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Born in America, Marigold was the only child in the Lexton family. Her mom died when she was very young. She took an interest in acting and movies, much to the chagrin of her dad, who refused to do anything with her. She started acting in small budget movies as well sequels to popular releases such as Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct amongst others. She landed a part in Kama Sutra 3 and had an eventful journey to Mumbai, India, and from there by taxi to Goa. It is here she found out that the movie has been canceled, and she has no money to return home as she was provided with a one-way ticket. She lands a singing/dancing role in Manoj Sharma's film, meets with Dance Instructor, Prem Rajput, who tells her that his grandma had predicted that he would meet and then get married to a woman named Marigold. She becomes attracted to him, even accompanies him to Jodhpur, Rajasthan, to his family home on the occasion of his sister, Pooja's marriage. It is here she will find out that Prem ... Written by
Hollywood fish-out-of-water diva meets Bollywood duty-bound-son in Willard Carroll's charming amalgamation of the two film genres
Mention Bollywood to anyone with a slight familiarity with the genre and the images usually conjured up are of tacky, over the top musical numbers peopled with costuming that makes Vegas seem a bastion of conservatism. This perception is not helped by the whiff of condescension that permeates most movies that have approached Bollywood from an outsider's perspective. Willard Carroll's romantic comedy Marigold, however takes a different tack. It is not a nudge-nudge wink-wink look at those silly people and their clueless antics but a sincere appreciation of Bollywood for its vitality, its lack of irony and self-consciousness.
It is obvious that the director has a tremendous affection and respect for Bollywood while at the same time is bemused by its kitschier aspects. And if you have a familiarity with Bollywood, you can appreciate what he does here in making a true hybrid of Bollywood and Hollywood movie conventions. From one of the opening shots, a flashback of the Salman character as a child by the sea, talking with his grandmother (played by Helen! - how many Salman movies start with this same premise?) to the flashback sequence that is incorporated into the movie that Marigold and Prem has been filming, anyone who has seen enough Bollywood movies will recognize these references. The story itself incorporates tried and true conventions from both Hollywood and Bollywood as well the fish out of water meets duty-to-one's-family-at the expense of personal fulfillment. The structure of the film follows the typical Bollywood plot line of the more comical set up of the first half giving way to a more dramatic resolution of the second. Yet ultimately the sensibility of the film is that of Hollywood, with its understated, wry humor and its story of a woman learning to believe in herself, to reach self-affirmation.
You couldn't have a movie inspired by Bollywood if there weren't any musical numbers and this movie does not disappoint with seven of them. Unlike Bollywood, however, the songs do not pop out of nowhere and transport its characters to a European locale or Goan beach; they exist as musical numbers that are part of the film that is being made, reminiscent of how musical numbers were justified in Busby Berkeley movies as being part of a stage show. Or they come out of a situation where music already has a reason to be there a sexy nightclub scene where Prem teaches Marigold to dance or a beach scene where there are musicians (including a cameo from the playback singer Shaan) performing. All reflect the emotional state of the protagonists at that point in the movie. Often the music will take a conventional song from one genre and put a twist on it from the other. So in one of the highlights of the film where Marigold comes into her own, the song picturazation is fairly typical of its genre the female star singing and dancing among a line of women but in this case it's blond Ali Larter looking like a total natural Bollywood film star, emoting and lip synching to the Hindi lyrics with no subtitles.
Also synonymous with Bollywood are sumptuous visuals and Marigold fulfills that aspect beautifully thanks to some of the top talent working in Bollywood today. The cinematographer is Anil Mehta who was also the cinematographer for Lagaan and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The choreographer is Vaibhavi Merchant and production designer is Nitin Desai, both from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. You can really see the influence of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam on this film in fact, the illuminated floor in one of the numbers was originally from Dholi Taro Dhol, which coincidentally has an embedded Marigold pattern.
As for the cast, Carroll obviously has a penchant for spotting acting talent as evidenced by Playing by Heart one of the first movies for both Angelina Jolie and Ryanne Phillippe. And in this film he again hits the mark with Ali Larter. One of the main reasons the film works is because of Larter. She makes a bitchy, unappealing character sympathetic and her subsequent transformation believable and she is smart, funny, and sexy because she is smart and funny. She and Salman share excellent chemistry and that is one of the film's biggest strengths.
Salman Khan plays the role of Prince Charming here as filtered through his iconic role as Prem. This is old school Prem, however, so expect a quiet, subdued Salman - those used to him in his usual stripping avatar may be disappointed or relieved! It's a sincere and sensitive performance from him marred only by poor enunciation of his English lines.
With a refreshing lack of cynicism and unabashed embrace of romantic love, the film is a love letter to Bollywood and Hollywood movies of yore.
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