'Nanban' - Movie Review

I'm a huge fan of the 2009 Bollywood film "3 Idiots." The plot has two students from engineering school several years after graduation searching for their vanished companion from their school days. The movie is mostly flashback, showing how he'd hugely changed both their lives for the better. But now their school nemesis has called them together, saying he knows where the missing friend is. My description for it at the time was "Bollywood Capra:" if you're familiar with the point of origin and the director, you know what this film is like. At the time of its release, it was the highest grossing Bollywood film ever released. Besides which, it's dramatic, hilarious and charming.

There's an inevitable consequence of this success that I didn't even realize until about a month ago: remakes. According to Wikipedia, others have been talked about, but the first out the gate was the Tamil version. (I mock people in North America who won't watch movies with subtitles ... apparently it's a problem the world over, although countries with high illiteracy rates have more of an excuse ...) So I ordered 2012's "Nanban" from Toronto Public Library. It's essentially a frame-for-frame remake of the original. Oh, lots has changed: names, places, dance numbers (there are more, and they're gaudier - which is saying something). But the car that the stars spend a good portion of the movie in appears to be the exact same model Volvo - except blue instead of red. This DVD had lousy subtitles, but skimming "3 Idiots" after assured me that the movies are essentially identical. I'm going to credit differences in the dialogue to bad translation: the similarities are astonishing.

I was strongly reminded of two old English expressions: "we live in hope," and "the exception proves the rule." I had hoped this would be good. And I'd hoped that - despite knowing that most remakes aren't as good as the original. This isn't the exception. It's not disastrously bad: it's got a lot of the comedy going on, but it failed to bring the drama. The main problem seemed to be "Vijay" (all the Tamil stars and the director have single names - must be nice to be unique), who plays the critically important lost friend: he was just ... calm, even during traumatic events. Same movie, not as good.