August 5, 2011: Scaling the Heights of Hindi Cinema

Julie M:  This evening’s feature in my living room was Mangal Pandey: The Rising. I really enjoyed it, all the while understanding that HUGE liberties were likely taken with history (the Rani-character subplot, for example). Aamir was great (as usual), and the music–Rahman, of course–was fantastic. Same vibe as the music for Lagaan: extremely well integrated with the story. The only song I thought might have been gratuitous was the Holi one. Overall: 4 stars, would recommend it to anyone.


Jenny K:  Glad you liked Mangal Pandey. It had some fine moments (can you say Toby Stevens!) and a brave attempt by Aamir of making what felt like historical verismilitude out of a paragraph and a half of concrete character reference. I ruined it for myself by researching it too thoroughly when it was coming out. I should have known better.

It was sort of fun following the production while it was shooting.  A few of the people I chatted with on the Bollywhat Forum had decided that as they were touring India at the time, they would volunteer as extras on the shoot, as well as giving us all ongoing posts from the set.  It was very cool, and we got to see them both when they didn’t get cut out in the editing room.  They were trying to lure me to come over, too, but I chickened out.  Lost chances…

And even though the Rani scenes were imagined, I really liked them.  The Holi scene was fun, I thought…and it’s so traditional.  Not sure I was groovin’ on her pink dress, though.  Not really her color.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   OK, watched A Wednesday this evening and had enough time (it was less than 2 hrs long!) to start Virasat.

A Wednesday was very good–excellent performance by Naseeruddin Shah–and more Hollywood than Bollywood. American-style thriller with a good twist at the end. B watched it with me for a while (he saw NS and said “Hey, it’s THAT guy again!”) and seemed to like it. I thought it was good but not particularly Indian.

Virasat, on the other hand, is shaping up to be quite satisfyingly traditional. Anil Kapoor in the hero role (with a 12″ mullet–hilarious) is weird to see. Some cheesiness and dad/son melodrama, and a terrifically done flood scene that just happened. Don’t think I’ll make it through the whole thing tonight–it’s just too long–will finish it tomorrow and quickly return it to the library.

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen either of them yet, but I have A Wednesday in my queue at Netflix.  It will be interesting to see how it compares with another film he did the year before called Shoot On Sight.  Could be an interesting flip side.  In SOS, Naseerji plays a commander on the London police force as it tries to track down suicide bombers.  He has to deal with profiling both against the suspects and also towards himself.  Why was he given this high profile case?  Was it because he deserves it, or that  because he’s a Muslim, it makes the Department look colorblind?  Nice performances, and some good suspense.

I look forward to seeing Virasat sometime.  I like me a good Anil movie, especially pre-thinning shears “do”.  Though the mullet is now gone, it was so a part of his head, for so long, that I imagine it sadly rolling along behind him in his shadow, a lonely tumbleweed hairball. Removing the famous Kapoor Mullet was, I imagine, almost as traumatic as shaving his moustache would be!  Sacrilege!!

[another day goes by]

Julie M:  Finished Virasat. It’s the kind of movie that is cheesy when you watch it, but there are scenes you just can’t get out of your head. Anil was GREAT in what ended up ultimately as a tragic role. He did it all–melodrama, fights, romance, dancing (although not much)–and only looked uncomfortable a couple of times. Great character to portray, too. Tabu looked very young and sweet and didn’t seem to have enough to do. The music was not bad–this particular song reminded me a lot of Rahman:

(quality could be better but at least it has subtitles)

The whole movie is available on YouTube.

[Jenny K’s Note: Sadly, none of the three that I found had subtitles…The composer of Virasat, BTW is Anu Malik, who works even more extensively than Rahman, with twice as many scores, including Main Hoon Na, Munnabhai MBBS and Bride & Prejudice.  He’s everywhere, even as a judge on Indian Idol…which you never see Rahman do.]

[and one more day…]

Julie M: One more tonight…saw Chori Chori. Sweet, a bit melodramatic and mushy at the end (required judicious use of the fast-forward button). Ajay was super-hot but barely cracked a smile, and that in-love-weepy look is not a good one for him. I much prefer him slightly dangerous. First filmi wedding I’ve seen where the bride did not wear a red and gold sari, but Rani looked beautiful anyway. And the scenery! I so want to go to Shimla now.

[Jenny K’s Note: Spoilers in the video, skip if you don’t want to know that there’s a happy ending 🙂 ]

Jenny K: Yeah, Shimla is in Himachal Pradesh, where they shot Taal, too. Oooh, oooh, and Darjeeling, where they shot Black, and also Main Hoon Na, I believe.  Also, while we’re establishing the Fantasy Highlands of India Tour, let’s add all of Jammu and Kashmir, like Srinagar where they shot Mission Kashmir (one of Hrithik’s films, with Preity and Sanjay Dutt, that I haven’t sent you, yet because it melds themes of  terrorism and romance in an occasionally awkward way.  Dil Se was much smoother).  The houseboats on Dal Lake are really fascinating.  My friend, Pat rented one to stay on when she was there.  And we also should visit Ladakh where they shot some of Dil Se and lots of Lakshya.  We’ve got to go, even if it’s dangerous, politically.  Hmmm.  Wonder whether we could get Ajay to guard us?

Check out this video by a company called Contemporary Nomad.  Lovely footage of Srinagar.

Julie M: Got some good ones waiting for this weekend too, which promises to be excellent for Hindi movies since B is out of town for 3 days.

Atithi tum kab jaoge?
Minsarakanavu
Saawariya (I know you said I might not like it, but I’m trying it anyway)
Sholay (because it’s a classic)
U Me aur Hum (I loves me my Ajay)

How I’ll fit 5 films into 3 days, I don’t know. SNL is in reruns, right?

Speaking of Ajay…

Ajay gets experimental, signs Priyadarshan’s film

If I remember correctly, Virasat was a Priyadarshan film, right? Cool.

Jenny K: Yes, I do admit to occasional Priyadarshan films that I like, but his touch with comedies is a bit, …um…, broad, shall we say.  I think I like his family-centered comedies better.  They are warmer, with a squishy emotional center, and are very feel-good and reassuringly traditional.  Mere Baap, Pehle Aap, and Hulchul, at it’s root, are both like this.

As to the other films you got from the library, I’ve seen all of them this time!  I was fooled by the Tamil title for Minsarakanavu, because I knew it with the Hindi title Sapnay.  Kajol is, of course, very cute in it, though I don’t believe her wanting to be a nun in it, but, whatever.  Arvind Swamy is sweet, but seems a bit old for her.  Rajiv Menon, the director, also did Kandukondain, Kandukondain (I Have Found It) which had similar pairings and so maybe that’s to be expected.  And I always like Prabhu Deva’s dancing.  Not sure he’s a better match for Kajol, than Arvind, either.  Where’s Aamir when you need him?

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?  I did like, enough to review it on the other blog, here.  I was comparing it to contemporary US comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine which I saw the same weekend.  ATKJ won, needless to say.  How could it lose with Ajay, Konkonal and Paresh Rawal, at least for me.

Saawariya, I reconsidered my “meh” when you said you liked Devdas, sort of, and when I thought you might like Ranbir.  It’s an odd film, but not horrible or anything.  Same director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as Devdas, Khamoshi, HDDCS, Black (which you liked) and Guzaarish.

Sholay (because it’s a classic)… you said it all.  Amitabh, Dharmendra, stylish masala western.  Some slapsticky bits, but as you said, there is always FFwd.

U Me aur Hum, I think I recommended this earlier as the one of two films that I liked Kajol’s chemistry with her hubby.  I think he does better in the second half than the first half.  Second half is definitely more of a weepie.  Hope you survive it. 🙂

[next day…]

Julie M: And to continue the Ajay theme…saw Deewangee this evening. First half–totally predictable and almost insulting in its obviousness. (What tipped me off? Ajay playing a mild-mannered stammerer. Could have been quirky casting, but I knew better) Second half, equally obvious but the action made up for it. Overall, Ajay was fairly brilliant if a teeny tiny bit over the top, Akshaye was…ok, Urmila was busty and danced well. 2.5-3 stars. (I guess I asked for it when I said I liked Ajay when he is a bit dangerous)

[Jenny K’s NoteIt’s on Youtube, in two parts.  Hit the CC red button on the bottom of the screen to give yourself subtitles.  Here’s the second part.]

Jenny K:  I think I liked this one so much because I had not seen Ajay much before it, perhaps HDDCS, where he’s sweet and noble, and so the second half surprised me quite a bit. Urmila being busty did not surprise me. If you like Ajay being dangerous, you have to get Khakee. I looked to see if I owned it, and I can’t find it, so maybe I didn’t buy it. That or his version of Bhagat Singh (one of the martyrs that the kids were making the movie about in Rang de Basanti).

Oh, and Ajay has done that mild-mannered stammerer kinda role, and straight, too.  He did a remake of I am Sam, that Sean Penn as a mentally retarded man raising a smart little girl in Main Aisa Hi Hoon.  Don’t know if I actually made it through that one.  I like him better “bad,” too.

I liked your clip from Virasat. Odd, Anil almost didn’t look like himself. Don’t know what it was. Maybe he’d put on a bit of weight for the film to look less moviestarish, but his face was a lot rounder than it is normally. Nice look on him. I think you may be ready for Nayak with him paired with Rani and the kookiest videos ever. Rahman score! Here’s the loopiest clip for a taste. Don’t ask me to explain, I can’t.

I don’t remember what the lyrics meant, but after listening again, I think with all that “jootha” stuff, which is Hindi for liar, maybe it’s just a case of the “Black” girl calling the kettle pot?  🙂

Julie M:    That clip is so weird it’s scary!!!

So you have not seen Virasat? If not, definitely see it. Anil starts out the film as a typical young-Indian-educated-in-England with Western clothes, scruffy facial hair and oh! that mullet (he looks the way we typically know him in this part), then as the story moves on he becomes more and more traditional in dress, manner and thinking patterns, mostly because he has to, [spoiler] his dad dies and he takes on the role of the landowner/village-protector, but also because he grows up a bit. Also the movie is a bit older and Anil is younger. I had no idea he was as old as he is–born in 1959–so he was in his late 30s when he did Virasat but looked like he was 25.

August 4, 2011: Pairs and Parallels

[Jenny K’s Note: Now that we’re caught up with our back posts, we’re just dating the new ones, and not numbering them: Part 1, Part 2, etc.]

 

Julie M:  THANKS for the super-box of movies!! An abundance of riches. Even though it was almost 10pm when I got free last night, I couldn’t resist diving in. By totally random chance (the close-eyes-and-grab method) I selected Cheeni Kum. Two of my fave actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu.

I liked the fact that it was a love story with two mature people instead of pretty kids. I liked that they didn’t attempt to do the sappy love-song numbers themselves, but had them as background. I liked BigB carrying this on his own instead of being the occasional elder and somewhat ridiculous foil to the younger hero (JBJ, BaB and KANK, I’m talking to you). There were some wonderful moments where we got to see pure joy on BigB’s face, a rare occurrence since I didn’t think his persona owned that emotion. However, overall I would call it merely a serviceable romantic comedy, slightly engaging yet entirely predictable, with obviously manipulative heartstring-tugging elements (the little girl). I kept thinking that I had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery do the same story, or a version thereof, but with a little more charm and chemistry.

Jenny K:  Well, I’m glad you’re surprised. Fun to see how much of “the library” can fit in one small box. No rush to get them back. I liked Cheeni Kum, too, but actually don’t remember that many details about it. He was a chef, and she was a customer with a discriminating palate. That was a challenge to him, which he wasn’t used to. I thought both BigB and Tabu did a good job, but Paresh Rawal, again, made the biggest impression as her father. Amazing what he can tell you with just a slight adjustment to his face…he probably was not responsible for the over- lengthy scene on the roof of his house. Talent and all, it dragged a bit, and could have been cut a bit to it’s benefit.

Not quite sure which CZ-J movie you’re referring to. She did No Reservations where she was a cranky chef, but it was with Aaron Eckhart. Then she did Entrapment with Sean Connery, and there was chemistry, yes, but it was based on them being pupil and teacher, and was a thriller, not on a romantic comedy. Perhaps you are just thinking about her personal life, hmmm?

 

Julie M:  I didn’t say that they HAD done a movie exactly like it…it’s more like BigB and Tabu had the CZ-J/SC vibe, and I kept FEELING like I was watching the other set of actors. I felt the stirrings of a rom-com relationship in Entrapment, so maybe that was it. Paresh Rawal, he was the slapstick overly-frightened uncle in Bhool Bhulaiyaa that I just saw and I couldn’t get that persona out of my head, because I hated it in BB.

No, my objection to Cheeni Kum (which I didn’t love, but didn’t hate: same feeling as Jab We Met for me) was that it was nothing different except for the actors. I’ve quit going to that kind of film out of Hollywood–seen one, seen ’em all. This had the smell of “vehicle” for me.

 

Jenny K:  You’re so darned literal! I had my toungue firmly in cheek…it was all a build up to more effectively pick on Michael Douglas, which, is, given his current state of health, questionable on my part. But old habits die hard, and good jokes are hard to find. Official retraction, so there’s no misunderstanding… I like Michael Douglas as an actor, and I hope he rides his health problems out successfully. There. I feel better now.

But actually, Cheeni Kum was something rather daring in Indian cinema. The May-December thing, at least at their age, while it may be done in life with older, richer guys marrying younger women, it’s not done in popular cinema that often, unless it’s a period film and the girl is a teenager and the older man is the villain in the piece. That I have seen, frequently.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   Tonight’s feature…Iqbal. What a sweet movie. Completely predictable (except for the coach didn’t die: that would have hit all the cliches) but fun, a lot of heart, and made me cheer. Shreyas Talpade…he was good as the friend in Om Shanti Om but glad to have caught his debut movie. (hot hot hot) This is definite Heartland Film Festival stuff–that’s our local–affirming the human spirit, yada yada. And I got to watch more cricket, sort of. 

[Jenny K’s Note: Hey, the whole movie is on YouTube, again…]

Jenny K: You’re a brave one…the thought of watching cricket, except in its edited form, daunts me. I’m assuming that Lagaan gave me its “good parts version” and even then, wasn’t there over an hour and a half of just game footage? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but if I didn’t have the emotional backstory of the players in that one, would I have enjoyed it so much? Don’t think so, but maybe I’ll check out a local team sometime. There has to be one, somewhere around DC.

So, Shreyas Talpade floats your boat, does he? I grant you he’s cute as a puppy, but to quote, “hot hot hot,” did I get that right? Ah, you do seem to like those young things, Shahid, Zayed, now Shreyas. Heaven help you when you see Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Naa. Imraan Khan would be just up your alley in the story of to cute kids who just think they are friends, to learn differently, later. Aamir’s nephew, BTW.

Or maybe Ranbir Kapoor, Rishi’s son. Try Sawaariya, or maybe Bachna Ae Haseeno. Yes, that one might do. A coming of age story about a young guy who thinks he’s a player and it takes three women to knock it out of him. 

In any case, as long as you’re watching the cute little halflings, it leaves the old guard, literally, to me. No, Naseerji, you are not safe from your number one fan! He’s still so cute…though I’m not stalking him. No, really. Just collecting his films….

 

Julie M:  Now, now, I am not ALWAYS a cradle robber. I like Shiney Ahuja, and he’s not a puppy. And Farhan. And, so help me, the big teddy bear that is Boman Irani. And Ajay. AND Shreyas is a bit older now than he was in Iqbal.  Oh, and my library does have Sawaariya, so I’ve requested it. 

 

Jenny K:  Poking around about your HKA post, looking at the trailer and I had thought from looking at it that the guy she slept with looked familiar, and it was KayKay Menon. I think he’s got really good acting chops. I really liked him in Sarkar with BigB and Deewar (the newest one) also with BigB and Akshaye Khanna. Sometimes he reminds me of a young James Woods, don’t know just why. Here’s an interesting article on him from The Hindu newspaper.  

Shiney Ahuja, I only know from that bit in Fanaa, where he was unfortunate enough to meet Aamir in that helecopter. And yes, watching the clip of BB, I think I might have to watch it. It’s rare that Akshay’s sense of humor tickles my funny bone (Never, never, never go see, rent or even touch a copy of Garam Masala, no matter how funny anyone tells you it is. Painful!) I actually giggled once or twice in that trailer. But. I will say that I love him in the yellow outfit. Best thing he’s had on in years! Except the black coat at the end of Bewafaa, which was very fetching. However, it was too late in that film to save it from “awful” status…now, come on, really…is he supposed to be a rock star giving a concert or did he just get confused and stumbled into a random Victoria’s Secret stage show?   

Julie M:  I think both BB and Tashan might change your opinion of Akshay. He’s not over-the-top in either of them, and NO martial-arts stuff whatsoever in BB. (a little in Tashan, towards the end, but it’s not the point of the film)

 

Jenny K:  BigB seems to be allowing a number of his films and Abhishek’s out on Youtube and I found this one on Hulu via IMDb, that I just watched myself last week, Baabul. It was sweet, even if it did have The Shirtless Boys in it (Salman and John Abraham, oddly, fully clothed this time) with Rani. I’ve decided that Salman is more endearing when he only stays for half a film. You should poke around and hunt some up. Oops! Hulu put in a commercial even before the end of the credit song!  

 

Julie M: Re: Cheeni Kum: Purely by chance I found this description of an older movie, Autumn in New York, about a cranky restauranteur and a woman half his age:  

(Warning–there are spoilers in the article) Some elements of plot similar to Cheeni Kum but a completely different outcome. Although–I can totally see this version having the dramatic elements that would make it attractive to Bollywood.

I say this because I watched Matchstick Men last night, which has some elements disturbingly close to the plot of Bluffmaster:  

(Spoilers there, too) But, as we have seen with Ghajini/Memento, elements of a Western film can be appropriated and integrated into a Bollywood film and become a totally different story without affecting the original.

 

Jenny K:  As to Autumn in NY being like Cheeni Kum, you wouldn’t think so if you had seen it. I did, and if you (and Wikipedia) say that he was a restaurant onwer, it may be so, but I don’t remember that being a focus of the film, at all. He may have owned it, but I don’t think he was a chef, and really it only focused on their relationship, or not relationship, and her illness, and if he should be with her, etc.

There was a feeling of Cinderella about it, he had her make one of her crazy hats for a mythical someone, and it turned out it was for her, herself. Then she had to find something to wear with it and go out to a ritzy dinner with him. All very NYC fantasy date for the dying chick. I remember something about her changing his life so much that he put up a Christmas tree for the first time, and there is an image I remember of the tree on his penthouse terrace in the snow.

Very pretty images, sort of a dying woman’s postcards to her lover. You are definitely right that from the melodrama aspect, it SHOULD have been made over into a BW movie, long ago, even if it hasn’t been already. Cheeni Kum is just a much more cranky, crotchety piece, mostly due to AB’s onscreen personality. Love him to pieces…even if this isn’t his best film, by a longshot. 

I read the Matchstick Men synopsis, and then compared it to the Bluffmaster one, which I remembered pretty well when I had reviewed it, and aside from him being out conned at the end, I didn’t find it too close a copy. I think all twist, reverse twist, and twist back again films all feel like they’re from the same bolt of cloth. Which, perhaps they are. On Wikipedia, they say Bluffmaster is an adaptation of 9 Queens, which I never saw, but, again, after I read the synopsis…just that there were two conmen, one who ended up conning the other, was the only similarity that I saw.

Oh well. I think Hollywood is so paranoid about this sort of thing, that they are always crying “PLAGIARISM!” when it’s not even merited. Now Ghajini, what it copied was too specific not to be from Memento, though as you said, it ended up feeling quite different by the end, and in my opinion, suffered in the comparison. Sorry, Aamir…you can’t save everything.

 

Julie M:  Come on, even the introductory con in Matchstick Men was the same con as in Bluffmaster. Obvious to me.  The con that Matchstick Men pulled in the beginning was the same as in Bluffmaster: sell a crappy product to an unsuspecting consumer on the phone, then show up posing as government agents “warning” about the scam and get the consumer to sign a form disclosing bank account information so the scammers can loot it. I’m sure it’s a relatively common scam so it makes sense that it’s used in both films, but it was rendered practically verbatim in Bluffmaster as in MM. Also, there was the scene in MM when the Nic Cage character [Spoilerswakes up in the “hospital room” and finds out that he’s been scammed, and goes back to revisit all the locations and people and finds out they were all faked. Same exact scene in Bluffmaster. I will say that the cons were more elaborate in Bluffmaster and there was the difference that the girlfriend character was actually behind the whole thing (the daughter character in MM was recruited by the scammer). [End of spoilers.]

 

Jenny K:  Okay, okay, I give on the Bluffmaster/Matchstick Men one. That first con does sound overly suspicious, hadn’t remembered that. But, I hold to the Autumn in New York statement. Completely different setup, premise and feel.

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