Haven't you ever wondered why it is that when there are so many romantic comedies made that very few of them are any good? You'd think that the people who made those types of films would have had enough practice by now that they'd know what they were doing. Yet instead it seems like the more of them they make the more they do the same lame old plots that are so predictable that you can almost recite the dialogue along with the actors as they do their scenes.
Then again I guess you can say the same thing about so many movies these days. Once somebody discovers a formula that works nobody wants to mess with it and be the one who loses money because they dared to do something a little bit different. I'm sure this applies to the movie industry all over the world; from Bollywood to Hollywood the credo is don't mess up and make sure the producers get their end and at the very least the studio recoups any money it sank into the film.
Therefore, any time I hear of a movie which even has the slightest chance of deviating from the tried and true, or at least offers a new twist on an old theme, I'm more than willing to give a chance. So when I was offered the opportunity to review My Faraway Bride (that's it's title in the United States – the rest of the world will be seeing it as My Bollywood Bride), distributed by Salient Media, I thought, "Why not?" The premise, while not completely original, at least offered the potential for something different from the norm, and I was interested in seeing what they would do with it.
Alex (Jason Lewis) is a young American who meets Reena (Kasimera Shah), a beautiful Indian woman, on vacation in California. As is the case in all of these movies they have a whirlwind romance and fall in love. One day Reena disappears, and Alex discovers that she has left the country and returned home to India without saying good-bye. Determined not to let her go that easily he heads off to India. Somehow, although he only knows the name of the Mumbai suburb where she lives and her first name, he is determined to find her.
Unfortunately there are a couple things he doesn't know about Reena. One, she is already engaged to be married to a man her parents have chosen for her, and two, the man she is engaged to be married to is the producer of the movies she stars in as she is one of Bollywood's leading ladies. The good news is that her being a star makes it easy for Alex to find her, as her face is on almost every billboard in Mumbai. The bad news is how to get close to her when she is constantly surrounded by movie people, including her thug of a husband to be, Shekhar (Gulshan Grover), for him to have a chance of convincing her to change her mind about the wedding.
Alex receives some unexpected assistance from a sympathetic rickshaw driver (Ash Chandler) and one of Reena's friends in Bollywood, Bobby (Sanjay Suri) in his quest, and although the ride isn't exactly smooth, the ending is pretty much what you expect it to be. What makes this movie so special is that unlike some films which are more than the sum of their parts, it's the individual parts that make this one so special. We know before the movie even starts that the two romantic leads are going to end up together — what would be the point otherwise? — it's how they get there that makes or breaks a good romantic comedy. In Faraway Bride the getting there is all the fun.
First of all the director and screenwriter have made some very sensible choices when it comes to plot direction. The first is they don't overplay the whole stranger in a strange land bit with Alex being in India. Instead they let India speak for herself. It's almost as if they've let Mumbai be an extra character in the movie as the camera spends a fair amount of time showing her off. From the traffic jams, the fancy shopping districts, the open air markets and restaurants, the crowed streets, the vistas of the ocean, to the bustle of the harbour, we're given quite the introduction. Of course they're showing her best profile, and we're not seeing her warts, but speaking as someone who hasn't been to Mumbai or India, I felt like I was being shown a clearer picture than is normally portrayed in the West of a large Indian city.
The second thing that helps the movie is the fact that so much of it takes place on a Bollywood sound stage, which gives them an excuse to show a typical Bollywood style movie being made. Yet instead of simply throwing in a couple of big production numbers (don't worry, there are a couple) they've filmed some interesting scenes of Reena being taught her dance routines by her choreographer, Alisha (Neha Dubey). Which brings up item number three that makes the movie work: the subplot of Bobby's relationship with Alisha. When he got his big break and become a Bollywood star he had dropped her like a hot potato, and now he's regretting it big time.
In the roles of the two leads Jason Lewis and Kashmera Shah make for a very comfortable romantic couple on the screen. One thing that Western audiences might not be used to is the lack of flagrant sexual tension between the two leads. Instead, there is more of an undercurrent that runs through their scenes together that actually makes both of their performances a lot more realistic. Of course it doesn't hurt that neither of them are what you'd call difficult to look at.
As is sometimes the case in movies like these the supporting actors get to have all the fun with their characters and do a great job. Neha Dubey and Sanjay Suri are both believable in their roles as the secondary love story, and I especially appreciated how Sanjay was able to show his character gradually shed his "star" image that he had cultivated, and reveal the human underneath. Ash Chandler as the Rickshaw driver was hysterical, and Gulshan Grover was wonderfully slimy as Reena's fiancee/producer.
To round things out, they've included a pretty good documentary on the making of the movie with the DVD. It was also nice to have the sound properly balanced so that the dialogue isn't drowned out by the background noise or any musical accompaniment. When they do stage the full musical numbers the sound is rich and full and allows you to really enjoy the extravagant pageantry to the fullest.
Listen, don't pick up a copy of My Faraway Bride expecting art or genius, but if you're in the mood for a romantic comedy with a little more spice than normal, or if you're a Bollywood fan looking for a movie that's a little more realistic than average, then look no further. It's fun, light-hearted, enjoyable, and best of all, it never takes itself too seriously. Taken all together, it all adds up to be one of the best romantic comedies I've seen.