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Published September 9th, 2005 | by Raam Tarat

Salaam Namaste Review

Classification: PG Director: Siddharth Raj Anand Rating: 3.5/5

Yash Raj’s latest offering seems to be breaking new ground, in taking Bollywood to pastures anew and defying age old stereotypes by tackling taboo subjects such as pre-marital sex, contraception, and ‘living together’ out of wedlock… what’s all the fuss you may be wondering. The thing is, even though Bollywood has evolved from prancing around trees; with warm embraces fast replaced by an out of focus flower before the lens (lest they actually kiss..) they generally err on the side of caution.

Of course there are films tackling real and serious subjects, but Yash Raj as one of the bastions of populist cinema [the largest and most prestigious production house with unparalleled commercial success] have a huge guaranteed audience. They usually churn out colourful frothy capers which are well written, funny, and usually have a subtle underlying social / life mantra of sorts. They could easily continue with their formulaic musicals, be they promoting traditional values, or ultra hip and contemporary life. With a tweak here and there and some innovative casting this is another feel good romp, yet is pushes the boat out a little further.

The setting is Melbourne – Australia, and Salaam Namaste (meaning Hello / Greetings) is a radio station at which effervescent medical student Ambar [Preity] DJ’s part-time. Nick [Saif] is an architect whose creativity bears fruit not through creating buildings, but through producing culinary delights at a local eatery where he’s head chef. He provokes Ambar’s ire by not turning up to a radio interview with her, after which she exacts revenge by slating him [restaurant et al] live on air.

Between the rants and reprisals the couple meet, and still unaware of their counterparts’ real identities take a liking to one another. Ambar is prudent, punctual and hard-working, whilst Nick has a carefree vagabond attitude to life, he hates kids; fears hospitals; and has issues with commitment. Yet despite their disparate differences there is an undeniable attraction and cupid strikes. The couple decide to try a live-in relationship, primarily platonic, though the boundaries soon dissipate. As initial affirmations of love are tested through their living together, reality soon hits home.

An unexpected development means the ‘take each day as it comes’ attitude to the relationship (and life) is brought to a screeching halt, as they’re suddenly forced to take the relationship a lot more seriously than either had envisaged. Though initially they were converging towards a certain emotional plane / understanding, they soon realise they have very different thoughts on love and life.

The film looks fresh and trips the light fantastic, it’s fun, breezy and full of laughs. It’s romantic, yet not too mushy or overly dramatic. Though the colourful first half is full of screaming bosses, bikini-clad beach weddings and impromptu song and dance routines, the second half takes a much more serious tone. Full marks to the director in handling the crux of the story realistically and sensitively, and keeping one consistently engaged in the protagonist’s tribulations.

Khan and Zinta are funny and convincing as the haphazard lovers with major issues. Apart from a few poor caricatures, support is exemplary, especially the hilarious Jaffrey, playing a crazy NRI resembling a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Hunter S. Thompson. The cinematography is innovative to say the least, catching the stunning locales of Melbourne including its lush beaches and its cool urbane metropolis, aided by zippy editing.

This is a fantastic romantic comedy, exploring the serious side to a young relationship; compatibility, and issues in love and practicality. As Nick and Ambar have to rethink their thoughts on their relationship and each other, we can see their evolvement and maturity through fate and circumstance. The underlying message here being it’s easy to fall in love, but oh-so difficult to sustain it. This is a whole heap of fun, if light and breezy popcorn flicks (with a twang of drama) are your thing – this won’t disappoint.

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