3 November 2008

Roadside Romeo Review




A TILED ROOFTOP on a moonlit night. Our hero, enchanted by the unknown voice wafting down to the street below, climbs up to find out more — and falls instantly in love with the pretty girl who’s singing. He takes her in his arms, matching his steps to hers, and when the dance is over, leans forward expectantly for a kiss. At which point she turns away, mid-pout, flutters her eyelashes and says, “Main vaisi ladki nahi hoon.”

Would you be disappointed to find out, at this point, that our hero is a dog called Romeo and his love interest a ‘girl dog’ called Laila? You shouldn’t be. Because this is a Yash Raj film, and there is not the slightest difference between dogs and human beings — or rather, Bollywood beings. Every self-respecting dog here struts on two legs, and the super-curvaceous Yash Raj bitches could give most item girls a run for their money. Romeo’s coolth is really all Saif, while the coy Laila is the worst of Kareena poured into canine form.

Even if one grants that successful animation films, especially Walt Disney productions, have traditionally anthropomorphised the non-human species they depict, Roadside Romeo isn’t a patch on recent achievements like the superb futuristic Wall-E (2008) or such doggie classics as Lady and the Tramp (1955), even in the animals-aswindow- into-human-world department. It’s probably a comment on our times that Romeo’s plot inverts that of Lady and the Tramp, where Lady, a spoiled, upper-crust dog who runs away when her owners have a baby, is saved by a Butch, a tough dog who shows her the possibilities of a free life without constraining leashes. In Jugal Hansraj’s world, the pampered upper-class dog has nothing to learn from the street dogs. It’s the poor, unsophisticated goons who need lessons in grooming from Romeo. Even Anna Charlie, the don of the dog world (voiced with gusto by Javed Jaffrey), can’t win Laila’s heart — not because she has a problem with what he does, but because he’s fat and bespectacled. In fact, the film turns on the premise that girls only fall for guys who look ‘cool’. For a film that a lot of parents are likely to take their children to, that’s a bit of a pity.

But the locales are generally well-realised (despite a suspiciously New York-like skyline), there’s some funny dialogue for Anna’s sidekick Chhainu (voice: Sanjay Mishra) and some smileable references to Ek Duje Ke Liye and DDLJ. With those, we shall have to be content.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 44, Dated Nov 08, 2008

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