Sunday, March 25, 2007

LAGE RAHO MUNNA BHAI

LAGE RAHO MUNNA BHAI is an Indian film sent to me by a reader to view after my mediocre reviews of RANG DI BASANTI and the "Canadian" Indian film WATER.

This movie is a Musical Comedy, and a sequel, apparently (I haven't seen the previous film). It's essentially an Indian version of Cyrano de Bergerac, with Cyrano in this case being a "nice guy" thug, and his tutor being the ghost of Mahatma Ghandi. The object of his affection is a radio talk show host; he has to pretend to be a professor and expert on Gandhi to get to her heart. From there, various hijinks ensue.

It's a pretty thin plot, worthy of an episode of I LOVE LUCY, but like most Indian films, it is stretched out to over two and a half hours. Some typical musical numbers keep it moving, but the story bogs down in the second act quite a bit.

The lead actor, Sanjay Dutt, is apparently very popular in India, but he does not have the charisma to pull off the role. He's also at about twice the age of the lead actress, Diya Mirza, who is not only young but beautiful. Of course in the US, films typically have older men with younger women (Cate Blanchett is supposed to be the love interest in the next INDIANA JONES film), but Dutt is neither thin nor handsome, and it's hard to see what these two see in each other.

The film certainly has its heart in the right place, and does well to the spirit of Ghandi by reminding younger viewers of his preachings, way of life, and accomplishments for Indian society. I often think in America how wonderful things were in the 60s with people like M.L. King and the Kennedys moving us forward with social change, and how it seems to have been forgotten by many. Apparently in India, they feel that people have forgotten Ghandi as well.

All in all, the film is an enjoyable diversion, but it's certainly not Oscar material. RANG DI BASANTI had the broad historical scope that is more likely to be an Oscar contender, and this year both PAN'S LABYRINTH and THE LIVES OF OTHERS (DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN) were vastly superior Foreign-Language films.
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