Without doubt, Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori are two of the prettiest people you’re going to see on screen.
Hrithik is staggeringly handsome and director Anurag Basu frames him in the tightest of tight close-ups. There is of course the requisite dance sequence and bare torso scene but even in moments of anguish, Hrithik’s blue-green eyes are ablaze.
Barbara is lovely with real texture and a feisty spirit. Together they are so luminous that the frame lights up when they are in it. Their crackling chemistry keeps Kites soaring.
Developed by Basu, from a story by Rakesh Roshan who has also produced the film, Kites is about Jai and Natasha, two street-smart hustlers who are marrying into a rich and brutal Las Vegas family purely for the money.
Of course their gold-digging scheme falls apart when they fall in love with each other. Basu builds this hesitant relationship beautifully.
They can’t speak each others language—he doesn’t know Spanish and she can’t speak English—but their smouldering looks are louder than words.
They know their path is fraught with danger but they can’t put the brakes on their desire. Inevitably the bad guys find out and then the chase begins.
Which is pretty much where Kites starts to falter. The weakest link in the film is the villains, who seem like the NRI cousins of the Thakurs from Rakesh Roshan’s Karan Arjun.
The entire family is woefully underwritten and badly enacted. At one point, the father, played by Kabir Bedi and the son, played by newcomer Nick Brown, are egging on Jai to kill a man.
They cheerfully say: ‘Go get him’ and ‘You can do it.’ As a welcome present into the family, the father hands Jai a new car and a gun. And did I mention that the daughter, whom Jai is pretending to love, is played by Kangna Ranaut, who is of course Bollywood’s go-to girl for any mentally unstable character.
The second half of Kites has way too much of the son who chases his fiancée and her new lover over stunningly stark new Mexico landscapes.
Meanwhile those two have morphed into Bonnie and Clyde – they rob banks and steal cars. And the plot settles into a repetitive cycle of chase scene—love-scene—chase scene.
There is one particularly weak shoot-out between cops and bounty hunters, which feels like a left over from B-grade American television and an over- stylised climactic shoot-out in the rain, which echoes Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition.
This is a real shame. Kites is sumptuously produced, painstakingly crafted and in its own way, ambitious. The Roshans and Basu are trying to stretch the boundaries of the Bollywood love story.
Hrithik Roshan is spectacular. And yet the film doesn’t become more than the sum of its parts because the second half is flat and in places, outright foolish.
Still I recommend that you see Kites. It’s far from brilliant or even fully satisfying but it’s easily one of the better Bollywood films I’ve seen this year. (NDTV)