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Poor Bobby (Indian soft-core superstar Sapna). All she wants to do is marry her hot young boyfriend, Rocky (Imran), presumably so they can stop dancing on the beach and finally start rollicking in the sheets. But alas, her strict father forbids it Rocky's from the wrong side of the tracks, and doesn't have nearly the wealth or prestige of the unappealing Mr. Bajaj, to whom Bobby has been unwillingly betrothed. What's a girl to do with an old guy like that when she's so desperately GARAM (hot)?
The answer lies at the end of Kanti Shah's aptly titled potboiler, but it's probably not what you think. Running a brisk (for Bollywood) 102 minutes, GARAM is just one of endless examples of the strange collision between exploitation and blockbuster that constitutes Indian "A" cinema. Still overseen stringently by government authorities, these "A" films (India's adults-only rating) remain exceedingly modest, avoiding nudity or any particularly explicit sexual contact in favor of lots of half-exposed cleavage and heavy petting. Though surely an adjustment for Western viewers, such films nevertheless serve as a fun reminder that the spirit of the grind-house remains alive and well it's fascinating to watch characters in modern garb talking on cell phones through the haze of emulsion scratches commonly associated with drive-in garbage from the '60s and '70s.
Though still new to this particular sub-genre, I was nevertheless taken with GARAM and its uneasy marriage between marquee spectacle and poverty-row sexploitation. Like most Indian films, it contains the requisite musical numbers, though they're limited to just two people and occasionally take place in public environments with hapless bystanders going about their day. Similarly, while the narrative strives for Bollywood's traditional epic arc, it remains confined to a few endlessly cycling locations and a rotating cast of ten. This leads to a rambling and refreshingly unpredictable narrative, with Bobby hopping from man to man in contrast to the forgone contortions of a Hollywood film's love triangle. Even Mr. Bajaj emerges as not too bad a guy, though the film eventually undercuts this development in order to keep the narrative twists coming. Indeed, everyone's status as hero or villain is consistently up for debate if it keeps the pulpy pot boiling, and the ending brings the whole gang back together on a collision course of bizarre plotting that will defy the expectations of anyone not already steeped in this kind of cinema.
For those curious to experience the strange magic of seeing X-rated vibes infused throughout the resolutely PG-level productions that constitute Indian cinema, GARAM is a great place to start. While my newness to the genre prevents me from giving an accurate assessment of how it stacks up against its brethren, for Western viewers unaccustomed to the Indian A-flick's singular pleasures, it should provide a great introduction and a fascinating window into another under-explored side of world exploitation cinema.
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