Friday, October 30, 2009

London Dreams

Band Members

I've got to admit though my interest in the film is none other than to follow up on Asin's phenomenal Hindi movie debut with the blockbuster hit movie Ghajini last year, and while it took almost 12 months for the release of her latest Bollywood movie (her first real one since she starred in an earlier version of the same role), she's one of the many stars I'm following as my introduction to the current wave of Hindi films, from Deepika Padukone to Ranbir Kapoor, and of course the established ones, which includes Salman Khan in this same film.

While one may not see Asin being featured too much on the promotions and the trailers, I suppose there's a valid reason for that. In fact, she probably got relegated, in my opinion, from leading lady in Ghajini, to supporting role in London Dreams, so much so that her character Priya becomes just one of the many background dancers in the Indian pop group band of the titular name, which is naturally a pity as the camera doesn't even linger too long to show us some of the moves learnt.

However, the good thing here was that she's the token love interest in a triangle between the two leading male characters, and in pure Asin style, took advantage of whatever limited time she has to flesh out Priya as best as she could, a woman caught in between fulfilling her traditional roles in her father's household, yet caught up by the bright lights that the city has to offer, together with a totally different, perhaps more attractive pop culture to want to become a dancer. And fate would lead her to Ajay Devgn's Arjun busking at Trafalgar Square with a makeshift band made up of two brothers of Pakistani descent.

If I could read this on another level going by how the plot developed, it's akin to a warning of sorts against consorting with foreign elements to harm one's own countryman, which should be an absolute no-no at any costs, because it will only open up such bonds to utter destruction. Surely the greed and jealousy of man may frustrate from time to time, but to lead to betrayal would be asking for a downfall.

London Dreams plays out like a classical Cain and Abel type story, where two brothers, one jealous of the other for his talent and recognition, plots the downfall against the other behind his back in betrayal most foul. Arjun has a dream, and that is to take his music to London, and play at the renowned Wembley stadium, where his grandfather had failed in his time and returned to India a broken man. He spends his early teenage life honing his musical skills, and ever ready to sniff out any opportunity to scale the music ladder until his goal is reached. His is a singular mind obsessed with the single goal, so much so that he's willing to self-flagellate (!) himself when his mind gets swayed by Priya and the chance for romance, or any other distractions that crosses his path that day actually.

Ajay Devgn plays Arjun with enough menace and envy to make him believable as a man who would go to great lengths and at any costs to ensure his road to glory is not jeopardized. Salman Khan's Mannu on the other hand, is blessed with great musical talent without even trying, and while Arjun sees this as an advantage to be gained should he bring Mannu back to London and join his band, little did he realize that Mannu's country boy demeanour would start to win the fans over, as well as Priya. There are plenty of scenes which set up this innocent usurping of another's thunder, and the decisions that come to spark off the entire turn of events just after the intermission.

As a musical film, somehow the songs and dance sequences didn't really stand out, although in general they weren't that bad, but not too memorable as well, other than the pulsating number first performed at Trafalgar Square. Salman Khan proves why he's one of the three King Khans of Bollywood through his rendition of a simple boy with simple pleasures, with plenty of cheekiness combined with great comic timing to bring in some laughs. That airplane scene was a classic light hearted touch in what was a dark tale about bringing down a best friend using the cruelest of methods and exploiting the weakness of another for no good benefit.

The ending too was too clean and too quick, where a pep talk magically puts one into empathy mode with perfect hindsight. I had expected a lot more from London Dreams with its premise and its cast, but what came across was something still palatable and won't get you all riled up like the audience in the film, but with potential as a successful box office dream likely going unfulfilled.

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