"an embarrassing film that insults everyone involved"
Whether it be beloved classics like Singing in the Rain or more recent Oscar winners like La La Land, Hollywood loves the musical. However, while Hollywood can make the odd toe-tapping classic, it simply can’t compete with the juggernaut that is Bollywood, an industry that produces colourful musical epics on a scale that simply can’t be matched.
This brings me to the subject of today’s review the misguided musical comedy Basmati Blues, a film that sees a talented cast humiliate themselves in an embarrassing example of why Hollywood should never try to act like Bollywood.
Linda, an American scientist working for a large corporation, develops a genetically modified form of rice and is sent to India to convince the population to adopt it, not knowing that by doing so it would cost many rice farmers their livelihoods.
Basmati Blues is a prime example of a film that has been on the shelf for years being released mainly to cash in on its lead actor/actresses growing popularity. In this case, the poor star is Brie Larson in a performance filmed sometime before her Oscar-winning performance in Room and subsequent ascension to the Hollywood A-List.
Larson tries her best with what is a rather poorly written character, with her attempts to add a bit of vibrancy and colour to the performance coming across as somewhat awkward due to the poor script, and quite often she looks somewhat embarrassed to even be in the film.
In the film’s musical sequences (more on them later) Larson is somewhat more at home, with her singing skills being solid throughout, although the terrible songs don’t do her any favours. Despite her best efforts to breathe life into the terrible material, I think we can all agree that this is one performance that many (especially Larson herself) will be keen to forget about.
The supporting cast is very much the same, with the actors saddled with dull stock characters that are about as memorable as the average grain of rice. Donald Sutherland is a rare highlight mainly because he at least seems to be having a bit of fun with his rather cartoonish corporate CEO villain, often playing his character with a knowing smirk. I guess he was just happy to take a trip to India in-between Hunger Games sequels.
The film seems to be trying to emulate the musical styles of Bollywood classics that have entertained billions and has ensured that Indian cinema is a force to be reckoned with. But this film shows that if you want Bollywood done right, leave it to Bollywood.
The musical numbers that clog up Basmati Blue’s slog of a runtime are simply cringe-inducing with the actor's valiant attempts to sing drawing decidedly mixed results. Larson and her co-star Utkarsh Ambudkar are easily the strongest singers of the cast and they do fine jobs with the forgettable songs they’re saddled with.
Donald Sutherland, on the other hand, doesn’t so much sing as talk awkwardly in time with the music and it’s a moment that left me watching through my fingers in sheer horror. The forgettable and terrible songs of Basmati Blues make it feel less like a love letter to Bollywood and more like a middle finger.
The film has also become the source of some controversy regarding its treatment of Indian culture and of its depiction of the people of India, with many accusing the film of resorting to outdated stereotypes that hark back to the days of the colonial Raj. While the film does seem to portray Indian culture in a rather suspect fashion that one could find offence in, the film is frankly so boring and forgettable that really it’s not worth wasting time complaining about, because let’s face it no one’s going to remember this film in about a months time.
Stuck with a boring plot, terrible musical numbers, bland direction and some controversial depictions of Indian culture, Basmati Blues is an embarrassing film that insults everyone involved, the actors, the writers, the directors and most of all the audience.
Avoid this film and go and watch Room instead if you want to see the talents of Brie Larson put to good use and if you want to see a Bollywood musical done right then go and watch one made by Bollywood you’ll have no shortage of examples to choose from.