To celebrate the start of the Mixed Reality conference, we went last night to Sweden’s oldest purpose built cinema in old Ystad, to watch the Bollywood supernatural horror romance (oh do keep up) movie 1920 Evil Returns – which was shot in atmospheric old houses all over the Skane region. Unsurprisingly, 1920 is set in (you guessed it) 1920, in a kind of alternate reality where India is like quaint, foggy 1880’s Sweden, where cars have’t been invented and where blokes wear braces and cossack sleeves, and there’s nary a sari in sight. Smurfette (a troubled lass) and Dev (a gloomy poet) fall in love through a hand-written correspondence, but then she gets possessed by something evil and he (with almost Hamlet-ish levels of fortitudinous inaction) has to find out how to save her.
Now, as you know I don’t really see a lot of Bollywood fare. In fact the last time I saw one was actually Bollywood superhero thingy staring Hrithik Roshan and his twin thumbs. But I actually quite enjoyed 1920 Evil Returns. It’s schlocky as all hell, and a lot of the spooky bits are completely derivative – from The Exorcist and Ghost Ship and Season of the Witch to name but three – but the actress playing Smurfette (no, not actually her name) is great and she appears to be enjoying her time actually acting rather than dancing complex routines and singing like Minnie Mouse on helium. And Ystad’s locations look good enough to make a trip – which I guess is what this film tourism stuff is supposed to be about. Two million Indians saw this film in its opening weekend in Mumbai – equivalent to a quarter of Sweden’s population in two days. That’s got to be something, right?
Blonde, beautiful and brattish, Marigold Lexton (Ali Larter) is a self-absorbed, snarky, sassy D-movie star who gets stranded in India when her latest movie – Kama Sutra 3 – folds. Lying about her musical abilities, she blags her way onto the set of a glorious Bollywood film where she falls for the terribly decent and earnest choreographer (Salman Khan). He’s a prince. No really, he is!! After a cracking start, it’s pretty much downhill from there on in.
From the beaches of Goa, to a strangely clean and technicolor Mumbai to the remarkable Rajasthan, the film does well enough to blend Hollywood with Bollywood, without going to the trouble of explaining either. But disappointingly, Marigold isn’t quite the jolly jape it could be. Larter is lovely, but Marigold’s transformation from arrogant starlet to woman in love is more baffling than believable – and it happens too early in the plot to sustain the rest of the drama.
In the end, I wished that Marigold had been directed by Gurinder Chadha, with the kind of robust colour and vibrancy and and energy and flair of her Bride and Prejudice.
Aishwarya Rai plays Tilo, Mistress of Spices, a kind of sayer-healer-agony aunt who is sent to California with three implausible challenges: help people to accomplish their desires (but never her own) through the considered application of spices; never leave the store; and never touch another person’s skin.
But she’s sent to Oakland for pete’s sake, within spitting distance of San Fransisco, and with a jaw-dropping view of the Golden Gate Bridge from her roof terrace, no less. So of COURSE she’s going to fail. The fact that she does it with Dylan McDermott is kind of irrelevant.
Of course there’s a suspension of disbelief, and there are some questions that are simply imponderable: exactly how magical is sesame seed? who buys her loo paper? is all that open product actually hygenic? how mordantly incurious is she, to be so close to one of America’s greatest cities and never set foot out of her shop?