Thursday, May 29, 2008

Salaam Namaste, or, Nine Months with Nikhil

All good things must come to an end, and my streak of good Bollywood movies came to an abrupt halt with the viewing of Salaam Namaste.

Salaam Namaste is a 2005 Saif Ali Khan/Preity Zinta vehicle. I like this duo a lot; I think they have good chemistry. It's a pity this movie only shows it for about 30 minutes total.

Ambar (Preity) and Nikhil (Saif) meet cute at a wedding Nikhil-the-chef is catering wherein Ambar is a bridesmaid. Ambar is an ambitious, responsible woman who's holding down a job as a DJ at a Melbourne radio station while studying to become a surgeon. Nikhil is, well, a really good chef. Also hot. His lifetime ambition is to own his own restaurant.

Meanwhile, he's working at someone else's restaurant and catering on the side. He's supposed to do an interview with Ambar on her show to promote his boss' restaurant but sleeps in instead. Ambar, pissed, decides to give him what-for in the very public forum her radio spot provides. After denigrating him on-air for what seems like forever (I kept on wanting to phone into the show and ask, "What, is fifteen minutes that important to you, Miss Anal?") their paths cross at the wedding.

Nikhil, or Nick as he prefers to be called, figures out pretty fast that this is the girl who's been reaming him on the radio, but, dude, she's Preity! Who cares? Ambar remains clueless due to some concealment of the truth on Nick's part until the next morning, after she's already struck up some sparks with him. Anyway, yada yada yada, and they move in together without much forethought. There's some steamy, non-Bolly kissing scenes, a cute song called "My Dil Goes Mmm," and then, bam, Ambar's up the stick and Nick turns into Dick.

Ambar's dil goes mmm while Nick plots how to get into her pants.

Yep, that's Nick. Takes his girlfriend to get an abortion and waits in the car.

Salaam Namaste is noteworthy because it was the first Bollywood film shot entirely out of India--in Melbourne, to be exact. It's about two NRI's who are far away from their families and act accordingly--also unusual. The production values are high and Saif and Preity do a good job playing the characters they're given. It does owe something to the Hugh Grant movie Nine Months but, unlike that movie, it shows the development of the characters' relationship and their love for each other, thus giving the viewer more of an emotional investment in the outcome. Aaaand those're about the only positive things I have to say about it.

How do I detest this movie? Let me count the ways. Maybe it's the overacting on the part of almost every other actor besides Saif and Preity. I'm used to, you know, "bigger" performances from Bollywood than I would expect from Hollywood, but this crossed the line into sheer eye-roll-inducing stupidity. Maybe it's the unnecessary flashback character bios that take us out of the narrative for even the most minor people in the film. Maybe it's Nick's perpetual exclamation of "Oh crap!" which apparently serves him as an adequate response to getting a booboo on his finger and knocking up his girlfriend! Perhaps it's the way a guy who's so crazy about his girl that he can't keep his hands off of her during the first half of the film instantaneously transforms into a complete, irredeemable arse within seconds upon hearing the news of his impending fatherhood. Maybe it's the secondary storyline of Nick and Ambar's friends Ranjan and Cathy, who marry in haste, repent in leisure, and leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Or maybe it's just the complete disregard for any reality in the depiction of pregnancy except where it's played for laughs--"Look, she's puking! Into his chef's hat! Hahahaha!" "Look! She wants ice cream! Let's show her singing and dancing with a HUGE baby bump! Hahahaha!" Note to Bollywood: women don't start showing that baby bump with their first pregnancies till around five months. Also, I have yet to see a pregnant woman whose butt did not look as pregnant as her stomach. Also, the first time you feel the baby move, nobody else can feel it from the outside--that doesn't happen for another month or so. Also--oh, why bother, you don't care anyway.

I think my biggest complaint is the way the movie wraps up. After all the heartfelt anguish of the second half, there's a slapstick stupid final sequence that is totally jarring and utterly unconvincing. Oh, yeah, Abhishek Bachchan does a cameo. Wheee. No, I'm just kidding, I like Abhi but his role is stupid. Stupid.

So. Salaam Namaste. Worth about a tenth of the price of admission. But, hey, that's just my opinion--it was a big hit both in India and overseas so apparently there's something I'm missing. Besides a decent hero. The best parts are the make-out scenes, which you can watch right here:


  1. Completely agree with you - Salaam Namaste was a total washout. The things Preity said on radio would get any radio station sued for libel! Then, for a girl doing medicine, one wonders why she couldnt have used contraceptives. And Saif's character was a complete and total arse. Inspite of all this the movie could have been a decent time-pass if it hadnt been for the silly slapstick ending. That totally ruined it for me!

  2. Bollyviewer--yup, he's such a jerk it made me crazy. I was *so* disappointed because it was my first movie after KHNH, in which I liked their chemistry so much, and then this total waste of screentime sucked two hours out of my life!

  3. Oh drat, this is a shame. I was really excited to see this, but now you've seriously popped my bubble. I might see it anyway, if only to see how Hindi movies are tackling thorny topics like unwanted pregnancy and abortion!

    (And I agree with you: Saif and Preity are so cute together! Their jodi power shouldn't be wasted.)

  4. PPCC--I hesitated to post this review just because it did so well at the box office, I thought I must be the only one not to like it! So, who knows, maybe it'll float your dil. ;-)

  5. I'm in agreement, I didn't care for it either. It was more of a bummer than anything. I didn't like the story, the characters or how they treated each other, so how could I like the movie? I did like your review though. :)

    All the best,

  6. Sita-ji, I agree that none of the characters were likeable after Ambar got pregnant. What with Preity being in shrill mode and Saif just being a totally awful human being I pretty much didn't care what happened to any of them by the end. Except I felt sorry for their offspring.

  7. Oh my god, are you my Bolly-viewing twin? Here I was, thinking I was the only person in the world who disliked Vivah and Salaam Namaste, and then BAM! You blow my theory out of the water! (and also make me want to write more reviews, as I may not be as alone in my B-wood tastes as I think!)

    Great review, though. There were a few things I liked about it, but the bad waaaaay overshadowed the good. Remembering two of my mother's pregnancies, I was laughing (and not in a good way) through most of this movie. And the end sequence was crap. How did that guy get through med school?!

  8. Hi rhilex! Yes! I am totally your twin! It's a very Bollywood-ishtyle plot device, so I'm all in favor of it. And I guess you can see from the comments that you and I aren't the only two in the world who hate SN.

    The end sequence was so awful and slapsticky. Dumb, dumb, dumb, even with Abhiiiiiiiii! (Sorry, my inner fangirl just passed out because he walked by.)


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