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Film review: Bollywood/Hollywood

Published: Friday, Oct. 31 2003 7:53 a.m. MST

Rahul Khanna and Lisa Ray star in the poorly acted and off-putting "Bollywood/Hollywood," a disappointing mix of movie genres.

Magnolia Pictures

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"Bollywood/Hollywood" is clearly designed to appeal to fans of both the Indian and American houses of filmmaking. Unfortunately, it's so inept that it may appeal to neither.

Also, there's an air of smugness and superiority here — as if the filmmakers thought that by both parodying and paying homage to Bollywood musical fantasies and formulaic Hollywood romantic comedies they could come up with something better.

Instead, it's off-putting and rather unappealing. Worse, the incredibly stiff performances and tuneless, clinker musical numbers don't help. And at 105 minutes, it feels longer — much longer — than some of the epic-length Indian features it's sending up.

"Bollywood/Hollywood" follows the Seths, a family of well-to-do Indian transplants that has gotten a little too comfortable with the American way of life. (Which is not too surprising, considering they're living in Hollywood.) That's certainly true of Rahul (Rahul Khanna), the oldest son, who is being pressured by his mother (Moushumi Chatterjee) to marry.

However, none of her chosen marriage candidates appeal to Rahul. So to get her off his back, he pays Sue (Lisa Ray), an escort he meets in a bar, to be his girlfriend. But there's a big hitch — unless Sue can convince them that she's an old-fashioned girl, his tradition-minded relatives will never go for their relationship. So she's got less than a month to transform herself.

The plot has at least a few things in common with typical Hollywood romantic comedies, especially "Pretty Woman." But the contrived "Bollywood/Hollywood" — which also tries to broach issues of racial intolerance — makes that "Pretty Woman" seem genuine.

Writer-director Deepa Mehta has also made some crucial casting mistakes. As played by Khanna, Rahul seems a duplicitous and shallow; he's not a likable hero. And Ray is so wooden she could be used as material for set construction.

"Bollywood/Hollywood" is rated PG-13 for scattered use of strong profanity, some crude sexual talk, brief sexual contact and a brief scene of violence (a schoolyard scuffle, done in slapstick style). Running time: 105 minutes.


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