Namaste England attempts an update on an overdone Hindi film device: A loves B, but B has to go off with C. A lands up at B’s door, trying to shame B into submission. Since A is always a man and B is always a woman, the only distraction from the inevitable reunion comes from examining C’s character, which is often an improvement on A’s.
To distinguish Namaste England from the numerous movies that have explored this predicament, director Vipul Shah places the story against the backdrop of immigration from Punjab. Jasmeet (Parneeti Chopra) is a bright young woman whose dreams of being a jewellery designer have been thwarted by her orthodox grandfather. Jasmeet falls in love with Param (Arjun Kapoor), and is allowed to marry him on the condition that she will not work after marriage.
An encounter with an old friend puts the idea into Jasmeet’s head that greener pastures lie in England (nobody in this production seems to have heard of Brexit). It would have been easier to move to another Indian city or state, and even easier for Param to tell the grandfather to mind his own business. But Namaste England wants to take the hard way out even though it doesn’t have the imagination or ability to do so.
After a scripting contrivance makes it impossible for Param to get a visa, an agent (Satish Kaushik) suggests a way out, one that takes Jasmeet away from Param and towards London and the more welcoming world of the wealthy Sam (Aditya Seal).
Param is furious at Jasmeet’s betrayal and cannot understand her love for London. This is the first time I am seeing a woman who is love with a city rather than a man, he snarls. Or perhaps he doesn’t mean to, but with Arjun Kapoor’s peculiar dialogue delivery style, one is never quite sure.
Param threatens Jasmeet that he will make her forget her love for London, and he makes good on his promise through a combination of disruptive and comic behaviour. Jasmeet’s much-vaunted intelligence and taste are by now in serious doubt, since Param is clearly a poster boy of regressive behaviour and Sam isn’t a bad catch. But since a female Londoner has declared that Param is a “true desi hunk” and B always follows A, there isn’t any room for surprise here.
There is barely a moment of relief from the tedium of watching the leads go through the motions and tuning into the poorly written dialogue and endlessly uninvolving moments. Parineeti Chopra’s usual sparkiness is missing, and Jasmeet’s inherent submissiveness and inability to stand up to Param makes her a character not worth fighting for.
The 135-minute movie is the latest example of Arjun Kapoor’s mysterious ability to continue headlining projects. The actor flubs all his scenes, whether romantic or nationalistic (what’s a movie set on foreign soul without a speech celebrating the wonders of the homeland?) When Sam tells Jasmeet that he has no intention of letting her go, there is a very faint flicker of hope that the movie might actually snap out its stupor. Then Param lumbers into view, his mouth curled into a smug snarl, and all is lost.