Just at the time when Salman has been installed in a Jodhpur jail (at least for the moment), I happened to watch Jaan-e-mann and recently attended a screening of Marigold, his much touted Hollywood film, or crossover film as some were calling it.  

The movie is directed by Willard Carroll, a man who glimpsed Salman onscreen when he dropped into a Madras cinema to watch Chori Chori Chupke Chupke.   He was wowed by the musclebound Khan’s performance, watched the actor’s entire catalogue of movies, and scripted his own film for him.

Marigold is also the name of the lead actress in Carroll’s film, played by Heroes’ Ali Larter.   She’s a girl with a diva complex who is repeatedly cast in crappy, sexploitation films that end in a number (Basic Instinct 3, Fatal Attraction 3) and she jets off to Goa (where her luggage is lost en route) to make Kama Sutra 3.   But she arrives to find out that the production office has shut down, the filmmakers are in jail, and she has no return ticket.

Lucky for her, and us, she encounters Rani (the wonderful Suchitra Pillai who I wish would get her own lead in a film) who offers to help her out.   They stop by a film set in Goa and Marigold is spotted by the director and  cast in a musical  number.   She also meets the arrogant lead actor and the mellow choreographer, Prem, played by hamara Salman Khan.

Ok, at this point some of you may well say “What?   Sallu as a choreographer?   But he’s so athletic and dances with his shoulders!”   That was my reaction too.   He’s no twinkletoes, and I will confess I was never a big fan of his before.   Sure, I was temporarily swayed, or blinded rather, by his glistening shirtlessness for that Oh Oh Jaane Jaana song in Pyar Kiya To Darna Kiya, but after that momentary loss of reason, I went back to being a non-Salman fan.   (Unlike this girl!)  

But can I tell you something?    I liked him as Prem.   He was there in all his stoner dude, American-accented glory, but he was also incredibly low-key.   Granted, he goes from meeting Marigold to falling in love with her in zero to sixty, but once he’s smitten, he plays this guy who has no doubts about his love for the girl and is totally into her, and that confidence was really appealing.   And he never had to take his shirt off once.

Ali Larter is pretty, and looked quite cute in some of the filmi outfits they dress her in, but she’s brittle, and stays so even after she’s supposed to have melted and fallen for Prem.   I confess I must be one of the few people in this country who doesn’t watch Heroes, so I don’t know if she’s improved since the time Marigold was filmed (2005).

The action moves from Goa to Bombay, Prem helps Marigold to learn how to dance, they go to Elephanta Island, and Prem reveals over dinner one night that he’s a Rajasthani prince.   He invites Marigold to accompany to him to his sister’s wedding (cue the traditional clothes) and the Cali girl learns that Prem has been betrothed for years to another girl.

When I interviewed him, the director said that he wasn’t making a Bollywood film, and I think how you appreciate this movie may depend on your familiarity, or the lack thereof, with mainstream Hindi movies.   For me, with my viewing history, it’s hard to come to Marigold with fresh eyes.   And so for me,  the filmi elements in the movie were a tease, but not satisfying enough.   If this were  ten years ago in August, and I was just starting out on this cinematic safar, my reaction might have been stronger.

See it or skip it?

It’s a tough call.   If you love Salman, or you’re curious to see him in an English-speaking role, or you’re such a diehard filmi fan you’ll watch anything related to the Bombay film industry, then definitely go for it.

After ingesting over 150 movies, Carroll has definitely got a feeling for filmi touches, and the cool design of the onscreen images that mark the change of scenes are done by the director himself.

My favorite part of the film?   A brief appearance by Helen – the one and only Helen – at the start of the movie as  Prem’s grandmother.  

Stay tuned for an  interview with Carroll about his moviemaking experiences with Salman in India.

10 thoughts on “Marigold

  1. I actually liked this film…not loved it, there were too many flaws in it, but enjoyed my time out with my BW friends watching it. They seemed to like it too…as you say, Filmi, it’s not as much fun as “the real thing” but it can be put in the rather short list of “films with Salman in it that I like” (the top of that list still being Yeh Hai Jalwa where I finally “get” the Sallu sex appeal).

    After analyzing it a bit, I think his movies rise in my estimation inversely with the number of stripteases he does…too obvious a display of his charms (and to over-bulked) for my taste. I think I remember reading a year or so ago, when the talk of this film began, that the director had to fight Sallu to keep his shirt on, as Willard thought the US audiences would not appreciate what Salman was sure his desi fans would demand from him.

    I did appreciate Salman’s new “subtleness” in any case, but I think he may have taken it too far. His Prem character in this one was just too sweet for words. Salman with no “attitude” seemed not himself, and I kept expecting him to let it slip sometime, which he didn’t. I also thought his father turning things around so fast at the end, seemed a little abrupt, as if they didn’t know how to finish it and just decided to make the “It’s a Bollywood film ending, isn’t it?” joke instead of figuring something out.

  2. Yaar, you make it sound as if I belong to a “rare” breed just because I totally adore Salman. It’s not even that bad, believe me….just give it a try. Worst is when..I have strangers come up to me to enquire whether I am Sanjay Baba’s long lost twin. Bollywood life…I tell ya! 🙂

  3. Maria,
    I absolutely LOVE it when someone finds good points with Sallu… This means I might actually be changing concerning him, and I love that feeling of change! As for going to prison, come on, that’s just amazing publicity! Do you know, all the BW actors have a prison session these days. If they want to be offered good roles, they have to go through that.

  4. As you probably know, the release plan for this movie is – first it’s being shown in Indian movie theatres, and then it’s supposed to have a wider release in mainstream American theatres. I’m really interested in seeing how people like it in its “second release.”

    I’ve seen a few hundred Hindi movies, and I enjoyed it – but maybe more importantly, I think it is just that kind of movie that will be liked by people (women, actually) who would enjoy the music-dancing-costume aspects of, say, a Dharma production but would never go looking for them. I think of my cousin who’s as close to a mom as I have, who completely loved some K-Jo wedding scene I forced on her and happily went out to Jackson Heights with me after that.

    I’m hoping Ali Larter’s fans will check it out and get a little interested in Hindi popular cinema.

  5. Ah, Professor K, thank you for a good laugh to start off my Saturday. 🙂

    In all fairness to my Mom, someone interviewed her the Monday after we saw Kabhi Alvida…, and apparently she spoke quite favorably of both AB 1.0 and 2.0.

    And another day, when reviewing part of the Nasreen Munni Kabir documentary on SRK, she was much more engaged. I guess the excess of emotion and music in some Hindi movies is just too much for her. (As I witnessed when I dragged her to see Kareeb in a cinema years ago. “Why do they keep showing him – Bobby Deol – falling into the water, over and over again, in slow-motion?”)

  6. Maja, yeah the curiosity factor is definitely part of why I was so compelled to see it, and I liked the trailer. One other film, that I’m posting a review to shortly, that I hope you get a chance to see is Vanaja. The young girl in it is amazing.

    Anantha, thanks! I did know that, but forgot to mention it – so thanks for doing so. She’s been in several of his films, and I asked Willard Carroll about her in the interview.

    Carla, on the subject of mothers, I just forced my own to sit through Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna for another story I’m working on, and she was not thrilled, though she did seem to appreciate the Bachchan men. Her frequent remarks of “Another song??” and “Is this the end now?” then later “Intermission!!??” made me laugh. I know she likes musicals, but somehow the magic of Hindi cinema just isn’t her cup of tea…

  7. I found your comments on the perspective needed to watch a film like this very compelling. My mother, who does not really appreciate my love for Hindi films, recently watched “The Guru,” another Hollywood film with Bollywood touches (including, even, some dance numbers with Hindi songs) and LOVED it. She told me that it finally helped her appreciate what I see in “those Indian movies.” She insisted that I watch it, and I did – and was left thinking “that was cute, but I’d rather watch the real thing.” Somehow my perspective as a relatively experienced watcher of Hindi films made the filmi aspects of Guru seem watered down, yet to my mom, placing filmi elements in a familiar framework made them easier to understand and enjoy.

  8. I’ve heard of Marigold before and it seems to be one of those movies I don’t really care about that much but feel compelled to watch anyway to see how the BW connection is done. I’m not a fan of Salman either and while I love Heroes, Ali Larter is my least fav person in there, so … Still, it can’t be worse than My Bollywood Bride, and I AM curious about Sallu as a choreographer.

    I’m much more excited about another movie though – Water premieres in the cinemas here in October! 😀

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