Directed by: Anurag Basu
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mores, Kangana Ranut, Nicholas Brown and Kabir Bedi
Back in 2006, when I visited India for a cousin’s wedding, I remember seeing lots of posters for a film called Gangster plastered all over the place. With Emraan Hashmi being the only person I recognised from the cast, I didn’t make an effort to catch the film, also ignoring my cousins insisting I take them to see the film as they had gone gaga over the soundtrack. A few months later, back in the UK, I went to get a film to watch from my DVD rental shop and on the insistence of the owner, rented out Gangster and was pleasantly surprised by the film (which has an awesome soundtrack and great performances)
You may be wondering why I am talking about Gangster when this is a review for Kites and fear not, I shall answer that right now: after seeing Kites, all I could think about was Gangster! I was feeling quite excited about Kites with the soundtrack climbing up my playlist on my I-pod and this was further compounded upon when I saw Hrithik Roshan at the European premiere of Kites on earlier in the week of release (passing through Leicester Square where there was a sizeable crowd, the film had finished and I saw Hrithik and Susanne Roshan get into their car –exciting!) So, it is strange that after seeing Kites, I felt the same way as I did after seeing Gangster, despite coming to the film with a different mindset.
Kites is a well made, with Anurag Basu’s trademark style of filmmaking working very well in making Kites appeal to a wider audience. There are many surreal moments and images in the film as well as the clever device in the story where key information is withheld and then revealed later on from a different perspective that give the film an international feel but keep the Bollywood flavour at the same time. I also liked that the film has a dark undertone that it keeps visiting and provides a nice counterfoil to the gloss and glamour that one may have expected. Thematically, it has to be said, the film does share many traits with Gangster (another reason why I mentioned it!) such as the dubious morality of the leads, the third person obsessed with destroying the lead pair and the minimal but meaningful dialogue running parallel to the action. But Basu gives Kites a fresh take on his own formula by setting the film on a larger canvas and making the film accessible to all audiences with the cross cultural storyline and creating a comfortable hybrid of genres all within one film – something that Bollywood consistently strives for, with varying degrees of success.
Technically, the film is sound, with gorgeous cinematography, slick editing and a compact feel to the film. I liked the extreme close ups where the screen is filled with nothing but Hrithik’s and Barbara’s faces and I also like the subtle homage paid to other films through some of the shots – was anyone else reminded of The Searchers at the start of the film? The underwater sequence is also quietly executed and segues naturally into the film. I liked the pace of the film and especially the short first half which allows the viewer to truly become immersed in the second half. I also thought the styling was simple and effective, with Hrithik looking like a supermodel, (even with a beard full of sand) and Barbara looking stunning in glamorous dresses and equally beautiful in a plain Hollister top, denim skirt and gladiator flats (though I dare say she had plenty of bruises and scrapes in the action scenes!)
Speaking of the action scenes, this was one of the things I wasn’t too pleased with. While I loved the car chases and the stunts, I did think hot air balloon sequence had far too many unnecessary explosions and felt out of synch with the rest of the film. I also wished that Tony, Natasha’s fiancée in the film, was more of a three dimensional character – while the actor exuded the necessary menace needed to drive the film, I would have liked the script to delve deeper into why he felt the need to chase the couple across Mexico. Finally, I felt Kangana was totally wasted as this talented actress has proved she has a lot of potential (ironically, in two films with Basu) but had very little to do in the film. I felt her role had similar shades to her previous roles and it would have been nice to see her be given something more to do, regardless of length of role.
Performance wise, this film belongs to Hrithik Roshan all the way. Right from the opening frame to the end, Hrithik commits 200% to the role and attacks it with energy and elaan. I also thought he adapted to the different facets of the role with alarming ease – whether it was romantic, action hero, emotional scenes or entertaining, Hrithik can do them all and make them his own. No wonder Hollywood is courting Hrithik so avidly and no doubt the interest in Hrithik will rise even further after the release of the film – this really is a wonderful platform for his commercial talents and more than justifies why Hrithik is one of the Top 5 of Bollywood.
Barbara Mores was rather understated in her role which I thought was quite good as she then made more of an impact in emotional scenes later on. It is a tall order for any actress to match up to Hrithik and for Barbara, there is the added challenge of working in a Bollywood film for the first time but I think she manages to succeed at this, with an endearing and intense performance. Her chemistry with Hrithik is top notch and really pushes the film to another level – both convince us they are madly in love with one another and make their relationship feel very real. I liked Nicholas Brown as Tony, the maniac fiancée with a great deal of unrestrained energy and though I was disappointed Kangana didn’t get the opportunity she deserved, she plays her role faithfully. The rest of the cast play their roles by the book as I didn’t feel anyone stood out as strongly as the leads.
Kites has a unique premise and largely manages to fulfil its potential. Yes, it may not appeal to all of the intended audiences (both regular and new) but the film does have the capacity to resonate with the majority and deserves to do well as it is a engaging film to watch and the flair and intention behind the film cannot be missed easily. I thought Kites was a rather good crossover film and think it is a good film to use an introduction for those who have never seen a Bollywood film before – (I will certainly be adding Kites to the ever growing canon of introductory films). Finally, if you are a Hrithik fan, this is simply unmissable but for everyone else, there is an entertaining film here to see. Just like Gangster (have to mention it one last time!), it will surprise you in a way you didn’t expect it to and a film that can do it is definitely worth a watch.