Soca Romance Bazodee in 3 Slices (Trinidad and Tobago)

In 1984 iconic American musician Prince blended soulful rock with a quasi-autobiographical story for the cult musical dramatic film Purple Rain. Now if you replace Prince with Trinidad and Tobago soca superstar Machel Montano and rock music with Montano’s energetic soca tunes you are about halfway to 2016 romantic musical drama Bazodee.

I reviewed the film when it was first released but it was recently made available to rent or purchase on iTunes, so I thought I would dust off and update the old review. Here is my spoiler-free take on Bazodee in three easy to chew slices:

Slice #1: Machel and the Indian Gyal

Bazodee (2016)
This “macoing” is quite interesting. But did we have to maco a geriatric nudist colony?

Bazodee is the age-old story of a love triangle with a Trini spin: the title refers to a Trini colloquialism for being disoriented and/or lovestruck. Anita Panchouri (beautiful British actress Natalie Perera) is the daughter of Ram, an indebted businessman (internationally acclaimed Indian actor Kabir) and is engaged to Bharat Kumar (Game of Thrones actor Staz Nair), a handsome and wealthy suitor and the marriage is intended to solidify her father’s plan for a beach front resort. But things go awry when Anita falls
for street singer Lee de Leon (Montano). The film is directed by Todd Kessler, award winning co-creator and show runner of preschool series Blue’s Clues. Why not?

From a production standpoint Bazodee is a pretty movie. The palatial home of the Panchouris is impressively shot and the idyllic Pigeon Point Beach in Tobago looks gorgeous. Bazodee is very colourful and bright, and does capture some authentic Trinidadian experiences like chatty taxi drivers, going to a fete (party) and the wild mud soaked festival of J’Ouvert which kicks off Carnival.

Slice #2: Like ah Boss

bazodee 1
Girllllllllll. You going and make a real sweet dulahin (Indian bride) 

On the performances I thought Perera was capable and believable as the conflicted Anita, torn between her devotion to her father and her cousin Poorvi (local actress Teneille Newallo), and her feelings for Lee. Montano’s performance, however, varied from natural to stiff, from character to caricature of his soca personality. Perera and Montano do have a decent chemistry and the romance does produce some heat on the screen.

Generally the local cast put in good work and I will single out Chris Smith as Lee’s affable manager Bud and Roland “RemBunction” Yearwood as beach operator Soul Boy for bringing some levity to the movie. I must also praise Cindy F. Daniel, who played Anita’s friend Lalima, for one potent scene where she does not speak but emotes powerfully. There is another scene later in the film without dialogue that is poignant and affecting. It is ironic that for a musical film the best scenes are when the volume is turned down.

Bazodee 2
Bartender! This rum punch needs more rum. And more punch!

Of the foreign cast Nair as Bharat was good, but did little other than stand around looking handsome. Bedi, who I will always remember as the intimidating
henchman Gobinda in the James Bond film Octupussy, is solid as the happy-go-lucky father. Kriss Dosanjh is also fun as Bharat’s father Lokesh, who wholeheartedly embraces the Trinidad and Tobago culture.

The standout in the cast, both local and international, is Britain-based Trinidad and Tobago-born actor Valmike Rampersad who plays Bharat’s brother Nikhil. He is the real star of the movie and steals every single scene with his scheming and plotting. Nikhil is smooth and slithery and almost every thing he says is hiding another motive. And though he is set up as villain, when you think about it he actually has good reason for his machinations.

Slice #3: Vibes Cyah Done

bazodee 4
Come here and wine gyal (come gyal), Come here and wine gyal (come gyal), Is your time now, Time for you to wine back, Girl is your time now, to misbehave, Yes is your time now, Time for you to wine back, Yes is your time now, to misbehave

Bazodee is a musical so you have to talk about the music. And if you are a fan of Montano’s music you should enjoy it because it was all Machel, all the time. The film is clearly a vehicle to promote his music and makes no effort to hide this fact. The use of the music was hit and miss though. It worked well with some scenes as background or plot device and then in other scenes was distracting. Also the duets between Lee and Anita, including one where the latter is auto tuned, probably should have been left out.

The plot of the film falls firmly in the category of generic. There are no real surprises or twists here to be had, and it all goes strictly according to a well-worn formula. I will not spoil the ending but I will say that it spoiled the film for me a bit. Overall Bazodee is an enjoyable, whimsical, largely formulaic film with a few gems of scenes scattered throughout. Fans of soca music, Trinidad and Tobago culture or musical romantic dramas, though, will find something to enjoy here. It’s no Purple Rain but it is a pleasant drizzle.

Rating: Bazodee gets 2.5/5 woman-stealing soca artistes.

For more from Trinidad and Tobago you can check out my review of the drama thriller The Cutlass here. 

This review appeared in an altered form in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. All photos courtesy of Monk Pictures.


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