November 1, 2011: An Aamir To Remember

Julie M:  Can’t get enough of Aamir!  Got Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke (We are Traveling on the Path of Love, 1993) from the library.  A very young Aamir takes on three orphans and falls in love with Juhi Chawla. I’ve never seen Juhi in a film before and I’m looking forward to this one.

Jenny K:  Aamir and Juhi are fun together, but that one doesn’t stick in the mind much.  All I recall are the plethora of kids, him having problems trying to control them, and also, a really goofy, though fun number with him as the boss at a factory. He looks a bit like a deer in the headlights (character choice, not actual fear) with all those love-crazed employees.

Also I think I remember a scene where she jumps out of her daddy’s yacht and swims to shore to escape his marriage plans for her. Three scenes, that’s it. I hope you can hang onto more of it.

IMDb tells me it’s a remake of Houseboat with Sophia Loren and Cary Grant, which I liked much more. I remember the film reminding me of another one, but Houseboat wasn’t it. Maybe I should watch it again with you and then I can clarify things for myself a bit.  Hmmm….they had songs and everything in Houseboat…maybe it is more of a remake than I thought.  Here’s a clip with Spanish subtitles, no less.

[a couple of days later]

Julie M:  HHRPK was something of a disappointment. I kept thinking I had seen it as a Disney film in the early 1960s: young uncle suddenly in charge of three wild kids, falls in love with the bubbly nanny, has business problems that the nanny helps solve… it’s the kind of thing that would star Brian Keith and Doris Day.  I found HHRPK similar to Houseboat but not an exact remake. Lots of running around and overly enthusiastic facial gestures, boing-boing sound effects and comically widened eyes. Just too much “comedy” for me.

Aamir as usual was great, so young, handsome and a stand-up guy, and we got to see his hobbit feet (which I always suspected he had). Lookin’ good in a long kurta. (hmm, wonder if I can get B to buy one of those?) Juhi Chawla was alternately adorable and annoying, as were the kids. The music was not very interesting to me–the background music was tinny and the female voice (sorry, Alka) was screechy.

I’ll give Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak a try as the last of the early Aamir films, and then I’ll give up. Love Aamir but sitting through the milieu of these early films is torturous.

Jenny K:  Before you give up on early Aamir completely…yes, QSQT is the one that put him on the map, but the one he did right afterwards, Raakh, is more up your alley, I think. He’s an anti-hero in it, a young man who watches a female friend of his get molested (he tries to help, at the time, but can’t) and wants the authorities to get her justice, but he finds out they are being paid off and won’t do anything. So he goes on his own search for justice.

Really roughly made, but very stark and intense (sort of like Aamir!). I can put them both in the next package, if you like. Dil with Madhuri has its charms, too, but I’m not sure enough of them to have you love it…they are rather spunky and look pretty good for being dressed ’90s, and all. One of my favorite scenes in it is a little silly/a little sexy bit at 7:03 on this clip when they’ve defied their parents, run away and set up a tiny shack for their first home. He’s cooking.

[about a week later…]

Julie M:  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (From Disaster to Disaster, 1988)…well. Yes. It grabbed me from the start–who can resist witnessing the beginning of a bitter family feud?–and I was hooked until the end. There were a couple of groan-worthy moments but overall just the right amount of drama, romance and humor.  I found it a highly faithful adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, with saris and item numbers. 

Plot summary: In the village of Dhanakpur there are two neighboring families, one the wealthy Singhs and the other the less-wealthy but still pretty well-off Singhs (gotta say, they throw a lot of men at you in the opening sequences and it’s difficult to understand, given the intense amount of emotion, who’s who).  Over the opening credits we see the start of a feud between the two families involving the pregnant daughter of one committing suicide and her lover from the other family being shot by her brother.

Cut to fourteen years later, when the brother is released from prison and comes home to his grown son Raj (Aamir Khan). Through a series of circumstances Raj meets Rashmi (Juhi Chawla), the daughter of the shot man’s brother, they get to know each other through the standard plot device of being stranded alone together, and they fall in love. He knows who she is but she doesn’t find out until much later who he is, but it doesn’t matter: they are irrevocably meant for each other. Of course the families find out and clash.

The two run away on the eve of her marriage to another man and very sweetly set up housekeeping in an abandoned shrine that looks curiously like the one in Sholay, rocky cactus landscape and all.

Her father hires thugs to track them down and do away with Raj while he takes Rashmi back to the city to marry this other dude. [Spoilers from here on] Raj fights the thugs and manages to subdue them, but not before Rashmi is fatally shot. He kneels by her side, takes out a knife that she had given him as a present earlier in the film and stabs himself in the stomach. They die in each others’ arms as the sun sets and their families look on in shock. [end]

Lots of opportunities for high drama in this film. Saving the honor of the family, children of bitter enemies falling in love, semi-secret identities, the visual theme of sunset throughout. I thought it was done very effectively with a minimum of cheesiness considering it was 1988. Aamir was so young and beautiful and romantic with his blow-dried hair and slim, muscular physique, and contrary to SRK, he can make fight scenes work. In other words, the man of anyone’s dreams.

Juhi was cute and sweet, so charming and lovable. Adorable together. I did not really enjoy the music very much, particularly the cheesy college-auditorium guitar number in the beginning, but the number seems to have been very influential in the soundtracks of later movies so I guess I’m forced to show it.  The song really reminded me of the end of Grease.
Jenny K:  Why?  I saw no spandex pants anywhere!  And no Fun Fair or carnival rides…

I haven’t watched this for a while but I do remember liking it quite a lot. One of the gang on Bollywhat mentioned that Aamir’s first wife Reena Dutta made a cameo in that “Papa Kahte Hain” number in the red dress at about the 5:00 mark. Very early on in their marriage, and they had a similar cross-religion marriage, if I recall correctly. He used to see her across the apartment complex on another balcony, and they fell in love, in spite of their differences in faith.  Sooo Sweet! I’m sorry it didn’t work out in the end.

Julie M:  I had predicted that this film would go another way: she would come up pregnant, but he would marry her, thereby reversing a generation’s worth of bitterness. But I guess this was still influenced by the days of noble tragedies rather than happy endings. Still, I liked this one much better than the Aamir/Juhi pairing in HHRPK five years later, when in retrospect she was getting a little old for cutesy-poo. And any day that I get to see Aamir bare-chested and in denim short-shorts (not at the same time, because that would surely kill me) is a good one.

Just for fun I did a “parallels” chart between QSQT and R&J. Amazing when I thought about it how exactly alike they are, from how they first see each other (party at her house) and the final death blow given by a dagger (although in R&J she stabs herself; in QSQT he stabs himself). And in both stories there is an unwanted arranged marriage for the girl: Paris in R&J and Roop Singh in QSQT. The difference is mainly time: the Indian version detailed the beginning of the feud between the families, gave the lovers time to get to know each other and time together once they ran away. And in R&J the tragedy inspires the families to set aside their feud, whereas in QSQT we don’t know what happens after the tragedy because the film ends too quickly.

But there is no good line in QSQT like this one of Juliet’s: “My only love, sprung from my only hate/Too early seen unknown, and known too late.” Or maybe there is, but it’s in Hindi.

Another one of the “25 best” crossed off the list!

[the next day]

Julie M:  Rushed to see Raakh (Ashes to Ashes, 1989) while I was still in an Aamir mood.  I could only see the first half because your disk had lots of schmutz on it and I couldn’t get past Scene 9. Maybe I’ll try to clean it well and attempt again later this week.  But from what I saw, I liked it a lot.

You already gave a plot summary but let me elaborate:  Amir Hussain is a somewhat wealthy but disaffected 21-year-old, done with college but with no idea what to do next.  He is also still somewhat obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Neeta.  After a party, where he tried to get her back, they are intercepted by members of a local gang.  Amir tries to fight his way out of the confrontation, but they beat him up and he can only watch while they rape Neeta. 

Amir blames himself and slips into a depression, convincing himself that he owes it to Neeta to retaliate and takes steps in that direction by stealing money from his parents, buying a gun and trying to track down the gang members.  He approaches a local policeman, who (unknown to Amir) is familiar with the gang from a previous run-in and has in fact witnessed Neeta’s rape.  With the officer’s help he tracks down the gang, but the officer is suspended for assisting Amir in his vigilante vendetta.  The two of them then spiral into near-madness in their mutual obsession.

This is probably the film that showed Aamir as someone capable of more than the typical chocolate hero stuff. Only his 2nd film, and WOW.  First, he spends most of the movie unshaven, sweaty and brooding. Second, he does very non-hero things, like buy a gun and go out for revenge. Finally, there are no dance numbers or love scenes, both of which he had done well in QSQT.  Still, my eyes were riveted on Aamir (and wandered when he wasn’t in frame).

Warning to all: this movie is slow. Lots of time goes by with nobody saying anything. Most of the scenes take place in the dark. Everyone sweats. It’s very, very serious. If you are new to Aamir, my advice is to watch Lagaan and a couple of his later non-funny, non-romantic films before coming back to this, or you may be turned off.

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry there were some problems with Raakh…I don’t remember there being problems the last time I watched it, but you never know…the cheaper the video, the more likely the disc rot. The director, Aditya Bhattacharya, actually re-packaged and hopefully cleaned up the film for a re-release last year on the filmfest circut. Raakh Redux. Here’s the promo.

I had meant to order it…if it’s out on DVD yet.  I should look out for it, else my Aamir collection will be incomplete.

I remember really liking Pankaj Kapur in this…Shahid’s dad. He was the renagade cop that was advising Aamir’s character. Also, I thought it was interesting that he used a version of his own name in this film. Aamir’s father’s last name is Hussain, and the character name was Amir Hussain. I always thought that it was an indicator as to how strongly AK felt about the issue of police corruption and the protection of women.

  

Julie M:  Great point!! That makes this so much more personal and really indicates that Aamir, even back then, was more than just another actor in the great Bollywood machine. I also love that he can do these serious films and also the popular ones, with equal skill and acclaim.  But back then it was a huge gamble:  I read online that they only made six prints and released it in three cities.  And—can’t believe you didn’t point this out, you who know the inside scoop—his sister Nuzhat (Imraan’s mother) wrote the dialogues.

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