There are films that take the effort not to demean its audience, and then, there’s Namaste England that blatantly demands that you leave logic at home. Even if you manage to do that, Namaste England is a trying watch. Param Singh (Arjun Kapoor) falls in love with Jasmeet at first sight. How else can love happen in these films? This is followed Param gazing at Jasmeet with stars in his eyes, and drooling at everything she does. Dolled up and dancing every now and then, she doesn’t make it too hard for him either. And then, love blossoms when Param sacrifices his kulfi for Jasmeet.
As they look to ‘inaugurate’ their love in the next sequence, Jasmeet lays down her condition. An aspiring jewellery designer, Jasmeet demands that he support her decision to work after marriage. Familial constraints prohibit her from working. Her grandfather’s idea of a perfect couple is the man taking care of his woman, and the woman bearing his babies. All she wants is a husband who understands. A lot of decisions in Namaste England happen in an instant and seem almost paradoxical. A playboy falls for Jasmeet in an instant, with the latter reciprocating as fast. Param’s father agrees to the marriage in an instant, and also his decision to move abroad. What went into writing these sequences, you wonder.
Param, who understands her desire to work, carts her back and forth to Amritsar when she lands a part-time job. Dadaji, however, plays spoilsport, and comes up with a tried and tested solution: Marriage. He gets Param’s father to promise that Jasmeet won’t work even after marriage. Here, Param doesn’t push her to work no matter what her grandfather says. Instead, he says he will let her exit the relationship if that is what she wants. Normal people might consider battling it out with family, or do what they want against wishes. But Jasmeet decides that she can only live her dreams abroad. And thus, Namaste England becomes a film about a marriage of conveniences, and illegal immigrants garnished with incongruous, one-dimensional monologues on nationalism. (Read: Hero follows heroine abroad; everybody loves him, and he talks about how great India is.)
The most annoying aspect about Param is his holier-than-thou attitude. Jasmeet leaves to London, leaving Param with a big-fat lie behind. But there’s no anger, even after he has had eight beers because he ‘understands’. In the words of one character, “Param can handle betrayal, but can never do the same to someone else.” All the characters in Namaste England are cardboard cutouts of at most one emotion. And the superficial, convenient screenplay adds no charm to the already fragile characters as the film chugs on and on. Probably the only unique thing about Namaste England is that the narrative happens between songs that make up every Bollywood album ever.
Watching Arjun and Parineeti together reminded me of Ishaqzaade, which incidentally marked the debut of both. A few scenes actually made me think of Pareshaan from Ishaqzaade. Both have Parineeti riding a bike; both have her sitting in the pillion with her dupatta above her head. The romance in Namaste England, however, is an adulterated, watered-down version of the crackling chemistry in Ishaqzaade. The kind that leaves an unsavoury after-taste that won’t go away easily.
This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.