Bombay To Bangkok

For every one of us who’s come to expect original and sensible entertainment from Nagesh Kukunoor, his latest film, Bombay To Bangkok will prove to be a disappointment.

Come to think of it, it’s exactly the kind of picture you don’t expect from him because it’s predictable, the casting’s all wrong, and in the end it just seems like a complete waste of time. In fact, I’m willing to bet Nagesh’s heart wasn’t in this film at all.

Bombay To Bangkok stars Shreyas Talpade as a cook who sets off to start a new life when he chances upon a purse stuffed with US dollars. When he discovers the money belongs to a local don, he takes the next flight out of the country and lands up in Bangkok, slipping his way into a group of Indian doctors on a charitable mission. He loses the purse soon enough, and ends up falling hook line and sinker for a Thai massage girl, which is of course a polite way of saying Thai prostitute.

Now problem is, he doesn’t speak any Thai, and she doesn’t speak no Hindi, so their communication is limited to whatever little English the two of them can muster up. Before they know it, they’re on the run from the angry don’s son, a struggling rap artiste by the way, who’s been instructed by his dad to bring the money back and fix the fellow who had the nerve to steal it.

Betrayed by a script that’s full of flaws, Bombay To Bangkok is unimaginative and indifferent for the most part, and doesn’t once suggest that it’s the brainchild of the same filmmaker who gave us such gems as Hyderabad Blues, Teen Deewarein and Iqbal.

The humour here is of the slapstick variety, and that may not have been a bad thing, except that none of the jokes are original, you’ve seen them all before.

At best a few scenes really work – my favourite being the one in which the rap-artiste chhota don visits Shreyas’ mother to find out where her son is hiding, and comes away confused to say the least. It’s an outstanding scene and undoubtedly the only clever joke in the film.

What’s missing from this film is Kukunoor’s very distinct brand of everyday wit. The kind of humour that set apart films like Hyderabad Blues and Rockford and even Bollywood Calling. Or even his little moments which stay with you forever. Like that scene in Iqbal in which the deaf-mute boy’s mother threatens his mentor at the gate of her house, warning him that she’ll kill him if he doesn’t make sure her son excels at the game.

Or that absolutely lovely scene in Dor, in which Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag and Shreyas Talpade dance so uninhibitedly to the beats of Kajra Re in the desert. These are the moments that define Nagesh Kukunoor’s films, and I’m sorry to say Bombay To Bangkok is sorely lacking in such memorable moments.

The fundamental requirement for any romantic comedy to work is a crackling chemistry between its two leads. But Shreyas Talpade and his leading lady, Thai actress Lena Christensen, couldn’t look more disinterested in each other even if they were paid together.

Much of the problem with Bombay To Bangkok in fact, lies in the miscasting of the female lead. She’s vapid, has less than three expressions to speak of, and has terrible dialogue delivery – even though you’re not meant to understand most of what she’s saying, since she’s speaking in Thai, of course.

It’s the supporting leads whose romance you’re happier to embrace instead – Vijay Maurya as the rap-artiste don and the prickly psychologist he loses his heart to. Naseeruddin Shah, popping up in one single scene, is expectedly effective as the Senior Don whose idea of torture involves twisting his son’s navel piercing.

But the only saving grace of this film, also the only reason it’s even remotely watchable is Shreyas Talpade who plays his part so convincingly, that you’re embarrassed at how he’s been wasted in such a pointless film. Uninhibited and spontaneous, he keeps you transfixed every time he’s on screen.

Ironic, that for a film whose most popular song goes “we are same, same, but different”, Bombay To Bangkok is actually the same kind of nonsense you’re used to seeing in abundance at the movies, and sadly very different from what you’ve come to expect from Nagesh Kukunoor’s films.

With its shoddy camerawork, indifferent direction and weak writing, Bombay To Bangkok can’t even deliver what the film’s heroine offers the hero when they first meet – “make happy” – well, no, this film doesn’t “make happy”.

I’m going with two out of five for director Nagesh Kukunoor’s Bombay To Bangkok, it’s his most disappointing film yet. We can only hope he’s back in form the next time round because it would be such a shame if Kukunoor’s gone cuckoo!

2/5 Stars

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