Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Lena Christensen
Storyline: A cook who escapes to Bangkok with a bag of money belonging to a don falls in love with a Thai masseuse.
Bottomline: “Make happy?” Yes, very much.
The thing about Kukunoor is that even if he’s trying a genre alien to him, he still wants to do it his way. So a Nagesh Kukunoor ‘masala’ film is still an interesting experiment.
To be fair to him, the twain does meet and work, for most parts of the film.
Kukunoor’s latest could pretty much be art-house cinema’s unlikely romance with mainstream formula. How else would you define a street-smart cook (assembly-line recipe-based creator) falling in love with a conscientious masseuse and part-time sex and social service worker (a completely uninhibited artiste who lives life in her own terms and is only happy to make you happy because it is just another profession)?
Kukunoor’s heroine does break a few mainstream norms. When she whispers ‘Good morning, First Time’ to her lover the morning-after, it could probably be Kukunoor’s uninhibited sense of cinema waking up to a mainstream cinema that has always aspired for this sort of a liberation.
Specifically too, there is no sense of desperation or any tragic flashback trying to justify her choice of career. Yes, though this is not a new type to Hindi cinema, the girl is still Asian with similar family values (her uncle locks them up in separate rooms despite the warm hospitality, a nice touch). If she spoke fluent English, she would’ve probably told her clients: “It was a pleasure doing business with you and also purely a business doing
pleasure with you.”
That sort of depth in characterisation with the complexity associated with the art-house genre for the girl (Lena Christensen fits the part perfectly looking confident and vulnerable at the same time) is adequately compensated by the mainstream type played by Shreyas (banking on his brand of innocence and charm), the quintessential uni-dimensional Indian hero: the simpleton romantic do-gooder.
With the morality debate dismissed off in a short scene pretty early into the film, there is hardly any serious conflict and Kukunoor keeps the mood light and breezy for most parts, the first half bringing out most of the best laughs in the film. The racial undertones are affectionate, light-hearted and bordering on stereotype, yet largely relatable.
The film suffers from poor pacing, especially that, of songs. While the first song erupts late into the first half, the already slow second half is further burdened with about four song breaks with nothing much happening in the love story. Come on, they kissed before interval… without a serious conflict, there’s not much you can do.
So, for obvious lack of a plot, Kukunoor introduces a new twist to the tale – a rather convoluted one at that, especially, after the main chase part of the film involving him and the underworld takes a romantic comedy route.
JAM K, the bling-sporting gangster rapper, is the epitome of this unlikely blend of poetry, action, romance and humour in the film and you can’t help thinking that the psychologist is the in-built in-house voice of the film critic. Vijay Maurya’s performance that strikes a fine balance between subtlety and eccentricity has been singled out for praise almost unanimously by critics. The character itself is a beautiful sub-text.
There’s plenty to savour in Bombay to Bangkok, despite its slow-coach speed, if you look beneath the surface. Irrespective of that, this doesn’t really disappoint even if you leave your intellectual jeevandhara ki jwaalamukhi behind. 😉