Part 2: Rahman Recommendations and HrithikMania

Julie M:  OK, I got Taal out of the library a couple of days ago because I knew that yesterday I was going to be flat out on the couch recuperating from minor surgery. I know you said it was melodramatic, but you also said the music was great, so…I actually liked this one a lot. I couldn’t stand the Manav character (he was such a blah) but the music really was fabulous. Pretty much a standout soundtrack all the way around, and the choreography was fantastic starting right from the opening credits. I re-ran all the songs numerous times after I finished the film.  You are right: A.R. Rahman is The Man. Any more recommendations for his films?

Jenny K: Okay, recommendations. The first five are good films that have especially good AR Rahman sound tracks.

Lagaan, I mentioned before. A must-see. The only Bollywood film that the numbers are so integrated into the plot that you can’t show them without the movie, really.

Nayak, a serious social commentary in the most over the top, goofy slapstick style you’ll ever see. I love it, but you have to be in the right mood for it…maybe you need to be on hallucinogens to truly get everything out of it…hehehehe. Shakalaka Baby!

Meenaxi is sort of Bollywood meets Pirandello…sort of Six Characters in Search of An Author, though a bit wandery, plot-wise. Great visuals, and some of Rahman’s best music. You’ll find yourself buying the CD’s too. For buying things, I always suggest using Nehaflix.com.  Their website has a good selection, fairly easy to use and is very good at reliability and returns, if anything goes wrong. [JK’s Note:  I’m in mourning…Nehaflix got sued and lost.  Trying to reform under the name The Khan Store at Amazon.com.  Not a great selection yet, but they’re working on it.]

Swades is another film by the director of Lagaan, but this one isn’t period. It’s a modern day story of an Indian scientist from NASA who is pulled back home to find the nurse who raised him.  He finds her and make her life, and that of the whole village, better. Very sweet earnest film. A much quieter Rahman score.

I’d say again, Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek), merits a viewing. Harder to find, as it’s South Indian and not as much call for it in local markets.  Often they don’t have subtitles, check it out first.  It’s worth the hunt, though, it’s very moving.

Now a few in the Non-Rahman film category.

Lots of folks like Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s retelling of the Bengali classic story. The visual style is lavish, lush, and the music is good, not Rahman, but good. Great costumes, but the sets are so over the top and the lighting is overall so red in tone that it’s not my favorite, a bit too melodramatic, and I thought SRK’s hero was really self indulgent.  Even though it’s a classic, but it’s hard to feel that sorry for his problems when he caused them himself…but the numbers are so fun, pull up “SRK in Devdas songs” on Youtube and judge for yourself. “Chalak chalak” has the black dress that I’m going to make for myself once my diet kicks in. Also catch Dola Re Dola. Richard Corliss, the Time.com critic doesn’t agree with my criticisms. He’s a full-on convert. Check it out, here.  Funny, funny, albeit accurate article about his descent into BollyMania…closely resembling my fall. For the Devdas bit, scan down to “Deaf to Devdas“.

If you’re in the mood for a comedy, get Lage Raho Munna Bhai which tells of a local good-hearted mob boss who in trying to impress a lovely radio DJ, by saying he’s a Ghandi scholar and then has to study up to prove it…and Ghandi “arrives” to help him. Every one I’ve shown this to loves it. The earlier film Munnabhai MBBS is very popular, too.

That should keep you for a while 🙂

[after a couple of days]

Julie M:  Have to bring you up to date…I watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend along with Bride and Prejudice. Yes, I know B&P is not really Bollywood, but it was still fun, in the Bollywood spirit and I didn’t have to read subtitles! I liked the entire first half of KHNH but after the intermission it took a very weird turn. Started like a rom-com farce but then got way too melodramatic. Still, some nice performances particularly the Rohit character’s actor (I forget the name now) [note:  Saif Ali Khan]. I was so proud of myself for recognizing something…there is a brief moment during the wedding dance scene where SRK’s character is dancing right next to a random girl, and it was Kajol from K3G–wearing the same costume as she did in that film–and they exchanged a brief grinning glance. I had to reverse the DVD to make sure I wasn’t seeing things…it was awesome and thanks to you I caught the reference!!

I also saw an entirely horrible movie, The Mistress of Spices, which if you have not seen I recommend that you avoid unless you are a total Aishwarya Rai or Dylan McDermott fan. I read the book a while ago and it was good, but the movie version was AWFUL.

I have Lagaan on reserve from my library (it is on order so I’ll have to wait a while) and the system does not have Meenaxi, so will have to find that elsewhere. There’s also a film that is always on the library’s video shelves–can’t recall the title but it’s about a blind girl and a guy who loves her. ???familiar to you? is it good?

Anyway, thank you so much for introducing me to this wonderful (if time-consuming) hobby!

Jenny K:  Hey, I’m proud of you too…When you see Lagaan you’ll see another “inside joke” scene that you’ll recognize. When they were redoing the restaurant, they were playing a song “Chale Chalo” which is from Lagaan and is choreographed to remind you of it. Made me laugh. I agree that the second half of the movie changed tone after his disease was revealed, and the plot became more of a Lifetime Channel one, with him trying to find a happy life for Naina. Not very believeable, but I liked it anyway, in spite. Loved some of the big dance numbers and the scene where SRK barks at Rohit pretending to be Laila the Dog is oddly sexy. What does that say about me?!?!?

Hey, if you’re tired of reading subtitles, see if your library has one called Being Cyrus. It stars Saif Ali Khan (aka Rohit) in a non-comedy and he does a really good job of it, and the lion’s share of the dialogue is in English. It’s definitely not a feel-good musical (actually, not a song in it, as I recall), but more of a western style moody thriller. He’s also in the Iago role in Omkara (the Othello adaptation). His best role yet, I think.

The one about the blind girl is probably Black. I can’t really recommend that one, as it’s a direct rip off (in the first half) of The Miracle Worker, with the dad from K3G playing Annie Sullivan. Really odd transposition…when a 6′ 4″ Amitabh barks at the little blind kid and pushes her around to “tame her,” it’s just…different, and not in a good way. Then the second half gets all “I’m falling in love with you” when the girl grows up which adds an extra level of weird, even if he doesn’t give in to the temptation offered to him. I really like Amitabh, but this is NOT one of the ones I like him in, though I do admire the effort he was putting into it.  For an unadulterated dose of Bachchan at his recent best, try Bunty aur Babli, the first picture that he and his son Abhishek did together…sort of a benevolent Bonnie and Clyde caper picture with Amitabh (or BigB as we call him in Bollybiz) playing an amalgam of all the tough cops he’s ever done on screen with his tongue firmly in cheek. He’s especially hilarious in a fake music video over the end credits. He is so cool, even at 68.

Glad you’re enjoying it. Did you ever see Dhoom 2? Don’t worry about telling me if you didn’t like it. The only way that would bother me is if I recommended it, you BOUGHT it and you hated it. However, I’ve done a good bit of that, myself and am constantly glad that getting DVDs at under ten dollars is easy to do. You don’t mind the missteps as much.

Julie M:  I did see Dhoom 2–I thought it was a lot of fun, and Hrithik Roshan was so gorgeous in every single scene I felt like I was going to swoon. They really buffed him up for that one. And there was actual kissing in a Bollywood movie–the horror!! (kidding) Completely fluffy and escapist. Sometimes I’m just in that kind of mood.

Jenny K:  Ah, HrithikMania… don’t I know it. Met him once and spoke to him, he smiled right at me alone. Just as handsome in person, too, darn his perfection. Next time you are in that fluffy and escapist mood you could check out his first movie, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, from 2000. Not a particularly good movie (part of a long tradition of “Identical Twin” movies in Indian cinema) but it has some great dance numbers, “Ek Pal Jeena” in particular, in the second half, and of course he’s absolutely gorgeous in it. 

For other “gorgeous options” from him I’d say Kites and Guzaarish but the first is complete fluff set inLas Vegas and most of it in English. Only one dance number. Criminal shame. Guzaarish is an Indian remake of Whose Life Is It Anyway? that old Richard Dreyfus film on the euthanasia debate, blown up with flashbacks of Hrithik’s show-biz past to get him out of his wheelchair occasionally. Hrithik does nicely, but he still doesn’t dance much.

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  1. […] because they are always at each others’ throats. Another 1999 pairing of Ash and Akshaye, Taal, is much more subtle in its messages and with real human drama in all its complexities—and […]


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