19 October 2008

Film Review: Hello

Grim Greeter

The Take

MY ENTHUSIASM for India’s first call-centre rom-com was quite high until I learnt Salman Khan was in it. In my book, Salman Khan stopped being cute a long time ago. Pretty much after Maine Pyaar Kiya. Since then, the tears have gotten faker, the one-liners lamer. The Prem persona has become a sad parody of itself. So it seemed like a good thing that Hello opened with Khan descending godlike to earth in a helicopter. As he strode onto stage, purposefully bare-chested as always, to sing, “Bang-bang zamana bole boom-boom-boom,” I thought, great — it can only get better from here, right?

Wrong. Chetan Bhagat’s lines are lamer than anything Khan’s scriptwriters ever wrote. Often, he’s too lazy to even translate: “Great news aur grating news mein farak hota hai.” And, in predictable book-to-movie fashion, people keep verbalising stuff we should see: Amrita Arora’s shrewish mother-in-law is described four times, but the one time we see her, she’s wasted.

Any efforts by the actors to redeem their cardboard characters are doomed by their supremely unconvincing locale. A dimly-lit hall with six desks does not a call-centre make. While an office empty of people does enable our protagonists to have loud private conversations mid-corridor, there’s no getting away from the bad-sitcom-movingweirdly- into-haunted-house feel — appropriate for a film where the supernatural is represented by a squeaky-voiced red devil (Sharman Joshi’s Bad Me) and the most disappointing God in cinematic history.

A potentially non-judgmental take on a generation of independent young women is diluted. The career-minded Isha (Isha Koppikar) gets her comeuppance, while Gul Panag’s Priyanka, radically shown having consensual sex with her boyfriend (Joshi), is derided as starting a “nari mukti andolan” when she urges a mistreated bahu (Arora) to confront her in-laws. When she proposes to Joshi on bended knee, calling herself a “cold insensitive b***h”, he responds, “Self-assessment achhi hai.” Then there are the anti-goraisms. The formula is 35=10: a 35-year-old American is mentally the same as a 10-year-old Indian. (The formula’s truth is proved by showing us Americans who’ve screwed the top off an oven to fit a large dish) It’s hard to laugh at this sort of racist patriotism-lite, but Hello’s final answer to First World supremacy is so ludicrous that I promise you’ll be rolling in the aisles.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 42, Dated Oct 25, 2008