"That movie is gonna be one of the worst ever..." predicted one reader in response to this post last month.
You were dead right, girl. Neal n Nicky is not "funny, frothy and fantastic" . If there is one F word that describes it (besides the obvious one) it's FAKE.
Neal, "the Neal", if you please describes himself as a typical Indian boy with "nothing typically Indian about him". However, the only "unIndian" quality he exhibits is playing American football (or perhaps the Canadian version ).
Who else but a desi banda plays the field but knows deep down in their heart: I will have an arranged marriage!"
Because my Mummy knows what's best for me.
The trouble is, if Neal is supposed to be this suave 'ladies man' then it's not clear why his eyes pop out everytime a hot chick passes by. As in God-I-am-so-lucky-she's-even-looking-at-me.
Then we have Nikki, who is out to prove that Indian naaris can also look as starved as Kate Moss. We can roam around in bikini tops and mini skirts, just like those white chicks. And have dishy ex-boyfriends who speak French. But wait, the Indian naari is superior because she will still be a virgin.
Of course she does behave badly once in a while, but only when drunk. That's when she sings songs with lyrics like: "I wanna show my body groove the nite away .. Halla re, halla re". And says to strangers 'take me home'.
But she meant her own home, silly.
What went wrong
You know the teens-finding-true-love-after-trashing-the-countryside genre of films in Hollywood. This is the Yashraj version. But no, it just does not work. For one the actors can't carry off their parts. Uday is too wannabe, Tanisha screechy and desperate to show off her ribcage ("see, see how much charbi I lost!")
The first half is particularly and spectacularly bad. Things actually improve after the interval. And the ending is rather sweet. But, it's too little, too late. The movie ends and you don't really care this way or that.
There are some nice touches here and there, of course. The most memorable 'kracter' of the film is the sardar with a guitar (modelled on Rabbi Shergill) who suddenly jumps out and plays a crucial part.
Which is sad because there was plenty of comic potential. Except someone forgot to write the jokes and decided to distract the audience with cleavage instead.
You know how for years we Indians lamented that Hollywood shows India as a nation of elephants and snakecharmers? Well we are finally having sweet revenge with Bollywood. And Yashraj films is leading the charge...
It started with Bunty aur Babli where the duo made an idiot out of two dumb whites by 'selling' them the Taj Mahal. Then in Salaam Namaste you had Jaaved Jaffrey's bimbo sidekick whose only dialogue was 'sorry?'
Now, you have dozens of white bimbo chicks pouring out of tight t shirts. All eyeing our Indian hunk. One babe even introduces her body parts by name (yeww, but true). If I were white and female I'd scream,"Hey, we're not all like that! Bollywood, you have the wrong idea..."
Tough luck, sister. You're an extra in our films now - like we were once in yours.
Lastly, the makers do try a touch of self-deprecating humour. There's a small parody of DDLJ with Neal and Nikki running towards each other in a sarson ka khet before they say "nah". That's not our style.
But it's taken to literal and ridiculous lengths when they actually dance on mountain tops in true Bollywood style, to make Nikki's firang ex-boyfriend 'jealous'. Again, it could have been funny but isn't.
Bottomline: Neal n Nikki is going to get very bad reviews. I would give it 1.5 stars. Only for the ending - make that two.
It's not about being meaningful or making sense. But films like Kya Cool Hain Hum or No Entry were at least fun and feel-good. This one never quite evokes even those feelings.
Neal 'N' Nikki better not be a hit! declared rediff.com and I sincerely hope so too. Because that would force the film makers to treat the youth audience with more respect.
And enough of globe-trotting. Can we have a youth-centric Yashraj film set in contemporary India, for a change?