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Bollywood Queen

A "Romeo and Juliet"-style story of lovers from clashing cultures, "Bollywood Queen" attempts to fuse the fantastic flights of Hindi musicals with the more down-to-earth realism of community-specific Brit comedies like "East Is East," "My Son the Fanatic" and "Bend It Like Beckham," but lacks the spice of either of its influences.

A “Romeo and Juliet”-style story of lovers from clashing cultures, “Bollywood Queen” attempts to fuse the fantastic flights of Hindi musicals with the more down-to-earth realism of community-specific Brit comedies like “East Is East,” “My Son the Fanatic” and “Bend It Like Beckham,” but lacks the spice of either of its influences. A riot of color and confusion stitched around a flimsy plot, director Jeremy Wooding’s debut gets off to a vibrant start and offers intermittent charm, but runs out of steam fast, which is likely to narrow commercial avenues.

Wooding’s short film “Sari & Trainers” was the inspiration for this East-meets-West musical-romance, but the director and co-scripter Neil Spencer have neglected to flesh out the schmaltzy story or develop the one-dimensional characters.

Soon after learning from her fortune-telling uncle that love and trouble are in the air, Geena (Preeya Kalidas) is saved from a falling construction beam by newly arrived Somerset transplant Jay (James McAvoy). The instant romantic sparks literally lift them off the ground. Geena comes from an Indian rag-trade family in London’s East End, while Jay gets work via his brother (Ciaran McMenamin) with a rival clothing factory. As love blossoms, so do obstacles in the form of traditional Indian expectations, family interference, cross-cultural incomprehension and inter-community hostility.

There’s a half-hearted attempt to put some beef on the narrative bones with the refusal of Geena’s father to expand the company beyond selling saris while her scheming brothers secretly branch into designer wear, adding to the conflict with Jay’s camp. The story’s sputtering motor becomes especially problematic in the chaotic final act at a family wedding.

Kalidas — the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Bombay Dreams” on the London stage — and McAvoy are attractive and appealing within the limited scope of their characters, and the exuberant mix of Hindi and English songs provides a certain freshness. But too many of the songs seem wedged in rather than flowing organically from the English-dialogue action. Some of the bigger production numbers suffer from sloppy staging, with Wooding displaying no feel for the kind of dance sequences any decent musicvideo director can pull off.

Jono Smith’s fluid widescreen camerawork boasts plenty of energy, particularly in the terrific opening scenes, as it weaves through the London traffic and bustling neighborhood. Steve Beresford supplies a robust, Indian-flavored score, and production values also are rich and vividly colorful.

Bollywood Queen

U.K.

  • Production: An Arclight Films presentation of a Great British Films, Spice Factory, Stretch Limo production in association with Enterprise Films, Dream Fish Prods. (International sales: Arclight Films, London.) Produced by Michael Lionello Cowan, Jason Piette, Jeremy Wooding. Executive producers, David Rogers, Alex Marshall, Ash Shah, Zygi Kamasa, Simon Franks, Gary Hamilton. Directed by Jeremy Wooding. Screenplay, Neil Spencer, Wooding.
  • Crew: Camera (Technicolor, widescreen), Jono Smith; editor, Ben Yeates; music, Steve Beresford; Hindi songs, Beresford, Najma Akhtar; lyrics, Spencer, Wooding; production designer, Jeffrey Sherriff; art director, Oliver Roberts; costume designer, Helen Woolfenden; sound (Dolby Digital), Tony Parkinson; choreographers, Sneha Mistri, Honey Kalaria, Roysten Gooden, Alpana Sengupta; line producer, Tony Arman Jones; associate producers, Adam Betteridge, Jessica Gold, Michelle Turner, Cerise Hallam Larkin; assistant director, Billy Payn; casting, Liora Reich. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema), Jan. 20, 2003. Running time: 89 MIN.
  • With: Geena - Preeya Kalidas Jay - James McAvoy Dean - Ciaran McMenamin Anjali - Kat Bhathena Anil - Ray Panthaki Frank - Ian McShane Sanjay - Amerjit Deu Neeta - Karen Shenaz David <b>With:</b> Ronny Jhutti, Badi Uzzaman, Lalita Ahmed, Matt Bardock, Riz Abbasi, Andy Beckwith, Suraj Chaudry.
  • Music By: