January 5, 2014: Guns and Six-Packs, Part I

Did you miss us?  In the flurry of holidays between Diwali and Christmas we saw two star hunks in two films…and not at home in front of our tvs, but in theaters, no less!  Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Ram-Leela and Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3.  They generated such a flurry of words, that we’ve had to split it into two parts!  Enjoy the festivities with us.

Jenny K:  Kathy and I saw Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (A Play of Bullets:  Ram-Leela, 2013), and if I had just left at the interval, I would have said that SLB had gotten it all back, all that lushness that made Devdas a standout. It’s complete sensory overload, and he can make it all palatable. The trailer gives you an idea. 

Julie M:  I saw it too, with my friend/former student Kristy, who just loves big spectacles.  Should we do a plot summary?  I promise I’ll be quick…Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) are denizens of longtime opposing gangland clans who have all but taken over a Gujarati village.  If this sounds like the setup of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is.  He sees her after he crashes a party at her house and falls instantly in love, they have a way cool balcony scene, they decide to run away together, her relative kills his friend, he kills her relative, and he becomes a wanted man.  And so on and so forth.  There are twists that make this film very Indian (her family’s don is her mother; he gets a masala-style, way overblown but very fun hero entry song a la Salman Khan,  and, true to form, the second half is almost a totally different story that takes Shakespeare to the “what if…” level.

Jenny K:  I wish I had known the translation of the title before I went into the theater…add to that, I was running a bit late and missed a ten minute chunk of the beginning, so I literally didn’t see the bullet-storm coming.  And so, for me, the second half just goes off on a violent tangent that changed my whole review of it. Now, I didn’t expect a happy ending or anything…it is a reworking and an updating of R&J, after all, but this overarching firestorm of violence is just too much.

I feel like SLB locked himself in a screening room, watching an endless loop of Gangajaal and Shakti and no one let him out for months! It’s changed his whole list of emotional colors in his paintbox…with all the problems I’ve had with him over the years, I’d always complain of overdoing the emotional and individual tragedy element.  He’d never be the director giving us those village-wide breast-beating, hair tearing revenge fantasies that I hate.  Yet it seems he’s into it now, and, true to Bhansali’s tendency to needless excess, he’s given us a film so relentless in its symphony of slo-mo jewels of shattering glass and varying liquids, that it overwhelmed the splendor he had worked so hard to get back.

Julie M:  It is super-violent, right from the first scene.  I wasn’t happy about that.  But I disagree that it was relentless. I found it to be very SLB-splendid even with the violence:  a visual treat.  I was totally satisfied, and having Ranveer and Deepika to look at for nearly 3 hours was just like the old days.

Jenny K:  The performances were definitely fun. Ranveer and Deepika generate some real heat onscreen, and have lots of loveliness of body, and often of face (on her part). Deepika is finally finding her groove in a big way. By the way, I ended up seeing it again, the whole of it this time, with Pat.

Julie M:  Totally agree.  Gotta say, it was the hottest, sexiest love story I’d seen in a while…talk about chemistry! And KISSING!!! I was shocked, but intrigued.  I would have preferred that he not have been bearded because I really wanted to see his lips. I’m still fanning myself lest I get the vapors. I’m still thinking about how Ranveer buffed up for this. He should do commercials for whatever program he followed, because…whew.

Jenny K:  Ranveer’s buffing was almost overdone for me. He reminded me of those weightlifters who can’t quite recognize their biceps and thighs as their own and so move very carefully and self-consciously. I actually found Khanji (Sharad Kelkar), Leela’s brother, more attractive in his bedroom scene with his wife…especially with that voice! I was quite impressed with Sharad throughout, and am definitely going to find more of his films. But I agree with you about the beard having to go…had a sort of Amish effect of flattening his chin out.  I, too, found their chemistry together to be very hot. Surprisingly so. Pat thought that Leela’s writhing on the bed in various scenes to be way too vulgar and western for her tastes. I didn’t like it so much in the “balcony scene” (a bit “too much, too soon”, there) but thought it was okay on the wedding night.

A big problem for me would have been eliminaed if SLB hadn’t felt the need to stick the “R&J Rework” tag on it. As a lifelong Bardmonger (literally one who sells the Bard for a living) that sort of challenge has me immediately poking holes in weak parallels…”Shouldn’t Juliet, at least, be just a bit more sheltered and innocent, and not quite so drenched in ‘Eau de Slut?'” And our Ram-eo, why the heck is he portrayed as an arrogant pornographer?

Julie M:  Well, we are talking the criminal underworld here. He’s an arms and porn dealer, she’s a don’s princess daughter who’s grown up with guns, seen her mother undertake all kinds of illicit activities and not batted an eye–plus her mother seems to have ignored her and allowed her to run wild in her gilded palace. And as for Eau de Slut…nobody is an innocent 14-year-old here: these are fully developed hormones running rampant in adults (well, maybe 20/25-year-olds).

Jenny K:  Just shows the weakness of trying to make it an R&J comparison in the first place, if all they can think of (I’m talking to both SLB and Vishal Bhardwaj, who does it a bit better) is making a transition between the moneyed upper classes of Renaissance Verona and a severely fictionalized whup-ass crazy blood-lusting Rajasthani underworld. Both may try to keep their princesses pure, both will probably fail (in a search for drama) but in R-L it seemed doomed from the git-go.

Julie M:  I find it interesting to compare Deepika’s two organized-crime-princess turns this year, Chennai Express and Ram-Leela. She wasn’t allowed to get horny in CE, only feisty, so she really turned it on here. I read that she was extremely embarrassed about the kinds of things she had to say and do in R-L, but man, it was like she was born to do them. Both characters were total fantasy and it worked.

Supriya Pathak as the don in Ram-LeelaJenny K: I like her turn in Chennai Express a lot better, even though in R-L she is an electrically visual presence.  In CE she was more likeable and sweet…I guess I just go for the safe in my heroines and sexy in my villainesses.  How predictable of me!

Speaking of deliciously evil, Supriya Pathak (Pankaj Kapur’s wife) is absolutely the perfect villainess…and mafia don. Revenge personified. But the inter-village hatred and plotting gets sort of confusing after a while.

Julie M:  I too got confused about the clan-warfare machinations midway through the 2nd half, and I’m not really sure how Ram and Leela decided [spoilers] that the only way to end it all was to kill each other, because that seemed a bit drastic to me. Still, it was R&J and they had to die. [end spoilers] And  for once I was mesmerized during every song. Not just the big dance numbers (of which there were THREE!) but even the slower ones. Just fascinated. I nearly fainted with all of those ladies during Tattad Tattad, and I loved how they used a variety of styles for the dance numbers (South, and Punjabi, and Bollywood). Priyanka Chopra Ram Leela Hot Item Song Photos

About the only thing that disappointed me–and I knew it would–was Priyanka Chopra’s item number, which only displayed how bad a dancer she was compared to Deepika and how plastic and bleached her face looked.

Jenny K: Poor Priyanka!  She dances better than I do (I haven’t seen her mambo, though, and mine’s pretty good!), and her acting is usually better than Deepika’s, at least so far.  Loved her in Barfi!, for example.  And Tattad Tattad was fun, but I think the person who nicknamed it “the dandruff song” had it right, seriously odd choreography!

All in all, I’d say, worth seeing, but if you’re gun-shy, I’d consider leaving at the break…who needs the extra hour and a half, anyway!  But for the other point of view, Pat said something along the lines of “three hours of my life wasted” and/or “I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than watch that again”.

Julie M:  I say stay.  I LOVED the entire thing, simply adored it, and felt that it worked, really WORKED. My friend liked it too—her first Bollywood film. I think I may have converted someone.

Nothing says Love like a Revolver

Aug. 19, 2013: 2JPK’s Party on the Chennai Express

Julie M:  OK…This was a special Filmi-Goris x 4 outing, with the much-storied Pat and Kathy joining Jenny and Julie IN PERSON for the opening weekend of Shah Rukh Khan’s latest, Chennai Express (2013).

In short: if you are a die-hard SRK fan this is something you will definitely enjoy. If you aren’t…well…

Jenny K: You can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Chennai-ExpressJulie M: Plot summary: Rahul (SRK) is a 40-year-old working in his grandfather’s Mumbai sweet shop, the grandfather who raised him after his parents died when he was a young boy. He’s not been allowed to go out on his own or get married, and he is the apple of Grandpa’s eye, so he’s been in a sort of prolonged adolescence his whole adult life. In fact, he and his two boyhood buddies are planning a secret bro’s vacation to Goa to scope out the lay-deez when Grandfather suddenly passes away. Grandmother tasks Rahul with taking the ashes ALL the way to southeast India–to G’pa’s ancestral village, it seems–in the exact opposite direction from Goa. He and the gang hatch an alternative plan that involves throwing Grandma off the trail by SEEMING to board a southward train–the Chennai Express–while in reality escaping at the next station to turn right around and go beachward.

Well, life throws Rahul a curve and he ends up “rescuing” Meena (Deepika Padukone), a Tamil don’s daughter, who is being dragged back to Daddy after escaping a forced engagement, only to find himself also dragged southward with her and her captors. Escape is impossible, as is Meena, so Rahul has only his charm and his wits (both in short supply) to try and get himself out of a number of scrapes, including a looming fight to the death with the seriously large dude Meena is engaged to, all the while accompanied by a very large urn containing Grandpa’s mortal remains.

Running for the trainThis is one slapstick film complete with mud-dunkings, comic car chases and misunderstandings arising from language barriers. SRK mugs his way through situation after situation with his trademark babble-banter that to me seemed to work better when he was younger, all the while somehow making the girl fall in love with him. Too slapstick for me in the first half; luckily the 2nd half finds Rahul eating some hero pills offstage and finally sacking up.

Jenny K:  Mud-dunkings and comic car chases are director Rohit Shetty’s oeuvre, as I understand it (Golmaal…need I say more?). Should we expect it to make sense?

Kathy K:  Yes, the plot is ridiculous and its 30 minutes too long (especially when they are beating SRK to a pulp), but as a die-hard SRK fan, he once again saved the show for me.

Pat B: I have to go with Julie on this one. There were a few humorous moments like when Meena makes the comment about Rahul being fifty (the look on his face was worth it)

Jenny K:  She actually said “having no mother for fifty years” right after he had said she died when he was eight…so I don’t blame him for looking aghast when she was saying he must be fifty-EIGHT!  It was funny.

Pat B:  And the DDLJ music playing while she is running for the train (and then the others running for the train)…I smiled and chuckled. But, the other overdone mugging stuff made me uncomfortable and I felt it was done for lack of a better script and more clever scenes.

Julie M: SRK was my least favorite part of the film; but there was plenty of other stuff to like. The scenery, for example, was fabulous. The two big dance numbers showcase all that is fun about Bollywood from about 10-15 years ago, particularly this one.

Pat B: Oddly, I wasn’t that taken by the big dance scenes. I liked the old style grandeur of them, but I just was less than impressed by the dance choreography. The one scene I did fall for was the beautiful romantic scene with the song, “Titli”, between the lovers. Stunning! (The one where Kathy tapped me on the shoulder and nodded her head….yeah, Shah Rukh was totally gorgeous in that scene).

Jenny K: You probably like “Titli” better because Farah Khan choreographed it, and it’s more Bolly-Traditional.  The “1-2-3-4 (Booty Shake)” number [at the bottom of the post] is Kolly-Traditonal, the whole way  — from the item girl, Priyamani (who I thought was fabulous!) to the choreographer, Raju Sundaram, who is Prabhu Deva’s brother.

The cinematography was really lush, I was especially seduced by the vistas at the top of the temple stairs in the scene right before Pat’s song begins (nice scene, acting-wise, as well) and the scenes of the tea plantations, almost as lovingly shot as in last month’s Paradesi. Despite the “Kashmir” title of Julie’s song, I’d bet they were the same fields in Paradesi, which were supposed to be in Tamil Nadu…if anyone bothered to report on locations. Bother.

But just like cotton candy, this movie has faded from my consciousness along with its fairly shallow sweetness. Nothing too offensive about it, except some of SRK’s wardrobe (what is it with all those spray painted waistcoats in the final number?!? Yuck!), yet nothing too memorable.

Pat B: Gone for me too, Jenny, except that one beautiful song and scene. I am so happy I saw that on the big screen. And the lushness does make me want to go to South India…great travel promo.

Kathy K:  What would have completed this vintage trip down masala lane would have been one or two more full songs.  Have you noticed how the new movies are getting away from these?  Sigh.  The film had a good item number, but the other songs could have been placed better.  It seemed end-loaded with dance numbers.

Julie M: I didn’t even mind the now-obligatory rap song over the ending credits.

I also liked a running gag wherein the two leads must communicate in Hindi through song to throw off the bad guys, who only spoke Tamil, allowed the audience to have fun recognizing classic Bollywood tunes. And I was impressed with Deepika Padukone, despite her casting as the typical feisty love interest that might have been played by Kajol back in the day, actually showed some acting talent.

Jenny K:  I agree. I think Deepika has matured in her performances quite a bit. Shah Rukh was charming in the second half but the first half’s humor, as I expected, was too broad for me and had a slightly annoying aftertaste to all of it. While I laughed at the “Now you have annoyed me so much that I have to go sit down” bits, when they kept repeating, I found myself thinking that this stuttering buffoon before me was an incarnation that Shah Rukh had left behind him long ago. Why did he feel the need to revisit it?

Chennai-Express OutfitsJulie M: I did not hate it and found plenty to like, but the ending and the EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG AND BLOODY fight scene ruined all my goodwill for this film.  Plus, I found the ending full of mixed messages. “Give your daughters agency, but let me have her only after I’ve successfully fought for her.” WTF? It would have made much more sense if Rahul had foregone the “we’re modern now” speech, fought the big scary dude for his own reasons [self-respect, etc.], won, and then said “By the way, Dad, I shouldn’t have had to do this to win your daughter if I was who she wanted all along.” I also feel that they did not sufficiently set up Rahul as an arrested-adolescent early in the film, which would have made the 2nd half make WAY more sense narratively (stepping up to be the next generation of manliness once Grandpa has died).

Pat B: I think it was a bad redo of the end of DDLJ.

Jenny K: But, as Pat would agree, half the enjoyment of the film was getting the audience to reference old SRK nostalgic classics like DDLJ in the first place (his last line of the movie before the credits was that title, wasn’t it?). But I go along with consensus that  the end fight could have been shortened or skipped altogether…I know the guys like that sort of thing, but I really felt that I’d seen it all before, substituting sticks for shovels. Check that scene out and see what I mean.

Plus, cinematically, there were some very odd effects.  Perhaps it’s just loaded with Tamil film references that I don’t know yet…like the credit song’s homage to Rajinikanth. I mean, those multiple shots of our hero from the feet up, as he is walking on glass…look awfully similar to this one, yes? Look at 1:00 and 1:20. All that slo-mo circular pan on RK, with him frozen in mid kick, just makes me wonder if his martial arts are, shall we say, augmented, a good percent of the time. Sacreligious, I know…

Julie M: I did like the “walking on glass” bit. It was so contrived and in such an obvious way that it tickled me, because they knew they were working with a trope.

So, all in all, it all added up to a meh-plus for me. Not something to search out, particularly, but fun if you have the opportunity. Wait for the DVD version; a big screen is not necessary for this one.

Kathy K: On a final note, just go to relax and listen to the wonderful audience laugh at the inside language, jokes and applaud when SRK comes on screen.

Pat B: It gave me great dreams that night. Move over, Gauri.

Kathy K: Of course, there are his eyes, lashes, nose, lips…… Ouch! Jenny just slapped me!

Jenny K:  Sorry…sometimes drastic measures are necessary.

When we began this, I thought we were all grown women….but, I guess, Shah Rukh can make women of all ages forget for a while.

By the way, don’t click the video if you don’t want to be singing the chorus for the next week.

 

Sept. 22, 2012: Imraan/Ranbir ~ Glory & Hope for the Future

Jenny K:  What is wrong with most romantic comedy writers these days!  I find it hard to FIND any romance in them.  No lightness, and very little sweetness.  I feel old…”I remember when I was a youngster, and I walked fifteen miles, Uphill, IN THE SNOW! to see that cute little Meg Ryan or Kajol girl win over that adorable wisecracking goofball…they knew how to strum a viewer’s heartstrings…”  Harrrumph!

This mood started when I went back into the Netflix queue, and watched another stupid fluffy Indian themed English language romance today, When Harry Tries to Marry (2011)…completely useless. The two leads were tolerable, but the script was so bad, with so many holes in it, that it isn’t worth the effort. And in this one, not only were the lions-share of the gori actors completely wooden, as usual, but most of the desi ones were wooden, too! Bleh. Fooled by a pretty trailer, again! Actually, the film looks good…it just doesn’t deliver any sort of coherent plot, and so it’s a waste of time.

Julie M: Pass-adena.  Even the leads looked generic.  Bleah.

Jenny K: The mood continued, without my expecting much, but I bravely tried again, picking Break Ke Baad (2010), starring Deepika Padukone and my current favorite flavor of youngster eye candy, Imraan Khan. And then, just a few lines in, I remembered why he’s always able to cheer me up…he’s his uncle Aamir, back before he became Angry-Earnest-Man-with-a-MESSAGE.  And yes, with Aamir, message has to be in all caps (Taare Zameen Par, anyone?  Yes, we know he has a learning disability….Noble, but stop screaming at the boy’s parents, that won’t make them listen!).   Maybe Imraan will end up just like AK, but for now, he’s still got the innocence and sweetness in droves.  I could just watch him for hours!  Even if he doesn’t feel the need to try as many new things.

Julie M:  I don’t know, I like Imraan’s acting OK but for youthful sighs and decent acting I’m still going to stick with Ranbir Kapoor and Ranvir Singh.  And Prateik… not for acting because he’s so hit and miss, but just for looking at.  But Imraan has the heritage and the role model:  one to watch, for sure.

Jenny K:  Break Ke Baad takes the same format that we’ve seen Imraan shine in, in half a dozen films since his debut, but if Baad ain’t Broke, why fix it, na? The recipe is simple, take a bit of Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Naa, a touch of I Hate Luv Stories, a skosh of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and quite a bit of Ek Main aur Ekk Tu, and stir wildly. But basically he’s the good boy, the sweet kid, probably a bit mistaken in the degree of his devotion to a rather undeserving girlchild, but with no reason in the world that these vixens should overlook/undervalue such obvious hunkitude. They don’t deserve him!

Plotwise, it’s as follows: Abhay Gulati, also known as Gelato, also known as Sunita (these kids go too far on multiple nicknames for my ID-clarity) is played by Imraan. He’s been in love with Deepika’s character Aaliya Khan, alias Al, alias Shahrukh, since they met cute in a movie theater when they were roughly eight and ten. They bonded over love of films. She was to be a diva of the screen while he would run his father’s cinema chain. A perfect pair, so they both thought.

Until, Aaliya applies for a scholarship to a university in Australia’s Gold Coast, somewhere, and goes off for a year long “break” from her overprotective mother (Sharmila Tagore) and her boyfriend, both. Here’s a scene before she gets the idea to leave which shows their standard dynamic…she’s the goofball adventurer, always pushing the envelope, and he’s her anchor, keeping her safe. Very cute scene.

Julie M:  So weird, but when she said “I’m Shahrukh Khan” she actually looked like him a little. I’m sort-of impressed she can do the impression.

Jenny K:  OMG!  Did you forget OSO?   They must have spent a good length of time together on that one.  But you’re right, her acting chops are getting sharper.

However…when she goes off to Australia, her inner voice has her almost immediately jump the rails, taking acting classes against her mother’s wishes, moving out of her aunt’s house and into a beachfront playpen of a place with other kids, all of whom party way too much to be good for Aaliya’s already wild temperament. Abhay jumps on the next plane to be sure she’s alright, and just succeeds in fighting with her and forcing her to break up with him. Does he listen? Nope. He moves in to the beach front, too. Will they get back together? What do you think? Here’s the trailer, no subtitles to this one, however. Sorry, but you get the idea. 

I thought Deepika was much more competent than I usually find her, acting-wise. And she’s always breathtakingly beautiful (especially walking up from the ocean in her bathing suit). Perhaps she has a natural affinity for playing a stubborn B…h. I’m not sure why Abhay even wants her back, but he does, and I have no willpower to say no to this sweetie-pie, even if his heroines seem to have no problem doing just that. Check it out if you have a chance.

Julie M: I’ll keep it in the list…but lately these cute-kid romcoms just aren’t attracting me anymore.  It’s not that it’s a romance, which I don’t mind and actually even like, but they are so YOUNG.  And it’s clearly done for an audience that thinks they invented romance.  EMAET, which I have not seen yet but I’ve read all the reviews and seen all the trailers, is a bit more up my alley…

Jenny K:  Well, it was cute, except for Imraan’s second act haircut…in depth analysis, of that film, here.

Suffice it to say my will to live was so rejuvenated by BKB, that I even went out to see another of the young guns, Ranbir Kapoor in his new comedy, which is still in the local theatres.  I’m not going to give the title yet, just going to start with the trailer…I just can’t say it…because, for an American audience, it’s probably one of the worst titles ever chosen. 

Julie M:  ERGH.  But being that it’s Ranbir, I’m all ears!

Jenny K:  I know, I shouldn’t have let a few little letters set me against a film, but what with the vomitous title and the prospect of an evening with slapstick and silent movie shenanigans galore, I hadn’t started out the evening wanting to see it.  The film I went to the theater to see, Ustad Hotel, a Malayalam film, chose to come into my local theater with, you’ve guessed it, NO SUBTITLES! Too bad. So, regretfully, Kathy and I chose to go see B****! which I still can’t type out, and what do I get?…over two hours in a dark theater with almost no subtitles, because we didn’t need them! Go figure.

Awash in all the good feeling that The Artist spread over the international cinemascape, India has dropped this little gem into our laps. It has Ranbir Kapoor channeling his granddad, Raj Kapoor in full “Little Tramp” mode, plus Roberto Benigni, and perhaps a bit of vintage Jimmy Stewart, to give us our rather adorable deaf -mute hero.  He was originally named Murphy by his parents, but due to his inability to pronounce his own name, he’s saddled with…with…the name you saw in the trailer. I can’t say it…maybe I’ll get over it by the end of this critique. What I will say is that Ranbir has a definite gift for physical comedy. Doesn’t say anything throughout the whole film, yet you almost always know exactly what he is trying to say to the people in his life. Extraordinary job, and I tend to hate silent movie shtick.

Julie M:  He does move spectacularly, doesn’t he? Sigh.

Jenny K:  He plays a young man from Darjeeling who has few visible aims in life and he falls for a lovely girl, Shruti (Ileana D’cruz turning in a delightful performance in, I believe, her first Hindi film) who is, unfortunately already engaged to a run of the mill cute rich guy from Kolkata. Now, she’s a bit bored by her absentee fiancee who says all the right things and could give her everything her parents could want for her, but Bbb…Ranbir, a man of no words, gives her spontaneity, adventure and a single minded focus on her that wins Shruti’s heart eventually. Yet despite all of this charm and good-heartedness, she eventually gives in to her parents’ practical view of love vs. marriage, and goes back to Kolkata to marry.

Brf! is heartbroken, and to top it all off, his father is laid off of his job as a chauffeur to the rich Singh family who live in the mansion up the hill. He has known the family and their autistic daughter, Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) practically all his life. When his dad falls ill and needs an operation, and Mr. Singh won’t agree to a loan, well what’s our literally tongue-tied hero to do but try to arrange to kidnap Jhilmil and hold her for ransom…but plan as he might, it’s no good at all kidnapping someone who’s been already kidnapped an hour beforehand. SO…thwarted as a kidnapper, he tries to rob a bank…now try doing that without being able to say “stick ‘em up” or being able to hear the cops behind you. Hilarious.

Well, nothing goes as he’d hoped, and somehow he can’t seem to get the money or give the girl back…he and Jhilmil are thrown together time and again, and a lasting bond ensues. Priyanka does a wonderful job playing Jhilmil in an understated, yet eloquent portrayal of autism. She looks distracted, about 14 years old, yet still manages to be fetchingly gamin under that crazy curly mop. Here’s a song showing a bit of their developing relationship. 

Julie M:  I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that Priyanka seems to have done this competently. . ..The last few movies I’ve seen her in (cough-AGNEEPATH-cough), she really stunk up the place.  Not accurately autistic though—more like she’s playing developmentally disabled, to my eyes.  Directorial discretion, I suppose.

Jenny K:  Awww…I thought you liked her in 7 Khoon Maaf?  Remember?   I thought there was progress there, too.

But, summing up, in spite of my predisposition to pooh-pooh, I really rather liked B…b…Barfi! The only thing I could wish is that writer/director Anurag Basu had dispensed with the older age framing story. It just added a layer of confusion that I didn’t need. When you’re not going to spell things out with lots of words, then simpler is better. But I do predict there will be quite a number of best acting nominations at the next Filmfare awards, and maybe a few wins.

And all I can do is thank the Second Gen Twosome for rescuing me from my “Why-Don’t-They-Make-‘Em-Anymore” Blues.  It seems the future has a much brighter aspect than I had hoped.  I’m even looking forward to the Diwali film releases, again!

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!

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