The camera lovingly follows the contours of an underwater paradise. Incurious fish gently swim away from the light as the camera glides over sting rays, around coral and through populous grottos. As the credits roll, Shreya Ghoshal’s powerhouse voice begins the opening notes of the Bondesque song “Rehnuma.” It is a promising start for an underwater adventure, but when Shreya crescendos to “Katilana Adaaa” and it is not accompanied by a similar visual crescendo on screen, you first get the stirring of doubts about the competence of the filmmaker.
Set in the Bahamas, the titular Blue is the Lady in Blue, a British ship carrying Indian treasure that sank off the coast immediately after India’s independence. Sagar, a happy go lucky fisherman( Sanjay Dutt), is pressurized by his friend Aarav(Akshay Kumar) to help him look for the treasure. When Sagar’s young brother Sam gets into trouble with some Thai goons and has to come up with 50 million dollars ( an absurd sum that even the character demanding it seems to realize he’s pulling out of thin air) Sagar agrees to go on the treasure hunt.
The movie inexplicably spends only about 15 minutes on the actual treasure hunt; the rest is spent on motorcycle chases, boxing bouts and completely unnecessary songs and dances. This is especially true of the item number with Kylie Minogue, whose taut stretched face and body belie her age(41). (Farah Khan was probably busy enjoying the island atmosphere-the choreography is uninspiring.)
Director Antony D’Souza was surely born with a silver spoon in his mouth; getting over a 100 crores to indulge in for one’s debut movie is an amazing achievement. Like a kid sent into a candy store with unlimited money, D’Souza just keeps gorging on the goodies. Like motorcycle chases? Here’s two. How about a bunch of helicopter shots of the beautiful Bahamas? And here’s a scene with jet-ski stunts.
But the phenomenal budget (Blue is reportedly the most expensive Hindi movie to make) obviously wasn’t enough. By the time the underwater scenes and the stunts were shot, and the stars paid, obviously there was no more money left over to pay for a good script or a screenplay writer. The actors seem to be improvising dialogues on the spot. Seriously. In one scene Aarav asks a Bahamanian hottie for a ride home. “Can I ride you,” he asks, a deliberate double entendre. Then he apologizes and asks, “Can you ride me home?” a Punjabi-ism if I’ve ever heard one. Other inane dialogues like, “Don’t worry, everything will be all right,” and “Just give me a gun, I will kill him” abound. The budget also apparently ran out before the props for the precious Indian treasure were purchased; there is, believe it or not, a trunk with gold coins and jewelry spilling out of it that could have been assembled in the local craft store.
One can tell the passion of the director was reserved for the cinematography; there are several scenes in the movie that stand out as visual works of art (one, in particular, is the scene of the red motorcycle in a sepia forest) but as a moving picture there is no connectivity between the scenes and no drama to engage the viewer. It feels as though D’Souza composed the movie entirely as a series of pictures and ignored the sound and fury that make a photo gallery a movie.
The actors just try their best to look good and swim well. Lara Dutta looks amazingly hot. Her toned derriere is just one of the many that D’souza lovingly pans over. Akshay is a good male equivalent, though Lara is inexplicably paired with the dissipated and unfit-looking Sunjay Dutt, whose spreading abdominal girth is just barely constrained by his wetsuit. Katrina Kaif makes a special appearance for which one hears she was paid an obscene amount of money.
The songs have been mostly panned by reviewers, but I think they grow on you. Blue is not A.R. Rahman’s best work, but “Rehnuma” and “Shara ra ra” and even the poorly choreographed “Chiggy Wiggy” sound appealing after repeat listening.
Blue will appeal to an audience unfamiliar with classic underwater adventures like The Deep and The Abyss but I am still surprised at its success in India. Unfortunately, the box office success of movies that are all style and no substance only spawns a dozen more copycats. Don’t be surprised if an Indian Jones-style jungle adventure is in the works as we speak. They can always call it Green.