DIRECTOR: PERVEZ JAMBHUTTI. RUNNING TIME: 122 mins. DVD: EASTERN PROMISE. PRICE: £12.99. CERT: PG.
Unlike Hollywood, India’s Bollywood has never been afraid of taking the burning issues of the day and instantly turning them into colourful exploitation squarely aimed at the mass market. Following the tradition of International Commandos – which depicted the fearless attempts of Islamic warriors to carry out the Fatwah against Salman Rushdie – this movie is an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza depicting the events surrounding the attack on the World Trade Centre and its aftermath. Opening like a Hugh Grant-style romantic comedy, a deceptively genial first half hour shows quiet Delhi University librarian Ghita Nennen being wooed by the apparently equally shy Kamal Kaifa, a mature student from Afghanistan studying at the University. However, following their spectacular wedding, the elaborate dance routines and jaunty love songs quickly give way to far grimmer scenes, as Kaifa whisks his bride away to his home in a remote Afghan mountain village, where his father is a prominent local Taliban official.
He quickly reveals his darker side, growing a long straggly beard and forcing his spirited young wife to wear a burkah and adopt a position of subjugation, telling her that from now on her sole purpose will be to bear him at least ten children. Much domestic violence, always carefully choreographed as song and dance routines, follows. Nennen endures an especially brutal beating after she rebels and succeeds in persuading the local village women to cast aside their traditional Islamic dresses and indulge in frivolous activities such as dancing to decadent Western pop music. An elaborate dance sequence featuring the women – now clad in tight-fitting low-cut dresses gyrating around the village to strains of Kylie Minogue, teasing their outraged men-folk by tugging their beards and performing provocative dance routines in front of them, ends abruptly with Kaifa dragging Nennen away to be administered a brutal beating by him and his brothers – once again carefully choreographed and set to music – whilst she sings mournfully about the pain she is enduring! However, she is luckier than some of the other women, who are burned alive as punishment – young children dancing gaily around their pyres whilst chuckling Taliban men roast meat in the flames.
In between the beatings, Nennen learns that the mysterious bearded figure attending secret midnight meetings in her house is none other than Osama bin Laden, who has his headquarters in some nearby caves, and that her husband and his family are in league with the Al Qaida terrorist group. Forced to wait on the men whilst they plot, she overhears the details of the September 11 plot, and realise she must try and stop it. In a bizarre development, Nennen uses a hawk she has been secretly training to fly to delhi with a message to her brothers (all of whom are, conveniently, Indian Special Forces commandos). Consequently, the film descends into a welter of action sequences, as her machine gun-toting heavily moustachioed brothers parachute into the village to rescue her, mowing down every Taliban man who stands in their way. Nonetheless, despite blowing up half the village (to the accompaniment of several songs), they fail to stop Kaifa – belatedly realising he has been betrayed – from whisking their sister away to the US, where he is to participate in the hijacking of one of the airliners destined to crash into the Twin Towers!
In a series of increasingly unlikely developments a drugged Nennen finds herself aboard an American Airlines jet as it is taken over by a group of singing and dancing terrorists led by her husband, but incredibly escapes! Ironically, she is dismissed as “an hysterical jabberng towel-head” by the US policemen she tries to alert to the plot. Inevitably, the planes hit their targets – we last see a grinning Kaifa singing about the nobility of self-sacrifice as he sits at the controls of his plane – and Nennan is left devestated by her failure. In a somewhat downbeat post-script, we see her return to the mountain village and gain entry to bin Laden’s HQ by seducing the bearded master terrorist. As Osama reaches his climax, we see Nennen activate a radio homing device she has secreted about her person, and US B-52s rain bombs down upon the cave complex, burying them both as she sings the same song about self-sacrifice as her husband had earlier!