November 11, 2014: Happy New Year (er, Veteran’s Day)!

So here it is:  the Happy New Year post!  Jenny and Julie both saw this one, and had some very different (and somewhat unpredictable) reactions.

First, the trailer:

Julie’s plot summary:  The action begins in the glitz and glamour of Dubai (city of lights, apparently!), at the World Dance Championships, where the Indian team is mysteriously missing.  Then we zoom backwards in time about six months to a mud-wrestling pit, where, in glorious slo-mo, we watch a buffed and ripped small man and a large, bald and slightly blubbery man whale on each other, until, from the left and right, water comes in to spray the mud off the small man to reveal…Charlie (Shah Rukh Khan), our lead and narrator, and apparently a professional fighter (you can bet that will come in handy later).

Jenny K: Oh, I actually missed the first fifteen minutes, so I missed the mud wrestling scene…that must have been what Kathy was giggling about.  But nothing about Dubai attracted me…the film actually worked on me as an anti-travel plug for the city. Too darn prefabbed and uber-glitzy for me, by half.

Julie M: Out of context in the beginning—yeah, but I didn’t mind it so much later.  Anyway, Charlie has an axe to grind:  his father (Anupam Kher) was framed by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff) for stealing a fortune in diamonds and is imprisoned, and after 8 years the opportunity to avenge him has presented itself. He gathers a handpicked team to pull off the caper of the millennium:  Tammy (Boman Irani), a lisping safecracker, irresistible to the ladies but with an unfortunate side effect of extreme stress; special effects expert Jag (Sonu Sood), who can go ab-to-ab with Charlie but is deaf in one ear and sensitive about his mother; Jag’s nephew Rohan (Vivaan Shah), a painfully shy, teenage hacker extraordinaire; and drunken simpleton Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), who seems to have no redeeming qualities except his physiognomy, which isn’t particularly handsome but is usefully familiar—a dead ringer for Grover’s son (double-role!).

Jenny K:  Oh, is that was Jag’s line of work was…must have missed that, too.  Thought he was just on board as “Ab Competitor” for SRK’s scary new torso.

Happy-New-Year-2014-Shahrukh-Khan-and-Sonu-Sood-300x250

Julie M: Despite their flaws (character and other) the team actually has the skills to pull off the heist, except the most important part: they need to learn how to dance, and fast.  Enter Nandu’s childhood friend Mohini (Deepika Padukone), a high-class bar dancer with a predilection for hearing men speak English, whom they engage to whip the boys into good enough shape to become a contender to represent India at the World Dance Championships in Dubai.

Why is this necessary?  Coincidentally, the contest is being held at the same hotel where the loot is being safeguarded and they need to be contestants to make the plan work.   Through a little hacker magic they end up where they need to be, but they immediately anger the reigning dance champions, the North Korean team (whaaaaa?), not to mention Charan, either of whom has the power to turn Charlie’s well-laid plans to vapor and take our little gang out for good.

Jenny K: I thought that North Korea was chosen, because it’s the only isolated power that isn’t currently in popularity with enough of the world to raise objection.  Who knows…Synopsis behind us, on to the reactions.  I was afraid that you, being the more serious minded of the two Filmi-Goris, would find it tediously frivolous and full of holes, plot-wise. Even I did, somewhat, and spent lots of time distracted as SRK’s blonde streak moved about his hair from scene to scene. Not to say that I found nothing interesting about it, but I could have missed it and not have been at all bereft.

Julie M:  Frivolous and full of holes, sure, but definitely not tedious.  I had a great time!

Jenny K:  SRK looks good, and is in top charming conman mode.  Deepika is lovely and a wonderful dancer, again. Boman is comedy pro, as usual, but I was distracted by the accent he chose, that one that I call the “paan-in-mouth” one. Abhi used it in Bunty aur Babli once or twice, but I don’t like a full movie of it. Jackie Shroff makes a smooth, if underused, villain, and I was glad to see him back. Abhi has the comedic double role that you mentioned, and he pulls it off pretty well, but it was really very slapstick, which, as you know, always leaves me rather cold. Sonu Sood is given the thankless role of comic muscle-bound sidekick, a la early Salman Khan…not much more to say about him than that, I’m afraid. Vivaan Shah was better in 7 Khoon Maaf, but didn’t fall on his face.

Julie M: I liked the way the direction played with Sonu Sood’s abs and the typical Salman Khan “oops, I’ve lost my shirt” bit that always seems to happen in his films.  I always find that the most charming part of a SK film.

Sonu-Sood

Jenny K:  I also didn’t like that they keep trying to mix their genres so much, trying to give all SRK fans what they want from him. You could see all Farah’s influences in there, having Shah Rukh be Tom Cruise in MI 4, Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven and Jackie Chan in multiple films, then putting bits of all of India’s favorite SRK classics in there, too. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with its dance team competition, bits of the Don franchise, touches of the charm and romance of K3G and KKHH, but without Kajol to help pull it off. I just wish Farah had picked a genre and knocked it out of the park, as I know she can, rather than trying to give us thin multiples, none of which really succeed.

Julie M:  I see your point, and checked all the references too, but I read it as parody.  In fact, I found so much parody in the film that may or may not have been intentional, but it was still funny. The comedic bits (the repetition of “the two things you need to know about X”, for example, and the knowing wink about the “intro” numbers for each, including the intro of Abhi’s character which was way too much like the way Ranveer Singh’s characters have been introduced in his last couple of films) varied for me from slightly humorous to fall-on-the-floor laughing, but overall were pretty funny, particularly as the film went on. But Abhi did not handle the comedy as well as we know he can (Bunty aur Babli, Dostana), although it was OK for someone who doesn’t know how good he can be, and the dance numbers, although very glitzy, were uninspired until the very last one.

abhishek bachchan happy new year

Jenny K: Actually, you reminded me about that “two things” bit….I thought it sounded familiar to me at the time, what with BigB doing a lot of the intoning, and I think I’ve tracked it down to these quotes from Bunty aur Babli, that they are saluting in the HNY film. “There are two types of people in this world…”  I’d have to see the movie again to be sure, but I’d bet that they were very close to that pattern.

Julie M:  I bet you’re right—but to introduce the characters, it’s very effective.  We learned to expect hilarious character flaws. With all the setup, the possibilities for comedy are endless, and pretty much all of them are employed.  Gravity-defying and farce-filled fight scenes?  Check.  Fart jokes?  Check.  Pratfalls?  Check.  Awkward dance moves?  Definitely check. (Look for a brief but enthralling flash of Prabhu Deva as one of the dance teachers who give up on them before they find Mohini.)  In lesser hands this could have been wince-inducing, but I think Farah Khan excels at directing zany comedies filled with varying levels of parody and multiple winks at Bollywood (and SRK in particular) tropes old and new.  The result, I found, was hilarious.  I left the theater feeling happy and entertained and satisfied…for about three hours, until all the plot holes came home to roost and I started to realize that although there was a lot to like, and ultimately yes, I did like it, there were some issues as well.

Why bring Jag into the gang when there are absolutely no special effects aspects (aside from some really bad disguises) to the plan?  How can Mohini—admittedly poor and desperate for the money her bar dancing gig gives her—take 6 months off to train a bunch of losers, even if one of them has great abs and speaks fluent English?  Charan is clearly a smart, suave guy: how could he overlook the ONE detail that allows a plan like Charlie’s to work?  And why, oh why, is the music, peppy as it is, so freaking DERIVATIVE?

The key to enjoying a film like this, clearly, is not to think too hard about it. Leave your brain at the door and grab the popcorn.

August 25, 2011: Martyrs and Heroes and Villains! Oh My!

Julie M:  Found Raavan free online at YouTube, English subtitles. Watched the first hour+ (parts 1-7; 5 is missing). Beautifully set and shot, rich colors, plot promising (outlaw bandit kidnaps police chief’s wife in revenge for death of bandit’s sister). LittleB is not convincingly psychotic, though he is good at glowering and being intense. (that’s pretty much all he does, and snarl) Aish is pretty, dances well (she plays a dance teacher), but as the kidnap victim is so far called upon only to alternately sob, look defiant and screech. A little chemistry between them but not much. (I expect her to succumb to Stockholm Syndrome any moment, maybe there will be better chemistry later) Action unfolds in fits and starts, relying on a lot of confusing flashbacks. Everyone is wet and muddy. Despite it being a Ratnam/Rahman film, it’s fairly boring. I think I’ll stop watching–I’m not caring much how it turns out. Pretty, but draggy.

Jenny K:   If you wanted to give it another chance, I’d suggest that you watch the Tamil version, called Villain, which was filmed simultaneously, but switched Veeras…Abhishek, who I agree was the weak link in the Hindi production (sorry to say) was replaced by South Indian star, Vikram, who played Aishwarya’s husband in the Hindi version.  I haven’t seen it yet, but all reports say that he was a much stronger presence in the role.

I thought Aishwarya’s performance in Raavan was rather better than her usual performances opposite her hubby….they just have no screen chemistry, at all, do they? I’ll be interested to see how it is opposite Vikram in Villain. She’s hardly ever onscreen with him in the Hindi version, as she’s kidnapped right from the start. Her character’s choices toward the end of this film, are close to unpalatable, as the script is following a piece of mythology where Sita has to prove her purity to her husband…”noble long-suffering wife” may be something to strive for, as long as it doesn’t cross into dishrag status. I also really remember liking Govinda’s Hanuman-styled performance with all that tree climbing, etc. Again, he was excellent.  He’s certainly surprising me with his film choices as he gets older!

[later that day…]

Julie M:  Watched Ishqiya from your box. Good drama/thriller. I am continually impressed with Vidya Balan. Liked the Arshad/Naseerji “frenemy” vibe. I don’t yet know which was my favorite scene…probably the one where they learn that Verma is alive and realize how screwed they really are. Even though it was gangster-related, it had a lot of heart and interest.

I liked this song and the NS character dreaming of love with Vidya’s character:

This one was cute too, even though it was over the opening credits.  Basically they are on the lam and trying to find a place to hide, and nobody will help them (probably because they wore out their welcome long ago), and decide to go to Verma’s house.

Jenny K:  It was an interesting film, of course, with Naseerji and Arshad together in the same film.  Both gave very strong performances. And I agree, Vidya gets better and better with each film. Parineeta with Saif was her first film, and she was lovely from the get-go. She seems to have a knack for getting attached to prestige projects. Smart girl.

One of her next films is called The Dirty Picture, about a South Indian movie star and her affair with an older director (played by Nasseerji, again…this time without Arshad for competition…though Emraan Hashmi, this generation’s kissing bandit is listed as a co-star….booo!). It should be coming out around Christmas, and looks like it might be interesting.

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Podokkhep (Footsteps, Bengali film) this afternoon, another library choice.  A bit slow, but interesting. The DVD box said the movie was about how the very young and the very old have similar problems, but I didn’t really see that in this movie. I saw it as a film about the generation gap between 20-somethings and their parents, and expectations. The Nandita Das character was very frustrated that she couldn’t get away from her dad because of his declining health, and seemed upset that she even wanted to, because of honoring the elders. I couldn’t really figure out the neighbors’ relationship (I got that they moved back to India because he lost his job in the US; ironic). And was Maashi the housekeeper? At first I thought she was the mother, but then I understood that the mother had passed away from a car accident due to dad’s growing confusion. Overall pretty good, not among the best I’ve seen though.

Jenny K:  I saw Podokkhep at a film festival, don’t remember which one, and liked it as a quiet relationship piece, exploring the relationships between different age groups. The old man playing Nandita’s father, Soumitra Chatterjee,  has a wonderful onscreen relationship with his next door neighbor’s little girl. It seemed to me as if he was taking the time to know this little one as he had never had the chance to know his daughter (Nandita) when she was growing up, due to work, etc. Sad, occasionally, and touching, often. Also, short.

 [the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Gangaajal from my weekly library haul and really liked it. There were a few flaws–for example, Ajay’s completely inept fistfighting and the random item number–but overall a strong and well-done “statement” movie, which as you know I am drawn to.

Jenny K:  I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I hated this movie, particularly because of the things the scriptwriters had Ajay do toward the end of the film. It had nothing to do with Ajay’s acting, which was fine…and I chose the film because I like him, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Julie M:  I can see where you wouldn’t like the ending, you who generally like your favorite actors to stay true to the characters that made them stars, but I think it shows the Amit character as only human. And the subtitles were singularly unhelpful in the voice-over epilogue where the fate of the case is disclosed. I wish I knew more Hindi so I could figure it out: “Amit Kumar stuck to his story” (or the same thing in different words) but I’m not sure exactly what his story was. Did he continue the values he disclosed in his grand speech and admit to killing the two? In which case what happened to him? Or did he let the villagers cover for him? Or is it supposed to be ambiguous?

The other thing I didn’t understand is why he was transferred to Tejpur in the first place by the corrupt state (?) police chief. Did he expect that the gangsters would slice him to bits and therefore he would be rid of the do-gooder? Or did he expect him to succumb to the atmosphere and become corrupt as well?

But overall I thought it was fantastic. Great (and probably very accurate and daring in its accuracy) portrayal of the situation “on the ground” vis a vis police corruption and gangland terrorism in India, sparing no violence (ew) and even giving a picture of what the “good guys” would do if they overcame their fear and let their hatred drive them, including the police and the main character himself. Ajay acted well and looked darn fine (no cop ever has had so well-fitting a uniform!). Put me down as a fan of this film.

Jenny K: When I saw it the first time I was really annoyed by our supposedly squeaky clean cop letting himself get corrupted by the guys he was trying to catch. Throwing battery acid on them…nice!  He had been so clean, that he couldn’t be controlled by the usual bribes, etc. that his superiors stuck him in the sticks to get him out of the way, at least that’s how I remember it…or is it just the plot of Hot Fuzz getting in there…hmmm.

And, BTW, it’s not that I “like my favorite actors to stay true to the characters that made them stars,” not at all. I appreciate variety in performances, especially when they’re good at it.  Ajay in particular.  I love his villains even more than his heroes, and especially adore it when he can do both at the same time like in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke.  He’s practically perfected the smouldering, conflicted conman/hero. 

I just feel that unless they are telling a historical tale (which ends the way it ended in life) filmmakers have a responsibility to weigh the lessons that they are putting out there for public consumption.  Whether or not they like it, their heroes and heroines are role models, and they should consider, very carefully, what effect they have.

Julie M:  I don’t think he actually threw battery acid himself. He took the battery AWAY from townspeople who were going to throw the acid, and cheering each other on, and threw it into the crowd on the ground instead, to shock people into listening to him. Then he made the big speech. And at the end, he was chasing the bad guys and they kind of impaled themselves in the face, skewering their eyes anyway. He just beat bad guys up in the 2nd half of the movie, and said nothing when the townspeople (and his officers) attacked the bad guys, kind of an “end justifies the means” thing. Until he decided that that wouldn’t fly anymore.

Jenny K:  So I watched the last ten minutes again (all I could handle) and I couldn’t believe how much gratuitous violence was in such a small space! [spoilers] I watched from the girl committing harakiri (now an international favorite) through his beating them up in the water scene with the crowd watching, and on into his noble-sounding speech about not taking justice into your own hands…just to see that the director was going to give his audience what they wanted…an excuse to kill the villains (“They threatened an innocent woman, I had to beat them to death!”) without officially getting his hands dirty…all with a completely white cardigan.  Well, he is the hero.  Right.  Judge for yourselves.

I guess you’ll have to do for the Gangajaal fan club at Filmigoris. Unless Ajay, himself, cared to try to convince me. I’d be open to that.

[couple of days later]

Julie M:  Saw 7 Khoon Maaf, last movie from my weekend batch, with B this evening. It was OK, actually good in some spots but not all. First time I’ve seen Priyanka actually try some real acting, and she sort-of succeeded in the scenes where she was going quietly mad. Story was moderately interesting, but got repetitive as you waited for how each husband was going to be bumped off. And I liked the misdirection at the beginning, and the surprise 7th husband (dancing with Jesus?! chee!!).

But it was clear to me from the start that she was very involved with all of the deaths, pulling them off with the assistance of her loyal employees, and then after she tried to kill herself not even caring abut trying to hide it, so the “explanation” was not news to me.  And there was not enough Konkona Sen Sharma, who is the much better actress and one who could have pulled the role off with much more skill and success. But I guess they needed someone young and lovely in the fair-skin big-eyes way, hence the choice of Priyanka.  Overall…2.5-3 stars (of five), mostly due to the beauty of the filming.  Certainly not the songs.

Jenny K:  That one was the most enjoyable of your library haul,  in my view. Priyanka did a nice job doing a more nuanced character than normal and kept you guessing as to the amount of her involvement in the questionable proceedings. I watched it for Nasserji, but his part was late and rather small. Priyanka’s young friend in the film is NS’s younger son, and he does a nice job, even if he doesn’t have dad’s charm, at least not yet. It’s unusual having a woman’s role being the central focus of an Indian mainstream film. The men are just incidental.

Julie M:  I was confused about the timeline: if the kid was about 10 or 12 when the story starts, and is about 35 when the story ends, that means about 25 years passed. If Susanna was, say, 18 when the story started (because the narrative said that she wasn’t yet an adult when her dad died, and the first marriage seemed to be very shortly after that), then she was about 43 when she married Naseeruddin Shah. But how can that be? She wasn’t married to any of her husbands all that long–a few years at most and one of them seemed to be only days, and there was no indication of how much time had passed between husbands–even at an average of 3 years per husband that means only 18 years had passed. She looked WAY older than that, or was made to look way older. And what was that about her skin getting darker as she got older? And at the end, when she was supposed to be “old”, she actually looked younger but with the silver wig.

Jenny K:  You just have to give up on logical time lines in this kind of film. They seem to use what I call (BSOC) Basic Soap Opera Chronology where either kids grow up very quickly, or their lovely moms (and dads) refuse to age. So there can be twice or thrice as many optimal romantic couples. In soaps, even inter-generational couples…but that probably won’t happen in Indian films, until, say next month, at the earliest. As soon as I say “never,” that’s  just when they’ll do it.  Sigh.

Oddly, I wasn’t sure she was telling the servants to knock off her husbands, at least not the early ones…I thought that they just did it for her, seeing she was so unhappy. After a few, however, maybe she did see it as a handy way out,  but I do think the film makers left it open enough to make either interpretation viable. IMO The skin darkening thing was an optical illusion brought on by the light wig and, as I recall, her light colored shirt.  And you’re right; she was the most youthful senior citizen I’d ever seen. At one point I remember wondering if she was wearing a wig, as a character, trying to lure older rich men into her toils…then I found out it was God. Boy, she sets her sights high, doesn’t she?

The “Darling” song was very catchy, and I was singing it (or humming it, to be precise) for days afterwards. It’s adapted from a famous Russian tune, “Kalinka”.  A friend, who grew up in Russia, told me that Bollywood is a big favorite there. I’m assuming that this number was directly for the fans there. I wonder how many other Moscow-aimed item numbers there are?

The history of the Kalinka number is below, in the Youtube description, if that sort of thing interests you. 

  • Categories

  • Blog Stats

    • 56,016 visits
  • July 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jan    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 22 other followers