The most profitable film in the history of India is the romantic comedy 3 Idiots, which, according to the formal strictures of its industry, is a jolly and epic musical that runs about 70 minutes per idiot. For beautiful YouTube dada, it’s hard to beat “Zoobi Doobi,” a sexy goof of a cabaret duet between one idiot and his lover; at its highlight, the two stand soaked on a vine-roped wooden swing above dozens of blue umbrellas that pulse open and closed. Better still: the locker-room sing-along “All Izz Well,” in which we see sudsy fellows, towels at their waists, caper about and hose one another, while the camera glides over the toilet stalls, peering down at whistling poopers.
There’s terrific joy in these numbers, much coming from their jubilant artificiality: Just as in 1930s Hollywood, nobody making or watching the movie cares that everything we’re seeing is obviously on a soundstage someplace, dreamed up by craftsfolks eager to top whatever they did in the last picture.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer of 3 Idiots and a revered Bollywood director in his own right, has ambitions other than show-tune dazzlement. Broken Horses, his latest, is a modern-day American indie revenge western, based on the kind of script that seemed to come out of a spigot someplace after Reservoir Dogs hit. Here, in a small—presumably Texan—town, the local crimelords meet in the lobby of a gorgeous abandoned movie theater to suss out who the rat is. One hood assembles his automatic while a violinist tears through a Paganini rapture; the hits and head-shots ordered by another are intercut for us with the pulping of oranges for his juice, which I guess makes a point about things.