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Jul 25, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

First, get this: There is no Darjeeling in The Darjeeling Limited. Maybe Wes Andersen, the director wanted to make the India connection obvious without having to literally title the film The Great Indian Train Adventure (where India = Rajasthan.) Darjeeling tea is synonymous with quality "Indian" tea all over the geographical vestiges of the former British empire. Darjeeling Tea cannot be grown or manufactured anywhere else in the world. Just as Champagne is indigenous to the Champagne district of France, so is Darjeeling Tea to Darjeeling. Thus the naming proves beyond reasonable doubt that movie was indeed shot in India, although sweet lime not Darjeeling black tea is the official drink of the movie.

To me, Wes Andersen's movies are slow-going, out-of-the-box characters are kept in a box and their interactions are observed. Check out his movies before this one, like The Royal Tenenbaums where a family of child prodigies were assembled in one house or Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou where a bunch of oceanographers were kept inside a submarine. In this latest offering, we have three somewhat-estranged brothers reuniting on a spiritual re-invention trip through India - the mother lode of spirituality on the planet, in a colorful moving train.

Andersen, a Satyajit Ray fan uses music from Ray films through out the movie, his tribute to the master. The film is bright, loud and colorful, the way India strikes a western tourist. Most of it is shot in Rajasthan, the place Andersen fell in love with while he started writing the script in a rainy and overcast Darjeeling - not much scope for color there.

Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman play the three brothers trying to find themselves and reconnect with each other in a strange land. Since no movie of Wes Andersen can be made without Bill Murray, the opening shot has Murray running to catch an unruly Indian train, he has no role afterwards. It is a slow and strangely funny movie, interesting if you are interested in the interpretations of India or Wes Andersen's style. Being an Indian, I'd count myself in the first category, curious to know what other people make out of my homeland.