Nov. 29, 2012: Thanksgiving for the Parade of New Films — PART II

Okay, now that we’ve had a few days to digest our holiday film feast, Julie and I are back with Part II of the new reviews.  It seems like I’m spending an inordinate amount of time at the Loehmann’s Cinemas in Falls Church, VA, even for me!  I’m blaming it on Kathy and Pat for enabling me…and Shah Rukh for refusing to age, and continuing to ensnare us, year after year in those fathomless dimples of his.

Jenny K:  Well…finally over my latest crazy costume deadline, and I decided to celebrate by going out to see the latest food comedy out there in Hindi Movieland, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012). It had me thinking two things…one, why does everyone in this film remind me of someone else (not necessarily in a bad way) and, two, where can I get some hot parathas after this movie lets out!!! Every third shot has someone flipping the bread over on the griddle, over an open flame and someone slathering ghee all over it!  It’s a crime they don’t have any Indian food at the concession stand…I’m hungry!  And that may be partly inspired by our star…Kunal Kapoor has his first solo starring hero role since his debut in Meenaxi.  Here’s the trailer, with optional subtitles.

Julie M:  Oooh, baby, food AND Kunal Kapoor?  Let me at it!!

Jenny K:  Kunal does a nice job in a slightly quiet role, and only falls short a bit in the dancing aspect (as exhibited in the final number over the credits, particularly). Madhuri must have been riding him like crazy in Aaja Naachle, because I didn’t notice a particular lack, in that one. He’s cut his long hair and shaved his beard, and though I thought I would miss them, he’s quite dishy in this new look. Sort of a cross between Aamir and Hrithik, if you can imagine that.

 

Julie M:  Mmmm…tasty…but I like Kunal’s long hair and slightly scruffy look he’s known for better than this, dishy or not.  It about killed me to see Don 2 and he had cut his locks for that one!

 

Jenny K:  Kunal plays Omi, a sad sack, would-be player who steals money from his family and goes off to make his fortune, supposedly, in London, but when the story starts he’s come back with his tail between his legs, and an NRI-Indian mob boss who he owes money to, hot on his trail. He tries to get more money from his family while making them think he’s changed his ways and become a hot young lawyer back in LimeyLand. His grandfather, played by Vinod Nagpal, who reminds me a bit of Pankaj Kapur for some reason, has had a stroke or something and no longer remembers his relatives or, more importantly, the recipe for his famous chicken khurana which made his restaurant thrive. Of course, Omi’s return is central to the rebirth of the family fortunes, but it takes a reaaaaaly long time to get there.
Kunal’s leading lady Huma Qureshi, has been in a few films lately,  (Gangs of Wasseypur, Trishna) but this seems to be her first try at romantic comedy.  She plays the role of Omi’s young love, Harman, who he left behind and she’s gone on to become a doctor.

Harman is now engaged to Omi’s adopted brother Jeet (Rahul Bhagga), but neither one of the engaged pair seem particularly enthused about this turn of events. Huma is a nicely rounded beauty, who oozes intelligence and a shy sex appeal that sort of harks back to the early Kajol charm, say in DDLJ. She depicts her resistance to Omi’s return and the gradual crumbling of her resolves in a very believable way. I look forward to seeing her again.  Here’s the video of the title song.

 

Julie M:  That’s kind of a big topic:  “Who is the Next Kajol?”  You like Huma, I like Genelia, and for a while there Anushka Sharma had some possibilities.  At least we know it’s not Priyanka Chopra, right?

 

Jenny K:  Kajol has a much more girl-next-door quality than most of the new girls have, and that Priyanka isn’t really shooting for, is she?  I sort of thought she was gunning for the Next Madhuri or the Next Aish, at best…however, her performance in Barfi! may be showing her aim for more substance over the glamour angle.

 

Julie M:  We’ll reserve judgment until we see her performance in the upcoming Zanjeer remake, where she plays the role made famous by the feisty Jaya Badhuri (Bachchan).  Although substance that’s not…more about that when we review the 1973 original.

 

Jenny K:  Where Luv Shuv’s concerned, I think that the plot had a few too many extra characters for clarity, and a few dead-end red herrings that made me go “Really?” too often.  Although the script could have benefited from at least twenty minutes off of it, I enjoyed the end result. Especially liked the pagal Uncle Titu played by Rajesh Sharma, who I feel like I’ve seen before, and I must have in The Dirty Picture, but can’t really place him. Here’s a nice article on him.  

When watching this sort of unfortunate final-credit item number, I just kept wishing that Javeed Jaffrey had played the gangster in this one…someone in the number should know how to dance.  Liked the soundtrack, though, by Amit Trivedi.

Julie M:  LSTCK looks very sweet, kind of Today’s Special vibe-y and very indie-feeling. EVERYTHING is at my local theater but I have no time to go!!! I don’t know about Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it’s gotten mixed reviews but it would be nice to see SRK in a Yash Chopra film again.

Jenny K:  I’m going to see JTHJ with Kathy and Pat tonight, I think. I’ll let you know where I stand.

[the next day…]

Jenny K:  Well, I survived the evening, and enjoyed Jab Tak Hai Jaan (As Long As I Live, 2012)…somewhat. Nice being out with the girls, but even they, who are the ultimate SRK fans, seemed a bit underwhelmed.  Paraphrasing Kathy’s verdict, “Good, of course, but I’ve seen it before, and done better.”  We all sort of felt that Veer Zaara had that thwarted love thing pretty well perfected for director Yash Chopra, and wondered why he wanted to have his last film seem like a slightly watercolor version of that earlier film.

SRK looked pretty good, but I think that his own personal digital effects company may have de-aged his face a bit for the first half when he was supposedly playing 28.

I liked the look in the second half, at “38,” almost better, though with the amount of gray hair in the stubble, I’d think that 38 was a kind estimate. He is in good shape, pretty buff, not too buff or too skinny, both of which we like him to avoid. His performance was the strongest in the movie, charming and touching without overacting.

Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma were both pretty and endearing leading ladies. Neither had the Kajol certain-something in the chemistry with him, but certainly not as bland as all the reviews have said.

Katrina sort of danced him off the floor in the following number, “Ishq Shava,”  though it has more impact during the actual scene.  This clip has been edited down from about three separate sections of the number, in the dance hall, on the ship and outside the dance hall on the dock. It’s a much longer number and has more drama, especially at the beginning where SRK is encouraging Katrina’s character to “let it all out” and finally be herself. She dances with at least three other guys before he joins her, and you can’t take your eyes off her. Kat may not be a flawless actress, but no one should say she can’t dance.  

Julie M:  I don’t think she’s as bad as everyone says.  Maybe because my first experience with her was in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which you said was an unusually good performance for her, but really, she’s no better or worse than any of the other beauty queens out there now.

Jenny K:  The thing that may bring the audience out in droves is Shah Rukh’s first on-screen kissing…yep, at the ripe old age of 47…he’s given in. Maybe not open mouth kissing, they still block those shots with the back of Katrina’s head, but definitely several lip on lip shots, where he seemed not to be able to get enough of Katrina.  Each time he made the plunge there was an audible “OOOOhhhhoooohhhhh!” from the audience.  Even the young college age guys were hooting and laughing a bit.

My main reaction was “Why, and why now?”…maybe it was a business decision. I can almost hear his wife, Gauri, who’s often an executive producer on his films, brainstorming with him, “What can we do to put people in the seats?…old fashioned romance, separated lovers, FABULOUS shots of Ladakh scenery, all sorts of visual reminders of DDLJ, a bit more skin, and, yes, Shah Rukh, you’re going to have to follow Hrithik’s lead and lay on the lips…I know it’s tough, but, heck, your lips are twice as big as HR’s so you should get twice the hoopla, hai na?”

Julie M:  !!!! OK, you’ve got me.  Gotta see this.

Jenny K:  The negatives are all on the writer’s side, I’m afraid: the plot…big holes, especially in the second half, and the length. Anushka (so cute in Band Baaja Baaraat, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) did as much as she could, but the plot had her playing the “door-prize role” Preity Zinta rather perfected in Dil Se… and the writers chose to have him pine and whine, as usual, for his old “ideal” girl.  My hopes for a more healthy ending were dashed. In addition, my stand on three hour films is weakened when it doesn’t actually advance the story. Note to Aditya Chopra: you really needed to credit the writers of The Hurt Locker for a large chunk of this movie.

Julie M:  I didn’t see The Hurt Locker.  Can you expand on that…is it a direct rip-off, or did they actually write some of it?  Pardon my lack of currency here.

 

Jenny K:  Well, no, not a slavish copy, of course.  The original would have been too unrelievedly depressing for the audience SRK usually draws.  But both deal with a man who is so cavalier about his own life that he can defuse bombs with complete cool and apparent disregard for his own safety (no special suit, very little back-up, if any, etc.).  They both come on like Army Supermen…Shah Rukh, of course, does it with a tight black tee, dark shades and a cool motorcycle.  Bet Jeremy Renner wishes he wrote that last one into his contract!

Next time, we’ll see what Aamir Khan has up his sleeve with Talaash!

Nov. 27, 2012: Thanksgiving for the Parade of New Films – Part I

Since the Navratri/Diwali/Thanksgiving/Christmas rush of holidays is in full swing, we’ve thought it justified more trips to the theater, or at least a push to see more recent releases. Bollywood seems to be shaking itself out of some of its old stale tropes and harking back, nostalgically to some of the things we’ve missed.  Very appropriate for a post-Thanksgiving post, I’d think.  In fact, we’ve gotten so much watching done, that we’ll have to split these new film reviews into two parts, and leave Julie’s older, classic film voyaging for another post. 

Julie M:  Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (I Fell in Love With You, 2012), which I watched on DVD, was cute, somewhat. It’s not the type of film I would see if it were an American production, because it’s rather predictable, but there were some moments, mainly having to do with those funloving Punjabis.

Mini (Genelia D’Souza) is an educated and spirited girl stuck in a small Punjabi village, where her father Bhatti (Tinnu Anand) has gotten moderately wealthy running an autorickshaw business. She has also, somehow, gotten a Canadian passport, and between the wealth and the green card she is a very eligible young lady indeed. Bhatti wants her to marry the spoiled and lazy, but quite handsome, Sunny (Kartar Cheema), the son of a somewhat wealthier neighbor; however, Mini wants to have a bit of adventure before she settles down. She reluctantly agrees to the marriage to please her father but is all the while trying to hatch an escape plan.

Enter Viren (Riteish Deshmukh), one of Bhatti’s drivers and a hardworking young man whom Bhatti has just cheated out of both his dreams and his life savings. In a drunken fit, Viren crashes Mini and Sunny’s engagement party to give Bhatti a piece of his mind.  In the commotion Mini sees her chance:  she forces Viren to “kidnap” her, then phones Bhatti with a “ransom” demand, telling Viren that he can keep a share of the proceeds as repayment for what her father cheated him out of while she uses the rest of the money to escape.

Jenny K:  Sounds familiar but promising…I’ve liked Riteish more and more, especially since seeing him hold his own with Amitabh in Aladin a few years back.  And Genelia was very cute (almost too cute) in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na with Imraan.  And, I heard that Riteish and Genelia got married back in February….Perfect type-casting for a cute romance.

Julie M: I’m not sure whether the film release pre-dated or succeeded the wedding, but they’d been together for a very long time before they made the film, which makes the romance film something of a vehicle for both of them. 

Anyway, Viren, bowled over by her audacity, agrees and they find a vacant house to hide out in for a few days while Bhatti gathers the funds. Of course they start to fall in love while having adventures like crashing a wedding, scrounging for cash and going through the obligatory “who sleeps where” tamasha in their purloined residence. The wedding-crash scene was  predictable but still fun.

On the day of the ransom payment they go to the rendezvous point and…both of them get kidnapped for real! by the notorious kidnapper Chowdhary (Om Puri), who proceeds to demand additional ransom from Bhatti.

Is this enough adventure for Mini or has it gone too far? What will she, and everyone else, do when she finds out that Chowdhary, to everyone’s surprise, is Viren’s father?

Jenny K:  All this fake kidnapping stuff this year, this and Barfi!  What is it?  This year’s annual theme at the screenwriting college?

Julie M: Genelia D’Souza has the rubber face, cute mannerisms and mischievous grin made famous by Kajol and is the perfect bubbly girl. Riteish Deshmukh does an excellent “confused” face, which he deploys with regularity over the course of the first third of the film. Their couplehood is inevitable but it’s fun to watch it come together, and who could hate two such pretty people. Not one, not two, but THREE love songs that are mainstream and predictable fill the soundtrack, and there is a glitzy and obligatory-feeling item number with Veena Malik.

There are plot holes all over the place (for example, it’s never explained how she got her Canadian passport, and Chowdhary’s gang is too bumbling for it to make any sense how he got so wealthy; not to mention an absolutely inane turnabout in the last 15 minutes due to a pretty stupid “serious” speech by Chowdhary) but what do you expect from such an obvious vehicle for these two stars. Om Puri’s talent is wasted in his role, which I hate to see.

All in all, not a terrible way to pass the time if you happen to come across it, but it doesn’t break any new ground and you may find yourself checking your watch somewhere in the middle of the second half. Cute date movie if you’re 17, and for us oldsters, Riteish takes his shirt off which is always fun. I give it about a third of a thumbs-up. There is a completely illegal DVD rip on Daily Motion, with Part I, here.

P.S.  I thought the Sunny character seemed familiar…according to what I read, Punjabi actor Kartar Cheema (making his Bollywood debut in TNLHG) modeled his character on the Kajol character’s spoiled and mean fiance in DDLJ. Except in this one he’s not mean, just lazy and not very bright.

Jenny K:  They could do worse than copying DDLJ, except that stupid item number with the fat opera singer in “Paris”…shudder

The first of my string of movie outings was for the long-awaited comeback film for Sridevi, English Vinglish (2012). Kathy, Pat and I hit the local cinema to catch it the first week. Well, all I can say is, what a great way to come back! I can’t believe it’s been over ten years since her last major film! She’s 49 this year, but is still so lovely. Raising a family seems to agree with her. Here’s the trailer.

It’s a bit of a one joke plot with Sridevi cast as Shashi, the long suffering Indian wife, who, through one thing and another (life, mostly), hasn’t pursued her knowledge of English past the rudimentary stages in school, and her family taunts her with it almost daily. A joke, as they see it, quite hilarious, but she becomes more and more depressed that even her husband and kids don’t give her the respect she deserves.

Shashi’s trepidation becomes greater when she has to go to New York City for her niece’s wedding, reuniting with her older sister who is raising her daughters in America all on her own after her husband’s death. Shashi’s in NYC with three weeks to kill before the wedding and decides that enough is enough…she’s going to take a crash English course and surprise everyone. The scenes in the classroom, filled with a multi-culti mix of misfits is not particularly subtle, or believeable from an educational aspect, but the camaraderie and charm of the characters learning together and from each other is rather nice. You can see some of it in the “making of” clip, here.

Julie M:  Did you see Educating Rita?  Sounds somewhat like that one.

 

Jenny K:  Same genre, of course.  I loved Educating Rita, especially as it introduced me to Julie Walters.  But this plot wasn’t about falling in love with her teacher…in this film, an impossibility, as the teacher here was the worst performed role in the film.  And her education doesn’t break up her marriage as in ER, it strengthens it, in a traditionally happy ending at the wedding in NYC with her family.  

Well, happy for everyone except her fellow student, Laurent, from France, who has developed quite a serious crush on Shashi. Poor boy. I’d love to comfort him, myself, if I were given half a chance. He’s played by an actor named Mehdi Nebbou…half Algerian, half German, but all adorable. Definitely a thumbs up film, see it if you can.

AND, I went off tonight on the spur of the moment jaunt with Pat after work to catch Life of Pi (2012).  Not to tempt you out of your vow of complete home video supremacy, Jule, but Irrfan Khan has a much larger part in it as the Adult Pi, lots more face time for him than I’d expected…and what a face, sigh….Pat and I debated (but not for long) about the extra expenditure for 3D.  Worth it!  No, not just for Irrfan-gazing at seeming-finger-tip-reach, though that may have been enough, I grant you, but with tigers menacing, zebras charging, whales leaping overhead and flying fish flinging themselves at our hero willy-nilly, it was well worth the extra few dollars for the heavenly view on a big screen.  Not officially an Indian film, but with all the scenes set there, and some very fine Indian actors (Tabu! and Ang Lee’s new find, Suraj Sharma, as Young Pi does a phenomenal job in his debut role), I thought that it is a necessary mention here.  And a trailer.  

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7WBfntqUoA]
 

In a day or two, we’ll be back with two more of our recent viewings, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and Shah Rukh’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan, so, stay tuned, we’ll be back!

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