*may contain spoilers*

I could dissect 'Pardes' into a million little morally questionable pieces or focus on the exaggerated stereotypes of the typical American NRI, and while I may mention the things that really pissed me off about this film later, I am going to focus more on what I liked about it and leave the more in-depth debates to the filmi scholars.

I remember watching Amitabh Bachchan in 'Mohabbatein' and 'K3G' and thinking how severe this man is, so serious all the time (my catalogue of his movies remains small to this day), but then I saw 'Veer Zaara' and was delighted to see a softer, likable side to his acting. I mention this because this is how I felt about Amrish Puri in this film. With 261 movies to his credit, he's probably played every role under the sun, but I've only seen him in eye boggling characters that were so over the top it was hard to imagine anyone is actually like that in real life. As Kishorilal, Amrish gave a very restrained yet amiable performance. It was a more honest depiction than I've seen from him before and whether you saw the ending coming or not, I don't think Kishorilal could have been portrayed any better.

What can I say about Shah Rukh Khan that I haven't already said? At the risk of sounding like a broken record I have to say that, had he not been in this film I may have not felt compelled to watch to the end. As Arjun Saagar, Shahrukh is impressively subtle yet very powerful. He pulls back and literally hands the stage to Mahima Chawdhry and Apurva Agnihotri. He is comical in the scenes in the farmhouse where he makes arrangements for the NRI son's visit and almost tragic as the story progresses. His evolving relationship to Ganga is the highlight of the film and, contrary to normal filmi expectations, he never tries to steal her away. The only thing I would have changed was his wardrobe. I'm not sure why he seems to be always dressed in the most ridiculously oversized suit jackets.

Mahima Chawdhry, as Ganga, is gorgeous, confident and very impressive in her first film. In doing my research I discovered that Madhuri Dixit was first slated to play the lead, and while I think Madhuri is stunning in everything I've seen her in, I thought Mahima did a fantastic job. Not only does she do justice to the innocent heroine, but really kicks it up a notch at just the right moments. On the other hand, the other newcomer, Apoorva Agnihotri (Rajiv) is unfortunately not as impressive. I know that his was suppose to be the so-called villain in this flick, and maybe it's to his credit, but I could not stand him. I couldn't stand his arrogance, his disrespect, his looks - all of it made my skin crawl. I would have rather saw someone like Akshaye Khanna in this role, who would have played the insolent son brilliantly I'm sure.

Director Subhash Ghai (who also wrote the story and screenplay) plays his cards close to his chest very effectively. He tries to confuse us a little with the girl looking at pictures of both Shahrukh and Apurva without knowing which is her intended but that whole incident is a red herring and would have been better served had it gone on a little longer. There are a only two ways of breaking up the engagement and still retain the innocence and indian-ness of Ganga and he uses one of them. This is where the debate begins. Stereotypes of any kind can be harmful, be it against NRI's, American's or any other nationality for that matter. Instead of instilling every negative American stereotype into Apurva's character, Subhash Ghai should have gone with a few shades of gray rather than strictly black and white.

The other things I thought were superfluous include the two "bad guys" who appear on the train ramp towards the end who seem about as scary as a Richard Simmons exercise video; the entire subplot with the other family who Ganga's betrothal was promised (I don't even remember their names - all I remember was how hairy the sons chest was. Yikes!); and the subsequent kabaddi game which seemed like an overly complicated game of tag that I just didn't get.

Also, the music didn't seem to add that much for me. The only song I even remember is "I Love India" which is still stuck in my head. For the most part I thought there was an overabundance of music in the first hour or so that only seemed to bog the story down. I was thrilled when it picked up the pace after interval.

Overall, I'm glad that I watched this film. For all of it's hackneyed stereotypes and my aversion to Rajiv, I left satisfied and also squealed "OMG, I was there!" with delight when they showed a scene in front of a Las Vegas motel who's sign graces my photo album. On to the next one!

4 Response to "Pardes"

  1. yves says:
    June 10, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    I chanced upon your blog coming from Beth's, and was pleased to see what you had to say about Pardes... Unfortunately we don't agree about the film (I must have called "bad Bollywood" somewhere!), but about Mahima Chaudary's gorgeousness, we do!
    I too like SRK, but as a man... you know!
    I'll be back!

  2. shell says:
    June 11, 2009 at 6:47 AM

    Yves - Namaste and welcome! Pardes is definitely a film worth some debate, but I find it hard to dislike almost anything with SRK in it. After I saw this I imdb'd Mahima and saw she's been in quite a bit since - I'll have to check more of her stuff out.

    Thanks for coming by!

  3. theBollywoodFan says:
    July 15, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    I'm sorry I missed this when you first wrote about it. I agree on your views, and the ways in which it could be better, but I still really like Pardes! In fact, I like it enough to know that prior to Swades, it was my favorite SRK film :) There's so much to appreciate about it. Really like the music too, I think 'Do Dil' is *amazing*, but you're right about
    'Yeh Mera India' too, it's probably the most popular song along with 'Meri Mehbooba'!

  4. shell says:
    July 15, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    @ theBollywoodFan - I'll forgive you...this time! :)

    I think I would have enjoyed this film 1000% better if it weren't for the Rajiv character, though I suppose then the movie would have been completely different.

    I'm surprised this would rank as your fav before Swades, he had so many fantastic movies in between. However, I think that he was the very best thing about this movie (and I'm in no way biased, of course!). I'm going to go back and listen to 'Do Dil' again.