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?

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7 Comments

  1. Sarkar better than The Godfather? I cannot agree on that at all! Also, Tanisha seriously can’t act – watch Neal n Nikki, if you want a proof.

    About Dhoom: it gets trashier each time I watch it, but to me it will always be “the” Dhoom-movie, even though it might not be as good as Dhoom:2. The song “Shikdum” is actually a remake of a turkish song by Tarkan. Well, good Uday has stopped acting for now – again: Neal n Nikki.

  2. I have to say that although I saw it, I did not like The Godfather AT ALL. So you’ll have to put my remarks about Sarkar’s superiority in that context. Will probably watch Don this weekend, so at some point on the blog we’ll have an extended discussion comparing gangster movies. And THEN can I stop watching them?

  3. Limette — I watched the trailers for Neal ‘N Nicki and decided it had too much Uday being Cute ‘N Trendy for my taste. Glad to see I was right, by your view. However, my friend Pat just loved the film, so it just shows that there’s an audience for all types of films!

    Jule — I’d apologize for your Ganster Overload if you hadn’t inflicted quite a number of them on yourself without my sending or recommending them to you: Deewaar, Ghajini, Gangajaal, Sholay – gangsters in the west, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Raavan and now Sarkar and Barsaat Ki Ek Raat 🙂 And I’m not even including the comedy ones like Munnabhai MBBS and Bluffmaster! Thugs Galore! I think you may, in fact, be subconsciously drawn to the goonda side of Indian film…or is it only Ajay/Amitabh Addiction that gets you into trouble?

  4. Ajay. It’s all Ajay.

  5. Great music, thanks for sharing……. didnt realize got interest in such music…. 🙂

  6. Yeah, the music drives all of this filmi-fanatacism, I think…Rahman, Vishal Bhardwaj, Shankar/Esaan/Loy…wah, wah, wah, as they say! Sukhwinder Singh’s voice alone can take me to a new place in just a few bars. He truly has the gift, doesn’t he?

    • Welcome “Tale”…

      I got hooked starting with the music, so that’s always a selling point for me. But I like Sonu Nigam better as a singer than Sukhwinder Singh.


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