August 5, 2011: Scaling the Heights of Hindi Cinema

Julie M:  This evening’s feature in my living room was Mangal Pandey: The Rising. I really enjoyed it, all the while understanding that HUGE liberties were likely taken with history (the Rani-character subplot, for example). Aamir was great (as usual), and the music–Rahman, of course–was fantastic. Same vibe as the music for Lagaan: extremely well integrated with the story. The only song I thought might have been gratuitous was the Holi one. Overall: 4 stars, would recommend it to anyone.


Jenny K:  Glad you liked Mangal Pandey. It had some fine moments (can you say Toby Stevens!) and a brave attempt by Aamir of making what felt like historical verismilitude out of a paragraph and a half of concrete character reference. I ruined it for myself by researching it too thoroughly when it was coming out. I should have known better.

It was sort of fun following the production while it was shooting.  A few of the people I chatted with on the Bollywhat Forum had decided that as they were touring India at the time, they would volunteer as extras on the shoot, as well as giving us all ongoing posts from the set.  It was very cool, and we got to see them both when they didn’t get cut out in the editing room.  They were trying to lure me to come over, too, but I chickened out.  Lost chances…

And even though the Rani scenes were imagined, I really liked them.  The Holi scene was fun, I thought…and it’s so traditional.  Not sure I was groovin’ on her pink dress, though.  Not really her color.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   OK, watched A Wednesday this evening and had enough time (it was less than 2 hrs long!) to start Virasat.

A Wednesday was very good–excellent performance by Naseeruddin Shah–and more Hollywood than Bollywood. American-style thriller with a good twist at the end. B watched it with me for a while (he saw NS and said “Hey, it’s THAT guy again!”) and seemed to like it. I thought it was good but not particularly Indian.

Virasat, on the other hand, is shaping up to be quite satisfyingly traditional. Anil Kapoor in the hero role (with a 12″ mullet–hilarious) is weird to see. Some cheesiness and dad/son melodrama, and a terrifically done flood scene that just happened. Don’t think I’ll make it through the whole thing tonight–it’s just too long–will finish it tomorrow and quickly return it to the library.

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen either of them yet, but I have A Wednesday in my queue at Netflix.  It will be interesting to see how it compares with another film he did the year before called Shoot On Sight.  Could be an interesting flip side.  In SOS, Naseerji plays a commander on the London police force as it tries to track down suicide bombers.  He has to deal with profiling both against the suspects and also towards himself.  Why was he given this high profile case?  Was it because he deserves it, or that  because he’s a Muslim, it makes the Department look colorblind?  Nice performances, and some good suspense.

I look forward to seeing Virasat sometime.  I like me a good Anil movie, especially pre-thinning shears “do”.  Though the mullet is now gone, it was so a part of his head, for so long, that I imagine it sadly rolling along behind him in his shadow, a lonely tumbleweed hairball. Removing the famous Kapoor Mullet was, I imagine, almost as traumatic as shaving his moustache would be!  Sacrilege!!

[another day goes by]

Julie M:  Finished Virasat. It’s the kind of movie that is cheesy when you watch it, but there are scenes you just can’t get out of your head. Anil was GREAT in what ended up ultimately as a tragic role. He did it all–melodrama, fights, romance, dancing (although not much)–and only looked uncomfortable a couple of times. Great character to portray, too. Tabu looked very young and sweet and didn’t seem to have enough to do. The music was not bad–this particular song reminded me a lot of Rahman:

(quality could be better but at least it has subtitles)

The whole movie is available on YouTube.

[Jenny K’s Note: Sadly, none of the three that I found had subtitles…The composer of Virasat, BTW is Anu Malik, who works even more extensively than Rahman, with twice as many scores, including Main Hoon Na, Munnabhai MBBS and Bride & Prejudice.  He’s everywhere, even as a judge on Indian Idol…which you never see Rahman do.]

[and one more day…]

Julie M: One more tonight…saw Chori Chori. Sweet, a bit melodramatic and mushy at the end (required judicious use of the fast-forward button). Ajay was super-hot but barely cracked a smile, and that in-love-weepy look is not a good one for him. I much prefer him slightly dangerous. First filmi wedding I’ve seen where the bride did not wear a red and gold sari, but Rani looked beautiful anyway. And the scenery! I so want to go to Shimla now.

[Jenny K’s Note: Spoilers in the video, skip if you don’t want to know that there’s a happy ending 🙂 ]

Jenny K: Yeah, Shimla is in Himachal Pradesh, where they shot Taal, too. Oooh, oooh, and Darjeeling, where they shot Black, and also Main Hoon Na, I believe.  Also, while we’re establishing the Fantasy Highlands of India Tour, let’s add all of Jammu and Kashmir, like Srinagar where they shot Mission Kashmir (one of Hrithik’s films, with Preity and Sanjay Dutt, that I haven’t sent you, yet because it melds themes of  terrorism and romance in an occasionally awkward way.  Dil Se was much smoother).  The houseboats on Dal Lake are really fascinating.  My friend, Pat rented one to stay on when she was there.  And we also should visit Ladakh where they shot some of Dil Se and lots of Lakshya.  We’ve got to go, even if it’s dangerous, politically.  Hmmm.  Wonder whether we could get Ajay to guard us?

Check out this video by a company called Contemporary Nomad.  Lovely footage of Srinagar.

Julie M: Got some good ones waiting for this weekend too, which promises to be excellent for Hindi movies since B is out of town for 3 days.

Atithi tum kab jaoge?
Minsarakanavu
Saawariya (I know you said I might not like it, but I’m trying it anyway)
Sholay (because it’s a classic)
U Me aur Hum (I loves me my Ajay)

How I’ll fit 5 films into 3 days, I don’t know. SNL is in reruns, right?

Speaking of Ajay…

Ajay gets experimental, signs Priyadarshan’s film

If I remember correctly, Virasat was a Priyadarshan film, right? Cool.

Jenny K: Yes, I do admit to occasional Priyadarshan films that I like, but his touch with comedies is a bit, …um…, broad, shall we say.  I think I like his family-centered comedies better.  They are warmer, with a squishy emotional center, and are very feel-good and reassuringly traditional.  Mere Baap, Pehle Aap, and Hulchul, at it’s root, are both like this.

As to the other films you got from the library, I’ve seen all of them this time!  I was fooled by the Tamil title for Minsarakanavu, because I knew it with the Hindi title Sapnay.  Kajol is, of course, very cute in it, though I don’t believe her wanting to be a nun in it, but, whatever.  Arvind Swamy is sweet, but seems a bit old for her.  Rajiv Menon, the director, also did Kandukondain, Kandukondain (I Have Found It) which had similar pairings and so maybe that’s to be expected.  And I always like Prabhu Deva’s dancing.  Not sure he’s a better match for Kajol, than Arvind, either.  Where’s Aamir when you need him?

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?  I did like, enough to review it on the other blog, here.  I was comparing it to contemporary US comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine which I saw the same weekend.  ATKJ won, needless to say.  How could it lose with Ajay, Konkonal and Paresh Rawal, at least for me.

Saawariya, I reconsidered my “meh” when you said you liked Devdas, sort of, and when I thought you might like Ranbir.  It’s an odd film, but not horrible or anything.  Same director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as Devdas, Khamoshi, HDDCS, Black (which you liked) and Guzaarish.

Sholay (because it’s a classic)… you said it all.  Amitabh, Dharmendra, stylish masala western.  Some slapsticky bits, but as you said, there is always FFwd.

U Me aur Hum, I think I recommended this earlier as the one of two films that I liked Kajol’s chemistry with her hubby.  I think he does better in the second half than the first half.  Second half is definitely more of a weepie.  Hope you survive it. 🙂

[next day…]

Julie M: And to continue the Ajay theme…saw Deewangee this evening. First half–totally predictable and almost insulting in its obviousness. (What tipped me off? Ajay playing a mild-mannered stammerer. Could have been quirky casting, but I knew better) Second half, equally obvious but the action made up for it. Overall, Ajay was fairly brilliant if a teeny tiny bit over the top, Akshaye was…ok, Urmila was busty and danced well. 2.5-3 stars. (I guess I asked for it when I said I liked Ajay when he is a bit dangerous)

[Jenny K’s NoteIt’s on Youtube, in two parts.  Hit the CC red button on the bottom of the screen to give yourself subtitles.  Here’s the second part.]

Jenny K:  I think I liked this one so much because I had not seen Ajay much before it, perhaps HDDCS, where he’s sweet and noble, and so the second half surprised me quite a bit. Urmila being busty did not surprise me. If you like Ajay being dangerous, you have to get Khakee. I looked to see if I owned it, and I can’t find it, so maybe I didn’t buy it. That or his version of Bhagat Singh (one of the martyrs that the kids were making the movie about in Rang de Basanti).

Oh, and Ajay has done that mild-mannered stammerer kinda role, and straight, too.  He did a remake of I am Sam, that Sean Penn as a mentally retarded man raising a smart little girl in Main Aisa Hi Hoon.  Don’t know if I actually made it through that one.  I like him better “bad,” too.

I liked your clip from Virasat. Odd, Anil almost didn’t look like himself. Don’t know what it was. Maybe he’d put on a bit of weight for the film to look less moviestarish, but his face was a lot rounder than it is normally. Nice look on him. I think you may be ready for Nayak with him paired with Rani and the kookiest videos ever. Rahman score! Here’s the loopiest clip for a taste. Don’t ask me to explain, I can’t.

I don’t remember what the lyrics meant, but after listening again, I think with all that “jootha” stuff, which is Hindi for liar, maybe it’s just a case of the “Black” girl calling the kettle pot?  🙂

Julie M:    That clip is so weird it’s scary!!!

So you have not seen Virasat? If not, definitely see it. Anil starts out the film as a typical young-Indian-educated-in-England with Western clothes, scruffy facial hair and oh! that mullet (he looks the way we typically know him in this part), then as the story moves on he becomes more and more traditional in dress, manner and thinking patterns, mostly because he has to, [spoiler] his dad dies and he takes on the role of the landowner/village-protector, but also because he grows up a bit. Also the movie is a bit older and Anil is younger. I had no idea he was as old as he is–born in 1959–so he was in his late 30s when he did Virasat but looked like he was 25.

Part 12: The Curse of the Flowered Shirts, and Other Fashion Missteps

Julie M: I saw Company last night. I found it boring until maybe the last 45 minutes–I passed the time by staring at Viveik. Viveik and Ajay acted well (and as usual Ajay seemed to bring out Viveik’s acting abilities), but I didn’t find the story all that compelling. I don’t watch gangster movies in English, so I don’t know why I thought watching them in Hindi would make them more interesting. So please, no more gangster films unless they are funny (like Lago Rahe Munnabhai, and I will probably also borrow Munnabhai MBBS soon). But not goofy/slapstick funny, because I hate that too. I hate the goofy noises in farce-y Indian movies.

Jenny K: Not much to worry about with me sending lots of silly slapstick because I tend not to buy them. I only got the Munnabhai movies because I have a little crush on Arshad Warsi…he plays the sidekick Circuit in the film. He is a really good dancer and he used to choreograph, too, but since he became “comedy gold” they don’t tend to let him waste time tapping his toes.

I keep trying to buy one really bad movie, Mujhe Mere Biwi Se Bachaao, because Arshad is in it and his dance numbers in it are HIL-AR-EEE-OUS, and still fantastic dancing.

Here’s the first one from Youtube. Rekha put on about thirty pounds for the role of a bored rich housewife who hires a nightclub singer/dancer to get her “in shape” for a part in the movies. She’s making fun of every dance movie she’s ever done, including Umrao Jaan (and still dancing rings around girls half her age!), and he’s trying to pull out every SRK “sexy” dance move he can rip off. Very funny (somehow I think of Kirstie Alley and Maks from DWTS) Watch it again after you’ve seen UJ and it will be even funnier. 

And not quite as funny, (unless like me, he reminds you of Matt Drudge in that hat) this introduces Arshad’s character as an entertainer, and I like his moves.

But still, every time I buy a copy it seems to dissolve into a mass of pixels at about Track 15. Never seen the end of it. Seems to be a problem with the master back at Eros Entertainment. Really a bad film so I won’t waste more than ten dollars on it, if that…Or maybe, Naseeruddin Shah, who plays Rekha’s philanderin’ hubby, got a look at the final product, realized, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t save it, and couldn’t convince them to cut him out of it, so he snuck in and mucked up the master copy!  Yesss! Now, if only they had a plot that good!

Sorry, back to what you said earlier…Dhoom is a film that I haven’t seen because a) Hrithik isn’t in it and b) Hrithik isn’t in it and c) Esha Deol is a whiny annoying heroine (except in Yuva) and d) there’s way too much Uday Chopra (LittleB’s sidekick) for my taste without Hrithikness to deflect my attention from it. Or is that Hrithikosity?…Whatever.  Dhoom 3 may be another matter. Rumor is that Aamir is going to be the new villain that LittleB is chasing. Mmmmm….

And you may like Munnabhai MBBS better, because the movies are two years apart but Sanjay Dutt looks five or six years younger, and I find him much sexier in this one. You believe the love story more. He also has a nostalgia thing going because his father in this film is played by his real father Sunil Dutt who was a star in the seventies, I think. He died soon after they filmed this together. I wish I had known that you were up for a girl’s weekend when I put together your next package…ah well. You must make due. Only one fluffy one. Two more issue films for you. 

Julie M:  Thanks for the links. He’s a great dancer and the first one was funny.  So I gather that Rekha is known as being a bit of a looney tune? Explain!

Jenny K:   Rekha is very intense. In interviews she often speaks of herself in the third person, sorta like that annoying kid in Fanaa. “Rehan/Rehka doesn’t want to do that…” yeeeesh.. I also think she likes to tempt career suicide, because she takes some roles that just ache to have you compare them with her earlier roles.  And although she’s still quite beautiful, she doesn’t look quite the way she did in Umrao Jaan.

Julie M: Rangeela. Eh. I find it amazing that the film was done in 1995 and the hair, fashions and makeup make it look like, oh, 1984 or so. Aamir looked cute and young. But otherwise I found the film very boring. Saw most of it on double-speed. Rahman music good, though.

 

Jenny K:   Well, perhaps that’s why the director, the aforementioned Ram Gopal Varma, went on to direct almost solely crime dramas like Company. He agreed with you. Considering the films that Aamir had been forced to do while starting his career, this one almost was sweet. Very traditional plotline. I liked the songs and the dancing enough to put up with most of the silliness. And I get a kick out of how much Urmila’s bust size jumps around with her padding in the various numbers. She’s never been one of my favorites, but I find she gets proportionately more annoying and silly the longer her hair gets (and therefore the bigger the boobs, for some reason). Her hair controls her interpretations, I think.

Julie M:  I liked some of the dancing, but given her outfits I kept feeling like I was watching an aerobics video. (funny about the hair-boob correlation)

Jenny K: As I’ve said before, Indian films tend to be about ten to fifteen years behind the trends, at least fashion-wise, if not in overall style. Not quite so much nowadays, they do seem to be finding the global norm faster. Perhaps due to cultural saturation in film and the internet… everything is available, everywhere, instantly.

I have a theory about Urmila’s fashion in this film, though. I got the general impression of “youthfulness”, colorful, like the title [Rangeela means “Colorful One“], baby-doll length in the skirts, worn with leggings so you don’t see too much leg, lots of caps and ponytails, etc. It was kind of like they didn’t want to lose her audience from her child star days by changing her look to be too sexy, too quickly. Then, toward the end they allowed her to grow up a bit, maybe making the transition both for the actress and the audience. Just a thought.

Also, you just end up getting used to a more decorated sensibility in Indian fashion. Nothing simple, nothing plain. They just don’t groove to it at all. They love to play with their clothes, change them often, add fringe, add zippers, even ones that are totally non-functional. For some this works, for, some, well maybe not even Hrithik can’t make it work… 

Julie M: Saw Bluffmaster…very funny. Double- and triple-bluffs, especially when you consider the film itself is kind of a bluff. Very Hollywood-style.

[Jenny K’s Note: Bachchan Senior has the full one on Youtube, too!]

I’ve noticed that Indian fashions tend to be a bit, um, gaudier than we like them here. In film when it gets too out there I just put it down to an overactive costumer imagination, since I’ve seen it being pretty gaudy (lavender and yellow sari? Eeecccchhh) in real life too.

 

Jenny K:   The Bollywood Fashion Extremes: For Men, or                Your Costuming Rupees, at Work?!?

Military Fashion Through the Ages a la Conan
and this

Men in floral shirts…too floral

Men in headbands…any

SRK trying to make neckties cool in DON
 
or, perhaps aiming for a Brandoesque moment
 
Akshay should just skip the leather jackets (and the beard!)  and this, and also refrain from trying to play a “cool rockstar”

And men should not try to play sexy in a chef’s cap or a tiny yachting cap, or a pimp hat…this outfit on the cover of the DVD scared me from Khalnayak for years (I sort of liked it when I fianlly saw it)

Julie M: Hilarious!!! (I just finished HDDCS and Salman had some pretty heinous shirts in that one)

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam–not so bad, actually. The big dance numbers were awesome, the costuming lovely (albeit unbelievable…in this day and age, who would believe such a wealthy yet super-traditional family?) and except for PAINFULLY drawing out the big reunion moment, the melodrama was fairly easy to handle. Ajay beats Salman hands down acting-wise in this one, although Salman was pretty cute in the first half (which he seemed to spend half of shirtless, you were right), and character-wise as well. Nandini chose the right guy, as I knew she would. And shame on them for trying to pass off some obvious Eastern European country as Italy…they didn’t even bother to disguise the local language or the writing on the taxicabs!

Jenny K:   It’s so sad when they develop a shirt allergy… they begin to fling them off, hither and yon, with almost no provocation. “I know you only asked me for directions to the puja, but I can explain better without this heavy t-shirt clouding my thinking.” It got even worse for Salman as he buffed up. Now he’s a tank in a flowered shirt. In HDDCS, he was still a bit youthful and winsome, however he was so manic, so often that I took to calling this mood “Monkey Boy” ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh-Ooh-Ooh-AHH-AHH-EEEK-EEEK-EEEK!!! “Yes I am from Italy, and I can prove it. Hand me that banana and I’ll eat it while hanging from the rafters and singing O Sole Mio!…With my shirt off, of course!”

So I sat on the Mall in DC for July 4th, with my Indian movie buddies, Pat and Kathy, Kathy’s husband, Mark, and one of Kathy’s friends from work, Reena, who hails from Mumbai, and as we waited for the fireworks, Reena and I passed the time by singing the following song sung. “Aati Kya Khandala”, was sung by Aamir (his own voice this time) in the (otherwise dark and moody) film Ghulam. It had been a big hit and BigB, Jaya and Kajol sang it in K3G at his party. Well, Reena sang it much better than I did, I’d forgotten most of the words that I’d tried to memorize.

And for added American Holiday Silliness, this video features Akshaye Khanna and Aish.  They have been trying to make it in the Big Apple, almost like brother and sister, and suddenly Aish has decided that if she doesn’t convince him of her devotion to him, he’s going to be seduced by this American born Indian vixen, and she goes to Coney Island to break up their date. 

 Julie M: You are hilarious.

I liked The Blue Umbrella but it was too self-consciously arty (i.e., slow-moving). Beautifully shot, boring story. We know Stealing Is Wrong and there will be Consequences, just move it along, please. The little girl was totally adorable but she doesn’t seem to have done much since?

Oh, and I prefer “manic happy Salman” to “romantic Salman” where he gets this sappy expression on his face and gazes deeply into someone’s eyes.

Jenny K:  I think The Blue Umbrella was done as a break between Maqbool and Omkara. After all that angst and violence, he needed a bit of sweetness and art 🙂 It did very well in the filmfest circuit, I believe.

Part 11: Mani Returns. Of Ajay

[JK’s Note:  I know it’s a bad pun…you try coming up with a relevant title for this many disparate films in the middle of the night :-)]

Julie M:  Rang De Basanti…was kinda dumb in the first half but then it got good. So sad that they all died but it was done very well. Aamir totally rocks.

[JK Note: Daler Mehndi singing really helps the rocking on the title track!] 

 

Jenny K: I watched it again last night because I knew you had it, and time has been kinder on it in my eyes. I still like the energy of the first half, or even more, right until [Spoilers. Highlight to view.] they decide to ape the past and kill government ministers they don’t agree with. I felt it was more of an “inevitable tragedy” this time, but as it wasn’t a true story, where “it is what it was”, this always feels like more of an endorsement of the strategy than is conscionable to me, even with the half-assed “we’re so sorry” at the radio station. I’d much rather the kid turned evidence over to the cops on his dad than that he killed him while hugging him.[End spoilers.]  Bleh.

I will be perfectly happy when Aamir and SRK stop trying to play college students, or recently ex-college students, and play their ages more often (both 46 this year), or at least closer to their ages. I grant they do 10-15 years younger, reasonably well. I have most of Aamir’s films, so if you want something in particular, let me know.

 

Julie M: I thought in the first half they spent way too much time establishing how goofy and uninvolved these students were. I was bored by the repeated scenes of undergraduate (and Aamir) carousing. I also thought it would have been more effective to have the change in their outlook come about more gradually than via a sudden tragic event, but I understand that in life sometimes that happens. That would have [Spoilersmade their decision to kill the minister more logical. I didn’t find the apology half-assed at all–I thought they put their full asses into it, particularly the kid who killed his dad. I actually found that the most moving part. I thought the scene where the Muslim and the radical Indianist, former bitter enemies, died holding hands was too much, though. [End of spoilers.]

I agree that SRK and Aamir should start playing their ages. B noticed how old Aamir was (particularly as contrasted to the goofy behavior of his character in the early scenes) and made a snarky comment.

 

Jenny K: They both have been doing more realistic ages recently (and buffing their bods up, too) but I still worry they’ll sneak one in. The Indian idea of middle age is not considered food for drama, I think. If you’re not married, you’re suspect, at best odd. If you’re not knuckling down to business, you’re some sort of wastrel. If you don’t have a family well in progress, you’ve wasted your life…(yeesh, I’d be a pariah there!) however, when you have kids in a film, you’re automatically downgraded to “elder” status, unless you’re a widower (KKHH). Can’t win for losin’ I hope they explore a bit more. Much more to tap.

 

Julie M:  Yah, well, now they know the Hollywood-female paradox. Ingénue/single-chick roles, then lots of nuthin’ after age 35 or so, then feisty older woman or “mom” roles starting at 50.

You are more charitable about SRK than I am. I really liked his acting in My Name is Khan but still feel he is constrained in his abilities. Ajay Devgan…HIM I love.

 

Jenny K:  I may send you a “my favorite Ajay pics” package sometime, but you might have to agree to put up with a bit more of the predictable romance/drama rhona-dhona, as they say. He is absolutely GORgeous in one with Preity and Madhuri where he plays a double role (yep, every actor in BW does one at least once) Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke but it’s very melodramatic, esp. toward the end. Then there’s the remake of French Kiss, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha with Kajol (it may be where they met) and Raincoat, both of which I’ve recommended before. In Dewangee he plays a simple songwriter who has lots of trouble fighting for his girl, one of his bests, a good suspense film, but there are some leftover “90’s” bits that may bother you. Chori Chori is a rather cute remake of Goldie Hawn’s Houseboat with Ajay doing Steve Martin to Rani’s Goldie…but he’s not as kooky as Steve is, of course. She is double Goldie’s ditz, the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the technical term is nowadays, and loosens Ajay’s staid self up quite a bit.

He’s great as a villain, too…cold and corporate in Company, cold and calculating in Khakee, that I liked with BigB and Akshay Kumar and Aish, he also does cold and almost comatose in a really hilarious anti hero in Qayamat, but I can’t really recommend it because the script is so bad, and the rest of the cast’s hamming doesn’t help elevate it to comedy as Ajay’s take almost does. Also promise me to never get Ishq with Aamir and Ajay together. You will absolutely hate it. Too much slapstick, and bad slapstick, too. Kaal he looks great in but it’s a stupid film and his part is a cameo.

 

Julie M:  I reserved Raincoat at the library, so I’ll get it eventually. And I like the occasional romance/drama, just not regularly. If I’m going to invest 3 hours in reading a movie I want it to be meat and potatoes, not cotton candy.

I’m watching Company tonight. Then I’ll send everything back to you.

 

Jenny K:  I hope you like Company. I haven’t watched it for a while, but remember thinking the boys did very well. And did you see Yuva yet? Maybe I missed your report on it.

Forgot to mention…the character of Sona in RDB was Saif’s sister. Could you tell? I think they both look just like their mother, Sharmila Tagore. Used to be a movie star, now just royalty (poor thing 🙂 . Saif and Soha are sorta prince and princess, too, but the title doesn’t pay the bills.

 

Julie M:  OH–and I really liked Yuva.  Beginning was confusing and arty but eventually it made sense. Did not like to see LittleB as a wife-beater or Rani as an abused wife, but their performances were excellent. Viveik was good too–he always seems to do well when paired with Ajay, at least from the two films I’ve seen them in together. Loved loved loved the last scene when they strode into the parliament chamber dressed in ratty jeans when everyone else was an older man dressed in white traditional clothing, and took their places. Awesome movie all around–thanks!

[Jenny’s Note: Looks like BigB has his own Youtube channel.  He’s put Abhi’s whole film in one piece to watch free, HD w/subtitles, online!  Score!]

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the re-recap. I think almost anything Ratnam and Rahman do together is good…even if Ajay is a very unlikely college student at this point. He falls victim to AK/SRK syndrome, too. Probably ought to put Salman in there as well.

[a few days later…more Mani Ratnam]

Julie M:  Saw Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek)  this evening. Wow–GREAT movie on every level. Great music, great visuals, great story. THAT’s the kind of movie I like!

Jenny K:  Yeah, I said it was Ratnam’s best, better even than Dil Se which I love. The only thing I worry about, occasionally, is that viewers might turn it off during that first light weight song with the kids. The movie isn’t like that at all. I wonder what he was thinking. The ending certainly isn’t for all children. He does like explosions, doesn’t he? I think my favorite song/music combination is that somber one where you’re watching the town in Sri Lanka being moved out of their homes, lonely and bereft, going who knows where. I thought it was rather surprising when I saw the film at a festival here in DC that I’d never really heard about the Tamil Tigers and their uprising in Sri Lanka when it had been going on for over twenty years and was just put down two years ago…twenty six years of war in the north of the island. I’m so out of the loop.

Wish this clip wasn’t so squashed, but it has the subtitles, at least.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I knew about the political background, and liked that it was simply treated as a given rather than a big honking deal like it would have been in Hollywood.

[Later in the week]

Julie M:  Darn my library for only allowing 3 days on borrowed videos!! I have the following movies waiting for me to pick up:

Rangeela
Bluffmaster!
The Blue Umbrella
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Umrao Jaan

Understanding that I can’t pick them up until Saturday and have to get them back Tuesday, which order should I see them in to make sure I get to see the best ones first?

 

Jenny K:  Rangeela and HDDCS are the big fluffy musicals, but both classics in their melodramatic way. Aamir just plain dances his feet off and it’s Rahman’s music in Rangeela. It’s one of those Girl wants to be a film star more than anything. Boy loves her but helps her do it. Will she realize that she loves him, too, or sell out to the Bollywood Life? Sidenote, when Kajol in KKHH is doing that “sexy dance” while they are playing charades at camp, she’s making fun of Urmila Matondkar’s dance on the beach in Rangeela. Urmila had been a child star who in this film is trying way too hard to be taken as a sexy adult (sorta an early version of Brittany Spears). Maybe cross Brittany with Annette Funicello. Aamir out-acts her, of course, though she’s had some good outings, since. Tehzeeb comes to mind.

HDDCS is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who did Devdas and Black. His first film, I think, or second. Still working out his style, but some things are really cool, like Aish is supposed to be a tomboy and starts the film with some sort of game in the desert with the other kids, kilting her sari up and going for it. Almost like a dance.

She falls in love with Salman, who is half  “Italian” half Indian, and a Christian. Her family doesn’t go for it and sets her up with Ajay D. We all know who I’d go for, but I don’t write ’em. When Salman goes back to “Italy” it’s really Hungary and it looks really silly. He also cries a lot in this film toward the end. And Salman never cries convincingly. Don’t know why. Some lovely dancing. High Rhona-dhona level of melodrama.

Umrao Jaan is lovely and a classic, and a must-see if it’s the older version from the eighties with Rekha. If it’s the newer one with Aish, push it to the end of your list…fairly boring, I think. It’s about a courtesan/singer-dancer, I believe the term is nauch girl, who is higher in status than just a prostitute. When you’re talented in these gentlemen’s clubs, you would get to choose, to an extent who you sleep with and when. She falls in love with one of her clients, and you have to see how it works out. Lots of up and downing before the end. I actually liked the novel better, of course, but Rekha is exquisite in it. She played Hrithik’s mom in Koi Mil Gaya and is still a looker, if excentric.

The Blue Umbrella is sort of a kid’s fable by Vishal Bhardwaj, the same director as Omkara and Maqbool.   It’s a simple style, but eloquent and Pankaj Kapur who plays the crazy old coot who befriends the child with the brella is fabulous.

Bluffmaster, is sort of on the level of the Dhoom films. Flashy conmen, LittleB looks cute, Nana Patakar is in it too, and he’s one of my favorite character actors, but I don’t even remember much more about it. Cotton candy film. Fun but not very memorable.

So, if it were me, I’d probably skip the last two unless it’s the new Umrao Jaan then I’d skip that and one of the last two, not sure which. Hope that helps.

 

Julie M:  Thanks. It’s the newer Umrao Jaan. I didn’t know there was a quality difference, so I’ll just check it out and dump it right back in the return bin. My library has the older one too: I just requested it but I won’t get it in hand until next weekend. (that takes care of one decision) I liked Dhoom 2 but haven’t seen Dhoom. I might watch Bluffmaster, then, and Rangeela, and The Blue Umbrella. Will save HDDCS for last and see it only if I have time.

Next weekend B is out of town at a show so I can watch as many girly Bollywood movies as I like.

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, with subtitles!

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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