First they blatantly rip off Nine Months (the movie), garnish it with other comedies with pregnant women in them (Father Of The Bride), heap on dollops of Friends-style humor just to remain safe, and then they have the gall to tell us this is a "bold movie" about live-in relationships. It reminds me of the time I put together my Capsela set inside a cardboard box and called it a multi-terrain rocket launcher for my class V science exhibition. My dupe paid off with our not-quite-with-it teachers, and probably this one will, too.
It's like the snake eating its tail, that Kekule saw in his dream leading to the discovery of Benzene. Siddharth Anand makes a movie based on our lives (supposedly us, 21st century, generation nexters) which, since life imitates art, mould themselves around the American and British movies and sitcoms we watch. Which puts Indian movies at the absolute bottom end when it comes to the imitation food chain. But what the heck - as long as it reflects our times! We've got to forgive everything cause it's a courageous, bold, new wave movie.
Okay, let's cut the acridity. But there's at least one thing Salaam Namaste definitely messed up: Preity Zinta's pregnant tummy in the movie. For God's sake, after decades of showing pregnant women in substantial roles in Bollywood movies, how the hell did they manage to get this mommy-in-waiting so misshapen? Her bulge looks like a nodule on a leguminous plant, and it was not just I who choked at the first look. Every time she came onto the screen, the audience burst into insensitive, crude, but nevertheless spontaneous peals of laughter.
Moreover, the move from sari-clad pregnancy to Madonna-style, lace and lingerie maternity should obviously have put the costume and prop designer on the high alert. How then did he/she manage to fish out an earthen kooja to hang upside down, hammocked in Preity's spaghetti-strapped tops? As if that were not enough, she bursts into a limbo every time there is a song, and her tummy bobs in the wind like an overripe watermelon in the springtime breeze. Yikes. It's embarrassing in what was turning out to be a fairly sensible, and even sensitive movie (American inspirations notwithstanding).
Anyway, let's get down to the story. And it is a promising story after all. Preity Zinta vowed we wouldn't see her in movies that didn't deal with refreshingly new subjects, and she does not disappoint with Salaam Namaste. This one is about Nick (Saif Ali Khan), a chef-cum-architect in Australia, who falls in love with Amber, a radio-jockey-cum-student of surgery.
I have to admit the first part of the movie is deliciously new - not a tad hackneyed, funny as hell, and manages the trick that has made several Bollywood movies, blockbusters over ages. The trick of broaching a sensitive subject with the dexterity of an acupressurist - pressing the right points, and leaving alone the painful ones, thus creating a wonderful sustained release effect. Not overdoing the bold parts, but leaving enough dangling to allow for prolonged drooling.
So Nick and Amber don't just leave the party and dive into bed together. Instead, they carefully discuss and consider a live-in relationship, decide to live in separate rooms, get talking and knowing each other. Only then, with enough prelude, do they allow their first kiss. It's all there: the kissing, the love-making, and in clever close-ups too, but trussed up so titillatingly in the corset of sensitivity and emotion, that it's pure indulgence to watch the gently building love between the two.
Nick and Amber find out they are successful in their experiment in living in, and just as the bond is growing stronger, Amber learns she is pregnant. Both are completely shocked since this new development did not figure in their initial deal, and so, they decide to go for an abortion.
Predictably, the Preity Zinta of Kya Kehna desists, falls out with Nick, and decides to carry through her pregnancy without any help from him. The rest of the movie is, of course, about Nick's journey out of commitment-phobia, and into Amber's flailing arms in the delivery room, to slip the engagement ring on her finger and help augment the humor in the delivery scenes.
Arshad Warsi doesn't disappoint, though the length of his role does. Both Preity and Saif play their roles to perfection, and Jugal Hansraj makes an appearance in the most inconsequential role of the year.
Salaam Namaste is definitely terribly watchable, if you manage to keep in check your disappointment of the realization that it is a complete copy of Nine Months. That really lets it down. But on every other count, be it the humor, the soundtrack, the dialogues, the formidable Preity Zinta or the dandy Saif Ali Khan, this movie is bursting with entertainment and energy. All in all, it passes muster, makes the grade, and hits the finish line. Imitation, yes, but no one does it better than this!