Sanjay DuttSalman KhanKarisma KapoorNagma
Chal Mere Bhai
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: David Dhawan
Writer: Ikram Akhtar, Rumi Jaffery, Yunus Sajawal
Language: Hindi
Country: India
Keywords: musical
Actor: Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Dalip Tahil, Sushma Seth, Shakti Kapoor, Nagma, Sonali Bendre, Twinkle Khanna, Ravi Baswani, Anil Dhawan, Dinesh Anand, Birbal, Divya Palat, Shankar Mahadevan, Lezz Lewis, Zeeshan, Himani Shivpuri, Raju Shrestha, Shahbaaz Khan, Shiva Rindani, Suresh Bhagwat, Ghanshyam Rohera, Javed Khan, Shashi Kiran, Asrani, Satish Kaushik, Mangal Dhillon
Format: 135 minutes
Website category: Asian
Review date: 24 January 2011
At the low end of okay. I wouldn't call it bad, but there's a certain amount of bloody-mindedness in the fact that I made it through to the end. It's a Bollywood romantic comedy, but both the "romantic" and the "comedy" are a bit iffy. It's skating along on charm, really.
It's the story of two brothers (Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan) who both fall for the same girl (Karishma Kapoor). That's the one-line summary, anyway. However this is a long film and we're about halfway through before anyone starts wooing anyone else. Until then, the first half had been just light-hearted fun in which the main characters are idiots. The klutzy and catastrophe-prone Kapoor blags her way into a job for which she's unqualified, en route expressing astonishment that anyone could care about the job requirements (e.g. typing, shorthand). If we can believe a flashback dream scene, a while ago Dutt lost the woman he'd been going to marry in a car crash that was his own stupid fault. Meanwhile his brother Khan isn't working in the family business but instead wants to be an actor, which must be a relief for the family because the one time we see him turn up to the office, he's a complete tit.
Oh, and Kapoor's also presumptuous. She introduces herself to Khan by getting in his car in a traffic jam and ordering this complete stranger to drive her to work.
If the cast hadn't been likeable, this would have been a train wreck. The story's fluff. Nothing in it really matters. It's the usual Bollywood nonsense with big song-and-dance numbers that are guaranteed to make your mind wander. I ended up thinking about all kinds of things during the singing. However all the main characters are likeable, despite their characters' low intelligence, and they keep the film afloat. Khan and Kapoor made eight films together, but the lynchpin of the film is the Khan-Dutt rapport. They're the core of the film, much more than the romance. These brothers really love each other. There's not even a millisecond of this film, there's not even a moment where they're anything but kind, thoughtful and goofy together. They're having fun and so they're fun to watch. What's more, the script almost seems to think they're twins, with each being said to be a mirror of the other. It's wholehearted and rather lovely.
Sanjay Dutt (Mr Sleepy Eyes) is the one to watch, though. He was the tragic captain in Mission Kashmir and here again he's playing a character with a bit of a temper. What's more, both he and Khan are fitness freaks, pumping iron and pushing Kapoor to say which of them has the better body, so all things considered this isn't a guy to mess with. He's big. This film happens to be a breezy comedy, but even so. Furthermore in real life Dutt has been arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Influence Act, for suspected weapons possession and links with the 1993 Mumbai bombers. He's spent time in jail, put himself forward for election to public office and been appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for an intergovernmental organisation against malnutrition and hunger.
Here, he's playing a macho man called Vicky. No, really.
Incidentally, the film has a few fight scenes. They don't really belong, but a hero isn't a hero unless he's beating people up, right? Someone decides to get their own back with five or six friends and some lengths of metal pipe. This was a bit hackneyed the first time we see it, but the second time involves Dutt and Khan getting revenge with baseball bats. Eh? But it's okay, because they're outnumbered three to one! Does this make them thugs, or just stupid thugs?
That's the first half of the film. It's silly and occasionally eye-rolling comedy. After that, the second half of the film gets into the romance, just like a thousand other Bollywood films before it. More experienced Bollywood-watchers have been able to reel off a shopping list of movies this resembles. Me though, I was wrong-footed by the fact that at the halfway point I was assuming Kapoor was going to end up marrying one of the two brothers, but then an hour later had changed my mind and now thought she'd end up with the other. I'll give it points for that, even if it's just me being thick. However there is one oddity for Western viewers, in which there's a big chunk of the film in which there's much debate and consideration (both from the characters and the plot) about who to choose for Kapoor's husband-to-be... and yet Kapoor herself isn't actually involved in these discussions. She's a feisty character in the film's first half, but then in the second half could be said to become a bit of a plot coupon.
The film looks nice, though. At one point I'd swear they were on a day trip to The Sound of Music.
I can't imagine anyone hating this film. It's charming and good-humoured. Khan talking to himself is a magic realist highlight, while Dutt made me laugh out loud with the film's last scene. However in hindsight I'm amazed I'm feeling this tolerant, because underneath all that is some "shoot me now" brainlessness. Dutt beats up people who were behaving perfectly reasonably towards his raging drunk of a brother. The two of them think it's funny to shoot fruit off someone's head, on top of which the gunshots frighten a horse and thus endanger Kapoor, who's on top of the runaway beast. She's no better, though. Falling into the pool like that? Is she a spastic or just stupid?
However I didn't really mind any of that. It's a Bollywood blancmange. Charming stars, formulaic script, skippable musical numbers. Nothing in here matters in the slightest. It's okay.