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November 03, 2009

Main aurr Mrs Khanna

 Mrs Khanna.jpg

Prem Soni - 2009
UTV Motion Pictures 35mm film

The AMC Highlands Ranch 24 is a multiplex with stadium seating that serves three suburban cities directly south of Denver. The theater is in the southernmost of these suburbs, surrounded by office parks and mid priced restaurants that serve variations of "American" food. Most of the time, the films playing are the usual mainstream releases that play in thousands of screens, with the occasional "indie" that has received wider acceptance. Not only was I surprised to see that a new Bollywood film was scheduled at this most unlikely venue, but actually two films were screened. The other film playing was All the Best, but judging from the preview, I chose the better film.

Even though Prem Soni's film has apparently flopped in India, it's not a bad film. There are times when it seems that Soni never met a pan or tracking shot he didn't like, but on the plus side is the location shooting in the streets and airport of Melbourne, Australia. A young woman, Raina, graduates from an orphanage to marrying the first man she meets, a businessman named Samir Khan. Samir is held responsible for the bankruptcy of a Melbourne brokerage, and finds his only work opportunity is in Singapore. While Samir decides to send Raina back to the parents who disapproved of marriage to a poor orphan, Raina chooses to stay in Melbourne. Working at a shop at the airport, Raina is wooed by Akash, a waiter at an airport restaurant she had literally bumped into when she discovered Samir was leaving without her. Raina maintains her fidelity to Samir in spite of Akash's attempts to win her, and in spite of Samir's own suspicions when he returns to Melbourne.

mrs_khanna 1.jpg

But as anyone who has seen at least a couple of Bollywood film will tell you, the story is besides the point. The first musical number, with Samir courting Raina, features Salman Khan briefly singing and dancing with six men with pumpkin heads out in a field. One of the other numbers is performed in English, on the streets of Melbourne, a nod to the younger Indian audience that is more fluent in English, that has grown up with MTV. There is a musical act taking place in a nightclub, with Preity Zinta as a Pakistani temptress. Critical assessment takes a quick exit when the screen is filled with a close up of Ms. Zinta's belly button. Song is also used to express the thoughts of Kareena Kapoor in the title role.

The soundtrack seems to take a queue from Max Steiner who was criticized for his "Mickey Mouse" music which seems to follow the exact movements of the actors, just as in a cartoon. Composer Ali Sajid not only uses the music as a dramatic component but as a sort of comic commentary, with frog croaks, horse neighs, and various yelping underlining some of the more humorous moments. The creativity of his approach to film scoring offsets the heavy hand of the comedy.

Maybe for myself, it was just the experience of seeing a Bollywood film in a theater that usually shows Hollywood productions, and I was seduced by the pleasure of a decent sized screen, a comfortable seat, and a wall of sound that blocked out all outside activity, all the things I miss in whole or in part at Denver's "art and indie" theaters. Anyways, I considered it my duty to put my money where my mouth is, and show some support while AMC brings Indian cinema to a theater relatively near me. Of course, with the money that the United States owes China, I keep on hoping that the big theater chains will show upcoming films from Tsui Hark and Feng Xiaogang.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 3, 2009 12:50 AM


Recently Salman Khan (the movie's lead actor) was quoted as saying that his relatives slept through most of the movie. I'm sure your generally positive review would greatly lift up his spirits ;)

Posted by: Shubhajit Lahiri at November 4, 2009 11:11 AM