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.

]

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!!)

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