“BAZODEE” (THE WORD in patois loosely means, “thunderstruck”…or “dazed and confused”) is a delightful, soon-to-be-released, romantic musical. The producers (Steven Brown – “The Prophet” – and first-timers, Ancil McCain and writer Claire Ince), I gather, are still negotiating with various Agents to slot in release dates…and all that back room production business that’s the business of film. Anyway, I was fortunate to be privy to a first UK screening last night (too many people in too small a room with too large a screen. But whatever).
The story centers around the illicit romance between Anita (Natalie Perera) and Lee de Leon (Caribbean music sensation Machel Montano). She’s a quiet, goody-too-shoes daughter (to a trusting, naive father played in full stentorian declamatory mode by Bollywood regular, Kabir Bedi). She’s engaged to Bharat (Staz Nair, soon to be the new Dothraki horse lord) a dashing posh boy (with a scheming father and embittered brother). But the engagement is more an alignment of businesses, like ancient Royal families co- joining for peace. And into this domestic calm comes the unexpected turbulence of a washed up minstrel, Lee de Leon with whom, pulling away from ties of cast, race and economics, she falls in love.
As with all romances, love (and singing) conquers all.
But underlying the frothiness, there’s a layer of thoughtful seriousness played out by the contrasts the movie highlights: her willing, if arranged and specious love contrasts with the equally arranged but genuine and unexpected love of another couple. The wealthy and formal Indian society of the island (always viewed indoors in wealthy palatial houses) is contrasted with the more down to earth and informal – honest?- world of Lee, Carnival and the culture of the country (always shown outdoors). Bharat is seen as an import from London compared with Lee, who’s the real thing. In the end her choice isn’t so much between Bharat with all his wealth and connections and promise of “walks in the English countryside”, and Lee, but between staying true to who you are (in this case, a girl from Trinidad) and becoming what’s expected of you by others (eye candy to a rich business empire)
The movie (written by Claire Ince) is partly charming, partly corny and entirely joyful with a tremendous music track from Montano, some nice Caribbean meets Bollywood dancing and some unexpectedly good turns from a raft of first time actors (in particular Cindy Daniel, as a friend). Director Todd Kestler (“Keith”) has managed to coax his actors into giving him relaxed, unselfconscious performances…so especially difficult for amateurs. Certainly the standout performances are those of the two principals: Natalie Perara injects a quiet drama (with a beautiful singing voice) into her role of the dutiful daughter turned passionate lover and Machel Montano is unexpectedly convincing as the smitten lover. It’ll be good to see her again in the future; you’ll definitely be seeing a lot more of Staz Nair (once he’s had his way with the mother of dragons).
But the real stars are the gorgeous Tobago setting and the tremendous, infectious music track. Maybe this is the Caribbean’s long awaited redux of “The Harder They Come”. Maybe…
BAZODEE. Dir: Todd Kessler. With: Machel Montano, Staz nair, Natalie Perera, Kabir Bedi, Valmike Rampersad, Pauline Mark. Screenplay: Claire Ince. Composer: Machel Montano Cinematographer: Imre Juhasz. Production Designer: Tom Lisowski