When I say Bollywood -- the pop term for India's Hindi-language film industry -- you think what? Lush romance? Fantastical landscapes? Colorful costumes? Elaborate musical numbers that may not have much to do with the plot? And maybe a three-hour running time?
All perfectly reasonable.
You probably don't think Las Vegas, by way of comic Sergio Leone, by way of tragic telenovelas. But welcome to the brave new world of Kites, a picture that has nothing to do with actual kites, but includes pretty much anything else you might think of: cross-cultural romance, scuba diving, a comic bank robbery, a deadly wedding shootout, bodies falling prettily off cliffs, bullets falling prettily into glasses of whiskey, exploding police cars that flip through the air like break dancers, actual break dancers and a chase sequence that leaps from pickup truck to hot air balloon.
Oh, and on top of all that, it's trilingual: English, Spanish and a little Hindi just for fans.
The leading lady, a gorgeous gold digger played by ravishing telenovela star Barbara Mori, speaks Spanish and a little English, but no Hindi -- though she'd like to, because she's falling in love.
The leading man, a drop-dead-handsome gold digger and con man played by Indian heartthrob Hrithik Roshan (with charisma, humor, and even occasionally a shirt), speaks Hindi and English but no Spanish.
And yes, that means subtitles, but in the service of a deliriously gleeful misplaced-in-translation plot that allows both stars to be sexy, funny and really charming. It also leaves a smidgen of room for them to be downright heroic about the Tarantino-style mayhem that seems to lurk around every plot curve.
Hoping to click with Western audiences, Kites has piled on the violence; there's a lot of it, by Bollywood standards. And just in case the mayhem and the wide-open Western spaces and the neon-drenched Vegas casinos aren't enough, the producers have taken out what you might call insurance: They've had Brett Ratner -- the director of the Rush Hour movies that made Jackie Chan popular in this country -- create a second version of Kites. It's called Kites: The Remix, and it strips Anurag Basu's pretty snappy 130-minute original down to an even zippier 90 minutes, reportedly with less romance, less back story and no dance numbers. (There was only one anyway.)
That'll basically leave one long chase sequence. And speaking of chasing, that version will be zooming into theaters just seven days after the first one -- a big push to make Kites fly, and maybe to make Bollywood as mainstream in this country as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made martial arts.