September 7, 2011 Lost in Bombay, Boys…Naveen & Rahul

Julie M:  Saw Bombay Boys this evening. Awesome and hilarious. NRIs in India experiencing the REAL India. Great satire of filmmaking, fabulous performance by Naseeruddin Shah, and Naveen Andrews is always excellent and adorable. Nice one in the “bromance” genre, but I guess this would be called the “anti-DCH,” right? I read that it is considered a cult film…I loved it. I think my favorite scene was when Naveen was trying to speak Hindi and act at the same time, the one where the girl was tied up. I also love that this scene makes fun of product placement in films.  A definite recommend.

Jenny K:  Hmmm….I don’t really know how I felt about Bombay Boys. Definitely some funny bits, particularly when Naseeruddin Shah was trying to threaten the boys while stabbing the table. The look on his face…priceless. And you don’t see a thing, that’s what gets me. Who needs graphic violence?  One look, one laugh, he says it all. 

The performances had some very nice moments. I didn’t even wince once at Rahul Bose’s acting. Don’t get me wrong, I love him in films like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, and 15 Park Avenue, but he has been known, on occasion, to shall we say, chew the scenery (can you say Thakshak?? and worse still Everybody Says I’m Fine!!!).

Perhaps it has something to do with the right director, like Aparna Sen. Tara Deshpande who played Dolly had some nice moments, too. It’s almost a shame that she hasn’t acted since 2002. Got married, moved to Boston, it looks like. “Beantown Killed the Bollywood Star” is running in my head. I have to get more sleep.

But even given the good points, I kept feeling that this film was all over the place. I didn’t know what kind of film I was watching. The funny bits were funny, but not as funny as they thought they were. Perhaps I’d just heard and seen all the bad dancing and singing jokes before, and done better. Maybe it was just watching Nasseerji spin on a dime between really inspired bits of humor and very sadistic violence. Rahul’s doing prat falls, but being beaten senseless all the same…while his girlfriend is trying to slit her wrists. Hysterical…? Are we doing comedy or commentary? It’s takes a very delicate balancing act to try to do both at the same time and I don’t think the director, Kaizad Gustad, had it down pat, at least not in 1997. Nice effort, though…But not enough Jaaved Jaffrey!

 [JK’s Note: When we first posted about this movie, (Aug. 31, Dancing, Down Under and the Dons) we were sucked in by Jaaved Jaffrey’s music video “Mumbhai” which we supposed was an item number, or at least a credit-roller in the film…sadly not.  Do go back and check it out.  Very funny. There’s also a link to the whole film on YouTube.]

 

Julie M:  So aside from the music at the end: which character was Javed Jaffery? The film’s lighting was so dim, I could barely recognize anyone. Oh–and I noticed, watching the credits (looking for Javed!) that Zoya Akhtar was listed as the 2nd AD. Nice.

 

Jenny K:  I didn’t see him anywhere in the film, though I did see Vinay Pathak as the Spot Boy who was promoted to the director. He was wonderful as SRK’s hairdresser friend in RNDBJ, and the businessman who didn’t want to be so boring in Aaja Nachle. I read online that it was a surprise hit in India after it was dubbed into Hindi. I wonder if they did the video to pad the length of the film? I read two reviews, one from the UK which quoted a 105 running time and one from an Indian reviewer that said “the two hour film”. What was in the other 15 minutes? Jaaved-Bhai???

A number of blurbs on Youtube and elsewhere swore that Naveen’s voice was dubbed. I know everyone would have been in the Hindi version, but in the English? His voice was really oddly New Yawky, and a bit higher key than you’re used to hearing him use as Sayid on LOST, but I’ve heard him do lots of different accents and I wouldn’t think a US accent would be too hard for him. Check this one out, a bit of the Brit sliding in at the sides, but pretty good. What do you think?

Nice little made-for-cable film, My Own Country. He sings in it, too.  Sorry about the sound quality.

 

Julie M:  Naveen’s Hindi in the English version might have been dubbed. I was wondering about that. But his fake New York accent was all him, I’m sure of it. (not entirely accurate and slipped a bit in spots, but not as bad as Rahul’s Australian accent which was only there in half a dozen scenes, then it vanished completely.)  I thought the balance of comedy (not really comedy, but satire) and comment was very good. But then again, maybe I just don’t know enough about what they were satirizing.

About stars who sing…I only recently learned that Hrithik, Farhan and Abhay were lip-synching to their own voices in ZMND. Abhay’s voice is really good–a little training and he could be a playback singer. (well, not like Sonu Nigam, but still pretty good)

 

Jenny K:  Don’t get all excited about Abhay’s voice…except for that one song, “Senorita,” all the songs in that film were done with playback singers as usual. Primarily Shankhar Madevan, the composer. Abhay was very nervous about singing in the first place. Don’t think he’ll ever do it regularly. Farhan likes to sing, and did practically the whole Rock On! soundtrack himself, whenever he was pictured singing.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I understood that about “Senorita” being the only one in their own voices, but what a treat. Hrithik’s voice was on key but very thin and tentative, and Farhan’s was OK like a normal guy who can sing, but Abhay had the power and tone. If he only gained more confidence…

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw 15 Park Avenue tonight. Wow–absolutely stunning performance by Konkona Sen Sharma and a powerful portrait of the toll that schizophrenia takes on a family.  The end was really freaky and it took me a while to figure out what happened. Here’s my take: she simply wandered off, literally wandered off the street but also wandered mentally into the world that made her happy. I think the bag lady seen at the beginning was a foreshadowing of Konkona’s character’s eventual fate. I liked how desperation to find the character made her sister echo Konkona’s urgency of finding “15 Park Avenue” so that she sounded just as crazy as the schizophrenic one. So sad. 

Here’s the scene where her former fiance (Rahul) runs into her while both are on vacation in Bhutan(the only thing I found completely unbelievable–so deus ex machina!) and starts reminiscing about their relationship:

 

Jenny K:  I like almost everything Aparna Sen directs. She’s Konkona’s mother, and she has a nice touch with actors because she was a very popular actress back in the seventies and the eighties. I went to an event locally, where Konkona was using 15 Park Avenue to promote greater mental health care for NRIs. It seems that it’s considered such a stigma that it’s often neglected. 

Konkona said, if I remember correctly, that her mother left the ending intentionally vague because she wanted the audience to end it the way they wanted it. I wondered, when I saw it, if Shabana Azmi’s character had been so worried about Konkona for so long, and pulled in so many different ways, that when she lost her, she began to go a bit crazy herself and began to imagine that Konkona had found her lost happiness. Doesn’t really matter. In this kind of film, I sort of like a dreamlike ending.

 

Julie M: I was mesmerized. Not so much with Rahul Bose–he was way too low-key and underplaying the emotional tone of the character–but Konkona really shone. Felt he was phoning it in.

 

Jenny K:  I don’t know what it is with Rahul Bose. Either he’s so subtle he’s almost textureless, or his acting is way over the top. There seems to be no in between for him. I liked him in 15, but it really wasn’t his film, wasn’t focused on him. I just watched him in another Aparna Sen film, The Japanese Wife, where he was playing a very shy Bengali school teacher who only lets his emotions out through letters to his Japanese pen pal. A very quiet film. Rather unique, I thought, and sad. Beautiful cinematography.

Almost all of the voice-over of the letters is in English, though the accents were so thick that I needed the subtitles anyway to be sure of what I was hearing. I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but it drew me in. Aparna seems to love drawing portraits of unusual relationships between lonely people. She doesn’t always have them “go anywhere” in the classic storytelling sense, but she takes you inside their lives in such exquisite detail that you feel like you’ve lived with them for a while.

[later]

Julie M:  Check out today’s Daily Chutney from Samosapedia:

The word for today is “DDLJ.” http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=0946bdaaa4aa27dae7d0ecccb&id=6faa213dce&e=c2b1d08c62

I still haven’t seen it. I do want to, but there are so many others to see!

 

Jenny K:  Everything in its time…I like the Samosapedia site, but will never subscribe to DChut because it always pulls me in with the embedded links and click, click, oh…click…it’s twenty minutes later….it’s  IST, only, yaar.  Adjust madi!

August 13, 2011: Mmm, samosas.

Julie M:  Happy Saturday!  Jenny is AFK [away from keyboard] for a good part of the weekend so I thought I’d post to call attention to a resource that I plan to use to increase my enjoyment of the ENGLISH part of Indian films.

Here was our brief conversation earlier this week:

Julie M:  Did you see this article on Indian English and the Samosapedia?
http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2011/08/indian-english

This could clear up a lot of differences between what we see in subtitles and what we hear in the original film dialogue, and would add texture to our enjoyment. Or maybe I’m just a big ol’ language nerd, that I think it’s cool. I signed up for the “Daily Chutney” email from Samosapedia and clicked around in the dictionary for fun. Great way to waste time (as if I didn’t already have enough methods).

Jenny K:  I love that Samosapedia site, it’s darned addictive… Quite an education. Thanks for sending it!

So I flashed on a filmi-English phrase that hear all the time, “Don’t take tension,” the meaning of which I could sort-of infer from context, and looking it up on Samosapedia brings this:   “A phrase typically used to calm anxiety.”   I was right on that.  However, looking up “Roadside Romeo,” which I thought meant someone who loafed on street corners whistling at girls, brought this more specific meaning:  “Slightly tragic Indian male figure hanging outside women’s colleges dressed to impress.”   And “First Class,” which I could assume meant wealthy and impressive, has a bit of a shade of meaning as the absolute tops, best of anything and is typically applied to food, which I hadn’t noticed before. Finally, I’ve been confused why they say “only” constantly, and consulting the Samosapedia reveals that it’s a word used to emphasize whatever the rest of the sentence is saying. The phrase “I am like this only” means “I can’t help it.”  Who knew?

Anyway, I’m going to look at the untranslated English in the films a bit more closely now, and run to Samosapedia to get the “real” translation.

Glossary Post for Those Fab New Phrases

This post is going to be added to more than any in the whole blog.  Hopefully you can access it by the dropdown categories menu.  We’ll try to keep ‘em current (and alphabetical) so we can limit the “WHAT?” aspect of our newer readers.

bakwas or bakvas — nonsense, rubbish.

beta or beti — son or daughter, respectively.

bhaisaab — Term of address for an elder brother.  Bhai, itself being brother, the saab being used almost like “sir”.

bhang — A narcotic drink made of a mixture of milk, almonds, spices, sugar and marijuana.  Proliferates more during certain holiday seasons.

bhangra — A very rhythmic music and a lively style of dancing, heavy on the drums. Example from Bride and Prejudice, here.

chak de phatte (Punjabi) — Used to be a war cry, now heard mostly shouted at the top of their lungs by Sikh guys at the wonderful, wonderful bhangra dances.  It means, literally, “take up the floorboards” but is used more as “let’s bring down the house” or “let’s get the party started”.  Best back up and put in bhangra, now.

chee — Hindi expression of disgust.

deewana — crazy or mad, usually used non-seriously in films. Similar to pagal, but with the sense that the person is crazy because of  love.

desi — Of the homeland, native to India.  So, non-desi is anyone else, aka, us.

dharm/dharma — religion or duty

dhoti — a men’s lower garment made of one seven yard piece of fabric, draped and pleated at the waist and between the legs into a very loose trouser shape.

dishoom — (us. plural) the sound made when a hero’s fist connects with his target or the sound of a bullet firing.  Can be sometimes used for a specific cool, tough attitude.  Amitabh, in Deewaar, has dishoom.

EFD — short for Emotional Family Drama, a genre of Indian film.

Eve-teasers — sort of self-explanatory, but a generic term for boys who whistle at or verbally harass usually helpless girls.  The teasing has a sexual tone, and it may get physical, but that may have it’s own term, and hopefully, I will never know it.

falooda — a cold, sweet beverage popular in South Asia.  Usually made with rose syrup and vermicelli and/or tapioca pearls.

filmi — Sort of self evident, but used mostly as an adjective, for a rather cinematic, overly dramatic attitude, as seen in the most play-acty of the films.

goonda/gunda — hired thug, usually underworld.

gora — white male.

gori — White female.  That be we, whether we like it or not. :-)

hulchul — noise and commotion without much sense.

inquilab zindabad — Hindi, from the Persian, for “Long Live Revolution!”

item number — a song within the film, usually in a nightclub, and often not put in to advance the plot, only to advance the “item girl’s” career.  Sometimes done as a “special appearance” cameo by a known star.  Example SRK in the beginning of Kaal, was the “item boy”, in silver pants, no less.

jadoo — magic

jadugar — magician

jodi — pair or partner, as in a romantic couple.

kahani — story, and so, prem kahani — love story.

ladki — girl, and ladka is boy.  Pronounced more to my ear like “ler-khi”.

lassi — sweet, yogurt based drink.

mela — fair or carnival.

nach — dance, in Hindi.

nafrat — hate

nahi! Nahi!! NAHI!!! — never! Never!! NEVER!!!  or no! No!! NO!!!  In Indian films, everything worth emoting over is best said thrice.  Preferably, with audible thunderclaps.

nautch girl — female performer in a men-only atmosphere, like a nightclub or in days gone by in a brothel or a private manor home.

NRI — Non Resident Indian.  People born in the homeland, but living abroad, and their offspring.

pagal — crazy or mad, usually in a casual, not serious way. Similar to deewana.

paisa vasool — worth the money spent on it.

prem — love (in Hindi), often the hero’s name in a romantic film.

Priyadawanism — personal slang for very very slapsticky, a la the work of directors Priyadarshan and David Dawan.

puja — a worship ceremony.

qawwali — usually an Islamic religious song, or one adapted from this tradition.

rhona-dhona — anguish, tears, gnashing of teeth.  An angsty hulla-balloo.  Can be used like the word melodrama, or fuss.

rudaali — professional mourner

sangeet — the musical evening held a day or so before the actual wedding celebration.

shaadi — a wedding and it’s surrounding celebrations.

tanhayee or tanhaai — loneliness

yaar — colloquial for friend, often used like pal or mate at the end of a phrase.

zamindar — wealthy landowner

That’s all we’ve used for now.  I’m sure we’ll be back very soon.

Best of luck!

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