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 no subtitles.

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.

Part 13: Fifty Films into Bollywood Paheli

[Jenny K’s Note: Paheli means puzzle.  Also one of our films this post.]

Julie M:  Got your package!!! Thanks for the necklace! Has it really been 50 films? It arrived slightly damaged (a few beads loose in the envelope and the dangly part had detached) but I think B can repair most of it. And thanks for the films. I think this weekend the library haul will include Paheli and Umrao Jaan. I won’t request any others because I got 3 from you.

Next week I have vacation (duh, you know that) so I think I might try to see a movie in the theater, since they only show them in the afternoons. This week my Indian theater is showing Delhi Belly (Aamir!) at a very convenient 2pm show time and Double Dhamaal with your crush Arshad Warsi at a less civilized 5pm; hope it’s still there next week!

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry that the necklace was damaged. I should have wrapped it better, but I was running out of room in the box, and it wedged in rather tightly, so I thought it would be okay. Hate to give a gift that has to be fixed first, thrift store find, or no.

And yes, according to my list, whatever you see next will be your fiftieth film. If you have seen either of the last batch of freebies (I Hate Luv Stories, or Loins of Punjab Presents) then you’ve already gone past that. They do accumulate fast, don’t they? Congrats!

I think I should arm you with my favorite review site at Rediff. Their reviews seem to be evenly balance between the Mumbai point of view and the US India fan base. I usually agree with them, more or less, though the people who respond to the reviews seem to be wildly offended when any negative opinions are voiced. Judging on their responses to your two films, I’d go with Delhi Belly over Double Dhamaal, even with Arshad. As much as I like him, he seems to be picked more often for his talent for mugging than his talented feet.

Julie M:  I have not yet dipped into the freebies. I’m saving those for when the library supply has dried up and I’ve seen the ones you’ve sent in the current box!

Jenny K:  Sounds like a nice weekend. Either Paheli or Umrao Jaan would merit wearing the necklace for “atmosphere” 🙂 Though I think I like Umrao Jaan a bit better. Paheli is very atmospheric, though. Costumes and sets from Rajasthan are lovely. Plot a bit weak toward the end, but that seems to be standard, more and more. What I call SNL Syndrome. Have some good ideas, fun execution and performances, but they don’t know how to end them.

Julie M:  FYI, I tried to watch I Hate Luv Storys. Had to quit because the sound and subtitles were so bad. I’ll try again when I’m in a more charitable mood. It seemed to start out fairly cute, though.

Jenny K: Yeah, my copy of that film is like that, too. What I get for digging in the Previously Viewed bin. If you can’t get through it, dump it. Not a problem. I’m sure it will be in the library chain pretty soon. I have it in my queue at Netflix, so it’s going pretty mainstream. It is cute, but not a “must see”. Of Imraan Khan’s films I think Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na is much better, but it wasn’t in the bin 🙂

Julie M:  Saw Kandukondain Kandukondain last night. Great Rahman music! typical plot–kind of threw a lot in there from movie making/playback singing to family drama to romance–but not too heavy on the melodrama, so it was OK. Good costumes too, and Tabu was good. I liked the song set in Egypt and the medieval castle one–cool dream sequences.

I can see where Jane Austen and that ilk (Brontes, too) would inspire Indian filmmakers [Jenny K’s Note:  Kandukondain, Kandukondain is a South Indian adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.] because of the focus on traditions and cultural mores combined with dramatic moments. Did they ever do a Jane Eyre version in India? because that would be interesting to see. I saw Bride and Prejudice although technically that’s an English film by an Anglo-Indian director.

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Saw Chandni Bar last night. Really good! Would not have found that one on my own, so thank you for sending it.

This weekend my library haul is Paheli, Umrao Jaan (I caught an Umrao Jaan reference in Chandni Bar!) and Munnabhai MBBS. Don’t know what to start with…maybe Umrao Jaan to continue the dancer theme I seem to have going.

Jenny K:  Nach, ladki…. yeah, go with a theme…Glad you liked Chandni Bar. Thought you would. Tabu was great in it…and her awful lover was played by Atul Kulkarni, that guy in Rang de Basanti that was with the radical hindu party who got “converted” via the gospel according to film.

I checked into your Jane Eyre question…seems there was one very loose adaptation, Sangdil, in the fifties with Dilip Kumar, who was very famous, but I find him a very cold fish. Here’s the IMDb write up.  And here’s a bit of the film on youtube, but no subtitles.

[Jenny K’s Note: After much trial and tribulation and an overnight stranding at the US Air Phoenix hub, I have made it to Vancouver.]

Jenny K: Went to see Meenaxi at the festival last night and it was a DVD projection…sigh. Didn’t maintain the original proportions of the film either, so it was a bit “cramped” in the screen, if you know what I mean. I also keep forgetting how weak Tabu’s English is in this film. Sheesh! She’s so good in Hindi that I forget that. Hoping better for 3 Idiots.

Julie M:  I did not think Tabu was bad in The Namesake…thought it was appropriate to the character.

Anyway, I liked Umrao Jaan except that to me it ended quite suddenly. [Spoilers]  She got turned away from her family and then went back to the bordello, which had been trashed and abandoned. She looked at herself in the mirror, and…??? then what? did not feel resolved. (you mentioned that) I liked seeing a young Naseruddin Shah, too, in that film.

I also watched Paheli. SO CUTE! Rani was adorable (she’s looks adorable even when she cries), SRK was fun and sexy. The jewelry was amazing–I want all of it!! Of course I have nowhere to wear it, but it’s still stunning.

Munnabhai MBBS…some cute scenes, overall merely 2 stars. Liked seeing Sunil and Sanjay Dutt act together. Trying to understand your crush on Arshad Warsi. Confused as to how Munna could get married and live happily ever after in MBBS and also in the sequel but to a different woman.

Jenny K:  I wasn’t complaining about her delivery in The Namesake, but just her line readings in “Prague” in Meenaxi. I guess, now that I think of it, since Namesake didn’t bother me and it came afterwards, perhaps she noticed how she came across and worked on it after Meenaxi.

I’m not sure just why Arshad hits me, but he often does. If you like Nasseruddin Shah, and who doesn’t, then see if you find Ishqiya in your library. Might be right up your alley. Nasserji and Arshad in a buddy flick, conmen on the lam from other gangsters who hide out with the widow of another old friend. She’s Vidya Balan, the DJ from Lage Raho Munnabhai. It has funny bits, but I don’t think of it as a comedy.

Julie M: My library has Golmaal Returns and Golmaal 3 but not the original Golmaal. Is it worth tracking it down?

Jenny K: Stay away from the Golmaal films, COMPLETELY, you’ll hate them. Very, very slapstick, and despite the cast, it should be atrocious. I haven’t been able to bring myself to see them.

Julie M:  Speaking of which: this weekend’s haul is Tashan (fun with Akshay), Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (arty) and Om Shanti Om (SRK).

Jenny K:  I’ve only seen OSO of the ones you have listed for this weekend. Let me know what you think, and maybe I’ll pick a few up. I think I bought OSO just for the scene where SRK is pretending to be a South Indian film star to impress the girl. Crazy cowboy outfit and huge mustache is a real hoot and, alarmingly, not that much of an exaggeration. Well, you’ve seen Rajni, so you know 🙂

I liked the one I saw last night at the festival, West is West. Almost all in English. I liked it better than it’s predecessor, East is East, which was funny but ultimately depressing, because the father was such a negative character in it. He has sort of seen the light in the ten years since the first film…a bit…he’s still a bit of a pretentious jack***. but I love Om Puri. He is one of the best character actors they have. In Maqbool, he and Naseeruddin play the “witches” in the Macbeth plot, commenting on everything, playing two corrupt cops with the ugliest collective wardrobes I’ve ever seen. Wonderful…wah, wah, wah, as the saying goes.

Julie M:  Just finished watching Tashan. Action/comedy with a little romance (not too much or too gushy) and kind of a road story as well. Saif Ali Khan is a cool-dude call center worker in Mumbai who moonlights as an English teacher, and he gets mixed up with Anil Kapoor, a don, through Kareena Kapoor, Anil’s employee. Through his infatuation with Kareena he ends up stealing tons of money from Anil, only to have Kareena steal it from him and vanish. Anil calls in Akshay Khanna [Kumar], a petty thug/enforcer in Kanpur, to rough up Saif and then take him to track Kareena and the money down. And the fun goes on from there.

Some flashbacks and back stories, everyone narrates the story at some point and Saif speaks to the camera all the time, for no real reason. But overall it was not bad–I like good action films and the gangster element was more comedic than serious, until the end, which was quite bloody. Probably too much Akshay for you, but I enjoyed it. B caught most of the 2nd half with me and he kind of liked it too. Anil is hilarious as the don who loves to speak English–but he does it all wrong and with a heavy Sean Connery impression. Made me laugh out loud. The musical numbers are forgettable.

I’ll give you a report on the others after I see them.

Jenny K:  Thanks for the update. I’ll remember it when I’m stuck…maybe it’s on Netflix, most of Akshay’s films are. I do think Anil’s a funny guy, even when he’s not trying to be. You should have seen him on the Martha Stewart show when he was plugging Slumdog.

Part 12: The Curse of the Flowered Shirts, and Other Fashion Missteps

Julie M: I saw Company last night. I found it boring until maybe the last 45 minutes–I passed the time by staring at Viveik. Viveik and Ajay acted well (and as usual Ajay seemed to bring out Viveik’s acting abilities), but I didn’t find the story all that compelling. I don’t watch gangster movies in English, so I don’t know why I thought watching them in Hindi would make them more interesting. So please, no more gangster films unless they are funny (like Lago Rahe Munnabhai, and I will probably also borrow Munnabhai MBBS soon). But not goofy/slapstick funny, because I hate that too. I hate the goofy noises in farce-y Indian movies.

Jenny K: Not much to worry about with me sending lots of silly slapstick because I tend not to buy them. I only got the Munnabhai movies because I have a little crush on Arshad Warsi…he plays the sidekick Circuit in the film. He is a really good dancer and he used to choreograph, too, but since he became “comedy gold” they don’t tend to let him waste time tapping his toes.

I keep trying to buy one really bad movie, Mujhe Mere Biwi Se Bachaao, because Arshad is in it and his dance numbers in it are HIL-AR-EEE-OUS, and still fantastic dancing.

Here’s the first one from Youtube. Rekha put on about thirty pounds for the role of a bored rich housewife who hires a nightclub singer/dancer to get her “in shape” for a part in the movies. She’s making fun of every dance movie she’s ever done, including Umrao Jaan (and still dancing rings around girls half her age!), and he’s trying to pull out every SRK “sexy” dance move he can rip off. Very funny (somehow I think of Kirstie Alley and Maks from DWTS) Watch it again after you’ve seen UJ and it will be even funnier. 

And not quite as funny, (unless like me, he reminds you of Matt Drudge in that hat) this introduces Arshad’s character as an entertainer, and I like his moves.

But still, every time I buy a copy it seems to dissolve into a mass of pixels at about Track 15. Never seen the end of it. Seems to be a problem with the master back at Eros Entertainment. Really a bad film so I won’t waste more than ten dollars on it, if that…Or maybe, Naseeruddin Shah, who plays Rekha’s philanderin’ hubby, got a look at the final product, realized, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t save it, and couldn’t convince them to cut him out of it, so he snuck in and mucked up the master copy!  Yesss! Now, if only they had a plot that good!

Sorry, back to what you said earlier…Dhoom is a film that I haven’t seen because a) Hrithik isn’t in it and b) Hrithik isn’t in it and c) Esha Deol is a whiny annoying heroine (except in Yuva) and d) there’s way too much Uday Chopra (LittleB’s sidekick) for my taste without Hrithikness to deflect my attention from it. Or is that Hrithikosity?…Whatever.  Dhoom 3 may be another matter. Rumor is that Aamir is going to be the new villain that LittleB is chasing. Mmmmm….

And you may like Munnabhai MBBS better, because the movies are two years apart but Sanjay Dutt looks five or six years younger, and I find him much sexier in this one. You believe the love story more. He also has a nostalgia thing going because his father in this film is played by his real father Sunil Dutt who was a star in the seventies, I think. He died soon after they filmed this together. I wish I had known that you were up for a girl’s weekend when I put together your next package…ah well. You must make due. Only one fluffy one. Two more issue films for you. 

Julie M:  Thanks for the links. He’s a great dancer and the first one was funny.  So I gather that Rekha is known as being a bit of a looney tune? Explain!

Jenny K:   Rekha is very intense. In interviews she often speaks of herself in the third person, sorta like that annoying kid in Fanaa. “Rehan/Rehka doesn’t want to do that…” yeeeesh.. I also think she likes to tempt career suicide, because she takes some roles that just ache to have you compare them with her earlier roles.  And although she’s still quite beautiful, she doesn’t look quite the way she did in Umrao Jaan.

Julie M: Rangeela. Eh. I find it amazing that the film was done in 1995 and the hair, fashions and makeup make it look like, oh, 1984 or so. Aamir looked cute and young. But otherwise I found the film very boring. Saw most of it on double-speed. Rahman music good, though.

 

Jenny K:   Well, perhaps that’s why the director, the aforementioned Ram Gopal Varma, went on to direct almost solely crime dramas like Company. He agreed with you. Considering the films that Aamir had been forced to do while starting his career, this one almost was sweet. Very traditional plotline. I liked the songs and the dancing enough to put up with most of the silliness. And I get a kick out of how much Urmila’s bust size jumps around with her padding in the various numbers. She’s never been one of my favorites, but I find she gets proportionately more annoying and silly the longer her hair gets (and therefore the bigger the boobs, for some reason). Her hair controls her interpretations, I think.

Julie M:  I liked some of the dancing, but given her outfits I kept feeling like I was watching an aerobics video. (funny about the hair-boob correlation)

Jenny K: As I’ve said before, Indian films tend to be about ten to fifteen years behind the trends, at least fashion-wise, if not in overall style. Not quite so much nowadays, they do seem to be finding the global norm faster. Perhaps due to cultural saturation in film and the internet… everything is available, everywhere, instantly.

I have a theory about Urmila’s fashion in this film, though. I got the general impression of “youthfulness”, colorful, like the title [Rangeela means “Colorful One“], baby-doll length in the skirts, worn with leggings so you don’t see too much leg, lots of caps and ponytails, etc. It was kind of like they didn’t want to lose her audience from her child star days by changing her look to be too sexy, too quickly. Then, toward the end they allowed her to grow up a bit, maybe making the transition both for the actress and the audience. Just a thought.

Also, you just end up getting used to a more decorated sensibility in Indian fashion. Nothing simple, nothing plain. They just don’t groove to it at all. They love to play with their clothes, change them often, add fringe, add zippers, even ones that are totally non-functional. For some this works, for, some, well maybe not even Hrithik can’t make it work… 

Julie M: Saw Bluffmaster…very funny. Double- and triple-bluffs, especially when you consider the film itself is kind of a bluff. Very Hollywood-style.

[Jenny K’s Note: Bachchan Senior has the full one on Youtube, too!]

I’ve noticed that Indian fashions tend to be a bit, um, gaudier than we like them here. In film when it gets too out there I just put it down to an overactive costumer imagination, since I’ve seen it being pretty gaudy (lavender and yellow sari? Eeecccchhh) in real life too.

 

Jenny K:   The Bollywood Fashion Extremes: For Men, or                Your Costuming Rupees, at Work?!?

Military Fashion Through the Ages a la Conan
and this

Men in floral shirts…too floral

Men in headbands…any

SRK trying to make neckties cool in DON
 
or, perhaps aiming for a Brandoesque moment
 
Akshay should just skip the leather jackets (and the beard!)  and this, and also refrain from trying to play a “cool rockstar”

And men should not try to play sexy in a chef’s cap or a tiny yachting cap, or a pimp hat…this outfit on the cover of the DVD scared me from Khalnayak for years (I sort of liked it when I fianlly saw it)

Julie M: Hilarious!!! (I just finished HDDCS and Salman had some pretty heinous shirts in that one)

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam–not so bad, actually. The big dance numbers were awesome, the costuming lovely (albeit unbelievable…in this day and age, who would believe such a wealthy yet super-traditional family?) and except for PAINFULLY drawing out the big reunion moment, the melodrama was fairly easy to handle. Ajay beats Salman hands down acting-wise in this one, although Salman was pretty cute in the first half (which he seemed to spend half of shirtless, you were right), and character-wise as well. Nandini chose the right guy, as I knew she would. And shame on them for trying to pass off some obvious Eastern European country as Italy…they didn’t even bother to disguise the local language or the writing on the taxicabs!

Jenny K:   It’s so sad when they develop a shirt allergy… they begin to fling them off, hither and yon, with almost no provocation. “I know you only asked me for directions to the puja, but I can explain better without this heavy t-shirt clouding my thinking.” It got even worse for Salman as he buffed up. Now he’s a tank in a flowered shirt. In HDDCS, he was still a bit youthful and winsome, however he was so manic, so often that I took to calling this mood “Monkey Boy” ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh-Ooh-Ooh-AHH-AHH-EEEK-EEEK-EEEK!!! “Yes I am from Italy, and I can prove it. Hand me that banana and I’ll eat it while hanging from the rafters and singing O Sole Mio!…With my shirt off, of course!”

So I sat on the Mall in DC for July 4th, with my Indian movie buddies, Pat and Kathy, Kathy’s husband, Mark, and one of Kathy’s friends from work, Reena, who hails from Mumbai, and as we waited for the fireworks, Reena and I passed the time by singing the following song sung. “Aati Kya Khandala”, was sung by Aamir (his own voice this time) in the (otherwise dark and moody) film Ghulam. It had been a big hit and BigB, Jaya and Kajol sang it in K3G at his party. Well, Reena sang it much better than I did, I’d forgotten most of the words that I’d tried to memorize.

And for added American Holiday Silliness, this video features Akshaye Khanna and Aish.  They have been trying to make it in the Big Apple, almost like brother and sister, and suddenly Aish has decided that if she doesn’t convince him of her devotion to him, he’s going to be seduced by this American born Indian vixen, and she goes to Coney Island to break up their date. 

 Julie M: You are hilarious.

I liked The Blue Umbrella but it was too self-consciously arty (i.e., slow-moving). Beautifully shot, boring story. We know Stealing Is Wrong and there will be Consequences, just move it along, please. The little girl was totally adorable but she doesn’t seem to have done much since?

Oh, and I prefer “manic happy Salman” to “romantic Salman” where he gets this sappy expression on his face and gazes deeply into someone’s eyes.

Jenny K:  I think The Blue Umbrella was done as a break between Maqbool and Omkara. After all that angst and violence, he needed a bit of sweetness and art 🙂 It did very well in the filmfest circuit, I believe.

Part 11: Mani Returns. Of Ajay

[JK’s Note:  I know it’s a bad pun…you try coming up with a relevant title for this many disparate films in the middle of the night :-)]

Julie M:  Rang De Basanti…was kinda dumb in the first half but then it got good. So sad that they all died but it was done very well. Aamir totally rocks.

[JK Note: Daler Mehndi singing really helps the rocking on the title track!] 

 

Jenny K: I watched it again last night because I knew you had it, and time has been kinder on it in my eyes. I still like the energy of the first half, or even more, right until [Spoilers. Highlight to view.] they decide to ape the past and kill government ministers they don’t agree with. I felt it was more of an “inevitable tragedy” this time, but as it wasn’t a true story, where “it is what it was”, this always feels like more of an endorsement of the strategy than is conscionable to me, even with the half-assed “we’re so sorry” at the radio station. I’d much rather the kid turned evidence over to the cops on his dad than that he killed him while hugging him.[End spoilers.]  Bleh.

I will be perfectly happy when Aamir and SRK stop trying to play college students, or recently ex-college students, and play their ages more often (both 46 this year), or at least closer to their ages. I grant they do 10-15 years younger, reasonably well. I have most of Aamir’s films, so if you want something in particular, let me know.

 

Julie M: I thought in the first half they spent way too much time establishing how goofy and uninvolved these students were. I was bored by the repeated scenes of undergraduate (and Aamir) carousing. I also thought it would have been more effective to have the change in their outlook come about more gradually than via a sudden tragic event, but I understand that in life sometimes that happens. That would have [Spoilersmade their decision to kill the minister more logical. I didn’t find the apology half-assed at all–I thought they put their full asses into it, particularly the kid who killed his dad. I actually found that the most moving part. I thought the scene where the Muslim and the radical Indianist, former bitter enemies, died holding hands was too much, though. [End of spoilers.]

I agree that SRK and Aamir should start playing their ages. B noticed how old Aamir was (particularly as contrasted to the goofy behavior of his character in the early scenes) and made a snarky comment.

 

Jenny K: They both have been doing more realistic ages recently (and buffing their bods up, too) but I still worry they’ll sneak one in. The Indian idea of middle age is not considered food for drama, I think. If you’re not married, you’re suspect, at best odd. If you’re not knuckling down to business, you’re some sort of wastrel. If you don’t have a family well in progress, you’ve wasted your life…(yeesh, I’d be a pariah there!) however, when you have kids in a film, you’re automatically downgraded to “elder” status, unless you’re a widower (KKHH). Can’t win for losin’ I hope they explore a bit more. Much more to tap.

 

Julie M:  Yah, well, now they know the Hollywood-female paradox. Ingénue/single-chick roles, then lots of nuthin’ after age 35 or so, then feisty older woman or “mom” roles starting at 50.

You are more charitable about SRK than I am. I really liked his acting in My Name is Khan but still feel he is constrained in his abilities. Ajay Devgan…HIM I love.

 

Jenny K:  I may send you a “my favorite Ajay pics” package sometime, but you might have to agree to put up with a bit more of the predictable romance/drama rhona-dhona, as they say. He is absolutely GORgeous in one with Preity and Madhuri where he plays a double role (yep, every actor in BW does one at least once) Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke but it’s very melodramatic, esp. toward the end. Then there’s the remake of French Kiss, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha with Kajol (it may be where they met) and Raincoat, both of which I’ve recommended before. In Dewangee he plays a simple songwriter who has lots of trouble fighting for his girl, one of his bests, a good suspense film, but there are some leftover “90’s” bits that may bother you. Chori Chori is a rather cute remake of Goldie Hawn’s Houseboat with Ajay doing Steve Martin to Rani’s Goldie…but he’s not as kooky as Steve is, of course. She is double Goldie’s ditz, the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the technical term is nowadays, and loosens Ajay’s staid self up quite a bit.

He’s great as a villain, too…cold and corporate in Company, cold and calculating in Khakee, that I liked with BigB and Akshay Kumar and Aish, he also does cold and almost comatose in a really hilarious anti hero in Qayamat, but I can’t really recommend it because the script is so bad, and the rest of the cast’s hamming doesn’t help elevate it to comedy as Ajay’s take almost does. Also promise me to never get Ishq with Aamir and Ajay together. You will absolutely hate it. Too much slapstick, and bad slapstick, too. Kaal he looks great in but it’s a stupid film and his part is a cameo.

 

Julie M:  I reserved Raincoat at the library, so I’ll get it eventually. And I like the occasional romance/drama, just not regularly. If I’m going to invest 3 hours in reading a movie I want it to be meat and potatoes, not cotton candy.

I’m watching Company tonight. Then I’ll send everything back to you.

 

Jenny K:  I hope you like Company. I haven’t watched it for a while, but remember thinking the boys did very well. And did you see Yuva yet? Maybe I missed your report on it.

Forgot to mention…the character of Sona in RDB was Saif’s sister. Could you tell? I think they both look just like their mother, Sharmila Tagore. Used to be a movie star, now just royalty (poor thing 🙂 . Saif and Soha are sorta prince and princess, too, but the title doesn’t pay the bills.

 

Julie M:  OH–and I really liked Yuva.  Beginning was confusing and arty but eventually it made sense. Did not like to see LittleB as a wife-beater or Rani as an abused wife, but their performances were excellent. Viveik was good too–he always seems to do well when paired with Ajay, at least from the two films I’ve seen them in together. Loved loved loved the last scene when they strode into the parliament chamber dressed in ratty jeans when everyone else was an older man dressed in white traditional clothing, and took their places. Awesome movie all around–thanks!

[Jenny’s Note: Looks like BigB has his own Youtube channel.  He’s put Abhi’s whole film in one piece to watch free, HD w/subtitles, online!  Score!]

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the re-recap. I think almost anything Ratnam and Rahman do together is good…even if Ajay is a very unlikely college student at this point. He falls victim to AK/SRK syndrome, too. Probably ought to put Salman in there as well.

[a few days later…more Mani Ratnam]

Julie M:  Saw Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek)  this evening. Wow–GREAT movie on every level. Great music, great visuals, great story. THAT’s the kind of movie I like!

Jenny K:  Yeah, I said it was Ratnam’s best, better even than Dil Se which I love. The only thing I worry about, occasionally, is that viewers might turn it off during that first light weight song with the kids. The movie isn’t like that at all. I wonder what he was thinking. The ending certainly isn’t for all children. He does like explosions, doesn’t he? I think my favorite song/music combination is that somber one where you’re watching the town in Sri Lanka being moved out of their homes, lonely and bereft, going who knows where. I thought it was rather surprising when I saw the film at a festival here in DC that I’d never really heard about the Tamil Tigers and their uprising in Sri Lanka when it had been going on for over twenty years and was just put down two years ago…twenty six years of war in the north of the island. I’m so out of the loop.

Wish this clip wasn’t so squashed, but it has the subtitles, at least.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I knew about the political background, and liked that it was simply treated as a given rather than a big honking deal like it would have been in Hollywood.

[Later in the week]

Julie M:  Darn my library for only allowing 3 days on borrowed videos!! I have the following movies waiting for me to pick up:

Rangeela
Bluffmaster!
The Blue Umbrella
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Umrao Jaan

Understanding that I can’t pick them up until Saturday and have to get them back Tuesday, which order should I see them in to make sure I get to see the best ones first?

 

Jenny K:  Rangeela and HDDCS are the big fluffy musicals, but both classics in their melodramatic way. Aamir just plain dances his feet off and it’s Rahman’s music in Rangeela. It’s one of those Girl wants to be a film star more than anything. Boy loves her but helps her do it. Will she realize that she loves him, too, or sell out to the Bollywood Life? Sidenote, when Kajol in KKHH is doing that “sexy dance” while they are playing charades at camp, she’s making fun of Urmila Matondkar’s dance on the beach in Rangeela. Urmila had been a child star who in this film is trying way too hard to be taken as a sexy adult (sorta an early version of Brittany Spears). Maybe cross Brittany with Annette Funicello. Aamir out-acts her, of course, though she’s had some good outings, since. Tehzeeb comes to mind.

HDDCS is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who did Devdas and Black. His first film, I think, or second. Still working out his style, but some things are really cool, like Aish is supposed to be a tomboy and starts the film with some sort of game in the desert with the other kids, kilting her sari up and going for it. Almost like a dance.

She falls in love with Salman, who is half  “Italian” half Indian, and a Christian. Her family doesn’t go for it and sets her up with Ajay D. We all know who I’d go for, but I don’t write ’em. When Salman goes back to “Italy” it’s really Hungary and it looks really silly. He also cries a lot in this film toward the end. And Salman never cries convincingly. Don’t know why. Some lovely dancing. High Rhona-dhona level of melodrama.

Umrao Jaan is lovely and a classic, and a must-see if it’s the older version from the eighties with Rekha. If it’s the newer one with Aish, push it to the end of your list…fairly boring, I think. It’s about a courtesan/singer-dancer, I believe the term is nauch girl, who is higher in status than just a prostitute. When you’re talented in these gentlemen’s clubs, you would get to choose, to an extent who you sleep with and when. She falls in love with one of her clients, and you have to see how it works out. Lots of up and downing before the end. I actually liked the novel better, of course, but Rekha is exquisite in it. She played Hrithik’s mom in Koi Mil Gaya and is still a looker, if excentric.

The Blue Umbrella is sort of a kid’s fable by Vishal Bhardwaj, the same director as Omkara and Maqbool.   It’s a simple style, but eloquent and Pankaj Kapur who plays the crazy old coot who befriends the child with the brella is fabulous.

Bluffmaster, is sort of on the level of the Dhoom films. Flashy conmen, LittleB looks cute, Nana Patakar is in it too, and he’s one of my favorite character actors, but I don’t even remember much more about it. Cotton candy film. Fun but not very memorable.

So, if it were me, I’d probably skip the last two unless it’s the new Umrao Jaan then I’d skip that and one of the last two, not sure which. Hope that helps.

 

Julie M:  Thanks. It’s the newer Umrao Jaan. I didn’t know there was a quality difference, so I’ll just check it out and dump it right back in the return bin. My library has the older one too: I just requested it but I won’t get it in hand until next weekend. (that takes care of one decision) I liked Dhoom 2 but haven’t seen Dhoom. I might watch Bluffmaster, then, and Rangeela, and The Blue Umbrella. Will save HDDCS for last and see it only if I have time.

Next weekend B is out of town at a show so I can watch as many girly Bollywood movies as I like.

Part 10: The Directors, Cut, or Not to Cut?

Jenny K:  Okay, as promised.  The directors list, based on what you’ve liked and not liked so far.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and these guys may throw you a quite atypical movie every so often, too. But here goes.

The weepy ones that you don’t like are usually by Karan Johar (warning signs, he always had multiple K’s in his titles, for Karan, I’d assume), Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra, his son. Probably won’t like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ( DDLJ) which is the first SRK/Kajol pairing and is considered a classic for that. I have problems with the amount of slapstick in the first half and the really overplayed fight scene near the end, but I like other bits of it quite a lot. Their chemistry is great and she’s lovely.  But they must have gotten something right, because it has been playing at the same theater in Mumbai, the Maratha Mandir, since the film opened, and hit its 800th week last February, still on the charts that week at Number 8! Really! Veer Zaara should probably be skipped, too. Lots of weeping in the framing story and much bad aging makeup and hair.

Large amounts of slapstick are usually found in the works of David Dawan and Priyadarshan. I avoid them almost completely except, occasionally when Akshaye Khanna is involved. He was in two for Priyadarshan that I actually liked Mere Baap Phele Aap, and one called Hulchul which, honest to God has the funniest wedding sequence in Indian movies…hilarious, mostly because of one actor Paresh Rawal who is perfection itself in almost every genre.  Huh, he’s in MBPA, too!

You’ve had mixed reactions to Sanjay Leela Bhansali who did Devdas (bleh) and Black (thumbs up). You might like, as I said before, Khamosh, the Musical and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and even Guzaarish which is his newest and has Hrithik in it, a remake of Whose Life is it Anyway? But probably should skip Saawariya which is supposed to be an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights, but gets very bogged down in its own atmosphere and blueness (Devdas was victim of too much redness, among other problems).

Ram Gopal Varma is their urban violence/gangsta director. Loves the seedy underbelly of city life. Some are good like Company that I sent you, others, mostly his most recent ones, I find highly missable. He also has one bright twinkly musical from early in his career, Rangeela, which I have a fondness for because Aamir does some wonderful acting and dancing in it, and for its Rahman score. It is a bit silly at times but the weepiness is confined to one scene that I remember, and Aamir is restrained about it. Touching. Let me know if I should send it in a future batch.

Vishal Bhardwaj seems to be becoming another gangland portrait artist, but he likes to draw from classical themes and so transcends mere thuginess.  He’s usually a safe bet for good ideas and interesting adaptations.  And GREAT music. Omkara, you’ve seen, Maqbool (a Macbeth adaptation) and The Blue Umbrella (a sweet, almost childhood fable) should be safe options.

Farhan Akhtar and his sister, Zoya Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai and Luck by Chance) are almost a quality guarantee. They usually do things with a more modern emotional level.  Zoya has the new one coming out, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, that looks like a lot of fun.  Farhan produces films more now than directs, and acts a lot, too. For his acting, check out Rock On! (a sort of buddy film a la DCH with a “whatever happened to our band” format) which I quite liked and Karthik Calling Karthik (which slips only in the final scene for a good suspense film).

For films Farhan directed, most people like Don, a slick gangster film set in Malaysia, which has SRK in a dual role playing both hero and villain in a mostly convincing way. Boman’s in this one, too. BigB did the original Don, which most say was superior, though, again, his suits scare me. Farhan’s Lakshya is mixed for me. Good performances by Hrithik and Preity, better than Koi.. Mil Gaya (which HR & PZ did together, Farhan didn’t direct it), but the first and second half are very, very, very different, almost schizophrenic. Didn’t like part two much.  The dance number “Main Aisa Kyon Hoon”, coreographed by Prabhu Deva, is perfection, and almost makes up for the schizzyness.

Skip, Skip, Skip most of Subhash Ghai‘s films. Taal was a fluke. Pardes is the only one which has something to recommend, because SRK’s performance is good, but may be a bit too weepy for you. But he wears many a stupid outfit in it (aaak, that big white hat; ew, those overalls!)  and I’ve blocked most of it out. Skip Kisna, even with the splendid visuals a la Taal, Viveik looking pretty and tons of money thrown at it, it’s basically a boring film. Ghai’s early films are way way too old fashioned melodrama for you. You’d hate them.

Mani Ratnam (Dil Se, Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal) as you’ve seen, I can’t get enough of his films. Own most of them…if they have subtitles. Tendency to use old formats and throw the odd unpleasantness in to spice things up for the Indian audiences to make them think, whether they want to or not. Likes explosions,  a lot.  Loves working with Rahman. Yay! They both are from the South, and he sometimes does versions in both Tamil and Hindi simultaneously. First Tier: The ones you have [Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal] and Dil Se, also  Alai Payuthey(Waves), which is a more direct love story (remade, with his permission, with Rani and Viveik as Saathiya, but Waves is better) and Nayakan (or Vellu Nayakan) which is his tribute to The Godfather (tough but very good). Second Tier: Guru and Raavan(both with Little B and Aish), Bombay and Roja. Skip: Iruvar (Aish’s first film) for too much South Indian politics, that you have to know to get the full gist, and Thiruda Thiruda which is just too odd, even for me.

Aparna Sen, Konkona Sen Sharma’s mother. Much more of a serious issues director. Lot of films about women. Very influenced by the Bengali school of Satyajit Ray. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve seen. In chronological order, 36 Chowringee Lane, Paroma, Sati, House of Memories and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and 15 Park Avenue (both starring Konkona). Hardly a song and dance in them.

Rituparno Ghosh, “art film director” who is popular among filmfest circuits, I find rather pretentious and wouldn’t recommend anything except Raincoat which is a sort of tribute to O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi, starring Aish and Ajay Devgan in rather quietly affecting mode. Flee Antarmahal with LittleB, like the plague. I’d suggest burning any copies you find, unless your library objects.

As to the older films, for the most part I skip the 70’s and the 80’s as they went completely disco for a while, though there are some exceptions. I find I like Hrishikesh Mukherjee (another Bengali) especially his film Abhimaan with BigB and his wife Jaya. Lovely quiet film and she almost acts him off the screen. Sorta kinda like A Star is Born. I like the 50’s and the 60’s more. Guru Dutt has a lovely, sort of dreamy style, especially in Pyaasa and Kagaz Ka Phool. Sort of sad, but transcendent.

Early Raj Kapoor is very nice, too, and you can see what western films he’s drawing from, in influence, not copying directly. A good time for exploration in Indian film. Awaara, his most famous, feels like Orson Welles in its cinematography, like he’d just finished watching Citizen Kane, and in Shree 420, he’s definitely pulling from Charlie Chaplin and maybe Douglas Fairbanks a bit. Indian films’ influences always seem about fifteen or so years behind the current vogue in Western films. But they always make their own “take” on them, and they are narrowing the gap quickly, closer each year.  I’m not sure I want them to “catch up” to international cinema.  Most of it isn’t a worthy role model these days.

Julie M:  WOW. Thanks!! I’ll have to run the lists through my library search facility and see if any are owned by the system.

I have to clarify that although overall I didn’t like Devdas, I didn’t hate the LOOK of Devdas. I loved the look and thought it was very beautiful, richly done and evocative. I thought the story was ridiculous, the melodrama over-the-top and the character of Devdas mewly (although SRK seemed to do a good job portraying it, at least in the first half, the only bit that I saw). But it was lovely and I would definitely see more by the same director if the look of the film is important and of high quality.

[a couple of days later]

Julie M:  Got Rang De Basanti from the library and, because I wanted something fun, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Saw JBJ this evening–funny and charming. Complete mindless enjoyment.

Jenny K:  I bought JBJ just for that number with Big B and the wig.  I had a feeling that BigB in that avatar could be the Father of Indian Flash Mobs if he put his mind to it.  I know I’d follow him 🙂

Howsoever, I didn’t like the film that much, though it wasn’t awful or anything. I have a problem with Bobby Deol. He’s handsome and all, but I like his “less handsome” older brother, Sunny, much better. Remind me to send you Border the next time. He’s not the sole focus, but it’s a good role for him. Their father, Dharmendra, was even more handsome. Dad did Sholay with BigB and it is sort of considered the classic Masala “Western”. Cons on the run kinda film. Was Amitabh’s first big break. I played it for my mom once and she made me fast forward through all the “ridiculous stuff” with the comic side characters, but “thought Amitabh had something”. You really couldn’t take your eyes off him, even though he wasn’t classically handsome.

[at this point Jenny tries yet again to tempt Julie into going to Vancouver, and fails…]

Jenny K:  Maybe the two of us could skip out of the Festival to one of the local Hindi cinemas on Saturday and go see something “crassly commercial” and not a bit “art house” like Hrithik and Farhan’s new movie that opens that weekend. Hmmm?

Come on, it was directed by Zoya Akhtar who did Luck By Chance, you liked that…[no response from Julie…I can sense she’s torn, but...] Oh, off the subject, sort of…I saw that they used  the “Baware” music from LBC on So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday.

Julie M:  What…the circus number music was on Dance? I don’t watch that program, but under what circumstances does Bollywood music end up in an American reality show? Spill!!

Jenny K:  It’s primarily found a niche on SYTYCD, not reality shows in general. Some are nice enough, but some like the Baware number was rather weak, even though the main female dancer, Iveta, is a world champion in the ten main divisions of ballroom dance.  The songs are much too short and  usually only use two dancers, so they don’t really have a chance to duplicate the Bollywood experience.  I also think the choreographer is too influenced by Farah Khan, Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant to do anything particularly innovative on his own.  Check some out on Youtube.

Julie M:  I notice that most of the videos are from the British version–this makes sense because of the large Indian or Indian-heritage population there–but here it probably draws a big “huh?” from most of the viewing audience.

Jenny K:  Actually, most of the ones I saw were from the American version. Of course, I only looked at the top, say two pages of them. The among the ones I looked at from the US version were::
Nick and Iveta
Mollee and Nathan
Katee and Joshua
Caitlin and Jason
Kathryn and Jose
Kent and Lauren
Billy and Robert (in yellow!)
a group number set to Jhoom Bharabar Jhoom
And a girls group number to Dholna from Pyar Ke Geet

I’m sure you’re right that the London audience is much more familiar with it, but the American kids doing it has proved much more popular with our audiences than say the Russian folk dancing they tried… BO-ring…

Part 9: The Many Facets of Rani

Julie M:  WOW!!! You sent so much great stuff! Thanks for the freebies, too!

We must be on the same wavelength because I JUST got Kannathil Muthamittal from the library. I’ll have to check it out and then just dump it into the return bin. Also on my library shelf are Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Black. But I can’t get the DVDs from the library until Saturday, so your stuff will fill the gap tonight and tomorrow.

Thanks again!! (you are so my dealer now)

Jenny K:  Now, I must warn you about both of those library films…they have some good points, but when I saw them, I was left wondering why I bothered. Never bought them. Or, you could just find out for yourself.

Black is a direct copy of The Miracle Worker, in the first half, anyway…with BigB playing Annie Sullivan as an ex-alcoholic, no less. Oh, yeah, I told you this in an earlier post.  I will say, Ayesha Kapoor, the child actress who plays the young “Helen” is fabulous in this role. But, even with Rani and BigB trying their darndest, it just left an odd taste in my mouth.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna…otherwise known as KANK, [Spoilers: highlight to view] deals with adultery in an almost acceptable way, which doesn’t work at all for me. SRK and Rani are married to two completely reasonable choices, Preity and Little B, who are there for them, are attractive, no bad treatment whatsoever, aside from Preity whining a bit, SRK has a kid, too. So, here we are, Preity spends a bit too much time at work and SRK who is very negative for the first third of the movie, at least, meets Rani before her wedding, but doesn’t try to stop her, and then they get to be best friends afterward. Then when that’s not enough, at one point they decide to change it to love. Premeditated. Without splitting from their spouses first. BLECH…And it’s set in NYC, too. So, it can’t be because “divorce isn’t done here, in old Mother India”. BLECH. So all the lovely scenes, lovely songs, beautiful words don’t amount to a hill of beans for me. It may be more “realistic” than most Indian films, but I don’t like seeing my favorite actors endorsing such a line of bad behavior. [End of spoilers] If I wanted that from my films, I’d have stayed with US films. Moral codes have been out of fashion here for years, I don’t have to go to India for it.  End of Rant.   Oh, plus, BigB is having style trauma trying to be an aging Warren Beatty in this film…unforgivable.

Julie M: OK…I’ve been warned. I’ve gotten used to Indian films selectively ripping off other films/plays, and it might be interesting to see bad behavior in an Indian film.

So you like the Indian film moral code with respect to sex and fidelity…but the gangster films are all pretty violent and you don’t really seem to mind. I don’t mind sex in a movie but I hate violence. ???

Jenny K:  Nah…it’s not [more spoilers, I guess the rant’s not over.] the sex, it’s the cheating. And if it’s an out and out bad couple doing it, I wouldn’t mind it so much, it would be in context. What I don’t like is the film’s writers and directors setting up a scenario where they are supposed to be the “good guys” and when someone better comes along, they just walk out, without even a pretense of their being out of control or unable to help their lust. They just go…oh well, we’re going to go this route, regardless of how we’ll hurt our spouses, kids, etc. Just hit me the wrong way, bigtime.

As to the violence, I don’t particularly like it, but it’s part of the masala format, like the melodrama…you just sort of expect the obligatory fight scenes for the guys (they call them dashoom dashoom scenes, don’t know why exactly, descriptive noises? ), and when it’s part of the storyline, I’m basically okay with it, when it’s gratuitous, I just fast forward or go for popcorn, or something. I’d much rather a direct sex scene, but there isn’t much chance of that except occasionally in indie cinema. There is a lot of more realistic films out there in Indian film now that I find much more disturbing…Udaan, for one, which won a bunch of awards last year for its realistic portrayal of a father’s child abuse (beatings, not sexual) which I thought was very well done, was unpleasant in the extreme to watch. Made me miss my mindless escapism and fabulous dance numbers.

Aamir’s Rang de Basanti pushed my “honor code” buttons too. Found myself all but jumping up out of my seat, 45 minutes from the end, going “What? What? They did WHAT? That’s a completely wrong message to put out there!” When I asked some of my Indian friends about their take on it, they almost universally said, “You don’t understand, you’re thinking about it with the legal system here in the US as a reference, but it’s the only way things change in India”… rassafrassa-crimanentlies…that and Gangaajal both had completely out of line endings, in my opinion. RDB has a great score and some wonderful performances though, and has some positive points, before the Great Schism at the end, that may merit a viewing.

Julie M:  Instead of KM, at my library I found Well Done Abba! and watched it tonight. Very funny and sweet. B watched part of it with me and immediately recognized the actor playing the main character as the college principal from 3 Idiots, whereas I had failed to do so. (He really liked 3 Idiots–he said it was his favorite so far)  I’m still going to watch KANK and Black and will report back to you.

[JK Note:  They really need to do some trailers with English subtitles, IMO]

Jenny K:  Ah, I haven’t seen it yet, but the director Shyam Benegal is usually very good. I’ll have to look for it. I love Boman Irani, the guy you mentioned. I think he’s one of the best character actors they have. He was also the principal in Main Hoon Na and he was the Sikh “villain” in Lage Raho Munnabhai…the best friend who shafted Munna and tried to steal his girlfriend’s house. He has a tendency to disappear into his roles and can do comedy as well as drama flawlessly.

Julie M:  OH, I had no idea those were all him! I guess he really does disappear into his roles, whereas SRK is always SRK.

Jenny K:  SRK is a constant, a fixed point of delicious in the universe.

Wanted to check something about Boman online and stumbled into his website…seems he’s a late bloomer in a major way. Started his photography career at age 32, then began a major theater career at 34 and did his first film at the age of 44 about ten years ago…made a success in all of them. I am very humbled.

Julie M:  REALLY liked Black. I didn’t find it unsettling at all except for the part where [spoilers] she asked him to kiss her (and that’s understandable under the circumstances, even though I believe she regarded him as a father figure for the entire previous time) and he did (which was totally weird). A rare kiss in an Indian movie and it’s freaky. But excellent performances all around, particularly Rani. BigB did some overacting but mostly was good too. B was not familiar with The Miracle Worker so he thought the entire thing was pretty good, if a bit overly dramatic. Ranks up there for me.

[Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director, speaks about the making of Black, in Hindi and English. Part 1 of 3, I believe.]

Jenny K:  Hmmm…well, good, it’s certainly a stylish film. Same director as Devdas and he’s all about the visuals. Perhaps if I had seen it earlier, I would have liked it more. My favorite films by Bhansali are Khamoshi, the Musical (Khamosh means Silence 🙂 about a hearing woman and her deaf parents, and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, both with Salman Khan, oddly enough…but that can’t be helped, he is popular, him and his overdone pecs…

Julie M:  KANK…well, I didn’t much like it but not for the same reasons you didn’t. It was clear to me that [spoilersboth of them were in bad marriages. Maya never loved Rishi but married him out of duty (and they had wildly mismatched personalities), and Dev was cranky due to his life sucking after the accident, which Rhea had zero sympathy for. So why not grab love when you can? And it seemed to really be love, not just fooling around.[end sp.]

No, the reason I didn’t like it was the soap-opera quality of it, the crazy drama/melodrama and extreme weepiness. SRK kept making that face of his that I hate, the half-crying super-emotional weird face. I don’t watch that kind of movie out ofHollywood, why would I watch it out of Bollywood? So, warn me before I see any more of those, ok?

Jenny K:  Well I will, if I can, but they are pretty entrenched in Indian films. Hard to avoid completely.  And you are well into “the going your own route” phase now, you’ll find out what you like and don’t like very fast. I’ll put together a directors list, as they are usually a good indicator of what you’ll get.

Part 8: The Arts & Architecture Section of Our Programme

Julie M: Check out this article for its Bollywood connections–BigB and Husain’s Meenaxi.

 

Jenny K:  Interesting article, but sad, too. I was always so impressed about how Husain dealt with controversy. When his film, Meenaxi, offended anyone (indicated by the protests) he just removed the film completely, two weeks after opening it. The Muslim clerics hadn’t objected to the song “Noor-un-ala-Noor,” itself when it came out in advance of the movie, but objected when visually, it used a hymn that they thought was directed toward their god, instead depicted as an almost holy worship of a female character in the film. I’ll send you that film next, if you like. It’s not the strongest plot, but very interesting in a literary way, and is magnificent visually and in its Rahman soundtrack.

Julie M:  Meenaxi…wow. Total visual treat and as a whole, the soundtrack rivals Dil Se which, as you know, is my favorite (even better than Lagaan–sorry). Was a bit confused as to the plotline. My interpretation is [spoilersthat the white-robed Meenaxi character in every scene except at the mehndi is a figment of Nawab’s imagination–he created her to serve as his muse. And he died in service to both his muse and his story. I also interpret that the various inconsistencies among the stories (a Prague girl speaking fluent Hindi? come on!) were a reflection of his unraveling as a writer, and he saw the flaws and it was part of what killed him. Or am I overstating? Kunal Kapoor was so very goodlooking in this…debut and wow. I see that he is also in Rang De Basanti, which is waiting for me at the library so I get to see him some more this weekend.  Thank you for sending it.

Jenny K:  Glad you liked it…I get to see it at the film festival in Vancouver[Note: Indian Summer, a very nice festival, in its formative first year] that I’m going to in two weeks…on a big screen!!  Tabu is being saluted and she’s going to be there to discuss The Namesake, but my timing is such that I won’t be able to be there for that one…my plane doesn’t get in until 11pm. Sad. Had no choice when it’s a free flight. The pluses and minuses of frequent flyer programs.

Actually, almost all the films they are offering are ones that I have seen already. 3 Idiots, Peepli Live (fell asleep before the end of it first time I saw it, but probably because I tried a double header…two Indian movies in the evening are too much!) Meenaxi, Chandni Bar (you’d probably like that one), Maqbool, Iqbal, all good films, though I’ll only be able to do four films in the ten days I’m there…got to do a bit of sightseeing while I’m there.

[at this point Jenny tries to tempt Julie into going to Vancouver with her and Julie calls her Pure Evil]

[Jenny K’s Note: HA!…She wanted to go…hohoho (cue maniacal laughter)]

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Here is my movie lineup for this weekend (from the library):

Chandni Chowk to China
Delhi-6
Rab ne bana di Jodi

Your thoughts?

 

Jenny K:  CC to C I didn’t see…I’m sorta allergic to Akshay Kumar in most cases. He does a lot of cheesy chop-socky kinda action films with babes; guys seem to like them. Delhi-6 is okay, except for the black monkey. I won’t say more except that the grandmother in this one is Waheeda Rehman, a very famous film star from about 25 years ago, and I think she’s still lovely. RNBDJ is mild SRK fun, but I didn’t like it as much as some of my friends did. Too run of the mill.

 

Julie M:  Saw CCtoC last night. First part was very stupid and farce-y. I fell asleep in the middle and woke up for the last hour or so, and didn’t feel as if I’d missed anything. If you like martial arts movies it wasn’t bad, but it was so very formulaic (dumb ordinary guy from India ends up in China via ridiculous circumstances, has to do some kind of heroic task, learns martial arts from an expert, then slaughters the bad guys, gets the girl in the end). Somewhat interesting subplot about girl twins separated in infancy, one ends up a national spokesmodel in India, the other an underworld hit girl in China, they meet through this dumb idiot guy and his ridiculous circumstances. Kumar is kinda good looking and no doubt expert in martial arts, but so was Stephen Seagal and his movies are no Oscar winners. Pass on future ones.

 

Jenny K:  To be fair to Akshay, he does have one or two films that I like. If you ever see the movie Khakee, he gives a very nice turn as a venal cop with some hidden depths. I guess he’s good looking, but, I know it sounds stupid, he looks too American for me.  And he picks those tough guy film roles that could be American, too.  I could get that at home.

 

Julie M:  Saw Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi tonight.  B saw most of it with me and he liked it. I thought it was very cute and lighthearted fun. Music not bad either. Maybe a bit run of the mill because it seemed very Hollywood-romantic-comedy, but I was completely charmed. I liked that I knew some of the music (motorcycle chase to Dhoom 2 theme!) and some of the stars in the dream dance sequence. Beautiful shots of Amritsar, nice production values to the dancing. All in all, not very taxing and quite entertaining with only the teeniest bit of melodrama (I like drama, just not melodrama). I’d give it a thumbs-up.  I wanted to see the special features disk but no time…I have to see Delhi-6 and another movie, Kyun…Ho Gaya Na (couldn’t resist, it has BigB, Aish and Viveik Oberoi), and return them both on Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Not to say I thought RNDBJ was bad or anything. Just having seen some two dozen films by SRK it seemed rather run-of-the-mill. And even though I like him trying new things (playing shy and retiring, plain-looking nebbish guy convincingly) I object to half a movie going by without him smiling. I love his smile. I actually only remembering a few things about the film, it doesn’t stick with you long, I remember thinking she was rather stupid for not recognizing her own husband, and I also remember liking that scene on the hillside where he spelled out, was it her name? in the lights. That was cute.

Kyun…Ho Gaya Na was a while ago, but it was a big buzz when it came out because Aish and Viveik were dating at the time, and I think it was their first movie together (perhaps their only) and there was an actual kiss in the film, I think (one that Aish conveniently forgot when she was interviewed on US tv around the time Bride and Prejudice came out…”no, I’ve never been kissed onscreen, we don’t do that here in India”. Perhaps she was banking that with KHGN‘s bad audience numbers, no one outside of India had actually seen it :-). Whatever, I don’t recall thinking they had much chemistry in it. Hope I’m wrong.

Hey…You’ve hit a milestone and we didn’t even celebrate it 🙂 I’ve been keeping a list of what you’ve seen so that I don’t duplicate what I send to you, and you’ve seen over thirty-five movies now! I’m counting whatever you see tonight…with both Delhi-6 and KHGN it will be 36! Now that’s an official conversion, I think, an “Interest” with a capital I! You may well last and become a superfan, yet. Welcome to the club!

Jenny
Lead East Coast Recruiter
354 movies and counting (not counting duplicate viewings….it would be too scary!) Well, I have been doing it since the summer of 2003, I think… So you see where it can go… Hmmm… I wonder what I should do for my ten year “anniversary” … go to Bombay???

 

Julie M:  If you go to India tell me–I will go with you! Even though it would cost half a semester’s college tuition for one of the kids.

It was hilarious seeing SRK playing a shy nerd, since he’s so Raj-like in real life (so I understand). That was half the fun for me. [Spoilers, I guess] It made sense to me that she didn’t recognize her husband–if you watch the scenes where they are together, she barely even looks at him, and of course they didn’t sleep together. She probably only registered the clothes, mustache and glasses anyway. (and he spelled out I Love You in lights–so sweet)

Has it been 35 movies? I am calling this a hobby (my son is calling it an obsession). I simply don’t watch many American movies, they are too boring, and summer TV is horrible with all the repeats.

Liked Delhi-6. A little weird and serious for Bollywood but visually very rich and an interesting message. LittleB was great.

KHGN–BORING. I only got partway through. Snore. Also, the CD from the library wasn’t in good shape so it was a good excuse to quit. I assume they get together in the end. Although they were quite pretty, I found myself not really caring about them. So–a dud.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I didn’t want to bias you, if, in fact, you liked it. I think I fell asleep in the movie theater. Not a good sign. Have some recollection of his being a race driver of some type, but truthfully, the most surprising thing about it was the kiss. And really, they don’t have much screen chemistry for a couple that were dating. Oh well, she doesn’t tend to have chemistry with anyone except Hrithik. Even her husband, LittleB. She’s pretty, but reads sort of cold-fishy, as a rule.

Wasn’t the black monkey weird in Delhi-6? But I loved his connection with his grandma, and I liked Rishi Kapoor, the grandma’s old boyfriend, better than I usually do. He was Kajol’s dad in Fanaa, and he was a big star in romantic leads back in the seventies and eighties. Kareena’s uncle, I believe. They are sort of the first family of Indian Cinema. If you ever get the urge to check out the really early stuff get Awara with Raj Kapoor and Pyaasa with Guru Dutt… Classics, both.

 

Julie M: Rishi Kapoor played Roshan’s MOTHER’s old boyfriend, not the grandmother’s. I like Rishi Kapoor. He caught my eye in Hum Tum (the first thing I saw him in) for adding complexity to what could have been a one-dimensional role, and has been great in pretty much everything else since, including Fanaa.

The race driver plot point never went anywhere. You were right, Viveik can dance, but it seems that he can’t act well, so…career in the toilet.

I immediately read the “black monkey” as a metaphor for something dark that lurked in peoples’ souls, particulary in times of crisis or transition, so the entire alternative-dimension aspect of the film, that some critics seemed to hate, did not bother me. I generally hate film violence so the beating/shooting scene at the end upset me a little–went on WAY too long–had to fast-forward through it. I loved LittleB’s character every which way–loved that he started the movie with a strong American accent and only speaking English back when people spoke Hindi to him, and as time went on he lapsed more and more into Hindi and his English words became heavily Indian-accented. A great acting touch from LittleB. But his perspective on life remained very American, even when he decided to stay in India. This character did a good job of showing the best of both worlds.

 

Jenny K:  Now don’t give up on Viveik completely until you see him in Company and Yuva (I sent them off to you, hopefully you should be getting them soon). What I would say is that he can’t carry a film by himself. Given the right vehicle and the right co-stars he can be quite effective. Poor baby. Seldom if ever used correctly.

As to Rishi, I’m just saying that he is aging much better than I would have expected. Here’s what I think of as him as his “famous prime” back in the seventies…in Amar Akbar Anthony, as BigB’s little brother the musician. Okay but always a bit cheesy.

Not quite as good looking as either his father Raj Kapoor. Or his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor.

Part 7: The Alpha Males — Aamir, Ajay & Amitabh

Julie M:   Videos from the library: Ghajini, Deewaar and Jodi Ek Din (Life is Magic).

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…not seen any of those, except Deewaar, I think, with Amitabh, right? It’s a bit of a long one, but is pretty famous. Have your sunglasses nearby, as Indian fashion of the seventies is usually very, very BRIGHT! Ghajini is the one Aamir movie that I hadn’t seen because it’s a copy of Memento which I loved, plus a “how the romance started” backstory in the first act. It’s a Hindi remake of a South Indian megahit. Let me know how you liked it and maybe I’ll break down and see it. And IMDb tells me that Jodi Ek Din is a Bengali musical…Bengali films are usually too serious for musical numbers…let me know how it is. No one I know in it.

Julie M:  Deewaar was pretty good. BigB was HOT. His long legs are just made for the 1970s pants style, and he was very dark and brooding. His hair was amazing. Best looking mobster I’ve ever seen in film. The story was pretty interesting, but as usual they overplayed the dramatic aspects and I had to fast-forward through the very last scene between Vijay (the AB character) and his mother. And the end, which was a recap of the beginning (the entire movie was a flashback…I hate that), proceeded too quickly. I kind of wanted a resolution scene. The fashions and makeup were hilarious.

Jodi Ek Din was merely OK. The musical numbers were there basically to expound upon the love between the two main characters and there weren’t many of them. They seemed a bit out of place. I think it was supposed to be at the arty end of popular film, kind of along the lines of Sliding Doors. In fact, the film was kind of a mix between Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day–the plot was, if you get a do-over in your life, what would you do differently and how would it turn out in the end? But not a comedy. It was like magic realism in novels. And a predictable ending. But worth seeing. Warning–the subtitles are original to the movie, not added for the DVD, and so they are not on the letterboxed black bar at the bottom. A lot of the subtitles are white-on-white and very difficult to read.

I liked Memento too, and was wary about Ghajini, but what the heck.

 

Jenny K:  Nice profiles…I may look for it. I will be really interested in your take on Ghajini, considering you like Memento, you’ll be a good judge. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to not like his performance/choice of roles, if you know what I mean. He was my favorite for quite a while.

 

Julie M:  OK–Ghajini. First, it was only barely like Memento in that they used the whole 15-minute-memory thing and the tattooed body/mnemonic devices (and scary body-builder physique and shaved, scarred head) pretty much for shock value, and also, it seems, to capitalize on a very interesting idea first brought out in Western film. Most of the movie was either flashback-backstory of the meet-cute and romance between Sanjay (the AK character) and his lady love and how it was interrupted, treated in typical Bollywood style complete with random musical numbers, and horrible, detailed revenge violence. Really quite violent, in fact.

In Memento, the entire movie was how the character continually and slowly put together what had happened and what to do about it. Very psychological. In Ghajini, it was more about the dramatic contrast between his happy former life and his current obsession for revenge. The memory loss thing was just treated as a casual gimmick and a strong visual to underscore his change.

Action sequences were violent and silly at the same time (lots of sped-up action and goofy sound effects). Lots of agony and highly realistic blood–too much, in fact. It’s like the filmmakers couldn’t decide whether they were making a romance, an action-drama or a thriller and made an hour of each, smooshed into one movie.

Bottom line–watching Ghajini will not tarnish your feelings about Memento, just like watching Chori Chori Chupke Chupke will not tarnish your feelings about Pretty Woman, because the parts swiped (excuse me, BORROWED) from Western movies are not overly germane to the story. In fact, if you had not seen Memento, you would be very confused about the Memento-like elements in Ghajini because they are not explained very well–they just ARE.

Aamir was excellent in it. Really, his acting just gets better and better. Performance was spectacular, although he looked a bit uncomfortable in the romance part, almost like he didn’t want to have to do that aspect of the movie.

Overall I would say you should see it.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ll just look into that…I actually hated having to not buy one of his films, I think I have the complete collection of everything he’s done that has subtitles (and even one that doesn’t Chale Chalo: Madness in the Desert, a Making of Laagan documentary couldn’t be resisted, though I can only watch it on my one DVD player that handles all regions, and that even when the actors interviewed are responding in English, they are dubbed back into Hindi….dad ratted #@%$).

Aamir has a rep for being the more serious actor in the contest of the Khans. Definitely look for Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai Diaries when it comes out on DVD (it’s still making the rounds of festivals right now, I think and is on Netflix download) that his wife directed and he produced and starred in it. Nice quiet performance. And also get Deepa Mehta’s film Earth sometime, it’s part of a trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, all very controversial in India, not much music, dealing with heavy issues for India, the violence of Partition, lesbianism, and the treatment of widows. They are all very effective, but Aamir really acts his socks off in Earth.

I have been debating about when to start sending a few of the heavier films along with the fun fluff. Let me know. And thanks again for the time you took with the Ghajini review. It helped.

 

Julie M:  I’ll take heavier films anytime. B likes those better than the fluffy fun ones and will watch them with me. He liked Ghajini but we had to fast-forward through the interminable scenes of really senseless violence, and ALL the musical numbers. (the only drawback to watching Bollywood movies with my hubby)  Oh–and the telling scene about Ghajini was [spoilers] that it opened with Aamir killing someone. Right up front you know there is a ton of violence. [end of spoilers]

Jenny K:  hmm…maybe I’ll regret just ordering it.

 

Julie M:  You won’t regret it. But just so you know.

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Your package arrived yesterday–thanks!!! Omkara!!

 

Jenny K: When you watch Omkara, don’t let B fast forward through the songs…the music is to die for! The director used to be a music director and is really good at it.

 

Julie M:  I’ll simply watch it without him!!

[later that day…]

Julie M:  So we watched Omkara tonight. REALLY good. Saif Ali Khan was great (and buffed up). I’m not an Othello fan but the adaption was great.

Jenny K:  Thought you’d like it 🙂 what with Saif and all. He’s really much better for me as a villain or some sort of negative character than your basic leading man. Omkara himself was Ajay Devgan, Kajol’s husband. And aside from her singing in English, which was rather weak, wasn’t Kareena much better in this one as Dolly? Also, Konkona was pretty fierce as Saif’s wife. Much stronger a presence than she was in Luck By Chance. I always keep this sound track in my car player. Fabulous.

 

Julie M:  I agree about Konkona, and the music. Both fantastic. I found Kareena marginally better than she usually is but I never really thought the Desdemona (Dolly) character deserved all the fuss that was made about her in the play anyway, so I don’t have much sympathy for actresses who play her. Saif…yum. And this was my first introduction to Viveik Oberoi, who didn’t seem to get much of a chance to show acting chops in this movie as the hapless victim Kesu (Cassio)–anything else he was in that I might like?

I was a little confused in the beginning as to who was who–as I said, Othello is not one of my fave Shakespeare plays so I am not as familiar with it–but eventually it got sorted out and then I went back to re-view the beginning. There was also much more of what I would consider rural/traditional Indian culture and mores that would have made the film more dimensional had I understood it. I might have to research and then view it again before I return it to you.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…Viveik. Lessee…he’s a cutie, and can really dance if you give him the chance, but hasn’t been too successful. Avoid Kisna, very long, very scenic, but very bland. That’s the only one I’d say really had him trying to carry a film by himself. He works a lot with Ajay and they seem to bring good things out of each other. First, they did Company together which is one of the few Indian mafia films that I found very engrossing. It was Viveik’s debut and he really played kind of a wild animal of a young hoodlum. Impressive. I think I have it if you can’t find it at the library.

Secondly, they worked together in Mani Ratnam’s film Yuva. Mani Sir directed Dil Se. Yuva has Kareena in it, too, but, as I said before, that and Omkara, Dev and Chameli are her best serious acting to date. I definitely have Yuva. This one has a Rahman score, too. If you liked Omkara, I might send you the director’s version of MacBeth, too [Maqbool], though I don’t think it’s quite as effective as a Shakespeare adaptation.   Strong performances, though, all around.

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the tip on using the computer to watch Main Hoon Na. [JK Note: Some international films, though rated Region 0, still give some dvd players fits.  Often running through the computer to your screen, if you have the appropriate tv hook-ups, will take care of it.] Saw it this evening. There were some very silly parts (why is college always portrayed so goofily in these films?!) and the usual melodrama, but it was sufficiently curtailed. The action scenes were kind of funny in spots. One scene had SRK moving in slow motion while the terrorist dude was moving in regular motion! ridiculous. But Zayed Khan is a cutie.

 

Jenny K:  Some of the behind the scenes stuff from MHN was fun, too…I remember the big fight scene was supposed to be a tongue in cheek homage to John Woo films, so they decided to have slow motion doves in flight, but when they threw them in front of the camera, each time they just plummeted like rocks and didn’t fly. Like city pigeons…flying feathered rocks that they are.

Didn’t you love Sushmita with SRK? I particularly loved when he fell in love he broke into off-key song, and then later went into that colorful video. The director, Farah Khan, is first and foremost a choreographer, and she does such wonderful things with the songs. I liked the young girl, Amrita Rao, too…though her bust kept getting bigger and smaller and bigger again with her padding in the various numbers.

 

Julie M:  Yep–SRK was cute in his head-over-heels schoolboy infatuation scenes. I’ll watch the 2nd DVD of MHN this evening, I think.

Part 6: A Whole Lot of Roshan Goin’ On

Julie M:  Saw Swades [Note: pronounced Swa-desh, from the Sanskrit for “one’s own country.“] this evening. Reminded me of those indie movies of the 1980s where a stuffy Englishman falls in love with a Scottish village, who adopts him. B watched it with me and he actually stayed through most of it.  Next up: Kites, then the historical romance Jodhaa Akhbar.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, stock up on the caffeine for Jodhaa Akhbar….I fell asleep about twenty minutes in, during a battle scene with elephants, no less. Yes, Hrithik looks fetching, but I don’t think the director, Ashotosh Gowariker, who did Swades, knows how to pace an actual armies in your face action film.  He’s wonderful at heartfelt, earnest stories though.  I usually like his films.

 

Julie M:  Duly noted.  Kites was OK. Lots of good shots of Hrithik with shirt off, totally buff, but not enough dancing. REALLY not enough dancing.

 

Jenny K: Exactly what I thought when I saw it. very astute, my novice 🙂 I also didn’t really like his beard. And when, may I ask, did he wear this ensemble in the film, which came up when I did a search for the movie on Google…

 

Julie M:  That is so funny!!! I also thought it was hilarious that he was in Las Vegas, an Indian, and everyone he interacted with was Indian or spoke fluent Hindi. That’s some weird alternative Vegas.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, and when in Georgia or Alabama or wherever in the apocryphal deep south Mama Jenny was supposed to be living, everyone knew and could sing along with the lyrics to that old Hindi Classic, “We Shall Overcome”! You just gotta get used to it…

 

Julie M: So more this weekend…we adopted kittens and I was hanging around the house watching them anyway…saw ALL (whew) of Jodhaa Akbar, plus Fanaa. Liked the first, loved the second.

Jodhaa Akbar was very long and the political intrigue stuff was not handled very well–way too drawn out for what it was–yet it was so beautiful that I excused all that. HR only used maybe 3 facial expressions (regal, bemused and nose-flaringly angry), and he didn’t dance, but I did get to see him move in the fight scenes and that was a treat. Aish was mainly decorative except for a couple of scenes where she played feisty…she’s done better. The screen chemistry from Dhoom 2 just wasn’t there, but it felt like an old-time Hollywood epic like Cleopatra.

Fanaa was great in all ways. Predictable at first, until it wasn’t, and then after the intermission it was like it turned into a different, and better, movie. Mark me down as a complete Kajol fan.

Jenny K:   She has that certain something, doesn’t she? Oddly, she doesn’t have the same screen chemistry with her husband, Ajay Devgan, that she does with SRK.  And it’s even better with Aamir in Fanaa. Aamir is much edgier, and therefore much sexier with her, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ajay (crazy dangerous eyes) but the only two movies I liked their chemistry in were Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha which is a direct copy of French Kiss.

Strange, the whole movie is on Youtube right now, in it’s entirety, in HD, but without subtitles. This is a clip of the tone of the film when the two of them visit Ajay’s family and village.  Sweet slapstick.

There’s a lot of that going on in Indian film, but aside from a really awful song and dance on the plane which I advise you to scurry through on fast forward…I like this French Kiss better than the original. Now how often can you say that?!?  In this case, the film benefits from a longer format,  where it can better explain why they fall in love than the Kline/Ryan film can in it’s hour and three quarter running time. The second film they “click” in is one Ajay directed called U Me Aur Hum, which isn’t really a comedy and she acts brilliantly, maybe better than he does, but he catches up in the second, sadder, half.

[a few days on]

Julie M: Is it worth seeing Salaam-e-Ishq? I get that it’s kind of like Love Actually, which was not a universal success with me. I liked a couple of the stories but by no means all.

 

Jenny K:   I did see it when it came out in the theaters about four years ago, mainly because of my yen for Akshaye Khanna cancelled out my general apathy toward Salman Khan. Oddly enough, I found that the only story that I truly enjoyed out of the six love stories that they told, centered on a lonely cabbie and his white girl passenger, starring Govinda, who I would have sworn on a stack of bibles couldn’t generate a non-over-the-top performance. I was wrong. He was completely sweet and endearing. All the other stories were sort of forgettable, even my boy Akshaye.  Never bothered to buy it. Don’t worry about it being a direct copy of Love Actually, just the format. I didn’t like the original much either..

[a few days later]

Julie M: Saw Krrish tonight. What a weird amalgam of genres! Was I watching a martial arts movie? A Bollywood romance? a family drama? I liked watching HR move (a LOT), but the story was kinda dumb and it was not a superhero movie in the sense we are familiar with. and WOW–resurrection story too. But I liked the callback to KMG at the end–sweet. Overall–eh. I hear there is a Krrish 2 in the works.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, there’s always a “2” now…especially with SRK doing his superhero movie now called Ra.One which is spelled like that because then it sounds like Raavan, a Hindu demigod of the negative variety. Not sure why he wants his hero to be a villain…and I’m not sure I like the CGI, which they are trying to develop now. I think his animated character has no real weight…sorta bouncy. I had that same problem with trailers for The Hulk. One of the reasons I wouldn’t see it.

As to the “weird amalgam”…that’s the nature of masala films, I’m afraid. Though I will grant that Krrish is a bit weirder a mix than most. The producers are aiming for as large an audience as they can get and so put in something for everyone so they get their paisa vasool, or their “money’s worth”. Going to a movie is sort of a holiday outing in India, you take the whole family from grannies to babies and everyone enjoys the AC and the film and wanders about for the whole three hours. After you get used to it, I find I miss that “film for all” element in the more modern western-style films. Too many semi-dressed babes, too much crime, no family stuff. And the new ones are just under two hours….pshaw! Not enough time to develop characters you care about!

 

Julie M:  Well, the American way is to get you interested in the characters and cut them off before you’ve gotten your fill, leaving the door open for a sequel or three. Gotta bring in the $.

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