Part 7: The Alpha Males — Aamir, Ajay & Amitabh

Julie M:   Videos from the library: Ghajini, Deewaar and Jodi Ek Din (Life is Magic).

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…not seen any of those, except Deewaar, I think, with Amitabh, right? It’s a bit of a long one, but is pretty famous. Have your sunglasses nearby, as Indian fashion of the seventies is usually very, very BRIGHT! Ghajini is the one Aamir movie that I hadn’t seen because it’s a copy of Memento which I loved, plus a “how the romance started” backstory in the first act. It’s a Hindi remake of a South Indian megahit. Let me know how you liked it and maybe I’ll break down and see it. And IMDb tells me that Jodi Ek Din is a Bengali musical…Bengali films are usually too serious for musical numbers…let me know how it is. No one I know in it.

Julie M:  Deewaar was pretty good. BigB was HOT. His long legs are just made for the 1970s pants style, and he was very dark and brooding. His hair was amazing. Best looking mobster I’ve ever seen in film. The story was pretty interesting, but as usual they overplayed the dramatic aspects and I had to fast-forward through the very last scene between Vijay (the AB character) and his mother. And the end, which was a recap of the beginning (the entire movie was a flashback…I hate that), proceeded too quickly. I kind of wanted a resolution scene. The fashions and makeup were hilarious.

Jodi Ek Din was merely OK. The musical numbers were there basically to expound upon the love between the two main characters and there weren’t many of them. They seemed a bit out of place. I think it was supposed to be at the arty end of popular film, kind of along the lines of Sliding Doors. In fact, the film was kind of a mix between Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day–the plot was, if you get a do-over in your life, what would you do differently and how would it turn out in the end? But not a comedy. It was like magic realism in novels. And a predictable ending. But worth seeing. Warning–the subtitles are original to the movie, not added for the DVD, and so they are not on the letterboxed black bar at the bottom. A lot of the subtitles are white-on-white and very difficult to read.

I liked Memento too, and was wary about Ghajini, but what the heck.

 

Jenny K:  Nice profiles…I may look for it. I will be really interested in your take on Ghajini, considering you like Memento, you’ll be a good judge. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to not like his performance/choice of roles, if you know what I mean. He was my favorite for quite a while.

 

Julie M:  OK–Ghajini. First, it was only barely like Memento in that they used the whole 15-minute-memory thing and the tattooed body/mnemonic devices (and scary body-builder physique and shaved, scarred head) pretty much for shock value, and also, it seems, to capitalize on a very interesting idea first brought out in Western film. Most of the movie was either flashback-backstory of the meet-cute and romance between Sanjay (the AK character) and his lady love and how it was interrupted, treated in typical Bollywood style complete with random musical numbers, and horrible, detailed revenge violence. Really quite violent, in fact.

In Memento, the entire movie was how the character continually and slowly put together what had happened and what to do about it. Very psychological. In Ghajini, it was more about the dramatic contrast between his happy former life and his current obsession for revenge. The memory loss thing was just treated as a casual gimmick and a strong visual to underscore his change.

Action sequences were violent and silly at the same time (lots of sped-up action and goofy sound effects). Lots of agony and highly realistic blood–too much, in fact. It’s like the filmmakers couldn’t decide whether they were making a romance, an action-drama or a thriller and made an hour of each, smooshed into one movie.

Bottom line–watching Ghajini will not tarnish your feelings about Memento, just like watching Chori Chori Chupke Chupke will not tarnish your feelings about Pretty Woman, because the parts swiped (excuse me, BORROWED) from Western movies are not overly germane to the story. In fact, if you had not seen Memento, you would be very confused about the Memento-like elements in Ghajini because they are not explained very well–they just ARE.

Aamir was excellent in it. Really, his acting just gets better and better. Performance was spectacular, although he looked a bit uncomfortable in the romance part, almost like he didn’t want to have to do that aspect of the movie.

Overall I would say you should see it.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ll just look into that…I actually hated having to not buy one of his films, I think I have the complete collection of everything he’s done that has subtitles (and even one that doesn’t Chale Chalo: Madness in the Desert, a Making of Laagan documentary couldn’t be resisted, though I can only watch it on my one DVD player that handles all regions, and that even when the actors interviewed are responding in English, they are dubbed back into Hindi….dad ratted #@%$).

Aamir has a rep for being the more serious actor in the contest of the Khans. Definitely look for Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai Diaries when it comes out on DVD (it’s still making the rounds of festivals right now, I think and is on Netflix download) that his wife directed and he produced and starred in it. Nice quiet performance. And also get Deepa Mehta’s film Earth sometime, it’s part of a trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, all very controversial in India, not much music, dealing with heavy issues for India, the violence of Partition, lesbianism, and the treatment of widows. They are all very effective, but Aamir really acts his socks off in Earth.

I have been debating about when to start sending a few of the heavier films along with the fun fluff. Let me know. And thanks again for the time you took with the Ghajini review. It helped.

 

Julie M:  I’ll take heavier films anytime. B likes those better than the fluffy fun ones and will watch them with me. He liked Ghajini but we had to fast-forward through the interminable scenes of really senseless violence, and ALL the musical numbers. (the only drawback to watching Bollywood movies with my hubby)  Oh–and the telling scene about Ghajini was [spoilers] that it opened with Aamir killing someone. Right up front you know there is a ton of violence. [end of spoilers]

Jenny K:  hmm…maybe I’ll regret just ordering it.

 

Julie M:  You won’t regret it. But just so you know.

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Your package arrived yesterday–thanks!!! Omkara!!

 

Jenny K: When you watch Omkara, don’t let B fast forward through the songs…the music is to die for! The director used to be a music director and is really good at it.

 

Julie M:  I’ll simply watch it without him!!

[later that day…]

Julie M:  So we watched Omkara tonight. REALLY good. Saif Ali Khan was great (and buffed up). I’m not an Othello fan but the adaption was great.

Jenny K:  Thought you’d like it 🙂 what with Saif and all. He’s really much better for me as a villain or some sort of negative character than your basic leading man. Omkara himself was Ajay Devgan, Kajol’s husband. And aside from her singing in English, which was rather weak, wasn’t Kareena much better in this one as Dolly? Also, Konkona was pretty fierce as Saif’s wife. Much stronger a presence than she was in Luck By Chance. I always keep this sound track in my car player. Fabulous.

 

Julie M:  I agree about Konkona, and the music. Both fantastic. I found Kareena marginally better than she usually is but I never really thought the Desdemona (Dolly) character deserved all the fuss that was made about her in the play anyway, so I don’t have much sympathy for actresses who play her. Saif…yum. And this was my first introduction to Viveik Oberoi, who didn’t seem to get much of a chance to show acting chops in this movie as the hapless victim Kesu (Cassio)–anything else he was in that I might like?

I was a little confused in the beginning as to who was who–as I said, Othello is not one of my fave Shakespeare plays so I am not as familiar with it–but eventually it got sorted out and then I went back to re-view the beginning. There was also much more of what I would consider rural/traditional Indian culture and mores that would have made the film more dimensional had I understood it. I might have to research and then view it again before I return it to you.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…Viveik. Lessee…he’s a cutie, and can really dance if you give him the chance, but hasn’t been too successful. Avoid Kisna, very long, very scenic, but very bland. That’s the only one I’d say really had him trying to carry a film by himself. He works a lot with Ajay and they seem to bring good things out of each other. First, they did Company together which is one of the few Indian mafia films that I found very engrossing. It was Viveik’s debut and he really played kind of a wild animal of a young hoodlum. Impressive. I think I have it if you can’t find it at the library.

Secondly, they worked together in Mani Ratnam’s film Yuva. Mani Sir directed Dil Se. Yuva has Kareena in it, too, but, as I said before, that and Omkara, Dev and Chameli are her best serious acting to date. I definitely have Yuva. This one has a Rahman score, too. If you liked Omkara, I might send you the director’s version of MacBeth, too [Maqbool], though I don’t think it’s quite as effective as a Shakespeare adaptation.   Strong performances, though, all around.

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the tip on using the computer to watch Main Hoon Na. [JK Note: Some international films, though rated Region 0, still give some dvd players fits.  Often running through the computer to your screen, if you have the appropriate tv hook-ups, will take care of it.] Saw it this evening. There were some very silly parts (why is college always portrayed so goofily in these films?!) and the usual melodrama, but it was sufficiently curtailed. The action scenes were kind of funny in spots. One scene had SRK moving in slow motion while the terrorist dude was moving in regular motion! ridiculous. But Zayed Khan is a cutie.

 

Jenny K:  Some of the behind the scenes stuff from MHN was fun, too…I remember the big fight scene was supposed to be a tongue in cheek homage to John Woo films, so they decided to have slow motion doves in flight, but when they threw them in front of the camera, each time they just plummeted like rocks and didn’t fly. Like city pigeons…flying feathered rocks that they are.

Didn’t you love Sushmita with SRK? I particularly loved when he fell in love he broke into off-key song, and then later went into that colorful video. The director, Farah Khan, is first and foremost a choreographer, and she does such wonderful things with the songs. I liked the young girl, Amrita Rao, too…though her bust kept getting bigger and smaller and bigger again with her padding in the various numbers.

 

Julie M:  Yep–SRK was cute in his head-over-heels schoolboy infatuation scenes. I’ll watch the 2nd DVD of MHN this evening, I think.

Part 6: A Whole Lot of Roshan Goin’ On

Julie M:  Saw Swades [Note: pronounced Swa-desh, from the Sanskrit for “one’s own country.“] this evening. Reminded me of those indie movies of the 1980s where a stuffy Englishman falls in love with a Scottish village, who adopts him. B watched it with me and he actually stayed through most of it.  Next up: Kites, then the historical romance Jodhaa Akhbar.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, stock up on the caffeine for Jodhaa Akhbar….I fell asleep about twenty minutes in, during a battle scene with elephants, no less. Yes, Hrithik looks fetching, but I don’t think the director, Ashotosh Gowariker, who did Swades, knows how to pace an actual armies in your face action film.  He’s wonderful at heartfelt, earnest stories though.  I usually like his films.

 

Julie M:  Duly noted.  Kites was OK. Lots of good shots of Hrithik with shirt off, totally buff, but not enough dancing. REALLY not enough dancing.

 

Jenny K: Exactly what I thought when I saw it. very astute, my novice 🙂 I also didn’t really like his beard. And when, may I ask, did he wear this ensemble in the film, which came up when I did a search for the movie on Google…

 

Julie M:  That is so funny!!! I also thought it was hilarious that he was in Las Vegas, an Indian, and everyone he interacted with was Indian or spoke fluent Hindi. That’s some weird alternative Vegas.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, and when in Georgia or Alabama or wherever in the apocryphal deep south Mama Jenny was supposed to be living, everyone knew and could sing along with the lyrics to that old Hindi Classic, “We Shall Overcome”! You just gotta get used to it…

 

Julie M: So more this weekend…we adopted kittens and I was hanging around the house watching them anyway…saw ALL (whew) of Jodhaa Akbar, plus Fanaa. Liked the first, loved the second.

Jodhaa Akbar was very long and the political intrigue stuff was not handled very well–way too drawn out for what it was–yet it was so beautiful that I excused all that. HR only used maybe 3 facial expressions (regal, bemused and nose-flaringly angry), and he didn’t dance, but I did get to see him move in the fight scenes and that was a treat. Aish was mainly decorative except for a couple of scenes where she played feisty…she’s done better. The screen chemistry from Dhoom 2 just wasn’t there, but it felt like an old-time Hollywood epic like Cleopatra.

Fanaa was great in all ways. Predictable at first, until it wasn’t, and then after the intermission it was like it turned into a different, and better, movie. Mark me down as a complete Kajol fan.

Jenny K:   She has that certain something, doesn’t she? Oddly, she doesn’t have the same screen chemistry with her husband, Ajay Devgan, that she does with SRK.  And it’s even better with Aamir in Fanaa. Aamir is much edgier, and therefore much sexier with her, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ajay (crazy dangerous eyes) but the only two movies I liked their chemistry in were Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha which is a direct copy of French Kiss.

Strange, the whole movie is on Youtube right now, in it’s entirety, in HD, but without subtitles. This is a clip of the tone of the film when the two of them visit Ajay’s family and village.  Sweet slapstick.

There’s a lot of that going on in Indian film, but aside from a really awful song and dance on the plane which I advise you to scurry through on fast forward…I like this French Kiss better than the original. Now how often can you say that?!?  In this case, the film benefits from a longer format,  where it can better explain why they fall in love than the Kline/Ryan film can in it’s hour and three quarter running time. The second film they “click” in is one Ajay directed called U Me Aur Hum, which isn’t really a comedy and she acts brilliantly, maybe better than he does, but he catches up in the second, sadder, half.

[a few days on]

Julie M: Is it worth seeing Salaam-e-Ishq? I get that it’s kind of like Love Actually, which was not a universal success with me. I liked a couple of the stories but by no means all.

 

Jenny K:   I did see it when it came out in the theaters about four years ago, mainly because of my yen for Akshaye Khanna cancelled out my general apathy toward Salman Khan. Oddly enough, I found that the only story that I truly enjoyed out of the six love stories that they told, centered on a lonely cabbie and his white girl passenger, starring Govinda, who I would have sworn on a stack of bibles couldn’t generate a non-over-the-top performance. I was wrong. He was completely sweet and endearing. All the other stories were sort of forgettable, even my boy Akshaye.  Never bothered to buy it. Don’t worry about it being a direct copy of Love Actually, just the format. I didn’t like the original much either..

[a few days later]

Julie M: Saw Krrish tonight. What a weird amalgam of genres! Was I watching a martial arts movie? A Bollywood romance? a family drama? I liked watching HR move (a LOT), but the story was kinda dumb and it was not a superhero movie in the sense we are familiar with. and WOW–resurrection story too. But I liked the callback to KMG at the end–sweet. Overall–eh. I hear there is a Krrish 2 in the works.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, there’s always a “2” now…especially with SRK doing his superhero movie now called Ra.One which is spelled like that because then it sounds like Raavan, a Hindu demigod of the negative variety. Not sure why he wants his hero to be a villain…and I’m not sure I like the CGI, which they are trying to develop now. I think his animated character has no real weight…sorta bouncy. I had that same problem with trailers for The Hulk. One of the reasons I wouldn’t see it.

As to the “weird amalgam”…that’s the nature of masala films, I’m afraid. Though I will grant that Krrish is a bit weirder a mix than most. The producers are aiming for as large an audience as they can get and so put in something for everyone so they get their paisa vasool, or their “money’s worth”. Going to a movie is sort of a holiday outing in India, you take the whole family from grannies to babies and everyone enjoys the AC and the film and wanders about for the whole three hours. After you get used to it, I find I miss that “film for all” element in the more modern western-style films. Too many semi-dressed babes, too much crime, no family stuff. And the new ones are just under two hours….pshaw! Not enough time to develop characters you care about!

 

Julie M:  Well, the American way is to get you interested in the characters and cut them off before you’ve gotten your fill, leaving the door open for a sequel or three. Gotta bring in the $.

Part 5: Names, Hurricanes and Kisses in the Rain

Julie M:  Did you see this? Is Chandramukhi worth seeing?

Jenny K: Rajnikanth is a specific taste. I’ve only seen one of his films, because, as I said before, it’s hard (and expensive) to find Tamil films that have English subtitles. I did pick up one from the 90’s called Muthu, because it was on sale and it said “AR Rahman score” which always sells me and…gosh darned if I didn’t like it in a weird kinda way. WAY over the top, but so silly it works. He’s pretty magnetic in his own uber-cheesy way. He’s also one of the two or three, what I call “kissing bandits”, of Indian film…until very recently it was very odd to see a kiss onscreen in these films, except Rajni and Aamir Khan, who can get away with it in their films. I don’t know about Chandramukhi, but the Robot movie with Aishwarya scared me enough from the reviews that I didn’t go see it. I did think once or twice of going to see Shivaji because it was SUCH a big hit, but still haven’t gotten a copy yet. If you want me to send you Muthu in one of your packages, let me know. You are warned that you might just hate it 🙂

 

Julie M:  Well, there was that super-hot Hrithik/Aish kiss in Dhoom 2… steamy!  Sure, send me Muthu. I like cheesy sometimes. And I love AR Rahman music.

 

Jenny K:  Yeh, but before about five years ago, the kiss was the exception, not the rule…all “sex” scenes were wet sari scenes, singing in waterfalls, etc. Lip kisses were so rare that they got really hot very fast, to the Indian viewer. They really don’t do PDAs culturally.

Here’s Aamir’s most infamous kiss with Kareena’s older sister, Karishma Kapoor, from about fifteen years ago. Raja Hindustani. Sorry no subtitles. Quick synopsis to put it in context. Raja is a poor cab driver in the country. Aarti is a rich girl who’s run away from home, I think to avoid marriage plans and/or an evil stepmother. She’s come back to her mother’s village in the countryside to sort of “find her roots”. Raja volunteers to be her tour guide. They shelter under a tree during a storm. He’s conscious of their class difference and pulls back into the rain. She says “don’t be stupid, come back under here” He comes a bit closer but then the lightning sends her skittering into his arms. Set up a minute long make-out montage. Scandalous. 🙂 Then when their heads clear with the storm, he’s appalled at the liberties he’s taken with her and pulls back with a shocked look on his face (stupid man) and she reads this as disapproval “oh my god, he must think I’m loose!” and runs from him…yet she can’t forget his lips…and those crazy big ears, too, I’ll bet…. Enjoy!

Julie M:  Wow. Now I know why in every Bollywood movie there’s a “wet” scene–rain, river, pool, etc. No exceptions. B and I were making fun of it but it makes sense now.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Dil Chahta Hai tonight. Thanks for sending. It was really weird to see a movie with three very manly men agonizing about love, but I liked it. Too melodramatic with the whole Shalini-Rohit-Akash triangle but it ended well. And I’m a Saif Ali Khan fan.

Why is there a character named Rohit in every movie? Is there a particular set of character traits associated with the name?

 

Jenny K:  Have no clue…SRK is Rahul in practically every third movie and Salman Khan seems to gravitate toward Prem (“love” in Hindi) quite frequently.

 

Julie M:   I also noticed that the surname “Malhotra” came up frequently, but I looked it up and got an answer as to why, so I’m satisfied.

 

Jenny K:  What answer did you find? I’d be interested to know.

 

Julie M:  In the Punjab, there are a few clans/surnames that indicate the princely group of the Khatri (warrior) tribe. Malhotra is one of them. The other surnames from the same order are Khanna, Seth/Sethi, and Kapur/Kapoor. They were all supposed to only marry each other, traditionally.  So if you notice, everyone you see named Malhotra in Indian movies is typically very rich, very powerful or both. And I bet if they’re not, it’s a major plot element.

 

Jenny K:  Ah, that makes sense…thanks for the insight!

 

Julie M:  Just glad that I can teach YOU something!

[a few days further on]

Julie M:  Just wanted to tell you that I saw My Name is Khan today. Dude, what a weeper. Great performance from SRK–has redeemed himself in my eyes from the acting disaster that was Devdas–and fabulous chemistry between SRK and Kajol. Good story, good scenes, drama without melodrama, and nothing too drawn-out.

Kites is waiting for me at the library but I won’t pick it up until later in the week.

I also bought a lot of Bollywood music from iTunes in the last week or so.

 

Jenny K:  You’re well on your way to becoming a true BollyAddict. I think it’s time to introduce you to BollyWhat.com. If you have questions about anything you see “why are those women holding sieves up to the moon?” etc. This website probably has it. Also, if the main indexes don’t answer the question, just post it on the Masala page of the Forum and someone will have answered it in under an hour, usually. Very knowledgeable bunch of both Indian and non-Indian Bollywood film fans. It’s how I started, and you can probably find likely addicts in your neighborhood to start your film sharing with.

By the way…didn’t you think My Name is Khan would have been better without the last say, forty-five minutes? I hated the whole bit with them moving the Hurricane Katrina bit to, where was it, Georgia?… or was it just that the most stereotyped character in the show was named Mama Jenny?   🙂 BTW have you seen SRK and Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? I think you have. They are better together in that than in K3G, and perhaps even than their first film together, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ for short. This film has many weaknesses, the first quarter is too slapsticky for me, but when the two begin to fall in love, and he stops behaving like an idiot, they can’t be matched for sheer chemistry.

Lots of Shah Rukh’s early movies fall into the slapstick clueless lover style, and many have identical twin plots (Indian audiences tend to love them for some reason) but for the four minute silly video of the day, I send you evidence that SRK has watched TOO MANY Jerry Lewis films! From Yes Boss with Juhi Chawla as the object of his desire. I think she’s a darling.

I forgot to recommend Main Hoon Na, another SRK movie that was very tongue in cheek, but pretty funny and charming. Co-star Sushmita Sen, who is sort of an Indian Kirstie Alley, back in the skinny days…a funny bombshell. Your library might have it.

 

Julie M:  My library lists Main Hoon Na but won’t let me reserve it–I think their copy is lost. Another one for purchase when I get the money…as well as KKHH which my library does NOT have and I am DYING to see.

I didn’t mind the last 45 minutes of MNIK, the whole hurricane thing. I did mind Mama Jenny–but I excused it because it’s an Indian film and they might not understand the nuances of the acceptability of writing very large Southern black women into film. But I kept wondering whether I was watching Borat or Forrest Gump. Those seemed definitely to be influences.

Also–thanks for the pointer to BollyWHAT–fun site!

PS. I got a bunch from the library yesterday. Saw Jab We Met last night. Cute and predictable, two good dance numbers. Man, that Shahid Kapur is adorable. And Kareena Kapoor is annoying.

 

Jenny K:  I thought that about Kareena too….especially in K3G and one called Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. Avoid at all costs! But to give her some credits, my favorite movies with her in it are Chameli, where she plays a streetwalker (was very shocking to her fans) and one called Dev with BigB and Fardeen Khan who I don’t usually like but in this film he’s fine, also Omkara where she plays the Desdemona character, and Yuva which she’s very unaffected opposite Viveik Oberoi. Don’t rule her out completely until you’ve seen these four 🙂 And Shahid, though cute, does the same thing over and over, in the past. In his newer ones, like Kaminey, he’s showing a bit more of his father’s bloodlines.  Pankaj Kapur is a fantastic actor, and almost disappears in every film he’s in.

Of the young crop, I prefer Farhan Akhtar in Rock On! and also in Luck By Chance, which you’ve seen, and I find him very easy on the eyes…sort of an Indian JFK Jr.  He’s a wonderful director, too. In Rock On! he sings his own stuff, too…imagine that! [ Note: In Indian film, few, if any of the musical numbers are sung by the actors that they are picturized on.  The soundtracks are finalized well before the films are even shot, in most cases.  Farhan and Amitabh, are the only ones that do their own playback singing on a semi-regular basis.]

Part 4: The Pan-Genre Week — RomCom, Sci-fi and Lots of Aamir

Jenny K:  It’s my day off and I’m going to finally mail the DVD’s today. Sorry for the delay. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is definitely the lighter and fluffier of the two. Though I like both films, Lagaan stays with me longer,  I’d watch KKHH first, as it would suffer coming after, I think. The music in KKHH is cute but not, definitely not, Rahman. The first half, just think of as a Archie, Veronica and Betty style high school musical…though they say they are in college…eh, maybe India is a much more innocent place than good ol’ Amreeka, as they say. The best parts are the chemistry between SRK and Kajol, and to some extent Rani, too. Rani and Kajol are cousins in real life. A note of Pointless BollyTrivia.

Lagaan was one of the first three films that I saw and I quite love it, though it is very long. I found I had no problem looking at Aamir, uninterrupted, in all his rustic glory, but you might want to break it at the intermission because the full run-time is almost four hours (if you add in the deleted scenes from the Bonus Features, it’s over four). I learned all I know about cricket from watching the second half of the film. Probably all I will want to know about cricket, too, but I didn’t find it painful.

The songs, atypically from Indian films, are so well integrated into the plot that you can’t really pull them out well, out of context you feel something’s missing. I don’t recommend the British costumes…pretty awful, historically, and quality-wise….don’t get me started, that’s what I do for a living, costumes, can’t help myself. However, I loved the rest of the production design and cinematography. Lovely. I even bought Chale Chalo: the Making of Lagaan…took me several years to track it down and most of it is dubbed into Hindi, even when it’s in English to begin with (and no subtitles…frustrating!) but I enjoyed it.

Julie M:  LOVED Lagaan. B watched most of the 2nd half with me and liked it too (after he swore he wouldn’t watch any more). Great suggestion!! LOVE Aamir Khan. (and he spent most of the movie with his shirt off…score!!)

Jenny K:  Aamir was my first love…still like him quite a lot, but he’s getting a bit “angry young man” on me as he gets older. I own most of his films until Ghajini, which was a remake of a South Indian hit, which was supposed to be a blatant rip off of Memento…I loved the Chris Nolan film so much that I just couldn’t watch it, even with Aamir…Sigh. Lagaan, Taal and DCH were my first three Indian DVDs…got me hooked. I can’t believe I missed seeing Lagaan on a big screen, for free, when it came out. I can’t even remember the film I chose instead of it. No foresight. Glad you liked it. Did you succumb and watch the extra 20 minutes of “director’s cuts”?

Julie M:  I have not watched any extra features on that one; I plan to if I have time over the rest of this holiday weekend. The weather has turned nice today (if a bit humid) and I have to get plants in the ground. It’s been so wet lately that I couldn’t do anything.

I loved Taal too. In fact, if anyone asks me for a recommendation, I would have them start with that one. Dil Se, even though it was the first one I saw and still probably in the top 3 I have seen so far, I would save because although the music is unbelievably amazing the 2nd half is weird and the ending shocking.

Jenny K:  Yes, the second half is definitely not a conventional Indian film, actually, Dil Se didn’t do well at all at home…SRK’s fans don’t seem to like him being the villain anymore (a few early ones, playing crazy guy, obsessed stalker, etc) except for Don, which is a good twin evil twin type of film updated from one BigB did back in the seventies. Some good bits, but still, except for Dil Se, I think I agree with his fans. He does better being likeable and charming. He can’t top the acting in DS though, shows me he can do it, if required. That fight for his life in the construction site or whatever it was, was the most convincing fight I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film. They’re usually so chop-socky if you know what I mean. And I thought the end of the film was marvelous…as a portrait of obsession, if it had ended with him happily marrying Preity, I just wouldn’t have bought it.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Watched KKHH this evening. Very sweet. I was not a fan of the slapstick elements, and the dance numbers in the college scenes were pretty stupid, but overall a good movie. Thank you so much for sending it!

I have Luck by Chance, 3 Idiots and Koi–Mil Gaya waiting for me at the library, so that is my viewing schedule (mostly) for tomorrow through Tuesday.

Jenny K:  KKHH has it’s flaws, of course, but if you’re a true Kajol fan, you have to have seen it, sometime. She’s lovely in it, isn’t she?

Your “schedule” looks good, with the possible exception of Koi… Mil Gaya, which you may find as cheesy as I did, but it is a milestone of a sort. Kinda the first Indian Sci-fi quasi super hero film. Shah Rukh has another coming out late this fall called Ra.One which may or may not be as scary as KMG, but we will just have to wait and see. KMG is sort of a mix of Flowers for Algernon (aka Charley) with ET. Hrithik is sweet in it, and gorgeous, of course, but I’ll be interested in seeing what you make of it. If you like it, the sequel is called Krrish…w/HR playing his own son.

Julie M:  You weren’t kidding about the cheesiness…guess they are SO not used to sci-fi in India! So much ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I had to howl with laughter. You also forgot to tell me that there was a whiff of Teen Wolf and The Six Million Dollar Man. They even did the Six Million Dollar Man sound at times. And I’ve noticed that none of these actors (even the extras) know how to play basketball in real life–their ball handling skills really blow. However, I did enjoy it (B didn’t so much). HR did a sufficient amount of dancing to satisfy me and he played a pretty convincing mentally retarded young man. Sweet moments with Preity Zinta, too. I will probably try to find Krrish, because I suspect that HR will be super-buff in it, and I love superhero movies anyway.

I LOVED 3 Idiots. B did too. No more to say–it was everything I like in a movie, and miracle of miracles, Kareena Kapoor did not annoy me.

[JK’s Note:  Per Julie’s request, new 3 Idiots video.  For those of us who also want to see the cute (though not particularly plot-relevant) item number, click here to watch Zoobi Doobi, as well !]

Will try to cram in Luck by Chance tomorrow night before everything goes back to the library Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Wow, that certainly is a marathon! I salute you. Worth the trouble, though…Luck By Chance was my favorite of the three you had. Fairly realistic treatment as far as Indian film goes, too. I also love both Farhan Akhtar, and Konkona Sen Sharma (who I’ve met at a couple of festivals, and she’s very nice as well as talented). The director is Farhan’s sister, Zoya Akhtar.

I think I liked Krrish a bit better than I liked KMG because the director (Hrithik’s dad, btw) didn’t feel the need to dress his heir like a dysfunctional idiot. Sorry, costumer reaction, can’t help it.

So, I’ll be interested to see what you think when you go see one in a cinema. That’s the next thing. First one I saw on a big screen was a Hrithik/Kareena one that almost killed me…almost walked out, several times. Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon…run, the opposite direction, as fast as you can. Thank goodness I persevered! Have you checked out your local Indian theater yet? I see they show both Bollywood and Tamil films at the theater near you. Tamil films rarely, if ever have subtitles. I guess South Indian movies are only to be for home viewing. They tend to be a bit broader, but some are quite lovely.

I haven’t seen Dum Maro Dum (with LittleB) that’s playing in your neighborhood now, because it only stayed in mine for one week, I think, and while I hesitated because I don’t always like crime capers, it left. It’s best to go opening weekend because the audiences are best then and are always so lively. Half the fun. The whole family goes, little kids running up and down the aisles and grandmas minding them…more noise in the audience as well, but somehow I don’t mind. When SRK showed up silhouetted against the Manhattan skyline in KHNH every woman in the theater screamed. Very fun.  Also, if you miss the first weekend, and it didn’t do well at the box office…it’s outta there.  Indian audiences want their variety, in any case.  Only Superhits stay.

Julie M:  Do they show it subtitled in theaters? I’ll have to go. That theater is nowhere near my neighborhood but it’s closer than, say, the good art film theater on the south side, which I have made pilgrimage to on occasion and which I think is now closed. Before you did the research I would have said that there aren’t any theaters here that show Bollywood films!

Jenny K:  Hindi films are usually subtitled; Tamil and Telugu films usually aren’t, except at film festivals. Darned shame, too. Some wonderful ones that you should check out if you can find them…or I should send you…are Kannathil Muthamittal, that I think I’ve mentioned and Kandukondain, Kandukondain (sometimes titled I Have Found It) which is a South Indian version of Sense and Sensibility starring Aishwarya Rai.

Julie M:  Does she speak Telegu? Or Tamil? Is it very common for people to speak multiple South Asian languages or does she learn them because she is an actress? I mean, Chinese people commonly know both Mandarin and Cantonese to some degree, more one or the other based on where they grew up, but can converse in both. Is it the same in India?

Luck By Chance was good. It didn’t feel like a typical Hindi film–actually it felt kind of like an art film. Cool cameos by stars (Kareena Kapoor annoyed me: I figured it out, it’s her eyes. She blinks in a very weird way), interesting behind-the-scenes look, and I bet everyone in the credits were real film-industry backstagers. But why did Farhan Akhtar play such a d-bag?

Jenny K:  I know she speaks Tulu which is from where she was raised in Karnatka, and she debuted in one of Mani Ratnam’s (Dil Se…) films Iruvar which was in Tamil as well as this one. She’s also done a few films in a Bengali dialect for Rituparno Ghosh and other directors. So, she’s linguistically very gifted. I’m not sure she knows much more than a learn-your-lines-phonetically level in the Tamil and Bengali, but the regional cinema is the way many people break into the Hindi/Bollywood mainstream films, so most of them speak some other dialects. Most everyone in the cities, at least, or those who have gone to university speak English. I’ve been told that a good many of the scripts come out in English first and then get translated into whatever dialects they end up in.

I thought that Farhan was rather brave and risk-taking, deciding to play his fame-obsessed character so realistically. Most young guys who get hit with fame would have acted the same way. It also let Konkona’s character choose the broader outlook, and let her continue to be strong even as a woman on her own. I liked that. He seems to gravitate to edgier projects. His first film as an actor, Rock On! has him playing the charismatic, if troubled leader of a band who has walked away from it to start a “sensible life”. He has a new one coming out with his buddy Hrithik (they grew up together) in July. He has a very bad haircut in that one though.  Must be a character detail, usually it’s so good.

There is a talk show called Koffee with Karan where Hrithik and Farhan are interviewed and they talk about their childhood together. It’s in a few parts, beginning here.

Julie M:  About Farhan–“edgy” projects in Bollywood seem to be typical projects forHollywood, right? I didn’t see much of a Bollywood style about Luck by Chance. It could have been a mainstream American movie starring Indian actors about the Indian film industry–it felt very familiar to me. Was that what they were going for?

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