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#UKAsianReview: Salman Khan’s ‘Doctor Cabbie’

Salman Khan’s foray into crossover cinema proves better than the monstrosity that was Marigold (2007) yet is still miles off the mark.

With the potential to be the natural successor to Harold & Kumar for second-generation immigrants, Dr Cabbie fails to appeal to its natural audience. 

Dr Cabbie tells the story of an Indian doctor (Indo-Canadian actor Vinay Virmani) forced to drive taxis due to the Canadian medical system disregarding Indian qualifications.

In the meantime, he hangs out with his perverted friend Tony (Kunal Nayyer, suffering a serious bout of over-acting) and romances a twelve-foot-tall blonde woman.

The film’s most hyped cast member Isabel Kaif – younger sister of Bollywood starlet and former Salman flame Katrina Kaif – has a handful of lines, including the poignant “what is he doing?” and “no.”

Casting is completely off the mark with a Canadian actor playing the role of an Indian, and the star talent, Nayyer, in a supporting role.

Virmani’s strong Canadian accent is extremely distracting, evoking Apu from The Simpsons at times.

Virmani’s triple role as co-writer and creative producer of the film partly explains the gross miscasting.

Dr Cabbie’s script has moments of brilliance, aided by fantastic ad-libbing by Nayyer.  There are a few laugh-out loud jokes with clever undertones exploring issues such as a failing immigration system. 

It is reminiscent of Harold & Kumar’s gross-out teenage comedy underpinned by social commentary.

However, Dr Cabbie exploits offensive racial stereotypes including an American Italian named ‘Bruno Babagelata’.

The portrayal of the main romantic interest (G.I. Joe: Retaliation star Adrianne Palicki) is the exact sexism expected from a Salman Khan heroine: one dimensional breasts-on-a-stick created solely to sexually entice the male protagonist.

The juxtaposition of Rani aunty (American actress Mircea Monroe) and Vinay’s anglicized mother Nellie (Lilette Dubey) proves to be the film’s saving grace.

Monroe steals the film as a Caucasian woman obsessed with India, albeit needlessly sexualised. 

The pro-immigration message is important in the context of the rise of nationalist sentiment around the world, and is communicated subtly and without pretension.

The enjoyable aspects of Dr Cabbie are offset by a distracting and unnecessary background score.

The average comic scene might need a guitar or ukulele in the background to feel like a comedy.

Instead we are forced to endure an orchestra of crying violins which belong in a melodramatic 1990’s Khan Melodrama.

The poor man’s Honey Singh, Raftaar, makes an unwelcome appearance, fresh from his ‘Swag Mera Desi’ fame (or rather, infamy amongst hipsters who listen to him ironically).

‘Dal Makhani’ has similarly inane lyrics although it lacks the simplicity of Swag.

It was nice to hear Canadian singer Raghav return briefly from his exile in mela circuit obscurity.

Dr Cabbie could have easily become a crossover hit with its funny script and serious message, had Eros International and Khan not intervened.

The high points in the film are punctuated by gross-out teenage humour, and are offset by inappropriate music.

Dr Cabbie fails to understand the definition of a cross-over film, choosing instead to mutate an enjoyable teenage comedy into a melodramatic and cheesy Bollywood film.

The pro-immigration message is drowned out by a string quartet.

To be watched solely if suffering from a severe hangover or if it happens to be on TV.

 

 

Kavya Kaushik is a London based writer and activist with an interest in British politics, in particular issues relating the British Asian community.  Kavya is also an accomplished Kathak dancer and choreographer who performs across Britain.

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