Salaam Namaste (2005)

Let’s get to know each other

It’s the twenty first century and one must accept the reality that East Indians have immigrated to many different parts of the world. One such place where a number of Indians have made their new home is Melbourne, Australia, which happens to be my home town and the location of the hit Bollywood film Salaam Namaste. Helmed by first-time director Siddharth Anand and produced by Aditya Chopra and Yash Chopra under the Yash Raj Films banner, Salaam Namaste is a loose remake of the 1995 Hollywood film Nine Months starring Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore.

Salaam Namaste focuses on two young Indians, Nikhil “Nick” Arora (Saif Ali Khan) and Ambar Malhotra (Preity Zinta), who have left India in order to live in Melbourne, Australia. Nick fled to Australia with big dreams of one day becoming an architect. After attaining his qualifications, Nick received a commission to design a restaurant he named ‘Nick of Time’, where he works as the head chef. In order to escape the pressures of her parents, Ambar fled to Australia for a one-year foreign exchange program but decided to stay on and become a surgeon. To pay off her education fees, Ambar works as a Radio Jockey at a local radio station, ‘Salaam Namaste.’ When Nick is hired to do a radio interview for Salaam Namaste, he oversleeps, which angers Ambar and the duo begin an over-the-phone feud without ever meeting in person. The pair eventually meet face-to-face at a friend’s wedding, where Nick instantly falls in love with Ambar; Nick later suggests that they move into a house together, but sleep in separate rooms, in order to get to know one other on a deeper level and find out whether or not they belong together. Things begin well until Ambar eventually falls pregnant with Nick’s child and suggests marriage which is not on Nick’s radar. The couple must now tackle the numerous problems and complications which have arisen and will undoubtingly alter their lives forever.

Preity Zinta, frustrated with the extensive advertisement break on her radio show!
Preity Zinta, frustrated with the extensive advertisement break on her radio show!

As a debutante director Siddharth Anand has done an impressive job with Salaam Namaste, lacing the film with sharp one-liners and handling its many complex themes with utmost sensitivity. The issues of pre-marital sex, the couple’s decision of living together and Ambar’s choice to keep her baby are all handled extremely well as the perspectives on either side are equally balanced out. The pair’s love story is also developed with great pizazz as the film teaches us that falling in love is easy, but sticking to a commitment can be challenging. Sunil Patel, the director of photography, does a commendable job too, portraying the marvellous city of Melbourne in all its beauty; it’s never looked this good on film. The music by Vishal Shekhar, Kahaani (2012), is fun with most tracks being memorable and entertaining, well-choreographed and tremendously colourful: highlights include the film’s title track, ‘Salaam Namaste,’ the ballot ‘Tu Jahan’ and the playful ‘My Dil Goes Mmmm.’ Keep your eyes open for director Siddharth Anand’s cameo as taxi driver towards the end of the picture.

The performances here are all first rate particularly for a Bollywood film, with the leads, Saif Ali Khan, Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) and Preity Zinta, Veer-Zaara (2004), driving the picture with their delightful chemistry and character development. Saif Ali Khan’s amazing hat trick continues after his last award winning films Hum Tum (2004) and Parineeta (2005), giving a rather restrained but believable performance and makes a rather convincing chef and architect. The lovely Preity Zinta is perfectly cast as Ambar and manages to handle all the situations thrown at her; she even shines while bouncing around in her bulging fake tummy. Zinta later went on to receive several nominations for her role as Ambar in Salaam Namaste in various film ceremonies, such as the Filmfare Awards, IIFA Awards, Star Screen Awards and Zee Cine Awards. Jaaved Jaffrey, 3 Idiots (2009), does a terrific job as landlord Jaggu Yadav who believes he is Crocodile Dundee, while fans of Abhishek Bachchan, Dhoom (2004), should look out for his fine narration work on Salaam Namaste and hilarious cameo as Dr. Vijay Kumar MDGGO in the film’s final act. On a side note, some Australians might recognise former television personality Tania Zaetta as Ambar’s best friend Cathy R. Mathur.

India's answer to Crocodile Dundee!
India’s answer to Crocodile Dundee!

There is a lot to enjoy in Salaam Namaste, it’s no wonder why it went on to become one of India’s biggest box-office hits in 2005, as well as India’s biggest overseas hit in 05’, a true testament to the film’s accessible worldwide appeal. Even with its mammoth 160 minute running time, Salaam Namaste makes for a great evening of laughs, some excellent performances by Saif, Preity and Jafferi, and a well-shot tour of the best city in the world, Melbourne; you can’t really go wrong with this Bollywood rom-com!

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Salaam Namaste is released through Yash Raj Films