Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's a Wonderful Bollywood Life

Bada Din (1998)

Surly rock-n-roller David Dawson (mysterious Marc Robinson, whose only other credit is an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) has alienated everyone in Calcutta with his angst and bad attitude. He's lost his girl, his job, and is on the verge of being kicked out by Lilian, his embittered, hard-drinking landlady (the lovely Shabana Azmi, rising way above the material). But then the mute street urchin who runs his errands witnesses a murder, and comes to David for help. Going to the police only brings on the wrath of the gangsters, but the pair are determined to protect the little boy, and eventually are brought together by the twin Christmas activities of frolicking around a tinsel tree and beating the stuffing out of threatening street thugs.

With its (relatively) gritty depiction of the poor living on the streets, and a protagonist mostly so anti-heroic that I cheered when Irfan Khan turned up briefly to punch him in the face, this is like an art film with commercial pretensions. There's a Jim Morrison on David's wall; a rock band that holds their instruments like an actual rock band (the drummer even has heavy metal hair); a musical number with artificial snow; and a moment when the most psycho of the petty criminals tries to lure the hero out by telling him "We're both Christians." It's not great by any means, but Christmas crime dramas, especially Hindi ones, are hard to come by, so I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it even if it were a lot worse.

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