Wow, just when you thought Bollywood had graduated to a more sophisticated level, crapadoodle like KAMBAKKHT ISHQ comes out to put a stink in the room. The heat on this film had been palpable for months leading up to its theatrical release, what with so much money fed into it, rumors of huge Hollywood stars co-starring, possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger, possibly Beyonce performing an item number and maybe Carmen Electra shooting a promotional music video with Akshay and Kareena... Most of these castles in the air crash and burn. KAMBAKKHT ISHQ (meaning "Wretched Love") is quite horrible and crass and offensive. It actually cheeses me that it made so much money in its opening.
Indian cinema doesn't really delve too much in the area of the sex farce, which is what this movie is at its core. But all the elements that make a successful sex farce are markedly absent. Based on the 2002 Tamil film PAMMAL K. SAMBANDAM, KAMBAKKHT ISHQ doesn't at all go for elegance or subtlety or a light touch, and it's about as appropriate as wearing raggedy flip flops to a funeral. But it's not a funeral but rather a wedding where our two leads meet, and it's antagonistic from jump.
Viraj is a womanizing Hollywood stuntman and a devoted bachelor. Simrita is an aspiring surgeon and she used to model to pay off her medical bills; she doesn't believe in love. When Viraj's brother Lucky gets married, Viraj shows up at the church to chastise him, and I think it's around this time, when hearing the cliched, mind-numbing dialogue, that I started getting a bad feeling about the movie. Simrita then pops up and begins to harangue the bride, warning her friend that love doesn't exist. Viraj and Simrita then start heckling each other. We all know where this is going.
SPOILER in the following paragraph, for those who care about things like SPOILERS:
Integral to the plot is a scene in which a surgeon's watch gets lodged into the patient's stomach during surgery. This leads to a pretty funny running gag, one of the very few stabs at humor which works. Turns out, the watch plays a bhajan (spiritual song) on the hour every hour.
Viraj and Simrita keep bumping into each other, all over Los Angeles and even in Italy, and the battle of the sexes rages on. For a sex farce, by western conventions, it doesn't ever get that risque. By Hindi standards, however, it's pretty naughty. Bollywood's definition of raunch involves scandalous kissing scenes between Akshay and Kareena and perceived nudity and, of course, scads of loose American women. The humor is very crude and tasteless, and that there's an abundance of films of this sort in Indian cinema makes me chafe a little. But slapping women around? Akshay and his stupid sidekick doing blackface? And a nasty cavity search? Really? Those are the laughs you're going for? (Well, okay, the cavity search made me laugh.) The production values are certainly polished, but the screenplay is this steaming pile of bat guano.
There's a lot of mugging for the camera, and Akshay is the biggest perpetrator. Akshay Kumar is a Bollywood superstar and is like a Swiss army knife in that he's proficient in any number of genres. Off the top of my head, KHAKEE is a slick action-packed thriller; NAMASTEY LONDON is an awesome romantic drama; HERA PHERI and MUJHSE SHAADI KAROGI happen to be solid comedies. Except that his last few attempts at wacky comedy have turned Akshay Kumar into a box office flop machine. HEYY BABYY and WELCOME are shifty stuff. Akshay's been aggravating me lately.
Kareena Kapoor was so very good in JAB WE MET. But she's shrill in this one and her character not that likable (not that Akshay is exactly a nice guy himself in this one). And I just smile whenever I see Boman Irani because he's in this one just like he seems to be in every other Bollywood flick, I'm assuming just because he can. The inclusion of big-name Hollywood stars in this flick was something of a coup, and this was highly touted in promoting KAMBAKKHT ISHQ. Sho nuff, we get Brandon Routh, Denise Richards (who isn't here much but is pivotal to the story), and Sylvester Stallone - none of whom are exactly A-listers (and no, I don't think Sly is top of the heap anymore). Their appearances make sense in light of the L.A.-based premise as these cats do play themselves. But Stallone's second cameo comes off as far-fetched, unless he really can shove a car two feet away and also rip out a parking meter with his bare hands and single-handedly take on an L.A. street gang. And if you wish to learn how to pronounce the movie title correctly, then by all means stay far away from Sly's attempts to slur it out.
The protagonist is a Hollywood stuntman, so we do get to see Akshay's character performing several stunts. The film's opening scene is pretty neat and it's clear that it's Akshay himself doing all the jumping and kicking and running around, and he does do a lot of the other stunts, some of which, by the way, are staged lavishly. But then just to be clear, I don't know that KAMBAKKHT ISHQ unveils the real behind-the-scenes scoop on the life of the stuntman. KAMBAKKHT ISHQ is no HOOPER or even FALL GUY.
This is Bollywood, so there are musical numbers. They're forgettable.
Okay, "Om Mangalam Mangalam" is sorta catchy.
As a bonus feature, the DVD offers the 26-minute-long "Making Of" segment. This includes interviews with the cast and crew (which also feature the American stars) and plenty of breaking down the musical numbers. None of the folks involved seems to feel remorse about being in this film.
The best part about this whole mess may well be the unusual DVD cardboard case which unfolds into four times its size and into a glossy poster of Akshay and Kareena on one side and smaller photos on the other side. Akshay, what happened to you, dude?