- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

B latantly misnamed, “Bollywood/Hollywood” should actually be titled “Bollywood in Toronto.” A substellar and underbudgeted attempt to transpose the conventions of Bombay musical comedy extravaganza, the movie does suggest a perversely grotesque competitive notion: Why not encourage a tournament of Bollywood imitations from scores of North American cities?

The Toronto upstart, written and directed by Deepa Mehta, sets a dauntingly gauche standard. Already decisively outclassed by Mira Nair’s exuberant and affectionate “Monsoon Wedding,” it plays crackpot matchmaker between a wealthy young businessman named Rahul (Rahul Khanna) and a kind of mercenary Cinderella called Sue (the strangely haughty Lisa Ray, who recalls about 50 years’ worth of curvaceous but expendable starlets).

After recently losing a celebrity girlfriend in absurd circumstances (a fatal experiment in levitation), Rahul is desperate for a replacement. The family pride, joy and meal ticket, he is repeatedly nagged about his bachelor status by an overwrought widowed mom and bossy paternal grandmother. As his sister’s wedding approaches, he seeks out a plausible date and hastily decides he’s found her in Sue, a pickup encountered in a bar.

She claims to be a professional escort who promises “no side benefits.” She also feigns a Spanish background, concealing the fact that she’s as Indian as Rahul. Sue, it transpires, is a restless coed, the disobedient daughter of a car mechanic who emigrated from the Punjab.

Her coy secret would appear to be officially blown when Sue begins chanting in Hindi and undulating like a chorine during one of the film’s fitful song-and-dance homages to Bombay pop, evoked far more cleverly and seductively in “Monsoon Wedding.” Everyone in the family is so smitten with her performance that Rahul must rise above his own doubts about consorting with a gold digger who probably can’t be trusted farther than he can toss her.

“Bollywood” may serve as an inspiration for deluded copycats from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore. Join the fun. Be the first in your own hometown to fake a Bollywood musical.

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TITLE: “Bollywood/Hollywood”

RATING: PG-13 (Fleeting profanity; occasional comic and sexual vulgarity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Deepa Mehta. Cinematography by Doug Koch.

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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