Watching movies on a plane is at best a welcome diversion from the tedium of flying. On a long-haul flight it becomes more attractive. Even so, it isn’t the best basis for commenting on individual films. The screen is tiny on the back of the seat in front, the aspect ratio is usually wrong and there are constant interruptions. Still, I was grateful to see a Hindi movie (with English subtitles) on a flight to Nairobi, thanks to the selection of films on offer by Kenya Airways. Khosla Ka Ghosla (India 2006) proved to be a gentle and enjoyable social comedy, an almost ‘pure’ genre film with none of the usual trappings of Bollywood. A middle-class father is approaching retirement and the day has come when he has finally purchased a plot of land on which to build the family home of his dreams. However, he is conned out of the land by an unscrupulous builder/speculator who claims to have already purchased the same land and who has the legal resources to defend his claim. The key character in the ensuing comic narrative is the second son ‘Cherry’ – a young computer executive not really interested in the family and preparing to take up a career opportunity in North America. But, of course, at the last minute he can’t see his father humiliated so he attempts to help. The strategy that is finally adopted seems almost Ealingesque. Cherry’s girlfriend is an actor and she recruits her teacher and his son to effectively become con artists and to trick the evil speculator into ‘buying’ land that belongs to a government agency.
I thought the acting all round was very good and I thought I recognised some actors. Checking on IMDB, I found the father had also played the father in Bend It Like Beckham and the son had been the bridegroom in Monsoon Wedding. [I didn’t at this time know too much about Anapam Kher (the father) and Boman Irani (the speculator).]
On the return flight, slightly miffed that the Chinese (Hong Kong) movie showing on Boeing 767 services was not available on the 777 flight, I decided to try out the Hollywood studio offerings. It was probably meaningless to watch Casino Royale on such a tiny screen, but the action was certainly well staged and Daniel Craig is a decent performer. However, I found the plot incomprehensible at times. After spending a fortnight in Tanzania, I felt I really should look at The Last King of Scotland and how it captured events in Uganda in the 1970s. I had avoided watching the film in the cinema because I just didn’t fancy the story. All the clips I’d seen just made me wince. The film has been highly praised, not just for Forest Whitaker’s performance but also for the gradual development of what seems like a light-hearted story into the nightmare of Idi Amin’s presidency. Well, I gave it twenty minutes or so and it just didn’t work for me (which may have been a result of sleep deprivation). I just couldn’t believe in the James McAvoy character at all. I know this young actor is highly regarded and the profiles of him suggest he is a good guy, but he still looks like a clever schoolboy to me. I found Whitaker as Amin almost impossible to take. The IMDB entry on the film carries several interesting comments (and several stupid ones) and one young viewer suggests that the film worked precisely because he had no knowledge of Amin at all. Therefore the gradual revelation was very effective. I remember Amin very well and he wasn’t funny (although he was certainly widely satirised, I think).
I’ll have to give the film another go at a later date. The same goes for Hotel Rwanda.