Romedy Romp

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“Oh, look,” I say to Bins, “they’re showing French Kiss on the Romedy channel.” We’re at home in New Delhi. Even though I detest “romedies” I make an exception for this one. In part because of Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan, both of whom work hard to make the crazy, complicated plot seem almost plausible. In part because of Paris and the French countryside, which both make brief appearances. In part because Bins and I no longer go out in the evenings in Delhi because the traffic and pollution are both so awful.

“EE-eesh!” sneers Bins. “I HATE that movie! That Kline — with his awful fake French accent — wooah!” He shudders so eloquently that the individual strands of his thin yellow-grey moustache stand on end. But I’m not impressed. “Yeah, yeah,” I say. “You’re the one who’s watched Pretty Woman ten thousand times.” He shrugs. “At least there’s no fake accent in that one,” he says. I don’t bother reminding him that it’s centred upon a fake call girl called Julia Roberts and her equally fake client, Richard Gere. “You don’t have to watch,” I tell him, “in fact I’d prefer it if you didn’t.” He’s the kind of person who can’t watch a film without commenting all the way through.

“I know I don’t have to,” says Bins, “but I’ll force myself anyway. Just so that you don’t get the wrong ideas about us French people.” The movie begins in the US. Meg Ryan plays the part of a neurotic young woman with an extremely controlling streak. Her fiancé, Timothy Sutton, is flying to Paris. He’d like her to join him, but she refuses to go because she’s terrified of flying. But when Sutton calls from Paris to confess that he’s suddenly met and fallen in love with someone else, Ryan feels she’s just got to overcome her fears. So she jumps on a plane, expecting to hate every minute of the flight.

Bins begins to gurgle with distaste. “Urghhhh! Now it begins,” he says, sitting forward like a dog waiting for a rat to pop out of a hole in the ground. “What is so funny about a fake French man who does not shave and is rude to pretty girls?” In the movie, Kline is Ryan’s seat partner. He distracts her so much during the taxi and take-off of the flight that she forgets to be afraid. “Stop fussing,” I tell Bins. “It’s impossible to explain why the French accent is so fonneee,” I say, imitating him, “but it just IS.” “I think France should protest,” says Bins, frowning heavily as he stares at the screen, “it is insulting to the French people.” “Pippul!” I say, imitating him as I break into hyena laughter.

The movie grinds on. Kline plants a diamond necklace in Ryan’s handbag. Then he’s got to keep chasing after her as she rattles around Paris. By the time they’re in Cannes, Kline is hooked, the necklace is saved, the old boyfriend is dumped. “That lady is so silly!” grumbles Bins as the end credits roll. “A real Frenchman would never love her!” I agree with him. “She’s an awful character!” I say. “Insulting to all womankind! We should all protest the existence of such movies!” But, thank goodness, we don’t.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on January 13, 2017

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