Actors: Hrithik RoshanBarbara MoriNicholas BrownKabir BediKangana Ranaut
Genre: Romantic Drama, Action
Rating: 2.5/5

Kites is a nice watch for Hrithik’s fans, if they don’t care about other aspects of film-making, that is. Not straight up, but there are a lot of hints that Kites was made to perfectly fit the bracket of a crossover film. Any which case, the unit succeeds in crossing international boundaries. The plot by Rakesh Roshan, in a nutshell is a wild-goose-chase with two lovers on the run, eventually separated, followed by a successful revenge. The story is time-tested, but there is freshness through the lower southwestern US locales, lot of English and Spanish and no lingua franca really. Most importantly, it’s about an unexplored western culture, going few more rungs down on the ship’s ladder into foreign waters, more confidently; and acutely crossing language barriers.

Some more drill-down, J (Hrithik Roshan) makes a living in Las Vegas by getting hitched to immigrants, to help them get US Permanent Residency. While focussed on a scheme to achieve financial nirvana through bigshot Bob’s (Kabir Bedi) daughter Gina (Kangana Ranaut), he crosses paths with a Mexican immigrant Natasha (Barbara Mori) who he had ‘helped’ in the past. Sparks fly, but for anything to happen, the obvious glitches are Tony (Natasha’s fiancé) and Bob. The couple does the right thing anyway, they elope, with almost the entire police force of the desert states chasing them. J survives, Natasha does not, so J does not let Tony, either.
Hrithik is definitely Bollywood’s answer to the west – his looks, the fashion statement, the chiseled body, the gait, the dance, chemistry with an opposite co-star (from the west, that too), action stunts, screen presence, and finally, emoting. Majority of Hrithik’s strengths have been apparent right from his first movie, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. His superstar status is because of a deadly and consistent combination of everything you want in an Indian film hero, forcing SRK to once confess ‘you almost brought me down with KNPH.’ What is worth mentioning about ‘J’ is his western appeal. Very urban-looking, he does hold his own against an attractive, well-performing phirang co-star with international repute. A challenge for both Hrithik and Barbara must have been about creating emotions and facial expressions in a two-language conversation and both pull it off superbly. If there’s anything Hrithik could have done better, it’s his English accent, sometimes fake, English talk-speed, R’s rolled inconsistently, etc.

Barbara Mori is an accomplished Mexican actress with few years of experience in front of the camera. This actress has matched step for step with an Indian superstar, in an Indian movie, to be predominantly watched by an Indian audience. So there, that’s a challenge in itself. A very attractive lady, gori chamdi at that, must have built quite a decent male fan base prior to the film’s release. Now, a bigger fan base of female population would add to it because of her acting talents. There wasn’t any dancing (except in one scene, briefly), so the onus is on her screen presence, chemistry with Hrithik and acting out emotions. Her screen presence is very clearly due to her beauty. Very, very expressive set of eyes, a full, beautiful smile, appropriate make-up (both hair and face), good fashion sense (yes, bikinis and shorts too), a sexy voice, all make for her screen presence. Her body language in scenes with Hrithik is extremely impressionable. Bluntly, she’s had to blush, laugh, freak out or cry. But again, the best scenes (oh cho chweet ones) are conversations between the lead pair; Hrithik speaking in English and Barbara responding in Spanish. If there could be any suggestions for Barbara, it would be not to smile so much. The screenplay made such scenes look very cheesy and very 90s-Bollywood.

Nicholas Brown as Tony (Natasha’s fiance and Gina’s sibling), driven by adrenaline, delivers well. With a menacing appeal, Nick is successful in changing the mood of the audience every time he shows up on screen – either looking for J & Linda, or to smack characters not able to contain the eloping couple. He scores big on being able to converse in Spanish, conveying a spoilt-brat lifestyle, and speaking twisted Hindi like that of a foreign-bred. Kangana Ranaut and Kabir Bedi were truly guest appearances and don’t add much weight to the storyline, except in a couple of scenes where the power of this rich family had to be established with the audience.
The treatment of the story, and the characters themselves, is what differentiates similar chase-revenge stories from each other. Anurag Basu as the Director has done a decent job with the first half. The lead characters and their chemistry is built well, and Anurag succeeds in putting the audience on a track they thought they knew very well. Second half begins to seem digestible, but headlong, you see some melodrama which had to show up, as expected, some killing (as expected, too). Timing of the J’s revenge is sudden too, but unexpected, which leaves you with one question: why it happened the way it did. This leads to screenplay by Anurag and Robin Bhatt, which was a very important part of this type of film. Right from the word go, the scenes go back and forth from the present to a flashback three months ago, constantly jogging the audience’s mood when they are slipping into a montone. The screenplay is highly accentuated by Hrithik and Barbara’s performances. How they make those hand gestures to explain feelings and how the other responds, is very aesthetically crafted. Melodrama fortunately, is common to Indian and Mexican film culture, and this common ground is treaded artfully, but it induced redundant dialogue increasing playtime. The editing department should have focused more on scenes related to the underlying theme (how the pair shares love, crossing culture barriers) than on unnecessary action stunt scenes, longer than needed, especially, scenes the motel, the truck-car chase, hot-air-balloon sequence, the constant running, etc. It would have saved some time to make the second half content-rich. 

Cinematography by Ayananka Bose is worth noticing. The make-up makes a star look better, but the cinematographer’s art makes the entire ensemble look good together. The Vegas casino strip, the wide open deserts of Nevada, small town New Mexico, the oceans, the barren lands by the highways, the motels, the open grasslands of Mexico, etc. The lighting has been a big part too, used appropriately, or sometimes red/blue to induce morose. Although, the action scenes have been not been canned well. Set-up, though convincing, camera angles made them seem dubious (jumping out of the car, or off a bike, etc.). Stunt direction is very middle-road. Also, the dance number ‘Fire’ could be better captured. It didn’t highlight Hrithik-Kangana’s dancing talent fully.

By Rajesh Roshan, there are no song sequences, but the songs play in the background to accompany good cinematography, where the mood of the scene had to persist longer. Zindagi, Fire and Dil Kyun are memorable. Background music by Salim-Sulaiman has drawn good inspiration from the central theme, using Spanish musical tones, operatic sometimes, but has major western influence. The Indian-ness in the background music is missing, which is new, yet refreshing.

Why 2.5/5:
Replete with good performances, technical aspects play black-sheep in Kites. ‘They’ poured old wine into a new bottle. The pourer was already drunk and spilled some or most of it. The new bottle is a beauty, a keeper, but there isn’t enough wine in there. The technical aspects of Kites really let it down, majorly the screenplay and the editing, making it unfathomable at times. Let’s just say Kites is successful in exploring coming together of India and Mexico, failing because of attempts to bring back the average Indian film-goer into a zone they’re trying to get out of. Watch it for, the chemistry!


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