Salaam Namaste is a fun film. It takes some old sentiments but presents them in a new scenario and through a fun, loveable couple, making the film seem hip and fresh.
The film is completely set in Melbourne. Saif, a head chef at a restaurant, and Preity, the RJ for the popular Salaam Namaste show, start off on the wrong foot. But there are sparks when they meet (first without realizing each other’s identity) and this leads them to move in together as sort of a test drive before the real thing – marriage. But Preity gets pregnant, leading to a rift between them.
Salaam Namaste feels like a 2 ½ hour-long American sitcom. In fact, there are quite a few scenes (like Saif and Arshad leaning back contentedly in their big leather chairs with a big “Aaaaah”, a la Chandler and Joey in Friends), that seem like knowing nods to the American TV staple. But I say that in a good way though. The sentiments and the crudeness and the physical comedy do get in the way at times but the film never abandons its sense of fun.
The movie’s setting, the lifestyles of the lead pair, the wacky supporting characters – all these point to an attempt to make the film seem like a fantasy. But ironically, the film’s appeal lies in the fact that it seems surprisingly real. The relationship between Saif and Preity is developed naturally and their conversations, like the one they have before they move in together, are practical and sane. They never get overly sentimental or melodramatic except in situations where it seems completely natural. We enjoy the film primarily because they are a fun couple, whether they are in each other’s hearts or at each other’s throats.
Saif (to a coworker at his restaurant): So how is life with children?
Co-worker: Its hell! They are always crying and I get no sleep.
Saif: So marrying and having children is a bad idea right?
Co-worker: But there are times when they grab your finger or smile at you, when it all seems worth it.
I know I am biased but a film that features a conversation like the one above cannot be bad! That conversation pretty much captures the essence of life with children beautifully and that kind of sentiment makes Saif’s conversion from baby-hater to expectant-dad very sweet and believable. Sure there are a whole bunch of corny moments but they are done nicely.
What is it with Saif and over-the-top climaxes?! After being sweet and funny for the most part, the movie goes into slapstick mode for the climax that includes a cameo by Abishek Bachan as a clueless doctor. The slickness of the proceedings so far goes out the window as the characters shout and fall and bump into each other and do everything that would be right at home in a David Dhawan comedy. In other words, the movie goes through the exact transformation that Michael Madana Kamarajan did in the climax. I didn’t like it then and I didn’t like it now.
Saif, who's had a strong year, creates a likeable character. He's got good comic timing and puts it to good use. He gets it just right in the scene where he feigns surprise over an ice-cream store being closed and its hilarious. Preity looks a bit old but matches Saif step for step otherwise. She crackles when fighting with him and gets the misty-eyed look just right too. Javed Jaffrey is an absolute riot. As an Indian-hating, outback dude, he brings down the house in each scene he is in. His broken English absolutely hilarious and its solely due to his performance that the whole "Sorry? Egjactly" routine doesn't get tiring even the 10th time it is repeated.