Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kites: Hrithikmania hits U.S. Film Critics

Kites has opened in America, and reviews there for the 130-minute Indian version are exuberant.

New York Times: "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....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."

NPR: "The leading man, a drop-dead-handsome gold digger and con man played by Indian heartthrob Hrithik Roshan (with charisma, humor, and even occasionally a shirt), speaks Hindi and English but no Spanish. And yes, that means subtitles, but in the service of a deliriously gleeful misplaced-in-translation plot that allows both stars to be sexy, funny and really charming. It also leaves a smidgen of room for them to be downright heroic about the Tarantino-style mayhem that seems to lurk around every plot curve."

The Hollywood Reporter: "Roshan anchors the film with a solid, believable performance and a palpable chemistry with his co-star that will remind audiences just how hot a good Bollywood romance can be."

Variety: "Deliriously entertaining."

LA Times: "An exhilarating escapist entertainment that plays out like a violent and floridly poetic allegory."

CBC: "The over-the-top nature of Kites is what makes it so delightful...Basu is focused on bringing Eastern moviemaking conventions to savvy global audiences — to do so, he never strays too far into intrusive Bollywood dance numbers, nor does he allow the more contemporary action sequences to hijack the film. It’s a tricky balance, one that’s referenced in Kites’ central theme, which shows lovers from different worlds fighting to meet each other somewhere in the middle. In one scene, J notes, “Love and music… have no language.” With the ambitious Kites, Basu has made great strides in proving that trope."

San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Boston Herald, Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice and more here.

The Indian reviews? Not so exuberant.The reviews from the Indian critics are much more mixed,and an Indian tweet mob was on a mission to trash the film, though they have since been drowned out by Indian fans of the film. How much of this comes from hardcore cinepiles in India, who have a very low threshold for film masala, how much just comes from an anti-hype backlash or spite, and how much of this comes from the Bollywood fans for whom Kites' devices may be already stale and dated, or otherwise lacking in Bollywood terms?

And that raises another question. In the quest for "crossover," how much, if anything, has to be lost in order to appeal to a non-traditional, mainstream audience?

Can a purely Indian film succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the coveted American audience, be it a "Bollywood" film or "parallel" cinema?

Brett Ratner's take in the Guardian, here.

A shorter version, 90-minutes, edited by Ratner is due to follow in about a week, but I'll go see the 130-minute version first -- it includes a dance number, and Roshan can dance like God. See below, from 2006's Dhoom 2, a favorite action film:

Trivia Note: Hrithik Roshan has three thumbs (which is considered very lucky in India) and he does his own stunts.

UPDATED: May 24, 2010.