When we ask this question of our friends, they think we are joking. Most people are not even aware that New York Times reviews Bollywood films. Well they do and they do it well!
We are becoming fans of Rachel Saltz who reviews Bollywood films for the New York Times. She is critical when she needs to be and complimentary when she should be. She is non-partisan and her reviews show a perspective that comes from distance from the subject. Above all, she seems to have the rare ability to highlight the true “ras” of the film, a quality we, as Bollywood rasiks, admire above all.
In contrast, the reviews in the Times of India often reflect the “intellectual” point of view; the bias of the Mumbai “elite” who typically look down upon Hindi films while extolling the virtues of the latest French, Italian or Iranian art film. Was it not Farah Khan who once said something to the effect that if you fall asleep in a movie, it is more likely to be a critically acclaimed film than not? Of course, Ms. Khan’s comment was far more caustic than our paraphrase! We must disclose here that we are fans of Farah Khan and enjoyed watching Mein Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om. But then, we are rasiks and not haute literatti!
We will touch on this topic again when we write about some of the films we love. For now, as an exhibit, below are the links to the two reviews of “Tashan”.
We agree with Rachel’s astute observation about the movie’s “tongue-in-cheek tone”. For us, this tone is exemplified by the hilarious song “oh very happy in my heart, dil dance mare”. The film clearly relishes laughing at the desi tendency to favor “white faces” and the desire of local goons to appear “educated” by speaking their version of English. We recall local toughs doing precisely that in the “gallyees” of Girgaon, a simple Marathi neighborhood in Mumbai (where we grew up), though none of them came remotely close to Anil Kapoor’s character “Bhaiyaji”.
The movie features a comico-serious characterization of a lad from India’s heartland by Akshay Kumar. This is a salute to the great performance by Amitabh Bachchan in the classic comedy “Namak Halal”. To remove any doubt, the first name of Akshay Kumar’s character is Bachchan. Akshay Kumar even uses the iconic phrase “tippany” from Amitabh’s hilarious dialog in Namak Halal. Bollywood always salutes its past something we wish Hollywood would do.
Tashan never made up its mind whether it wanted to be a spoof or an action film. That might have been its undoing. In contrast, the movie “Welcome” (Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar)** always knew it was a spoof and played it perfectly without any hesitation. May be, that is why Welcome became a hit. Isn’t that the lesson of US Presidential campaigns – the candidate who is comfortable in his or her skin tends to be favored by the people over the candidate who exhibits personality changes (remember Al Gore’s three different personas in the three debates)?
Below are the links to the two reviews of “Tashan”.
http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/04/26/movies/26tash.html – Rachel Saltz
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/moviereview/2983109.cms – unnamed Times of India reviewer
Judge the two reviewers for yourself and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
** The order of actor names is intended to be purely alphabetically correct.