Machel Montano is known as the ‘King of Soca’. Someone once said to me that he is like the ‘Michael Jackson’ of Soca music. With a career that spans over 3 decades in music, he has now ventured into his first feature film with Bazodee. Directed by Emmy-nominated director Todd Kessler, it’s a drama, romance and musical filled with original songs produced and performed by Montano himself. The soundtrack provides a perfect backdrop to a story set in the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago ( T&T). Through this film you see the richness and diversity of culture from the twin islands.
Bazodee is an endearing love story that tells the tale of Anita Ponchouri (Natalie Perera) and Lee DeLeon (Machel Montano) a Soca star who moved to London only to have his career stalled and he returns back home. Anita is an Indian girl who is the daughter of a businessman struggling with financial troubles. She is engaged to marry Bharat Kumar (Staz Nair), a wealthy Londoner when a chance encounter with Lee DeLeon leads to the beginning of an undeniable chemistry between the two and leaves the future bride with a decision to make. She must choose to follow her heart or be the dutiful Indian daughter and marry the man who could provide everything her family ever wanted. It’s a typical Bollywood inspired story blended with the heat and flavour of T&T culture.
The film almost never happened. It was met with many obstacles as they sought financing to produce the movie. Montano told Billboard Magazine, “We struggled to create and finance this movie, it took nearly 10 years and there were many times we felt like giving up.” This is often the case for films that don’t come from Hollywood or have access to large investors. Good thing they managed to get support because movies made by people of colour need exposure. Bazodee has already screened across the Caribbean and in several theatres in the U.S. in August. After a successful screening at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto, the movie continues screening at a number of selected theatres in the city until October 13, 2016 then it moves Montreal.
I caught the movie this weekend and loved it. Montano held his own in his first film and even re-recorded most of the music to fit the story. At times his acting was a little stiff, but considering this was his first role, he did a good job. I thought the casting for each role was done well. The film is filled with actors who are not global superstars, but sometimes lesser known talent can deliver exactly what’s needed. The most acclaimed actor is Kabir Bedi, who plays Anita’s father. He has appeared in over 100 films worldwide including the Bond film Octopussy and his recurring role in the tv series The Bold & the Beautiful. There were moments when some actors seemed a little mechanical, but overall I thought they all did well. I especially thought Valmike Rampersad, who played Nikhil, the scheming brother of Anita’s fiancé did a good job bringing elements of conflict to the story.
Watch the trailer below.
One thing I would have loved to see more was the exploration of dating outside your race and culture. An Indian woman falling for a black man can be a source of contention which would have been great to explore more in the script, but it was reduced to one line said by Anita’s character. I also thought the use of subtitles would have been helpful to audiences who don’t understand the patois or slang used in T & T in a few moments of the film.
The biggest draw of Bazodee has been Montano. There’s no denying that his die-hard fans have come out in droves to see it. He has been the biggest draw by far. I think anyone would enjoy this film whether you know who Machel Montano is or not. There’s nothing like a feel good love story set in the beautiful Caribbean.
Overall this film was a refreshing story outside of the typical Hollywood movie. It’s important to explore and support films like this that are outside the mainstream. I give this movie a thumbs up and would recommend anyone who loves music and a beautiful love story to go see it.
To find out where it’s still screening visit the film’s website for more details.