Part 15: All About Dancing, and Playing it Saif

Julie M:  Thanks for pointing out the actors in Bawandar! I did notice that the lead actress was the same as the birth mom in KM, but the familiarity of the other actors escaped me. I guess that means they’ve disappeared into their roles, which makes them good actors.

Actually one of my friends got back to me this morning and wants to go tonight. I think dangling Hrithik in front of her did the trick.

 

Jenny K:  Yay! A taker! I knew something would pan out! Enjoy, and tell me what you think! As to your next shipment, I’ll try to send you something more soon.

 

Julie M:  OK, saw Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara this evening. Really great: funny, great buddy moments, amazing scenery, perfect pacing. I’m not sure it was necessary to see on the big screen but it definitely made a difference, although we were sitting a little too close. Hrithik’s face should always be 10 ft. tall…and you are right, he needed to dance more. Theater was about 85% full (6pm show), mostly Indians, mostly younger couples apparently on dates, only 1 granny that I saw and a couple of entire families. My friend got kind of excited about Indian movies (ok, she got really excited about Hrithik) so I recommended a couple to her.

Why do people not like Katrina Kaif? I thought she was adorable. Is it because they think she’s taking work away from “real” Indian actresses?

 

Jenny K: I was sitting in the second row, too and to the side. They had us in a smaller theater at the multiplex and it was completely full at the 8:40 show. There were seven of us and so we had to break into twos and threes around the house. You’re right, Hrithik is a sight to see that close. Which ones did you recommend to your friend? After you’re well and truly hooked on Hrithik, you have to see the following two scenes from his first movie Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai, that sent all the Indian girls over the edge. No one knew anything about him before this, had just been a 2nd AD on a few of his father’s films. He wasn’t his father’s first choice for this role, I believe, but Hrithik sure picked it up and ran with it. On the first clip, just have to watch about 3 1/2 minutes. Sorry there are no subtitles, but they had the best video quality and these are for unabashed ogling, not worrying about the plot.

As to the Katrina thing…I’ll tell you, I’ve seen her in a few films with Akshay Kumar and also a few with her boyfriend Salman Khan and she’s never been as warm and attractive before this film. Usually she’s sort of cold and wooden, like a mannequin. If she keeps up this way, I won’t have any problems with her.

 

Julie M:  Nice clips! I liked the “Club Indiana” in the 2nd one…Indiana Jones…remember how we saw that together the first weekend it came out? You also had a nice clip in your blog, the one that’s a more “arty” dance number, “Main Aisa Kyun Hoon”. I’m going to forward that entire Hrithik blog post to her.

I recommended Dhoom 2 (!!!), Koi…Mil Gaya and Krrish. I know Dhoom 2 isn’t very intellectual but he is all over it, and it’s fun. That’s all I could think of off the top of my head, plus she is in the same library system as I am so I made sure to recommend films I knew she could get easily. She is also a big indie movie fan with the same basic taste as me so I gave her the names of 4 SRK movies I knew she would like, My Name is Khan, Paheli, Swades and Chak De India. I told her that if she wanted to experience full-on Bollywood she could go for Devdas or KKKG but I warned her what she might not like about them, and told her that I couldn’t get through Devdas myself.

If you have KNPH please send it…you know how I love looking at him…

Jenny K:  Funny, when I saw the club name, I thought, “Club India-na?” Chee! Bad pun, with Na? being the Hindi equivalent of saying “right?” I, loving bad puns, jumped to that right away.  It’s all in how you look at it.

Side bit of nostalgia.  Do you know, your dad told me my favorite pun, ever.  History based, it is as follows:  One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.  Still makes me giggle, funny guy, your dad.

I do have quite a few other HR films, but I had hesitated to send them because most are too melodramatic and/or too cheesy. Do you want them all, and if so, do you want them in a lump or rationed out so they last longer (and so B doesn’t realize how far into HrithikMania you’re going)?

Julie M:  The club in the clip was DEFINITELY decked out like the cave in the beginning of Raiders. Obvious to me.

If the HR films are very cheesy don’t send them because I don’t have time to waste on them, but a little cheese is OK (I have a fast-forward button). I’ll trust your judgment.

Late last night, after getting back from the theater and before B got home from Michigan at 1AM (urk), I watched Love Aaj Kal. Meh. Saif was somewhat watchable in the dual role (yikes, he is overdoing the body building!) but frankly, neither story was very interesting. Story 1: Girl and boy are together for 2 years, break up to lead different professional lives, then find out in the absence that they are soulmates. Big deal. Story 2: 45 years ago boy sees girl, instant love, cannot declare his love so he stalks her until she falls in love with him, he declares himself to her family on the eve of her wedding to someone else, he gets her. Also, big deal. Popular in India but I cannot see why. Hope the other 2 I got are better.

Jenny K:  Love Aaj Kal is an odd thing…when I saw the trailer, I said, I think I saw this. When I read the synopsis on IMDb and later, with your description I said, yeah, I must have seen this in the theaters when it came out. Bad sign when I really don’t remember much about it at all except vague images of Saif in a Sikh turban and Rishi Kapoor in it, I think as the modern day version of that guy Saif was playing in the past. I didn’t even remember it long enough to put it on my list. Maybe I did just read a few reviews and look at a few trailers and then decided not to go…that thing I have about not “getting” Saif as a romantic lead. Though he was okay in Parineeta, as I recall. Sort of an exception to my rule.

Julie M:  But Saif was really cute as the romantic lead in Hum Tum. Better direction, maybe. Also with Rishi Kapoor.

Jenny K:  Ah, we must agree to disagree. I saw that and Salaam Namaste and thought he just tried too hard to do the SRK charming thing and it just didn’t fit comfortably on him. He spoke too fast, then his voice got higher and squeakier, (In other things like KHNH, I’d have said that his voice was his most attractive feature) and he never knew when to pull back from the humor with his heroine and just get serious, and therefore sexy. Yes, it can be formulaic, but SRK has that timing down in his sleep, and I haven’t found Saif able to get it, or, alternatively, to find his own rhythms as a romantic lead, at least not yet. But put him into quirky or dark roles, and something else happens with him…completely convincing. I’m going to send you Being Cyrus.

Julie M:  Saw Aaja Nachle this evening. I could have sworn the plot was lifted from a 1940s Judy Garland movie–“let’s put on a play to save the auditorium from being torn down.” Hated the first half (so formulaic and boring) but it got much better in the 2nd half, and the final play was so beautifully done. [Jenny K's Note: I'd have put the clip on of the finale play, Laila-Majnu, but there are no good copies of a letterboxed version on YouTube...and it's over 20 minutes long!]

I finally understand why India loves dramatic love stories. We only have Shakespeare (and in the USA it’s not even ours, and he ripped off a lot too), they have 1000+ years of epic poetry and fable and legend about couples and love and honor and duty and all. Our culture is pretty weak that way. Maybe that’s why the Bible plays so well here–it contains some really great stories that are required to fill the soul-gap that the Puritans created when they banned whatever was magical and beautiful about religion.

Jenny K:  But the “Let’s put on a show” genre is almost completely new for Indian audiences, at least from what I’ve seen… so there is some positive aspects of their stealing from Judy:-)  Seriously, Indian popular cinema has never needed a framework for the musical numbers, like a backyard show, they put it in wherever emotional clarity is needed. 

I also love anything that gives Madhuri the chance to dance until she drops. She can really grab your attention…and I’ll agree that I bought the video just to be able to see the full Laila Majnu show whenever I wanted to. You practically didn’t need the subtitles. I didn’t like the New York scenes as much, felt very dated, except Akshaye giving Madhuri a Starbucks coffee at the end, so you figure he’ll visit her there. A small role for him here, but a lighthearted one, I particularly liked his making pizza and asking the daughter for gum and telling her “I’m the bad guy”.

I agree with your points for the love of drama, but I think I’d add that a good portion of Indian audiences find an outlet for the range of emotions that they often don’t express in real life. They are not encouraged in PDAs or love matches, etc., and like most of us, spend the good portion of their lives doing ordinary, undramatic things.  Why not  indulge in travel, riches, true love and epic tragedy on screen whenever you can?

Julie M: “New York scenes…”?? did I miss something? all I can recall is she’s rehearsing her company in the dance studio, she’s on the phone hearing bad news, then she’s on the plane with her daughter. Maybe a brief visual flashback when she’s telling the story of the failed marriage to the American photographer? I admit that I did not have time to watch the bonus DVD last night, but I will flip through that for deleted scenes tonight before I have to return the library DVDs tomorrow.

OK–last movie review–saw Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Very odd. Starred Shiney Ahuja, the actor I liked from Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, and Akshay Kumar. Akshay was very likable in this–no martial arts–he played a goofy but ultimately smart psychiatrist. Even though it ended up being somewhat interesting, the plot felt contrived and there were too many irrelevant and farce-like aspects in the first half for me to say I truly liked the whole thing although there were some really good moments. Vidya Balan was great as the female lead although she overacted near the end. There was a lot of opportunity to make this movie something special, that I felt was wasted.

Funny, when looking it up I learned that it was a re-re-re-remake of Chandramukhi–or, rather, it and Chandramukhi had the same original source–with our buddy Rajinikanth as the psychiatrist. Aha!

So, overall, thumbs up for Akshay and Shiney, so-so for the rest, and man, did I love the beauty of the haunted house.

Jenny K:  So that’s an “Okay” for BB or did you actually like it overall? Can’t quite tell. :-) As to the “New York scenes” question, the couple of times I’ve seen Aaja Nachle, I thought someone referred to her studio as being in New York, or some subscript said it. Perhaps I just imagined it, but I don’t think so. There was only the scene at the beginning and one over the credits, so two had to be plural. Didn’t mean to imply you’d missed anything.

Julie M:  BB was merely OK.  2.5 stars out of 5.  Don’t go out of your way to find it, because it’s not that good, but if you come across it you would probably enjoy it.

Part 14: More Modern Views of India, Various

Jenny K: I just got back from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara; I skipped out on the “art stuff” at the film festival. Wonderful evening…lovely show. Good music, have to get the soundtrack. Just the shots of Hrithik alone are worth the price of admission, and then you have Farhan, who even with an atrocious haircut manages to touch me, yet again. Abhay Deol who is the third lead, the groom to be, I hadn’t seen but quite liked. AND I have now officially seen Katrina Kaif in a movie that she registered in as an actual personality and not just pretty fashion model! I, dare I say it, liked her quite a lot in it. Go figure.

So, you must go see it at the theater, and let me know what you think! If the Saturday night crowd here is any indication, it may not be there long. Slow, small crowd, but Indian crowds gather late, and the 9:30 bunch may not have gotten there when I left at 9. I hope, fingers crossed. Hrithik did dance in this one, and not as many numbers as I’d have liked, but better than the last one or two.

Julie M:  Haazaron Khwaishein Aisi…I think I would have appreciated it more if I knew more about Indian politics in the 1970s. Very serious movie, very realistic, definitely the kind of “issue” movie I like even though I missed a lot of nuances through my ignorance. It’s the story of 3 friends in college in Calcutta–Vikram (a middle-class youth from a politically involved family), Geeta (a richMadrasgirl schooled inEngland) and Sidharth (a rich local boy)–who are casually involved on the intellectual side of revolutionary politics while in school in 1969.

Most of the movie is what happens to them over the next 10 years, during a period of political upheaval that strikes both the urban areas and the countryside and involves all 3 of them to varying degrees. The performances were very good, understated yet moving. It won a Filmfare “best story” award, and several “best male debut” awards for the actor who played Vikram (Shiney Ahuja). He’s the closest thing to a big star in the movie. I’d say it’s worth seeing if you are in the mood to see a realistic Indian movie, but it’s kind of sad throughout and kind of bloody at the end.

Om Shanti Om…such a cute movie! Great music, too. I laughed myself silly because I recognized the Rajni parody, and I laughed at the “pain of disco” number because SRK was so over-buffed and the number was way over the top. (was that even him? or did they paste his face on another actor’s body?) And the Filmfare scene–LittleB and Akshay–so freaking funny!! the party scene was great too with the actors playing themselves in sort-of parody. Just a lot of fun all around.

Jenny K:  Glad you liked OSO…I liked it too, but I got a bit tired of the melodrama in the second half. I kept going, alright, already, wind it up! Not a good sign. I liked the first half much better. Deepika was pretty, but she really doesn’t hold my attention like Kajol or Madhuri would.

And that is SRK’s real body in the video, at least at that time. He pumped like crazy and did lots of goofy stuff to look liike that when he knew it was needed to do what he wanted for that character (shallow, self-adoring, etc.) The director said that he even dehydrated himself on the shooting days and did some special diet so that he looked particularly cut. I don’t think that he could, or intends to maintain that level. Almost impossible, without total concentration on it…and he’s way too busy for that.

Julie M:  I agree about Deepika, and the other current “it” girl, Priyanka Chopra. So bland and generic, just pretty. No character. Prefer Konkona.

Jenny K: Priyanka has been getting better as she goes along.  Best so far is 7 Khoon Maaf, where she plays a black widow of sorts…or is she??  Not a great performance, but definitely more varied.  Oh, when I was rereading you HKA review, it remindied me of the description, a bit, of one called New York, which you should look for. I don’t think I own it, but it’s another two boys and a girl triangle, set in the apple, right after 9-11, so it’s got profilin’ goin’ on and angry zealots and good guys who do bad things for good reasons, and also…all the early college scenes at “New York College” were filmed at Bryn Mawr! The school looks fabulous!

Julie M:  I also realized I made a mistake in my review of  Tashan. It’s not Akshay Khanna in the movie, it’s Akshay Kumar. Sorry about that. (too many actors with similar names!!)

Jenny K:  Khanna always spells himself with an “e” at the end of Akshaye to help us along :-) Though I never confuse them, because Akshaye is a nicely brought up young man who answers his fanmail, even if it is by email. I still keep it, but it’s not as fun as a real autograph would be. Sigh.

Julie M:  If only he would let his hair grow.

Jenny K:  Unlike his father Vinod (worked with Amitabh a lot in the 70’s) and his brother Rahul (Bollywood/Hollywood and Earth), Akshaye is severely follicularly challenged these days, and I think he keeps it short so he’s not reduced to plugs or comb-over syndrome, of which I approve.

To prove my point, here’s the “meet-DEFINITELY-cute” scene in essentially his debut film, Mohabbat, back in ’97 with Madhuri. Set up, her car has broken down in the rain, of course, and she can’t get anyone on the pay phone, it’s broken, and she runs for shelter into a nearby stable where Akshaye appears like a well-dressed hunky stable boy, or something. He’s not a stable boy in the film…don’t know why he was there, he works in an office in this one. Not the greatest movie, but I like him in it. Sorry about the graphics on the screen halfway through. This was the best copy of the clip that I found.

Julie M:  Much better than he looked in Taal.

Jenny K:  I find Akshaye attractive, hair or no, but that’s because of a nice face and fine, expressive eyes. 

Wish I didn’t think that expression sounds like I nicked it from some lost Jane Austen description. “Not Mr. Bingley, Jane…the tall one, past Mr. Malhotra, with the pleasant face and fine eyes.  Do you know him and has he been long in these parts?”

[Later in the week...]

Julie M:  A rare Bollywood movie review in the New York Times, with my buddy Ajay.   ‘Singham,’ a Bollywood Cop Film – Review

Singham is about a super-tough village-born cop named Bajirao Singham, with bulging muscles and rock-hard morals.”

Jenny K: I’m probably going to give that one a pass…sounds too much like Gangajaal which pissed me off so much…honest cop in a corrupt world, my a**. This sounds no different. Even Ajay probably won’t get me in unless I read some stellar Indian reveiws about how good it is. I’m going to drag some more friends here to see ZNMD one more time. They haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been singing that darned Senorita song all day.  Hrithik says he’s not a natural dancer, that he just works at it until he gets it right.  Hard to believe when he does it like that.

Julie M:  Well, he can sure move, even in a normal day-to-day way, and he obviously takes direction well, so I’ll live with the fantasy for a while. And he’s a decent actor, not just a pretty face. (although acting-wise I still like Aamir and Ajay) In fact, I am trying to entice a couple of my movie buddies here–we like to go to art films together, mainly the British ones–to branch out into Indian films, at least for ZNMD, and my persuasive ace in the hole was the chance to watch Hrithik, with whom they are not familiar but I gave them links to introduce them to him, on the big screen for over 2 hours. They are so far not biting. Sigh.

I watched Bawandar yesterday. Powerful and made me angry at India, the backwardness and corruption, even in the so-called social service NGOs (those Delhi women were horrible). I also found myself mentally comparing the slick Bollywood version of rural Rajasthan in Paheli to the more realistic depiction in Bawandar. Similar turbans, but that’s about it.

Today I am picking up my weekly haul at the library, which consists of Aaja Nachle (haven’t seen Madhuri lead in a film since I saw Devdas, or half of Devdas), Bhool Bhulaiya and Love Aaj Kal. Yes, pickings are getting pretty slim. I’m not exactly sure how many films are in the library system, but it’s not very many and they don’t add new ones often because of budget cuts.

Jenny K:  I’m glad you liked Bawandar. I think it is one of the strongest films I’ve seen, and Nandita and Raghuvir are both wonderful in it. Raghuvir is a very versatile actor and can really make me cry, like here, [Spoilers]when he stands up for his wife, no matter what, and how he reacts as he can’t help when she’s being raped. You recognize the actors in this one? Nandita Das was the birth mother in Kannathil Muthamittal, the head thug was Yashpal Sharma who played the judas, Lakha, in Lagaan, and Raghuvir Yadav was the chicken guy in Lagaan, SRK’s best friend at the radio station in Dil Se, the writer in Meenaxi, and he’s in Aaja Nachle, too. He only does about one or two films a year, but they are always good solid acting jobs. He’s a musician and does some of his own singing, sometimes.

I’m glad you got Aaja Nachle, I was thinking about sending it to you in the next package (are you finished with the last one now?), so this saves space. Madhuri is one of the few women that Bollywood has let do a lead, essentially by herself. And this one didn’t do well enough at the Indian box office to merit giving her another, but I quite liked it, enough to buy it :-) The dancing is fabulous! She looks great (first movie after having a baby), except the appearing and disappearing hair thing, which shouldn’t bother me by now, but it still does. Her hair changes length as much as my Growing Hair Chrissy Doll did when I played with her as a kid…do you think Madhuri has a knob in the middle of her back? I also like Konkona and Kunal as the second couple in this one.

Sorry your friends aren’t biting yet. It’s fun to have a cohort to enable one in movie binging. I usually resort to the “first movie free, on me” gambit, so that if they hate it I don’t feel guilty. Usually they agree…and get sucked in. However, I want to encourage you to brave it out and go alone to ZNMD by yourself if you have to. It’s good enough to see on a big screen, and, if you are there by yourself, you have the added benefit of the Indian ladies there end up chatting with you at the intermission or as you walk out. They are curious as to why you are there, and what you think. If you drop a few names, of people you like, they’ll love it… “You know our movies?!? Ah, Sanjay, she watches more than we do! Are you married to an Indian?” It’s fun, and they are tickled to death.

Good luck, intrepid viewer.

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