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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois • Page 140
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois • Page 140

Chicago Tribunei
Chicago, Illinois
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Friday Chicago tribune. Friday, September 23, 1994 'Bhaji' uses holiday to show cultural divisions Movie review Michael Wilmington "Bhaji on the Beach" Directed by Gutnder Chadha; written by Meeia Syal, from a story by Chadha; photographed by John Kenway; edited by Oral Nome Ottey; production designed by Derek Brown; music by John Altman, Craig Pruess; produced by Nadine Marsh-Edwards. A First Look Pictures release; opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre. Running time: 1:40. Not rated by the MPAA.

Language, violence. THE CAST Grhder Ranfrl Jimml HarktsNn HasWda Oliver MoSesay Asm LaWa Ahmed Pushpa Zohre Segal smart, sunny-spirited little charmer of a movie that you'd rather concentrate on its many pleasures than dwell on its few flaws. Pleasures it has in plenty: Peter Cellier portrays a small-town actor who falls for and. romances Lalita Ahmed in "Bhaji on the Beach." women on holiday who descend there exhorted by their enthusiastic guide, Simi (Shaheen Khan), to escape "the double yolk of racism and sexism" and "have a female fun time" come from a variety of Asian households in Birmingham. Obviously, there's potential for serious drama and comment here, but the film itself is playful and political, just like Simi's remark.

Chadha and her scriptwriter, Meera SyaL have made such a WWW olent husband, Ranjit, to the gentle if outrageously florid seduction attempt by aging ham actor Ambrose Waddington (played by Peter Cellier) on credulous Asha. (Under his onslaught, Asha's daydreams begin to resemble pop melodramatic Indian fantasy-musical movies, complete with dancing gods and randy statues.) "Bhaji on the Beach," like Leigh's "Life is Sweet" or Loach's "Raining Stones," is a. comedy on subjects that might be dark and disturbing if handled differently. But they lose none of their point or substance here, even when planted in this deceptively ebullient and light-, hearted seaside romp. There is, however, a flaw.

Gurinder Chadha, making her. first fiction feature after special-, izing in documentaries, isn't always completely sure with her-actors. Some of them (Segal and Ahmed) are marvelous; some of them push their lines and gestures too hard. But Chadha has a great eye, and there's scarcely a frame of "Bhaji on the Beach" that doesn't offer up something beguiling or entrancing: either an explosion of color (the purple of Ginders wardrobe), a lusty spat or tiff, a witty view of eccentric passersby or the blazing neon spectacle of Blackpool at night At times, this movie all but sings and smacks its lips. "Bhaji," by the way, refers to another kind of luscious cultural mix, "bhajia," a British snack food roughly descended from an Indian vegetable tempura dish.

As with much else in this bright and happy movie, it's something that gains in haji on the Beach" is the first feature i pv airectea in Britain I JJ by an Asian uiunu v- ui iiiuvi Chadha. an Indian from Kenva. And, fittingly, if a film about culture clash, the battle of the sexes and Indian emigre culture in Britain. But it's also about the quirks of resort communities, the lazily aphrodisiac qualities of a day on the beach. A volatile sounding recipe perhaps, but on screen this time, it blends charmingly.

Tn thie pflco tho hoarh ic at Blackpool, a non-posh working-class seaside resort city; And the group of Indian-British mm )t iiiiwr ill ESQUIRE hWrtortt 3122804101 fo) mm ma OCOMMONS Ravishing views of Blackpool's arcades, shops, eateries and even a strip-tease joint; huge waves pounding on the pale sand and piers; and a colorful ensemble of close to two dozen characters the women's group and some assorted husbands, boyfriends and Blackpool suitors all crisscrossing their way along the boardwalks and beach. Like all good ensemble comedy-dramasespecially those of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, who've clearly influenced Chadha "Bhaji on the Beach-gives us a rich cross-section of ages, sexes, races and attitudes. All of them fuel the comedy and drama. There are the older ladies Lalita Ahmed as the troubled Asha and the marvelous Zohra Segal as prejudiced granny Pushpa set in their ways, at times censorious but also curi-6us (or even good-hearted). There's lovely Ginder (Kim Vithana), a wife fleeing her abusive husband (Jimmi Har-shikin's Ranjit), and Hashida (Sarita Khajuria), a college student who's pregnant by her black Caribbean art student boyfriend (Mo Sesay's Oliver).

There are the boombox-toting teens Madhu and Ladhu (Renu Kochar and Nisha Nayar). Severe cultural differences open fissures even within the ladies' group itself, schisms suggested by the marked contrasts between the ways they speak (the lilt of the older women's Indian accents versus the harsher Birmingham tones of the teenagers). The conflicts or encounters with the opposite sex are even more extreme, ranging from the vicious stalking of Ginder by her obsessive and vi Siskel's Continued From Preceding Page Inside the bank, "Killing Zoe" couldn't be more routine if it were an American studio "picture made for a teen audience. The hieves crack under pressure, guns blaze, and credibility and our interest disappear. R.

LITTLE BUDDHA (ouOytng). The great Bernardo Bertokjcci Conformist," "The last succeeds In capturing the spirit of Buddhism in this travelogue of Tibetan monks seeking out the American boy they believe is the reincarnation of one of their most revered lamas, a quiet way, this gorgeous movies accomplishes many things. By placing the Buddhist monks in American settings, the values of both cultures are placed rh broad relief. And reverence and gentleness mark every adventure In Tibet You might not think of this as a family film, but it is a great one. PG.

THE MASK (Water Tower, Webstar Place and ouOytng). The highly touted film "The Mask," features Jim Carrey in hts first performance since his surprise hit "Ace Ventura: Pet De-tective." which I loathed and 8-year-olds of all ages seem to enjoy. Wen, Carrey and his aggressive overbite are back, but this time mm vine -Ilil'M -ll'(r XI ft' STRATFORD SQUARE Bloomingdaki 706351-9610 TOWN fit COUNTRY ArngtmHeHin1s7062554000 FOI T1CETS Hi ADVANCE CALL 444-FILM i IS SHE OR ISN'T SHE? Prince sS CARABOO A TRUE STORY Flicks Picks eb iJ jhl i he's better used as an Ingredient Instead of as the plot. "The Mask' features Carrey as a live-action Roger Rabbit in a superhero comedy that takes off when the special visual effects artists take over and literally pop his and our eyes out Carrey plays a meek bank officer who finds an ancient mask that gives him the power of a whirling dervish. It allows him to dish out and absorb pain much like the Tex Avery cartoon characters he watches all the time at home.

It also releases a Ubido that finds a luscious target in the form of bombshell actress Cameron Diaz. PG-13. MY FAIR LADY (McCturg Court). A marvelous restoration of the 30-year-old musical, precisely the kind of high-class popular entertainment that Hollywood can't seem to make these days. Audrey Hepburn is a physical wonder; Rex Harrison defines his role; and production designer Gene Allen is the hidden star.

A big screen production for the entire family, a NATURAL BORN KILLERS (Esquire, Bumham Plaza, Biograph, and outlying). Oliver Stone's "Natural Bom Killers" is visually complex end thematically simple. This is his i See Exick Picks, Page (X OMERRILlVTLLE Oci0ftooi7M42M30l MerrWti2ieM7-WZ RIVER RUN Uraing 706895-0O52 ORTVERTREE COURT Vkiwi IMS 706 6166226 ROLLING MEADOWS Rolling Mentor 706 952-6200 NOHSSeSOBKOUCW coupons Acccrrm OBRICKTOWN SQUARE DEERBROOK OOAKBROOK McagoNW 312622-6999 OetrraU 272-0212 Oak Brook 706 573-1160 OB ROADWAY OGROVE CINEMA OLD ORCHARD ChcaaoN 312 327-4114 Dormm Grow 706 652-4440 Swot 70s 6H-M00 OftmnMii Fv shorn SmicMtHlmv OftesanMto.

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