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Film Review: Tooting Broadway


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Like most cinema lovers, I am excited about the acclaim that British cinema has received over the past decade. Films like The King’s SpeechWild BillAdulthood, and Ill Manors have opened the doors for amazing English filmmakers to showcase British talent to a world audience.

Tooting Broadway

Then there’s Tooting Broadway, which I can only assume is trying to ruin the progress that British film makers are making.

The plotline itself had promise but falls on its low budget backside and stays there without making any attempt to stumble to its feet. This is a shame as the film begins with two characters in a car having a bit of light racist banter before they go and commit a gruesome crime that ignites the entire plot. 

The opening scene was clearly influenced by the opening scene in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, although it didn’t quite convey that cool dark element that Tarantino does so effortlessly. It was a good effort, then the film goes on and all is lost.

The film takes place in 24 hours but keeps flashing back mostly to depict the most boring and unrealistic love story ever told, but we’ll get to that.

24 hours before the Tamil protests outside the Houses of Parliament, Arun (Nav Sidhu) returns home from a long absence, to stop his younger brother Ruthi (Kabelan Verlkumar) from committing a crime that could ruin his life. Arun is granted a day by his mysterious employer, Marcus (Oliver Cotton) to talk Ruthi round.

Visually this film was awful and its low budget cannot be used as an excuse when you compare it to many other low budget films that worked despite its lack of funds.

The first inconsistency with this poor excuse for cinema is the cinematography, and the fact that it was obiviously  shot with different types of cameras. In one scene, the shot is clear concise and sets the tone and in the next, the shot looks amateur, like it was shot with a cheap camcorder. Lazy and obvious mistakes like these could have been fixed during post-production.

Then there’s the characterisation. Where do I begin? I have to give some credit to Nav Sidhu but when you have a poor script, it can be difficult to hold the attention of the audience and although Sidhu acted his little heart out, his character is just one of those heroes that you forget once the film is over.

It was difficult to sympathise with Arun’s character and his love story with Kate (Elizabeth Henstridge, who has this annoying Keira Knightley thing going on), a girl he meets at a party that his friend drags him to. The two spot each other from across a crowded room and like Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, they are quixotically infatuated and must be with each other (puke).

In the present day, Kate is torn, she misses her beloved Arun but alas, she is promised to another (who cares?), what is she to do, oh that’s right, she’s going to cry all the time! Give me a break!

Okay, let’s look at the parts of the film that worked. There really isn’t much. The soundtrack helped to reclaim the focus of the audience when their minds began to think of everywhere they’d rather be than in a dark room watching Tooting Broadway. The historical reference to British relations with Sri Lanka and the depiction of Sri Lankans in England is one story that hasn’t been told very often so I must applaud the script writer Tikiri Hulugalle’s efforts but a lot of his message was lost due to some of the critique that I have already mentioned.

The gangster element worked to a certain degree (who doesn’t like a gangster movie?) but Tooting Broadway will never be held to the same esteem as Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Sexy Beast, the list goes on. Unfortunately, Tooting Broadway will find itself in the pile of slightly less than mediocre gangster films like... that one, you know that one.

What Tooting Broadway lacked was simplicity. It tried to be everything all at once: a gangster film, a tragic love story, a black comedy, what it forgot to be a was a film with a clear and logical narrative.

I read a review that compared Tooting Broadway, directed by Devanand Shanmugam, to Shane Meadow’s This is England which I found terribly insulting as This is England manages to successful portray everything that could have made Tooting Broadway great. Meadow’s characterisation was the formula that held This is England together right until the heart wrenching dénouement.

Meadows managed to tell the story of a sub cultural that hasn’t been portrayed in cinema. For meadows the subplots worked, the romance, the friendship and the dialogue was realistic and believable, the same can unfortunately not be said about Tooting Broadway.

Did Tooting Broadway deserve the standing ovation that it received during its première, which was in conjunction with the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF)? No, but the audience was heavily filled with the friends and family of the film makers and actors so there was some bias.

I am not very familiar with London Indian cinema but for those who like myself who are interested in this long overdue collaboration, Tooting Broadway is a poor representation of what it has to offer.

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