Continuing my exploration of Bollywood, I came across Main Hoon Na. This movie has been described (fairly accurately, as it turns out) as a cross between True Lies, Grease, Never Been Kissed, Toy Soldiers—with a little bit of Matrix-style action and the requisite singing and dancing— how could it not be terrible beyond belief? Obviously this required investigation.
Main Hoon Na (which apparently translates as "I am here now"), while it does live up to the description, is not what I expected. It starts out simply enough: India wants to release some Pakistani political prisoners in the hopes the Pakistan will reciprocate. This idea doesn't sit well with everyone in India though, and a news briefing on the issue is interrupted by terrorists with an agenda to stop the plan. They also threaten the life of the head General's daughter if he doesn't put an end to the prisoner release.
The attack is stopped by the herioc Captain Ram, but his father is mortally wounded during the assault. On his deathbed his father reveals that he has another son, and that his wife left him because Ram is his illegitimate child. His father's last wish is that Ram try to bring the family back together, to undo the damage caused by his father's affair so many years ago.
At the same time, the General asks Ram to go undercover to protect his estranged daughter. As fate would have it, Ram's newly discovered brother attends the very same college as the General's daughter, so the General has arranged for him to attend the school undercover as a student.
Once Ram arrives at the college and begins his new assignment as an undercover student, the film bounces around from action to romance to drama, all interspersed with entertaining music and dance numbers. The movie is almost always light-hearted and fun (and I found some of the funny bits hilarious, to be honest), although the main plotline deals with the serious issues of disputes between India and Pakistan and terrorism. There are a couple of scenes involving interrogation and executions that could have clashed awkwardly with the overall tone of the movie, but somehow it fits.
There are two things that really surprised me about the Main Hoon Na:
- It careens along its three-hour course with hardly a dull moment. For what is essentially a fun popcorn romp of a movie, it's amazing that it manages to run this long and still be enjoyably engaging for pretty much the entire time.
- I still have no idea how the writer/director managed to combine such a bizarre mix of things so successfully. There's no way this movie should work, nevermind work well, but it does.
So I say see it for yourself. It's not ever going to be an Oscar contender but it is a very entertaining and fun movie, which is exactly what it sets out to be. If you're not put off by some some singing and dancing, Main Hoon Na will be both familiar and refreshingly different for most westerners. There's something here for almost anyone to enjoy whether you're looking for action, romance, or just a good laugh.