Anchor Bay // 2009 // 168 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // March 15th, 2010
"My name is Chris Kattan. I'm a comedian and actor. I know, as an actor, that I could do so much more."
Between the darkly comic reality of Extras and the vainglorious fantasy of Entourage, I've just about had my fill of showbiz navel-gazing on television. I wasn't expecting much from Bollywood Hero, a three-part miniseries from The Independent Film Channel and Starz Media. Yet, a likable Chris Kattan does a good job headlining this showbiz tale. Featuring a handsome cast and authentic locations, the miniseries provides a variation on a familiar theme.
After his 1995 to 2003 run on Saturday Night Live funnyman Chris Kattan (A Night at the Roxbury) continues to get regular work -- mostly bit parts in forgettable sitcoms. Chris really wants to be a leading man so he can beat up the bad guys and win the girl. Feeling that Hollywood will never take him seriously, Chris agrees to star in a Bollywood movie. Peculiar Dancing Boy, pitched as a "serious critique of imperialism and the caste system told through the medium of dance," will film in Mumbai, India with Chris as its titular hero. This could be his big break: a role that will propel him to international movie hero status. All Chris needs to do is learn how to dance, sing, be an action hero and be a convincing romantic lead. No problem. Corky Romano was really popular, right?
The show's opening moments make Bollywood Hero look like so many other showbiz satires. Chris is a dissatisfied actor saddled with an agent who provides no help. Street cred comes from the requisite celebrity cameo: Keanu Reeves (A Scanner Darkly) playing himself as a smug jerk. Unfortunately, it's an unfunny appearance. Initial impressions of Chris aren't much better as he comes off as a Hollywood whiner.
Thankfully, the story goes into gear rather quickly and the show is more interesting when the action moves to Mumbai. Most importantly, Chris turns out to be a pretty decent character. He's desperate to find a cinematic vehicle that will showcase him as a hero but he doesn't have an insufferable ego. Chris quickly realizes his weaknesses and makes an effort to be a better Bollywood actor. His shortcomings and his genuine effort to improve himself make Chris a sympathetic protagonist.
Over the course of the show's three hours, little is revealed about Bollywood filmmaking. A few culturally specific details, such as the coconut ceremony that marks the start of a production, are moderately interesting. However, low budget filmmaking in India looks almost exactly like low budget filmmaking in North America.
Authenticity is further weakened because the film within the show looks pretty lame. That may be intentional since Monty (Ali Fazal) turns out to be a mediocre director himself, but it's hard to believe when the other characters express enthusiasm for the project. The dramatic scenes we see being filmed look disastrous. As for the famous Bollywood song and dance sequences, we get two in each episode.
The musical numbers are presented as fantasy sequences and they really stick out from the rest of the show. The film stock and lighting make these scenes look physically different from everything else. The songs, sung in English, sound nothing like what you'd expect in a Bollywood movie, so that's another minus in terms of authenticity. There is one colorful and energetic number at the very end of the series that's a lot of fun to watch. It functions more as a thematic summation of the story than as a coherent narrative element.
The picture quality on this Anchor Bay DVD is average. The image is clean and colors look natural. However, there is a noticeable amount of grain and especially so during nighttime scenes. In contrast, a few scenes in the bright outdoors are nearly overexposed. There are also moments when the picture looks like it came from a low-resolution source as diagonal lines exhibit some ugly aliasing. The audio works fine in delivering clear dialogue in an uncomplicated sound mix. There are just a handful of instances when inserted dialogue doesn't quite match the tone in the rest of the scene. The surround channels carry subtle environmental effects and less subtle music cues as the need arises.
Deleted scenes are the only extras on this disc.
There are a lot of one-dimensional supporting characters in this miniseries and they're mostly distracting and forgettable. One exception is Priya (Pooja Kumar, Sita Sings the Blues) the producer who initially dislikes Chris. Though Priya and Chris go through the predictable romantic comedy routine, they share some good chemistry. Priya is smart and levelheaded and she grounds the story with a degree of realism.
Despite the exotic locale, this miniseries has nothing new to say about movie making. Still, some good performances provide enough charm to carry the lightweight story. If you're in a forgiving mood, this can be a pleasant enough viewing experience.
Guilty or guilty pleasure.
Review content copyright © 2010 William Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes