The Inna Cinema & The Outta Cinema of Salman Khan, Part I

Julie M: Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, supposed to be a “zany” comedy, is so far very stupid but I can’t stop watching it…let’s try a liveblog, shall we?

 

Jenny K:  The things you ask me to do… Salman and Akshay together. Yeesh. I may request something in return…Kathy is asking that I go to see a new Salman film, Bodyguard, that’s opening on Wednesday. I owe her one, because she didn’t like Crazy, Stupid, Love when I talked her into it. So, why don’t you go see Bodyguard, too, and we’ll make this a two-parter.  I have to put up with Akshay, and you get to put up with Kareena. You up to the challenge?

 

Julie M: Oh, I didn’t mean you and I should liveblog MSK. I was doing it myself, mainly to distract myself from the mindlessness that was that movie. But I am up for Bodyguard if it’s playing at the cinema. I’ll endure Salman if you’ll endure Akshay.  MSK is available free online on YouTube. This one online is much better quality than the video I got from the library.

 

Jenny K: Okay, it’s a go!  I’ll head off to watch MSK, and leave you with the trailer for Bodyguard that I found.

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Julie M: Oh, good Lord, that trailer is insane. What did I agree to?

[Later on, Julie’s up first with Mujhse Shaadi Karogi’s play-by-play. Spoilers abound.]

Julie M: Salman Khan is Sameer, a kind, serious and moral young man albeit with a terrible temper that gets him into trouble. He decides he needs a change of luck and scenery, and gets a job as a lifeguard captain in Goa. Since he doesn’t have enough money to rent a whole room, he pays his landlord half rent with the understanding that he will share his room. Upon arrival he meets, and instantly falls in love with, Rani (Priyanka Chopra), his neighbor, who has a very strict father (Amrish Puri) whom Sameer instantly (though accidentally) alienates along with Rani.

 

Jenny K: I know Priyanka’s character, Rani is supposed to be a fashion designer, but isn’t she posing in the mirror and dancing rather provocatively in full view of any passerby, really too often to have it not be on purpose?  Not the behaviour of your average nice Indian damsel.  And I’m very curious to see if Goan lifeguards really look Baywatch perfect down to the red suits and floatation devices they carry…I think I saw Pam Anderson in the background once.

Julie M: The Baywatch thing got to me too.  In fact, the entire Goan scene was too SoCal and not enough India.  I’m sure it’s not like that in real life…clearly aiming at a NRI audience? 

Anyway, back to the action.  While Sameer (who has a very active and elaborate fantasy life, seen in numerous songs) is pondering how to turn the situation around, enter Sunny (Akshay Kumar), a charming and fun-loving drifter who is also a bit of a con artist and is the complete opposite personality type from Sameer. Sunny gets a room at the same boardinghouse as Sameer and of course ends up as Sameer’s roommate. He likewise meets and falls in love with Rani, to somewhat better results since he takes the time early on to suck up to her father, and her father’s little smush-faced dog, which impresses Rani.

 

Jenny K: Ah, this is beginning to come back to me.  I think I saw this in the cinema when it came out…I definitely remember Tommy the Dog.  And those skin tight jeans on Salman…actually, he looks better in them than I remember.  And his voice is always quite caressing, as I now recall… I didn’t remember Akshay’s arrival, “copter-skiing” would  you call it?  Sad, that boy just doesn’t know how to make an entrance. 

 

Julie M:  Clearly the Akshay-bashing has begun early!  I thought it was a fun entrance that defined his character, but his teeth looked very fake in that scene.  Onward… Sameer decides to take the tack of becoming Rani’s “secret admirer,” even to the point of anonymously bailing out her failing business, all of which backfires when Rani thinks Sunny is behind all of the thoughtful acts and Sunny doesn’t correct her. Meanwhile, Sunny takes opportunities to sabotage Sameer whenever he can, and takes credit for what is actually Sameer’s talents in music and painting to impress Rani. Sameer tries very hard to control his temper when he finds out abut Sunny’s shenanigans. Rani and Sunny spend increasing amounts of time together and Rani thinks Sameer is a jerk.

 

Jenny K: Don’t get your dhoti in a twist… I’m not bashing your boy, I was reacting to his character!  And in any case, I actually liked his entrance;  in an over the top Khiladi/Evel Knievel kinda way.

 

Julie M: I’m sure eventually it will all get straightened out, Sameer’s true love and endearing qualities will win out over Sunny’s misdirection and charm, and Rani will realize who really loves her. But not before Sameer gets pushed to the breaking point and dukes it out mano-a-mano with Sunny. (You can’t have action heroes like Salman and Akshay in the same movie without pitting them against each other, right?)

 

Jenny K: Sunny…Wicked Sunny…(got to have the invisible chorus with every mention of him) is really beginning to grate on me, and it’s working in Salman’s favor.  I just found myself thinking that he looked very nice in that gold tie-dyed kurta, and how cute his voice was when he dropped grandma’s jar on the floor and almost cooed “All that money!”  Oh, dear…I cannot be warming to him after all these years…Wicked Sunny!

 

Julie M: I admit that his character is pure evil, but I just can’t get mad at Akshay, he’s so cute.  But the invisible chorus and the boing-boing noises are simply heinous.  There are also numerous silly and farcical subplots and comic characters, including a hapless astrologer with a twin brother who is a motorcycle thug (can’t wait to see how that comes into play:(), a landlord who is blind and mute on alternating days, and an insomniac security guard. Lots of dumb random exclamations and noises and effects meant to underscore the “craziness” of various situations.

Jenny K: Well the twin brother thing may just be there to give Rajpal Yadav something to do.  Maybe the director couldn’t decide whether he should play it sweet or sour, so just split his persona (and his name) in half and came up with Raj and Paul.  Just a theory.  I also like Kader Khan (Duggal the Landlord) popping up drunk from under the table.  Funny visual.

 

Julie M: I never thought of that.  Kind of an inside joke…Wait…here’s the Sameer vs Sunny fistfight but it’s not occurring in the way I thought it might. Sunny has drugged Sameer by telling him Rani brought him some juice, and Sameer is hallucinating that the motorcycle thug gang is a pack of Sunnys that he has to pummel. This boy DEFINITELY has a wild fantasy life. So he beats all of the thugs up, thinking they’re Sunny.

 

Jenny K: Wicked Sunny…I’ll stop now…

 

Julie M: Oh, and Salman wears the most ridiculous clothes in this. that is, when he is called upon to wear clothes–as a lifeguard he’s half-naked while on the job and at every opportunity they have him shirtless. In one scene they have him running down the street in pajama pants and bare chest. Now he has on a blue-green tie-dyed, well, blouse (it’s more than a shirt!) that will cause me nightmares.  Enjoy this musical number, which is one of Sameer’s fantasies early in the movie. Skip ahead to 2:50 where you see Salman and Akshay in perhaps the pinnacle of both of their sartorial careers. And the choreography will make you howl. After 30 seconds you can stop.

 

Jenny K:  I agree, the blue-green shirt isn’t his best look, but it’s not as bad as the primary color-blocked shirt that reads like a Mondrian, at the beginning, complete with headband, if I remember correctly.  And the miniscule grass skirts in the title song.  Though, if that’s a contest, even though Akshay is taller, somehow Salman looks better in them.  Not that those hula-gans should be encouraged.

 

Julie M:  I noticed the Mondrian shirt too, and hated it.  Salman should never wear round-necked shirts, they make his head look like a tiny little piece of fruit up there. 

 OK, it’s all over now. Somehow Rani and Sameer ended up friends despite all of Sunny’s meddling. Sunny and Sameer had a big blowup that resulted in a chase, ending up at a cricket field where Rani and her parents were attending a big match. Sameer (whom Sunny had earlier taunted that he was too much of a chicken to confess his feelings to Rani) saw an open microphone and used the opportunity to tell her how he felt and ask her to marry him. Rani’s dad said that he approved and Rani said yes.

 

Jenny K: I think Rani was just scared away by Sunny’s scary hand painted pinstripe suit.  I was.

  [Really.   Click on the pic to the left and take a good, long look at it.  If you DARE.]

Julie M: Yeah, that one goes down in the annals of bad clothing choices.  Along with the yellow outfit from Bhool Bhulaiyya.  BACK TO THE FILM.  At this point Sunny confesses that he is really Sameer’s childhood friend Arun, who was the only person who understood Sameer’s temper, encouraged him to find a way to express his feelings less violently, and could calm him down. Arun had emigrated to America as a child and as an adult, came back to find Sameer. He found out from Sameer’s grandmother that Sameer had gone to Goa to start a new life and try to control his temper. Arun decided to follow him to Goa, enter his life and help him realize that he could own his feelings without having to fight all the time. Sameer and Arun hug and the movie ends at Sameer and Rani’s beachside wedding with Sunny/Arun as the best man.

 

Jenny K: Actually Sameer and Sunny’s chemistry was better at the end (and in the outtakes over the end credits, too) than either of them with Rani.  But that seems to be true in many Indian films, I find..  However, I did like Sameer and Rani’s vibe in “Aaja Soniye.”

 

Julie M: Final opinion: the main story had possibilities but there was a lot of very stupid extras that ruined it. Salman left me cold (as he often does) but I love Akshay’s smile and the way he moves. So I spent most of the movie just enjoying him.

 

Jenny K: And my last observation is that rewatching Mujhse Shaadi Karogi shows me that if Salman is robbed of his usual expression of complacency due to his character’s well-meaning bumblings, he can be quite endearing in a film.  I enjoyed him more than I’d like to admit.

[Since the Salman Outta The Cinema experience engendered such a lengthy filmi-critical wrangle, we’ll break it into two pieces. Look for Salman’s Inna The Cinema to post later in the week, when Bodyguard comes out.]

August 31, 2011: Dancing, Down Under and the Dons

Julie M:  I have no library movies reserved for this weekend–I’ll have to trust the luck of the shelves, and I will probably only get one film because I have other things I need to do around the house–films will only be a distraction! For next weekend I reserved Dhoom, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (for a new-ish Salman Khan performance), and Sarkar (supposed to be an Indian take on The Godfather). Someday–after I watch Sarkar and Don–we will have to have a conversation about why Indian film is so obsessed with gangsters.

 

Jenny K:  Do you think that they are that much more obsessed with gangsters than we are? Maybe we don’t do that many specific mob films as in the seventies, early eighties, but if you add drug trafficking films, thugs-in-the-hood films, and the like, it’s always has been and always will be a mine-able genre for films.

Of the three movies you’ve reserved I’ve only seen Sarkar, which is okay; good performances, especially by KayKay Menon (HKA),  Amitabh and a nice debut by Tanisha, Kajol’s sister.  However, I still think Mani Ratnam’s Velunayakan is a better tribute to The Godfather

Mujhse Shaadi Karogi I never saw because Salman and Akshay Kumar fighting over Priyanka didn’t appeal. Plus one of the plot descriptions has Salman as being a hothead who gets into fights a lot and is in trouble with the authorities about it. Sounds a lot too much like art imitating life.  It’s on Youtube with subtitles, too if you wanted to check it out before you picked it up.

Mujhse Dosti Karogewith Hrithik, Rani and Kareena, is online, too, which is a more popular watch, but may be too sweet for your taste. Don’t know. The best part in it is a sangeet (the musical evening before the actual wedding day) song where the three do numbers in a medley from famous movies of the past. Here is the first of two parts.

MDK is a Yash Raj Youtube Rental. $2.99 Haven’t rented from them, but don’t trust anyone who can’t get the screen ratio right on their Youtube clips…everything they put up is squashed into a 4:3 and so they all look tall and skinny…bleh. I own it and could send it to you.

[JM note:  Stay tuned for a special FilmiGoris feature inspired by Mujhse Shaadi Karogi]

[the next day…]

Julie M:  So here’s the actual Hindi haul for this weekend. Salaam Namaste (Preity and Saif, irresistible once I saw their little faces on the DVD cover), Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (Ajay, ditto), and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (Akshay and Salman)—I got it early. 

 

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, but isn’t it about gangsters again? You gowan like this, they gonna tink youwa “made” woman?!?!   

 

Julie M: Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, I had to get even though it’s about gangsters, because it’s Ajay and, despite my lack of interest in gangsters, he makes a good one.

 

Jenny K: True, true…a delicious bad boy.  Back to your haul: I remember being annoyed by Salaam Namaste, even with Arshad in it. Partially because of Arshad, or rather, because every time they had a dance number with him in it, the dance editing was so choppy that they would never stay on him long enough for me to actually watch him “move”. Sigh. It’s seldom he gets a dance number these days and Saif can’t really touch him. SN is a lot more Western in tone because of it being set in Australia. I think there is a “daring” plot element in that Saif and Preity actually move in together. Egad!

(later that night…)

Julie M:  All right…Salaam Namaste. The “meet cute” part was predictably silly, but the rest of the film was OK. Not great, but OK, watchable. I can tell why they made the couple live in Australia: they did some social shenanigans that would definitely not fly in Mother India. Oh, and plus they could get lots of shots of hardbodies in bathing suits on the beach.

Preity is getting a bit too old for this kind of part but she was good at what they had her do. Saif was likewise good in the romantic lead part (you don’t like him in romantic leads but I do), although he had some unfortunate wardrobe choices: the first time you see him he is in Superman boxers that are loose in the crotch and tight in the thighs, not a good look combined with the overdeveloped “glamour” muscles up top, and that’s not the last underwear shot you get to see. And he wore far too many knit caps for maximum tastefulness, and all those shirts with words on them? Puh-leeze.

Arshad was pretty cute (loved the tiny glasses) but as the comic relief mugged too much. Great comic guest turn by Jaaved Jaffrey as the NRI-turned-Crocodile-Dundee landlord, and the cameo by LittleB near the end was slapstick-predictable given the situation, but funny. (He really should stick to comedy, he has a gift for it.)  Here’s the Jaaved Jaffrey scene. Sorry, poor quality video and no subtitles but you don’t need them to see how hilarious he is.

Jenny K:  Yeah, I loved Jaaved Jaffrey in that, too. I thought he kept me in stitches; the best thing in the movie (sorry, Arshad!). Watching it again, now, I kept thinking of the “Mister Da-Dubey” speech from ZNMD. He hit it dead-on, plus the pseudo-Aussie speak.

 

Julie M:  I thought of that ZMND scene too!!! But the Crocodile Dundee outfit is what sold it for me. 

 

Jenny K:  And hearing the horse whinnies, every time he tipped his hat or put his hands on his hips. And Jaaved saying, “Wife, what is it I always am a sayin’?” Wife saying,  “Sorry?” Delicious!

Jaaved’s just another case in point of the old Bollywood rule…if you have a good dancer,  bury him in comedy roles so deep that no one knows he can even put one foot in front of the other. He was the best thing in Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng, too.

And in this one, do you think he was Hrithik’s role model? Bombay Boys (1998)…I think he sings his own stuff!…Jaaved, Naseerji, Naveen Andrews, all in the same film…guess what I’m going to watch tonight?!

[JK’s Note: The video “Mum-bhai” is not in the film, sadly, but seems to just be promoting Bombay Boys.  Jaaved’s vocals run over the end credits, but, at least in the English version, we still can’t watch him dance…It’s a PLOT!!!]

Here’s the whole film in 11 pieces with subs.

Finally, very early Jaaved, pretty silly…but, gotta love the tin-foiled musical instruments that make up the sets in this one. This one’s for Beth.

 

Julie M:  I’ll have to watch Bombay Boys too. I love all the gangsters he does. I read that he specializes in funny gangster impressions. He is definitely talented…Hrithik wishes he was this funny!  Good looking, too.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, but not quite good looking enough to be a mainstream star when he was younger. Now that he’s built up his muscles so nicely, and the rest of his generation’s stars are middle-aging into a more even playing field, he’d have more of a chance, if he weren’t such a bankable comedian. Oh, well, can’t have everything.

 

Julie M:  I thought of one Western comparison to Jaaved. Maybe Sacha Baron Cohen? Humor very similar, same emphasis on creating character types.

Things that bugged me about SN: the unbelievably lush beach house that miraculously a chef and a DJ/med student could afford; Saif wearing an open shirt or cut-off sleeves in EVERY FRICKIN’ SCENE; overuse of the stupid plot device where people see things and jump to wrong conclusions (man, does that bug me in films no matter what nationality); and the scene where everyone stripped after the beach wedding, possibly excused because most of the wedding guests were those Fosters-addled, fun-loving Aussies, but really. And very marginal music for how much of it there was.

A thing that was cool: in the “My Dil Goes Hmmm” number, where Preity is dancing on the bridge, I actually know the architect who designed that bridge. I mean, I personally met him and worked with him on a project. It’s a very cool bridge. It’s a highly trafficked vehicle bridge, by the way, so they had to have closed it to shoot the scene and that must have caused some problems.


Jenny K: Well, that’s got to be cool…I’d love to visit Australia.

[the next day…]

 

Julie M:  Watching Once Upon a Time… now. Ajay looks good in the longer ’70s hair.  But he’s the only one who does.

[later that evening…]

Julie M:  OK–Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I think in order to accept this movie you have to also accept that there once was a time when there were honest and moral gangsters. (No wonder it starts like a fairy tale.)

In the 1970s (like 1975-78 or so) Sultan Mirza (Ajay) is not so much a mobster as a savvy businessman–over the opening credits he divides up Mumbai among various gangsters, earning their trust and creating mutually respected territories, while he takes control of the shoreline and the international smuggling trade. All is calm and everyone gets rich. He brings in illegal stuff but he has his limits: he doesn’t handle drugs or alcohol, and he is never seen using a gun or murdering people (although he does beat people up, or have it done). He also supports the poor and does favors for the common man without asking repayment, earning their trust and love, and even a grudging kind of respect from the police.

His selfish, angry and ambitious protege Shoaib has no such scruples, and first as an admirer and then as an arrogant usurper continually amps up the violence and bad activities until Sultan has to smack him down. This enrages Shoaib, who plots revenge and (spoiler alert) finally assassinates Sultan just as he (Sultan) seems to be “going straight” and entering politics. This movie portrays the moment when Shoaib takes over as the end of the “golden age” of organized crime, which is nostalgically looked back on by the police-officer-narrator, and we are to assume that the dons now are evil and violent because Shoaib is setting the tone.

I found this movie slow and just barely interesting, except for Ajay, who turned in a great performance as the don with the heart of gold. The look of the piece was fairly stylish but just not realistic, as if it was some kind of sanitized dream of the 1970s (with the obligatory disco number, Parda). There was one nice love song, seen here:

I have to wonder what’s going on where they feel they have to make the gangland world look so…normal.

 

Jenny K:  Sounds like the description, with a few changes, that I would have given of Company…Ajay as practical businessman gangster. Doesn’t he get tired of them?

 

Julie M:  Oh, the Ajay character in Company was much more brutal and interesting (not because of the brutality, though). In OUATIM he is portrayed as almost a gentleman, albeit one that makes money from an illegal business. He is haunted by his past as an abandoned child, he always wears white and surrounds himself with white furniture as if he is in mourning for a happy-go-lucky past he never had, and he has this pathetic sense of honor that allows him to overlook Shoaib’s bad nature, and ultimately causes his own downfall. So I guess he’s supposed to be a tragic hero.

He is in love with a famous actress and she with him, they are planning to get married, and there is one touching scene where she has a medical emergency and he breaks his own rule about roughing people up in order to get her to the hospital. (This is compared to Shoaib’s relationship with his girlfriend, which is erratic and really kind of damaged–don’t let the “Pee Loon” song fool you). In fact, the cops get along really well with Sultan, he kind of helps them out of their problems, and there is one honest cop who at first decides he has to get Sultan but eventually realizes that Sultan is not a bad guy, it is Shoaib who’s the loose cannon. In fact, the whole movie is narrated by that cop, who at the beginning is found to have attempted suicide because Mumbai is now so corrupt and he blames himself for not taking stronger action to stop Sultan and, ultimately, Shoaib.

So it seems Ajay specializes in honest cops or gentleman gangsters. Typecast much?  (I still love you, Ajay!!)

August 25, 2011: Martyrs and Heroes and Villains! Oh My!

Julie M:  Found Raavan free online at YouTube, English subtitles. Watched the first hour+ (parts 1-7; 5 is missing). Beautifully set and shot, rich colors, plot promising (outlaw bandit kidnaps police chief’s wife in revenge for death of bandit’s sister). LittleB is not convincingly psychotic, though he is good at glowering and being intense. (that’s pretty much all he does, and snarl) Aish is pretty, dances well (she plays a dance teacher), but as the kidnap victim is so far called upon only to alternately sob, look defiant and screech. A little chemistry between them but not much. (I expect her to succumb to Stockholm Syndrome any moment, maybe there will be better chemistry later) Action unfolds in fits and starts, relying on a lot of confusing flashbacks. Everyone is wet and muddy. Despite it being a Ratnam/Rahman film, it’s fairly boring. I think I’ll stop watching–I’m not caring much how it turns out. Pretty, but draggy.

Jenny K:   If you wanted to give it another chance, I’d suggest that you watch the Tamil version, called Villain, which was filmed simultaneously, but switched Veeras…Abhishek, who I agree was the weak link in the Hindi production (sorry to say) was replaced by South Indian star, Vikram, who played Aishwarya’s husband in the Hindi version.  I haven’t seen it yet, but all reports say that he was a much stronger presence in the role.

I thought Aishwarya’s performance in Raavan was rather better than her usual performances opposite her hubby….they just have no screen chemistry, at all, do they? I’ll be interested to see how it is opposite Vikram in Villain. She’s hardly ever onscreen with him in the Hindi version, as she’s kidnapped right from the start. Her character’s choices toward the end of this film, are close to unpalatable, as the script is following a piece of mythology where Sita has to prove her purity to her husband…”noble long-suffering wife” may be something to strive for, as long as it doesn’t cross into dishrag status. I also really remember liking Govinda’s Hanuman-styled performance with all that tree climbing, etc. Again, he was excellent.  He’s certainly surprising me with his film choices as he gets older!

[later that day…]

Julie M:  Watched Ishqiya from your box. Good drama/thriller. I am continually impressed with Vidya Balan. Liked the Arshad/Naseerji “frenemy” vibe. I don’t yet know which was my favorite scene…probably the one where they learn that Verma is alive and realize how screwed they really are. Even though it was gangster-related, it had a lot of heart and interest.

I liked this song and the NS character dreaming of love with Vidya’s character:

This one was cute too, even though it was over the opening credits.  Basically they are on the lam and trying to find a place to hide, and nobody will help them (probably because they wore out their welcome long ago), and decide to go to Verma’s house.

Jenny K:  It was an interesting film, of course, with Naseerji and Arshad together in the same film.  Both gave very strong performances. And I agree, Vidya gets better and better with each film. Parineeta with Saif was her first film, and she was lovely from the get-go. She seems to have a knack for getting attached to prestige projects. Smart girl.

One of her next films is called The Dirty Picture, about a South Indian movie star and her affair with an older director (played by Nasseerji, again…this time without Arshad for competition…though Emraan Hashmi, this generation’s kissing bandit is listed as a co-star….booo!). It should be coming out around Christmas, and looks like it might be interesting.

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Podokkhep (Footsteps, Bengali film) this afternoon, another library choice.  A bit slow, but interesting. The DVD box said the movie was about how the very young and the very old have similar problems, but I didn’t really see that in this movie. I saw it as a film about the generation gap between 20-somethings and their parents, and expectations. The Nandita Das character was very frustrated that she couldn’t get away from her dad because of his declining health, and seemed upset that she even wanted to, because of honoring the elders. I couldn’t really figure out the neighbors’ relationship (I got that they moved back to India because he lost his job in the US; ironic). And was Maashi the housekeeper? At first I thought she was the mother, but then I understood that the mother had passed away from a car accident due to dad’s growing confusion. Overall pretty good, not among the best I’ve seen though.

Jenny K:  I saw Podokkhep at a film festival, don’t remember which one, and liked it as a quiet relationship piece, exploring the relationships between different age groups. The old man playing Nandita’s father, Soumitra Chatterjee,  has a wonderful onscreen relationship with his next door neighbor’s little girl. It seemed to me as if he was taking the time to know this little one as he had never had the chance to know his daughter (Nandita) when she was growing up, due to work, etc. Sad, occasionally, and touching, often. Also, short.

 [the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Gangaajal from my weekly library haul and really liked it. There were a few flaws–for example, Ajay’s completely inept fistfighting and the random item number–but overall a strong and well-done “statement” movie, which as you know I am drawn to.

Jenny K:  I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I hated this movie, particularly because of the things the scriptwriters had Ajay do toward the end of the film. It had nothing to do with Ajay’s acting, which was fine…and I chose the film because I like him, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Julie M:  I can see where you wouldn’t like the ending, you who generally like your favorite actors to stay true to the characters that made them stars, but I think it shows the Amit character as only human. And the subtitles were singularly unhelpful in the voice-over epilogue where the fate of the case is disclosed. I wish I knew more Hindi so I could figure it out: “Amit Kumar stuck to his story” (or the same thing in different words) but I’m not sure exactly what his story was. Did he continue the values he disclosed in his grand speech and admit to killing the two? In which case what happened to him? Or did he let the villagers cover for him? Or is it supposed to be ambiguous?

The other thing I didn’t understand is why he was transferred to Tejpur in the first place by the corrupt state (?) police chief. Did he expect that the gangsters would slice him to bits and therefore he would be rid of the do-gooder? Or did he expect him to succumb to the atmosphere and become corrupt as well?

But overall I thought it was fantastic. Great (and probably very accurate and daring in its accuracy) portrayal of the situation “on the ground” vis a vis police corruption and gangland terrorism in India, sparing no violence (ew) and even giving a picture of what the “good guys” would do if they overcame their fear and let their hatred drive them, including the police and the main character himself. Ajay acted well and looked darn fine (no cop ever has had so well-fitting a uniform!). Put me down as a fan of this film.

Jenny K: When I saw it the first time I was really annoyed by our supposedly squeaky clean cop letting himself get corrupted by the guys he was trying to catch. Throwing battery acid on them…nice!  He had been so clean, that he couldn’t be controlled by the usual bribes, etc. that his superiors stuck him in the sticks to get him out of the way, at least that’s how I remember it…or is it just the plot of Hot Fuzz getting in there…hmmm.

And, BTW, it’s not that I “like my favorite actors to stay true to the characters that made them stars,” not at all. I appreciate variety in performances, especially when they’re good at it.  Ajay in particular.  I love his villains even more than his heroes, and especially adore it when he can do both at the same time like in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke.  He’s practically perfected the smouldering, conflicted conman/hero. 

I just feel that unless they are telling a historical tale (which ends the way it ended in life) filmmakers have a responsibility to weigh the lessons that they are putting out there for public consumption.  Whether or not they like it, their heroes and heroines are role models, and they should consider, very carefully, what effect they have.

Julie M:  I don’t think he actually threw battery acid himself. He took the battery AWAY from townspeople who were going to throw the acid, and cheering each other on, and threw it into the crowd on the ground instead, to shock people into listening to him. Then he made the big speech. And at the end, he was chasing the bad guys and they kind of impaled themselves in the face, skewering their eyes anyway. He just beat bad guys up in the 2nd half of the movie, and said nothing when the townspeople (and his officers) attacked the bad guys, kind of an “end justifies the means” thing. Until he decided that that wouldn’t fly anymore.

Jenny K:  So I watched the last ten minutes again (all I could handle) and I couldn’t believe how much gratuitous violence was in such a small space! [spoilers] I watched from the girl committing harakiri (now an international favorite) through his beating them up in the water scene with the crowd watching, and on into his noble-sounding speech about not taking justice into your own hands…just to see that the director was going to give his audience what they wanted…an excuse to kill the villains (“They threatened an innocent woman, I had to beat them to death!”) without officially getting his hands dirty…all with a completely white cardigan.  Well, he is the hero.  Right.  Judge for yourselves.

I guess you’ll have to do for the Gangajaal fan club at Filmigoris. Unless Ajay, himself, cared to try to convince me. I’d be open to that.

[couple of days later]

Julie M:  Saw 7 Khoon Maaf, last movie from my weekend batch, with B this evening. It was OK, actually good in some spots but not all. First time I’ve seen Priyanka actually try some real acting, and she sort-of succeeded in the scenes where she was going quietly mad. Story was moderately interesting, but got repetitive as you waited for how each husband was going to be bumped off. And I liked the misdirection at the beginning, and the surprise 7th husband (dancing with Jesus?! chee!!).

But it was clear to me from the start that she was very involved with all of the deaths, pulling them off with the assistance of her loyal employees, and then after she tried to kill herself not even caring abut trying to hide it, so the “explanation” was not news to me.  And there was not enough Konkona Sen Sharma, who is the much better actress and one who could have pulled the role off with much more skill and success. But I guess they needed someone young and lovely in the fair-skin big-eyes way, hence the choice of Priyanka.  Overall…2.5-3 stars (of five), mostly due to the beauty of the filming.  Certainly not the songs.

Jenny K:  That one was the most enjoyable of your library haul,  in my view. Priyanka did a nice job doing a more nuanced character than normal and kept you guessing as to the amount of her involvement in the questionable proceedings. I watched it for Nasserji, but his part was late and rather small. Priyanka’s young friend in the film is NS’s younger son, and he does a nice job, even if he doesn’t have dad’s charm, at least not yet. It’s unusual having a woman’s role being the central focus of an Indian mainstream film. The men are just incidental.

Julie M:  I was confused about the timeline: if the kid was about 10 or 12 when the story starts, and is about 35 when the story ends, that means about 25 years passed. If Susanna was, say, 18 when the story started (because the narrative said that she wasn’t yet an adult when her dad died, and the first marriage seemed to be very shortly after that), then she was about 43 when she married Naseeruddin Shah. But how can that be? She wasn’t married to any of her husbands all that long–a few years at most and one of them seemed to be only days, and there was no indication of how much time had passed between husbands–even at an average of 3 years per husband that means only 18 years had passed. She looked WAY older than that, or was made to look way older. And what was that about her skin getting darker as she got older? And at the end, when she was supposed to be “old”, she actually looked younger but with the silver wig.

Jenny K:  You just have to give up on logical time lines in this kind of film. They seem to use what I call (BSOC) Basic Soap Opera Chronology where either kids grow up very quickly, or their lovely moms (and dads) refuse to age. So there can be twice or thrice as many optimal romantic couples. In soaps, even inter-generational couples…but that probably won’t happen in Indian films, until, say next month, at the earliest. As soon as I say “never,” that’s  just when they’ll do it.  Sigh.

Oddly, I wasn’t sure she was telling the servants to knock off her husbands, at least not the early ones…I thought that they just did it for her, seeing she was so unhappy. After a few, however, maybe she did see it as a handy way out,  but I do think the film makers left it open enough to make either interpretation viable. IMO The skin darkening thing was an optical illusion brought on by the light wig and, as I recall, her light colored shirt.  And you’re right; she was the most youthful senior citizen I’d ever seen. At one point I remember wondering if she was wearing a wig, as a character, trying to lure older rich men into her toils…then I found out it was God. Boy, she sets her sights high, doesn’t she?

The “Darling” song was very catchy, and I was singing it (or humming it, to be precise) for days afterwards. It’s adapted from a famous Russian tune, “Kalinka”.  A friend, who grew up in Russia, told me that Bollywood is a big favorite there. I’m assuming that this number was directly for the fans there. I wonder how many other Moscow-aimed item numbers there are?

The history of the Kalinka number is below, in the Youtube description, if that sort of thing interests you. 

August 24, 2011 Earth, Stars, and “Like Stars on Earth”

Julie M: Watched Earth tonight. Wow. Beautifully done and yet very hard to watch. Nandita Das was fabulous, as was Aamir. Rahul Khanna…so hot and sweet, he could be a Krispy Kreme donut. Music was excellent.

I guess because it was an “art” film they could get away with a lot, but a sex scene in a Hindi movie?!  I actually found it very soft and romantic, and part of why I found Rahul so sexy, but it was shocking to see it at all. Even B mentioned it. (yes, he watched most of the film with me)

 

Jenny K:  I thought that the sex scene was essential to the story and handled very beautifully. But yes, it was rather shocking to Indian audiences. And actually, though it’s an Indian story, Deepa Mehta is seen more as a Canadian director.  I believe she had a hard time getting the local permits to clear the script and to shoot because of this scene and the fact that it showed India in a “less that favorable light.” Maybe not as much resistance as she got for Fire and later Water, but still, tough. I’m not even sure that it released in India, commercially, though I did see a note that India’s censors demanded six cuts to release it, including cutting the sex scene completely.

An indication of how artsy this film was…I had bought a copy of some film at one of my local Indian stores, and it was defective, so I took it back. They didn’t really want to give me a refund, so were trying to get me to pick something else in exchange. Well, by that time I had already found out that Nehaflix (sniff…sniff…I’m still in mourning) was the cheaper and more reliable way to go, so I was hesitating.

Then I saw Earth up on a shelf over the salesperson’s head. I said, “How about that one…Aamir Khan” She seemed flustered, almost determined to have me change my mind…”You know, it’s not nice, it’s not happy. I’m not sure you’ll like it.” I had to convince her that I knew it wasn’t a comedy and that I had, in fact, seen it before. I thought it was funny then, but, now that I think about it, maybe I branded myself a Jaded Westerner to her by admitting that I’d seen that “blue” film in the theaters! Oh dear…

 

Julie M:   Several things I didn’t get. Was it the Aamir character who [spoilerskilled Hassan? If so, what a sh*t, using the cover of the Partition stuff to act out his own jealousy.  [End of spoilers]

 

Jenny K:  I don’t remember exactly who killed Rahul’s character. I’d check but someone has my copy.  I’m left with the impression that he didn’t do it, himself, but he set it up so that he would be beaten, probably killed so that Nandita would have no choice but to turn to him, so she could become Muslim by marriage (or whatever) and he would be her only hope for protection. Definitely, he was not the same nice guy by the end of the film that he seemed at the beginning, before his hopes had been dashed, and his sisters killed[End of spoilers] . Fate conspiring to warp him for life.

 

Julie M:  And the Madame’s husband sure didn’t look Parsi–was he a convert?

 

Jenny K:  What do you mean by looking Parsi, exactly? I had always heard that the Parsi community was the most integrated into the western styles of dress and mannerisms. They were good businessmen, always well educated in English and considered more religiously neutral. They weren’t hamstrung from dealing with the British by as many dietary laws, and not being able to eat with foreigners, etc, as the Muslims and the Hindus were. Perhaps, I’m misinformed, but that’s what I thought.

 

Julie M:  I was thinking that the husband looked very Hindu, compared to Parsis who tend to look very Caucasian, and the wife who looked traditionally Parsi. Parsis were known for rarely intermarrying and could be recognized at a glance, which is why they could stay so neutral and people could respect them.

 

Jenny K:  That LennyBaby (wonderfully played by Maia Sethna) was a really odd kid. She’s almost as much the villain of the piece, if only passively so, as Aamir is. She’s a child though, and he’s an adult and should know better, but LB was supposed to love Nandita’s character and so her betrayal of the lovers [End of spoilers] was even more shocking to me, the first time I saw it.

 

Julie M: You see her as the villain? I see her as a confused kid, trying to control what she could in a tumultuous period of life and history. She could be mean in small ways, but she was also very scared. And I think she only accidentally revealed where Shanti was hiding: She was taken in by her favorite older friend and as far as she knew, she thought he was really going to save her. [End of spoilers]

 

Jenny K:  Now, I did say “almost as much a villain”…and I haven’t seen it for several years…not the kind of film I’d watch as a casual fun after dinner film. I just remember feeling that she acted a bit maliciously, as if she was punishing Shanti for something…but it could be just the distance from it that puts that in my head. I’ll have to re-watch it later.

 

Julie M: I am still very mad at Aamir’s character but as an actor, I think he needed to do this part. It was early enough in his career that he needed to show he could do other things than the dancing hero. And I think his performance in this set him up for great success in Lagaan.   I tried to find a decent clip but nothing subtitled in English (found some subtitled in Spanish, though, which amazingly I understood), and the rest were clips of the scandalous sex scene. Found a good compilation of Aamir stills from the movie set to one of the songs, but it is just too fangirly to post.  I guess I’ll have to post the kite scene, no subtitles but with plenty of Aamir:  “Ruth Aa Gayi Re”

I feel this scene showed Ice Candy Man’s propensity to cruelty when he cut the other guy’s kite and it wasn’t even a kite competition, just fun.  Kind of foreshadows the end of the film. [End of spoilers]

 [the next day…]

Julie M:  Saw Chalte Chalte tonight. I’m sorry to say this, because you sent it to me thinking I would like it, but all in all I didn’t like it much. The first half was fairly cute, and the scenes in Greece were fun, but I got bored with all the bickering and when it turned to real fighting it was just not fun. Raj/SRK wasn’t cute enough to make him worth all the drama. So, meh. Best thing about it was this number:

 I thought it was funny that the drunk guy on the street kept singing “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.” Not that I’ve watched it yet, but I recognized it as another SRK movie.

 

Jenny K:  You certainly don’t have to apologize. Chalte Chalte isn’t my favorite movie, by a long stretch. That’s Dil Se…., and you liked it…or Kannathil Muthamittal, and you liked that. And you like Aamir and Ajay. All and all, we’re doing pretty well in the sympatico department.  I like “Gumshuda”, too… my friend Kathy says that if she gets in a traffic jam in Bombay and people don’t dance on the taxi cabs, she’ll be terribly disappointed.

Aamir was the first Indian actor that I obsessively viewed and collected. Still one of my favorites. SRK, I like more as a lovely dessert vs. Aamir’s filling main course. That’s probably why I don’t usually like Aamir’s comedies, at all…Andaz Apna Apna (though everyone says that it’s the funniest movie ever, especially with all the inside film jokes) I just don’t get it. Also Ishq, one he did with Ajay is singularly painful to watch. And don’t get me started on Mela, the film he did with his brother Faisal! Oh, My, Gosh, how boring, except in a watching a traffic accident kind of way.

And this one, bad quality video, but it really says it all for Ishq

My theory as to why his comedies don’t work for me, has to do with the Angry Young Man Factor. Aamir has a real fire of anger that comes out of him at the least provocation. It’s either real, or it’s just something in his background that he taps very easily. He’s just an intense kinda guy, nothing easy about him, at all. He’s got a good sense of humor, but it tends to be at it’s funniest in a negative kind of way, making fun of others, etc. When he’s doing goofy comedy, Aamir just seems forced and a bit fake. The only reason 3 Idiots worked as well as it did was that the humor was spread out through three characters, and his had serious issues that superceded the farce elements…and then Aamir/Rancho left the scene, entirely for a while. That helped.

So, for me he’ll be always be better at dramas and slightly edgy dangerous romances, like Fanaa. Always rings more true. And, though I love all the intensity, afterwards,  I do appreciate a light, refreshing dose of Shah Rukh to release the tension. As SRK puts it, himself: “Let’s just say Aamir’s got the range and I’ve got the height…”

 [a few days later…]

Julie M:  Got Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) in my library batch, Aamir as an art teacher (!!) mentoring a dyslexic boy (scenes from this were in the background on TV in Dostana). I’m a little scared because it’s co-distributed by Disney, but Aamir as producer/director/star reassures me.

 

Jenny K:  It is okay, but the first half dealing with the misdiagnosis of dyslexia goes on FOREVER. Dyslexia is such a known quantity here in the US, and so “tv movie of the week” that I found myself very impatient with the parents not understanding. “Move on, please, Move ON!!!” Then, as if he wasn’t sure of his directorial footsteps, Aamir injects his own presence in the second half as a “teacher with a mission”, frustrated with the system to the point of anger and borderline parental abuse. Aamir is doing a good thing getting the message out, but the style in which he did it detracted for me.

 

Julie M:  [after watching TZP] HATED the first half, just hated it–in fact, everything prior to Aamir showing up was awful except for the kid actor, [Darsheel Safary] who was fabulous. And everything after he shows up is predictable. In fact, I just settled in during the 2nd half (watched most of the first half at double speed) and watched Aamir move and grin, which always makes me happy.

As the mother of a “different” kid myself, it just seems obvious to me that if a child displays out-of-the-box thinking it naturally goes with certain difficulties that have to be thought about and accommodated. But you were right–India must not be as aware of this as we are–and it was very difficult to watch his parents and all adults around him blowing him off, and being outright mean to him. So sad.

But then Mr. Pied Piper Manic Pixie Dream Boy shows up and, like Dead Poet’s Society except with art and much younger kids, makes everyone Know Better. My issues:  a) there’s no teacher as 100% wonderful as he is, especially to the point of TRAVELING TO THE KID’S HOUSE to talk to the parents; b) from what I saw he would have had to have YEARS of special ed training to know to use the teaching techniques he did to get the kid to learn (are we supposed to believe it was all just instinctive because he was a dyslexic kid himself?); and c) there was way too much touching of the kids than would have been acceptable in this country. But I liked his faux-hawk, and of course I have seen how art can turn people around.

Overall, I found it just slightly better than OK and at long stretches EXTREMELY BORING. If it wasn’t Aamir I would have given up. So many people seem to love this movie, but I think it’s just a matter of people getting overly ooky about kids.

Here’s my favorite song (can’t find with English subtitles; basically it’s all variations on “do what you like to do and you’ll find what you’re best at, don’t let anyone hold you back”).  To me it has the same happy, hopeful vibe as “Give Me Some Sunshine” in 3 Idiots.

 

Jenny K:  You must be very far gone on Aamir if you liked the faux-hawk…makes his ears soooo prominent. Not his best look, to my mind. Oh, well, I didn’t like Taaare Zameen Par very much when I saw it, particularly because of the really goofy number at the beginning of the second half. Way too manic for me.  Sorrry Aamir.

 

Julie M:  I thought the faux-hawk made him look elfin. Being as he’s so short, elfin is a compliment, although with that crazy-manic number he took elfin a step (leap) too far. And he is definitely good with kids, so that’s a plus too.

 

Jenny K:  Don’t be too hard on Aamir, this was his first directing project, at least on a large scale, and he wanted to tackle a major issue…I just thought that his character was much more angry at the kid’s parents than was merited, or politic. No teacher would be telling a set of parents off that way without losing his job. Also, a good teacher wouldn’t do it, because it doesn’t help the kid if the parents go ballistic and take him out of the teacher’s hands. My verdict was, noble intent, not quite there.

August 17, 2011: Professor Shammi Kapoor Teaches Us

Julie M: Professor is a fun introduction to why Shammi Kapoor deserves his reputation. He is completely adorable as Pritam/Professor Khanna in this masala film, and he shows off the complete hero range: romance, charming light comedy, a fight scene, love of his mother, looking dashing in fashionable (for 1962) clothes and hair, safeguarding a young girl’s honor, dramatic arguing which of course he wins, and to top it off he admirably pulls off a masquerade as an old man plus being his young stud self.

Shammi Kapoor finds a Himalayan Heaven in Professor (1962).

Jenny K:  I agree, Julie.  Shammi was pretty adorable in this film.  I only had seen Kashmir Ki Kali in this decade of his work, and it definitely was a different side of him.  When he came on the screen, the scenes with his mother were so low-key and sensitive that the rambunctious Shammi that I’d seen before was almost unidentifiable.  He was so endearing trying to feed his mother the last of the family rice.  Shammi’s chemistry with Pratima Devi was, I think, stronger than with any of the other ladies in the movie.  Goes to show, an Indian boy always loves his ma the most.

 

Julie M:  I noticed that too—his ma was definitely the center of his life.  (and he was hers)  Is there an Indian film that doesn’t have this mom-son thing going on?

 

Jenny K:  Maybe to a lesser degree, but I can’t think of one film where the son is at odds or even dislikes his mother, aside from complaining about her rushing him to the altar.  The feminist side of me could have done without the old, stale trope of  the school’s Principal, Sita Devi, (played by Lalita Pawar with an alarming severity that suggested she was trying to play a literal devi) fall head over heels in love with the first man who dared to stand up to her.  Oh, well,  perhaps it wasn’t so old a gimmick back in the 60’s…and it added extra complications to the comedy.

 

Julie M:  I really dug her fashion sense, though, when she was severe.  Reminded me of Indira Gandhi on the news when I was a kid.  And I thought her wistful look at herself in the old portrait above the fireplace was heartwrenching:  kind of like she regretted the person she had become.  Very touching.  The hotel room farce scenes were a bit predictable but Shammi’s so innocent-looking that the old tropes work. I kept thinking of him as a combination Jerry Lewis and Charlie Sheen (the old semi-innocent CS, like in Hot Shots, not the creepy one from earlier this year, ugh), but better than both. Sigh.

 

Jenny K: I can’t believe you said that!…I was thinking the same thing, Charlie Sheen-wise, and wondering if it would be too awful to draw the comparison.  It’s actually just a physical resemblance, nothing else…the squarer build in the loose 50’s style shirts, the dark coloring with the sexy, easily ruffled hairstyle (ooh, did Shammi look fine after that little dip in the lake toward the end!), and the cheekbones to die for.  I can’t, and never want, to imagine CS in one of Shammi’s dance numbers. Charlie with his two “goddesses”….”Aaja, A-a-a-aaja, Aaja, A-a-a-aaja!”  It’s definitely not a “Winning!” image.  Shudder.

 

Julie M: For the most part I didn’t notice that it was an old-old film (yes, it’s as old as I am and I am almost as old as dirt) except for the scene where Reeta and Ramesh are pitching woo at the record party, which seemed very jarring and completely dated the film. (In fact the entire Reeta-Ramesh subplot could have lifted right out, as far as I was concerned).

 

Jenny K: One of my few negative thoughts was that I thought the hotel scenes in Mumbai (that you mentioned, too), where almost all of our stars ended up for a very extended game of “Where’s Pritam?” could have been lifted out and not really be missed.  It was as if he wanted to be caught with all that “where’s my beard, where’s my hat?” business.  And as he didn’t end up telling either Aunty or Neena the truth, then, what was the point except for filler, which  a 2 ¾ hour film really doesn’t need, IMO. 

 

Julie M:  I disagree—I thought it was a much-needed bit of silly humor that didn’t depend on romance.  If this is what Shammi was known for at the time, I think the audiences would have expected both the farce aspect and the “Will he be unmasked now?  How about now?” anticipation. I admit to being charmed by it, and I Hate Farce almost as much as I Hate Westerns.

 

Jenny K:  I may have to nickname you Ms. Nafrat (check the glossary post). I loved, however, the “I was young once” number with the girls in the school garden, “Yeh Umar Hai Kya,” though they were pretty mean to the “old guy.”  I wasn’t sure what drew Pritam to Neena, except the Young Male Hormone Factor, of course.  I also loved that the subtitles translated “pagal” as “freaky”…adds an extra odd charm to the number.

 

Julie M: That was pretty cute. And I hope you noticed the random squaw dance in the middle, which we mentioned in our latest horror-costume discussion (the Intergalactic Squaws in “Om Shanti Om” number from Subhash Ghai’s Karz). Wonder if the OSO sequence, set in the 1970s, was a deliberate callback to this 1962 scene?

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I thought it was odd, too, to have a tribal number in a part of the country way the heck away from Nagaland, which is the only native dress that I can think of in India that looks vaguely like that.  Now, I know there are plenty of ethnic looks in the Darjeeling area, but most of the ones I’m aware of are more of the Tibetan/Nepali type.

 

Julie M:  We saw lots of Nepali ethnic dress and faces in the opening number. I liked that.  And now I have to put in a clip of my favorite number from the film, “Main Chali Main Chali.” The setup is that Neena (played by Kalpana) has been playing naughty pranks on Pritam in his guise as her Sanskrit professor, and Pritam has put into play an elaborate plan to both get revenge and win her heart with a little playful blackmail. Neena has decided to use her wiles to steal the blackmail instrument so he has nothing on her. This flirty cha-cha at the top of the world (yikes! She terrified me when she was hopping along those train tracks) is the height of charm as both characters try to work their schemes on each other.

 

Jenny K: I loved Main Chali Main, too.  Though I think I woulda danced a rhumba to it, partial as I am to that style J!  I think it’s really cool the way Shanker – Jaikishan, the Music Directors, could go almost seamlessly back and forth between current western latin-jazzy styles and the more traditional Bollywood string-fests of the ballads without a flicker of hesitation.

I’m always partial to the almost obligatory “tanhayee” (loneliness) number in every good masala film. “Aawaz Dekhe Hamein” does it justice with our heroine, Neena wandering sadly (and picturesquely) through the Darjeeling hills to its hauntingly poignant notes. She’s looking for her Pritam, who finally comes thither and joins her in a duet.

While we’ll all miss Shammi Kapoor’s splendid excesses on screen, and the occasional sweet grace notes, as in this film, thank heaven that they are all preserved on DVD and a surprising number online, too.   Thank you, Rajshri for putting them up!   Enjoy!

August 16, 2011:Crying, Courage & Climbing the Khan Tower

Julie M:  This weekend’s movie schedule (starting Saturday) is:

Baabul
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Dil To Pagal Hai

 

Jenny K:  I think you’ll find Baabul touching but slight, Rani cute, John and Salman acceptably restrained and Amitabh and Hema Malini, the mainstays as usual. I think that you, with your Ajay fixation, will like Bhagat Singh fairly well, but it may play a bit long. Dil To Pagal Hai is silly, and you’ll probably hate it, but promise me you’ll watch the song in the rain with Shah Rukh, Madhuri Dixit and the kids [Koi Ladki Hai]…fabulous. One of my favorites…

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Inquilab Zindabad! The Legend of Bhagat Singh was fantastic and seemed to be quite historically accurate. Music was amazing–one of Rahman’s best. Ajay was perfect (could he be anything else?). Can’t see why it didn’t do better with the public; maybe it was too serious a topic? Anyway, I didn’t think it was too long. Now I want to see Rang De Basanti again, and the Bobby Deol version. What a charismatic character. 

This moving scene is where Bhagat Singh and his group are in jail and are on a hunger strike to force better prisoner conditions. Instead of giving them water their jailers try to give them milk to get them to take nourishment. Leads to a beautiful patriotic song and a rare excellent lip-sync performance by Ajay.

Jenny K:  I liked your clip from The Legend of Bhagat Singh, but I think I like the way they used the poem a bit better in Rang de Basanti, just with voice with percussion behind. Aamir Khan’s voice, particularly (not to put down Atul Kulkarni, by any means), was fabulous in his rendition of it. Wikipedia has a nice short article on the poem with the translation. Very interesting.

The best thing about the video, except how fine Ajay looked (“starving” suits him, I guess, but isn’t his hair is exceptionally well groomed for a no-mirror-or-comb environment?) was that it reminded me Sushant Singh was in it playing Sukhdev.  I adore Sushant, he always gives a note of clarity and truthfulness to a role.  He was really busy around that time, 2003-ish, especially in films with Sushmita Sen. Whether or not the film was good, Sushant always is: Samay, Paisa Vasool, Lakshya, Sehar…to name a few. Cute and talented. Sigh. The guy playing Chandrashekar Azad (Akhilendra Mishra) is good, too (loved him in Lagaan as the blacksmith) but, gosh, gosh, and I repeat, gosh…who among these guys was even close to 24 years old?!?!?!

[the next day]

Julie M:  Dil To Pagal Hai was definitely silly and I did hate most of it. Two good things: I loved the Ajay character, thought he was cute and sweet, and any scene that he was in was excellent. (okay, you can move me over to the Akshay Kumar-fan column if only for his smile in this movie) The other was the rain dance scene (“Koi Ladki Hai”) with the kids–awesome, thanks for pointing it out. For the rest…meh to eccchhh. I am surprised that SRK ended up such a big star and got offered juicy parts after this kind of predictable nonsense.

(and is it just me, or do Karisma Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar look a lot alike? Maybe not now, but in the films of, say, the mid-to-late 1990s; this one vs Rangeela, for example.)

Had to put this song in as a clip. Best one I could find with English subtitles. Akshay’s face at 2:44 is just the best.

“Koi Ladki Hai” is here: (sorry, no subtitles–lyrics are basically “I’m in love with a girl who makes it rain”)

[Note: If you want HD you have to manually set it to 720 or up, and you can also activate the subtitles by hitting CC. Both are on the toolbar, but only on the Youtube site, proper.]

 

Jenny K:  Well, all I’m going to say about Dil To Pagal Hai, is that I didn’t send it to you in the A to K box for a reason. Also, I will allow that Akshay Kumar was good in it, but please don’t tell me you’re going over to the Khiladi Side…(a series of kinda-sorta-James-Bondish films he’s done. You know…girls, danger, stunts, more girls, etc). I don’t know if I can take it. I’m very glad you like Koi Ladki Hai…it’s one of my top 20 favorite videos, I think.

But before you offend the whole SRK fanbase, (which is legion, BTW) keep it in mind that you are still approaching Dil To Pagal Hai with an American mindset. I double checked my recollection, and according to boxofficeindia.com, DTPH was the second biggest grosser in India in 1997. Very popular, indeed. Behind only Border, which you have, and I quite like, and just ahead of Pardes, another SRK starrer, and one you’d also probably hate. To give you an idea, since his first film in 1992, he’s put out 69 films and had 18 of them hit in the top five for their year. Different cinematic strokes for different folks…even though we (and many others) love what he does in movies like Dil Se…a lot of people like the Rukhster to be silly and charming. It can make for a phenomenal career.

 

Julie M:  No Khiladi for me, thanks. I just thought Akshay was cute and funny in DTPH, and seemed to me to be the best thing in it. Plus I liked him in Tashan and Bhool Bulaiyya. If you tell me to avoid the Khiladi movies I will. (I haven’t yielded to temptation to try Golmaal 2 and 3, even though they are on the shelves at the library all the time)

And don’t get me wrong…SRK was good at what he was called upon to do in DTPH, but given his popularity in this (and other similar films around the same time where he seems to play the same type of role) it seems, well, unconventional that he was allowed to move beyond it to do some real acting work. Which he does well. What would you say was his “breakthrough” film, the one that got him to be taken seriously and allowed by the box office to do things like, say, Swades and MNIK and Don? Was it Dil Se… or something later?

 

Jenny K:  What you’re not getting here is that SRK wasn’t “allowed” to do the serious films…he’s had to fight to do them. The audiences don’t seem to want to see him do serious at all.  But because he draws so well at the non-serious movies, and is so beloved, that the producers will sometimes “humor” him and let him do a film (or he produces it himself) which they consider a box office risk. Dil Se… and Swades were in no way box office superhits, and My Name is Khan was only a moderate one in the homeland (only squeaking in to number five for 2010). Salman’s hit Dabaang was the winner last year, in terms of grosses.

So, if the Indian audience had their way, Shah Rukh would solely do romantic heroes until the age of 75. He’s pretty stubborn, though, and will insist on doing something else every so often to “keep his hand in,” as it were.

 

Julie M:  I guess I can’t blame audiences for pigeonholing actors, and I also understand that actors need to fight for better parts. Money makes the world go ’round, and the tried-and-true will always sell (n.b. sequels). I suppose that’s why so many actors form their own production companies (like SRK and Red Chillies)–so they can do what they want to do and help other actors do the same.  I cannot understand why Dabangg was so popular (based solely on the trailer). Or rather, I can understand, since it was clearly designed to appeal to 14-to-22-year-old boys. But I don’t have to like it.

 

Jenny K:  Aamir Khan seems to be the only one to be able to fight the pigeonholing trend, as far as I’ve seen, and still be number one at the box office.  He’s up there at the top spot these days just as often as SRK and Salman are…Let the Khan Wars khantinue…

 [later]

Julie M:  Oh. My. God. Was Baabul EXCRUCIATINGLY SLOW or what? The plotlines were somewhat intriguing–albeit with a WQ [Weepiness Quotient] off the charts that left me cold, it was so much–but did they have to drag it out so long? It’s almost as if they were trying for the K3G factor.

[Note: Spoilerish bits in the clip, especially at the end.]

Rani was the best thing about it. I truly coveted her character’s wardrobe, and the jewelry…well, the family in the story owned a jewelry manufacturing company, so it made sense to have it so elaborate. Hema was believable and I didn’t feel that she was as over-the-top as BigB was. John Abraham looked good in the longer hair and less obviously buffed body–nice understated performance, whereas I could have used a bit more charm from Salman to make it believable that Rani would fall for him. BigB’s rug was obvious–even B noticed and asked whether it was real hair or not. Overall…2 stars.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…I thought Salman was much more charming in Baabul than he usually is. It almost worked on me in this film. I particularly liked his vibe with BigB. Drag racing your elders…perhaps unwise, but fun.  I also liked Hema and Amitabh’s chemistry, as I always do, they’ve worked together for so long, it just plays really well. They were the best thing in Veer-Zaara for me, too.

(Though I’m not recommending much more than that number and Main Yahaan Hoon in V-Z. It’s not one of my favorites; too already-seen-that plus very bad aging makeup and wigs).  John was inoffensive, but rather bland for me, again. And as to the length of the film, that is sort of the standard pacing for “emotional family drama” in India. People don’t feel like they’re getting full-impact catharsis without at least two hours of emotional sumo wrestling   I’ve grown to agree, for the most part, over the years.  Bah, 90 minute formats…  Kid-stuff!

 

Julie M:  Emotional family drama…I’d better avoid those in the future, no matter who’s in it. It’s just not my style. Warn me, OK? Put the code letters EFD and I’ll know. I’ll be working on next weekend’s library list soon and will run it by you to catch any clunkers.

 

JennyK:  I know Julie and I, both, were very sad to hear of the passing of Shammi Kapoor, and as neither of us have seen enough of his older films, we’ll probably pre-empt our next film glut with a review of one of his.  We mourn with the rest of the Indian film public at the passing of a classic comedian and, from what I’m told (and have seen in interviews), a very classy fellow.

August 15, 2011: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Julie M:  Saw Being Cyrus tonight. Loved it, with qualifications: I am addicted to the genre (noir thrillers), I loved this particular story, and the cinematography and set were perfect. Standout acting by Dimple Kapadia in particular and also Boman Irani (a little histrionic); Saif was very good too but I felt he was a little reserved. You could really tell the difference in craft between the older and younger actors, and the difference between creating a character and saying lines emotively.

For all that it was in English, I felt that I missed a lot of the texture of the dialogue when they would break into Hindi (unsubtitled) and the subtitles, which I put on because there was a lot of mumbling and slurring of the English lines, were pretty badly rendered and also missed a lot.

And–carrying on from the Sholay discussion–I felt that this genre may not have been particularly native to India, but a particular obsession of the filmmaker and made to be palatable to Western audiences (the English, and the brevity of the film in general).

But overall–great film, very glad I saw it and it adds to my “art film” mental library. Here’s a scene:

Jenny K: I thought you’d like it. Very stylish, and great performances all around. I bought it because of Dimple and Naseeruddin Shah, of course. He has all these little details that seem like they are derailing the character, and actually, they create it. His character is so “out of it” with the drugs and his artistic eye (“I was trying to get the flowers, but they were too far down”) that he lives in a fog the whole movie. Dimple is so brave as an actor, being that unsympathetic and not worrying a fig if she’s not at full beauty. She can’t help being beautiful, even so, but is a very credible shrew.

Boman is in full-crotchety mode, and I completely believed it, except when I look at his hands. They are so sensitive and beautiful, physically, that you know they are the hands of an artist, not a low-life landlord. Saif’s character is low key, yes, but very layered. Quiet Crazy he does quite well. There’s this little bit he does in a rather meh film, Darna Mana Hai, with Boman again, that is quite quietly creepy. Actually that movie has a number of “short story” kind of scenes with great actors, Nana Patekar, Raghuvir Yadav, Rajpal Yadav and Viveik Oberoi doing a very unusual turn. The framing story is weak though:  kids alone in the woods, sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories…until they are picked off, one by one by invisible stalkers.

I’d much rather watch the old guard in movies like Being Cyrus, even if they are seen as “not Indian enough”. I wish they had told us a bit more about Saif’s past, at the end. You understood the basics, but I could have done with more details. And more Naseeruddin…he just disappeared as the Boman story line amped up.

Speaking of  “more Naseeruddin”, I can’t wait for Today’s Special to be out on DVD. They keep pushing it back. Naseerji is fabulous in it. I did a profile on him and TS on AW a few months back, and I want to be able to watch it whenever I want!  Aasif Mandvi, the writer and star of the film was just as wonderful, if not quite as much the apple of my eye as is Naseerji.  Who could be?

Julie M: I think we got plenty on the Cyrus/Xerxes character’s background. [Spoilers. Highlight to view.] Abused child, foster care system, looked to his older sister for love and protection and this pattern kept up to the point where she could enlist him in her scams, where he couldn’t say no. Plus he is just enough of a sociopath himself not to care what it involved, as long as it gained him the security he needed. Until this last job, when he seemed to come to his senses and at the end opt out. But you know what? He’s not done. He’ll go back to her, because he’s immature and the world can’t give him what he’s seeking. It would have been good, in the story, if something about the Sethna family relationship brought him to his senses, but I didn’t get an idea of what made him leave her. [end of spoilers]

And where where where can I see Today’s Special? The trailer was so engaging that I have to see the entire thing. Tried to find it online but no dice…it’s also not on Icefilms (strange, because they have mostly everything).

Jenny K: Today’s Special is a lovely, lovely film, and I’d love to tell you where to watch it, but aside from checking with it’s website to see if any local showings are scheduled (and I think those listed are all for last year), it’s pretty much unavailable until the DVD comes out, they are thinking in the fall, maybe September. I’ve pre-ordered it on Amazon, but it was originally scheduled for release in April and was postponed. I do not feel secure yet. After I watch it, if it’s not in the library collection, I may lend it to you, if you promise to be very, very careful…it’s Nasserji!

[later that week…]

Julie M:  Found Dostana on YouTube–English subs and good quality–watching. So silly but fun to see Abhishek putting on the gay act…he’s way too good at it. And Kirron Kher playing another mom. She always gets the “cool mom” parts. I don’t normally watch this kind of movie but I admit to having a good time with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which this sort-of resembles. 

 [after a while…] 

Julie M: Very cute and fun. Didn’t end the way I thought it might, but after all, it’s an Indian film. Great soundtrack. Loved LittleB’s performance most of all. Great bad fashions when they were dressing Bobby Deol up (striped pants? chee!)  I also loved the scene where they’re all dancing to the “Beedi” song from Omkara. I’m proud that I could identify that song: also the iPod Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham number and later, the background scene from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  And when Sameer starts listing classic Bollywood characters who are “obviously” gay (Gabbar Singh from Sholay!), I laughed so hard because I had seen all those films.

This was the funniest scene. No subtitles, but the visuals are evocative enough that you don’t need them. Here’s the backstory: Neha (Priyanka Chopra) asks Sameer (LittleB ) and Kunal (John Abraham), whom she thinks are a gay couple, how they met, and LittleB makes up this romantic story of how they met in Venice and how their “love” grew. I adore the rainbow half-gloves.

Jenny K:  Never saw Dostana, thought it might be that John Abraham shirt off kinda comedy that I’d hate. But you make it sound rather good, especially free, online. May have to make a reassessment. I like LittleB’s comic timing, as well. He’s better with comedy than romance, I think.  Don’t think it’s a co-inky-dink that KKHH and K3G are conspicuously referenced…tells you right up front that it’s a “Karan Johar presents…” production.  Saves on royalties, after all.  Practicalities are king.

Julie M: Since you’ve not seen it, I have to warn you that the opening credits and the first 5-10 minutes are simply awful. Teeny-tiny bikinis on Miami Beach with a truly dumb background song, and a John Abraham butt shot. I nearly turned it off. Just power through them and know that it gets much, much better. JA does spend most of the movie with an exposed chest but it makes a weird kind of sense given his character, both the straight and “gay” version.

One other note. I can see where the scene I posted could offend gay people if taken out of context–but because it’s a very straight character’s telling of what he thinks a gay meet-cute might be like, it’s clear that the character is speaking from a point of ignorance and it can be excused. The movie overall is not insulting to gay people although it does play on a few stereotypes.

Jenny K: Well, we’ll just have to see what I think…I’m dubious…thoat clip looks pretty silly to me. I’ll try to reserve judgment, but to paraphrase a friend of mine, I don’t watch that kind of film much in the US, why should I give it a chance in another language? Does a need for translation push it into acceptability? We’ll see.  I’m going to try to watch Dostana, now…[straghtens shoulders]. Off I go…

Julie M: Just try it and don’t forget that the first 10 minutes are supremely bad. I thought it would be stupid too but I got hooked, and watching it in 10-minute segments online was easy–I could quit anytime, but for some reason I just didn’t. It all kind of combines into something very cute, especially LittleB’s role. And sometimes bad-stupid is fun.

Jenny K:  I’m going to remind you that you said that…

[later on]

Jenny K: Hey! I survived Dostana and didn’t even need to gouge my eyes out or anything!?! It was even cute at times. Go figure! Waaay too much ritualized ogling of John’s torso, though. He even seemed bored with the attention in some of the numbers. I know he can act. I’ve seen Water. But I guess they have to give the audience what they want!

It’s really odd…I can look at John Abraham and agree that he’s really handsome, but he just doesn’t register on my personality meter. Other than in Deepa Mehta’s Water, when I look back on what he’s done, I mostly go, “Oh yeah, he was in that film!” but I hadn’t remembered it until I read it on IMDb. Same with Bobby Deol. Played almost the same role, handsome, sympathetic richguy, in Humraaz, and I just didn’t care about whether he ended up with the girl or not. Might his middle name be “Meh”?

Abhishek’s timing was as usual, very good, as you said. Though I think I liked Boman’s gay parody a tad better. He’s such a hoot. And I thought Priaynka was beautiful and winsome, was sweet and always in character, danced well when she was required to…what else can you ask for? Why do people pick on her, I ask you? Yet, they do.

The script was predictable, I’d seen it all before, but that lack of brain-engagement with an actual plot left me time to ponder those burning questions, like: heiress or not, why would Neha ever buy an apartment large enough to shoot the Mumbai edition of Big Brother House? Was the lonely gay soldier the same actor as the INS agent, and if so, why didn’t he blow their cover? Why were there so many runway shows in this film? Neha worked for a magazine not a fashion house! But most crucially, why did no one on the production staff cringe when the writer suggested having “our boys” toy with the kid’s psyche like that? Chee?!? My vote for Most Disgusting Plot Device. I think I may just have to skip Dostana 2 when it comes out, but thanks for getting me past my trepigaytion about it .

Julie M: I admit to being a Priyanka-doubter. She’s just too skinny and plastic-looking to take seriously given all the not-perfect but still gorgeous and talented Indian women in films. But she does OK, and for this movie whatever she’s got goin’ on works. This movie was my first exposure ;0 to John Abraham and I wasn’t impressed either.  Dostana 2 will just have to live without either of us.

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