Right. So. This didn’t start well, because I got so bored and annoyed about 1.5 hours in that I had to turn it off and watch four hours of “Top Gear” instead. I had had high hopes. I’ve only ever seen stuff in which Akshaye Khanna makes special appearances because he’s such a big star, and I figured his early films might justify this. Aishwarya Rai is strikingly beautiful and I haven’t hated anything with her. (I might be lying; I might hate Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.) And Mola Ram plays Akshaye Khanna’s dad! What could go wrong?

Well, what goes wrong is that Taal is awful. Here’s the set-up. Akshaye Khanna as Manav is a rich young man, raised in London and now coming back to India to enter the firm, presumably. He has the worst mullet you’ve ever seen and falls off cliffs a lot. He is also a total stalker creep and a gatecrasher, but as usual in films this is just adorable. Aishwarya Rai as Mansi is a young woman raised in Himachal Pradesh who dances and sings and teaches yoga and for some insane reason possibly related to my spotty subtitles is not likely to marry. She has weird nightmares. This should be pretty straightforward. With the exception of the exact region in question, this looks like a classic film of the excellent “teach me how to be more Punjabi” genre, in which the young man learns important truths about himself and being Indian from a pure but sometimes slightly sassy young woman.

I wish. An hour in, they’re in love, everyone’s parents seem to be in favor, at least after Mansi’s dad yells at her about the necklace of whoredom she received from Manav. Immediately, of course, a ridiculous incident occurs in which her dad hits his dad and then Mansi gives a patented Aishwarya Rai tells rich people how it is speech. Then she decides to stay in Mumbai and become an international music star who dresses like a lunatic. This is where she meets Anil Kapoor as Vikrant (whose sunglasses are surgically attached to his skull), and Vikrant, Manav, and Mansi embark on a mind-numbingly stupid love triangle voyage. The dance sequences progress from chin kisses and rolling around in rural mud to deranged horrors in the worst leggings you’ve ever seen. They don’t even have the benefit of attractive scenery, because they’re all in a Mumbai studio or a Canadian arena.

The dénouement is even dumber than you’d think, and even more drawn out and full of silent, idiotic staring. And, like, I know, 90s Bollywood. Those are the criteria by which I am judging it, and by which it is awful.

Stray observations:

  • The line between dreams and reality is imperfectly drawn; Manav appears improbably in Mansi’s imagination, but it’s, like, the fifth most insane thing he’d done so far, so I thought it might be real.
  • Manav’s mean aunt wants Mansi to appear in bra ads, because she is evil. This scene is hilarious.
  • Not only does Manav fall off cliffs, he catches fire and is clubbed in the face. I hope they get life insurance.
  • For an instant, you see Shahid Kapoor’s face–he is a nameless and uncredited dancer. It is not worth it.

Director: Subhash Ghai
Rating: U/G
Length: 179 min., which is 179 minutes too many
Score: 1/5. It didn’t actually make me barf.

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