May 15, 2010

Bollywood goes west in Kites, but now let's swap

Brett Ratner has 'remixed' Bollywood melodrama Kites, an idea which could spice up any number of dull movies about India
n the 1990s, Harvey Weinstein rightly took a lot of flak for buying up award-winning foreign movies and recutting them savagely, then releasing them in America as if they were still the same moves. To me this was far more corrupt and dishonest than those cynical old exploitation producers of the 50s who would take a murky Japanese monster movie, add a cheap American actor in newly shot scenes; dub the dialogue into badly synched, poorly written English; cut footage; change the title to Octopus-Robot From Outer Space; and release it in an imaginary, all-new format like "Awesome-Scope!" These guys knew they were trash-merchants, but Weinstein called what he did "art".

1. Kites: The Remix
2. Production year: 2010
3. Country: India
4. Runtime: 80min mins
5. Directors: Anurag Basu, Brett Ratner
6. Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Kabir Bedi, Steven Michael Quezada
7. More on this film

Nowadays, the process has been tarted up, made vaguely respectable and is called a "remix". And oddly, I couldn't be happier. Brett Ratner, taking a leaf from the old exploitation playbook, has taken Bollywood director Anurag Basu's melodrama Kites and, for its American release and with Basu's co-operation, has excised 30 minutes, re-edited it, and overdubbed ridiculously overripe and self-satirising dialogue, plus explanatory voiceovers and added a topless scene – not the ordinary course of business in Mumbai, to be sure. It's as if Ratner were half-Roger Corman, half-RZA.

This is an approach that might improve any number of boring and humourless movies made by westerners about India. So, why don't we remix a few of them and grant them a new lease on life?

First up: Gandhi, what else? This epic snoozer seems indemnified against aggressive criticism because of its hero's saintliness and his non-violent teachings. Well, I call bullshit on that. It's not Gandhi I hate, it's Richard Attenborough's direction, and the Ratner approach, or even outright Bollywood-isation would really set this movie up on its feet. Lots of songs, people doing that hands-together-praying type of dance, NO KISSING AT ALL, EVER, and everything saturated in eye-popping, fluorescent highlighter-pen colours. Add some of that and you'll forget you're watching some skinny old geezer in a toga-diaper.

Next up: David Lean's sclerotic and embarrassing A Passage To India, the last British movie I can remember to feature an actor in blackface (Alec Guinness, come on down!) and one that could really use a gigantic Bollywood enema. Dame Peggy Ashcroft could do an animated dance with a digitally inserted Apu from The Simpsons, just like Gene Kelly did with Tom and Jerry, and God knows what the super-chaste Bollywood aesthetic would come up with for the rape in the Marabar Caves. Some shadowy dance number with a strategically positioned spitting cobra, probably.

If you are not seething by now and want more or want to send brickbats go to this link