Happy Nice Times Goes Bollywood: ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’ Movie Review
Back in the old days America had great movies, and India had whooping cough. Our movies had wonderful song-and-dance numbers with elaborate costumes, and India had epidemics, because of their laughably inadequate “health care system.” Somewhere along the line, things changed. THANKS OBAMA. By the 70’s, the Mumbai film industry had surpassed Hollywood in total film production, mostly on the strength of romantic musicals with the sort of production numbers at which Hollywood had formerly excelled.
Seriously, look at that thing! In a competitive market, the musicals that were formerly cranked out cheaply have become increasingly intricate. This has drawn the attention of viewers and filmmakers worldwide, including Baz Luhrmann and Danny Boyle, who have both acknowledged their Bollywood influences.
Now it has come time for the Indians to colonize the West. They have come for our Shakespeare. But do we really need another Romeo and Juliet? Having seen their names dragged through the mud (coughBAZLURHMANNcough) we might as well let the fellows from the subcontinent take a shot at it in “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.” Have your people call my people. Let’s make this happen.
Director Sanjay Leela Bansali sets his version of Romeo & Juliet in a sort of anachronistic Raj era that permits both awesome period costumes and iPhones. And our Romeo is a literal romeo. Ram is a narcissistic preening peacock who can’t take part in his family’s battle because he is too busy dancing in an elaborate production number. Since he’s banged every hot chick among his own Rajadi clan, Ram decides to go to the big dance at the gym the rival Sanera clan’s Holi celebrations.
Of course he meets Leela at the festival, and they fall in love at first sight. But she’s no passive Juliet because she is as much the pursuer as the pursued. There’s the obligatory balcony scene, and the whole warring clan/star crossed lover business that you remember from high school and “West Side Story.” Just when it’s about time for our heroes to die, the word INTERVAL flashes on screen. It’s only half-time! Director SLB attempts to improve Shakespeare with some completely unnecessary conspiracy plotting but, to be fair, two really good production numbers.
Ranveer Singh makes a great over-the-top playboy Romeo, and he was also pretty good during the woe-is-me section. Deepika Padukone is a sexy take-no-bullshit Juliet. The real stars are the wardrobe people, the art department, and the choreographers. Hopefully one day Hollywood will catch up with the “developing world” and give us unironic song and dance numbers as good as the ones in this movie.
(And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can see it in ‘Merica. Check your local theaters.)