2007, Movie, NR, 155 mins


Call it Bollywood Lite or Bollywood for Dummies if you will, but this insubstantial East-West romance is a colorful charmer that might even persuade a few skeptics to check out the real thing.

Spoiled, self-centered Hollywood B-starlet Marigold Lexton (Ali Larter, of TV's Heroes) reports to the Goa set of "Kama Sutra 3" without luggage (deliberately rerouted by a fed-up airline employee after an especially ugly tantrum at the boarding gate) and without much in the way of prospects — it's been years since she did a movie that didn't have a number in the title. Worse, her agent has just quit, which means she's forced to rely on the kindness of strangers while she gathers her wits and figures out a way to get home. Fortunately, there's an Indian movie shooting nearby, and she catches the eye of director Manoj (Rakesh Bedi), who's happy to write a part for a lissome blonde into his South Seas epic. It quickly becomes woefully apparent that Marigold can't dance, but no matter: Manoj will improvise and rewrite her scenes for broad comedy. Add a humiliating encounter with conceited and lecherous star Raj (Vikas Bhalla) and Marigold's Bollywood career is off to an infelicitous start. Fortunately, she's rescued by dance director Prem (Bollywood superstar Salman Khan), who agrees to coach her and is such a perfect gentleman that Marigold can scarcely believe he's real. After several magical days, he invites her to attend a wedding at his family's lavish home. Here reality intrudes on Marigold's fantasy romanceā€¦ reality Bollywood-style, beginning with Jaanvi (Nandana Sen), the beautiful, educated fiancee Prem's parents selected for him when they were both children.

Inspired by a stay in Chennai, American writer-director Willard Carroll hit on the idea of making an English-language love story that incorporated the energy, color, lavish song-and-dance numbers, and old-fashioned melodrama of Bollywood films. Overall, he succeeded admirably: The film is a little over-the-top for mainstream American viewers and a little short on musical numbers (especially in the second half) for mainstream Indian audiences, but between heartthrob Khan's smoldering eyes and Larter's yummy tummy, there's ample diversion for all. It also features original songs by the popular team of Shankar Mahadevan, Loy Mendonsa and Ehsaan Noorani, as well as gorgeous locations and a tangle of romantic complications that resolve themselves exactly as they should. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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