Planet Bollywood
Namastey London
 
Producer: Eros/Blockbuster Movie Entertainers
Director: Vipul Shah
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Upen Patel, Rishi Kapoor, Javed Shiekh, Ritesh Deshmukh
Music: Himesh Reshammiya
Lyrics: `Javed Akhtar
Genre: Romantic
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Film Released on: 23 March 2007
Reviewed by: Lidia Ostepeev  - Rating: 6.5 / 10
 
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With music by Reshammiya and Kaif-Kumar as the romantic leads, I was expecting a reprisal of Humko Deewana Kar Gaye but this wasn’t the case. Shah’s Namastey London has as its theme the NRI desire to reconnect with the mother country. Although it’s been played out in different ways, the notion of a NRI father sending his son or daughter back to India to ward off corrupt Western influences, is well known. The outcome is equally familiar because the west is often vilified while Indian values, are idealised. It’s easy to see which side will “win” so where’s the interest? In Namaste London there is a natural feel to the romance and family interactions which generally reflect well on the screenplay, direction and performances. Eye-catching choreography and well integrated and varied song picturizations lift an otherwise repetitive musical score.

Briefly, the story centres on London party-girl Jasmeet (Jazz) Singh (Katrina Kaif), who falls in love with her boss – a rich British playboy. Alarmed by his daughter’s wayward attitudes, Manmohan (Rishi Kapoor) decides to whisk her off to the Punjab for some straightening out by way of an arranged marriage to Arjun (Akshay Kumar) – the son of a family friend.

The line that Jasmeet treads between wild-girl and dutiful daughter is not always clear. For instance, it’s hard to believe that she’d consent to go to India leaving her British boyfriend just as he proposes. Given her out-there party proclivities, it’s equally hard to imagine she’d have a fairly chaste relationship with him. Because Jazz is rather petulant and confrontational, it’s also strange that she’d go through with an arranged marriage in India. Some of these inconsistencies are ameliorated by the fact that charming Rishi Kapoor has been chosen to play a well configured father role. This is not the unyielding patriarch played by Amrish Puri or Amitabh Bachchan but a jovial, more flexible personality – one which is also experiencing an identity crisis. When Manmohan and his wife argue about the way they’ve bought up their daughter, his vulnerability and confusion come through and it’s these qualities which make it make it easier to believe that he and Jazz share a bond. He cajoles rather than forces her to bend towards traditional values.

Jazz’s Pakistani friend Imran (Upen Patel) is shown to have a negative influence. His character however, is little more than a device to facilitate Jazz’s arranged marriage. It’s Imran who advises her to play along with her parents without any intention of complying. Once his limited use is over however, the rather lame sub-plot constructed around Imran’s pursuit of his own identity, is just a loose thread. The filmmakers try to weave in some comments highlighting intolerant western attitudes towards Muslims but these fall flat because really, Imran is no more than a cardboard cut-out.


One of the failings of NRI stories is the often poor delineation of non-Indian characters. I hasten to add that Western cinema is just as guilty of stereotyping. It is gratifying that at least non-Indian actors with some acting ability have been selected to perform in this film. Although the characters appear less wooden than usual, the screenplay doesn’t do them any service. It’s really hard to see why Jazz falls in love with the odious Charlie Brown (her boss) whose only attractions are wealth and power. It’s a nice touch however, to have Charlie’s own father casting aspersions on his son’s character. The film starts off in an encouraging fashion. As the opening credits roll, we see lots of ordinary Londoners associating with NRIs in the streets. It’s all rather earthy and commonplace then suddenly the focus shifts and stays with the upper-class. Our generous spirited Indian characters are subjected to nasty colonial/ imperialist attitudes but thankfully, there’s no Pardes-like brawl at an interracial function; only a plausible lecture by our custodian of Indian values and “niceness” – Arjun. There’s even a Lagaan influenced, interracial rugby match which can be forgiven because it’s rather funny.

Although it’s predictable Namastey London is still entertaining. Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar complement each other and their chemistry is particularly evident in Rafta Rafta which shows Arjun’s imagined flirtation with Jazz in a rustic environment. I’m only guessing that Saroj Khan was responsible for the choreography because it has the exuberance of the Lodi scene in Veer-Zaara. The Punjabi flavour of Chakna Chakna set in a slick London disco with its smokey cabaret feel serves to spotlight Arjun’s charisma and adaptability. A team of choreographers worked on the film and the diversity shows.

Namastey London is light, well paced and imaginative within clichéd confines. There is no emotional grip here, but lots of charm in the portrayal of family relations and the development of a pleasing romance.

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