of wilted skeeviness, as if you're made uncomfortable by your own voyeurism of their perfectly ordinary lives. Harpreet Singh lives in a flat with his grandpa, who is so gleefully young for his age that they're more like cranky brothers. Giri (D. Santosh), the IT guy, is like an Indian version of Roy from The IT Crowd: greasy curly hair, unkempt appearance, nearly horizontal posture in his desk chair, personal schedule entirely unconcerned with the actual time of day, and an open predilection for "porn," which in this case being a family movie is pictures of ladies in swimsuits. Koena the receptionist (Gauhar Khan) is always being hit on -- but she's not really THAT hot, or scantily-dressed or anything, she's just better looking than anyone else in the office. They're ordinary, with the reality-volume turned up a notch. Stylized.
I think just the premise is enough; a lot more happens that I won't spoil for you. Suffice it to say, it's a great underdog movie with an awesome villain (Prem Chopra as Mr. Bedi, the boss, with his perfectly-kept frownyface mustache), a quiet and entirely engaging hero in Harpreet Singh, a delightfully dangerous predicament (starting a rival company from inside), and a satisfying conclusion. A nice-looking, well made film. Enjoy!
(This trailer gives the *most* accurate flavor of the trailers that I could find . . . )