EmptyHyperion Pictures/Adlabs Films
"Marigold" is a cross-cultural experiment that misfires. American writer-director Willard Carroll ("Playing by Heart") has essentially made a Bollywood film, except that this one is in English, save for the musical numbers. The film understandably suffers from a certain amount of self-consciousness because Carroll knows all too well that the Mumbai film industry employs any number of Indian directors who crank out these things on a weekly basis. Nor is anything really gained by adding an American director and star into the mix.
The film will suffer on two fronts: Bollywood fans will dismiss the mishmash as the work of an American director "slumming" in a genre outside his own culture, and Western audiences unfamiliar with Hindi-language masala movies will find the whole thing puzzling.
Even the approach to this self-described "Bollywood-meets-Hollywood" exercise is awkward, as Willard chooses to make an movie within a movie. A very blonde and bitchy American actress, Marigold (played much too aggressively by Ali Larter of NBC's "Heroes"), finds herself stranded in Goa when financing of a low-budget movie goes south. A Bollywood director spots her and immediately casts her in his musical.
Naturally, exotic India works its magic on the Westerner, straightening out her bad attitude and giving her a richer appreciation of life. This includes a romance with the film's choreographer, played by genuine Bollywood star Salman Khan, and a let's-see-India itinerary that takes in Goa, Mumbai, Jodhpur and, finally, Agra for a concluding dance at the Taj Mahal.
At 111 minutes, "Marigold" is about an hour shorter than most Bollywood films; otherwise, it's just as bad, cliched and contrived. Carroll is actually not the first Westerner seduced into thinking that he, too, can make a Bollywood movie, but these things never work out. The problem, as lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II once remarked when confronted with someone doing a bad imitation of a Hammerstein lyric, is that he really believes in "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens." The writer of the ersatz Hammerstein song does not.