September 28, 2011: Amitabh ~ Changes and The Guard

Julie M:  Eklavya:  The Royal Guard…the only thing I can say is thankfully it was short (only 108 minutes), otherwise I don’t think I could have taken the high emotional level–unbroken by levity of any kind–much longer. This film plumbed just about every dramatic trick in the canon: death and mourning, secrets, loyalty and duty, father- and mother-love, admiration, jealousy, romantic love, intrigue, suspense, conspiracy, and, oddly, marksmanship. And beautiful countryside, stunning traditional costumes and jewelry (in a film set in contemporary times), and the coolest old fort ever.  Here’s the 60-second (non-subtitled, but you get the emotion) trailer:  Exciting, yeah?

Jenny K:  I liked Eklavya when I saw it in the theaters… a period visual treat.  Not that I remember that much, except for the “surprise” reveal toward the end. BigB was good, and as you said, and the cast is great, with Saif and his mother playing royalty (such a stretch!) but they did it well.  Vidya was good, as per usual, and you got to love a cast that has Boman, Sanjay, Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Shergill, who I usually like, even though he WAS in Mohabbatein. The producer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra is often associated with quality productions, 3 Idiots among them.

 

Julie M:  I’d do a plot summary but there would be too many spoilers, so I’ll skip it.   The fact that the film started with a Shakespeare sonnet should have been the tip-off that the action would be very Shakespearean in its layers of plot and emotion. And it was, in spades. Amitabh Bachchan’s performance as Eklavya, the man torn between love and duty to his royal employers, was mesmerizing–I literally could not take my eyes off him. Saif Ali Khan as the young Prince was likewise excellent and mostly kept his shirt on. Vidya Balan as Saif’s almost offhand love interest did not have much to do except moon after Saif and lip-synch a pretty song, and her most dramatic speech was given as a voice-over, which I thought was a waste of a perfectly good actress.

Here’s Vidya’s song, “Chanda Re”: 

Even if you don’t understand Hindi, you can tell how dramatic and loaded the film is.  Lots packed into a short running time.

Sanjay Dutt had an all-too-brief role as the police chief who admired Eklavya at the same time he was resentful of how his family had been historically mistreated by the royal family. I think more could have been wrung out of that situation. Boman Irani was a little over-the-top, but still excellent, as the vengeful king, and Jimmy Shergill could have amped up the acting a little more as his jealous nephew–I know he’s up to it.

Normally I am not a fan of EFD, but that’s mostly because it usually takes a tiny bit of normal and perfectly understandable emotion and spins it out endlessly to no real point–we get it already. This was crazy-unusual emotion–the kind that nobody ever has to contend with in real life because, come on, who is ever in the position of having [spoiler alert]your son whom you can never acknowledge murder your beloved royal employer, and have it be your sworn duty to kill him in return? This is what movies are for, actually.

And I have to put this in even though there are no subtitles, because Saif is shirtless and for once it’s not gratuitous: 

 

Jenny K:  Not sure about that…Never seen the main celebrant shirtless in a Rajasthani funeral.  Only in the South.  Maybe it’s a Brahmin thing. 

Well, I’m glad to see you can handle Eklavya‘s EFD if given the right encouragement!   It’s occasionally worth the effort.

Julie M:  This one definitely was.  If Shakespeare would have decided to set a tragedy in India, he would have come up with something very similar to this, except in Shakespeare Eklavya would have killed himself in confusion, Saif would have been driven insane with remorse and Vidya’s character would have wailed over the end credits.

As it was, the ending was almost uplifting: [spoiler alert again] Eklavya declares his duty to be wrong (!!!), Vidya’s character forgives Saif’s character for killing his own father (!!!!!!) and Saif, throwing custom, tradition and royal protocol to the winds, publicly acknowledges Eklavya, a commoner, as his father (!!!!!). I mean, sure, it was set up that Saif felt stifled by all the tradition and custom of his homeland and position and had escaped to London to avoid it, but in that situation doesn’t the typical Indian film end with the son coming back, assuming his royal duty and realizing with pride that the old ways are there for a reason?  And the ending also seemed wrong for Sanjay’s police chief character. If he was so resentful, why would he be so happy to [spoilerscover up the misdeeds of the family who did his family bad? [end]

But despite all that, my verdict: Excellent–one of my faves.  It’s available on YouTube with English subtitles.

I couldn’t find any clips with English subtitles, and the dialogue is so important to this film—you’ll just have to watch the whole thing!

And to balance it out…as an older BigB movie, I really liked Abhimaan (Arrogance, 1973). It was weird (as always) to see Amitabh in a romantic role, but then as the film went on it all made more sense why he was cast. And he and Jaya have huge chemistry together.

 

Jenny K:  I saw this film in 2005 when Amitabh picked it as one of his twelve favorite films when Lincoln Center wanted to do a retrospective of his work. As I couldn’t go, I chose a few of them to watch and liked this one best. IMDb says that Jaya and Amitabh liked this film so much that they helped bankroll it…which must have been quite a stretch, as they had only been working in film for about five years, at most, and Zanjeer was the most famous film he’d done to date. Sholay and Deewaar hadn’t happened yet. Here’s the whole movie with subtitles for those who haven’t seen it.

 

Julie M:  Plot summary: Subir Kumar (Amitabh Bachchan) is a well-known pop singer with tons of fans, nice house, doting manager/companion, and a hip wardrobe (for 1973). One day he decides to visit the aunt who raised him in the small village she lives in, and meets Uma Devi (Jaya [Bhaduri] Bachchan), the neighbor’s daughter, who also sings, albeit shyly. They fall in love, marry in the village and he takes her back to Mumbai. At their wedding celebration they sing a duet, and although Subir’s manager is excited to have them start singing together, a well-known musician warns against it. Then, of course, they are blissfully happy for a while afterwards. 

Jenny K:  I especially like the scenes with them together in the bedroom. Very sexy, without actually seeing anything. Wah, wah!  What chemistry! Lovely to see them young and in love.

Julie M:  They record a song, and it is an instant hit. They are hired together for concerts and playback, but slowly she becomes more popular than he is. Subir starts resenting her, drinking heavily and spending increasing amounts of time with his friend Chitra (Bindu), who adores him. He also quits singing in a fit of pique, but doesn’t tell her. Uma eventually realizes what’s going on and can’t watch him throw his talent away; she quits singing too and returns to her village, where she finds out she is pregnant. Ultimately she suffers a miscarriage and sinks into a deep depression, which finally rouses Subir to go and bring her home, where she doesn’t get any better.

Subir finally understands that she blames herself for his unhappiness, and realizes that the only thing that will make her happy is if he starts singing again. He hires a hall and schedules a concert–she perks up while he is on stage alone but when he starts singing their duet she bursts into tears. He brings her on stage, they finish it together, Chitra (sitting in the front row) realizes that he and Uma are made for each other, and the film ends with the audience’s applause. Here’s that final scene:

 Jenny K:  This film always reminded me of an Indian version of A Star is Born…the young wife gradually surpassing the older established husband… but with more of the religious aspect to it…and, of course, a happier ending, which actually, seemed more realistic than ASIB‘s. Beaucoup melodramatic, with James Mason walking into the waves and Judy Garland singing her solo to him onstage…”I am Mrs. Norman Maine!” Applause…Tears…Applause… I can’t believe that Karan Johar hasn’t remade this one with the genders flipped and SRK quavering that teary statement at the end of the film. Can’t you see it?

 

Julie M:  Oh, I can TOTALLY see KJ remaking ASIB. There was a whiff of that in Taal, perhaps, but to go whole hog…yes. SRK plus…who? Madhuri? Rekha?

  

Jenny K:  Would have to be someone like Rekha, who is older than SRK, if we were to do the whole gender flip thing…but I really think Dimple would be better for him…more sympathetic and believable. Madhuri is actually younger than SRK.

 

Julie M:  Anyway, I really liked this portrait of a man with a gigantic ego getting knocked down and finally learning to put that ego aside for the sake of his marriage.  Very moving—and unconventional for a man of that era—yet he is utterly convincing in all the emotions he is called upon to portray. And, as I’ve said before, ’70s fashions were made for his body type: even the most hideous shirt patterns look good on him. At one point he wears a beautiful rust-colored silk kurta over white pants that almost made me swoon.  

Have to say that this is quite the negative role for him. He is a spoiled brat, his manager is an enabler, and even though it’s part of Indian culture for men to assume women will keep the males’ needs as primary in the family, his character really fell apart when she started winning all the awards and getting the attention. One could read this as a frustrated diatribe against women’s liberation by the male establishment, but the ending is a realistic portrait of the compromises that everyone has to make in a marriage and how personal pride has to be put aside sometimes.

Also, this is only the 2nd film I’ve seen “young” Jaya in, and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that both times she played very shy and subdued characters, or if it’s the kind of role she is drawn to. Just once I would like to see her doing a character who is happy. When she wasn’t in the frame with BigB she was very flat; again, can’t tell if that’s the character she was playing (a woman who only comes alive in the presence of her husband, in which case, ick) or if it’s her normal mien.

 

Jenny K:  I haven’t seen that many of her films, but she always seems to find roles with gravitas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a light role, unlike Shabana, who takes time out from angst to do a comedy every so often. And Jaya took a good amount of time off to raise the kids. As I’ve said before, she’s always the one who can make me cry, no matter how many times I’ve seen the scene…”He just made a mistake, Naina…he was a good man!” Sniff, sniff…just thinking about the church scene in KHNH…I get all teary.

 

Julie M:  Gravitas is one thing–Shabana and Manisha do gravitas–but making a name for oneself out of absolute stoicism and blank expression, particularly in one’s youth, is completely different and kind of a risky career choice.   I read that it was doing this film that tipped Jaya towards taking that many-years-long acting break when she started having kids–to avoid the breakdown of the marriage.

 

Jenny K:  I see what you’re saying about Jaya, but only seeing five of her films, I don’t want to make that assumption that she let herself be pigeon-holed. She was the top actor in her graduating class, over the men, even… Hey, found this article on Amitabh’s appeal by the fabulous David Chute who says if we want to see Jaya as a “diminutive firecracker” and a “headstrong teenager” we should look for Guddi and Mili, both by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. 

 

Julie M:  I have to say, for a story that has music at its core, I really wasn’t all that moved by the songs. They all sounded very similar and were quite slow, and although I know she’s a national treasure, something about the quality of Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in these songs really grated on me.

All in all, both Eklavya and Abhimaan amply show what star power BigB has, and has always been.

 

Jenny K:  Just goes to show that whether you swathe him in lurid polyesther or bury his magnetic mug in birds-nest-crazy facial hair, Amitabh Bachchan will always emerge the quintessential star…some things about him will never change.

September 23, 2011: Chocolate Heroes a la Mode: 90’s Style

Summer’s over now, but there’s still a bit of heat in the old Bollywood favorites, especially in the World of the Chocolate Heroes.  What?  You haven’t been there?  Haven’t met a few of them?  Yet, if you’ve wandered through the emotional rollercoaster of the gloriously overdone 1990’s, you’ve met them.  I’d like to quote fellow Bollyfan, Filmigirl (who has a wonderful site at filmigirl.blogspot.com), who gives quite a helpful definition:

A young, fresh-faced hero who specializes in romantic roles is called a chocolate hero (or sometimes chocolate boy).  The term comes from a time when handsome pictures of men used to decorate boxes of chocolate and there is a bit of a negative implication to it.  A chocolate hero may be popular with the ladies but he is usually seen as nothing more than a pretty face and any film starring a chocolate hero is going to have a heavy romance focus.

Earlier this month Filmigoris had fun critiquing some of the current crop of Chocolate Boys, but this week we jumped into the Bollywood Dessert Cart of Days Gone By with a pair of delicious (mmm) CB’s more of our own age;  one who became HUGE and the other, well, has not been as fortunate.  Julie watched Aamir Khan in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, and Jenny continued her Kumar Gaurav film festival with Phool.

 

Julie M: Watching Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (He Who Wins Will Be the Conquerer, 1992).  It’s so juvenile but I’m irresistibly drawn to Aamir and the cute Farah Khan choreography.

The setting is beautiful Dehradun in the Himalayas, where there are 12 colleges and scads of pretty young people who go there, and hang out at Mall Road, a filmi-strip-mall on the street that ties the colleges together. (I swear it is the same set used for the village in Koi…Mil Gaya) No malt shoppe, but there might as well be…the kids love ‘50s pop music, which tells you the general tone of the film.  All of the colleges are rivals and at the end of the year have a multi-sports competition including a bicycle race, with the honor of their college and personal accolades to the winner at stake. (Figured out the ending yet?)

 

Jenny K:  It’s about the race, not about the ending, Jule…who cares how it ends as long as  you look stylin’ gettin’ there!  They do look stylish, right?

 

Julie M:  Our yummy heroes:  Ratan (Mamik Singh, in his debut film…of five) and Sanjay (Aamir) are brothers, students at the lowest-class college and the sons of a cafe owner on the Mall Road. Ratan is an athlete, and at the beginning of the film just barely misses winning the big sports competition to Shekhar (Deepak Tijori—a chocolate villain, if you will), a very rich and popular, but not very nice, Rajput College boy.

Sanjay, on the other hand, is a slacker, interested only in fun and pranks and is the bane of his father’s life.  His best friend is tomboy Anjali (Ayesha Jhulka), the daughter of the owner of the mechanic shop across the road. She is awesome and fixes cars and bikes like nobody’s business. (Why are cute, fun, bubbly, tomboy girls always named Anjali in these movies?)  She is also in love with Sanjay (did I really need to say that?) and trying to find a way to tell him.  This number, which comes during the village Diwali celebration, sums up their relationship, where her friend is coaching her to play hard-to-get: [Sorry no subtitles available on this song.]

What happens next is 100% something out of John Hughes.  The new hot girl from Queens College, Devika (Pooja Bedi), meets both Shekhar and Sanjay. Shakar chats her up and she is interested, but it is Sanjay who, by pretending to be wealthy and applying a combination of lies, humor and pranks, wins her heart. However, to keep it, he steals money from his father to upgrade his wardrobe and buy her expensive gifts. Check out this pretty number, “Pehla Nasha”, where he is silly in love with Devika, and Anjali is silly in love with Sanjay: [full video starts twenty-some seconds in]

Then comes the big inter-school dance competition featuring about the most boring dance numbers ever with oh-so-subtle subtext (NOT) –check them all out starting at 5:19  here,  and continuing here, where Devika finds out the truth about Sanjay, dumps his a** and takes up with Shekhar. (At this point Jenny’s disk quit working and I had to finish the movie via YouTube with no subtitles…so I’m fuzzy on the nuances of any dialogue)  To top it off, Sanjay’s father figures out the stolen money situation and banishes him from the house.  Things are not looking good for our boy.

Meanwhile, Ratan is training for the next competition. One day he is ambushed by Shekhar’s crew, beaten senseless and accidentally slips down a cliff; he is rushed to the hospital in a coma. Sanjay (in admittedly the best acting job by Aamir in the film) realizes that he has been a bad brother and bad son, and vows to clean up his act and get revenge on Rajput by winning the bike race.

OMG, this is supposed to be a remake of Breaking Away?! Well, I guess I can see it in the “snobby college boys vs. townies” plus a bicycle race.  But nothing else.  I just wish they’d stop calling it a “remake” if so much is different. It’s “borrowing.”

 

Jenny K:  In the classical world they call it “Variations on a Theme” and it’s perfectly acceptable.  Go figure.  But you realize that this was well before Aamir had enough clout to demand and get original plots…nowadays he does…yet still he did Ghajini.

 

Julie M:  Cue typical ’80s training montage to kicky music (amazingly Sanjay does not wear an ’80s sweatband, but he does wear very short and tight white shorts, mmm), where Anjali helps him and he finally realizes that she is the right girl for him.  Then comes the big bicycle race and you can pretty much figure out what happens from there—winning, redemption, accolades, proud dad, blah blah blah.

My review:  The first half of the movie was completely, idiotically derivative, besides being a hair and fashion disaster.

Hey, JJWS!  1985 called you in 1992 and wanted their decade back!

And was there a ‘50s-filtered-through-the-’80s trope that was NOT used in this film? Poor Aamir, he did his best but couldn’t overcome a bad script and rip-off storyline. NOT Breaking Away, not even close. Phoo on you, Internet, for spreading that vicious untruth. Here’s what was common: bicycles, rich college jerks vs. townies, a couple of fistfights, and a guy pretending to be what he isn’t in order to impress a girl. But that covers, oh, EVERY ’80s MOVIE EVER MADE.

In the last third–pretty much the part I didn’t have the subtitles for–things seemed to improve significantly. Aamir, Mamik, and the dad did some real acting and there were some good moments (I can’t speak for the script, but emotionally and plot-wise it seemed original). There was a very touching song where Aamir remembered his and his brother’s growing up years—with the young Sanjay played by none other than Imraan Khan.

Jenny K:  The nephew’s screen debut!  So Shweet!  Destined for Dessert Status.

 

Julie M:  And then, just when I got to thinking, hey, this could really turn into something, came the obligatory training montage, the discovery of true love for the tomboy best friend, the chance-for-revenge-and-redemption bicycle race, and the inevitable ending. Yawn. I also noticed that nobody seemed to have a Ma in this, which seemed weird for an Indian movie, but then again, thinking about 1980s American movies it’s like parents didn’t exist in those either.

 

Jenny K: I’m sorry you didn’t like it more.  I always thought it was better than most of his early romance films…heck, there wasn’t even a snake goddess in this one [Tum Mere Ho (1990)] which was somewhat hard to swallow…er, follow.

 

Julie M:  I liked Aamir (as always), looking young and very cute, dancing and moving like a dream (less elfin, and so good looking in tight jeans, but he rolled up his jacket sleeves, urgh).  I can see how this was a superhit back in the day, especially since from what I understand the 90s were a filmi wasteland. But it didn’t do much for me.

  

Jenny K: Well, cycling on…I’m two movies into my Kumar Gaurav film festival. While Kaante was…ummm, eventful…it wasn’t a good enough showcase for my hero of choice.  Phool (The Flower –1993) was a much better vehicle to display him. Costarring Madhuri Dixit in her scintillating youth, Kumar couldn’t have asked for a better “flower.” These two were destined for one another, pledged by doting parents, and were practically living in each other’s pockets. Young Raju (Kumar) was all but raised by Guddi’s (Madhuri’s) folks when his mother died early on. They all lived happily enough in scenic Ramnagar, in the hills of Southern India, until Raju’s dad, Dharamraaj (Rajendra Kumar) got a taste for City Gold that took him, and his little boy away to the metropolis.

Our story begins with the kids grown up, not really remembering each other well, but Guddi’s parents still believing that the betrothal will take place when Raju comes back from his schooling in America. Well, wedding banns are announced, but Dharamraaj surprises the recently returned Raju with a shaadi-accompli…Whooops! “Welcome home, beta, but before you unpack, here’s your fiancée, Kitty, my business partner’s only daughter and heir!” And what does Raju say? Like any good Indian boy…”If you’re okay with it, Dad, and Dadima’s okay with it, and Kitty’s okay with it, than all I can say is ‘Okay-Okay’ by me!”

Not Okay by me, except for the dancing…Kumar and the girls mambo very well, or perhaps I should say “mambo-twist hybridize,” given it’s a rather dated multi-style number.

Dadima (the ever feisty Dina Pathak), isn’t okay with it, either. She’s just biding her time, before she spills the beans to Raju about his pre-pubescent promises, about how Guddi’s dad, Balram (Sunil Dutt), came a few weeks back to set the date for the long-awaited wedding and Dharamraaj made excuses and broke everything off…and into the bargain, broke the hearts of Balram’s womenfolk back home. Unbeknownst to Raju’s family, Guddi’s mom, when she heard the news, keeled over, dying with her daughter’s wedding bangles piteously poised in her palsied hands. Guddi and her father vow vengeance on Raju’s family, and when Raju writes to try to suss out the situation, she verbally rips into him. Raju determines he will go to Ramnagar and win her back (blithely forgetting Kitty)…come hell or high water!

And this is all within the first twenty minutes of the almost three hour drama. Yes, Julie, a very Emotional Family Drama, indeed, dressed up with gor-ge-ous scenery, lovely ladies dancing in waterfalls and in temples (almost worthy of a Raj Kapoor seal of sexiness…though Madhuri is more chastely clothed than Raj K would have considered strictly necessary),

[Sorry, no subtitles available.] and then there’s identity switching (worthy of the Bard himself), lots of local baddies (headed by a youngish Shakti Kapoor, channeling BigB’s ‘tude and wardrobe) who Eve-tease at the drop of a fetching eyelid, and even a damsel-in-distress-runaway-jeep scene! What more could you ask? Mads to pop out of a giant lotus flower? Well she does that in this title track:  [Sorry, no subtitles.]  

As for my verdict on Kumar Gaurav…as the typical Chocolate Hero of the era, I’d say he was Godiva. He had the looks, the delicious rich speaking voice, a great head of hair (if a bit too long) and he has height, too, no typical thing! Add to that, for three quarters of the film he seemed rational, reasonable and romantic, too. Maybe that’s what doomed him with the Indian public. Mature, stable, a catch, in fact…but perhaps, he just wasn’t a wild card enough for the masses; no hair-trigger hotshot, He!

 

Julie M:  What is it about that era of Indian film that attracts you so? I mean, here I’ve just watched Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, of the same vintage, and if I have to see any more fluffy mullets (yes, even the girls) through a highly Vaselined camera lens I think I will vomit. But I will admit that Kumar Gaurav is quite good looking, although I like his looks better in Kaante where I can see them better. And Madhuri is clearly the 90s queen of pastel garments and sparkly skin.

 

Jenny K:  Oh heavens…don’t make out like all I watch is nineties love stories! I have watched them, because I liked Aamir’s work so much that I wanted to see where he came from, film-wise. I also thought they were kinda sweet, if definitely cheesy. I like them nostalgically, in small doses, just like I can still turn on occasional Annette and Frankie beach movies and enjoy them, especially if Erich Von Zipper is involved. I love me some Harvey Lembeck. “When Erich Von Zipper likes you…you STAY LIKED!”

 

Julie M:  Well, for Aamir anyway, this seems to be the best of his early films, although unaccountably people seem to like Andaz Apna Apna, which just from the clips I’ve seen I plan to see only when there is literally nothing else available.  LITERALLY.

 

Jenny K:  I will make my final assessment on Kumar Gaurav with GANG, to see if he can bring any Chocolate Hero-dom with him into a multi-starrer comic crime caper (man, I’m alliterating all over the place here, aren’t I?).  But if anyone is up to it, KG may be the man. He seems to be an actor who is aging well, charm intact, but, unfortunately now that his age has caught up with his maturity, he might not be of the first appeal to the younger audiences.  Too bad, if so, because so far, I think he’s worth the wait.

September 17, 2011: I Remember Nana…Patekar


Julie M:  Finally finished Khamoshi: The Musical. Took me three sessions, and I’m still not sure whether I liked it. It was very rhona-dhona, which I don’t like, but Nana Patekar and Manisha Koirala were amazing in their roles. The songs were not translated, and since easily half the movie was sung (and the rest completely backgrounded–it felt like an opera), I think that I missed a lot.

But the real surprise was that I liked, actually liked, a young Salman Khan, and I realize this is the earliest movie I’ve seen him in. Pre-bulbous-muscles and with good hair, and a wonderfully refreshing youthful sweetness, I now see why he’s so beloved. People must see him and keep remembering him in his prime. Even in this film, though, he displays that weird sartorial sense. His costumers must ask him what he wants to wear, because some of the ensembles looked very odd and similar to his “civilian” clothes.

See what I mean in this number: 

Jenny K:  You’re so funny…”remembering Salman in his prime”…he’s a bigger money maker now than he ever was back then. But I agree, he’s too muscular now.  That musclebound walk in Bodyguard, with biceps so big the arms wouldn’t go down was a joke, but I can’t deny that he looked sweeter and more vulnerable back in Khamoshi.

 

Julie M:  Prime LOOKS. I don’t doubt that he’s big box office now, but his rep had to come from somewhere. ICK on his muscles, though. Also, I recalled seeing Nana Patekar in something and liking him, not an Indian film though, but his filmography isn’t helping me figure that out.

I also liked this song from Khamoshi, since Manisha is usually so serious:

But man, overall this movie was such a bummer. Just when you thought things were OK, someone dies or disappoints someone else and cue the sighing and gnashing of teeth.

So: liked a couple of the performances, hated the bulk of the storyline, missed the point of most of the songs, and as usual I liked the look of a SLB-directed film whereas most everything else did not live up for me.

 

Jenny K:  Well, I am sorry that your 100th movie wasn’t more of a thumbs up. Congratulations, by the way!

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the congrats! 100, wow. Glad you’re keeping count because I’m not.

 

Jenny K:  Khamoshi is a very unusual film for what was going on at the time, not very many films made at all about the deaf, and then making it a full-out musical! The casting was very non-traditional, too with Nana and Seema in the leads. It was very early in both of their careers, and they always give wonderful performances.

Seema always plays tough women, either mentally or physically. She was the best part of Water, the only one who made me cry, and you can’t have a tougher debut than playing Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen! It’s based on a true story about a woman who was abducted by bandits and ended up becoming one, herself, lived a violent life, went to prison and after she got out, became a politician! I haven’t seen the film, but have heard it was very controversial when it came out. Phoolan Devi, herself, said that it wasn’t accurate, but it made her very famous. It’s on Youtube, but only in pieces.

Nana Patekar, too, doesn’t tend to do nice guys. I remember finding his role in Salaam Bombay by Mira Nair as very animal, very sensual, and rather sick. Always gives a very layered performance, even in films like Shakti (bad movie, good performance) and Bluffmaster!

Salaam Bombay is online, too.

Not sure which “not Indian” films Nana would have been in. I saw Salaam Bombay years before I started watching Indian films as an alternative vocation…Mira Nair’s first big film. I saw it in a standard theater. Much later I realized that Nana was “that same guy, but much younger.” I saw a clip from it on YouTube and Irfaan Khan had a tiny role in it too, as a sidewalk letter-writer-for-hire.

Nana also did a film called The Pool, which had an American director, Chris Smith, but I still think I saw it at a film festival, because it didn’t release wide. It made inroads at Sundance, too. Nice quiet little film.   Oh, and I remember you did say something about his performance in Bluffmaster! That’s the only one I remember you commenting on.

 

Julie M:  Maybe that was it. But I could have sworn it was a non-Indian film…Irfaan Khan, I definitely remembered from The Namesake, also Tabu. And the actors from Bend It Like Beckham were all NRI except for the dad, Anupam Kher, right?

 

Jenny K:  I think all the actors from BILB have careers in American television serials… Parminder Nagra in ER, Archie Panjabi winning Emmys for The Good Wife, Jonathan Rhys Myers on The Tudors, and one could argue for Keira Knightley’s Pirates of the Caribbean films as being serialistic.  End of non-sequitur.

As far as I can tell Nana has never been in an English language film, though occasionally I hear him speak English, but as far as I remember, he seems to get the majority of his roles in Hindi or another dialect. And he does a lot of “country” roles like Disha that I sent you. It’s a bleak but interesting story about a family (husband-Om Puri, wife-Shabana Azmi, his brother-Raghuvir Yadav) who run out of work in the country, and send their younger family members to work in the city…Nana is another local who follows Raghuvir to work in a city factory…and then they find that the urban promised land is no better than the poverty they left…just more crowded. Very good cast and performances.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  OK, so I watched Disha (The Uprooted, 1990) tonight. I liked Raghuvir Yadav’s performance better than Nana Patekar’s, actually, although Nana’s was pretty good too. Shabana Azmi (yes! who I remembered from 15 Park Avenue—I’m not totally  hopeless) had maybe one good scene and otherwise spent the whole film in the kitchen, alternately cooking and sniping at Om Puri.  Overall I felt the film could have been better. It was a hyper-realistic look at a certain and largely invisible segment of Mumbai’s masses and how they came to be there (immigration into the big city because of lack of work in the countryside), and so was worth seeing from a cultural perspective, but it seemed to me to have been rendered in a monotone. There were joyful moments but they seemed devoid of real joy, even the celebration near the end, and the potentially dramatic moments seemed flattened as well.

I kept waiting for something to really happen to these people, but it never did—it was mostly a collection of low-key interactions, many without any dialogue—and then it ended.  Suddenly.  Even the two songs were a bit on the pathetic side (as in, evoking pathos) even though they were supposed to be celebratory. I came away very depressed.  B watched the first half (or so) with me and said that it was more like a documentary than a fiction film.

And what happened at the end? The only thing I can figure out is that [spoiler alert] Phoolwanti had started sleeping with her boss from the beedi factory to keep her job, and that’s why Nana’s character suddenly came back. [end spoilers] Too bad: he was a bit of a romantic optimist through the whole movie, and you could tell that his life was shattered. And you said Nana didn’t play nice guys: he was definitely a nice guy in this.

 

Jenny K:  No, he just doesn’t specialize in nice guys. I bet he’d say the bad guys are more interesting. I’m not sure about the ending to this one. It has been a long time since I watched it. It was sad, I grant you. I don’t even remember songs being in there. It just had such a good cast, and good performances, and it’s an example of a type of Indian film that should be checked out from time to time. It balances out the overly filmi side of Bollywood. Do Bigha Zameen by Bimal Roy is I think the best of the genre of poor farmer being taken advantage of by fate/The Man/etc. films. It’s sort of cleansing in its aesthetic. Here’s the opening number of the film. From the look of it, I’d say that Aamir drew a lot of Lagaan‘s look from it.

And if you wanted it, this is the whole movie with subtitles.

 

Julie M:  I’ll have to watch that one, since it’s free online and all…

There were only two songs in Disha.  One was early on, at Nana’s character’s wedding, and it was kind of weird—the female singer had an outwardly happy face and the music was bright, but the lyrics were double-entendre about how awful life is.  The other one was in the men’s dorm where they used the click-clack of the machines to inspire a clapping/syncopated rhythm song/dance (a pretty long one). The latter song really seemed like a desperate attempt to inject levity into what is a horrible existence–not a life, existence is the correct word.   So basically—the songs made you feel worse instead of better.

 

Jenny K: Dear me, sounds even more dismal than I remembered.  But, I have some interesting news on the book to film front which looks rather exciting.  Don’t know why I haven’t heard of it so far.

I couldn’t believe I had only sent you two films with Shabana Azmi in it, as she’s sort of the Arts & Literature Queen of Indian cinema (in multiple dialects, of course) and she’s been in over one hundred of them.  So, I checked on IMDb to be certain and there it was!  She’s in the new Deepa Mehta film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children!  Holy Caroley…the cast list looks good, with Shabana and Seema, wonderful character actors like Rahul Bose, Rajat Kapoor (the uncle in DCH and Monsoon Wedding) and Ronit Roy (Udaan) plus newcomers like Siddarth and Soha Ali Khan from Rang De Basanti, and even the little kid from Taare Zameen Par, Darsheel Safary.

Here’s a short clip of Salman Rushdie speaking of adapting the book.

And there’s also a longer, more film-scholarly interview with the director, Deepa Mehta, and later in it Mr. Rushdie, if you have a spare hour. 

You’ve probably read Midnight’s Children, with your love of Indian literature, but I was wondering if, with the film coming up, maybe I should finally read it and we do our first literature post.  What do you think?

 

Julie M:   I most certainly HAVE read Midnight’s Children and now have got to keep from piddling with excitement  for more than a year until the film releases.   I have a stack of other Indian books to read (sitting on my bedside table at this very moment is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, and I’m trying to clear some time so I can finally dive into Vikram Seth’s lengthy A Suitable Boy–I guess that’s what winter is for!), but will excavate my copy and re-read it so I can discuss it semi-intelligently with you.  Let’s do it!

September 15, 2011: Kaante, My Eyes Off of You!

Jenny K:  I know you’re over gangster films right now, but how do you feel about heist/caper films? I’m very intrigued by this one actor I had never heard about Kumar Gaurav that I found in this clip when I was looking for Jaaved Jaffrey films. The guy with the glasses. “Who is he? Why haven’t I seen him before?”

I ordered it on Amazon, and decided I’d watch one film of his earlier films, Phool, with Madhuri Dixit, then the multi-starrer Kaante which is a remake of Reservoir Dogs/Usual Suspects with BigB, Sanjay, Sunil Shetty, and Kumar Gaurav. Since Kaante is such a big starrer, thought you might like to give it a whirl, too.

Julie M:  I LOVE caper films. I’ll watch it. I’ve got the afternoon + evening free anyway.

The library is officially a filmi desert. Shelves were thin today–lots of Satyajit Ray and Bengali/Punjabi films, but not much else that I hadn’t already seen or had passed up as looking too much like yet another tale of thwarted love (please). I did find Eklavya: The Royal Guard on the shelf, and couldn’t resist it (Vidya + Saif + BigB = joy).

[later that evening]

Kaante is a complete testosterone-fest. Lots of shooting, lots of blood, lots of men standing up to each other and daring the other to blink. There is one scene where they all practically make love to their guns, in slow motion, yet. There is lots of slo-mo throughout, many scenes where time just stops and the screen goes monochrome, and at the end there is perhaps the longest freeze-frame I have ever seen. I thought my laptop had crashed! And an item number choreographed around, and using, stripper poles. Chee!

I have not seen Reservoir Dogs (I was warned away) but I did see The Usual Suspects and even though it was hard to follow, I liked it (mainly because of Kevin Spacey, whom I love in anything). I think Kaante is just another take on the same themes as RD and TUS, not strictly a remake. After you see it I will go into detail with you–don’t want to spoil it.

But I will say that this is definitely Sanjay Dutt’s film, even though it’s an excellent ensemble cast. Amitabh was good but he was one-dimensional. Sanjay was superior to him in all ways. Your boy Kumar Gaurav was pretty good too–as good as anyone–and I’d like to see more of him.

Did I like it, overall? Well, I don’t like super-violent films as a rule and this is definitely super-violent. From that angle plus the very over-male-ness of it all, I would say that I didn’t like it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate aspects of it, which I very much did.  I’ll say more after you’ve seen it.

 

Jenny K:  Glad you thought Kaante was worth watching…I have a vague recollection that it was panned a bit by the critics when it came out, but I wasn’t watching Bollywood then, and so I must have read that. I haven’t watched it yet, but I saw about the first 8 minutes or so before I had to leave, and I knew it was Sanjay’s film…any man who can wear that much jewelry and still look cool…well, he has to be the focus.


Kathy has always linked him with Salman as very similar guys in type, but I find Sanjay less, how do I say it…maybe self-conscious says it best. He seems more genuine and I find him more sexy than Salman almost every time. Salman can be more funny, though. Sanjay’s attempts at humor usually become more dorky, like laughing at his own jokes, so I’d say he’s more passively funny, like a good straight man, with things happening to him, rather than actively witty.

I have a very hard time explaining why I find Sanjay sexy, when he is sexy, in films. He isn’t always…and not as much lately. My favorite one for that quality is one I can’t even recommend, Khalnayak, though it has many things to recommend it. Primarily, it’s the best performance, or at least the most varied performance I have seen to date for Madhuri Dixit.

She plays the girlfriend of Jackie Shroff, a warden of a prison that Sanjay breaks out of. Jackie is mortified, and his girlfriend, also a warden of a woman’s prison, decided she’ll go under cover to find Sanjay for him. Under cover, she has disguised herself as a loose woman, a nautch girl, who tries to seduce him in her stage show. He’s trying to be unobtrusive…yeah right, the eyepatch and the old salt’s cap isn’t at all noticeable…and he’s caught by her and takes her along on an amazing ride, where she falls for him against her will…she keeps thinking of him instead of Jackie.

She’s very sexy in this one too.  Here’s the closest I’ve come to their chemistry in this song, but most of the chemistry is in the dialogue scenes, not the songs. Right before this he’s decided to clean up to impress her…I think she told him he was dirty, or something. Seems to have worked for him. I love the scenery, too.

Julie M:  Sanjay’s hairstyle does not leave one with the “sexy hero” impression, I must say. It’s more like “doofy outsider.” And Madhuri is definitely the best dancer in Bollywood.

 

Jenny K:  Well, the hair is very much “of the era” and it was either this or very fluffy mullet-land for most of the eighties and nineties.  I liked him better with the scruffy look in this earlier song, and I think Madhuri’s character did, too.  This is the famous “Choli Ke Peeche” where she’s trying to seduce him. The score was so good for this one, by Laxmikant/Pyarelal(lyrics quite scandalous and caused a ruckus), that Danny Elfman, no mean composer himself, went all the way to India to talk with BW music industry insiders and find out how they layered the percussion.  The article is here. Yet still, the weirdo costumes and the Jackie/Sanjay prison scenes where they all but chest butt each other in their competitiveness, make this a non-recommend film, in general. Another Subhash Ghai connundrum. [No subtitles available, sorry.]

Watching the number back over, I just got to say…back then he had the best bedroom eyes in the business…oh, I mean bedroom eye, singular. Stupid disguise. All I can say is, watch it if you felt in a silly-tolerant mood sometime.

 

Julie M:  I need to see more Sanjay before I can comment knowledgeably on his sexiness. My experience is just with the two Munnabhai movies (not sexy, but he has a cheerful teddy-bear-like attractiveness) and Kaante, where he is definitely sexy in a crazy-dangerous way despite the skull rings that scream “douchey poser.” There is one scene towards the end where…oh, let’s talk about it after you’ve seen it.

But Parineeta seems to be the film to see, since it has him plus performances by others that you think I might enjoy. And it looks as if he has another Munnabhai film coming up–Munnabhai Chale Amerika (Munnabhai Goes to America). I didn’t like the first one, liked the second one, and if they seem to be getting better I might check out the third one on DVD eventually. And he’s got a cameo in Ra.one, which is on my list to see, not for him though.

 

Jenny K:  You liked the Ghandi one better than MBBS? In my notes I had that you were “meh” on both of them. I would say that was my order of preference, too. Though Sanjay does fewer sexy performances as he gets older, he relaxes into his likeability (and/or fists) to sell a film now.

 

Julie M:  I was indeed “meh” on both, but the Gandhi one, I thought, was better. He couldn’t bribe his way into expertise, he had to acquire a certain amount himself, and I think the character truly earned Vidya’s character’s love by the end. I didn’t like the contrived old-folks-house plot element but I thought as a character Munna was more likable in the 2nd one.

 

Jenny K:  Parineeta, as I recall it, is much more centered on the Saif/Vidya jodi, not with Sanjay. He’s the nice guy outsider who Vidya’s slated to marry, if she hadn’t fallen madly in love with Saif’s character. EFD ensues, but in a rather period, atmospheric way that mutes it a bit. Feels to me in my memory more like a lower-budget, lower-angst Devdas…a tale of secret love. You know, I don’t even remember if they end up together or not. Let me know!

[the next day]

Jenny K:  I don’t know what to say about Kaante…I finally got through it. Wasn’t sure I would last night, around part 9/15… Man, were these guys the worst criminals, or what?

You can try to blame it on Tarantino, the Father/Creator of Style-Over-Substance crime dramas, but even he would hesitate before taking every visible guiding hand out of his story. In Reservoir Dogs, that Kaante is based on, the members of the gang are put into the plot and taught the ropes by an old hand, Joe Cabot who bankrolls everything and calls all the shots down to the silly aliases used to preserve gang anonymity.

The boys in Kaante, on the other hand, seem determined to have everyone know who they are. They meet in jail, supposedly as the Usual Suspects. Then they boil and fume with rage until they decide they’ll punish The Police for such a major piece of disrespect and so, within audible range of the coppers, the Major (BigB) concocts a plan. Let’s empty all their bank accounts! “Okay, Major, what a good idea! That’ll show ‘em. Teach them not to mess with us! Woo-Hoo!” Cue hysterical tough-guy laughter. Lots of that.

Geez, they should have renamed this pot-boiler BAKWAS, Hindi for nonsense, because it doesn’t make much more sense than that.  First, we should be laying low, and plotting…no, we’re doing target practice with semi-automatic weapons on our Downtown LA roof!   Secondly, we’ll go into the bank in nice, spiffy suits (well, they do look very good, I’ll agree) so we blend in with the customers…oh, then we’ll put on our ski masks after everyone’s already seen us! And, thirdly, didn’t anyone plan for an escape route better than just saying “Down on the floor!” and then walking out the FRONT DOOR! Well, it did make for another stunning shot of BigB, Sanjay and the boys in their lovely suits. There are an embarrassing number of those shots.  Literal overkill.

What’s so hot about Kaante?  So, it’s stylish. I got my fill of that very fast, especially the yellow filter shots. Sheesh. Has your cinematographer been hanging out with Sanjay Leela Bhansali lately? Red, Blue, Yellow…who’s got dibs on Green, I wonder? And the two item numbers seemed almost identical from the pole dance choreography to Malaika’s costumes. The other songs were all montage songs, often with Sanjay moaning his way through the lyrics.

 

Julie M:  I didn’t even think Kaante was so stylish–or if it was, I didn’t like the style. I thought it was terribly affected and trying too hard to be Hollywood. I liked none of the characters and only some of the performances.

 

Jenny K:  Don’t get me wrong, I looked at this cast list and was pleased to see some of my favorites listed here, but there really wasn’t much acting in it…just posing, like live ad campaigns for smoking and Ray-Bans. Everyone looked so cool, and laughed so cool, that my interest soon cooled, right down to sub-zero.

I did like Kumar Gaurav, but I’m going to have to watch him in something else, Kaante didn’t give him much to shine in.  The only real acting on display was, perhaps, in one scene between Amitabh and Sanjay when they were alone in the warehouse with that oversized Smurf in a Ricky Schroder wig, Mahesh Manjrekar, who played Baali. Boy, was he annoying. I almost cheered when Lucky Ali shot him. But, like that dangling cop, it was far too late to save my good opinion of this film.

 

Julie M:  That’s what I wanted to tell you: it was very easy to divorce performance from actor in this film. I could respect Sanjay’s acting ability while not liking the performance. I was so unimpressed with both Major as a character (bland) and BigB’s performance (phoning it in), and MM was awful, simply awful. And what was up with Sunil Shetty? For a guy who makes his living playing gangsters and terrorists very well, he was so very lame in this. And all the talking…so much talking.

 

Jenny K: Now that, you may be able to blame on Tarantino…they copied some scenes word for word.  So cool…yeah, right.   Or maybe we should go further back and see who QT stole it from.  You can learn so much from YouTube surfing.

But there were some interesting moments, if I’m being fair.  This song, “Chhod Na Re”, was the only song I really liked. It was funny, with everyone mugging like crazy.

Julie M:  I liked the song too, but in retrospect it seemed a bit random.  Like they had to remind everyone that it is, in fact, an Indian film and not a Hollywood production.  Kaante is SO not a masala film!

Jenny K:  I’m also depressed that Sanjay and a lot of the original cast is signed to do Kaante 2 next year! Oh dear, so much to look forward to.

 

Julie M:  Wait…a sequel?  [spoiler alertDidn’t they all shoot each other dead at the end of the first one?  [end spoilers]  So this one would either be a prequel (ay yi yi) or something from the Other Side.

 

Jenny K:  Yup…Night of the Living Goondas!

 

Julie M:  Can’t wait (NOT).

Sept. 14, 2011:The New POPular Stars: Pretty On Parade

As it happens, this weekend we both watched recent, cute and fun romantic comedies headed by talented young newcomers, the men, especially, made us look twice.  Julie selected Band Baaja Baaraat (Band, Horns, Revelry — 2010) on DVD, while Jenny opted for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride, 2011) in the theater.  Here’s how the party went down:

Julie MBand Baaja Baaraat is a typical romantic comedy–and is entirely predictable — although well done and with very likable leads.

Anushka Sharma (last seen as Taani in Rab ne Bana di Jodi) plays Shruti, a “together” young Punjabi woman from Delhi with an ambitious life goal–she wants to be the most in-demand wedding planner in the world–and through a series of circumstances she ends up business partners with Bittoo (Ranveer Singh), an irresponsible cut-up trying to get out of working on his father’s rural sugar cane farm for the rest of his life. She has only one rule: don’t mix business with romance. Bittoo agrees, reluctantly because he is half in love with her already. They get along great, complement each other’s style, and become incredibly successful over the course of the next two years. 

[SPOILERS, kinda…if you didn’t see them coming already.…]

One late night, partying after their first super-duper expensive wedding job, they end up in bed together, occasioning a fairly explicit (although not really showing anything) naked scene.  The next day she realizes she is in love with him, while he makes it clear to her that he thinks of it as just a casual hook-up.  The first half ends with the Big Reveal of this conflict.  I’m not going to go into more plot details but you can probably figure out how it ends up. The business is affected, more circumstances throw them together again, and I don’t have to say more except there is a very romantic kiss that made me wish I was 22 again.

Anushka is cute and fiery, and channels Kajol all the way in manner, facial expressions and dancing style. Ranveer is charming and very good-looking (VERY!), and is more than competent in the role although to my mind he is much better at being the offhand wisecracking kook–he falls flat in the last 20 minutes as he takes on a more romantic persona. Their chemistry is excellent, and that, in addition to the high production value, is the key to the film’s success.

The plot does not give over to slapstick and moves along with virtually no sub-plots. Costumes and sets are exceedingly colorful and exuberant–a plot point is that their business is known for “kitschy” weddings rather than the classy affairs a rival planner specializes in, no doubt occasioning much merriment in the office of the set dresser because they clearly had fun with it.

Lots of highly visual, high-energy and danceable songs that are well-integrated into the plot and action. One song in particular “Ainvayi Ainvayi Lut Gaya” becomes their company’s “signature” number, which they perform at all the weddings they coordinate. Tons of English words, and both the songs and the dialogue is packed with pop-culture slang and references that give it a fresher feel than the tired plot would ordinarily signal.

Here is “Ainvayi Ainvayi”, as performed at their first wedding job together, in which you see her starting out exasperated with him because he has booked this lame college band (his slacker friends) and then getting into the spirit of the song. No wonder their partnership and business take off.  And it’s a total earworm as well—I’ve been humming it for three days.


This song, “Dum Dum Mast Hai”, comes in the 2nd half at their biggest wedding job yet, where they have arranged for Shah Rukh Khan to perform but he has broken his ankle and they have to quickly, and of course absolutely unbelievably, pull together this massive dance number on 24 hours’ notice with themselves as the lead dancers.

Jenny K:  I never saw Band Baaja Baaraat, but the clips make it look fun. Ranbeer Singh is new to me…actually IMDb says it’s his first film. Looks like he did a good job.

 

Julie M:  After further research I noticed that Ranveer Singh got his B.A. from Indiana University just a few years ago. IU is only 60 miles from me.  Given how totally adorable he is, you would have thought I would have felt the heat all the way up here in Indy…ok, I’ll stop now.  But he really is cute and I predict a career path for him doing roles that SRK did at that age.

 

Jenny K:  In that second number, he’s even wearing a very SRK choice in wardrobe!  The designers would seem to agree with you…as I do.  But in truth, the films that Shah Rukh did at that age submerged him in plots either psychopathic, seriously slapstick or revenge oriented.  Let’s not wish that on these boys.

 

Julie M: I think this movie is perfect for young people who have not yet become jaded on rom-com conventions. I thought it was pleasantly diverting and at times highly enjoyable, but I called pretty much every plot development within the first 10 minutes and spent the rest of the movie watching my predictions come to life.  Man, I hate when that happens.

 

Jenny K:  Well, there is such a thing as RomCom Comfort Food, that some of us never get jaded by…so as long as there are attractive lead characters amidst beautiful scenery and a happy ending that will do until the next wonder-hit comes along. Somehow you don’t mind the predictability, it is actually reassuring.

There is lots of cute new talent around these days. I went to see Mere Brother Ki Dulhan last night to see the now tried and true Imraan Khan. That young man  just has a face that I can’t stop looking at.  May be the Aamir resemblance, I just don’t know…maybe the moustache, here.  Click for a close up. 

But the surprise was the young man starring as his brother, Ali Zafar, who does quite well for himself in his second film. I read that he’s quite a popular singer, especially in his home country of Pakistan.  From his showing in this movie, I can say that Ali handled the comedy as deftly as the dancing, held his own with Imraan and Katrina, has a seductively rich speaking voice, and a recurring resemblance to a young John Stamos, that didn’t hurt him in my book. Check out the comparison shots and see what I mean….do you think John Stamos is actually Hindustani, not Greek?

 

Given that this film was a time-pass, I quite liked it.  The lead couple, Imraan and Katrina, meet cute in a 5 year old flashback, where she’s a Free Spirited Rock Chick (has to be capitalized, she’s definitely an Archetype),

and he’s a calm, steady, nice guy that she doesn’t truly value at the time. Flash forward to where Kush (Imraan) is standing-in for his brother, Luv (Ali) who lives in London and wants Kush to find him a nice, non-NRI Indian bride.  After much fruitless searching, Kush finally decides on Dimple (Katrina) as Luv’s perfect bride.  But the way these stories go, lo-and-behold, in three short song medleys they realize they are in love with each other, and Bhaisaab is a distant, but ever nearing, memory… Egad! How will this turn out? 

Well, of course, we know…but I think its fun how they get there. My friend Pat thought the leading ladies were both “annoying,” but I didn’t agree.  Katrina has scored another endearing portrayal, and yet it’s still distinct from her role in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the love songs. The movie is shot in and around the Taj Mahal, which is, of course, gorgeous and yet somehow never too much of a good thing.

My favorite song is one that took place when they all get a bit drunk on bhang (a local mixture of milk, almonds, sugar and spices with marijuana, delicious and potent!) at a roadside inn and the sing a song in tribute to Madhubala, who starred in the classic romance Mughal-e-Azam, and that poster is conveniently on the billboard next to their table?!?  Unlikely, yes;  lots of raucous fun, definitely.

Pointless Nitpicking: I don’t get why no one thinks of the problem inherent in comparing an upbeat modern love story to Shah Jahan’s memorial to his dead wife, and also to M-e-A which details a doomed, albeit richly bejeweled, love story in another royal setting, neither of which have happy endings.

 

Julie M:  I bet they are anticipating a huge, young, NRI audience for this film, who are not as sensitive to such nuances.  I think the Taj Mahal is marketed to foreigners primarily on the love aspect and not so much on the death/tomb aspect.

 
Jenny K:  Also weird that though Ali supposedly sings so well in real life, they didn’t use his voice, or his built-in audience to boost the soundtrack sales. Strange. IMDb says that Ritesh Deshmukh was originally offered Ali’s role. Maybe the score was already recorded when he was cast, but it still seems a wasted opportunity. Ah, I found a clip of him singing in a video ad for Lux soap. Cute, but looks like he needs to take Cowboy Hat Wrangling 101.  [JK’s Note: DustDevil pointed out that “Madhubala” is sung by Ali.  Well, see…it did make sense…I was right, and blind at the same time! Thanks, DD!]

Julie M:  What does all that have to do with Lux soap, in the video? And do they really have 4 1/2 minute commercials in Pakistan?  He is adorable, though.  Someone to watch.

 

Jenny K: Lux has a history of doing ads with Bollywood stars. Here it is, in brief:

Then afterwards the men got in the act…Mr. Metrosexual SRK being the first. Very tongue in cheek.

And then Aish and Abhi:

Now it looks like they are going with even longer videos with the youngsters like Ali Zafar which you have, above.  The three girls on the billboard become the three girls in the western, the pirate story and the “man on the street” bit, respectively.

 

Julie M: That’s making sense now. Kind of like how makeup companies in this country use stars as models: Drew Barrymore and Taylor Swift for Cover Girl.

 

Jenny K: And Beyonce and Aishwarya for L’Oreal…that girl is certainly the crossover queen, isn’t she.  Workin’ all the angles!

Navratri is Almost Here! नवरात्रि !!

I’m excited to post the first Indian Cultural Event on Filmigoris!  Navratri is a traditional festival in India, celebrating Durga/Shakti as the Mother Goddess, countrywide. And fun for all of us, it has carried over into the new countries as well as the old!  Often, as here in the Baltimore area, community groups like the Gurjurati Samaj of Baltimore are kind enough to welcome desis and non-desis alike to celebrate the nine day festival with them. Thanks, Tejash, for letting me know about it!

The event, the Grand Navratri Dandiya 2011,  is going to be held this year on three separate Saturdays, October 1st, 8th and 15th, at 8 pm at the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex in Ellicott City, MD.  The dancing will be open to the public with live music and costs $7 for members of the Samaj, and $10 for non-members.  The PDF with contact information and directions is here.

A short definition of Navratri and Garba, exerpted from Wikipedia, is as follows:

Navratri, Navaratri, or Navarathri (Sanskrit: नवरात्रम्; Tamil: நவராத்திரி, Hindi: नवरात्रि, and Nepali: नवरात्रि; Bengali: নবরাত্রি; Gujarati: નવરાત્રી; Kannada: ನವರಾತ್ರಿ; Telugu: దుర్గా నవరాత్రులు; Malayalam: നവരാത്രി) is a Hindu festival of worship of Shakti and dance & festivities. The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The 10th day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dashera.

Navratri festival in Gujarat is one of the main festivals. Garba is dance which people use to dance after the Durga Pooja with the groups and live orchestra or devotional songs.

Navratri is divided into sets of three days to adore three different aspects of the supreme goddess or goddesses.

First three days:  The goddess is separated as a spiritual force called Durga also known as Kali in order to destroy all our impurities.

Second three days:  The Mother is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees enexhaustible wealth, as she is the goddess of wealth.

Final three days:  The final set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.

Garba (ગરબા in Gujarati) is an Indian form of dance that originated in the Gujarat region. The name garba comes from the Sanskrit term Garbha (“womb”) and Deep (“a small earthenware lamp”). Many traditional garbas are performed around a central lit lamp or picture/statues of different avatars of Goddess Shakti. The circular and spiral figures of Garba have similarities to other spiritual dances, such as those of Sufi culture. Traditionally it is performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navarātrī (Gujarātī નવરાત્રી Nava = 9, rātrī = nights). Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess Durga (also called Amba) is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of veneration.

Modern garba is also heavily influenced by raas (Gujarātī: ડાંડીયા Ḍānḍīyā), a dance traditionally performed by men. The merger of these two dances has formed the high-energy dance that is seen today.

Both men and women usually wear colorful costumes while performing garba and dandiya. The girls and the women wear Chaniya choli, a three-piece dress with a choli, a chaniya, as the flared, skirt-like bottom, and dupatta, which is usually worn in the traditional Gujarati manner. Chaniya Cholis are decorated with beads, shells, mirrors, sitaras, and embroidery work, mati, Traditionally, women adorn themselves with jhumkas, necklaces, bindi, bajubandh, chudas and kangans, kamarbandh, payal, and mojiris. Boys and men wear kafni pyjamas with a kediyu – a short round kurta – above the knees and pagadi on the head with bandhini dupatta, kada, and mojiris.

If you aren’t near enough to attend this event in Maryland, look around, I’m sure that you’ll find a hospitable group of like-minded folk in your neighborhood, willing to show you the way around your dandiya sticks…   Is there an up or down to these things???

In a filmi-appropriate example, here’s my favorite, Akshaye Khanna, dancing with Suman Ranganathan as his NRI temptress and the lovely Aishwarya Rai as the spunky rival, from the film Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999).  I love Udit Narayan’s voice…Enjoy!

I will never have enough jewelry to go to one of these things!!!

September 9, 2011: Two Bs: Big and Little/Past and Present

Julie M:  For the long weekend, I only got three Hindi films: Sarkar, Dhoom and another BigB one from the olden days, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat.

Sarkar was pretty good. Amitabh showed his age, which was appropriate for the story, and the film was an interesting mix of EFD and gangsters, a combination I hadn’t seen done well to this point. Abhishek was sufficiently intense and you could see his internal conflict race across his face when the time came to decide whether it was more important to him to build a life for himself or to continue his father’s brand of justice. KayKay Menon was also excellent as the bad son. I know there is a sequel, Sarkar Raj, but although it too is supposed to be good I don’t feel I need to pursue watching it.  In fact, I did see The Godfather, upon which this was modeled, and I thought Sarkar was better. 

I can’t find any scenes with English subtitles, and posting an all-Hindi clip doesn’t do justice to the excellent dialogue, so we will have to go with just  images. Very intense.

Jenny K:  My heavens!  Better than The Godfather!?!  What praise!  Being the only person in the Northern Hemisphere who hasn’t seen the Francis Ford Coppola Gangster Masterpiece, I can’t confirm or pooh pooh this statement, but I know I wasn’t quite as enamored of  Sarkar as you seem to be.  Not that I found it bad, in any way, just a bit average, and I thought the B’s, father and son were a bit cold and non-emotional in this film, for an EGFD (Emotional Gangster Family Drama – new hybrid category). 

I still prefer the Mani Ratnam Godfather tribute, Velu Nayakan with Kamal Hassan starring.  It’s sort of early Mani (1987, eleven years before Dil Se…), so it’s a bit rough around the edges, with nowhere near as much polish, but a lot of gut energy about it.  Most of it due to Hassan’s transformation from young upwardly mobile thug underling to the old patriarch…though his Marlon Brando homage, complete with cheek padding makes me giggle a little when I watch it.  Check out this clip and see what I mean, best at 1:39-ish. 

The whole movie is here on Youtube in ten pieces, with subtitles, but it’s the original Tamil, which I know you still have a problem listening to…so you might want to wait until I send you the Hindi dubbed version. 

Back to Sarkar, she segues…I do remember liking Tanisha’s debut.  She isn’t quite as electric as her sister, Kajol is, at least not yet, but she has a quiet sweetness in her.  I also enjoyed KayKay Menon, as you did.  Also, thought that Amitabh looked rather good in the film, as usual these days.  But, unless they are doing comedy together, I find when Amitabh and Abhishek work together, LittleB comes off a bit muted by the Very Big shadow of his sire.  However, in comedy, they bounce off each other delightfully.  I felt the same as you did and skipped Sarkar Raj as seeming a bit “been there.”

 

Julie M:  Dhoom was refreshingly mindless, although not as stylish (or decorative! No Hrithik!) as Dhoom 2. John Abraham was thoroughly unbelievable as a master thief–too baby-faced and did not give off the smart-planner vibe. Uday Chopra was funny and can he dance! LittleB’s best scenes were the comic ones, like when he was faking drunk. I got a little tired of all the motorcycle chases, which went on too long. Esha Deol was cute and looked just like her mom. Overall a fun late-night treat for a holiday weekend while it was playing, but afterwards I felt that Dhoom 2 was overall more successful and more fun.

Here is a clip showing Uday’s twinkle-toed talent, and it’s a “wet scene” to boot: 

And this is pretty much the sexiest I’ve seen LittleB: 

Jenny K:  Now, I can’t comment on Dhoom directly, because I haven’t seen it, either.  I’ll agree that LittleB is attractive in that video, but from the two clips you gave here, may I say just three words…Daisy Duke Distopia!!!!  Horrible, Horrible Costumes!  Gag.  It may be why I have an almost allergic reaction to Esha Deol (except in Yuva/Ayitha Ezhuthu, where she did quite well with her roles in both languages, and was disarmingly wholesome).  Just before they began shooting Dhoom, Esha had hit the gym and lost her baby fat and was most annoyingly aware of her svelte-ness in all the clips that I have seen.

And though Uday can certainly dance and that clip did show it (of the generation, I think I still prefer Viveik) , I still find him insupportable.  I’m sure this is solely due to severe over exposure to one of his early films, Mohabbatein.  See if you can even get through this clip, much less 216 minutes of it. 

Julie M:  Finally, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (A Rainy Night) was pretty good, not the best but entertaining enough. It pits BigB against Amjad Khan (“Gabbar Singh” from Sholay) again, one of their more successful pairings, and unlike in Sholay, he gets a real reciprocated love interest. It is refreshing for once to see Amitabh sweetly in love, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t kick some bad guy butt along the way. And we revisit the beautiful scenery of the Himalayas, last seen in Professor.  It’s kind of an obscure one in BigB’s catalogue, and although it feels formulaic it is nevertheless charming, so I’m going to do a spoiler-ful summary.  I won’t put in all the songs, just the ones I thought were particularly interesting.

The setting is a rural village, where there is a corrupt merchant-smuggler and his hotheaded son, Kaaliram (Khan), who takes pleasure in bullying the locals and kidnapping whatever girl takes his fancy, and a police officer whom they have paid off to ignore their antics. There is also a tea plantation, whose manager is an honest man with a blind daughter Rajni (Rakhee Gulzar). One day a tall stranger (BigB) wearing a rockin’ green leisure suit and floppy hat rides into town on a mule, humiliating Kaaliram en route, and does a deal with the merchant for some contraband gold bars—we are to understand that he is a rakish rule-breaker.

Over the next few days the stranger and Kaaliram clash again and again, with the stranger winning and leaving Kaaliram fuming. Here’s a cute song that occurs after the stranger and Kaaliram have a drumming contest and Kaaliram loses (one of many humiliations Kaaliram suffers): the stranger and the entire village make fun of him. And BigB dances, after a fashion.

 

The stranger also meets Rajni in the village and saves her from tumbling over a cliff, and falls in love with her.  He goes to find Rajni’s house and stalks her a bit as she sings of how much she loves him:

Back to the action:  Kaaliram and his father clash with Rajni’s father, whom they feel owes them money, and Kaaliram becomes so irate (and drunk, and filled with lust) that he breaks into their house one rainy night and tries to rape Rajni. Luckily the stranger arrives in time to save her, and after a failed attempt at justice with the local police, the stranger (who, as you remember, has set himself up as a shady character) reveals himself to be Abhijeet, a regional police inspector sent to clean up the cross-border smuggling activity.  Kaaliram is arrested, convicted and sent up the river for five years, and the corrupt police officer is fired. Rajni’s father is distraught over his daughter’s dishonor and Abhijeet offers to marry her, clearly no great sacrifice on his part, but Dad is grateful and relieved. Abhijeet is promoted and transferred to a different sector.

Five years pass and Abhijeet and Rajni are blissfully happy, awaiting the birth of their first child. Cue sappy song about how much they love each other; I’m leaving that one out. Kaaliram is released from prison and vows revenge, which he takes as soon as he finds out where they are living. He decoys Abhijeet away and on another rainy night, abducts Rajni but leaves her lying by the road when he hears Abhijeet coming back. Rajni is OK but loses the baby because of the shock. Abhijeet vows revenge on whoever did it (vowing revenge is a common theme in this film) and, after finding a clue indicating the perp, goes after Kaaliram, who runs him off the road in a jeep crash from which Abhijeet is thrown from the car. Kaaliram thinks he has killed Abhijeet and relaxes his guard. The locals find the unconscious Abhijeet, fix him up and smuggle him back into the village in disguise as a member of their folk dancing troupe.  Here’s the number, and (since he’s the tallest person around this tiny village) you can see it’s not much of a disguise.  I love the Tibetan costumes and drums.

Jenny K: Sorry to interrupt your synopsis, but, the costumer in me must comment.  Colorful the dancers’ garb may be, but like the denizens of the similar scene in Professor, the hybridization with the Bollywood ideal of female desirability definitely fractures them.  Do a Google image search for “Tibetan National Dress” and paint half of me black and call me a penguin, if there is one example of midriff or arms bared amongst them.  Heck, you’d think that it’s cold in Tibet or something!  End of rant.  Back to you, Julie…

 

Julie M: Kaaliram, who is a bully but no dummy, recognizes the drumming talent that totally schooled him five years ago, and there is a confrontation after the show.  After a scary and exciting fight/chase scene involving a very high rope tram, a jeep and a river, Abhijeet apprehends and then drags Kaaliram back to the plantation display him to Rajni (blind though she is), roughing him up in front of her and her father. Kaaliram’s father, attempting to shoot Abhijeet as he’s smacking Kaaliram around, kills Kaaliram instead. Abhijeet and Rajni embrace and there is a sudden long shot of them taking a scenic walk along the river. GOOD PREVAILS OVER EVIL; AAL IZWELL.

The whole movie is on YouTube, albeit without English subtitles. Here is Part I, with the green leisure suit.  

Jenny K:  Wait…someone tell Bette Davis, I just found her hat!  Fasten your seatbelts, etc.

 

Julie M: My only real unhappiness with this film was that, similar to other older Bollywood movies I’ve seen, it ended rather abruptly once the villain was foiled.  I kind of like a story to wind down and wrap up a little.

 

Jenny K:  Sounds like you had fun with it, though. I love Amitabh in any era. Especially the one I just sent you, Abhimaan, with Jaya, his wife. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is the director and he is much more realistic in style than most of the other directors working in the 70s. And there is one scene with the two of them as newlyweds in the bedroom (Egad!) that is the hottest scene I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film without actually seeing anything, except in their facial reactions…fade to ecstasy. I’ll be interested to see how you like it.

Amitabh did almost as many movies with Rakhee back then as he has since done with Jaya or Hema. Not to say I always understood why they cast her, but in BKER she looks sweet, not insipid, which she sometimes can appear.  Though that may be caused by having Rekha as a rival (Muqaddar Ka Sikandar) in many of them.  La Rekha would blunt any mere mortal’s impact. In any case, I’ve always felt that Jaya was the better actress, perhaps of all three, and she sometimes outdoes her hubby.

It’s always best to end on a Semi-Sacrilege, isn’t it?

  • Categories

  • Blog Stats

    • 64,366 visits
  • September 2011
    S M T W T F S
    « Aug   Oct »
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    252627282930  
  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 22 other followers