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:
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:
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),
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:
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.