I’ve no one to blame but myself.
I took this 2002 Sridevi Productions movie home because I like Nana Patekar, one of the three lead actors, and had read, several times over, back when the movie was first released that, surprisingly, Karisma Kapoor had done a good turn in it.
What a sorry waste of $2.
Good Lord, if this movie were made by white people, they’d be accused of being anti-Indian, it contains such an amazing array of clichés (smelly peasants, uncultured rough chauvinist natives, and on and on).
Karisma Kapoor plays the part of Nandini, an Indian girl based in Canada, possibly born there (this already is a stretch of the imagination). Her parents are both dead and her uncles are hoping to find a good husband for her. They set sights on her buddy, Shekhar, played by Sanjay Kapoor. The two marry and have a baby boy, Raja, when suddenly some violence back in India prompts Shekhar to rush back home, his wife and child in tow. I could have sworn that the faux TV news clips mentioned Bihar, though the scenery where the movie is filmed in India is obviously Rajasthan. Nandini learns that her husband has quite an extensive family, though he seems to have let on to her that he was alone in the world.
Once they touch down in rural India, Nandini turns into the perfect Memsaab, fanning the air in front of her and wrinkling her nose at the smells around her, clutching her precious son and shrieking every time a local gets too close for comfort. The small family is almost attacked on the bus ride home by warlords hostile to Shekhar’s father, Narasimha (Nana Patekar), but, lucky for the trio, Nana’s men show up just in the nick of time, guns blazing. The prodigal son is welcomed home with a slaughtered goat, whose blood he and Nandini are expected to walk through. Poor Nandini turns five shades paler and plotzes at the prospect.
Enter Nana. The mighty patriarch, clad in the same white dhoti and tee with pale coral scarf throughout the whole movie, first appears crouched in the huge, crumbling fort, surrounded by dozens of pigeons. We soon learn that the eye-for-an-eye battles between his guys and the ones who attacked the bus have been going on for a long time.
What a head of the family Narasimha is: he insults his son repeatedly for being a wimp, growls at Nandini to dress modestly (her arms are exposed) and is tickled to see his grandson, who he declares he will make into a lion.
There is also a long suffering Mrs. Narasimha and some sisters, but they, for the most part, stick to type in the background. The mother cries that she’s missed her son all the years he’s been away and the sisters fawn over their new bhabhiji, telling her how pretty she is.
Shekhar and Nandini grow increasingly disturbed by the violence that surrounds them and plan their return home, until Shekhar is killed by the opposing warlords and Narasimha refuses to allow his grandson to leave with Nandini (who he taunts frequently by addressing as Madam). Since there is no question of calling the cops to intervene, we now have the set-up of the struggle that takes us through to the end of the movie.
I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to most movies and with Bollywood flics I can usually find something to like, even if it’s just the music or the locales or the clothes, but even I’m pretty much stuck here! The only thing I can say is, Nana plays the flinty codger Grandad to a T, cackling out a HEE HEE HEE every so often, in between angry rants. In one of the most puzzling scenes, after he orders the beheading of a rival in a threshing machine, the southern Astaire Prabhu Deva appears for a song and dance number in tribute to Narasimha’s leadership, joined by dozens of village men.
Oh yes, and then there’s the much touted Ishq Kameena number, inserted jarringly in the second half of the movie. It’s only purpose is to introduce Shahrukh Khan’s chatty character, Jaisingh, and give us the chance to see Aishwarya Rai in a wet costume with a tramp stamp just above her tailbone. Turns out SRK will be present in a lot of the last quarter of the movie, and he gets the funniest line of the entire film (spoken in the midst of an action scene): “If the camel gets hurt, Maneka Gandhi will kill you.”
See it or skip it?
Skip it! Don’t even think of watching this movie, unless you are blinded by an undying love for Lolo or Nana and will sit through anything in order to see them. (Sanjay doesn’t even register.)