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.


  1. Why are trailers so little like the film? This was such a sweet film and the trailer is so slapstick.

    • I’m assuming you’re referring to Well Done Abba? Is the new one I’m posting, better? Without subtitles, it’s hard to say. The cartoonish one seemed “sweeter” to me and it was the theatrical trailer.

  2. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to
    him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting to hear such different thoughts on some of these films! 🙂 I actually really like KANK and my feelings on Black are somewhere in between the two of you.

    What I absolutely love about KANK is how directly it talks about relationship problems. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a commercial film which talks so directly about how sexual problems can ruin a relationship. I particularly love the scene between Rani and SRK in the furniture store in which Rani is “telling” SRK what her husband does to her in bed. It starts as a hilarious comedy scene, but it unexpectedly gets serious at the end when SRK realizes the sex in Rani’s marriage is still not happening despite how hard her husband is trying. There’s something very intimate and uncomfortable about that moment.

    And on the SRK/Preity side of the equation, there’s another rather taboo issue that I’ve never seen dealt with so directly in a Hollywood film – male ego. SRK can’t take the fact that Preity is in some ways “the man of the house” and that’s really where all their problems come from.

    I didn’t get the feeling that KANK was saying cheating is ok. They never really decide it’s ok, it’s jealousy of each other’s spouses that leads Rani & SRK to cross the boundary and they both feel guilty about it. So guilty in fact, that they do eventually break it off between each other despite how much love there is between them.

    And in terms of melodrama, I guess I have a soft spot for melodrama… the trouble is melodrama is very easy to do badly and very difficult to do well. But I thought KANK did reasonably well with it, though there are a few scenes where it went over the top I guess. And I remember preferring the first half of the film which is much lighter on the melodrama and heavier on the comedy.

    As for Black, I remember I had very mixed feelings. I appreciated the film for the visual beauty of it. I found it a bit too over the top and soppy, but I suppose that’s just what Sanjay Leela Bhansali is about. I kind of like his operatic, over the top style for a big tragedy like Devdas, but in something like Black where it’s a much smaller and more intimate story it annoyed me. I remember loving Rani’s performance despite it being over the top, there’s something really beautiful about it. And I also remember being kind of creeped out by the kiss… it’s a very powerful scene. It also weirded it me out that Rani has kissed both father and son in different films 😉 But that’s totally beside the point.
    It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Black though and I don’t remember it too well.

    • I’m going to leave Julie to comment on KANK, if she wants to, because it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth about pretty much everyone involved with the film, from KJo on down to Amitabh and his stupid red glasses. Realistic it may be, but two viewings didn’t make me warm to them…but I realize my opinion is in the minority. 🙂

    • KANK is, to my mind, notable only for the absolute (and shocking) frankness of dealing in a film with a normally taboo subject in Indian society. At least publicly taboo, and the sexual aspect of it. And I agree that it suffers from the typical “curse of the second half,” where it goes all dark and serious and melodramatic. I compare it to the treatment of infidelity-in-thought that partially drives “The Lunchbox,” where the emotionally frustrated housewife is so desperate for any type of interpersonal contact that she seriously considers an affair with someone she has never met. It’s kind of the alternative to KANK.

      SLB runs hot and cold. Saawariya, as I think I mentioned, would have been an amazing stage play but suffers as a film. Worth a watch, though, for Ranbir and the one Rani dance number. Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam is still a favorite (despite the ridiculously transparent substitution of Hungary or Romania as “Italy”!), and Guzaarish is beautiful and intriguing, and offers another side of Hrithik. It’s “good” melodrama. Ram-Leela, as you know from reading, is one of my all-time favorite films despite its flaws: it’s the best kind of eye-candy. I don’t remember if I posted on Mary Kom or not, but it’s an atypical SLB film in that it’s not as visual as his other films except for some great mountain scenery. I never saw Rowdy Rathore and do not plan to go out of my way to do so. But I’m confused: HAHK was not SLB-directed, was it?

  4. My fault…acronym overdose! It was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that I was thinking of fondly, not HAHK, another Hum title, also with Salman, but paired with Madhuri. This one was sort of a real-time version of a shaadi (runs almost four hours long) and though sweet, it had a tendency to drag, for me. I’ll try to be more accurate in future!

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