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BOLLYWOOD HOLLYWOOD

Pretty Woman consorts with Monsoon Wedding as Deepa Mehta’s attempt to combine the conventions of the two film industries of the title ends in a curdled, self-conscious mishmash of clichés. Poor Rahul (Rahul Khanna), scion of a wealthy Toronto Indian family, has lost his WASP fiancée — a Britney Spears clone with a penchant for Eastern mysticism — in a freak accident that sets the film’s standard for strained whimsy early on. His widowed mother and tyrannical (but hip, as in My Big Fat you-know-what) grandma insist that he find a new bride before they let his sister go through with her own planned wedding. So Rahul hires Sue (Lisa Ray), a woman of inscrutable ethnicity (Spanish, he decides, when she quotes Pablo Neruda) he meets in a bar, to pose as his new intended. "I’ll be anything you want," says Sue, but as portrayed by Ray, her blank screen proves to be less enigmatic and alluring than vapid and annoying. Khanna, on the other hand, brings hangdog melancholy and dry wit to his performance, and Ranjit Chowdhry brings to the trite role of the chauffeur with a secret life as a drag queen more pizzazz than it deserves. Although Mehta gets coy with the self-referentiality, the film comes to life when she lets the Bollywood production numbers spring forth with all their kitschy exuberance. In English, Hindi, and Spanish with English subtitles. (105 minutes)


Issue Date: October 3 - 9, 2003
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