Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Munde UK De--British by Right, Punjabi by Heart!

Unexceptional romantic comedy won't turn any U.S. cineastes into Punjwood aficionados, and lacks the production values and star power Indian-American audiences have come to expect.

June 11, 2009

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/88438-Munde_UK_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The homeland push-pull felt by first-generation children of immigrants gets a relatively exotic airing in this romantic comedy from the Indian state of Punjab, in the far, far north near Pakistan and away from Bollywood's glitter and polish. A less-than-scintillating effort by the modest "Punjwood" film industry, this modest musical of two Punjabi-Brits finding love in their ancestral village got a U.S. release to help fill the lull in product during the recent Bollywood strike. Boasting two well-liked Punjabi comedians, a mid-level Bollywood star and a pop singer-turned-actor, Munde UK De—British by Right, Punjabi by Heart! seems to have all the ingredients to make it a hit back home. But its conflicts all have rounded edges, its emotional stakes carry little passion, and the comedy doesn't offer any original observations, or even new spins on old ones.

"Culture clash" is too strong a term for what Roop Singh (Jimmy Shergill) and his camcorder-toting friend DJ (Gurpreet Ghuggi) experience in the rural town where Roop's grandfather (Arun Bali) lives. DJ, a high-pitched homeboy-wannabe, goes on about being freaked out by all the sheep and elephants in the road, but the clearly low-budget film doesn't let us see them. And Grandpa lives in a staffed estate with a house manager, Khoji (comic star Rana Ranbir), so day-to-day life and amenities aren't much different from back in Britain.

Yet provincial attitudes hold sway, even though local beauty Reet Brar (Vancouver-raised Punjabi model-actress Neeru Bajwa) attends college and is what Indian marketers and ad agencies call "a modern woman." Roop falls for Reet, and after the first two musical numbers allows his aunt and a matchmaker to proceed with an arranged marriage. But modern women don't play that, leading Dad (Deep Dhillon) to hit the roof and set her up to get married to a local, Jagjot (singer Amrinder Gill in his feature debut). Reet, of course, realizes she really does love Roop, by which time Reet's dad and her brother hatch a scheme to impede the two.

Shakespeare pulled off plots like this all the time, but the effort here is hardly Shakespearean. The movie has modest charms—Roop’s epigram-spouting aunt, an engaging performance by Bajwa—but they're often drowned out by a bombastically melodramatic score, and lots of sitting-around-talking scenes with go-nowhere dialogue. Director, cinematographer and co-writer Manmohan Singh (no relation to India's same-name prime minister), a Bollywood D.P. and occasional Punjwood filmmaker, shoots with dull, flattened lighting far removed from Bollywood's typical crystalline sheen. Comics Ghuggi and Ranbir mug like they're in a Jim Carrey movie, while Shergill wafts wide-eyed though the film without connecting emotionally to friend, foe or love interest. That last might have worked out differently had the song lyrics been subtitled, as is usually the case. As it is, Roop's as unexciting and pedestrian as the rest of Munde UK De (literal translation: "Boys from the U.K.").


Film Review: Munde UK De--British by Right, Punjabi by Heart!

Unexceptional romantic comedy won't turn any U.S. cineastes into Punjwood aficionados, and lacks the production values and star power Indian-American audiences have come to expect.

June 11, 2009

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/88438-Munde_UK_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The homeland push-pull felt by first-generation children of immigrants gets a relatively exotic airing in this romantic comedy from the Indian state of Punjab, in the far, far north near Pakistan and away from Bollywood's glitter and polish. A less-than-scintillating effort by the modest "Punjwood" film industry, this modest musical of two Punjabi-Brits finding love in their ancestral village got a U.S. release to help fill the lull in product during the recent Bollywood strike. Boasting two well-liked Punjabi comedians, a mid-level Bollywood star and a pop singer-turned-actor, Munde UK De—British by Right, Punjabi by Heart! seems to have all the ingredients to make it a hit back home. But its conflicts all have rounded edges, its emotional stakes carry little passion, and the comedy doesn't offer any original observations, or even new spins on old ones.

"Culture clash" is too strong a term for what Roop Singh (Jimmy Shergill) and his camcorder-toting friend DJ (Gurpreet Ghuggi) experience in the rural town where Roop's grandfather (Arun Bali) lives. DJ, a high-pitched homeboy-wannabe, goes on about being freaked out by all the sheep and elephants in the road, but the clearly low-budget film doesn't let us see them. And Grandpa lives in a staffed estate with a house manager, Khoji (comic star Rana Ranbir), so day-to-day life and amenities aren't much different from back in Britain.

Yet provincial attitudes hold sway, even though local beauty Reet Brar (Vancouver-raised Punjabi model-actress Neeru Bajwa) attends college and is what Indian marketers and ad agencies call "a modern woman." Roop falls for Reet, and after the first two musical numbers allows his aunt and a matchmaker to proceed with an arranged marriage. But modern women don't play that, leading Dad (Deep Dhillon) to hit the roof and set her up to get married to a local, Jagjot (singer Amrinder Gill in his feature debut). Reet, of course, realizes she really does love Roop, by which time Reet's dad and her brother hatch a scheme to impede the two.

Shakespeare pulled off plots like this all the time, but the effort here is hardly Shakespearean. The movie has modest charms—Roop’s epigram-spouting aunt, an engaging performance by Bajwa—but they're often drowned out by a bombastically melodramatic score, and lots of sitting-around-talking scenes with go-nowhere dialogue. Director, cinematographer and co-writer Manmohan Singh (no relation to India's same-name prime minister), a Bollywood D.P. and occasional Punjwood filmmaker, shoots with dull, flattened lighting far removed from Bollywood's typical crystalline sheen. Comics Ghuggi and Ranbir mug like they're in a Jim Carrey movie, while Shergill wafts wide-eyed though the film without connecting emotionally to friend, foe or love interest. That last might have worked out differently had the song lyrics been subtitled, as is usually the case. As it is, Roop's as unexciting and pedestrian as the rest of Munde UK De (literal translation: "Boys from the U.K.").
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