Directed by Anurag Basu. Starring Hrithik Roshan, Bárbara Mori, Nicholas Brown, Kangana Ranaut, Kabir Bedi, Yuri Suri, Anand Tiwari. (2010, NR, 130 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 21, 2010
How do I know that Kites intends to be the biggest international box-office success of any Indian Bollywood film ever released and the first to make real inroads into the American market? It’s not because I’ve read Reliance Big Pictures’ statements trumpeting the film’s wide simultaneous release in more than 60 countries and the trilingual film’s prints in three separate languages: Hindi, English, and Spanish. And it’s not because the film has been adopted by Rush Hour director Brett Ratner, who has produced a shortened, “Westernized” version called Kites: The Remix, which will be released in theatres next weekend. No, it’s because Kites is the first Bollywood film that has ever offered an advance press screening to local critics (something that, curiously, is not being offered for the remix). It’s clear why Kites has been selected for this special treatment: Its storyline and visual look are already more Hollywood than Bollywood. Equal parts crime thriller, Western, and love story, Kites trips through American film genres with the same alacrity it evidences in its snazzy camerawork and screen pyrotechnics. It’s the kind of film that, understandably, might get its hooks into a flashy filmmaker such as Ratner. It also helps that Kites’ leading man, Roshman, is one of India’s biggest superstars: a lithe, handsome man with a facial resemblance to Dr. McDreamy and the best washboard abs this side of Mark Wahlberg. His beautiful love interest, played by Mori, is a Mexican telenovela star, who delivers all her dialogue in Spanish. The film takes place (and was filmed) entirely in the United States, with the urban action set amid the lush, flashing lights of Las Vegas. Director Basu also has a tendency to backlight scenes, giving them epic, otherworldly glows that become all the more distracting with their increasing predictability. A fractured timeline adds to the film’s Westernized edge, though many of the love scenes belabor the lugubriously repetitive crosscutting between close-ups of the two lovers. Although the music and dance sequences are brief by Bollywood standards, they come across as action-interupting music videos made to market clothing or other products. Presumably, these will be the first things deleted in the remix. The action sequences are where most of Basu’s originality comes to the fore. However, the story is so meandering and unbelievable that Westerners are still likely to roll their eyes. I have no idea what Indian audiences will make of Kites. The film is rousing, but it does not soar.