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Ta Ra Rum Pum

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After a crack-up, NASCAR driver RV (Saif Ali Khan) struggles to get his nerve back. Broke, he and wife Rani Mukerji migrate with the kids from posh digs to ethnic Jackson Heights, Queens. Car racing is an unusual subject for a Bollywood movie, but in Ta Ra Rum Pum, the track scenes filmed at the N.C. Speedway in Rockingham crackle, especially the vroomy duels between RV and his nemesis, the Man in Black, Rusty Finkelstein.

NASCAR's bid for global product placement is puzzling here, as racing is not a popular sport in India—and the American love of a cool car, incomprehensible. While Chevrolet, Goodyear and a couple of other brands are on display, most of the autos are painted with fake endorsements like "Talvoline."

Director Siddarth Anand displays a curious view of America, with a Frank Lloyd Wright-ish house by a lake in "Manhattan," a hospital that demands cash up front for surgery (like India), and a ritzy private school with tuition at a bargain price of $3,000 a year for two. And the Rusty is right, but what's up with Finkelstein?

Actors all over India yearn for a part in a Yash Raj production, the glamorous equivalent of working at MGM in the 1930s. For Raleigh native Kris Lundberg, now a New York-based actress, this wish has come true. Spotted by a NYC casting director, she auditioned for what she admits is the most hateful role in the movie, Corporate Executive Woman. She was told "You're very natural" as she pitched a hissy fit at one of Bollywood's biggest stars, an ease which she attributes to her experiences in corporate film work.

Droll Jaaved Jaaferi observes that "out of every broken dream in New York, a taxi driver is born," and Ta Ra Rum Pum valorizes South Asian cabbies, in part because of having to tolerate crabby riders like Lundberg's character, who reduces our hero to tears. Ostensibly a children's movie with dancing cartoon bears and a loveable Irish setter, it hammers home important morals not found in stateside kiddie films: Finish your college degree and always pay cash.

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