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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Broken Horses: A Tale of Brothers. A Trail of Blood.

I have never been a fan of Bollywood and I have always been vocal about that fact. Yes, I hail from the land of Bollywood but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. As a child my father made sure that I came across no Hindi movies which he did not approve of; I grew up with the notion that only the naughty kids watch Hindi movies, and I wasn’t a naughty kid. But then I grew up and formed a mind of own and found that not all the movies in Bollywood involved singing and dancing around trees; some were actually good, talking about social issues, fighting for them and making the people aware, as should be the prerogative of a film.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is famed Bollywood director and producer and I have seen none of his movies. But his Hollywood debut with Broken Horses at the age of 62 caught my eye. Because I am a sucker for someone who has struggled to reach the peak. Very few Indians have dared what Chopra has dared – an entire production in the land of Hollywood, with the entire cast and team from the international film community. 

Broken Horses is a tale of two orphan brothers, with the older one growing up to be on the wrong side of the law. I am assured by everyone that the movie is nothing more than an English remake of Chopra’s cult movie Parinda, which was India’s official entry for the Oscars in 1990. This is what happens when you don’t watch Bollywood movies; I haven’t seen Parinda which is why I was unaware of the plot and went to watch the movie with no expectations of Chopra’s brilliance. Set in the volatile Texas- Mexico border, Chopra attempts to make a modern day western with Broken Horses. 

The movie opens with the assassination of the border town’s sheriff, who is Buddy (Chris Marquette) and Jakey’s (Anton Yelchin) father. Fast forward to fifteen years, Buddy has stayed back and is now a hired kill for the local mob boss Julius Hench (Victor D’ Onofrio) while Jakey has moved to New York and is an established violinist. Jakey is engaged to be married to Vittoria (Maria Valverde) when Buddy calls him one day and tells him that Jakey will have to come home to see his wedding present. Though hesitant about going back home, Jakey eventually decides to go back, guilt ridden for having abandoned his sibling. Buddy’s wedding present turns out to be a stunning lakeside ranch. Immersed in further guilt, Jakey decides to visit his old music teacher and soon becomes enmeshed in the town’s violence when he is forced to kill one of Hench’s goons in self-defense. 

The story of the reunion of two estranged brothers, representing the two sides of good and evil has been a Bollywood fixture for a very long time. Sure the drama is silly and soppy and Bollywood veterans say that it is a poor caricature of Chopra’s Parinda, but I truly appreciate the effort and amount of courage that Chopra took to undertake such a magnanimous venture. There is no less melodramatic scenes in Broken Horses than you will find in a Bollywood movie, but truth be told I have seen far worse Hollywood movies. 

Broken Horses received mostly seething reviews and Hollywoodland wrote it off for being too over-dramatic and simmering with too much Bollywood flavor. Even though I could guess where the action was headed for, I enjoyed the movie.  Chopra has his own vision of a western and he sticks to it in spite of living in the twenty first century.  Despite the use of the modern concepts in the form of smartphones and border patrol, this western feels timeless with the set design echoing the golden age of Hollywood westerns. The long shots of this small border town against the sun set was exhilarating, bringing freshness to the movie. In a world where the macabre and the gory is juxtaposed with everyday living, I feel that we sometimes need to go back to the basics and remind ourselves, through silly, melodramatic movies that there is still love and goodness in the world.

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