Taal (1999) is a bad movie. I remember seeing this movie when it was in theaters and thinking, “this is terrible.” I was 12.
I mean, it’s fine, if you like your Bollywood thinly plotted with a lot of large set pieces, long dance sequences, and a lush, layered soundtrack.
If you’re looking for consistent character development, logical and coherent character motivations, and new and refreshing plots based around class struggles, you are looking in entirely the wrong place. Luckily, this movie is heavy on the long song and dance numbers, as the title translates to “rhythm.” The plot revolves around a simple village musician and dancer as she mends her broken heart through her career, or something. Aishwarya Rai, still pretty fresh off of her Miss World win, like so many Indian beauty queens before her, used her unnaturally good looks and her classical dance training to parlay herself into a Bollywood career. Obviously playing a naïve, traditional dancer who falls in love with a wealthy man passing through the village is a great fit for her. Akshaye Khanna (whose career is clearly because of nepotism) plays the exhausting scorned lover, who’s a little too goofy and silly to pull off the charming and suave suitor.
Their short lived romance is of course followed by a romantic misunderstanding that could’ve easily been prevented by someone asking “wait, what happened?”. Anil Kapoor shows up to ham it up during the second act and he is absolutely one of the best parts of the movie, until they try to make him a villain (as all Bollywood movies need a clear villain).
Three images that sum up this movie:
Wait, did I mention bitchy 90s bollywood Aunties feature heavily in the romantic mishap? In the 90s, you could tell a Bollywood woman was up to no good and would be a ballbusting bitch by the level of frost in her eyeshadow and lipstick. Higher amounts of shine and chrome reflected how empty and vapid her character development actually was. Bonus points if that cold woman was one of the romantic lead’s aunts, and if they were educated in England and America. Westerners, am I right?
Just because the movie is all 90s aesthetics and no substance, here’s a random shot of the Maid of the Mist that appears in the movie because Toronto = Niagara Falls because fuck it who cares? It’s not like Hollywood doesn’t pull more egregious geographical errors in their usage of ambiguously Asian nations in film.
All of this aside, the real draw of this movie is Aishwarya Rai being beautiful and making audiences seethe with envy over her graceful and elegant dancing. It’s like watching a lower stakes A Star is Born with significantly less acting talent, but it doesn’t matter because Aishwarya is mesmerizingly watchable.
Every time Aishwarya Rai proved that she is the most glamorous woman ever:
Taal is now on Netflix instant so you too can watch Aishwarya Rai blossom into a movie star in a lackluster movie, if you have three hours to spare.