Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tere Bin Laden Review

Wow... how to review this film without offending American sensibilities? I pondered on this question for about a minute before deciding that... I won't. Take into account American sensibilities that is. No really, while understanding that 9/11 is a touchy subject, one cannot deny the amount of ridiculousness that its aftermath has given birth to, and Tere Bin Laden takes full advantage of that. The movie won my 5 stars the moment we see Ali Hassan trying to be all smooth and chivalrous by returning a dropped butter knife to the air hostess on his flight to the US, only to be met by this face:

Really, I still miss my 3 cm nail file that got confiscated at a Canadian airport a couple of years ago...

But my personal experiences aside, the movie only gets better from there, and as they say, no cow is too holy for this film. The story in a nutshell is about Ali Hassan, a Pakistani yuppie, who tries to scam his way into the US in the post 9/11 world without much success. However the Gods seem to finally smile upon him when he discovers an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like whom he uses to make a video proving that Osama is alive and well (and even has access to health care since he has obviously done Botox, as one of the characters quickly points out). Surely the TV channels will pay millions for this video, but will that be enough to pave pay Ali's way to the promised land?

In an hour and a half, the film packs an impressive amount of digs at the American paranoia and imperialism, the Indian/Pakistani "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality, the media's inanity, Communism, and even at the current craze for overpriced, overhyped and underperforming organic products that a developing country would produce naturally for a fraction of the cost (one of the best lines in the film if you ask me).

It's interesting to note that in order to coherently go in so many directions without being overbearing, the film uses both the foreground and the background very efficiently throughout. And for heaven's sake, don't disregard your peripheral vision either because those eye muscles will get a good workout too. There's always something going on in every corner of the screen, but somehow it's not tiring at all, if anything it just gives you a reason to look forward to the next watching. Granted, some of the jokes fizzle a bit on the second watching, but I for one appreciated the opportunity to focus on the lovely performances the second time around.

Funnily enough, observing (and taking advantage of) the most obnoxious mentality changes seen after 9/11 doesn't do anything to deter Ali from his dream. The biggest and perhaps most subtle irony of the film is that he begins by using the Pakistanis' weaknesses but ends up taking full advantage of everything that is not desirable from the American psyche, all the while not stopping to think for a second if he really wants to live in the very society whose xenophobia and shortsightedness keeps interfering with his plans. But I don't think we're meant to think about whether or not Ali will be happy in the US, especially since this is what his American dream looks like.

The movie is built on several levels which helps it stay interesting for various types of viewers. I'm sure every time I watch it going forward I'll notice yet another detail that will make me laugh hysterically. The reason why it works for me where other slapstick movies or satires do not work, is because it blends both. Just when you're getting into the subtleties of the script and admiring the elegance of a situation that mercilessly mocks everyone without even a hint of crassness, you get hit by a "Men in Black" type scene where it's virtually impossible not to laugh at the CIA sync-chewing on carrots while interrogating the suspect. But don't give your brain a break just yet because you may have to quickly call on it again for a dollop of brilliantly penned sarcasm. I can see this film being enjoyed thoroughly with your brain in OFF mode, but also in ON mode.

Typically I would have Dolce and Namak talk about their likes and dislikes, but since they were both falling off the couch laughing, I can't really do that today. But I will tell you what amused and charmed each of them the most:

Dolce: the Nagin dance

Namak: the Men in Black spoof

Dolce: the delightfully retro savings accounts.
Bank Account Number 1

Bank Account Number 2

Bank Account Number 3

Namak: the reference to a brilliant line from The Shawshank Redemption, an all-time favourite.
Hey, I told you no cow was too holy!

Dolce: Ali Zafar
What? I can't stop Dolce from being a fangirl!...

Namak: Operation Kickass!

Ok, I give up, I'll just screencap the whole movie if I keep this up. But I will mention one more scene that had me hugging my knees in a futile attempt to prevent my abs from getting torn by laughter, and it's the scene where the Pakistani cop realizes that there is no good reason to bomb Afghanistan, which as it turns out, doesn't seem to phase the American investigator. A priceless dialogue, and so right in so many ways!

By the way, wherever they found this guy (Barry John), they struck gold. He is... PERFECT! Can you tell he has a hilarious accent from the screencap above? Because I tell you, he does!

And did you know the Americans have missiles that can take out the entire first floor of a building without moving even a glass of water on the second? Well, if you didn't, you'd better watch this film because one of them even gets launched in what was the other greatest moment of the film for me.

As an aside, I've actually missed Shankar Ehsaan and Loy lately, so I was very happy to get such a fun soundtrack from them, especially in a film where I wasn't expecting any memorable songs. Of course, it helps that Ali Zafar is actually a well-known Pakistani pop star and can sing his own songs!

Aye haye, I'm floored! Can we see more of him in the future, please?

Truly, an hour and half of all kinds of fun, which makes this one of my favourite movies of the year and definitely the best satire in a long time. Sorry Peepli [Live], but where you were callous and caustic, Tere Bin Laden was light and witty, which works infinitely better for me in the context of a satire.


Anonymous said...

Is this Barry John the British acting teacher based in Delhi, one of whose students was Shahrukh Khan?

Dolce and Namak said...

Yup, one and the same. He moved to Mumbai apparently a few years ago. I hope Bollywood is nice to him :P
He was in Gandhi too, interesting... So his Hindi must be way better than what we see in Tere Bin Laden (which was hilarious!). I liked him a lot in his OTT fake American accented way :D

Jyothi said...

Oooh! this one of my favourite movies of the year, just coz of the fact that i was laughing throughout the movie and all the way back home too! I'd always been a fan of Ali Zafar's crazy music videos but it was great to see him in a lead role too! And the ulla da patta song! I love! :)

Dolce and Namak said...

I know, right? I kept trying to put into words just how funny it is and I'm still not sure I managed to convey that in my review. I wish more people would watch it, it's hysterical! I plan to show it to a whole lot of friends who don't watch Indian films :D
Now I have to look up some of his videos, Jyothi, you're not the first one to mention they're awesome :) Any recommendations?

Remini said...

Wow, what a ride :D The movie was very entertaining, but I wasn't in stitches like you Dolce. Guess some of the humour went past me. I really loved the Pakistani investigator (the one who tripped on his own shoelaces.. what a moment^^)Ali Zafar.. wah! I think all us ladies could do with a lot more gratuitious shots of him.

Oh yeah, and.. May God Bless America! :D

Peace out.

Dolce and Namak said...

Haha! Yeah, my sense of humour is rather odd, I'm told, so many things that have me rolling on the floor laughing don't amuse other people and vice versa. But even if it's not laugh out loud for everyone I still think it's worth watching. It feels like it has something to entertain everyone.

Good point about the gratuitous shots, darling. Might go back to screencap some more and add here, just for the hell of it ;o)

Nicki said...

I really have to watch this. My daughter is now asking me to get it since her Desi classmates was telling her she really likes Ali Zafar :D

Dolce and Namak said...

Hehehe! Not only your daughter, you're gonna fall in love with him too, Nicki! :D
Seriously though, do get it, it's great fun this film! And not only for Bollywood maniacs like us!

Remini said...

I forgot! How could I? I just wanted to add that I was SUPER HAPPY to see Sugandha Garg, a.k.a the cool friend from JTYJN :D What a delight! She was really great as the make-up artist. And how sweet was her ending of the story? I think I actually ... giggled... when they showed it :p

Dolce and Namak said...

Hehe! I loved her (loved her in JTYJN as well, she's so pretty too!!) <3 So true, her bit of the ending took me by surprise completely, but it was so cheesy and cute that I am fairly sure I went "awww" out loud. We're so silly :)

On My Island said...

Thank you for such a cute review. I loved the movie and I love Ali Zafar. Listen to his albums Masti and Huqa Pani, especially Sun re sajaniya from Masti and Rangeen, Channo, Huqqa pani, and Chal dil meray. These songs were hit on my wedding so I will always love them :)

Dolce and Namak said...

Hi Wajiha, glad you enjoyed it! It's such a fun movie. THANK YOU so much for the song titles, I was hoping someone with more knowledge would make it easy for me and make a short list of what I should listen to (rather than me going through all his stuff blindly). So cheers for doing that! I'll make sure to look them up. Congrats for the wedding! :)

Temple said...

I watched this on your recommendation and I loved it! My DVD shop boy said it wasn't funny and was too shouty so I had avoided it but I will be having a serious talk with him sometime soon. Mind you, he tried to make me watch Heyy Baby so I have no one but myself to blame - I really should know better.
I loved the script! The writing is really clever and as the potshots are taken with a free and equal approach to mocking absurdities, I didn't find the humour offensive or insensitive. I liked that they showed Ali developing some awareness of the consequence of what he had done, albeit in a comic frame.
The casting was brilliant and I can't fault anyone's performance. And you're right, the little details and bits of stagey business going on in the background are just gold.
I was delighted by the little snippets of what happened Ever After in the end credits.

Dolce and Namak said...

Woo-hoo!! Another fan! Glad you liked it, Temple. And give that no-good DVD shop keeper of yours a stern lecture for me too :)
I do agree with your boy that it's loud and definitely over the top, but it's a clever movie in many ways, and like you, I was a big fan of their sense of justice: everyone gets their share of mockery. Very pleased that you tried it and enjoyed it.

Happy New Year to both of you, my dear! And here's to many many delightful reviews in 2011!

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