Kukunoor's latest – Bombay to Bangkok

Director Nagesh Kukunoor’s oeuvre has been relatively small but I would love to see someone come out with a “Best of..” DVD set. In it would be Iqbal, arguably the most uplifting of his movies and Dor, a quiet but polished look at two women brought together by sad circumstances. I would also include Teen Deewarein, a thriller with twists galore, Bollywood Calling, a sly look at the movie industry,  and of course Hyderabad Blues, his debut film, which invigorated many viewers sick of mainstream pap dished out by Bollywood.

Not all of Kukunoor’s movies are consistently engaging. Rockford was pretty dull, even for those familiar with the boarding school environment, and Hyderabad Blues 2 stretched the arranged marriage joke a bit too far. Bombay to Bangkok, though being way better than some of the other movies in the theaters right now, falls in this category.

B2B is perhaps the most formulaic of the lot, the formula being – Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl over misunderstanding, it all ends happily ever after. There is even a group song in a disco.The twist is that girl is a pretty Thai working in a “massage” parlor in Bangkok, with all the double meaning the term entails. The movie never shies away from what the girl actually does, which I found very commendable. I was a little surprised and a lot pleased that the subject matter didn’t create any waves in India. Maybe the RSS activists didn’t actually get it!

This modern, non-judgmental, affectionate look at people is what makes Kukunoor’s movies special and B2B is also populated with wacky characters that enliven the journey of Shankar Singh’s journey from Bombay to Bangkok. There is a gangster who prefers rap to rape and a psychiatrist who is fascinated with the gangster’s neuroses. There is also a motley crew of Thai speaking Sikhs and a geographically challenged old lady.

Shankar is played by Shreyas Talpade who so unassuming and chameleon-like that people find it hard to believe that it was the same guy in Iqbal, Dor and Om Shanti Om. He, of course gives an effortless performance as the beleaguered cook who absconds with the gangster’s money and then has to go on the run to escape the consequences. Lena Christensen, a Thai-Danish actress, plays the lovely Jasmine, who Shankar cannot help but fall in love with despite her dubious profession.

Everyone does a good job, the jokes keep coming but the movie still has a raw feel to it. After Dor, which really showed the evolution of Kukunoor as a director, I guess I was expecting a bit more polish but the movie had the look of an extended skit. Credibility is the director’s strength, and it was stretched when Shankar manages to masquerade as a doctor for several days without being caught, even if it laid the ground for plenty of jokes about Viagra. There are one too many coincidences, one too many unexplained and improbable happenings.

Bombay To Bangkok is not one of the director's movies I would like to own but it is still a very pleasant watch, especially on DVD. Here’s hoping Aashayein, his next, is one for the DVD collection.

Kid Advisory: Thematically absolutely unsuitable for kids. Plenty of kissing and some suggestive scenes.

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