Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lihim ni Adonis - Ill-Conceived Sexual Rigodon with Jeremy Ian

The pulchritude of a young man in Jeremy Ian is highlighted in Noli Salvador's "Lihim ni Adonis" - a little seen Pink Film from the makers of "Haliparot (Mana sa Ina)" which hybrids straight erotica and the pervasive pink flicks.

The story follows Adonis (Jeremy Ian), young, fair, good looking barrio boy who lives with an ailing father and a younger brother Gian (Gian Santos) in dire need of help for his studies. But Adonis' good looks has caught the attention of rural lass Vina (Thea Alvarez). When Vina's father (Dan Alvaro) learns of Vina's affection for Adonis, he plots a plan to snag the strapping young lad right down his daughter's lap. After all, Adonis' father has unpaid loans that's long overdue. The old man balks, but Vina's dad sweetens the deal, promising to finance Gian's studies. Suddenly, getting married wasn't such an acrid predicament. So Adonis clinches the deal.

On their matrimonial night, the dissolute bride finds her carnal advances rejected, paving the way for clues about Adonis' secret - his sexual preference, a fact hitherto ambiguous. The plot thickens when Jomar (Diomar Dyangco), Adonis' best friend from his childhood days, rides back into town with his friends (Charles Delgado as the wheedling Jun). One day, while Adonis finds a drunk Jomar at the riverside, Adonis coerces his helpless buddy, giving him fellating pleasures, despite the latter's protest: "Ano'ng ginagawa mo? Huwag! Tama na!" Which is funnier than executed because how can an able bodied young man who's capable enough of walking on rough terrain over huge boulders, adept enough to take off his swimming trunks and jump into a heavy stream, but suddenly defenseless against the oral advances of his dear childhood friend? A conundrum indeed.

The succeeding days pass by as the story plateaus into narrative skepticism. Jomar meets Vina, and he's besotted. But this doesn't stop him from sleeping (again) with Adonis who was himself lured into Jun's (Charles Delgado) seductive bed. Hilariously, this trifling detail of attraction and rigodon has Jomar sleeping with the sexually frustrated Vina who suddenly finds the nirvana of pleasure in Jomar's voracious appetite.

The adulterous couple starts to plan their great escape. But not before reclaiming Vina's fortunes (a wad of money given to Adonis' younger brother for his studies). One fateful day, Adonis catches Jomar and Vina in flagrante delicto. He wails in deep sorrow: "Paano n'yo nagawa sa akin ito?" which all the more made me chuckle considering he's been shagging every other guy who waves their penises at him. These are cinematic moments of utter enlightenment. Common sense left the production when they filmed this.

When I present details of a story, it is with the objective that something out of a movie is worth a healthy discussion. But the nature of logical argumentation is so thin, I am hardly able to contain myself from just altogether abandoning this article. Why else would it take me almost a month to force myself to write this? That's why I know that there is a more powerful Being who dispenses people with enough resolve when the going gets tough. Let's consider the decision of Vina's father to marry off her daughter to someone who doesn't even have a job? Dan Alvaro's going away present for his daughter Vina (who admitted to having a crush on Adonis) was this young man whose father owes them a fortune. Dan, a soldier, was leaving his family because he was assigned to faraway Mindanao. His parting message: "O gusto ko pagbalik ko, marami na akong apo ha." Wait a minute, is he going to Tibet? Eritrea? Liberia? Turkmenistan? Or maybe Neptune perhaps?

Thea Alvarez and Diomar Dyangco share illicit moment as Adonis' wife Vina and best friend Jomar.

On a more positive note, Jeremy Ian is a star find. Though he was dull and robotic in his small part in Noli Salvador's "Haliparot (Mana Sa Ina)", Ian delineates his character's sense of perdition, of his loss of freedom, his probity regarding his sexual orientation or preference. We are not saying that Ian is already a thespian - far from it, actually. But his several scenes where he cries didn't end up amateurish, sappy, or floundering the way Jeff Luna usually delivers (by the way, where is he?) The coarse and reckless camera work sometimes pans his pimple ridden face which further renders empathy to his dilemma. And it doesn't hurt that Jeremy is so easy on the eyes, you may as well freeze a frame, and I wouldn't mind gazing at him. Oohlala indeed!

Thea Alvarez who has gained notoriety in Lucas Mercado's modern day soft porn flicks ("Darang", "Libido", "Bata Pa Si Rafael") doesn't do so badly herself, considering her character takes a back seat to the title role. I've never considered her pretty but I now understand why perving men constantly "search" for Thea's name in this blogsite and elsewhere. She has this allure of insidious naivete that makes men's motors running.

Diomar Dyangco, who has his start in legitimate indie films like the Cinemalaya flick, "Rekrut" tries his luck with this Pink Film. Though he doesn't come off awkward, his character is recklessly ill conceived, providing funny moments in scenes that should otherwise be austere. But this tack of piecing the characters together is deliberate and audacious - the objective is really to find them in sexual rigodon with each other. Do you wonder why?

Thea Alvarez gradually claiming her throne as the princess of B-flicks.

Diomar Dyangco will appear in an indie re-enactment of the Ampatuan massacre opposite Snooky Serna.


Please read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and why Web Criticism isn't always about good and reliable writing:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Bullying" - Spanish Cinema's Unremitting Chill

In Europe, 39% of all students suffer from "bullying". This figure feels like an exaggerated number, but this comes from official statistics. Spain's number is 1 in every 4 students. But its in the United Kingdom where it's most alarming.

Bullying is psychological despotism and scars the aggrieved party the rest of his life. In Josetxo San Mateo's 2009 feature, "Bullying" - the director weaves a propaganda that deals with this despicable phenomenon.


A mother and son tandem leaves their homeland for Barcelona where she is hired as a nurse. Together, they start a new life. But Jordi (Albert Carbo), who moves to a new school, is being picked on by campus meanie Nacho (Joan Carles Suau) and his gang. Several abuses later, the baddies are empowered by Jordi's helplessness. The bullying turns more severe as the perpetrator even invades Jordi's home (they are neighbors). Despite Jordi's bruises and a mauled dog, he keeps his silence.

The film is often times harrowing because it felt easy to just rat on the bullies. You don't understand Jordi's reticence. Jordi could have told his mother (who's seeing a shrink), but he disturbingly shuts down all avenues of help, which is a dilemma. He would even cover up his tormentors' misdeeds. Masochist maybe? But it leaves Jordi frozen with fear?

The film is a propaganda against the phenomenon with scenes showing TV news reporting about bullied kids. Elsewhere, an authority speaks against bullying in the school. I would have thought that the best messages are those not shoved down your throat. But its an artistic prerogative which is nonetheless noble. If Albert Carbo comes off perfectly awkward and ungraceful as Jordi, it is really Joan Carles Suau's Nacho (the bully) who reeks with unadulterated evil! And isn't it ironic that despite all those reminders from school authorities, Jordi wasn't able to overcome his oppressive fate? Now that is tragedy!

Nacho bears down over Jordi.

The tormentors face Jordi.

Mother and son

Joan Carles Suau pouts. (above and below)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak! - B-Rating For Bird-Brains

"Pak!" I often hear this every time K Brosas does her judging spiel at a weekend talent show, and I have wondered why she does this. It's meaningless. There isn't anything funny about it either. The delivery, done in staccato fashion, has this irritating resonance. Who finds amity in the sound of swatting flies?

Such word play in the title largely reflects the content or essence in Tony Y. Reyes' "Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak!" where for the most part, the working gags have been used since the Pleistocene Period when dinosaurs dominated the food chain. But they had a good excuse for such imbecilic undertakings - they only had lint-produced fire and stones to work with. My friend Iya asked me, "What do you expect in a Vic Sotto film?" This was of course pure rhetoric.


That this film is a co-production of 4 film outfits (Sotto's Mzet, Ilacad's Octo-Arts, Tuviera's APT, and ABS-CBN's Star Cinema) further highlights the priority and mindset of the current crop of mainstream film makers, and if this isn't the proverbial "dumbing down" in Philippine Cinema, I don't know what is.

Angelo and Cielo


When mischievous angel Angelito (Zaijian Jaranilla) disrupts operations of the Heaven's "Matching Machine", the playful tyke is sent to Earth for a life-affirming mission that involves a con artist named Angelo (Vic Sotto) who, along with his crew, operates as a faith healer. His healing sessions include staged miracles and the requisite "optional donations". But when one of his "patients", Mang Gary (Gary Lising) falls ill after drinking one of Angelo's potions, concerned physician Cielo de los Santos (Bea Alonzo) feels compelled to look into the matter. Little did she realize that these were the same people who almost run her over.

When Cielo confronts Angelo, he vehemently denies the ruse. Enter Angelo's assistants, Phil and James (Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola) who bumped a child on the road - the now-human Angelito. The child appears lifeless so the cavillous Cielo chides at the dumb-founded quack, "Sige nga, pagalingin mo nga sya!" Left without an option, Angelo takes the child and does his mumbo jumbo, and voila! The fallen child comes back to life - conveniently with a good audience as witnesses. Since then, Angelo has taken Angelito as his own, and they have become healing partners. Cielo has gradually warmed up to the "arbularyo's charm". In fact, they turn into a fetching couple along with Angelito and Macy (Cielo's little sister, played by Xyriel Manabat).


Like the easy resolutions that Filipino movies are known for, Angelo has organized "medical missions" and even sought the assistance of Cielo for such noble undertaking. At this point, I was stifling a vomit, for how can a quack suddenly turn 180 degrees and donate all his "earnings" (P100,000) to a children's orphanage? There is no subtle character progression. Angelo snaps his finger and turns from heel to hero!

Angelito and Macy

There are a hundred issues concerning logic so we are going to point out a few for the sake of discussion. That Cielo, a GP who does cardio-thoracic surgeries (wink, wink), openly endorses a person whom she knew hasn't had a single day in medical school constitutes grave impediment to her Hippocratic Oath. She even covers for his misdeeds, "He practices alternative medicine," she reasons. But even such practitioners have to have adequate training. Or did she forget that Mang Gary caught amebiasis from one of Angelo's concoctions?


Humor in this movie takes the form of fart jokes, diarrheic explosions and assault of physical imperfections, you would think that we're back in the 60's when slapstick physical comedy were the norm. When another patient complains of diarrhea (again), he was asked: "Umeebak ka ba ng dugo? O dumudugo ka ng ebak?" In another scene, Cielo was told, "No ispik because the pipol has ispiken!" Huh? Someone actually thought that line was funny?

When Angelo visits Cielo home, he meets a hostile mother (Dexter Doria) who tells him, "O wag ka na umupo!" which was replied with "Lumuhod pwede?" When Mang Gary complains of abdominal discomfort, Angelo replies with a curt, "I-jerbaks mo lang yan" which then incites a wad of passing gas. This is the heir to Dolphy's throne. How sophisticated, right?

In typical Vic Sotto fashion, the story propagates the myth that "Bossing" is drop-dead gorgeous, girls forget themselves when they see him. And Cielo becomes guinea pig to test out his charisma. Every time Cielo and Angelo meet, the former becomes a basket-case. She inadvertently salivates, and loses her coordination, bumps her head and fumbles through stuff. Such is the conceit of the "Bossing" that he even had to refer to her as "Miss Laway". And I sincerely sympathize with all of "bossing's" cinematic muses for falling vulnerable and debilitated under his bewitching machismo. Sure, this is comedy, but there has to be something remotely feigning reality.

Pokwang plays Pining, the deceitful trio's landlady, who's also fallen under Angelo's charm. (Toldya the bossing is irresistible!) When she asked him, "Ano ba ang meron si Cielo na wala ako?" Jose replies with, "Lamang lang naman siya ng isang paligo sa yo... sa fountain of youth!" Get it? At another time, Phil and James ended up shoving two bananas inside Pining's mouth, so she's left doing Heimlich maneuver on her own. I suddenly miss watching "Three Stooges".

Pining, Phil and James


There are familiar faces from the TVJ world. Ryan Yllana cameos as a naughty angel. Richie the Horsey plays a patient. Anjo Yllana is an obstetrician (who delivers Cielo's baby). Paolo Ballesteros plays Cielo's gay friend Anton. Toni Rose Gayda plays a nun handling the orphanage. And Joey de Leon is a Philippine Medical Association official who receives the complaint against Dra. Cielo. After finding Johnny Revilla's complaint against Cielo petty, Joey de Leon remarks, "Binebeywang mo ang oras ko!" then cracks it up with its raucous English translation, "You are wasting my time!" Baywang? Waist? Get it? And it is a waste alright to see less of Joey de Leon on screen because he genuinely cracks me up even with inane lines. His manner of delivery is distinct; his timing is impeccable. Vic Sotto meanwhile resorts to facial contortions and physical assaults ("pambabatok") to spark humor.

I'm not even discussing much of Bea Alonzo's participation in this film because what is this generation's best actress doing in a half-witted diarrheic stool like this? Did she read the moronic drivel in her script? In one scene, when Angelo finally takes Cielo to meet his father (Joonee Gamboa), this was how the scene went:

Tatay: "Sino yan?"
Angelo: "'Tay."
Cielo: "Doktora po ako."

Huh? Who asked what her profession was? It was a good thing she didn't turn in her medical diploma, board certificate and medical license.


During the requisite altercation, Angelo shouts at Angelito for failing to cure his own father.
Cielo: "Wag mong sigawan ang bata, anghel yan!" Huh? LOL

When Angelo got shot on the chest, the E.R. doctor suddenly performs the sensitive operation. Cardiothoracic surgeons do these things, not general practitioners or ER docs. After performing the operation, Cielo comes out of the O.R. wearing a dress! Couldn't fit into a scrub suit, Bea? After the same operation, Angelo dreams of Angelito saying his goodbye because his mission was completed. It was Angelito's time to go back to heaven. Then we find Angelo removing his oxygen mask. He gets off his hospital bed and runs after the child! This is nothing short of a miracle considering he just survived a close-to-fatal chest gunshot and a cardio-thoracic operation which should rightfully have him bed-ridden under intensive care supervision for the next week or so. The next morning, when he wakes up, his father (who had a lingering illness) was all healed - overnight! Imagine all four production companies looking after this project and they couldn't even get the basic things right.

Mainstream cinema is a bunch of greedy, sniveling nincompoops. Indeed!

But the most flagrant of immoral iniquity? Cinema Evaluation Board has given this maudlin piece of crap a B rating! Birdbrains at the Board!


Republic Act 9167 created the Film Development Council of the Philippines which, to my knowledge, hasn't really done much for the industry. Its Section 10 further creates the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) composed of 30 members - 20 from the industry (for who would be better equipped to distinguish a work of art than the people working within, right?) and 10 from the arts, academe and business sector. Its main objective is to rate films and give incentives to superior work, i.e. "for the promotion and development of cinematographic art along world-class standards and global marketability". Now tell me, based on the sketches I presented here, which portion of the film brilliantly titled "Pak! Pak My Dr. Kwak", is deemed world class? Is it the lingering fascination with farts and watery stools? The propagation of the myth that Vic Sotto makes young beautiful women drool? The condoning of quack doctors to perform "medical missions" when he isn't even a medical graduate? Or is it the lurid representation of:

a. "a clear and well realized and effective orchestration of the film elements"
b. a screenplay with a clear characterization, dialogue, plot and narrative structure; take note of a character played by Victor Basa, a gun-toting thug who's out for vengeance after being hoodwinked into giving a large sum for the cure of an ailing father who never got better. The "narrative structure" would eventually have him running after Vic Sotto, so he'll get his father re-treated. Again? Didn't he go through this before? And he wants another go at it? LOL. Didn't I say brilliant?

I can go on and on about the "merits" of this film that eventually ended up with a B rating (thus qualifying for a 65% tax incentive). Fantastic! And before writing 30, Jackie Aquino, who I believe is a member of the mostly unemployed CEB board members, does a cameo.

When patronage politics is being shamelessly peddled by the people who's supposed to recognize good from bad films, isn't it sinful? Corruption doesn't always happen within duly elected positions. Otherwise, Carlo Caparas would never be remotely considered as someone of National Artist caliber. Not in my wildest dream.

Film Master's Spotlight: "Ka-Boom" - Psychedelia & Unearthly Homo-Erotica

The cinema is a visual medium, and one of the most lavish of these visual artists is Gregg Araki. But Araki is a genre artist - his works categorized under New Queer Cinema; his theme centers on youthful angst, sexual ambivalence and, on the whole, testosterone-charged motives.

I am particularly pleased that Araki has a new movie because I have always considered Araki as one of the most visually arresting film makers: his images succulent and colorful; his characters teeter between libidinous experimentations and his scenes are always highly charged, one can't help but be transfixed. "Ka-boom" isn't his most cohesive work, but it is an adequate representative to the director's body of work.

Our protagonist is 18 year old Smith (Thomas Dekker) whose androgenic charm easily coasts along with his sexual identity which he labels as "undeclared". True enough, Smith, whose sexual appetite rivals that of a rabbit in heat, gets it on with guys as easily as he does it with girls, to the exasperation of his lesbian girlfriend Stella (Haley Bennett) who's having trouble with a possessive girl friend - who may be a vengeful witch!

The story turns even more bizarre when Smith meets a couple of girls he has been seeing in his dreams. One of whom is constantly being chased by a group of animal masked men. Or are they mere psychedelic side effects of his pill popping ways?

The narrative gets more peculiar as several pieces of the puzzle begin to reveal, and it's easy to brush off the story as "silly". But there's one undeniable thing about Araki's latest film: it's never boring! You may slap your thigh as the credits roll; you may scratch your head and sigh, but you won't be able to treat it as a static narrative. This, after all, if you haven't realized it yet, is a science fiction.

Like most Araki films, the director populates his movies with some of the "most beautiful men" to grace the screen; they get to disrobe frequently and engage in sexual cotillion with a gazillion partners. Dekker is a captivating lead although his "undeclared" sexual preference is a bit confounding, and at times dubious. But as I have mentioned before, there is nothing like a Gregg Araki film... unless you've already forgotten Joseph Gordon-Levitt's breakthrough film, "Mysterious Skin".

Smith dreams naked!

Juno Temple is London who's in a quest to search for her father - through Smith!

Oafish jock and Smith's roommate, Thor (Chris Zylka) does a "morning ritual".

Chris Zylka as Thor

Gregg Araki's films are characterized by enthusiastic sexual activity from a generally young and beautiful (sexually ambiguous) cast. His male cast is particularly well selected and his cinematic images pulsate with youthful verve.

Here are some of Gregg Araki's Men in "Ka-Boom" (including one of his favorite actors from his earlier films, James Duval):

Thomas Dekker is Smith.

Thomas Dekker

Chris Zylka (above and below) is Smith's surfer dude roommate Thor.

Chris Zylka

Andy Fischer-Price is Rex, Thor's best buddy. Will he take the "bait" that would have him do threesome with London (pretty blond Juno Temple) and Smith?

The cast with director Gregg Araki (3rd from right) in Cannes. The movie won the first "Queer Palm D'Or" Award.

Brennan Mejia is Oliver, Smith's crush, but they can't seem to meet up.

Brennan Mejia

Master provocateur, director Gregg Araki.

Gregg Araki in action - he even used some footages from Luis Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou" to highlight the "experimentality" of his work. "Ka-Boom" is largely experimental; a fusion of sci-fi satire and suspense sex comedy - and that's a "lot" of hypens!

Gregg Araki

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tum: My Pledge of Love - Not Quite The Bollywood Experience

There is brewing strife in the small, but progressive town of Alipur in Karnataka in south India. A prodigal son, a half breed, is coming home to tend to the affairs of his recently departed father. Ravaan (Robin Padilla) has been away from his father’s homeland for so long. For years, Ravaan has preferred to stay in Manila where his mother hails; living the life of a devil-may-care playboy. But coming home to India is heart breaking, considering he came too late to see his dad get buried (they belong to the minority Muslims living in India where 80% are Hindus). Islam doesn’t allow long wakes.

Along with his sorrow, Ravaan, the elder of the siblings, is to inherit a fortune: a trucking conglomerate, a cement business, a logging company, and 10,000 acres of farm land in Alipur. But there’s a catch, he has to marry this obdurate lady who’s handling the Noble School, the sole property he cannot own. In typical Hindi fashion, half-Filipino and half-Indian Ravaan is pre-arranged to marry Miss Linda Dimatumba, a once-lost soul who has volunteered for social work in rural India.

Ravaan’s dad was so taken by Linda that he treated her like his own daughter. But there is a hitch: Linda (Mariel Rodriguez) is Catholic, while Ravaan is Muslim! In order to keep the school, Linda concedes to the whim of the old man as long as she gets to keep her religion and keep the school. Such marriage is possible. After all, even the Prophet Mohammad married a Christian; why can’t Ravaan? But not everyone is happy with the union.

Though the couple had a rough start, relentlessly bickering over stuff, they soon fall for each other’s charm, and the spark between them is palpable on screen. But fairy tales (like this one) isn’t always ushered by smooth roads. Seeds of dissention have been planted by Ravaan’s immediate family who believes that the prodigal son doesn’t deserve the riches he is acquiring. It doesn’t take long before Linda is kidnapped. Would Ravaan find Linda before it’s too late? Would their romance mimic the bittersweet sorrows of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his eternal love for wife Mumtaz? I’ll give you a good guess.

Director Robinhood Padilla’s “Tum: My Pledge of Love” is a technicolor romp into Bollywood enchantment, and as such, it is replete with lavish ministrations and ambition. The canvas is really perfect for Padilla’s narrative: it is a chopsuey of romance, drama, musical, action and whimsical fantasy. Unfortunately, Padilla’s technical know-how doesn’t quite approximate his unmitigated ambition.

The narrative is haphazardly written and imprudent. I was made aware that south India (as this is set in Karnataka) is still largely Hindus, only 12.2% account for the Muslim population of this state (mostly the northern areas, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, and the border towns to Kerala). From Karnataka's close to 53 million populace, it has 6.5 million muslims.

Padilla chose to highlight the perspicuous schism between muslims and the rest of the population, which is really a disservice to the peace-loving muslims of Karnataka. Indian muslims, in this movie, are regarded as plot-hungry, power-grabbing savages. For a more inveigling take on the Muslim-Hindu clan wars, check out Aparna Sen’sMr. & Mrs. Iyer”. The plot line in “Tum…” is borne out of a very active imagination than anything that mirrors reality. A case in point: when AJ Falcon starts courting Gita (Queenie Padilla), a Hindi girl working at the Noble School, a throng of locals trooped to Gita’s house carrying hatchets and daggers, you would think that the Indians still live in the 12th century. Yes, they still have arranged marriages, but they don’t disembowel courting foreigners, do they? Indians are very hospitable to visitors.

Another set back is its overly preachy tone. In random strokes, this movie tackles equality in wages, harmony between religious differences; philosophy of help (“You don’t give people fish, but teach them how to fish instead.”); principle of Captain of the Ship (“If you obey your imam, you obey your prophet.” Huh?)

The bharat ceremonies: Ravaan marries Linda.

Queenie Padilla registers well on screen and she looks believable as a Hindi girl, even her Indian English accent is impeccable which can’t be said about his father. Robin Padilla charms as the swaggering protagonist, but you would think that the 80’s and the 90’s have taught him to shed off his matinee idol posturings. Moreover, who ever told him he could pass for a half Indian has to be taken to the guillotine? There is not a centimeter in him that is Indian – from his facial features, his eyes, his gait, his manner of delivery, right down to the cellular level of keratin on his hair and nail bed. Does he appeal to his audience? You bet he does, he’s an A-lister after all, but this hardly gives credibility to being Ravaan.

Mariel Rodriguez looks ravishing as the headstrong Linda. The movie pans around her like a screen goddess, even allowing her to shimmy around people and on rocky hills like some Bollywood star. Unfortunately, Mrs. Padilla is still too raw as an actress, you sometimes cringe when she is made to deliver lines that overwhelm her capability. But don’t fret. She gets “A” for effort. After all, you can’t deny her palpable chemistry with Padilla. They look rapturous and very comfortable together. Mariel helps out with its costume and make up, making the production almost dreamy and a visual delight.

Another plot device implanted for Queenie’s sake is having not two, but three guys competing for her affection, which further muddles her story more than having a Hindi father who’s displeased of AJ’s constant presence in their house. And isn’t Queenie too young to be this hefty? This isn’t a Sharon Cuneta movie, is it?

An Indian heir? A cowboy? A Pinoy action star? A matinee idol? Or all of the above?

The seige!

Padilla, after watching several Bollywood and Telugu Films, patterns his ouvre as such. Notice the “acknowledgment” flashed at the start of the movie, typical of Indian films. Notice the occasional lurches of musical-dance numbers that started with Mariel Rodriguez (wearing a saree) successfully “singing”, swaying and dancing on a train with a bunch of kids; Robin Padilla singing “Ipagpatawad Mo”, “Ikaw”, and the rousing finale of VST & Company’s “Awitin Mo (Isasayaw Ko)”. I admit to stomping my heels, as these numbers do inspire a hearty swerve and a smile. When I saw the “bad guy” Abdul Kareen dancing up a storm with the rest of Alipur's 17,000 people, I was tempted to stand up and shake my booty as well. But such flights of fancy don’t a good movie make. Not when earlier in the movie, you see a Ravaan riding his horse like this suddenly turned into a cowboy flick, then in the midst of a siege, Ravaan single handedly exterminates a whole village of bad muslims!

On the whole, the flick suffers from too much ingredient. An over enthusiastic director is prone to such mistake spoiling his cinematic broth in the process.

I am not sure Robin Padilla is aware that he demonized the muslims to thicken the plot… then he pedantically preached about Mahatma Gandhi’s culture of non-violence. This, coming from a runaway playboy who left India for years in favor of Manila’s more worldly allure. “Tum: My Pledge of Love” isn’t without charm. The finished product looks like it’s a passionate work of someone who is enamored with India. Scenes from the Taj Mahal and Mysore Palace are a sight to behold, but this isn’t a travel documentary, is it?

And before I forget, “Taj Mahal” is clearly pronounced with a “J”. Nope, it isn’t “Tah Mahal”. Right, Ms. Venus Raj?

The baddie is its graceful choreographer (left); and Gita's Hindi father (right).

Mariel and Robin: A fetching couple.

Guess who is featured in the real website of the Noble School of Alipur?

Every inch a movie star, but not a centimeter is Indian.