Malayalam writer and director Siddique’s Bodyguard, a remake of his remake (the Tamil Kaavalan) of his own original film (the Malayalam Bodyguard) is now out in Hindi, starring Salman Khan as the security person to whom the title refers, and Kareena Kapoor as Divya, the object of his protections.

Though an August 2011 release, it actually feels like a film from a decade ago and there are many elements that will feel comforting and familiar to many, as well as a sharp contrast to quite a few Hindi movies from the past three to five years or so.

Siddique presents us his hero’s back story with something any Hindi moviegoer will recognize instantly: the son of deceased parents who owes his life to the wealthy and powerful man, in this case: Sartaj Rana (Raj Babbar) who saved them and him from harm (a car crash), and to whom he has now pledged his loyalty and service.

Rana hears that the life of his daughter Divya (Kareena Kapoor) is in danger, though, strangely enough, only for the few days that she is in India to complete her management degree.  Once done with that, she will be sent off to the UK where her Papa is planning an arranged marriage for her, and the threat seems to end at the Indian border.  I guess the goondas who wish her harm don’t have passports or a means to exit the country….

In order to keep her safe, he enlists the services of bodyguard Lovely Singh (Salman Khan), who was just a fetus when Rana stopped to aid his injured parents who he found ejected from their car and bleeding by the side of the road.  Lovely’s Dad was a bodyguard too, so like many good traditional filmi betas, he has taken up the family line.

And, just like so many wealthy filmi daughters, Divya is more occupied with prancing in front of the mirror and putting on her makeup than taxing her pretty little brain with homework and pouring over her VAIO laptop (yes, Kareena’s brand – what a coinkydink), and, again, true to cinematic form, she inexplicably turns haughty and impatient when saddled with the 24/7 presence of Lovely Singh on campus and at home.

We only see her in class briefly and she never cracks a book at home, so the rest of her time until the degree is received is spent concocting a fake telephone persona of fellow student Chhaya, who she creates by way of altering her voice in order to distract her bodyguard from his duties and send him on a wild goose chase trying to find out who the enamored hottie is that keeps calling him from an untraceable number.

Which brings me to the next filmi construct: the guy incapable of catching on that the double he’s fallen in love with is the same person with whom he spends most hours of each day.  Never mind that this guy is in the security biz.  Most security people (in the States and Europe, and I’m sure elsewhere) are ex-police or military and they often have ways of tracking down information that might not be as easily available to the average citizen using Google.  Yet our dear Sallu is totally flummoxed when it comes to finding the breathy Chhaya.

And wait til you see him jump each and every time his own mobile phone rings; you would think he was an inbred teacup Chihuahua with a nervous disorder, rather than a beefy guy capable of pataoing three bad guys at the same time, then flexing and kissing each of his biceps during the title song.  I started to wonder if perhaps it was giving him an electrical charge each time it went off.

But the film trots along at a pretty quick pace and there’s some slapstick comedy provided by Rajat Rawail as Tsunami Singh, an overweight Man Friday in the Rana household who becomes Lovely Singh’s much put-upon sidekick.  Soon Divya realizes that she shouldn’t be playing with Lovely’s feelings and at the same time, she’s falling for him and can’t stop.

Then, cue the next old-timey filmi trope: the obligatory few moments of anti-gay humor.  Salman’s character arrives at school one day trying to determine who this Chhaya is, and he mistakenly momentarily thinks it’s the delicate, effeminate boy in one class who fawns all over his brawny figure, forcing Lovely Singh to scuttle by him sideways like a crab as he tries to squeeze his top-heavy frame through a doorway and avoid actually brushing against the swooning boy, for fear of contracting some sort of man-loving cooties.  As I mentioned in my remarks about Once Upon a Warrior, I can’t comprehend how this sort of mockery is still accepted as a facile joke in this year 2011.

As the love story and hidden identity problem wind tighter and tighter toward a climax, the couple run in slow-mo and twirl through the prettily picturized Teri Meri while Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shreya Ghoshal sing, and the song, as sweet as it was, felt as though it could have as easily been lifted from some romantic film of the late ‘90s/early 2000s (not that I mind that).

There are all sorts of the usual movie misunderstandings and that thing where one core character turns on a dime and suddenly does something completely the opposite of what you have been led to believe thus far that he/she is capable of, and there’s the big fight finale, pitting Salman against Mahesh Manjrekhar, Aditya Pancholi and assorted henchmen in an old deserted fort that I think was also used previously for a fight scene in Tashan.  It’s a little bit drawn out for my liking, but hey, I’m always happy to watch Aditya Pancholi play a kohl-eyed baddie (though I do wish they’d toned down the Magic Marker black they used on his hair and moustache).

Kareena Kapoor is dressed as the same Punjabi girl she was in Jab We Met and behaves the way Poo(ja) would have in K3G if she’d have been an only child and from a much wealthier family.  She looks pretty and cries well and that’s about all she seems to be expected to do.  I mean, how high can the expectations for the female lead be when as an adult character in her  late 20s (according to the chronology in the film) her father asks a man “Would you accept my daughter?” as she stands in the same room with them, mute save for an occasional tremulous sob.  At age 27 or 28, can’t she speak for herself?

See it or skip it?

All that said, look, it’s The Big Eid Release and it’s a Salman Khan film, and as such it hits all its marks.

I enjoyed the title song for its exuberant Southern flavor (and the “friendly appearance” of Katrina Kaif still in Sheila mode) and Desi Beat and also the aforementioned rather simple Teri Meri.

Salman is entertaining and charming and rather low-key, even though it is strange to me (as a Westerner, I guess) to watch a man who is supposed to be so powerful and strong and yet be so subservient in the presence of Sartaj Rana and so aware of his place in society that the thought of ever, ever, ever contemplating Divya as anything other than the precious cargo he’s assigned to protect never enters his mind.

It’s a light, fun holiday film that I’m sure will be a joy and comfort to many (especially people who may not be thrilled with the new directions Hindi cinema is taking), just as White Christmas, Home Alone and Love Actually are to me and many others in the 30 days or so between late November onwards to December 25th.

And just wait for the moment when the water hits Salman so hard it blows his shirt off.

6 thoughts on “Bodyguard

  1. I saw Kavalan a couple o’ months ago and so dint enjoy bodyguard all that. The end was predictable but it was a chance to hang out with my sisters and frens. SO I went anyway.

    1. Mette, I think if you went in with the expectations of a Salman Khan flic for the holiday, then your expectations would have been met. It was interesting to see him in this kinder, gentler version of a shy tough guy, though I did enjoy Dabangg more.

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