KAMBAKKHT ISHQ. Director: Sabbir Khan. Players: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Rao. Music: Anu Malik. Theatrical release (Eros).
The silliest of film titles with silliest of premises sometimes end up delivering the silliest of guilty pleasures. Newbie filmmaker Khan’s(he previously assisted on Mujhse Shaadi Karogi) venture into solo filmmaking brings together Bollywood’s highest paid male actor(Akshay Kumar) and highest paid female star(Kareena Kapoor) to devise a visually beautiful film that taps into a Hollywood filmmaking trick or two—along with speaking-line appearances by a few Hollywood stars—to construct a comedy that is filled with pot-holes.
Viraj Shergill(Kumar), plays a successful desi stuntman working in Hollywood. Viraj’s brother(ditzyly played by Shivdasani) falls for the sister(ditzily played by Rao) of Simrita Rai (Kapoor), a successful surgeon (yes, no misprint there). Because Simrita and Viraj can’t see eye to eye on anything(often bombarding each other with insults that no one under 17 should be allowed to hear), their siblings are soon forced to put their own romance in hiatus. In a screwball turn of events—work with me here—Viraj-the-stuntman is injured during a filming accident and, again, please pay attention, the only doctor in the tri-county area available to operate on him is none other than his mortal enemy Simrita.
Producer Sajid Nadiadwala has gone to extreme lengths to assure an international audience—if not an international flair—for his film, roping in Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards, among others. Staging a scripted awards ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles had to be an exercise in logistics and evidence of the producer’s deep pockets. There certainly are some unintentional laugh-out-loud moments, especially during the second half after Viraj learns that the scatter-brained surgeon Simrita accidentally left her watch inside Viraj’s stomach (and please don’t ask what country the operation took place in as mostly countries forbid surgeons from wearing jewelry while operating). The production value is top notch and the actors look pretty, if not fully engaged.
Where Ishq strays from, is the “norm” of standard issue A-list Bollywood movies, in that the leads are completely devoid of even a superficial sense of pride in their “Indianness.” This extends to Kumar’s Viraj coming across as a second fiddle to all the Hollywood big names, even those with tiny walk-on parts. There is a complete lack of decency in how romantic leads treat each other, a throwback to the execrable movies of the late 70s and early 80s. In sum total these would make it impossible to attract or engage viewers. Audiences, however, have elected to push aside all grievances and have instead flooded out to see this movie. Ishq collected a whopping Indian Rs.100 Crore (nearly $10 million) in one week, easily qualifying as the biggest opening and the biggest Hindi move of 2009 so far. If borrowing Hollywood names to promote Bollywood fare in this fashion is a new trend, here’s praying that the trend stops after this fluke of a blockbuster.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.