Film: 'Marigold'; Starring: Salman Khan, Ali Larter, Nandana Sen; Directed by: Willard Caroll; Rating: **
Two things puzzled me deeply at the end of this aesthetically-shot benign cross-cultural romance between a B-grade Hollywood actress and a Bollywood choreographer.
Why does Salman insist on being called Prem or Sameer in most of his films? A homage to his two filmmaker buddies Sooraj Barjatya and Sanjay Bhansali?
And, did Gulshan Grover dub the one syllable ('Yes') that he gets to utter? Playing the strong and silent haveli guard, a la Bachchan in Vinod Chopra's 'Eklavya', Grover scowls at everyone in sight especially Salman romancing his American guest from across the seas.
To begin with Marigold (Ali Larter) is un-bathed, misbehaved, misinformed and Miss Incorrigible all the way. In her journey from the US to India she lies to get a seat, talks loudly and rudely on her phone after takeoff is announced, screams at the cabbie in Mumbai and sneers at the kind helpful production controller (Suchitra Pillai) who's given the thankless task of informing the bratty B-grader from Hollywood that the film she came to shoot in India has been shelved.
Then of course, Marigold misbehaves some more.
Soon we get to know why.
'I've never done a film which doesn't have a number in front of the title. 'Basic Instinct 3', 'Fatal Attraction 4'... After every film of mine my father leaves me a voice-mail message asking how much lower I'll fall,' she tells the calm, cool and captivating choreographer.
Soon, they are serenading each other on the Goan beaches and then in the stunning Rajasthani havelis where the narrative shifts in the second-half.
The choreographer-meets-B-grader scenes have some charm in the first half, thanks to Salman's innate charisma. For reasons best know to him and his American director, his eyes are mostly wet in the movie, making this a kind of 'moist-see' experience.
A dry spell begins in the Rajasthani splendour of the deserts where Prem wants to marry Marigold but he's betrothed to a human Christmas tree (played by an out-of-sorts Nandana Sen), who loves the American guest Barry (Ian Bohen) who loved Marigold earlier.
Before the two pairs of moonstruck lovers find their right partners the narrative hems and haws and hiccups to a point of no return.
Jeez, whoever said the path to love was easy!
It's strewn with thorns as Salman and his American co-star perform some appallingly choreographed numbers (tuned with nonchalance by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) before the wedding shehnai is heard loud and clear.
At the end of it all, 'Marigold' isn't such a bad film. It has some sassy lines and an ultra-cool Salman who swings from sweep-waltz to sleepwalk in the blink of a (moist) eye.
There're lots of digs at Bollywood (Vikas Bhalla plays a very bad actor rather well) and Hollywood (the sequel mania which has gripped our cinema has its origins in Bush-land).
But Marigold Lexton needn't fear another number added to her repertoire.
No chance of 'Marigold 2' at all.