Planet Bollywood
Bollywood Queen
Producer: Jeremy Wooding, Michael Cowan, Jason Piette, Miche
Director: Jeremy Wooding
Starring: Preeya Kalidas, James McAvoy, Ian McShane, Ciaran McMenamin, Ray Panthaki.
Music: Steve Beresford
Genre: Romantic
Recommended Audience: General
Approximate Running Time: 90 mins
Film Released on: 17 October 2003
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 4.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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Bollywood Queen” is yet another film from the same genre as “The Guru” and “Bollywood Hollywood”, which tries to mix the Bollywood song-and-dance formula within an English language film. On the face of it, this film sounds very promising. It stars the talented Preeya Kalidas (former star of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s west-end musical, “Bombay Dreams”) and the movie is a fleshing out of an entertaining short film, “Sari and Trainers”, which was also directed by Jeremy Wooding.

The plot is nothing to write home about. “Bollywood Queen” wants to ape a typical Hindi film and it does this by taking one of Hindi cinema’s most over-used plots. Geena (Preeya) is the only daughter of a strict family and her older brothers and father are over-protective of her. They disapprove of her being in a struggling girl band but Geena rebels against them anyway and takes part in secret music/singing practice sessions with her friends. She is passionate about Bollywood movies and old Indian film songs. While walking down a street, Geena is pushed to the ground by a boy called Jay (James McAvoy) who saves her from being hit by something falling out of the air.

Cliché upon cliché, both of our young protagonists are struck by love at first sight. The story does not end here. They have to meet again right? So, Jay has Geena’s mobile phone and he somehow locates where she lives and visits her family’s sari shop to return it. In a nutshell, they arrange to meet again and inevitably their love blossoms. The fact that Geena already has a potential boyfriend, an Indian guy that her family approves of, makes matters a little complicated. The two families find out about this relationship and disapprove of it due to racial reasons. Another twist is thrown into the story where the two families seem to be involved in business politics! The boring tale goes on and on until the two lovers manage to sort out everything and live happily ever after.

Nope, this one does not live up to its promise at all. The first question is, why? Sure, “Sari and Trainers” was a very entertaining short film but why did Jeremy Wooding see fit to develop it into a feature length feature? Why go over old ground again? He should have found a different story or new material. It’s a sad state of affairs when the actual original short film turns out to be a much better product than this tripe offered here. The best scene in this feature movie is lifted from the original anyway! It is the scene where Geena makes her escape from her house by tying three saris to a radiator in her room and throwing the rest of it out into the street. She then climbs down the saris to get onto the street. The film beautifully captures the vibrant green, white and orange colors of the saris flowing in the wind (resembling the flag of India).

Sadly, for the most part, the direction is pathetic. Wooding wants to capture the gritty essence of London and he does this by using messy and shaky camerawork, annoying extreme close-ups of the actors’ faces and an irritating background score. If there are going to be songs picturised out on the streets of London, the producers must make sure that the music is catchy and hummable. A couple of songs are okay (most notably “Like A Dumb Bollywood Queen”) but the rest leave little impact. The picturisation of the songs is lacklustre and does not have the energy and skill that Bollywood dance scenes tend to have. We certainly do take the visuals of Bollywood songs for granted (sometimes rightly so as most of them do not have anything to do with the script) but looking at the boring dance scenes in “Bollywood Queen”, it makes us appreciate the art and talent of choreographers in Hindi cinema more.

The dialogues are laughable and corny. Preeya Kalidas and James McAvoy have a hard time trying to make their lines sound believable. Their acting is actually not bad. Preeya, who was also in the original short, carries the film with her enthusiasm. James is wooden in some scenes but at least he never goes over the top and keeps to his natural self. James was not in the original unlike his co-star and replaces Kristian Wilkin who enacted the role earlier. The supporting cast is just okay but it is nice to see noted actor of UK television, Ian McShane (“Lovejoy”), in a short role that gives the film the brief lift it needs.

If you happen to be in the mood for a Bollywood film, you are better off watching the real thing.

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