Bollywood Queen
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
bollywood queen Using Bollywood production values and story structure, this contemporary British musical comedy is colourful and energetic, even though it's a bit awkward at times. Geena (Kalidas) is a 19-year-old East Londoner trying to escape the traditions of her Indian family, but wanting to respect them at the same time. So she hides her budding romance with the non-Indian Jay (McAvoy), who's more a foreigner in London than she is! He's left home in Cornwall to work with his brother (McMenamin) in the Big Smoke, and besides finding love he realises his brother's fake designer wear business is more the a little shady ... and in direct competition with Geena's brothers (Panthaki and Deu). But this being a Bollywood love story, we know two things: Everyone will break into song at some point, complete with elaborate costumes and platoons of backing dancers, and everything will work out against the odds.

Like most Bollywood films, this is a Romeo & Juliet-style tale of forbidden love and adventure, but since it's set in London the filmmakers have some fun with West Side Story references as well, especially as the two grey-market families face off against each other. The songs blend the Hindi music with Motown, rock and even country & western--plus nods to musicals like Fame and Grease--in a clever multi-cultural style that propels the story and gives us insight into the characters. And this is a good thing because otherwise it's merely a cute and superficial movie. There are all kinds of conflicts here--culture, economics, education, sexuality--although the script never deals with them at all. But it's engaging because the cast is so good; Kalidas and McAvoy hold it together brilliantly, while a brief appearance by McShane as Jay's loser of a dad adds some comic grit. And the combination of offbeat Bollywood visual style with the coarse East London setting is intriguing. But this causes problems for director-cowriter Wooding, because it makes the film feel more than a little clunky, and too silly and sweet to be much more than frivolous fun.

cert PG themes, brief language and violence 21.Aug.03

dir Jeremy Wooding
scr Neil Spencer, Jeremy Wooding
with Preeya Kalidas, James McAvoy, Ciaran McMenamin, Ray Panthaki, Ian McShane, Amerjit Deu, Ronny Jhutti, Andy Beckwith, Matt Bardock, Badi Uzzaman, Lalita Ahmed, Saraj Chaudhry
release UK 17.Oct.03
02/UK 1h29

Forbidden love: Kalidas and McAvoy.

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall