Friday, September 9, 2016


Pardes; drama / romance / musical, India, 1997; D: Subhash Ghai, S: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahima Chaundhry, Amrish Puri, Apurva Aghnihotri

Kishorilal is an Indian who went to the US and became a rich tycoon in Los Angeles. At an old age, he returns to one Indian village to meet his old friend, Suraj, and asks that his daughter, Ganga, marries his son Rajiv in L.A. Suraj accepts and Ganga is flown to L.A. to meet and get married to Rajiv, but finds out he is an abusive alcoholic. Kishorilal's foster son, Arjun, tries to help them resolve the issues, but to no avail - which is further complicated when she falls in love with Arjun. When Rajiv beats her up, Ganga leaves America and returns to India with Arjun. Rajiv finds and wants to kill them, but Arjun manages to stop him and persuade Kishorilal that a forced marriage in wrong.

One of Shah Rukh Khan's early movies, "Pardes" takes on an interesting and popular topic of Indian immigrants living in another country, in this case America (a more comical variation of that would four years later be repeated in "Sometimes there's Happiness"), and thus offers a few contemplations about the culture clash between India's conservative and Western liberal values, yet succumbs to some persistent, typical Bollywood flaws - unnecessary musical sequences and an overlong running time of 3 hours which exhausts the material. There are several good, well thought out sequences, some of which are comical (i.e. when Arjun, who lives in Los Angeles arrives for the first time to the Indian village, he orders the family to remove cows and dirt for Rajiv, who will show up soon for the wedding engagement) - yet, unfortunately, with such an overlong running time, they were reduced to a minority. Rajiv is, unfortunately, predictably presented as a black and white bad guy, in order for the writer and director to transparently make it is easy for the viewers to root for Arjun and Ganga in the love triangle, which goes so far that even his cigarettes are presented as a sign for his rotten nature - he does make a few actually valid points aimed at Ganga's too conservative nature in one moment ("You shun even the word 'sex'... You insist on premarital chastity, yet, at the same time, India is the country with the highest population growth!"), but her views are always, exclusively presented as right, and his as wrong, which is uneven. The melodramatic ending does not improve that impression, either, yet Khan still managed to deliver an untypically vulnerable, sacrificing role, something which should be complimented.


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