After a brief prologue, the film opens with our hero J (Hrithik Roshan) looking bloodied, battered, and bearded, as he rolls out of a cargo train vowing to find the love of his life. The film then jumps back three months to show us the events leading up to this dishevelled entrance.
Pretty soon we are into the first musical number of Kites, those hoping for regular song and dance routines may be disappointed however because this film straddles the Bollywood-Western divide, there are fewer instances of singing and dancing than you tend to get with a Bollywood film. Instead the songs tend to play during action sequences, but when there is dancing - it's always impressive. Particularly Hrithik, whose dancing abilities never fail to impress, it's just a shame that we don't see a great deal of it. I've spoken to people who have never watched a Bollywood film before and they tend to express disinterest because of the spontaneous bursting into song and dance which they don't feel comfortable with, for me that's one of the main attractions but those who aren't too fond may find this to be a `bridge' film, a good way to introduce themselves to a Bollywood picture with the extravagance turned down a few notches.
Kite's is primarily set in America, more specifically Las Vegas, again - a more familiar setting to most Western cinema-goers. This really seems like an effort to appeal to a new audience and the film did perform well in America, but its poor reception in a more traditional Indian film market highlights the distinct lack of a Bollywood-feel, I suppose the real measure of success will be how many new Bollywood fans the film inspires. The film itself has two distinct halves, the first depicts J hitting the big-time after trying to make money doing anything from selling popcorn to sham marriages, resulting in him becoming involved with a rich casino owning family. It's a promising start which becomes more sentimental as J discovers that perhaps there's more to life than wealth. After seriously upsetting the powerful mob he is nearly married into, the rest of the film becomes more action focussed as we witness the story leading up to his initial appearance emerging from that train. Bollywood films tend to be lavish affairs and Kites is no different, the stunts are over-the-top to the point of near-parody with car crashes and overturned trucks, they are the sort of visuals which would look dumb in a Hollywood flick but as you expect excess with an Indian film such as this, it gets away with it.
The cinematography is lush here, landscapes are beautiful and director Anurag Basu makes use of sweeping shots to create atmosphere and in the absence of bright clothes and sets they bring colour to the scene. Whether it's the beautiful blue desert skies, Mexican plains, or the twinkling lights of Vegas reflecting off of every shiny surface, the film looks sublime and the Blu-Ray transfer does it justice. The level of detail is the best I've seen on a Bollywood film and there aren't really any soft-focus shots, so everything is crisp and sharp.
In a nutshell: This is a fun film with a darker edge than I've seen in new-wave Indian cinema which tend to be light-hearted. Some of the acting struggles to convince but the central cast carry the film well, at times it gets a bit cheesy but a powerful ending (which maybe defies expectation) means the film ends on a high. This is a good starter film for those wanting an introduction to Bollywood titles, but I would probably recommend Dhoom 2
over this, like Kites it also has western appeal, stars the excellent Hrithik, and due to the strength of the fantastic musical numbers it can be as it can be watched over and over again. If I could give this 3.5 stars I could, the strength of the ending tempts me to give this 4 stars, as the music/dancing doesn't really dazzle it means that the film doesn't have great re-watch value.