It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been writing these movie reviews for old popular films and if there is one thing that I’ve realised is that almost no Bollywood movie, not even the funny and iconic ones, are usually made without a few fundamental and conceptual flaws, or without asserting something problematic. Case in point - Namaste London.
The movie, which once used to be my absolute favourite, is actually regressive AF and we’re here to tell you why.
Namastey London follows the life of Manmohan Malhotra (Rishi Kapoor) who is an Indian living in England with a family of two and a very regressive mindset.
Manmohan isn’t just your typical Indian sexist male who likes to take away all agency from women in the house and establish his authority as supreme. But he is also shown to be embarrassed by his own wife Bebo, whom he married back in Punjab and then got to London, away from her roots.
From forcefully setting up her daughter for meeting Indian boys for marriage, without even taking into consideration or asking her what she wants, Manmohan comically fails at parenting during the first half of the film and how.
Meanwhile, Jasmeet aka Jazz (Katrina Kaif) is your typical half Indian, half British brat who wears rebellion on her sleeve. She likes to defy everything her father says, and we don’t blame her (for most of it), considering she is an adult and shouldn’t be forced to marry someone she doesn’t like.
But that doesn’t deter Manmohan’s spirits in the slightest, for he cat-fishes his wife and daughter to travel with him to India to see the Taj Mahal, but ends up making her meet boys for marriage.
While on their trip, Manmohan goes to visit his own family and friend, whose son Arjun Singh (Akshay Kumar) inevitably falls in love with Jazz.
Now, that whole ‘falling in love’, as romantic as it may have seemed back in the day, was in fact as creepy as ever. Arjun’s idea of falling in love constituted intimidating Jazz in the middle of the night on top of a terrace, constantly harassing her and coming on to her a little too strong.
Meanwhile, Jazz’s father doesn’t give a damn about her daughter’s choice and forces her hand to marry Arjun. Which she does, but with terms and conditions applied.
She tricks Arjun into not getting their marriage registered and makes him fly back to London with her almost immediately. This way, when they arrive back, Jazz tells Arjun and her father how ‘legally’ she is still unmarried in London. Mic drop.
Now, even though by this point, the movie had made a villain out of Jazz, she wasn’t wrong.
Fending for your own rights and choices, especially as a woman, shouldn’t be looked down upon and that is exactly what the movie did - made Jazz the ‘bad guy’ of the film simply because she didn’t want to abide by her father’s rules.
The rest of the movie where Arjun continues to pine over Jazz and get close to her under the pretext of friendship takes a rather predictable turn after it establishes how Charlie Brown (Jazz’s love interest) is in fact a bad choice for her.
This was laced with a lot of anti-British jokes which (even if they are fine, considering they colonised us and gave us hell for decades on end) were rather hypocritical coming from Manmohan who would live and earn there, but still, diss the country.
Basically, Jiss thaali main khaya, ussi main thook diya.
Towards the end as the wedding of Jazz and Charlie approaches, Jazz falls in love with Arjun and Arjun, patiently waits till the very end moment - at the altar of her wedding, to play the ultimate trump card.
He then discloses how he is not the Hindi-speaking simpleton that Jazz thought him to be, but in fact, was well-versed with the English language. Way to go for manipulating a woman, all this while!
Obviously, Jazz abandons Charlie Brown (and subsequently her dreams, ambitions, country, friends) to marry Arjun and move to a village in Punjab with him.