April 6, 2013: A Devgan Duet ~ Ajay and Sonali

Finally digging to the bottom of our cinematic leftovers, Julie looks at two titles pairing Ajay Devgan and Sonali Bendre, both serious films in which Sonali looks stunning and Ajay is sensitive.  We’ll see which one is better…

Julie M:  Finished Zakhm (Wound, 1998). A political weeper, if there is such a thing!

Jenny K:  Well, what would you call the last Republican run at the White House?

Julie M:  Plot summary: Ajay (Ajay Devgan) is a successful songwriter with a beautiful wife, Sonia (Sonali Bendre). There are numerous religious riots going on. Sonia is pregnant and is preparing to leave India and return to London to raise their child in what she perceives to be a safer environment, while Ajay is committed to India and wants her to stay. As she packs to leave Ajay checks in with his brother Anand (Akshay Anand). He is worried that their mother, who lives with them, has not returned from the temple. Anand is a ranking member of a fundamentalist Hindu political party led by Subodh (Ashutosh Rana). Just then there is a news report that an elderly Hindu woman has been attacked by a Moslem youth mob and set on fire outside of a temple: on a hunch Ajay finds the hospital and yes, it is indeed his mother.

Jenny K:  Oh, yeah, I remember that scene now…made me cringe, very painful.

Julie M:  While he waits on news of her condition he flashes back to his youth–he seems to be around 12 or so–and we learn that his mother (Pooja Bhatt) was the beloved mistress of a well-known film producer Raman Desai (Nagarjuna Akkaneni), who cannot marry her because of his mother’s strenuous objections–she threatens to set herself on fire whenever he mentions it. Nevertheless, they still find time to be together, as is shown in this lovely number.

When Raman’s mother forces him to marry another woman, it sets off a chain of events leading to the exposure of a secret that rocks young Ajay’s world and directs the course of not only his life, but that of his mother and brother as well.

Back in the present, Subodh, with the help of a corrupt and compliant police officer, is plotting to use the imminent death as a political tool while Anand keeps trying to kill the one member of the mob that has been taken into custody. When the mother does pass away, the hospital is the scene of both family and political drama as Anand learns of this secret and has a decision to make about his mother’s final journey.

A heavily dramatized and unabashedly heart-tugging story of the impact of hatred and bigotry on individuals, Zakhm nevertheless is mesmerizing to watch. Ajay Devgan is great at being stoic and emotional at the same time.

Jenny K:  Absolutely…I miss the days when he used to do strong and relatively silent, you’re mesmerized by his eyes and his intensity, even when he’s crazy, like in Deewangee(2002).  He can even have that effect on the viewer, when he does moody and silent in films like Qayamat: City Under Threat (2003), which I can’t recommend for anything (it was pretty darned bad in oh, so many ways), but his almost totally silent portrayal had me frequently in stitches as an ex-con who is broken out of prison against his will, and is doing a job for some other criminals, just so that they will leave him alone!  Wish I could find a clip…ah well, looking back through it (youtube has it unsubtitled, in parts) I’m not sure what, exactly I found funny, except in overdramatic scenes like Neha Dupia, Ajay’s old flame, calling him back from the brink of death. . Basically, I just miss Ajay Serio-Tragedy Man, over his more recent avatar as Zany-Comedy-King.  Bleh.  His comedy talents have almost always seemed more effective as straight man, to me.  Oh, well, what do I know?

Julie M: Anyways, back to Zakhm, Sonali Bendre is stunningly beautiful but really only has two scenes, neither of which she particularly shines in–the whole sub-plot involving her could easily have been left out, as the impact of the film would still have worked if Ajay had been single. I understand that this film was a personal tribute from director Mahesh Bhatt to his own mother, whose story parallels that of the plot of the movie.

Zakhm is available free on YouTube, although without subtitles.

Jenny K:  Aside from that mother in the hospital scene, but it’s not really coming back to me.  I watched it quite a few years back. Maybe I have a four hundred movie ceiling, and now they are starting to push the older ones out as the new ones come in! I like Pooja Bhatt…particularly in Border with Akshaye Khanna. In your clip she reminded me a bit of Shabana Azmi.

Julie M:  Pooja was AMAZING in this. Just perfect.

[a week later]

Julie M:  Finished our second Ajay Devgan/Sonali Bendre pairing, Tera Mera Saath Rahen (You and I Will Stay Together, 2001). I must say, I ended up surprised at the ending because I would have predicted something else entirely. Here’s the trailer.  

Plot summary: Raj (Ajay Devgan) is your basic nice guy in his late 30s, hardworking and single, whose life centers around taking care of his severely disabled younger brother, Rahul (don’t know who played him, sorry). Rahul has cerebral palsy, and although he is 15 he is the size of an 8-year-old with the mental age of a 3-4 year old: needless to say he is completely dependent on Raj, and they make a great pair

We are not told the circumstances of how Raj inherited this duty, but basically parents are out of the picture. They live in a close-knit apartment community, all of whom love Rahul, and they are particularly friendly with the next-door neighbors, the crazy and dramatic Guptas. Suman Gupta, the grown daughter, has a significant crush on Raj but he just considers her a friend.

Jenny K: Starting to come back to me now…for some reason I thought that this was a remake of something, but I can’t find any reference to that.  Maybe I’m thinking of that Main Aisa Hi Hoon (2005) from I Am Sam (2001) remake, with Ajay, Sushmita Sen and Esha Deol.

Julie M:  One day Raj’s ex-boss introduces Raj to his niece, Madhuri (Sonali Bendre), with a view to the two of them marrying. They hit it off and Madhuri gets along well with Rahul, so they do a lot of stuff together. Love grows, but when Madhuri suggests that Rahul is getting too big and strong for Raj to handle and might be better off in an institution Raj breaks off their friendship. Meanwhile, Suman takes off with another boy, of whom her family does not approve; she ends up pregnant and back at home after he leaves her.

Raj and Madhuri are miserable without each other. When she plans on returning to Delhi, he realizes he wants to marry her and places Rahul in a rehab institution for both his own good and according to Madhuri’s preference. Whether this is the best thing for everyone is the subject of the rest of the story.

Spoilers (highlight to read): I knew that putting Rahul in an institution would not work–not just from Rahul’s perspective but from Raj’s. In the film it comes out that Raj is dependent on Rahul for his own sense of identity; also, it makes sense that once Rahul is out of the picture Madhuri would realize that everything she loves about Raj stems from his relationship with Rahul. What surprised me, though, was that after Raj told Madhuri that he was taking Rahul out of the institution and therefore could not marry her under her draconian conditions, Madhuri came back to Raj and agreed to take them as a package deal. I could have sworn that the beautiful and worldly Madhuri would fade into the sunset and Raj would end up with the goodhearted, but pregnant and tragically abandoned, Suman, who had already proven that she was up to the task of dealing with Rahul. Their families would take down the wall between their apartments and be one big happy clan. But no: Suman stays fallen, because apparently in India it is not allowed for someone who got pregnant out of wedlock to have a happy ending with the man she loves. And I guess in 2001 it highlighted the “new” condition of families taking care of and loving disabled children, where in an earlier era they would have gone right into an institution from birth. [end spoilers]

Ajay Devgan was great as the torn Raj. Sonali Bendre was gorgeous as usual and thankfully had a better role in this than in Zakhm, but still was called upon to do little more than look beautiful and appear in two romantic song picturizations. It was so weird to see AD as a romantic hero in the songs when he is far from it in the rest of the film…  

Anyway, yet another movie where Ajay puts someone he loves in an institution but regrets the decision and decides to put his own life aside to take care of the loved one. The other one was You Me aur Hum with his wife Kajol as the victim of early-onset Alzheimers. Only he could pull it off without it looking ridiculous or maudlin. I give it a Meh+: overly melodramatic for me, but for someone else it is probably OK and they would even enjoy it.

Jenny K:  Thanks for doing all the heavy lifting on this post Julie…not that you minded much when it was Ajay, I think.  I promise I’ll do more active watching for the next one!

July 6, 2012: Raincoat, Running and Rampal

Julie M:  It took many sessions on the exercise bike, but I finally finished Raincoat (2004). Such a pleasure to see Ajay out of action-hero mode, and amazing chemistry between him and Aishwarya Rai. Good performances all around and well-integrated music in the background. She managed to look lovely and sad and beaten all at once, and the performance seemed to foreshadow her role in Guzaarish.  A+, all around.

Plot summary:  Manu (Ajay Devgan) is an out-of-work millworker from a rural area who has come to the big city of Kolkata to try and drum up investments from friends to fund a new business venture.  On a whim he decides to visit Neeru (Aishwarya Rai), a former girlfriend who had dumped him six years previously to marry a wealthier man more acceptable to her family.  They spend a rainy afternoon together, discussing old times and their current lives (during which they shamelessly lie to each other without the other knowing), and a surprise ending recalls the famous O. Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi.”

 

Jenny K:  I loved their reminiscences of their past.  And Ajay was very good playing against type. No toughguy here, until the end, maybe.

 

Julie M:  Funny, but the way it was performed I thought it was originally a stage play, because it’s basically a one-scene piece. The part at the beginning and end with Manu’s friends seemed tacked-on; I could have done with just the two characters, but I guess there had to be a way to explain his life otherwise we would not have known.

 

Jenny K:  You’re right, it’s very suitable for the theater.  This was close on the heels of Choker Bali, both directed by Rituparno Ghosh, and was at the height of Aish’s “I can prove that I’m not just a pretty face” campaign.  Raincoat works much better for me than Choker Bali, which was glacially slow, if earnestly played.

 

Julie M: Raincoat is available free on YouTube, in parts.  Here’s Part 1.

 

Jenny K:  I had a productive (for the blog) night, last night…I ran an Irrfan Double Header! Thank God for art films, because it made a twofer possible, not often feasible in Indianfilmland, without a mid-afternoon start and serious munchie fortification.

First up was Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar (2010) which I have been trying to see for quite some time, but it never made it to any of my local theaters. But now it’s on Netflix streaming!

As a film, you feel as if you’ve seen it before…familiar, yet with such odd mash-ups that the results are unique. At times it feels like Chariots of Fire, but set in the military…then there are bits of Sholay‘s Gabbar Singh in a rather Robin Hood kinda mood. Also strong Bimal Roy tinges of “what’s a poor self respecting farmer to do when life gives you a rotten roti?” And the answer seems to have been cribbed from the Bhagat Singh Handbook. Here’s the trailer.

The film is extremely watchable. Irrfan has such an expressive face, it’s a pleasure just to have him on screen. The story begins with a disclaimer that the plot is based on true people and incidents, but is a work of fiction and any similarities to real people are coincidental??? Is it just me, or doesn’t the first half of that statement preclude the second? Oh well…

The story is that of a peaceful, unremarkable young man from a village, who joins the military as his only escape. He was born under a wandering star, says his wife’s fortuneteller. But she knows that he’ll always come back to her, no matter how long the walkabout. While in the army, he signs up for the athletic program because he loves to run, and to get more food. He does have quite the appetite, does Paan Singh Tomar, and boy, can he run. All the way to being National Champion of the steeplechase,  and all over the world.

He seems completely happy with his military life, his racing and the occasional visits home to see his wife and kids…until…his cousin, Bahwar Singh (Jahangir Khan) steals his sugarcane crop. It seems Bahwar resents the local running celebrity just showing up infrequently and not doing any of the work around the village fields, so he takes what he wants from Paan Singh’s fields, too, which he regards as his due for not being the prodigal son.

When PST  asks for recompense, his cousin ignores him. PST goes to the police. They ignore him. He tries to call in favors from his army bosses…heck, he’s a national sports hero, after all! Well, they send in a mediator to try the case, and find in Paan Singh’s favor, but aren’t willing to enforce anything. Seems his clippings and medals get him only so much, and no more. Bahwar Singh just laughs and burns the cane, sends PST’s wife and kids running for cover, beats up his mother who stays to defend the house, and then destroys said house. What’s a law abiding man to do when the authorities don’t care? Become a dacoit, of course!

The plot sort of goes where you expect it to after that, however, the trip is well worth the taking. Irrfan and his supporting cast are wonderful, the atmosphere evocative, and the mood is increasingly more oppressive as the film unfolds. You know why Paan Singh does what he does.  He’s a rebel, not a dacoit, as he says, repeatedly, to any who will listen. If the following interview with surviving relatives is anything to go by, he did have no choice.

This film is on YouTube, too. In parts, here.

 

Julie M:  I love anything Irrfan Khan does.  You had me interested by just saying his name!

 

Jenny K:  The second part of the twofer was The Warrior (2001). Directing his first feature film, Asif Kapadia hits one out of the park on this film. A short film (about 90 minutes) this film is long on impact. It’s shot with practically no conversation, all in vibrant visuals. Taken from a tiny mention of a story of samurai life, writers Kapadia and Tim Miller along with DP Roman Osin, weave a mesmerizing story of a warrior who gives up his life as an official kingdom assassin, tired of what his liege lord asks him to do. Unfortunately, that decision costs him his home and everything dear to him. Here’s the trailer.

Lacfadia, the warrior, flees from his fellow enforcers who are sent after him to stop his escape, and having taken a vow to never raise a weapon against defenseless people again, his flight is a desperate one. Irrfan, practically silent, is even more expressive than he normally is with words. He takes up a few wanderers he meets on his seemingly aimless quest for spiritual peace. One of which, a petty thief named Riaz, played by Noor Mani, does an equally impressive job. Noor posted excerpts from his own performance here on Youtube, but it gives a nice cross section of the film’s tone.

This young man had been living a life on the street before he found an acting school set up by Mira Nair’s people when Salaam, Bombay! needed non-professional actors. Actually, most of the actors in this film were non-professionals, and the director, Mr. Kapadia, got some amazing performances from them. Great behind the scenes pieces on the DVD…almost as much footage as the film itself!

This one is definitely worth the watch. It felt a lot like Tarsem Singh’s The Fall with its eloquent silences and beautiful scenery, and also a bit like Road, Movie in the collection of oddly assorted travellers, that we reviewed earlier in our Abhay Deol Fest. The intimate interaction between relative strangers is there in all three films. Get it if you can…probably is a library choice as it won the BAFTA in 2003 for best picture.

 

Julie M:  WOW. I’m speechless with the quality of both of these films and of course with Irrfan Khan as the lead performer. I’ve got to get hold of them!  Library has neither. Bummer!

 

Jenny K:  Well, it is on YouTube, but no subtitles…I’ve watched some like that, but it can be frustrating…

 

Julie M:  Whew, finally finished Tehzeeb (Etiquette, 2003). Major EFD (emotional family drama)!  I’m still recovering.

Brief plot summary: Tehzeeb (Urmila Matondkar) grew up as the lonely daughter of famous singer Rukhsana (Shabana Azmi). Her character has been shaped by the witnessing, at age 10 or so, the murder of her beloved father (excellent cameo appearance by Rishi Kapoor) by her mother, a crime for which Rukhsana was acquitted; however, despite years of suppressed horror and rage, she still admires her mother and she is still the emotional center of Tehzeeb’s life. Tehzeeb, once an aspiring singer but now a housewife, is married to romance novelist Salim (Arjun Rampal, sigh), and they live with and care for her developmentally disabled sister, Nazneen (Dia Mirza). Here’s their great meet-cute scene.

 

Jenny K:  Actually, this is the first movie where I found Arjun attractive.  He does grow on you.

 

Julie M: One day Rukhsana announces that she is coming for a visit for the first time since Tehzeeb and Salim married five years ago; the prospect of this throws Tehzeeb for a loop. The next few weeks expose buried feelings and contradictions, rub raw nerve endings and lead to confrontations, disclosures and more.

It’s rare that I get to see an Indian movie that centers so strongly on complex female relationships. You’d think, with Bollywood’s preference to avoid niche marketing, that such a project would never be greenlighted unless it was liberally sprinkled with dishoom, or at least some scantily clad gori dancers. But all this female bonding, to me, was treated too superficially.

The schmaltzy background music was more suited to TV soap operas than a mainstream movie, and the requisite hospital scene near the end had me rolling my eyes.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the character conflicts even if they were handled in a daytime-drama way (from sets, costumes and staging through action and significant glances…is this Mumbai or Pine Valley?). “Tehzeeb,” in addition to being the name of the lead character, also means “etiquette,” and ultimately it is etiquette that kept Tehzeeb all these years from confronting her mother with her feelings, which could have avoided all this intense drama.

Yes, there were dance numbers, but they felt tacked on and gratuitous, particularly Arjun’s, seen here. It was completely wrong for the character, as he played kind of a combination of narrator, comic relief and token useless male (but he was gorgeous, especially in that black turtleneck sweater, and if I were to have a slightly cowed but very romantic husband I’d like him to be Salim).

Urmila, a decent enough actress, should never be allowed to dance. Everything I see her in she is clunky and robotic and looks like she is slightly in pain.

 

Jenny K:  Now, to give Urmila her due, I ought to put up one of her more acclaimed dance performances from China Gate.  Now, I’m not saying she’s going to threaten Madhuri’s queen-of-the-gypsy-numbers status or anything, but she does hold her own, here.

 

Julie M: And WHAT was up with the “creative” dance number for Dia Mirza??!!  The “move the action along” music was much better, except when it was intrusive, which was, oh, about half the time. The slow songs were lovely. And my favorite part was when Tehzeeb, entertaining her mother and sister, parodied famous movie numbers. Can’t find the scene online, though.

 

Jenny K:  That was always the scene that stuck in my mind, too.  She was really funny, and on-the-nose in her imitations.  Hidden talents!

 

Julie M: Overall…a solid B film, worth seeing if you come across it but nothing to go out of your way to find.

January 8, 2012: Starting the New Year With a Bang

We just can’t escape action films, even though it was the HOLIDAYS, for gosh sake… and everywhere we turn,  people are shooting at us or each other (some in IMAX and 3D)!   So, rather than fight ‘em, we decided we might as well join Messers Cruise, Craig and Downey and give in.  But Bollywood has it’s own take on hair-raising, guy-friendly escapism and we watched a bunch of them over our break, including Don 2.  Here’s our take on three, or toke, given the title of the first one!

 

Julie M:  Dum Maaro Dum (Puff, Take a Puff, 2011) is a violence-infused action/thriller about the attempts of one man to single-handedly clean up the contemporary drugs-and-gangsters scene in Goa. This trailer pretty much shows the visuals and style of the film.

The title/item song is a remake of this number from 1971’s Hare Ram Hare Krishna.

 
Jenny K:  It was funny…when I watched your trailer, I thought of the Hare Ram, Hare Krishna movie, but I didn’t recall at that time that that was the name of the song. It was one of Dev Anand’s first films as a director, and Zeenat Aman’s first big hit.  I believe it caused a big to-do with all the drug takin’and the implied free lovin’.

 
Julie M:  Abhishek Bachchan plays the one-man, ACP Vishnu Kamath, an ex-corrupt-cop with a new mission to set things right because his family (Vidya Balan, in a cameo appearance, plays his wife) was killed in a car crash with a drugged-out driver.

Vishnu chases various figures including a small-time player named Ricky (Gulshan Devaia), a reluctant “businessman” named Lorry (Prateik Babbar), an elusive capo-dei-tutti-capi named Michael Barbossa (hey, wasn’t he a pirate?) and, with perhaps the funniest criminal name in Indian film, Lorsa “The Biscuit” Biscuita (played by Aditya Pancholi).  There are the requisite scantily-clad females as well: Bipasha Basu plays Zoe, Biscuit’s second-in-command and girlfriend, there is a pass-around chickie named Rozana (Mariah Pucu Gantois Gomes), and Deepika Padukone steps in to gyrate as the item girl in the title song, which takes place at a rave about two thirds of the way through the film.  

 

Jenny K: I still think Zeenat Aman was much sexier than Deepika, even given how overtly sensual DP’s choreography was. Just my old-fashioned opinion.

 

Julie M:  Similar to Yuva, the main action starts with Lorry getting busted for carrying drugs at the Goa airport and then splits off into flashbacks showing how each of the characters got to that point, then picks back up and moves forward through to the end. It would have been interesting as a technique, except Yuva did it first, and DMD added some very headache-inducing half-time and double-time sequences as well as half-screen double-images (yikes) to heighten the sense that it was in the characters’ memories.  Supposed to be hip and cool, but seemed overly self-conscious to me.

There is one character common to all the stories: the singer Joki, yummily played by Rana Daggubati, check him out in this song.   He’s kind of like a visual narrator since he is the only one who seems to appear in all the various story threads, and he gets to have a hot love scene with Bipasha (thereby standing in for all the males in the audience…).

Things really get going after the drug bust, as Kamath and his team work into the organization and go after Barbossa. Lots of people die, some spectacularly, some gruesomely. And while the end is a perfect revenge fantasy, you get the feeling that it is only a temporary lull in the permanent party-and-kill scene.  No wonder this film aroused the ire of the Goa tourism people.  [youtube-http://movies.ndtv.com/movie_Story.aspx?id=ENTEN20110173562&keyword=&subcatg=]

Abhi does OK in his role, a little wooden though, and as the film started I thought to myself, “Gee, I hope he doesn’t rap in this movie.” Alas, he does, talking about how good it is to be a corrupt cop (ugh). This video intersperses scenes from the movie with scenes of the song, because nobody should see the rap video in its entirety.

 

Jenny K: His dad still does it better, of course, example from Aladin.  Sorry, Abhi…

 

Julie M:  Overall, Dum Maaro Dum is a stylishly made, but ultimately not very interesting, gangster movie that caters to the under-30 set (although if that’s true, why Abhi was chosen as the star completely defeats me). I thought it was merely OK.

[a day or two later]

Jenny K:  Well, I finally got to see Don 2 today…and I’m not sure that you should see it. You always complain when there is too much dishoom, and this film is dishoom to the max.

This is the sequel to Farhan Akhtar’s popular remake Don (2006) [Amitabh starred in the original] in which Shah Rukh Khan essays the double roles of the South Asian Kingpin of Crime, the titular Don, and his simple but sincere doppleganger Vijay. In this follow-up film, I am really missing Vijay, because there’s no simple or sincere focus in the entire movie, and I, for one, had no one to root for.

 

Julie M:  True, I sincerely dislike pointless and gratuitous dishoom…although our holiday entertainment has been a complete re-watch of the four Die Hard movies, which I love. Maybe it’s just Bruce Willis.  But I liked the Vijay character, particularly in the original 1978 Don, and if this film has gone another direction then I question the wisdom of even going.  And my common complaint about most Indian action films is that so few of the stars can dish out a punch without my wanting to laugh hysterically at its awkwardness.

  

Jenny K:  I will agree with Kathy, my co-viewer that day, that the fight choreography looks much more convincingly done, even making it seem plausible when the often physically smaller SRK gets the drop on his larger combatants, however, it is pretty much relentless. I’m hoping Shah Rukh has finally exorcised his Jackie Chan fantasy, and can get it out of his system.

The thumbnail synopsis has Don being singled out by the European drug tsars for a hit, because he’s so dangerous to their business…so Don develops a very convoluted plan to turn himself in to protect himself from their reach and secure himself with immunity for his past crimes by providing the authorities with names, dates, etc. in their quest for these other drug dealers. Seems he’s “tired of his life of crime”…oddly, the powers that be (returning in their roles as the police investigators, Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra) don’t really buy it and toss him in prison.

Ah, but that’s all part of the plan…Don always has a plan…far-fetched or not…and always assayed with consummate style.  SRK is at the top of his game in style, slickness, suavity and any other S-ettes you can think of, but I find I’m hard pressed to be engrossed in a caper film of almost three hours long, when the “hero” is so enormously ethically challenged. He’s ruthless, he’s a player with girls and lives, a major egomaniac, and he has the largest custom fitted designer wardrobe ever sported by a recently released jailbird.

 

Julie M:  Since I’m still recovering from a cold, and it’s snowing like crazy, and I’m back to work tomorrow, and this seems like a typical Hollywood-style action crap-fest, I will skip an attempt to see Don 2 in the theater today. If it’s still around over the weekend I’ll consider it, but if I don’t get there, I’ll just wait until it’s out on DVD. I’ll get my SRK fix another way.

 

Jenny K:  Definitely not a “crap-fest” but… He’s The King, as everyone in and out of the film constantly tells us.   And HE’s BACK!  And THE CHASE CONTINUES…and continues…and continues…as I dozed…once…in the seemingly endless set up to the caper in the bank. Which wasn’t too bad, given the sheer lack of sleep I’ve had for the past two weeks of holiday run-up. Needless to say, Kathy disagrees with me on almost every point of this assessment. She loved it. Eh, it may just not be my type of film.

However, the most fun I had with Don 2 was watching this promo reworking one of the songs from the earlier film to get us into the theater for the new “adventure”. Shah Rukh looks amazing in it, and looks like he’s having a great time…and is a bit tongue-in-cheek in his swaggering here, which is something the movie as a whole could have used more of, as does Robert Downey, Jr. in almost any of his genre films.

 

Julie M:  WOW.  So ishtylish. If the whole movie were like that I’d go, but since you say it isn’t, I’ll wait for the DVD and I can fast-forward through the dishoomiest parts.   SRK looks kinda gaunt underneath the perfectly-fitted leather jacket, though. If he looks that skeletal in the entire film, ugh. Get that man some parathas, stat.

 

Jenny K:  If you fast forward through all the dishoom in Don 2, you ‘ll have about 22 minutes left…hehehe… and as to his look, almost all the outfits were stylin’. Lots of leather. And no odd tie/shirt combos like in the last Don film. Priyanka and Boman looked very well groomed, too.

All my style issues were with Shah Rukh’s hair. In about two thirds of the movie, I think he looked pretty good, even with occasional “leftover Ra.One hair moments”, Kathy’s phrase. The long hair phase was about twenty minutes or so, and was too girly for him, especially pulled back at the top  (even with the shotgun)…however, I liked the facial hair that went with it, and thought he should have kept it for a transitional phase, but he didn’t.  At the end, he rides off on a motorcycle with his Ra.One  “South Indian” curly locks blowing in the breeze.  Very fetching.  End of SRK Hairscaping. Glad you liked the video clip…I had to watch it more than once, myself.

 

Julie M:  And did you notice that in all the Don 2 publicity shots, Farhan’s muscles have gotten way out of control?

 

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen any of them…show me what you meant. Would be a shame if he wasted that sexy boy-next door thing he has going.

 

Julie M:  Oh, gosh. Here’s one.   And another.  And here’s a possibility as to why the new physique.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm.  Here’s the older article about Mehra’s casting ideas on this film.  Farhan’s pushing it a bit playing 22, and he’s much better looking than Milkha Singh, but, if they’ve decided to not go with an unknown…Farhan is better than most, but I think I might go with that kid from Udaan first, Rajat Barmecha. He’d be almost the right age now and had quite a lot of potential in that film.

 

Julie M:  Whoops, so much for an unknown. Oh, well, something else to watch Farhan in.  By the way, you need to send me Rock On! and Karthik Calling Karthik.  Because I just did my first official Indian film re-watch, of ZNMD, and I need more Farhan, and I know you can hook me up.

 

Jenny K:  Now, I don’t buy everything he’s in…almost, but not everything.  I can send you Rock On! but I don’t think I bought KCK.  It was good, but spoiled itself a bit with an added-on, unnecessary happy ending, IMO.

[a couple of days on]

Julie M:  While lying around today trying not to be sick, I watched Kachche Dhaage (Raw Threads, 1999). I thought it was a decent action movie with a gratuitous couple of love stories, without which it could have been a great action movie. Check out this “making of” feature, which does not spoil the film but serves as a good trailer.

 
Aftab (Ajay Devgan) is a minor criminal in a Rajasthan village, engaging for his living in a bit of cross-border smuggling of goods, occasionally including arms, from India to Pakistan. He is trying to marry Rukhsana (Manisha Koirala), whose parents won’t agree because he is illegitimate. Dhananjay (Saif Ali Khan) is a citified yuppie, a broker of financial deals with a contemporary lifestyle and a knockout wife, Ragini (Namrata Shirodkar). The two find out that they are half-brothers over their father’s deathbed and instantly hate each other, exacerbated by the fact that one is Moslem and the other is Hindu.

When a circumstance forces Aftab to call on Dhananjay for a favor, it sets off a series of events involving the both of them escaping from arrest while chained together, corrupt border enforcement officers, a clueless attorney, a runaway train and lots and lots of shooting of various weapons. While on the run together the two of them learn to rely on each other for their lives, and by the end they have forged a true brotherly bond as they collaborate to bring the bad guys to justice.

I am a big fan of good action films and buddy comedies. This is a buddy action film that hinges on the audience believing in the growing relationship between the two heroes, which only truly comes into play in the last quarter of the film. Ajay is suitably glowering as the resentful Aftab and Saif is a proper angrezi [English/Westernized] figure, which means his effete mannerisms are laughable and his wardrobe completely inappropriate. The roles were not particularly challenging for them, and they pulled them off competently.

The love stories are completely irrelevant to the film and to my mind could have been ignored without affecting the storyline. Some other device could have been introduced to reinforce Aftab’s illegitimate status, and another kind of deus ex machina introduced to effect their escape from the runaway train–it didn’t have to be Ragini driving up in a jeep. But it does lead to this amazing stunt sequence, done entirely by Ajay.

 

Jenny K:  Of course Ajay’s stunt scene would be good. His father is a stunt man and Ajay got his start by doing crazy far-out stunts.  Someone has collected some clips of his best “entrances” on Youtube.

 

Julie M:  The love songs were merely OK, nothing special. The big dance numbers were 100% gratuitous, although fun, particularly this item number, which occurs at the point where the two escapees have lodged for the night at a small village. Despite its flaws the movie is a lot of fun and a good one to see on DVD.

 

Jenny K:  I haven’t seen it in a while, but most of your remarks had me going “yeah, I thought so, too”. I did like their eventual chemistry together, and watching it grow. It sort of felt to me a bit like a lesser version of Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin’s chemistry as they trekked across country, handcuffed together in Midnight Run (1988).

 

Julie M:  I had forgotten about Midnight Run: I’ll have to watch it again. It was probably deliberate on the filmmakers’ part, the allusion to the earlier film, with the typical Indian twist that they are not just opposite character types, but also half-brothers.  Here are some cute clips. 

[Editor’s Note: Lots of use of the “F” word…very New Yawk.  Be warned.]

 

Jenny K:  I don’t think it’s close enough to be a copy, what with the bail jumper/bondsman pairing that it is. It’s at best an homage thing…I just thought the feeling was similar. MR still has the best helicopter stunt ever done, in my opinion, when DeNiro’s character shoots the rotor out of the pursuing copter’s tail and so it spirals out of control and into the hillside, exploding. First believable use of handgun vs. big flying object I’ve ever seen in the movies. Stuck with me ever since…gives all those action directors (from both countries) something to shoot for, literally!

December 27, 2011: Déjà Vu All Over Again

We are back (somewhat) from our holiday break, and we’ve been puzzling lately on one of our favorite filmi topics:  Hindi remakes of American films.  So far we’ve brought you quite a few, like Kaante and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.  Tune in to our latest discussion of three more…

 

Julia M:  My weekend library haul this time includes Shaurya (Valor, 2008) with Rahul Bose.  I am determined to try and like him!  If you’ve not seen it, you can catch Shaurya free on YouTube with English subtitles:

 

Jenny K:  I keep trying to think of a film of Rahul’s that has the other, more manic side of his personality, but the two that I am thinking of are so bad that I can’t recommend them. I’ll keep trying.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Shaurya was clearly inspired by A Few Good Men. More than, since it’s the same plot with a couple of twists. But it’s not as interesting as the original, not even close. Rahul Bose displays an actual personality, though, and some animation, so it’s worth watching. And Jaaved Jaffrey is pretty good as the prosecutor/Rahul’s best friend (love his deep sexy voice).

Jenny K:  Does anyone say “Such…you can’t handle Such” [ Such “truth” hai]?  Now, who is it who plays the Jack Nicholson anyway?

 

Julie M:  Yes indeed–KK Menon plays the Jack Nicholson character’s analogue in Shaurya and he does say that. It’s not translated very well, and he doesn’t yell it like Nicholson did, but it’s said. I was looking for it and was very proud that my rudimentary Hindi skills overcame the inexact subtitles in that instance–enough so that I recognized the quote.  Here’s that scene (start at about 6:00 in for the full effect).

And KK was really good as Brig. Gen. Pratap. It’s more of an extended cameo appearance rather than a role, just two or three scenes, but he totally nailed it without Jack’s histrionics.  Here’s the scene where he’s first introduced.  No subtitles, but he’s doing some golf practice at the border and knocks one into enemy territory, then makes an underling go and retrieve it.  Totally creepy. 

[about a week later]

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ve now watched Shaurya and then A Few Good Men again after, and am ready to voice a more informed opinion. The director of the former definitely used the Aaron Sorkin/Rob Reiner film as a template, no doubt about it. The basic plot of the maverick outsider lawyer in the military played by Rahul in Shaurya is, of course Tom Cruise in the earlier film, and KK Menon takes on the Nicholson role. Once again the bad guy is a superior officer with aims at a high office and a feeling of absolute godlike correctness in anything he chooses to do. They meet in a semi-friendly fashion at the Brigadier’s base, over a meal and discuss the case. There are in both films an innocent victim murdered and an innocent murderer, depending on your side in the argument. There’s lots of researching done by Rahul’s helpful co-workers, and a nifty if unlikely courtroom triumph for the underdog at the end, where Rahul, like Tom Cruise, is up against his best friend as prosecutor. Even the courtrooms look vaguely the same…old fashioned military decorum with lovely big windows. But there is definitely more than a few differences that make the Indian film its own take on the shared themes.

The first thing that I find different is that Rahul’s co-investigators are outsiders, journalists, and would in no way be allowed or even encouraged to help with a military case. Rahul’s job was to keep all of this out of the press, and he even got in trouble for it…yet here’s Minissha, practically in the next scene being let in on all the dirt…yet she doesn’t feel the need to print it. All her earlier ambition chucked out the window, it seems. Highly unbelievable on all fronts. I guess things couldn’t be stretched so far as to allow a mere woman to be an equal legal partner as Demi Moore was in AFGM.

 

Julie M:  And yet, Nargis was a lawyer, on her own, 60 years ago in Awaara…no problem there…nouvelle prudery?

 

Jenny K:  And then, there is the change in motive for the case. Instead of pondering the nature of power and how a bad job can make a military hero a villain by what he’s asked to do (Jack’s Colonel truly believes he’s doing right by his men and the country by defying the orders of his higher ups about Code Red prohibition), the Hindi film has to make all the bad guys explainable in their motives and much more sympathetic. With ethnic bigotry as the focus of the piece, the defendant was perfectly justified shooting his superior, who was about to kill a local child. He was also right to take his punishment, as he saw it. Further justification is needed when you learn that the Brigadier isn’t an out and out rotter…his wife, child and, don’t say it, his mother have all been killed by a native boy who he took into his home and trusted. Well, no more Mr. Nice Guy! He’s going to wipe out the whole race, so this kind of thing can’t happen to anyone else. Makes Nicholson look downright simple in his monomania..”I’m right and everyone else can just fall in line or get out!”

All in all, though Shaurya had some nice moments and some nice performances from Rahul, Jaaved and KK, I’m always going to choose the Reiner film, because it’s an almost perfect film. Stands up and salutes as well today as it did when it came out in ’92. Hoo-Rah!

 

Julie M:  You expressed almost perfectly my sentiments about Shaurya vs AFGM, right down to the ridiculousness of Minissha’s character Kaavya being able to be as much help as she was (although truly, how much investigating did she actually do?).  I too felt that the racial/ethnic/religious angle was uniquely Indian–maybe because they don’t at bottom believe their public fiction, like we do, that race (or caste, in their case) no longer matters, they can get away with it in a film whereas we can’t here, not in big-budget Hollywood films anyway. My big surprise at this film was that Rahul was so much less low-key than he usually is–almost manic–and his character is given a simplistic, yet highly effective reason for all the high-danger sporting activity. Since Indian films don’t get into the dark side of psychology very much, I found it refreshing.

[several weeks later]

Julie M:  Hum Kaun Hai (Who Are We? 2004) is an almost identical remake of The Others (2001), except without the atmosphere and with very weird, wholly Indian “explanation” scenes tacked in that inexplicably reunite Amitabh Bachchan (as the main character’s missing husband) and Dharmendra (as a totally new character not in the original).

First, the similarities. Basically, everything is the same. Dimple Kapadia takes on the role that Nicole Kidman portrayed in the original film, and does an excellent portrayal of a deeply religious (Catholic) woman trying to deal with a beloved husband missing in the war while faced with circumstances which seem to indicate that her house is haunted, or that her servants for some reason are making her think it is. Two cute kids (Hansika Motwani aka Baby Hansika, Master Aman) with a disease that renders them unable to be in bright light; three servants who appear out of nowhere to take care of them; the need to lock doors and keep curtains drawn to keep the kids from inadvertently stumbling into daylight; a mom plagued with migraines. Photos of dead people in a creepy album. All the same from start to finish. In fact, if you squint you could swear that Fionnula Flanagan, who played the matronly servant in the original, had reappeared in the remake and was speaking Hindi.

Now, the differences. First, the quality of the film stock was very bad—or maybe it was just the print that the DVD was taken from—it had color problems, jarring jump-cuts and bad sound. Looked very low-budget. (OK, had to get that off my chest) Where the original took place on a dim, misty remote island where the viewer could really believe that the house was haunted (and there was some meaning to the fog as well), HKH takes place in a sunny, park-like estate with the merest wisps of fog floating in and out, and it looked at times as if the fog was digitally added. The dimness of the original is replaced throughout by bright light, even in the “candlelit” scenes, which was jarring. The original took place in the 1940s, whereas the remake takes place in the present day (there are mentions of television, for example), removing the otherworldly quality that made the original so creepy. Dimple Kapadia seems very strong and capable, in dramatic contrast to Nicole Kidman’s ethereal fragility, which actually made her descent into screaming panic so much more scary (you kind of expect Kidman to fall apart, based on her looks). HKH had multiple flashbacks to the married couple’s love for each other, setting up the totally weird ending where we get an explanation of the husband’s strange reappearance that is totally different from the original film’s. (won’t go into details because it’s a major spoiler) And a final scene that is just really, really stupid.

In general the 2nd half was much, much better than the first half, which unfolded at a breakneck pace and with as much drama as reading the newspaper. And I was just as freaked out with what was the second-to-last scene in the original (but ended up as perhaps the third- or fourth-to-last scene in the remake). But then they had to ruin it with the last two scenes.

If you’ve not seen The Others, you will like Hum Kaun Hai just fine as it represents a genre rarely seen in Indian film (a creepy psychological story with ghosts—but maybe this is a growing trend, because 2007’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa entered into that genre as well). But if you have seen and loved the original, you’ll spend a lot of time rolling your eyes at Hum Kaun Hai.

 

Jenny K:  You make Hum Kaun Hai sound like a fun watch. I had seen The Others, but just when it originally came out, and I don’t have many clear memories about it, so I may be safe. And I love Dimple.

 

Julie M:  Well, I’ll make it easy for you to see it.  The film is available free on YouTube. I saw it on DVD where the running time was just over 120 minutes; online the running time is about 106 minutes, so there may be some missing scenes.  But I checked—the “added” scenes are all there, in all their ridiculous glory.

[a week or so later]

Julie M:  As a follow-up to many discussions, I’m finally watching Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (Love Had to Happen, 1998), even though I know it’s a remake of French Kiss (1995), but since I haven’t seen FK I figure I’m safe.  I’ll watch FK after, in order to give this one a fair chance. After a disastrously farcical first half, it’s settling down into a decent movie.  Here’s Part 1: 

It’s nice to see Ajay help the girl he loves connect with the boy SHE loves, just like in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (although this is an earlier film). And he and Kajol have nice chemistry in this. Not as much as in U, Me Aur Hum, but they are cute. She more than he, although he got much cuter once he shaved off his mustache.

Oh, and BTW, what is UP with Indian movies and the first half/second half dichotomy?

 

Jenny K:  You know, until this past year, I’d have said that it was always a first half strong/second half fizzle out tendency. This year, not so much. And I always felt that Ajay and Kajol’s chemistry in this was much stronger than in U Me Aur Hum. In that one, he was such a conceited guy in the first half, and then he was so concerned in her care and worried, that chemistry didn’t enter into it, at least in the traditional way. Interesting that you got it completely differently.

 

Julie M:  Here’s my take. (it only applies to masala or romances) If the first half is really stupid, the second half is strong. If the first half is great, the second half falls flat. Examples that come to mind right away are K3G and KHNH. Great first half, overly melodramatic 2nd half.

 

Jenny K:  But we must note that that’s coming from the point of view of a die hard non-sentimentalist.  I will grant you that K3G goes a bit too far in it’s emotional histrionics in the second half, but there are enough good moments in it (especially that dance number with Hrithik and Co. in those GORGEOUS sherwanis!) that I still enjoy it.  And KHNH is supposed to be an emotional love smorgasbord…so you must be prepared to eat a full gut-wrenching load, or you just skip it altogether.  I love it.

Oooh…that reminds me.  I just watched Affair to Remember, that transatlantic smorgasbord with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.  Wish I had put in the Indian match-up of this one, Mann with Aamir and Manisha.  It takes all the emotional fluffery and pads it out to double its length with much anguish and gnashing of teeth and even more silly songs than the original, which were very silly in the first place “Tomorrowland” being the most unlikely choice for a nightclub song that one could think of.  It’s free on Youtube as well, with subtitles.  Aamir is young and peppy, and Manisha smiles more than once or twice, Rani does a cute item number early on, but I can’t even go into the grandmother’s shawl scene at the end because the translation of that one into an “Indian version” had me rolling on the floor with it’s unintentional hilarity.  You just have to see it.

 

Julie M:  But back to the films at hand.  The setup is standard rom-com fare: the male half of an engaged couple leaves for a business trip to a different country and falls for another woman, prompting the female half to follow and try to win him back. En route she meets a native of the country she’s going to, and circumstances force them to be together unexpectedly. They get to know each other, become friends, and he helps her with a plan to win back her fiance by pretending they are lovers. Pretense turns to reality, and at the end the fiance is overthrown in favor of the new romance.

The plots of the two movies were, with the exception of a couple of added scenes in the Indian version and a slight adaptation to make it more desi (changing the setting from Toronto/Paris to Paris/India; and some details, because I somehow don’t think India is big on vineyards) exactly the same, with key scenes absolutely shot-for-shot identical–down to the female character’s wardrobe. The Indian version adds terminal clumsiness to the female character who is already afraid to fly, occasioning much (to my mind, unnecessary) slapstick in the first half of PTHHT; but that’s balanced by the FK subplot where the female character is American trying to get Canadian citizenship, which is jeopardized by the trip. In FK there is a language barrier, which is very funny, and is absent in PTHHT. And of course, the Indian version adds musical numbers, only one of which was at all memorable.

I think Ajay made a better Luc/Shekhar than Kevin Kline, and, much as I love Kajol, I think Meg Ryan made a better Kate/Sanjana. I could believe Ajay as both a thief and an ordinary village boy with dreams of land, but Kevin always had the thief about him–the vineyard scenes fell a little flat. Meg Ryan…well, she pretty much invented, for the late-80s and 90s, the cute-and-bewildered rom-com heroine with questionable taste in men, and even Kajol can’t compete.

 

Jenny K:  I’d agree that Meg slightly edges Kajol out, as she is the prototype and does that type of role (cranky/cute) almost better than anyone. I’m sorry she’s sworn off. I have always described Kajol to people as a sort of Meg Ryan type…even physically, with those big eyes and killer smile…and the coloring differences just give you great variety. I do agree with you that the clumsiness thing was rather unnecessary.

 

Julie M:  Frequently the reasons for remaking a Hollywood movie for Bollywood audiences are unclear, and the remake falls flat. FK was a great choice for an Indian remake: it has all the elements of comedy, romance and drama built right in, and obvious points at which a song would underscore the plot or action. Comparing these two versions is also instructive, for newbies, in the differences in pacing between American and Indian movies. American films move right along, with no wasted plotlines or introduction, whereas Indian films take more time on the setup and draw out the denouement, sometimes excruciatingly long, to wring out every drop of drama and sentiment.

 

Jenny K:  I actually liked the longer format for PTHHT, and think it works well for the story. The ninety minute format for French Kiss always left me wondering why, in that short a time, Kate fell for Luc…Kevin Kline or no Kevin Kline, who has always been a favorite of mine. So, with the longer time spent at Ajay’s home, etc, that all makes more sense to me.

 

Julie M:  Me too, having seen FK second.  But if I had only seen FK, then I’d put it down to “movie convention.”  Of COURSE she’ll fall in love with him once he demonstrates his knowledge of wine, because THAT’s what’s important in a relationship.  Oh, and that he knows his diamonds.  But in PTHHT I must tip a hat to this song,  which shows to best advantage the chemistry between Ajay and Kajol in this film  (sorry for the bad quality and no subtitles).

Overall, I’d say that if one hadn’t seen FK then PTHHT would be 100% satisfying, adorable, and stand-alone excellent—ranking among the best of Indian romance films. But for American audiences, FK is going to win out, if you like that kind of thing (I’ve seen way too many and am jaded on the genre).

PTHHT is available in one link, free on YouTube, with subtitles.

Oct. 4 2011:Ranbir, Ajay & More Bhagat Singh…Deol With It!

Julie M: Finished Shaheed: 23rd March 1931, the Bobby Deol version of the Bhagat Singh story.   I saw it mostly for the story, which I fell in love with in The Legend of Bhagat Singh, and I hate to leave similar films uncompared, so here goes.

It was way bloodier and more violent than the Ajay Devgan version, but Bobby did not play Bhagat as intensely as Ajay did. The production value was significantly lower and cheesier, and the early part of the story seemed rushed. The Ajay version spent a lot of time on the early years, while the Bobby version spent more time stressing the family-drama aspect of the story. Aishwarya had a cameo as the girl Bhagat refused to marry, which seemed jarring. The songs weren’t translated, and the subtitles generally were pretty bad (sometimes no subtitles at all!). The English were portrayed as complete idiots as well as evil in this version, whereas in the Ajay version they were just clueless and a bit scared. I was actually more impressed with Sunny Deol’s performance as Azad than I was with Bobby’s as Bhagat.

Comparison: here is the “Sarfaroshi Ki Tamaana” song as sung in the Bobby Deol version:

And in the Ajay version
Here is the “Mere Rang de Basanti Chola” number in the Bobby version:

And in the Ajay version.

 
So, Bobby Deol may have looked more like the real Bhagat Singh, but I liked the Ajay version better. In a nutshell: the Bobby-version of the story was hit-you-over-the-head whereas the Ajay-version was more subtle and actually more stirring for it.

 

Jenny K:  It may all come down to AR Rahman vs. Anand Raj Anand/ Surendra Singh Sodhi. Nobody beats the Rahm! And though I liked the Bhagat Singh version, I still think I like the Rang De Basanti version, just a tad better, as I said before… Aamir’s voice-over just gets me all shivery…what a guy!

Sunny Deol will always, sorry to say, beat out Bobby on acting talent whether or not he tries. He actually is very supportive of baby brother, but has, at least until recently, been the most visible star. His movie Gadar, holds the record for highest gross made for 2000-2009. He can really pull them in. Is that the first one you’ve seen him in? Have you watched Border yet?  Here’s one scene, the odds are against Sunny’s boys, 150 Hindustanis to 2000 Pakistanis but he’s going to give it all he’s got, attitude-wise.

And here’s a backround piece on the filming.

Border gives you the emotional side of “the women left behind” and also tells a real story about the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War where the Pakistani Air Force came in and surprise bombed 11 Indian air bases with no warning. Indira Ghandi sent her troops on all fronts, and beat them back so badly that the whole thing was over in 11 days with Pakistan ceding Bangladesh to independency. It’s the best of its kind in all ways, except, perhaps, for the “happy to go to war, dancing with my tank” song, which is catchy, if incongruous.

[next day]

Julie M:  Saw the first half of Border. I get that there’s some personal stuff there, but it’s still a war movie and I’m not a fan of war movies. Still, I’m enjoying Sunny Deol’s performance and Akshaye Khanna had one great scene where he blew the cr*p out of one guy, after having failed to do so at his first opportunity.  Tell me if it gets significantly better in the 2nd half, because I’m just about ready to quit.

  

Jenny K:  All I can say is that I liked Border…I found the performances good and I liked the personal back-stories. I think Sunny’s best scenes are in the second half, when things get toughest, but if you’re not liking it, you shouldn’t watch it.

Sonny doesn’t tend to do many comedies, so if you like him, you’d have to take him in some earnest, heroic drama, and this is one of the easiest to take, military-wise. Maybe you should see Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Not my taste, but it was a Really Big Hit. Set during partition, about a Sikh guy falling for the Muslim girl he rescues and how they fight to stay together, despite religious differences. Sunny has played a lot of soldiers and sardars in his time.

He did one comedy recently, Yamla Pagla Deewana, with Bobby and their dad, Dharmendra, but it looked so PriyaDhawanish (my new term for unrelentingly slapstick) that I just couldn’t do it. Here’s the trailer, see what you think.

Julie M:  I’ll finish Border, then. So far the war aspect is overshadowing everything else, in my mind. B was very surprised when he saw me watching it, because he knows I don’t watch war movies.

 [the next day] 

 So I finished Border, finally, and you were right, it did get better. (I should always, always finish Indian films before I pass judgment on them!!)  The dyad of the characters played by Sunny and Akshaye was brilliantly done, and although a minor role, I enjoyed Jackie Shroff’s air force commander, as well. It was a treat to see Suniel Shetty portraying a young, idealistic soldier, given that previously I’ve only seen him in villain or criminal roles with a hard-etched face. Each of the characters who died (no spoilers here — given that it’s a war movie) performed acts of supreme heroism in defense of Mother India, and the scene where the Sunny Deol character got misty over the death of an enemy soldier was heart-wrenching.

However, I was unprepared for the absolute bloodiness and sheer length (probably close to 45 very intense minutes) of the final battle scene. War sure is hell, and the realism of it in Full Technicolor was probably quite shocking to audiences because it completely unhinged me–yet I had to keep watching. Here’s one of those scenes.

I have to credit the filmmakers for resisting the temptation to do the battle in slow motion, and if I have one criticism it is the maudlin nature of the very final scenes where they intercut images of the battle aftermath with tear-jerking impressions of the families at home — including one character’s cancer-stricken wife, who was previously only alluded to but never seen in flashback. Oh, and the truly annoying cry/chant of “Hindustan, Hindustan, Hindustan” at the peak of the action disturbed the mood — obvious pandering patriotism is never my thing.

Here is the stirring scene at daybreak where the Air Force can finally come to rescue our boys.

[Bringing the political theme to the present day, we both watched Raajneeti (Politics, 2010).]

Julie M:  Raajneeti is one of those films where a plot summary reveals too many spoilers, so I’ll make it brief:  This is the story of the ins and outs of one Indian election as we follow a political family and their associates.  After a bit of backstory on the mother of the political family and how she married into it, we are introduced to the younger-generation Pratap brothers and their families as well as to Indu, a young woman from outside the family with some political ambitions.  One brother, Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) is handsome and politically ambitious, while his younger brother, Samar (Ranbir Kapoor) has just come back from his PhD studies in the U.S.  A family tragedy catapults Prithvi into electoral (and familial) competition with his cousin Veeru (Manoj Bajpai), and Samar reluctantly takes a role after a second tragedy.  Here’s the trailer:

Jenny K:  Raajneeti doles out its own style of gunfighter justice which seems to be the predominant way to run a government in India, if Bollywood filmmakers are to be believed. Yuva, RDB, and other similar films of the past decade paint the picture of ultimate corruption by a group of morally bankrupt would-be contenders for office who are willing to do anything and everything to get their man (or woman) in power.  If that’s true, all I can say, is run out of the polling places, and straight for the airport… Just don’t stop and roll down your taxi window on the way there. You may get blown away. I certainly was. 

Julie M:  Although I felt the film had crazy, over-the-top dramatic tension–I kept thinking the level and volume was more appropriate to a TV miniseries rather than a feature film–I really enjoyed Ranbir ‘s performance as the reluctant-cum-ruthless political strategist. Ajay Devgan–love him–was a little disappointing as the outsider behind the opposing campaign, as it seemed to be a role he could do with his eyes closed rather than a creative challenge. Katrina Kaif was OK as Indu, Nana Patekar was perfect as the older political mentor, and what is it about Indian movies, where they choose American actors to be the least convincing possible to avoid upstaging the Indian actors?  The Ranbir character’s girlfriend was horrible, just horrible.

Jenny K: While you’re right about the lack of effective white actors in Indian films, this girl isn’t at all the weakest…trust me.  Her character was meant to be a quiet reproach to Samar, and not someone to steal focus…and she did that reasonably well.  She reminded me of Jennifer Garner, favorably, more than once.

Otherwise, the performances were uniformly pretty darned good. Nana Patekar was, as usual, a true artist, layering his portrayal with so many degrees of gray that he could have hidden among the newspaper clippings of his great reviews.

Ajay Devgan looked fetching with his dark, simple wardrobe, gold earrings and now patented scowl, but on the whole I wish he had more to do. He had only two really good scenes, the one at the very end with his mentor Veeru on the roadside, where he showed some grace even when losing, and then the scene on the hillside with his mother. Wonderful expressive looks flew across his face as he reacted to her admissions. Frankly, as much as I love Ajay, I didn’t know he had that much subtlety in him. Bravo!  Here’s the director Prakash Jha and Ajay talking about their history together. 

This Making of Raajneeti video is interesting, too.

Arjun Rampal is shaping up as a rather tasty villain/psychopath these days. Always elegant, a killer with style. Much more interesting than his sweet, sensitive victim roles like his banker-turned-robber in Don or his edge-of-slacker musician in Rock On! And Manoj Bajpai turns in another slick moustache twirling version of the ultimate single-focus campaigner, Veeru. He showed us all the layers of Veeru’s insecurities, that drove him and tripped him, simultaneously…very nice. And Ranbir Kapoor, did his turn as the youngest Corleone brother…oh, I meant Pratap brother…easy mistake with all that ruthless mayhem and the schmaltzy pseudo-Sicilian soundtrack going on…with a degree of underplaying that I wasn’t expecting from the Saawariya Song and Dance Man.

 Only the women in the film seemed a bit muted in Raajneeti…Mom, Indu and Sarah, the gori girlfriend were scarcely there.  I wondered whether some of the girls scenes got left on the cutting room floor, but if this example is anything to go by, probably not…window-dressing.

Here’s the full movie with subtitles on YouTube.  But it’s in pieces.

Julie M:   Not only was it a political thriller, it was the tense story of a political family where there are secrets, jealousies, alliances and emotions equal to the best soap opera. This was a film that could have gone either way for me, but I actually liked it. Critics seemed to hate it, it was highly popular, but I thought it was a pretty good catharsis. I found myself cheering people and then in the next breath booing them, rolling my eyes at one thing and holding my breath at the next. A bit bloody for my taste but it fit the action. The only problem was that I ended up not really liking any of the characters, and waiting for each of them to get what they deserved. And each one of them did, except for Nana Patekar, who got off scot-free.

Jenny K:  Cheering and booing…becoming a real typical filmi-girl audience member, aren’t you? 
But while Nana got off without having to get his come-uppance, but the real crime to me was [spoilers] letting Samar off on his flight back to the US with only a weak token of a mea culpa “Gosh, Indu, I never wanted to be a politician…I knew I wouldn’t like who I’d become”…Understatement of the Year! What about a scene where he tried to take his mother back to NYC, and she turns her back on him and leaves? Or Indu finally donning a backbone with her robes of office and arresting him as her first official act? [end of spoilers] Would have been appropriate…What was his doctoral thesis again? “Sublimated Violence in Victorian Literature”? A natural!

 

Julie M:  Nice analysis. The only thing I’ll take issue with is your characterization of Prithvi as a villain. I’d call him obsessed and ruthless — and pretty dumb — but I think he genuinely wanted (!) to get into politics for more than just personal power or family pressure, and eventually he came to realize that the cost was starting to mount up but by then it was too late, he had to push on.

I agree that Veeru was the most interesting character to watch, outside of Samar, who actually got a bit boring towards the end with his sheer villainy. You could almost see Veeru’s head splitting with all the conflicting emotions.  And Indu was just a cipher from the start.

 

Jenny K:  Manoj Bajpai is always a great character actor…you love to hate him. Though, in this film, that’s so full of questionable ethics and downright villainy…you can’t throw a stone without hitting a baddie. It’s harder to decide who you should identify with…even mom is a liar.

 

Julie M:  That’s why I said earlier that I came away not liking anyone. But I think Prithvi was the closest to sympathetic, except Indu, who ended up being used by everyone. Even though Prithvi was not clean, he did realize that it had all gotten out of control. And then [spoiler alert] he was blown up, so… Veeru was more psychotic than Prithvi—he had the crazy eyes from minute one!

 

Jenny K: I was looking for a clip of Manoj Bajpai with subtitles and found one that looks as if it belongs in this article…another historical uprising film called Chittagong.  Not out yet, though it was made last year.  There’s always a new one coming out…hope it’s as good as it looks!

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. 

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