August 9, 2011: Lovers and Other Burning Subjects

Julie M: Watched Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge [Revered Guest, When Will You Leave?]…somewhat funny, mainly due to Paresh Rawal. Ajay Devgan and Konkona Sen Sharma were serviceable, but as primarily dramatic actors I felt they were wasted in the comic aspect of their roles. A few genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Why why why do they have to insert those stupid boing-boing noises?? Would have been funny enough without them. And from the beginning I knew what the very end would be. Overall–I don’t generally watch this kind of farce-comedy in English (OK, I admit to watching and enjoying Hot Tub Time Machine but deeply regretted saying OK to The Hangover and Are We There Yet) and probably won’t watch more in Hindi either.

Here’s the trailer with English subs.

I think the fact that it was backed by Warner Brothers tells us a lot. This song is probably the best part of the movie:

No subtitles but you get the idea from the action that they are frustrated with this guest and want him to leave.

[Next day]

Julie M: Saw Sholay [Embers] last night. Two things I wish I’d known going in: that it was 3-1/2 hours long, and that it was a WESTERN. I Hate Westerns. From the first plot intimations I kept flashing back to The Magnificent Seven, except the village-protectors were somewhat-comedic crooks instead of professional gunmen (now picturing in my head The Three Amigos, who, despite being actors rather than crooks, were comedic), and there were songs and dances. It seemed only vaguely Indian…in my mind I kept calling it a “curry western”…everything was there: riding around on horseback, the dusty landscape complete with cactus, the rich rancher, the thirst for revenge, gun battles, the innocent townspeople, gun skirmishes before the Final Stand, etc. Even a train robbery. So this is an Indian classic? Hmph.

Having said that, I loved Amitabh’s character and the interplay he had with Dharmendra’s character. Even though he only wore one outfit in the entire movie he looked awesome in it (those legs! those hands! that hair!). And I thought it was funny that I had just seen ATKJ where there was an extended Sholay reference, and then I saw Sholay and viewed the source of the reference. And even though I Hate Westerns, I tried really hard to get past the conventions to see the life lessons: not giving in to bullies, grabbing some fun while you can, and the true meaning of friendship. (I could have done without the slapstick Hitler-parody jailer, though)

Here’s the opening scene:

My favorite song (probably everyone’s favorite too):

Note the orchestration sounds like the old Westerns too…

And if you want to see the scene they refer to in ATKJ, here it is.

I couldn’t find it with English subtitles, but essentially the villain (Gabbar Singh, the one with the beard) is berating his crew for letting two (how many? TWO! how many? TWO!!) strangers get the better of them, and exacts punishment. The guy on the right is the older actor that Chachaji pesters on the film set in ATKJ.

Anyway, I’m glad I watched it but will be sure to warn people that if they don’t like Westerns they will likely not enjoy this film. I can’t say that I entirely enjoyed it although there were moments that I recognized as “classic”.

 

Jenny K:  Sorry about that, I thought I had mentioned that Sholay was a Western, but maybe not. My mom had just the same reaction to the Hitlerized Jailer, too. “Speed up past that bit, let’s get back to Amitabh!” She didn’t like the “silly stuff”. And on the whole, I agree.

I thought Paresh Rawal was wonderful in ATKJ. He’s so versatile in things, hilarious, then touching, sometimes even in the same scene.  Though he does do more in comedy than anything else, I know he’s done a good bit of drama as well. He says he’s most proud of a movie he did last year, Road to Sangam, about a mechanic charged with delivering Ghandi’s ashes back home

and Sardar, a bio-pic he did a few years earlier, about Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel, a compatriot of Ghandi and Nehru who fought to keep all religions safe during partition. The movie’s on YouTube (in 16 parts, with subtitles) I haven’t watched it yet.

Julie M:  One of the movies I reserved from the library for this weekend is The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Can’t wait!

 

Jenny K:  As I remember it, Ajay did a good job, of course, but he seemed a tad old for the role. Bhagat Singh was 24 when he died. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone in film these days, if they want a role. There was at least one other version of the story being filmed at the same time. This one with Bobby Deol in the lead…yet another over-thirty trying it on for size. I think Ajay’s beat Bobby’s to the cinemas, and I believe did better at the box office. I think it was a bit slow for my taste, but Ajay was very heroic.

The multiple Bhagat Singh films explains a joke in KHNH, I think, where Preity’s suitor came to the house with lots of kids in turbans, and when they are introduced to the family all are named Bhagat Singh, of course a very popular Sikh name, but not usually in multiples. When the family looks confused the father says something like “You can never have too many Bhagat Singhs!” This was just the time the other films were in the pipeline and making lots of press.

Though I will say, not having seen the Bobby Deol version…he looks a bit more like the pictures of Bhagat Singh that have come down to us in the papers of the day.  Both too old though.

[the next day]

 

Julie M:  Well, Saawariya [My Beloved] was a bust. The library DVD was all scratched up and it won’t work for more than 20 minutes at a time on any of my players or computers. I got a bit more than halfway through, watching in bits and pieces, and gave up. But from what I saw it is stunningly beautiful visually, and I loved how it was done kind of like a staged play. Not the least of the stunning visuals was Ranbir…this number just about made me faint, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

But then his hair inexplicably turned Beatle-esque (Ringo, I believe) and the bloom came off the rose a little. Still, he’s adorable and I could definitely stand to see more of him (but not THAT way—more of his acting! Acting!!).

This number was cute too:

Overall, too gushy of a story for me to exert the effort to finish the DVD (you know me, I am not the gushy romantic type) and I cheated online to see how it ended. Meh, for the storyline. If it were not directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali it would have been ordinary and boring.

 

Jenny K:  I may have a copy of it if you wanted to see the ending. Not sure, I think I picked it up in a discount bin somewhere. Blockbuster, not the pirated ones. That scene with Ranbir and the towel was a BIG scandal when it came out, but I remember thinking at the time when I saw it on the big screen that it wasn’t worth all the furor. They spoke in the reviews as if he were completely naked, but unless you were his neighbors across the street, you didn’t see it all…and it wasn’t necessary. I think that when he fell off the chair and was seated on the floor that I saw a pair of shorts on him past the edge of the towel in one shot. Still and all, he is a cutie. Yes, you definitely should pick up a copy of Bachna Ae Haseeno. I think it’s his best so far.

 

Julie M:  I’ll try to find BAH. It’s not at the library, so I guess I’ll have to get it another way. Sigh.

[Pusher’s Note: It’s available for rental at YouTube… ]

On another, and seriously disappointing note, it seems as if the my local theater here has stopped showing Indian movies, just since I saw ZMND there a couple of weeks ago. That means my closest first-run theater is now in Chicago. Grrr.

 

Jenny K: Don’t give up hope.  A lot of the theaters that carry Hindi films can’t afford to show them without the big crowds, so they only book them for a week, or at the most, two weeks so the locals learn to come early or miss out.  Then the theaters go back to programming American films in between.  It’s especially true at multiplexes, where only one or at most two theaters are dedicated to the South Asian community’s films.  Check again in late October.   Don 2 is coming out for Diwali… your theater will book SRK.  And I’ve heard a rumor that Hrithik is doing a cameo in it.

August 8, 2011: Handling the Obvious

Julie M:  The weekend has started…watched Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai this evening. Dumbest. Movie. Ever. Do NOT get me started on the ridiculousness of plot, the awkwardness of action, and the stupidness of dialogue. Plus the entire first half read like product placements for Coke and fancy cars. Favorite stupid moments: Hrithik’s obvious spray tan in the 2nd half, the ENTIRE sequence on the cruise ship and the infamous mesh shirt.  And this one.  Check out the video below and carefully watch the sky as it flips from daylight to dark to evening to daylight and around and around, randomly.

Why did I watch it to the end? Well, you know why.

Jenny K:  Okay, tell me how you really feel about it. I’m assuming that you don’t want to keep a copy of KNPH? I think, if you’ll scroll back that I said, “There are two clips of KNPH that you have to see”. I didn’t say you had to watch the whole thing…you asked for it.

And you didn’t like the mesh shirt? The biggest problem I had with his “look” in this film was its dichotomy. His head, in his down-under look, was much more conservative. Shorter hair, wire rimmed glasses, etc, while the bottom half was…well, packaged for easy viewing, is the phrase that keeps jumping into my head. Sort of gave the impression of a high school gigolo with his inner stockbroker struggling to get out. I think it’s safe to say, Hrithik’s look is refining with age. Didn’t really scare me once in ZNMD, except perhaps, with the contrast vests and the rolled up pants, which I wish he’d take a vow against. It’s like he’s trying to make himself look shorter, or something?!?

Ah, Product Placement! That’s a fact of life in film, the world over. Some producers are just more subtle about it than others. Example, Mr. Subhash Ghai, who brought you Ishq Bina, a “Meet-Cute via Coke” scene in Taal (which I loved, so I overlooked it)

and the even worse, the “Coke as Tragic Memory Trigger” scene, same movie (less forgivable)

well, he went on two years later to commit Terminal Product Placement Saturation (TPPS) in Yaadein. Jackie Shroff is a trouper, (the things SG asks him to do!) but his character is shown as so in love with Coke that he can’t go to the grocery store without clasping a can of it to his manly chest. He seems to be singing more to it than to the images of his dead wife. And I’ve never before considered a Coke-Themed wedding, but the bride doesn’t seem too happy about it either. Chee!

Julie M:  I did notice the Coke product placement in Taal in the middle of MY FAVORITE SONG!! but generally in Indian film it has not been so bad (not as bad as in American films, chee!), until KNPH, where it is egregious. Or maybe I was bored with the movie and it hit me harder. Anyway.

The weird thing I noticed–well, one of the many weird and stupid things–in KNPH was that in the 2nd half his skin was way darker, like, is there more sun in New Zealand than in INDIA??!! or was that to drive home the point that this is supposed to be a different person? I liked the little glasses, actually, but hated hated hated the logo shirts (more product placement, or part of the character?). The cargo pants were, um, delicious, if that’s the right word. But overall, if I want to see the Ek Pal number I can catch it on YouTube, ditto the flashy number from the 2nd half (forget what it’s called). Do not need to own the movie. If I were to actually buy a Hrithik movie (so I can see it anytime, mmm) it would definitely be Dhoom 2. In fact, I’m going to, and hide it in a special place so B doesn’t get jealous. Krrish shows him off pretty well, too. And…sigh…I might just end up seeing Krrish 2 in the theater, kicking and screaming all the way (not!).

[Jenny K’s comment: You’re assuming that B isn’t reading this blog on his own time…]
Julie M: Tonight I am giving myself a Kajol double-feature, with Minsara Kanavu (aka Sapnay) and U Me aur Hum. Drinking iced chai. Wanted to make myself biryani but it’s too hot to cook much, so am making chorizo instead.

[later that evening]

Julie M: Wow. I should NEVER do a Hindi double-feature ever again, no matter how many videos I have to watch before I have to get them back to the library. It was just too crazy much and I am wrung out.

Minsara Kanavu was fun but had several key flaws. Far too many slapstick-y moments, and I couldn’t understand her attraction to the Deva character (who I could have sworn was gay, and not just because he was a hairdresser). For that matter, the entire ending was just unbelievable. Great Rahman music, although this number (note the product placements!) was more Broadway than Bollywood:

Kajol was adorable.

U Me aur Hum was typical. Meet way too cute, then huge melodrama in the 2nd half. The WQ (weepiness quotient) was turned up to 11–maybe the highest I’ve seen since KHNH–and even though I saw it coming for about 45 minutes I still bit and, yes, cried a little at the end. It was great in the first half to see Ajay smiling, laughing and happy since I’ve not seen it enough in the films I’ve seen him in. The second half had amazingly real, incredible, emotional performances by both Ajay and Kajol (disappointingly, in the next-to-last scene their “old” makeup looked obviously fake and bad which put me off liking it as much as I could). The music did not strike me as anything special…except the drunk number “Dil Dhakda Hai” was fun.

I think that Ajay does better in films where he is not called upon to “sing” even though he did slightly  in this one song. He just looks too uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s all the strippers.

I haven’t decided yet what I am going to watch tomorrow, but I have to watch two. I’ll definitely split them up…watch one early in the day and one in the evening. And get out of the house in between, for sure.

Jenny K:  Try yourself a triple feature sometime, but not until you’ve been in training a bit longer. I think it involves doing serious shots of chai, alternating with ladoos (for the sugar rush) and short bursts of bhangra dancing in between shows to send the blood back into your feet. I’ve only tried it a few times at high density film fests, usually involving Bachchans.

A few years back, Filmfest DC programmed Bawandar (with a planned visit from Nandita Das, that didn’t happen that day) and two presented by BigB himself (with LittleB in tow), Dev and Black. I gathered my few senses left me and raised my hand to ask AB, Sr. a question…and he picked me, looked straight at me with those intense eyes, and expected me to be coherant…tall order. I think I managed it, as he nodded and answered it, but I don’t, to this day, remember what he said, as all my concentration went into not falling over and mumbling something along the lines of “I love your…eyes…I mean… movies, and can I stow away in your luggage?” I settled on smiling and nodding a lot.

Oh, about Sapnay, I do remember it being sorta Disneyesque. Kajol’s character could have been played by Haley Mills in her heyday, if she coulda handled the Tamil, but I thought it was sweet. And I’m glad you said Prabhu Deva’s character seemed gay (I’m betting he was going for kookily carefree, with those long legs, it would be an easy option, I’m thinking). He’s thought of as quite the ladies man in real life, I hear. And I think I’ve said before that he’s one of my favorite choreographers (Hrithik’s “Main Aisa Kyon Hoon” from Lakshya and Madhuri’s “Kay Sera” number from Pukar) and he can do no wrong, dance-wise, in my eyes.

Julie M:  Great number! He kind of reminds me of a younger, Indian Tommy Tune with a dash of Fosse. Maybe it’s the height and the legs.

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