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Friday, November 16, 2012

This week in Bollywood screenings: Son of Sardaar

Posted By on 11.16.12 at 01:30 PM

One of the more improbable moments
  • One of the more improbable moments
If and when Madlib gets around to making a third Beat Konducta in India LP, I hope he works in the song performed during the engagement party scene of Son of Sardaar. The backbeat's constructed around a group of men chanting "Hey!" with the sound canned and clipped into a punchy downbeat. Surely Madlib can do something inventive with this.

In any case, that engagement party number makes Sardaar worth the price of admission. Vibrant in its colors and its filling-out of the wide-screen frame, it should satisfy anyone looking for old-fashioned Bollywood spectacle. The rest of the movie isn't bad either, though the cartoonish energy gets a little wearying after a while (imagine a Bugs Bunny cartoon stretched out to 140 minutes). Thankfully the movie's playing at River East, so there are long hallways just outside the theater where you can stretch your legs now and then.

The cartoonish energy has a distant connection in American silent comedy. I learn from the movie's Wikipedia page that Sardaar is a remake of a south-central Indian movie called Maryada Ramanna, which is in turn a remake of the Buster Keaton classic Our Hospitality. Sikh movie star Arjan BajwaAjay Devgn plays the Keaton role, a hapless (and improbably acrobatic) layabout who returns to his family homestead after spending 25 years abroad. Waiting for him is a powerful clan that's determined to settle a blood feud they've been waging with his family for generations. Yet an even older code of hospitality prevents the clan from harming anyone who's a guest of their estate, and so the hero determines to stay at their home as a permanent guest.

In Bollywood fashion, every good gag gets repeated a few times or else vamped on for several minutes. (If you do end up taking a few breaks from the film, chances are you won't miss anything.) Thankfully the gags are plentiful and varied, with the chase sequences showcasing the filmmakers' most inventive—and Bugs Bunny-esque—ideas. The comic violence often plays out in front of a wide-angle lens, unexpectedly recalling the first Evil Dead movie, and the sight gags exhibit a merry disregard for the laws of physics that reminded me a bit of Tsui Hark. The only truly unpleasant thing about it is seeing Sanjay Dutt, playing the main villain, made up to resemble latter-day Ron Jeremy.

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