Basmati Blues (2018)

Basmati Blues is the type of move whose trailer tells you almost exactly everything you need to know about it. It follows such a generic formula that, once you know what the pieces and who the players are, you can fill in the blanks on your own. It offers no surprises in terms of plot and quality, and the only reason it’ll seem remotely fresh to anyone is if they have never seen a Bollywood movie, or if they’ve never seen a cross-culture romance.

The film stars Brie Larson as Linda, a scientist who works on genetically modified rice. She creates a very good brand of rice and gets sent to India by her boss (Donald Sutherland) to sell it to the local farmers. There, she meets a farmer, Rajit (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and gets to have a will-they-won’t-they love story. Meanwhile, the company who makes the seed has more sinister motives for the rice. And since the film is inspired by Bollywood movies, there are random songs scattered throughout—one of which forces poor Donald Sutherland to try to sing. That is not his strength.

It’s so simplistic, so predictable, so filled with cliches and generic plotting that it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s a real movie. It offers nothing fresh and has nothing new to say. Its characters are bland, it lacks purpose beyond telling you that, hey, massive companies take advantage of people who either don’t know better or who don’t have any other choice but to accept unfavorable terms. You know that? Well, you do now, if you somehow didn’t before. I just saved you 100 minutes.

Basmati Blues was filmed several years and only now managed to get a release—likely because potential suitors took one look at it and realized that it isn’t any good. Sometimes—admittedly, only sometimes—movie studios know when a movie is good or bad, and they don’t just snap up everything just because it exists. And when it takes something like half a decade to get distribution, that’s usually not a great indicator that it’s a great movie.

Basmati Blues is one of the blandest types of movies you can watch.

The crowd it’s going for is the type that wants an easy crowd-pleasing movie with supremely low risk of doing anything challenging. And Basmati Blues is that. Since you can figure out exactly how it’ll play out, you aren’t going to be shocked by anything it does. If the characters were better developed, maybe it would have a shot. But our two leads are bland, nothing-to-them bodies, the two of them barely have any chemistry, and their dialogue is trite and boring. It feels like the filmmakers put the two together and said “they’ll [the audience] accept it if you are in close proximity to each other and say somewhat complimentary things about one another, sometimes” and left it at that.

The only part of Basmati Blues that’s moderately successful—and what keeps it from being a complete waste of time to watch—is the music. There are a bunch of songs, and while none of them are memorable, only a couple are duds. Brie Larson and Utkarsh Ambudkar, while not given much to do from an acting perspective, can belt out a tune. This is the only decent aspect of the film, though, and it’s not anywhere close to being enough to make it worthwhile.

Oh, and as for the controversial first trailer, which painted the movie poorly—as a “white savior” narrative. It’s not that. Mostly.

Basmati Blues is one of the blandest types of movies you can watch. When I can tell you almost exactly what will happen based on a two-minute trailer, it’s probably too generic of a movie. Throw us a curveball every now and then, or at least give us characters we’ll root for as they tread down the cliched path. The film does neither, and winds up being a boring experience. Only the music is tolerable. The rest is awful.

Conclusion: Basmati Blues is a boring, flat, generic, and unsuccessful “tribute” to Bollywood cinema.

Recommendation: If you have an interest in Bollywood movies, just watch one of them instead of sitting through this pale imitation.

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