Film Review: Bazodee

Machel Montano’s spirited sounds happily inform this sunny rom-com featuring a lot of blessedly brown people, for a change. Hardly world-shaking, but a nice, very smoothly executed summer refreshment.
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This first feature film from Trinidad-Tobago centers around Anita Panchouri (Natalie Perera), who is going to save her father from financial ruin by marrying a millionaire from London, Barat Kumar (handsome Staz Nair). However, when she lays eyes on Lee de Leon (Machel Montano), a singer hired to perform at her engagement party, all bets are off. As Carnival rages noisily around them all, Anita is faced with that age-old dramatic convention presented to most movie lovers, the scary choice between true romance and duty.

A joyful noise suffuses director Todd Kessler’s colorful opus, a lively mash-up of Bollywood musical and Caribbean-flavored rhythms that melds surprisingly well. That happy, propulsive sound is the music of Montano, the wildly popular Trinidadian singer of soca music, an offshoot of calypso which started some 20 years ago. In much the same way that calypso music so memorably fueled the 1960 international hit Black Orpheus, soca is the heartbeat of Bazodee, which is evidently a French word meaning “disoriented,” a feeling that takes hold of the central lovers and never lets up. Kessler is obviously in love with the music and atmosphere of Trinidad and shoots his very pretty people in their very pretty setting for full, lush value.

Although slight in the extreme, the film goes down as easily as one of those pineapple-flavored cocktails with umbrellas sticking out of it and indeed makes for a very pleasant faux vacation/date movie for those so inclined to take it as such. A high-spirited, beautifully game cast of smooth professionals, old and young, are your perfect, loquacious tour guides, their Indian and Caribbean accents amusingly blending with staccato élan. Montano has charm to spare, with that musicians’ instinctive sense of how to move and sound before a camera—in this case, like a panther—and the chemistry he shares with the lovely Perera is the real romantic deal. Especially winning are Teneille Newallo as Poorvi, her sarcastic cousin, and Rahul Nath as Partiv, her slacker future brother-in-law. (A large part of Anita’s attraction to Lee is predicated upon his effectively playing Cupid to these combative souls, who, like Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, are obviously made for each other.) Valmike Rampersad has a fun, oily time playing Nikhil, Partiv’s villainous brother, bent on ruining Anita’s upcoming marriage of convenience.

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