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A Peck on the Cheek

Marriage, identity and escape are at the heart of this classic Bollywood melodrama

By Jocelyn Bell

A Peck on the Cheek
Directed by Mani Ratnam, starring P.S. Keerthana, Madhavan and Simran
(Madras Talkies)

A Sri Lankan couple giggles through an arranged marriage. Their young love grows against the backdrop of guerrilla warfare. The husband runs off to join the militia and his wife, abandoned and now pregnant, escapes the violence on a boat headed for India. During a stormy ocean crossing, a stranger tells her that her husband was shot but is still alive. She gives birth to a baby girl at the refugee camp in India, then returns to Sri Lanka alone.

And that’s just what happens before the end of the opening credits.

A Peck on the Cheek (2002) is a Bollywood melodrama, complete with musical numbers, implausible twists of fate and rain clouds that burst just as the characters experience their most gut-wrenching moments. It’s also highly engaging.

Following the credits, the story leaps forward about nine years. The baby is now a sassy schoolgirl. Unaware of her own history, Amudha (P.S. Keerthana) has a happy family life in the coastal Indian city of Chennai. Then, on her ninth birthday, her father reveals the fact of her adoption.

What follows is a little girl’s struggle to weave this information into the fabric of her identity and to accept that her “real” parents are not the pair who share her DNA but the couple who love her “more than our own lives.”

To North American audiences, aspects of A Peck on the Cheek will seem jarring. The characters take ridiculous risks to find Amudha’s birth mother; close calls with suicide bombers and air raids don’t deter them. The slow- and fast-motion camera tricks, the puppy-love musical montages and the overwrought rain-soaked finale all remind the viewer that we’re not in Hollywood anymore.

But young P.S. Keerthana has a magnetic screen presence, and you can’t help but go along for the ride. Just pack some Kleenex and a good umbrella.

Can't find this DVD at your local video store? Try ordering it online at www.chapters.indigo.ca or at www.hmv.ca.
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