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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