From Hollywood zero to Bollywood hero

When I first started seeing ads for IFC’s Bollywood Hero on the sides of NewYork City buses, I admit I cringed. I was instantly thinking of the travesty that was Mike Myers and The Love Guru, expecting something that would set my teeth on edge. But the two parts of this mini-series that I’ve seen so far have proved to be an absolute joy.

Starring as “himself” in the story, comic actor Chris Kattan is on a quest to become a Bollywood leading man, since Hollywood has never given him that chance. What ensues is a hilarious meta commentary on both film industries and a funny, poignant movie that also stands on its own. Featuring hilarious turns by Keanu Reeves, Maya Rudolph, and Jennifer Coolidge, it has proven to be a real kick so far.  It really pays homage to what’s wonderful about Hindi movies, and Chris Kattan, not India, is the butt of most of the jokes. And there’s equal time given to the story of Monty and Priya Kapoor, the brother-sister team trying to keep their struggling studio and their father’s legacy afloat. Actors Ali Fazal and Pooja Kumar are fabulous…and I hope they get snapped up by a few primetime (or daytime!) series after this.

And the biggest surprise for me was how effective Kattan and Kumar are together as a romantic pair. Played with the appropriate amount of sniping banter and chaste longing (their love scene was mostly offscreen and no kissing was shown), they’re really charming.

But the true scene-stealer in Bollywood Hero is actress Ruma Sengupta, who plays Monty and Priya’s grandmother. My sides ached from laughing, because of her. She’s just such the quintessential snarky desi grandmother! And her interplay with Chris Kattan is absolutely brilliant and totally transcends the language barrier. I also enjoy Julian Sands as Reg Hunt, India’s go-to guy for British roles in their films. I’m pretty sure that’s a shout-out to Tom Alter, the real-life go-to guy…though it should be noted that Alter is a family man and an accomplished writer, whereas Reg is a lout.

There’s real characters here and a story here, amidst all the winks and the inside jokes.  It’s so refreshing to find a movie that gets it about Bollywood and about India and does it in a humorous but obviously loving way.

Thanks, Chris! Shukriya.

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