Kites is an aromatic, cinematic Indian mutton stew -- if that sounds different from usual movie fare, it is.
It's a Bollywood mixture of romance, violence, action, music, and differing cultures and languages. Sometimes it's tough; often it's tender. It depends on your appetite.
There are two versions of Kites -- an 130-minute Hindi-language original and a 90-minute remix. [Spoiler alert: the 90-minute version was remixed by spoiler American director Brett Ratner.]
I can only affirm the longer version. It does get redundant, but I would hate to see some scenes cut out like a wild, energetic Hrithik Rashan dance. It's one of the movie's charms.
I might trim 10 minutes, but I wouldn't deep-six 40 minutes. That's cutting out too many spices, just to replace them with Ratner adrenaline.
Kites is directed and co-written by Anurag Basu, but since it's Bollywood -- a Hindi-language product -- it has major contributions from a Bollywood family. This time the clan is the Roshans: the father Rakesh is producer, his brother Rajesh does the original music, and his son Hrithik is the leading man. Hrithik makes the movie hum.
Kites takes place and was shot in Las Vegas, the Southwest, and rural Mexico. It's an alien vision of America, based on pop culture movies.
In Kites it rains a lot -- pelting rain. There never ever was as much rain in the actual Las Vegas as there is in this Bollywood Las Vegas. But when you enter the world of Kites, you enter a world of product placement -- e.g., Calvin Klein jeans and Starbucks, and buckets of inauthentic rain. It's a wet madcap world.
Kites basically is a bombastic love story full of the trappings of movie lore. Jay (Hrthik Roshan) is a hustler and dance instructor in Las Vegas. For a fee he marries eleven illegal women to get them papers. One of them -- Linda (Barbara Mori) eventually turns out to be the love of his life. But for a while he loses touch with her.
He meets her again -- this time she calls herself Natasha -- when she becomes engaged to his present girl friend Gina's (Kangana Ranaut) brother Tony (Nicholas Brown). Tony and Gina are the children of a brutal casino owner and crime boss. Fate intrudes and Jay and Linda -- the loving odd couple -- run away on the road with the vicious, jilted fiance in tangy pursuit.
What stirs the pot even more is the runaway couple do not understand each other's language -- Tony speaks Hindi, and Linda speaks Spanish. But as Jay tells an arbiter, "Love and music have no language." Or nuance.
Let the chaos begin.
The soundtrack keeps pounding away. It is overwrought and the music is annoying blatant -- especially the lyrics.
But Kites is a delirious hodgepodge of movie references. An allusion to Chaplin's dance of the rolls in The Gold Rush (1925) is nice, but the pilfering of the graphic novel shootout in the rain from Road to Perdition (2002) is forced and makes the movie silly when it should be potent.
Basu uses Sergio Leone's style as one of his major influences. He utilizes close-ups and space, and as in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), water is a major symbol in Kites. And Hrithik's eyes may remind one of Henry Fonda's blue peepers in Leone's classic western.
But Rajesh is no Ennio Morricone -- where Morricone's music was often over the top, it always was evocative and effective. Rajesh's often is just over the top.
Kites is a great stimulus for movie aficionados. One may see sequences that remind him of Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Bonnie & Clyde (1967), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Thelma & Louise (1991), Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Sam Peckinpah.
Kites has great car chases and obliterating crashes. They're a hoot.
And ladies -- I challenge you to resist Hrithik Roshan's movie star looks and personality. And he strips to the waist for you. In India, Hrithik is a matinee idol, and his presence is magnetic in Kites.
At one point in Kites the star-crossed couple escape in an air balloon. It is ridiculous and clever.
As is the entire movie.
Kites flutters and plummets.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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