This assortment is baffling mostly, swinging you up and down like a yo-yo. Because when, in the middle of a situation where our protagonists risk losing their lives, we suddenly hear the background score turn flirty and the camera shows us a random character’s comical expression.
Or the time when the central characters hijack a car at gunpoint, only to have the owner charmingly turn interpreter between them. Not to be mistaken for dark comedy, this kind of insinuated humour is only trying to be cute; admittedly you tend to ignore these intrusions into the real story.
So we meet Jai (Hrithik), a refreshing change from the regular Hindi film hero. He’s a weak man, falling to the extent of courting a girl Gina (Kangana) he doesn’t like, just because he happened to see the car she travels in. Immediately falling in lust with her money, he behaves like the perfect lover, even charming her casino-owning, influential family.
Before this, we see him making a living as a dance teacher in Las Vegas with a side business of marrying illegal immigrants. What follows his fake interest in Gina is an introduction to new cars and the high-life. When he meets Gina’s brother Tony (a comic-book like villain, growling and abusive), he’s in for a shock.
A Mexican woman Linda (Barbara) he had earlier 'married' and had felt a spark for, turns out to be Tony’s fiancé. Their stories are the same - born into poverty and in the relationship for the money. Both similar people, they’re instantly drawn to each other. Of course, their language barrier – she manages only broken English – is the least of their problems.
The dilemmas are many: to choose money or love? To stay safe or risk their lives by daring to upset the mega-powerful family?
For all the hype about the explicit scenes, the movie’s tame by today’s standards. And quite dignified, too (no excessive body shots when the heroine’s wearing a bikini).
There are some more filmi elements that'll put you off: a dance number insinuated to remind you how well Roshan Jr. moves, his character jumping on trains when he’s injured, and the usual best friend track that materialises to take the story forward.
Hrithik Roshan is impressive and evocative. His is a character we dislike at the outset, but begin to warm up to as the film progresses. Roshan plays this up-and-down track with aplomb.
Barbara Mori is immediately impressive, handling the intensity of her character’s range masterfully, and adding her natural effervescence ever so often. Their cracking chemistry is the highlight of the film, exploited every inch by co-writer-director Anurag Basu.
After Gangster and Life in a Metro, Basu shows a change in storytelling style; this time he chooses the non-linear narrative hopping between the past and present, and keeping the pace laid-back.
The songs with mostly melodious numbers, reflects this too. In keeping with the film’s dual-personality, the love story is marked with chases (including an air-balloon scene), a thumping background score, and great action. The topography ranging from the vast Mexican desert, to crystal waters, to the blingy Vegas streets is a treat.
Kites’s essential flaw is the story unfolding at a pace that’s too relaxed. One is certain this would have been a far better film with snappier editing. But then how many films do you see where you can remember the characters long after the film is done?
Linda and Jai’s love story unfolds predictably, but there’s a rebellious innocence to it that draws you.
Indeed, the film is at its most fun when we’re soaking in the playful chemistry between the two central characters.
Worth the ride.
Verdict: 3 stars