Review: Marigold

Posted on August 18, 2007


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A sleepy Salman Khan falls for an American in a dreadful romance that gets almost nothing right.

AUG 19, 2007 – WESTERN AUDIENCES are hopefully enjoying an English-language Marigold. They’re probably getting into its story of the eponymous American actress (Ali Larter) falling for Bollywood choreographer Prem (Salman Khan). They’re probably chuckling at the inevitable discordant notes that are struck when East collides unintentionally with West. They’re probably rivetted by the new-fangled love quadrangle – mandatory gay reference included – that plays out within the ramparts of an ancient Rajasthani haveli. They’re probably even winking fondly at director Willard Carrol’s valiant stab at an idiosyncratic (and extremely regional) storytelling style – namely our kind of narrative, with songs, dances, operatic declamations and such – in these days of increasingly global-village filmmaking. (Heck, even we have begun to tweak down our running times so that our films come across as more butt-friendly in movie halls across the world.)

But for those of us in India, saddled with the dubbed-in-Hindi print, there’s no such luck. Marigold is a godawful mess. When an early scene featured, as part of the soundtrack, Asha Bhosle’s sinuous rendition of Mera pyaar Shalimar, I thought that Carrol was simply a fan of RD Burman. But as the film went about laying its cutesy this-is-India touches (for what is clearly a Western marketplace), I began to wonder, with mounting dread, if the song was actually a warning that Carrol was going to be channelling Krishna Shah, who was one of the first – if not the first – to take a shot at a crossover movie with the equally godawful mess that was Shalimar. At least the older film had the saving grace of a Pancham soundtrack. However did they expect us to endure Marigold, where even the usually reliable Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have thrown up their hands?

You remember that mildly offensive phrase that children use to make fun of someone cross-eyed, Looking London Talking Tokyo (often acronymed to LLTT)? Marigold feels like a verbal version of LLTT. We see Prem mouthing, “Listen to the music. Let it touch your soul.â€? And we hear, “Music suno. Apni atma ko chhoo lene do.â€? Such horrors are repeatedly inflicted on us, culminating, at one point, in what are surely among the most surreal words to come out of a leading lady’s mouth: “Jaise maine Apollo 14 mein astronaut se kaha tha: intezaar mat karna.â€? More annoyingly, every second line in this movie consists of people remarking about our heroine’s name, “Oh, like the flower.â€? After the fifty-ninth (or so) such observation, I felt like shaking someone and screaming, “You idiot! Maybe she’s named after the biscuit!â€?

The bad dialogue finds cozy company in the bad choreography, the bad stereotyping (even if you manage to overlook the Taj as a stand-in, yet again, for Exotic India, almost every female performer in the second half is costumed as if auditioning for the part of Scheherazade, possibly to reinforce the duration of Marigold, which feels like a 1001 nights) and the bad performances. (Nandana Sen, though, at least manages to look gorgeous, the cascading ringlets framing that oval face distracting you sufficiently from her feeble attempts at acting. And Gulshan Grover shows up in the most mysterious role of his career, as a man who neither speaks nor emotes. Had an on-set journalist put forward the inevitable what-is-your-motivation question, I’m sure his response would have consisted of a muffled cough, an embarrassed sideward glance and the phrase, “Easy money.â€?)

At the end, you can’t help wondering about Carrol’s motivation. Unless his goal was to replicate the factory-line blandness of our eighties’ commercial cinema, he really had no business making Marigold. There’s a moment here when Prem and Marigold lean forward to brush their lips in a kiss and we cut instantly to the next scene, and you want to ask Carrol if he’s ever seen a Hindi film that didn’t star Rajendra Kumar. The potshots at Bollywood extend to a film director promising to write brand new sequences overnight, harking back to the days when the only thing a bound script could possibly refer to was the Devanagari typeface secured by strong ropes. But that’s not the case today. There are still a number of jokers passing for filmmakers in Bollywood, sure, but the blanket-stereotyping of Marigold makes you feel bad for the ever-growing numbers that want to make a difference.

Copyright ©2007 The New Sunday Express

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi