"For everyone, God has made someone. Finding that person is up to you." I don't know how spot-on the sub-title work was in this film, but, either way, this is a beautiful sentiment. It'd be nice if it were true. HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD. is the kind of film which comes along and, while not exactly blowing you away, leaves you fairly content and thinking: "Now that was a pretty good movie." HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD. is a Bollywood product, and can't help but echo some of the Bollywood conventions. Yet it also manages to find its own voice. I don't know how original this film is, but, in its dealings with plot situations, it comes off as more mature and perceptive than the average Bollywood film. Certainly it has some things to say about the vagaries and differing flavors of marriages, and specifically, of Indian marriages. And, again, it's just a darn good movie.
It's not at all a convoluted premise. Basically, six newlywed couples sign up for a honeymoon tour to Goa, travelling on a vividly pink tour bus, and accompanied by a surly bus driver, his idealistic nephew, and the veteran tour guide. And stuff happens.
Meet the six couples:
- Nahid and Oscar are the older, more seasoned couple, somewhere in their fifties and each having gone thru harrowing times. They are trying to rebuild their lives and seem to have found love and solace in each other.
- The conservative Partho & the broad-minded, fun loving Milly are embroiled in a constant tug-of-war for marital dominance. For the longest time, Partho has thought he'd been in control. Or has Milli been only content to allow him the upper hand? She seems to be tiring of wearing the traditional sari all the time...
- Aspi and Zara met and fell in love when they were nerdy children, getting bullied by their schoolmates. They've even gone thru an accident together. Everyone thinks they're the ideal couple. Fo'shizzle, they do a mean tango. They've never had an argument. Until now.
- Hitesh & Shilpa are the victims of an unhappy arranged marriage. During their honeymoon vacation, Shilpa insists on locking herself in the bathroom all day and brooding and weeping for her lost love. Doesn't help that Hitesh is kind of a jerk.
- Now, they don't like to admit this to others, but Madhu and Bunty met on the Internet. Madhu is secretly recovering from a fresh heartbreak. And Bunty, a NRI (non-resident Indian), is hiding something else.
- Pinky is a bubbly chatterbox who longs for that perfect romance. But her husband Vicky overwhelmingly isn't on the same page.
This is Reema Kagti's first shot at directing her own film, not that you could tell. Paced leisurely but without dragging, breezy yet infused with unexpected sensitivity, HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD. is a romantic comedy travelogue, and it's worth watching. And, for an ensemble film, it manages to touch on most of its characters. Kagti manages to juggle the whimsy with the drama. So we have a story arc about hidden homosexuality co-existing with something as frivolous as one couple who, in their alter egos, are superheroes (yeah, you heard me!). And there's early suspense in the form of a leather-clad man on a motorcycle who mysteriously trails the honeymoon bus.
Here's a neat idea. From time to time, an all-knowing radio station (Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM) is used as a device to chronicle the backstory of the couples, allowing us to learn of the diversity of these marriages and the secrets these couples cling to. These flashbacks are smoothly transitioned and effective in fleshing out the cast even more, and without disrupting the narrative flow. Me, I became even more involved in the respective story arcs, which continued to nicely develop as the tour went on. As in life, not every ending can be happy. When the end credits roll around, one marriage has fallen by the wayside while several more are kept going out of convenience.
This is a true ensemble cast, and the acting is rock solid. There are certainly plenty of beautiful women present (Raima Sen, Diya Mirza, Minissha Lamba, Sandhya Mridul). In fact, this film is represented by quite a few women, in front of and behind the camera (the Film Director, the Director of Photography, etc.). And while no one supposedly has a "leading" role, several actors do separate themselves from the pack. Boman Irani as Oscar and Kay Kay Menon as the uptight Partho are particular stand outs. I've only seen Irani in strictly comedic roles before, and, conversely, Kay Kay only in serious parts. They're great in these role reversals. All throughout, Irani provides a steady presence as the elder statesman Oscar, who, perhaps, along with his wife (the very good Shabana Azmi), realizes best what it takes to make a marriage. But Irani also manages to pepper his scenes with humor. I loved that brief boating sequence with Irani demanding to know where the dolphins are ("There!" the boat guide randomly points to the horizon.). Meanwhile, one of the film's best moments turns up when Partho unwittingly gets high and lets his hair down in the invigorating cruise ship musical number.
Representing the femmes, Raima Sen sinks her teeth into a good role as Partho's controlled wife who yearns for some freedom. I think Raima gets more camera time than the rest of the actresses, but it's okay; she makes the most of it. Kay and Kay and Raima turn out to be my favorite couple. The rest of the cast are fine, although Amisha Patel gets pretty annoying with her incessant babble (although, I do think the writers intended her to get on everyone's nerves, so maybe it's just good acting).
I dig the music here. I have two songs I'm really partial to. There's the sizzling salsa number "Pyaar Ki Yeh Kahani." Then there's most of the cast boogeying down in the cruise ship number "Sajnaji Vaari Vaari." For some reason, the cathartic dancing here makes me think of that musical sequence in BARBERSHOP. Huh.
At 44 minutes in length, enough of the comprehensive "Making Of" feature is in English so that non-Hindi speaking folks should be able to get ample 411 out of it. As a bonus eye candy for the ladies, there's even a guest appearance by Arjun Rampal.
Check out this film, do. HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD. (which isn't at all a cumbersome title for a film, right?) is funny and sad, playful and bittersweet. It's even a bit ridiculous. And when I say "funny" I definitely don't mean the inane, juvenile comedy normally found in Bollywood pictures. The humor here is low key and doesn't come off as contrived. The characters display real emotions and are complex enough that they feel real (except maybe for Aspi and Zara, who seem to be overwhelmingly too perfect). Even in its occasional penchant for spoofing, the film doesn't stray too far from its character driven core. As these couples traipse about under the sun and over the sea of Goa, we learn that it's wiser to celebrate the journey more than the destination. That things sometimes stop lasting or maybe were never there in the first place. But that you shouldn't stop trying to make the best of it. It's life.