Watching Kites the other night, there were times I felt so embarrassed, exposed, and squeamish that I couldn’t bear to look at the screen. I had nothing at stake with this movie, not the investment of emotional interest, not even mild curiosity. This was because of my unshakable belief before the movie’s release that Kites was destined to fail. So my reactions confused me. Bad movies are usually enjoyable. What was so different about this one? Until I began writing this short piece, I had no idea.
My certainty about the movie’s fate grew with each round fired by the pre-release publicity. When Hrithik Roshan danced to an audience in one song, they were amazed by his moves. When he jumped up and lingered there, the background went white with blazing flashbulbs. His open shirt fluttered in the wind, revealing a body that has been exposed a hundred times before. I came away with nothing but the message its makers wanted to convey: Kites had a story, and that story was Roshan.
Most of us have our vehicles. A good gig. A profitable association. The things we ride on in life. But a movie as a vehicle doesn’t sit easy with me, especially a movie meant to be a vehicle into Hollywood. From Roshan’s first mumble to his final heartbroken leap, Kites’ purpose was to enshrine what was most beautiful about him. Whether men died around him, or true love struck, the camera remained on his face in a way parents making baby videos will recognize. In this way Kites was like a father’s message to the world: Here is my son. Take good care of him.
Well, that’s how I would have seen it if it rang true. This was a vehicle. I felt squeamish because there was nothing I could say or do. This wasn’t a movie. It was nothing. It was a modeling portfolio. It was lazy and assumed so much.
Roshan said that Indian audiences were “putting it down” instead of “nurturing this new passion that has conquered so many new markets”. He said that Kites was like pasta to biryani-fed Indians. What does this talk remind you of? To me he sounds eerily similar to men who explain markets through trends and buzzwords, men who have a reason for everything.
Does this talk come easily because actors sit at this intersection of art and commerce? I don’t know. I excused myself from a job interview once soon after my interviewer, an editor, spoke to me about the publication’s brand perception and its verticals. I know these things are important, but I’m conflicted. I walked out because I wanted to write.
Does Roshan want to act? I don’t know.