A Gentleman Review (No Spoilers): A Movie Made Just For Me

Okay, let me throw some titles out there for you: Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Desperado. Johnny Gaddar.  Burn After Reading.  Dishoom.  Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.  Bang Bang. Get Shorty.  Jhankar Beats.  Now, are you smiling?  Are you happy?  Are you remembering good times?  Or are you rolling your eyes because these are all stupid worthless fluff films?  If you are one of the first people, this is the film for you (and also, we should be friends).  If you are one of the second people, this is not the film for you (and we can still be friends, but maybe should only watch classic movies together not new stuff) (spoilers review here)

I loved this movie, my friend Dina loved this movie (our podcast is going up soon), and everyone in the theater with us loved this movie.  Constant laughter and smiles the entire time.  The only thing is, I’m not sure if anyone else will love this movie.

It’s an incredibly specific thing, which is why it is so funny.  I’ll give you an example, our hero and his fellow desi friend from the office have lunch every day from the hot dog stand in front of the office, “Patel’s Veg Hot Dogs”.  The “Patel”, the ludicrousness of a “veg” hot dog, and the idea of two desi guys from a computer office casually having lunch from it every day and talking with the uncle who runs it, all of that is so funny and so perfect for an audience of desis in America, and for people like me and Dina who grew up around them.  But will that audience find this movie?  And will that be enough?

(Yes, I know this movie is wonderful and hilarious.  No, I still haven’t gotten around to watching it)

You have to be willing and ready to laugh at yourself.  This isn’t a movie that is going to make you think “oh I am so proud of my Indian heritage”.  This is a movie that makes you think “oh that is so true!  Indian Americans are ridiculous and funny.”  I mean, part of the plot is activating the desi shopkeeper network, showing a bunch of gas station owners, convenience store owners, and of course motel owners, getting a call and agreeing to help.  This isn’t the fantasy of the American dream, not the fantasy that the Indian audience likes, or the fantasy that the Indian-American audience likes to pretend is true, this is the reality.  And then laughing at the reality.

Oh, and mixed in is super light black comedy action film.  There is no higher moral value, there is no deeper meaning, it’s just a guy accidentally getting shot and then us all laughing at it.  But clever!  I mean, he is accidentally shot in a really great way.

Just overall watching it, I was very aware that this was not an “Indian” film.  It didn’t hit those beats the way it would if it had been made out of India, it didn’t have the big emotional moments, the moments of spectacle, the romance.  Even the structure wasn’t quite Indian.  There was a definite interval moment (although no actual interval, at least at the theater we saw it at, which was odd), but otherwise it didn’t really follow the pattern.  There was no build over the first half, no slow part before the finale, no song 20 minutes in, none of that.  And the characters certainly didn’t fit exactly right, our hero isn’t the usual kind of tormented action hero, and our heroine is certainly not the usual saintly heroine.

(They get a really pretty love song, but it’s a love song over having sex in a motel)

However, it was also not not-Indian.  There were constant visual homages to the past of Indian film, ranging from a Sholay napkin holder, to Agneepath appearing on the TV.  This is an Indian film made by people one step removed, who grew up with those old movies and love them and connect with them, but can’t make something exactly like that any more, who have other influences as well.  So there’s a lot of stuff, really most stuff, that is non-Indian.  But there is nothing that is definitely unIndian.  We still have a couple who have a sweet love story that will naturally end in marriage.  We still have a loving respectful relationship between parent and child.  There’s nothing that felt aggressively disrespectful of Indian film values.  It just wasn’t that kind of film that they were making.  Heck, they even put in songs!

(Although not this song, you have to stick through the end credits to hear it)

Here’s the thing I found really fascinating.  I knew Raj & DK, the writer/directing team, were Indian-American, but I didn’t realize that most other people on the film were as well.  Watching through the end credits, there were a lot of American companies listed.  And it was a Fox Star Searchlight production as a whole.  But almost all the names in the credits, the people who worked in the American companies on this film, were desi.  The location shooting was handled by a company called “Bollywood/Hollywood productions”.  This isn’t like Jagga Jasoos, it’s not a film made entirely by overseas artists.  And it isn’t like Bareilly Ki Barfi, made entirely by Indian talent.  It’s something new, a film made by and for the overseas market.

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21 thoughts on “A Gentleman Review (No Spoilers): A Movie Made Just For Me

  1. Very interesting review! You have sparked my interest in seeing it, but unfortunately I am so busy for the next two or three weeks that, unless it sticks around, I won’t be able to do so.

    It’s had a dismal opening in India (partly due to some extraneous events). I’ll be really curious to see how it does overseas. From your description, though, it sounds as if it’s not only non-Indian, but specifically Indian “American”, so I don’t know how well that would translate to the rest of the overseas audience (my guess: not well).

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    • Yeah, definitely specific to America. Hot dogs, convenience stores, motels, karaoke bars, Patels, I don’t know if those are really in other places. But for me here, it was great!

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  2. I think the UK might approximate those things somewhat, not just with Indians, but the rest of the South Asian population as well. But not the Middle Eastern countries so much. Maybe Australia, as far as people working in fast food places goes, even if not specifically a hot dog stand (by the way, there really is such a thing as a “veg hot dog”, as well as a “veg hamburger” 🙂 ).

    Can you please take a look at my comment on the TGIF post and see if any or your image links need fixing? I feel bummed out at not seeing the pics.

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    • I looked, and I’m not seeing anything odd on my end with the images, they show up okay on my phone and my computer too. I removed some extra spaces, that probably won’t make any difference, but maybe it will!

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  3. I’m sure I’ll like this one because I love Mr and Mrs Smith and Bang Bang. It does sound like a truly Indian-American kind of film. Hopefuly the overseas audience can help boost the domestic box office which looks just OK right now. I want Sid to have a clear win…but maybe Ittefaq is the one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A Gentleman Review (SPOILERS): This is a Definite “Don’t Spoil Yourself if There is Any Chance At All You Will Be Able to See This Movie” Kind of Movie. | dontcallitbollywood

  5. It’s only playing in a handful of theaters in — as we call it — the DMV (DC plus Maryland and Virginia suburbs). So I am going to ignore the spoilers review and hold out to see it online. Because something a shallow entertaining movie really hits the spot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really hope it streams easily somewhere, if not Netflix then googleplay or something. It’s the kind of film that could be the hidden gem you stumble across just because it’s there and end up loving.

      On Sat, Aug 26, 2017 at 11:44 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  6. Not gonna watch it but did see the embedded motel video song here and have to say it spoils the film as to whether they are different but similar looking guys mistaken for each other or lost twins or the same guy in dual identities/personalities.

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    • Not necessarily, there are plenty of movies where the girlfriend switches between twins, or gets confused between them. Duplicate for instance.

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  7. I should have listened to you and not watched A Gentleman when I didn’t like Dishoom or Bang Bang much. It was a nice movie but it was underwhelming. Plus I had a lot of expectations for it since I loved the trailer and the music.

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    • Oh dear, I’m sorry! Although glad that I accurately described the kind of film it is similar to and who might like it.

      On Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 11:35 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It’s funny that last year and this year two of my favorite trailers were Baar Baar Dekho and A Gentleman. And both movies didn’t live up to how good their trailers were.

        I still liked the movie, it just wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be.

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        • And both were Siddharth films! Which is probably not a coincidence, he’s still a struggling star, so the trailers have to do the heavy lifting of selling his films.

          On Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 11:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Honestly leading up to both movies, every time I would see these trailers I would think “I wish Varun was in this movie, it looks so good”. But then both movies didn’t work so I guess Varun does know what works and doesn’t work.

            I’m curious about Ittefaq because this is one of those movies that Varun was actually offered and he rejected it. I wonder if it’ll work because I was really disappointed when he rejected it.

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          • I think it was probably good decision for him to reject Ittefaq. Not because I think it will be a bad movie, but because I think the character wouldn’t be right for him. It’s supposed to be someone we can’t quite trust, we aren’t sure what he is thinking. And that is perfect for Siddharth. Whereas Varun could probably play it, but it would be going against his natural open emotional sort of acting style.

            On Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 12:02 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Hmm, that’s interesting…

            Assuming that you’ve seen the original, how similar does this remake seem based on the trailer?

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          • Still haven’t seen the original, so I can’t say. But the casting at least seems similar, a charming handsome perfect sort of chocolate hero, and a warm trustworthy beautiful woman kind of heroine. But are they really?

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          • I’m gonna try! Maybe tonight even, since there is nothing in theaters. And then a Friday classic post sometime near the release.

            On Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 1:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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