Jenny K: So, continuing this series, Julie and I each go abroad to beard the Sallu-Man in his domain, the cinema. I got the jump on seeing Bodyguard, Salman Khan’s latest instant superhit, as it opened here, midweek. I wasn’t one for the opening night crowds on Wednesday, but Thursday night, my friend Kathy and I were there…but running late as usual, I missed the first ten minutes. Note: We’re doing this two part posting as a synopsis with comments review. Spoilers will be legion and continuous.
Julie M: And I’ll preface my remarks by stating that due to a quirk of fate, the Saturday afternoon screening I attended in Indianapolis had been sponsored by an Indian cultural organization and therefore was not subtitled. We did not find this out until we were buying our tickets, and my friend Marcia and I looked at each other, shrugged and decided to go with it anyway. So I missed the nuances of virtually every long spate of dialogue, although I could absorb the general idea. Looking back, I think that may have spared me some eye-rolling.
Jenny K: From what I could glean, those first ten minutes may have introduced us to a young boy, who is reading a story in a diary, told in a woman’s voice about Lovely Singh (Salman Khan), son of Balwant Singh, both men, fearsome fighters. Lovely is an employee of a bodyguard firm, founded by his father’s old boss, Sartaj Rana (Raj Babbar) who gave the son a job after the father gave his life to protect Sartaj. Lovely is dedicated to his Malik (Boss) and would do anything he asks.
Julie M: You missed a little piece of backstory about Lovely’s birth: his pregnant mother was found lying by the side of the road after having had a car accident, and you see that Rana was the person that saved her life (and also the life of Lovely).
Jenny K: When the film opens, Lovely has the daunting task of guarding the body of movie star Katrina Kaif, while onstage doing a dance number. Muscles and dance moves, what a man! What? Is he whistling and winking at his own biceps???
Julie M: You betcha he is! The biceps get choreography throughout the number. And I think, if you listen closely, you will hear their own very tiny playback singer. All that was missing was a costume for them.
Jenny K: But then they would have been covered up…duh! After this, we find out that the Malik needs a special guy to guard his beloved daughter Divya (Kareena Kapoor) as she goes to college, when he and his family are threatened by a particularly vengeful gang of thugs. A claassic scenario.
Lovely’s got his hands full for the moment, in full-throttle thug-bashing mode as viewed in an extended chase/fight sequence involving trains, overpasses, thrilling gravity-defying bridge leaps, and an extended dishoom session in a warehouse, one against throngs of evildoers. He triumphs, of course, and foils a large scale prostitution ring, which the baddies add to their list of grievances against Lovely and Rana. Aditya Pancholi does a very nice, highly-kajaled psychopath. But Lovely loses them as he travels by bus to his boss’s home.
Julie M: I agree that Pancholi did a good, if slightly over the top, job as the crazy thug boss. I have to say, this was one of the most ludicrous fight scenes ever, although it started in a relatively cool way with him on a train going in one direction and then getting out and swinging his way onto the roof of the train going the other direction.
Jenny K: On the bus he gets tangled up with a very large young man, Tsunami Singh (Rajat Rawail), who wreaks so much havoc, socially and physically, on the bus passengers, that they could legitimately apply for disaster relief. Tsunami works for Sartaj Rana, too (as court jester?), and when he sees a picture of his boss’ daughter in Lovely’s wallet, he reports him as the hired killer they are expecting.
Arriving at the estate, havoc ensues, but Lovely, thinking the attack on Divya has started, incapacitates two thirds of the household staff. Divya is appalled that her father has saddled her with a bodyguard, and from the outset she and her roommate, Maya, try to find ways to ditch him, or at least have him remain completely out of sight. Not really possible, as a bodyguard, in black or not, doesn’t blend in well in the classroom (case: Main Hoon Na).
Julie M: I thought Tsunami’s T-shirt wardrobe was frat-boy stupid. “Beer instructions” indeed! Yet I couldn’t wait to see what the next one he had on would be. The girls play some idiotic pranks on Lovely, like ruining his uniform, which only resulted in his wearing an even tighter partial uniform. Trust Salman to shed his suit as soon as possible.
Jenny K: Lovely is the perfect bodyguard. He can’t be bought, he can’t even be distracted from his duty. As per the Boss’ orders, he gets the girls up daily at 4am to work on self-defense techniques. Imagine! Divya thinks up a plan using crank calls to redirect Lovely’s attention. Divya disguises her voice, substituting a sexy tone that Lovely won’t recognize (IMDb says, of Kareena’s sister Karisma…I couldn’t tell any difference) and verbally seduces him into believing he has a secret admirer at the college. Eventually he succumbs to Divya’s telephonic charms, and though he can’t express it and maintain peak professionalism, his mind wanders toward the mysterious “Chaya.”
Julie M: Aren’t bodyguards supposed to be observant? The voice was not disguised all that well. All that admiring himself in the mirror, in his non-uniform clothes, must also be distracting him. Save us.
Jenny K: Here we get the cute, “I Love You” song. Lovely has just realized he can fall in love, a first for him, even though his job doesn’t allow him to express it. Explains why he’s always dancing his way past “himself” in these scenes.
And although his fall into raptures seems a bit quick, and too complete for such a hardened guy, it is fiction after all. Divya is determined to lead as normal a college life as possible. She doesn’t believe she’s really in danger…until…the killers come after her. Lovely leaps into action, disarming (or killing) all the thugs and stealing Divya’s heart in the bargain.
Julie M: This fight scene takes place in a bar/nightclub, accompanied by much breaking of glassware. In one sequence Lovely controls his glass-bashing to the point that he makes a splinter fly towards one of the bad guys and slash his wrist. Again, puh-leeze.
Jenny K: After the intermission, Lovely uses his spare time (wouldn’t think he had any, if there is imminent danger lurking around every corner, but…) to try to track down his mysterious Chaya at the college with the help of Tsunami. To get into the girl’s dorms for further “research” Tsunami disguises himself as a college co-ed (or Macy’s Parade float) and “subtly” tries to infiltrate and find Chaya. The girls blow his cover immediately, pummeling him, stripping him and tossing him out, battered and beleaguered in “hilarious” style. Yeah, right. I could have done without this whole interlude of rotund humor.
Julie M: Me too. All in all there are far too many fat jokes, plus one very wince-inducing homophobic joke early on.
Jenny K: Salman goes into another full-dance love song at this point, that shows him off to very good sartorial advantage, even in red leather pants. Kathy observed that Salman seems to be dedicated to preserving the tradition of dance numbers in masala films by updating them for a modern audience. I think I agree. It’s wonderful to see this many song and dance numbers in a film these days, and I realized how much I miss them. Here’s a promo clip of it, shortened, but you get the gist.
As Divya mulls about how to get herself out of the predicament she is in, she falls further and further in love with Lovely and can’t tell him the truth, especially when he shares more of his developing feelings for “Chaya” with her. She then goes into her own fantasy number, “Tere Mere” which conveys her forlorn feeling that their love can never be. It’s a very lovely, dark and stormy number with many a flash of pec on his part
Julie M: I disagree that it was wonderful. I was bored silly with this one. Too many wind machines in the studio and Salman’s shirt fluttering in the resultant breeze. He had done pretty well at keeping his shirt on up till now and this marked a turning point in the movie to where he had to work hard not to have his shirt fly off if anyone so much looked at him. And Kareena, whom I was not hating as much as I usually do, was simply awful with simpering looks and pursed lips. And really bad eye makeup. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Jenny K: Divya then arranges to go with him to his “secret rendez-vous” with “Chaya” so that a) she can rehearse his meeting with the mystery girl and get closer to him, and b) so that she can (as Chaya) break up with him later, by phone, for bringing Divya along on their date.
By now everyone is miserable. Divya can’t help herself from becoming Chaya for one last phone call to Lovely. Unfortunately, her maid overhears her talking about meeting him at the railway station and reports the supposed elopement to her father. To add to the chaos, the thug gang finally finds Lovely and Divya alone and launches their deadly attack…with a murderous toy helicopter…no, I’m not kidding…with sharpened rotor blades that chop down every houseplant in the place while chasing her. Lots of gunfire and glass breaking ensue.
Julie M: I thought this sequence was pretty cool, but Divya forgot the number one rule when being chased by a murderous toy helicopter: hit the ground and crawl in the direction the murderous toy helicopter came from.
Jenny K: Ah, but she was trying to lead it away from Lovely. Self-sacrifice! Eventually, they both end up escaping into the back yard where there’s a convenient ancient ruin, flooded with water for the hero and the thugs to duke it out in. Lovely also gets temporarily blinded by debris and fights against multiple men, by hearing alone, for a time. And, per usual, he is rendered shirtless early on, this time by a rogue, almost lecherous, drain pipe. I am still not kidding.
Julie M: Our theater screamed with laughter at that one. Or maybe it was just us. No, it was everybody.
Jenny K: Well, Salman’s known and loved for his tongue in cheek humor, they say. The fight is beautifully shot, mildly suspenseful, but has way too much slo-mo for my taste. Then, he beats the baddies, just to be threatened by Divya’s dad. She denies her elopement plans (and her love, anguished sigh) and sends Lovely off to meet Chaya at the railway station. Dad doesn’t believe her, and has a henchman follow Lovely, to kill him if there’s no girl. Divya sends her friend Maya to warn Lovely, but Maya throws all instruction to the winds and takes Salman away from all this drama by claiming to be Chaya.
Here’s that whole sequence, already on Youtube. How do they do that? Don’t click on it if you want anything left for your visit to the theater.
Julie M: Here’s another instance where having no subtitles confused me. When Divya’s dad showed up, I thought he was actually part of the bad guys. And I thought Maya was secretly in love with Lovely herself and took it upon herself to meet him at the railway station and pretend she was Chaya, thereby screwing over her best friend. And the reason for the diary was that it was some kind of last confession before she committed suicide, filled with remorse. I kind of like my scenario better.
Jenny K: Well, it was a confessional, you’re right. We find out the boy on the train is Maya and Lovely’s child Sartaj, Jr., who is reading the diary of his dying mother (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai??) and they all reunite with Divya and Dad at the old family estate. Seems Divya has opted for a noble spinsterhood rather than not marry her true love. Finally at Sartaj, Jr.’s suggestion, Divya’s Dad begs a clueless Lovely to take his daughter as his new wife. Happy Ending.
Julie M: I thought that Lovely and the boy were journeying to see Rana because he was dying and had summoned them. Again, no subtitles, but that’s the story I made up in my head and it went with the EFD tone of those scenes. And so Rana was eager to see his daughter married off before he went, and who better than Lovely, whom he sees as a surrogate son? (and by the way, what is it in Indian film about foster-sons or foster-daughters forced by gratitude to become engaged to what is essentially their sister or brother? The first time I saw that, I think it was in Dil Chahta Hai, I nearly barfed in horror).
Jenny K: Then there’s a whole gaggle of films with sisters who marry their dead sibling’s fiancés…try them on. Direct from Bible-era law.
All in all, though not the best of masala films, I did find Bodyguard a pleasant pass-time, which, given it was a Salman film, was a surprise to me. For me, Kareena gave her sweetest spunky heroine performance since Asoka. I still appreciate the traditonal genres, and though I could do without some of the fights, looking at Salman’s torso every so often is a small price to pay for more song and dance, IMO.
Julie M: I found it more entertaining than I ever thought I would, given that I don’t like most Salman films and I really don’t like Kareena in anything. He did not look like an old fart (kudos to the makeup crew) and she was actually somewhat believable as a college-age ladki. Salman seems to be at his best in physical scenes–the muscles actually make more sense here than when he is doing a romantic role, which I really REALLY do not like to see him in. And her character grew over the course of the film from being a shallow rich girl to a mature woman. I liked three of the musical numbers (the opening one that Jenny missed was wonderfully visual once you got over the romance between Salman and his biceps; and the later one with the silver Hammer pants, was less so. I also liked, despite myself, the “I Love You” one) and the romance, drama and comedy parts were not so extreme that they canceled each other out. Bottom line: worth a watch, and maybe 10 or 15 years from now it will become a classic of sorts.
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