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Hollywood/Bollywood
 

The unnoticed invasion of Bollywood continues with Bollywood/Hollywood, a genteel romantic comedy in the vein of Pretty Woman meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Can't Buy Me Love. For those still not in the know, Bollywood films often break out randomly into elaborate song and dance numbers. They have a certain zest about them missing in many Hollywood films. And they tend to be very long. A full Bollywood movie would probably baffle American audiences, so directors are opting for hybrids, usually taking an American plot with Indian overtones (and actors) and adding some songs. Bollywood/Hollywood is an insignificant flighty of fancy, utterly familiar and moderately amusing only because it is a different take on a very used formula. Some better examples are the equally un-seen American Chai or the goofy The Guru.

Here, Rahul Seth (Rahul Khanna, Bawandar, Earth) is a successful Indian-Canadian entrepreneur, yet still unmarried. For all the money he has, his lack of a wife is what his parents always harp on. Worse, his sister Twinky (Rishma Malik) is getting married soon, and his parents disapprove mightily of his relationship with pop singer Kimberly (Jessica Pare, Lost and Delirious, Stardom). Well, writer/director Deepa Mehta (Earth, Fire) takes care of that plot strand quickly; Kimberly dies. But now, Rahul is miserable. Enter Sue Singh (Lisa Ray, Fault, Takkari Donga). Rahul sees her at a bar, and learns that she is an escort. She intrigues him because she actually has a brain, and he cannot quite place her ethnicity (he thinks she's Spanish). He hires her to pretend to be his girlfriend, and, like all romantic comedies, their relationship gets off to a bad start, so the two despise each other.

What Rahul soon realizes is that Sue (short for Sunita) is actually Indian. Worse, his family really likes her. She's bright, funny, says all the right things, and manages to help each family member with some personal problem. Of course the two begin to fall in love, which means that Mehta needs to throw in some artificial barrier to keep them from being together. This barrier is Rahul's impression of Sue as an escort. One of the deficiencies in Bollywood/Hollywood is that Mehta never truly explains what exactly Sue does. An escort who doesn't have sex with her customers is probably a pretty rare thing. Rahul thinks of Sue as nothing more than a prostitute, and he cannot marry somebody like her. Sue comes from a working class family, and feels out of place in Rahul's world. If she were to belong, she would need his love and support, and since it's obvious he has serious reservations, her feelings for him begin to change.

Ray is a delight to watch on screen. She is smart, beautiful, and has charisma. This contrasts with Khanna, who looks uncomfortable for much of the film. He doesn't seem to be the right person for the role. Everybody knows the path his character will take, so his unexciting take on Rahul doesn't really help. The movie wants to portray the character as caught between two worlds, the traditional Indian one and his other one as a rich dot-commer. This struggle between the two defines his character and presumably accounts for his boorish attitudes towards Sue, but his emotion are a little too pig-headed to be believable. To alleviate this, there are enough quirky supporting characters to make this feel like a British film. Grandma Ji (Dina Pathak, Devdas, Raj Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gaya) is the spunky grandmother and Rocky (Ranjit Chowdhry, Autumn in New York, Coming Soon) is the chauffeur who also cross-dresses in his free time. The music and dancing are cheesy, as they should be, but sound more fake than they should. All in all, there are worse things than Bollywood/Hollywood, but there are also better.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sensuality/partial nudity, some crude language, and drug references.

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