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Posts Tagged ‘Kites’

Kites – NYT Review

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM

By Jeannette Catsoulis

Courtesy of The New York Times

On the whole, American audiences remain stubbornly immune to the charms of the Bollywood romance, a fact that “Kites” is determined to change. A carefully calibrated assault on resistant international markets, the movie harnesses English, Hindi and Hispanic talent to an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot, replaces dancing with explosions, and choreographers with stunt specialists. The result is a lovers-on-the-lam blast of pure pulp escapism, so devoted to diversion that you probably won’t even notice the corn.

Set in Las Vegas and Mexico and unfolding in three languages, the story follows two gold-digging immigrants engaged to siblings from a powerful Vegas family. J (Hrithik Roshan) is a dance instructor and husband-for-hire; Natasha (Barbara Mori) is a terrified Mexican illegal needing a luxurious place to fall. But J’s limpid hazel eyes and smoking body will not be denied, even if it means dodging a posse of hired killers and an avalanche of special effects.

Directed by Anurag Basu with a finger in every genre jar, “Kites” caroms from car chase to shootout, from rain dancing to bank robbing with unflagging energy. It’s all completely loony, but the stunts are impressive, the photography crisp and the leads so adorably besotted that audiences might as well check their cynicism at the door.

A shorter version of the film (retooled by Brett Ratner) will be released next Friday, but Mr. Roshan requires viewing uncut: writhing on the dance floor or just gazing into space, the man was made to drive women crazy, one movie at a time.

KITES

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed by Anurag Basu; written by Robin Bhatt, Akarsh Khurana and Mr. Basu, based on a story by Rakesh Roshan; produced by Mr. Roshan; released by Reliance Big Pictures. In English and Hindi, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Hrithik Roshan (J), Barbara Mori (Natasha), Kabir Bedi (Bob), Kangana Ranaut (Gina) and Nicholas Brown (Tony).

Bollywood Soars Toward Hollywood

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM

A still from “Peepli Live”

Courtesy of The New York Times

By Anupama Chopra

LITTLE about “Kites” suggests “Rush Hour.” An extravagant Bollywood romantic thriller, “Kites” features the Indian star Hrithik Roshan and the Mexican actress Barbara Mori as mismatched lovers who can’t speak each other’s language and end up on the run in New Mexico.

But last October, when the director Brett Ratner saw an unfinished version at a screening in Los Angeles, he found echoes of “Rush Hour,” his own Jackie ChanChris Tuckersmash hit. “It was two characters that were fish out of water,” Mr. Ratner said in a telephone interview, “only here it was an Indian and a Mexican. I’m not saying that ‘Kites’ will be the box office hit that ‘Rush Hour’ was, but I felt it had the potential to cross over to American audiences.”

So Mr. Ratner, who until then had seen only a few Hindi films, offered to re-edit “Kites” and make it more accessible for mainstream America. Working with Mark Helfrich, his editor on the “Rush Hour” series and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Mr. Ratner pared the 118-minute film to 90 minutes. He lost some of the elements that “just wouldn’t translate,” including a song sequence featuring Mr. Roshan, and had the dialogue for all the characters, except the two leads, dubbed by American voices.

On May 21 the original Hindi version and Mr. Ratner’s reworked English version of “Kites” will be released simultaneously globally, receiving a much bigger push than is typical for an Indian movie in the United States.

“For me it’s about breaking barriers,” Mr. Roshan said in Mumbai. “The larger goal, the big dream, is to have an Indian film being watched by a world market.”

Bollywood already has a world market. Indian cinema has an annual estimated audience of over three billion worldwide. South Asians are avid consumers, as are viewers in countries as varied as Germany, Malaysia and South Korea. But the world’s largest film market, the United States, has remained impervious to the seductions of song and dance. “There are essentially two kinds of audiences in the West: mass and niche,” said Nasreen Munni Kabir, a documentary filmmaker and authority on Indian cinema. “The mass audience wants English-language films with known stars and familiar story lines. The niche audience accustomed to world cinema accepts subtitles, slightly longer films and unfamiliar actors. But these films must reflect a cultural, political and social reality of their country. Bollywood films by their very nature do not fit into either category.”

That state of affairs is beginning to change, thanks in large part to the staggering success of “Slumdog Millionaire.” Hollywood studios have made significant investments in Bollywood (with a few missteps along the way) and wouldn’t mind their Indian movies translating around the world. It also helps that the definition of Bollywood has become more elastic. No longer a monolithic style that denotes stars, songs and melodrama, Bollywood has also come to encompass something else; over the last decade new filmmakers have tweaked the traditional form so that Hindi cinema also includes films without songs that are stark and rooted in contemporary Indian realities.

Even established filmmakers are willing to break boundaries. So in the recently released “My Name Is Khan” the director Karan Johar forgoes his trademark opulent songs and feel-good emotions for a more grim subject: the plight of American Muslims post-9/11. Bollywood’s biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, plays the lead, a man with Asperger’s syndrome, who embarks on a journey to meet the American president, after his family is devastated by a hate crime. The film, which was largely shot in America and features extensive English dialogue, is the first Hindi film to be distributed by Fox Searchlight. The opening box office was solid — “My Name Is Khan” ranked 13th on the United States charts, with nearly $2 million, but with a per-screen average higher than that of the Presidents’ Day weekend’s box office leader, “Valentine’s Day” — and Fox is currently exploring options of releasing a shortened international version. (The movie has now made nearly $3.4 million in the United States, one of the best showings for a Bollywood film there.)

Even as overblown Bollywood extravaganzas are being reworked to suit more minimalist Western palates, smaller, grittier Hindi films are making inroads via the festival route. In January “Peepli Live,” a low-budget black comedy about farmer suicides in central India, became the first Hindi film selected for competition at Sundance. In February “Peepli Live” screened at the Berlin Film Festival, alongside another crossover candidate: “Road, Movie.” A whimsical tale of a traveling cinema in rural India, “Road, Movie” was co-produced by Ross Katz, whose credits include the Oscar-nominated “Lost in Translation.” Fortissimo Films acquired distribution rights last year (another first for a Hindi film) and, according to Mr. Katz, “Road, Movie” should reach United States theaters later this year.

He acknowledged that getting people to attend a subtitled Hindi film might be tricky, but the crowd-pleasing nature of the film might help. “ ‘Road, Movie’ is a celebration of the movies,” Mr. Katz said in a telephone interview. “There is an infectious quality in the film, which hopefully will translate to global audiences.”

It’s doubtful that any of these films will pull off a “Slumdog”-style success, but there’s hope for making bigger inroads in the United States. Rakesh Roshan, who produced “Kites,” was cautiously optimistic as he supervised the sound mix of the Hindi-language “Kites” at a recording studio in Mumbai. “I think we haven’t been able to make a ‘Crouching Tiger’ so far because you need guts, and you need a vision,” he said. “Maybe ‘Kites’ won’t work, but at least we took a step forward.”

Meanwhile Mr. Ratner has already figured out his next move: “I would love to make a movie in Bollywood,” he said. “I would do American stars in an Indian musical. That’s my idea.”