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‘Kites’ takes Bollywood to the West - Movie Review

May 25, 2010


Movie Kites with Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori
Kites (2010)

Starring Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori

Kites was specifically made to appeal to Western sensibilities—it’s not the first Bollywood film to try to crossover, but it is the first to succeed at it, and it does so while remaining true to the essence of Hindi cinema. Kites looks like an American film, but it feels like an Indian one.

It’s not the best Bollywood movie—not by a long shot—but by stripping itself of the typical trappings of Hindi films (and making itself stylistically familiar to Westerners), it reveals the heart of Bollywood—a beating, bleeding operatic heart. Hindi cinema is ultimately not about language or culture or musical numbers; it’s about exalted melodrama that draws you in despite yourself and affects you with life’s corniness and agony.

The story is set in Las Vegas; the actors speak a combination of Hindi, English, and Spanish; there is only one dance scene; and the plot follows a single sequence of events—all of which help make the film accessible to non-Indian audiences. Director Anurag Basu was the perfect choice for this project as his style naturally lends itself to the objective. Had his previous film, Life in a…Metro (2007), been marketed abroad as aggressively as Kites has been, it would have garnered the same critical praise in the U.S that his latest film has. Cinematographer Ayananka Bose produces sharp, gorgeous shots of the glitz of Las Vegas, the desolation of the desert, and the beauty of the leads, Indian superstar Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actress Barbara Mori.

Roshan and Mori play struggling immigrant hustlers Jay and Linda, who are about to marry into money—they are engaged to sister and brother Gina (Kangna Ranaut) and Tony (Nick Brown), the children of a ruthless crime boss/casino owner (Kabir Bedi). The night before Linda’s wedding to Tony, she and Jay stay up until dawn drinking champagne, sharing their tales of woe in a broken hodgepodge of languages, and dancing in the rain. And after one brief, trembling, feel-it-in-your-toes, forbidden kiss, they foolishly, nobly chuck their gold-digging schemes for each other.

Even in love scenes devoid of explicit sex, Roshan is expert at appearing to teeter on the edge of control, and his precarious desire is hotter than bared skin could ever be (see his performances in Dhoom 2 and Jodhaa Akbar for more examples)—although bare his skin he does—at least, his eye-popping torso—in between exciting stunts and car chases, as the lovers flee Tony, who’s hell-bent on murderous revenge, and adorably struggle to communicate along the way.

Kites proves it is possible to fall in love—with people or films—even when you can’t understand their language.


Kites is rated Must See.

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