'London Paris New York' (Hindi)
Director: Anu Menon
Cast: Ali Zafar, Aditi Rao Hydari
He does everything he could’ve - composes the music, writes the lyrics, actually makes retarded lines sound good, and tries his utmost to look like he’s in love with a self-proclaimed feminist who talks like a schoolmarm and sounds like a schoolgirl.
Hell, he even thrusts his rather shapely pelvis at the camera. But when Lalitha Krishnan (Aditi Rao Hydari) declares three times in the first fifteen minutes that she’s Temeel Brahh-man (yeah, because that’s what we Krishnans do), you know Ali Zafar as the irrepressible Nikhil Chopra can’t rescue the film. Throw in dancing nuns, Hindispeaking blonde airhostesses, and a pimp-detective who offers chai-coffee to a fellow Indian at a strip club he runs, and you know this movie’s going to burrow under the bottom of the barrel.
This inter-continental romance follows all its precedents in skipping across the globe - one assumes it didn’t culminate in Mumbai because of Zafar’s visa issues.
It begins at Heathrow in 2005, where Lalitha tells a stranger that she doesn’t read Mills and Boon because she’s a feminist (and yet, she dresses like she ought to be holding a whip and handcuffs in the next scene). She wants to study politics in New York University and bring change to India with an NGO that spreads political awareness. Say what? Nikhil grins that his parents let him read M&B because they were happy he was into ‘angrezi kitaabein’, and his big aim is to live life ‘bina darr ke’, and make intense art films.
A current affairs quiz and a few drinks later, they’re discussing terms and conditions for a long distance relationship. Fine, so people can fall in love at first sight, especially when they’ve been repressed all their lives. But the implausibility of this particular romance is highlighted by cloying Eighties touches (you know, lightning strikes when their hands touch et al), Nineties touches (they fall in love while making up supposedly hilarious dialogues for other couples, la ‘Yes Boss’), and novel touches (this could be the first film that uses body doubles for kissing – I would have preferred botanical or avian parallels).
There are a couple of lines that Zafar delivers nicely enough to make us laugh. One particular scene by the Thames is particularly amusing. But the film is dragged down by an illogical story line, and inept acting from Hydari. Where a better actress may have made her character appear temperamental, she underlines its inconsistency.
The twist in the story could only be credible if its complexity were executed well enough, and Hydari fails miserably. At her most expressive, she contorts her face like she has a bad case of indigestion.
The Verdict: As the film collapses into an end as unimaginative as its title, try as one might to empathies with Nikhil Chopra, one ends up sympathizing with Ali Zafar.