Despite all the clock-watching I did during My Bollywood Bride (2006)*, I can’t quite bring myself to ditch it, because its heart is in the right place, and there’s a lot of good stuff mixed in with all the ineptitude. It’s a curate’s-egg-salad of gorgeous visuals, muddled plotting, charismatic performers, crappy jokes, sexy dances, and dire dialogue. As an Indophile myself, I appreciate the writers’ efforts to give American audiences a rose-tinted taster of Indian pop-culture… I just don’t think it works as a film, overall.
The central plot concerns ‘Alex Kincaid’ (Jason Lewis), an unfulfilled advertising copy-writer living in L.A., who spots a gorgeous Indian woman (Kashmira Shah) reading a magazine article about him while queuing at a snack-shack on the beach, and decides to pursue her. In theory, it’s “love at first sight”, and the two of them enjoy a whirlwind romance over the following days… but this part of the story is only shown in brief, disjointed flashbacks, so it’s hard to see exactly what the attraction is, for either party. I mean, the fact that his idea of an ice-breaker is to run up behind her and insist that the flattering magazine photo doesn’t do him justice, makes him seem a tad narcissistic… and the fact that she apparently never trusted him with her surname or any details about her hugely successful career while they were together strikes me as a bit suspect. There’s some lip-service paid to the notion of “destiny” and “karma”, but that isn’t really a satisfying substitute for character depth and sparky romantic chemistry.
When ‘Reena’ is unexpectedly called back to Mumbai by a family emergency, without leaving so much as a “good-bye” post-it note for Alex, he feels compelled to fly out after her, in lukewarm pursuit. Unfortunately all he knows about his supposed soul-mate is her first name and the neighbourhood she lives in… which turns out to be a lot larger, and more populous than he’d assumed. When all hope seems lost, he happens to spy a huge billboard poster, which reveals that “his” Reena is in fact a huge Bollywood movie star! OMG!!! So, it’s a bit like a gender-swapped Cinderella story… except in this case, it’s the male-Cinderella who pursues a Charming Princess he met while she was in disguise as a random commoner… and who’s now about to be married off to an evil King (well, movie producer, actually… but the archetype’s pretty much the same).
There’s also a sub-plot involving Reena’s platonic bestie, ‘Bobby K.’ (Sanjay Suri), a douchey actor with a crush on a cute choreographer (Neha Dubey) who turns out to be a close childhood friend he’d selfishly left behind after being talent-spotted. There’s a potentially interesting story buried in there about her sense of betrayal and his fame-addled hubris, but it’s impossible to invest in their romance because Bobby has an intensely irritating catchphrase (“That’s what I’m saying!”), which he said so often I started to wonder if he was mentally impaired.
On the plus side, the two lead actresses are extremely attractive, and there’s a surprisingly awesome auto-rickshaw chase sequence, en route to the ultra-cliche “airport reconciliation” scene at the end. Oh, and there’s some (unintentional?) laughs to be had with the opening/closing musical number “New Freaking Bollywood”, which features such lyrical treats as:
Indian women have big brown eyes,
We come in all packages, dark and fair,
No matter, no matter, no matter what size!
We may be demure,
But we have a lot of class.
You get fresh with us,
And we’ll kick your arse!
* It was re-released in 2008 with the new title “My Faraway Bride”, for no apparent reason! Meh.