July 6, 2012: Raincoat, Running and Rampal

Julie M:  It took many sessions on the exercise bike, but I finally finished Raincoat (2004). Such a pleasure to see Ajay out of action-hero mode, and amazing chemistry between him and Aishwarya Rai. Good performances all around and well-integrated music in the background. She managed to look lovely and sad and beaten all at once, and the performance seemed to foreshadow her role in Guzaarish.  A+, all around.

Plot summary:  Manu (Ajay Devgan) is an out-of-work millworker from a rural area who has come to the big city of Kolkata to try and drum up investments from friends to fund a new business venture.  On a whim he decides to visit Neeru (Aishwarya Rai), a former girlfriend who had dumped him six years previously to marry a wealthier man more acceptable to her family.  They spend a rainy afternoon together, discussing old times and their current lives (during which they shamelessly lie to each other without the other knowing), and a surprise ending recalls the famous O. Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi.”

 

Jenny K:  I loved their reminiscences of their past.  And Ajay was very good playing against type. No toughguy here, until the end, maybe.

 

Julie M:  Funny, but the way it was performed I thought it was originally a stage play, because it’s basically a one-scene piece. The part at the beginning and end with Manu’s friends seemed tacked-on; I could have done with just the two characters, but I guess there had to be a way to explain his life otherwise we would not have known.

 

Jenny K:  You’re right, it’s very suitable for the theater.  This was close on the heels of Choker Bali, both directed by Rituparno Ghosh, and was at the height of Aish’s “I can prove that I’m not just a pretty face” campaign.  Raincoat works much better for me than Choker Bali, which was glacially slow, if earnestly played.

 

Julie M: Raincoat is available free on YouTube, in parts.  Here’s Part 1.

 

Jenny K:  I had a productive (for the blog) night, last night…I ran an Irrfan Double Header! Thank God for art films, because it made a twofer possible, not often feasible in Indianfilmland, without a mid-afternoon start and serious munchie fortification.

First up was Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar (2010) which I have been trying to see for quite some time, but it never made it to any of my local theaters. But now it’s on Netflix streaming!

As a film, you feel as if you’ve seen it before…familiar, yet with such odd mash-ups that the results are unique. At times it feels like Chariots of Fire, but set in the military…then there are bits of Sholay‘s Gabbar Singh in a rather Robin Hood kinda mood. Also strong Bimal Roy tinges of “what’s a poor self respecting farmer to do when life gives you a rotten roti?” And the answer seems to have been cribbed from the Bhagat Singh Handbook. Here’s the trailer.

The film is extremely watchable. Irrfan has such an expressive face, it’s a pleasure just to have him on screen. The story begins with a disclaimer that the plot is based on true people and incidents, but is a work of fiction and any similarities to real people are coincidental??? Is it just me, or doesn’t the first half of that statement preclude the second? Oh well…

The story is that of a peaceful, unremarkable young man from a village, who joins the military as his only escape. He was born under a wandering star, says his wife’s fortuneteller. But she knows that he’ll always come back to her, no matter how long the walkabout. While in the army, he signs up for the athletic program because he loves to run, and to get more food. He does have quite the appetite, does Paan Singh Tomar, and boy, can he run. All the way to being National Champion of the steeplechase,  and all over the world.

He seems completely happy with his military life, his racing and the occasional visits home to see his wife and kids…until…his cousin, Bahwar Singh (Jahangir Khan) steals his sugarcane crop. It seems Bahwar resents the local running celebrity just showing up infrequently and not doing any of the work around the village fields, so he takes what he wants from Paan Singh’s fields, too, which he regards as his due for not being the prodigal son.

When PST  asks for recompense, his cousin ignores him. PST goes to the police. They ignore him. He tries to call in favors from his army bosses…heck, he’s a national sports hero, after all! Well, they send in a mediator to try the case, and find in Paan Singh’s favor, but aren’t willing to enforce anything. Seems his clippings and medals get him only so much, and no more. Bahwar Singh just laughs and burns the cane, sends PST’s wife and kids running for cover, beats up his mother who stays to defend the house, and then destroys said house. What’s a law abiding man to do when the authorities don’t care? Become a dacoit, of course!

The plot sort of goes where you expect it to after that, however, the trip is well worth the taking. Irrfan and his supporting cast are wonderful, the atmosphere evocative, and the mood is increasingly more oppressive as the film unfolds. You know why Paan Singh does what he does.  He’s a rebel, not a dacoit, as he says, repeatedly, to any who will listen. If the following interview with surviving relatives is anything to go by, he did have no choice.

This film is on YouTube, too. In parts, here.

 

Julie M:  I love anything Irrfan Khan does.  You had me interested by just saying his name!

 

Jenny K:  The second part of the twofer was The Warrior (2001). Directing his first feature film, Asif Kapadia hits one out of the park on this film. A short film (about 90 minutes) this film is long on impact. It’s shot with practically no conversation, all in vibrant visuals. Taken from a tiny mention of a story of samurai life, writers Kapadia and Tim Miller along with DP Roman Osin, weave a mesmerizing story of a warrior who gives up his life as an official kingdom assassin, tired of what his liege lord asks him to do. Unfortunately, that decision costs him his home and everything dear to him. Here’s the trailer.

Lacfadia, the warrior, flees from his fellow enforcers who are sent after him to stop his escape, and having taken a vow to never raise a weapon against defenseless people again, his flight is a desperate one. Irrfan, practically silent, is even more expressive than he normally is with words. He takes up a few wanderers he meets on his seemingly aimless quest for spiritual peace. One of which, a petty thief named Riaz, played by Noor Mani, does an equally impressive job. Noor posted excerpts from his own performance here on Youtube, but it gives a nice cross section of the film’s tone.

This young man had been living a life on the street before he found an acting school set up by Mira Nair’s people when Salaam, Bombay! needed non-professional actors. Actually, most of the actors in this film were non-professionals, and the director, Mr. Kapadia, got some amazing performances from them. Great behind the scenes pieces on the DVD…almost as much footage as the film itself!

This one is definitely worth the watch. It felt a lot like Tarsem Singh’s The Fall with its eloquent silences and beautiful scenery, and also a bit like Road, Movie in the collection of oddly assorted travellers, that we reviewed earlier in our Abhay Deol Fest. The intimate interaction between relative strangers is there in all three films. Get it if you can…probably is a library choice as it won the BAFTA in 2003 for best picture.

 

Julie M:  WOW. I’m speechless with the quality of both of these films and of course with Irrfan Khan as the lead performer. I’ve got to get hold of them!  Library has neither. Bummer!

 

Jenny K:  Well, it is on YouTube, but no subtitles…I’ve watched some like that, but it can be frustrating…

 

Julie M:  Whew, finally finished Tehzeeb (Etiquette, 2003). Major EFD (emotional family drama)!  I’m still recovering.

Brief plot summary: Tehzeeb (Urmila Matondkar) grew up as the lonely daughter of famous singer Rukhsana (Shabana Azmi). Her character has been shaped by the witnessing, at age 10 or so, the murder of her beloved father (excellent cameo appearance by Rishi Kapoor) by her mother, a crime for which Rukhsana was acquitted; however, despite years of suppressed horror and rage, she still admires her mother and she is still the emotional center of Tehzeeb’s life. Tehzeeb, once an aspiring singer but now a housewife, is married to romance novelist Salim (Arjun Rampal, sigh), and they live with and care for her developmentally disabled sister, Nazneen (Dia Mirza). Here’s their great meet-cute scene.

 

Jenny K:  Actually, this is the first movie where I found Arjun attractive.  He does grow on you.

 

Julie M: One day Rukhsana announces that she is coming for a visit for the first time since Tehzeeb and Salim married five years ago; the prospect of this throws Tehzeeb for a loop. The next few weeks expose buried feelings and contradictions, rub raw nerve endings and lead to confrontations, disclosures and more.

It’s rare that I get to see an Indian movie that centers so strongly on complex female relationships. You’d think, with Bollywood’s preference to avoid niche marketing, that such a project would never be greenlighted unless it was liberally sprinkled with dishoom, or at least some scantily clad gori dancers. But all this female bonding, to me, was treated too superficially.

The schmaltzy background music was more suited to TV soap operas than a mainstream movie, and the requisite hospital scene near the end had me rolling my eyes.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the character conflicts even if they were handled in a daytime-drama way (from sets, costumes and staging through action and significant glances…is this Mumbai or Pine Valley?). “Tehzeeb,” in addition to being the name of the lead character, also means “etiquette,” and ultimately it is etiquette that kept Tehzeeb all these years from confronting her mother with her feelings, which could have avoided all this intense drama.

Yes, there were dance numbers, but they felt tacked on and gratuitous, particularly Arjun’s, seen here. It was completely wrong for the character, as he played kind of a combination of narrator, comic relief and token useless male (but he was gorgeous, especially in that black turtleneck sweater, and if I were to have a slightly cowed but very romantic husband I’d like him to be Salim).

Urmila, a decent enough actress, should never be allowed to dance. Everything I see her in she is clunky and robotic and looks like she is slightly in pain.

 

Jenny K:  Now, to give Urmila her due, I ought to put up one of her more acclaimed dance performances from China Gate.  Now, I’m not saying she’s going to threaten Madhuri’s queen-of-the-gypsy-numbers status or anything, but she does hold her own, here.

 

Julie M: And WHAT was up with the “creative” dance number for Dia Mirza??!!  The “move the action along” music was much better, except when it was intrusive, which was, oh, about half the time. The slow songs were lovely. And my favorite part was when Tehzeeb, entertaining her mother and sister, parodied famous movie numbers. Can’t find the scene online, though.

 

Jenny K:  That was always the scene that stuck in my mind, too.  She was really funny, and on-the-nose in her imitations.  Hidden talents!

 

Julie M: Overall…a solid B film, worth seeing if you come across it but nothing to go out of your way to find.

Feb. 7, 2012: Hravished by Hrithik, Part 2 – Mission Kashmir & Guzaarish

Having survived Super Sunday, we are back with two more do-not-miss experiences with this month’s favorite hero, Hrithik Roshan that just wouldn’t fit into the last post.  Think of this as a post-tailgate party…and excuse the Super Bowl allusions, because Julie seems to have caught the fever, seeing as her city of residence is hosting it this year.

 

Julie MMission Kashmir (2000) was…WOW. So well done, I almost didn’t notice the excessive violence.  Here’s the trailer.

Brief plot: Sanjay Dutt is Inayat Khan, a police officer in Kashmir, which has been torn by civil war for decades. An evil revolutionary leader (Puru Rajkumar) has forced the city’s doctors to stop treating injured police and their families, and this prohibition leads Khan’s son to die after an accident. In his grief, Khan leads his troops to massacre everyone in the home where the revolutionary is hiding out, except for one boy, Altaaf, who Khan reluctantly adopts to please his grieving wife (Sonali Kulkarni). The boy learns to love the Khans but eventually finds out that Khan murdered his family, and runs away only to fall in with, and be raised by, a SUPER evil terrorist (Jackie Shroff).

Ten years later Altaaf (Hrithik Roshan) returns to his former home town with his terrorist cell to complete an operation called “Mission Kashmir,” and coincidentally get revenge on Khan, preferably by killing him. As part of the mission he meets up with his childhood best friend (Preity Zinta) and falls in love with her, then must choose between continuing on with his missions and stepping off for the chance for the life he thought he could never have.  Khan, meanwhile, must figure out exactly what Mission Kashmir is and stop it, while saving himself from Altaaf’s murderous intentions.

Jenny K:  I almost didn’t recognize Jackie in this one…malicious, evil eyes.  He’s almost comic-book evil in MK, isn’t he?  Not nearly so sweet as he was in Devdas or Yaadein…his Coke-can friend in that film wouldn’t recognize him.

 

Julie M:  Yes—his snarly, filthy hair really hid him—but he doesn’t hold a candle to the over-the-top cartoonish performance of Sanjay Dutt in Agneepath.  But I admit that one of the attractions for seeing Agneepath was the opportunity to see Hrithik and SD reunited as enemies, because they had such great and multi-layered chemistry in MK.  Excellent performances all around.  Here’s a clip showing a particularly tense moment, showing the quality of Hrithik’s muscles…I mean, the quality of the lead actors’ performances.

I also found, and enjoyed, plenty of what I call “beautiful-terrible” filmmaking, which I often find in director Stanley Kubrick’s work.  This is when terrible things are happening, but they are filmed so beautifully that I’m feeling several emotions at once.  Example:  in MK, there was much shooting but very little blood.  Unrealistic, I know, but it makes the viewer focus on the reasons for the violence and its implications rather than on the violence itself.  Very effective.   Agneepath, unfortunately, had a lot of terrible things that the camera dwelled on almost gleefully for effect, with no eye to the potential beauty.  For those so inclined, a serious analysis of the film can be found here.

 

Jenny K:  Maybe your attraction to the Cinema of the B-T explains why you like Mani Ratnam films…well, why both of us like his work.  Some of his films are a visual ode to violence and devastation.  Not that he’s justifying it, at all, but he is always recording something visceral and memorable about war, and how it changes and heightens everything it touches.

 

Julie M:  Mission Kashmir also had, surprisingly, a couple of great musical numbers like this one, when Hrithik’s character shows up at this TV studio he wants to take over as part of the terrorist plan, and discovers that his old friend, now a well-known TV personality, is in mid-performance.  Of course he just joins right in.

You’d think the songs would be out of place in a bloodbath film like this, but they are so well-integrated into the plot that they make a certain kind of sense, unlike the random numbers in Agneepath.

 

Jenny K:  I’m glad you mentioned the “Bumbro” number where Preity meets up with Hrithik again, it’s a classic.  MK is not my favorite film, but has some wonderful visuals. Did you see Shankar, Eshaan and Loy, playing their song in “in person” no less, at the back of the big group number?  Looked like an ad for India Disney’s Small World Show, if there was such a thing.  

Julie M:  Was that really them? I noticed that the camera spent an unusual amount of time focusing on the band and wondered if maybe it was some famous pop star, but this makes more sense. I thought that number was kind of odious and Hrithik looked sappy in it. (I also thought it was stupid the way his character was able to crash not one, but TWO dance numbers without anyone noticing.)  But I let it go, because it’s so wonderful to watch him dance.  And during the film he is often sweaty and flexy.  

I’d rate this a 4 star experience as a film, and a 5+ star experience with Hrithik.  If you’re following his career, this makes THREE films he starred in his debut year.  Between Fiza and MK, 2000 was a pretty intense year for a guy who debuted in something as silly as Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai, which was a crowd-pleaser and may have made his name but doesn’t really show what he can do as an actor.

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Guzaarish (Request, 2010) tonight. Visually quite luscious, and as has also been my experience with all of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali films I’ve seen so far, a little on the slow side. Not as stylized and deathly boring as Saawariya, though.

The plot involves former illusionist (I refuse to use the term magician) and now quadriplegic Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), who, on the 14th anniversary of the stage accident that crippled him, has decided he wants to end his life.

 

Jenny K:  Fourteenth?  News to me.  If you went by the flashbacks, I’d have said he hadn’t aged more than two or three years…testament to the anti-aging effects of Goan weather, I guess…hydration, ya know.

 

Julie M:  His announcement shocks everyone, particularly his nurse Sofia (Aishwarya Rai), because he has always been so lively, positive and inspirational through his popular radio program and his speaking engagements. Trouble is, euthanasia is illegal in India, so he engages his best friend (Shernaz Patel), an attorney, to argue the case for him. While the case proceeds, he also becomes mentor to a manic young man (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who wants to carry forward Ethan’s stage performances.

Aside from the beauty of the film, Hrithik’s performance (conducted easily half or more in English, and I read that more was performed in English but Hindi was dubbed into the final film for political reasons) was astonishing. And not just because he convincingly plays a quadriplegic, which I imagine is extremely difficult. No, for the first time I felt that he had really thought this character through and wasn’t just projecting a series of “types.” He was thoroughly natural, and as the character has a great sense of humor and wit, I felt that we were seeing Hrithik let go of being a movie star and finally become a real actor.

 

Jenny K:  When I first watched it, I had read it was a remake of Whose Life Is It Anyway? the stage play and later the film with Richard Dreyfuss in the lead as the paralized sculptor who can no longer practice his art.  Guzaarish definitely addresses a lot of the same issues, but of course, Bhansali feels the need to dress things up, extend them and take them out of the decidedly unglamorous location of the hospital room. 

Again, it’s disappointing that, in an Indian film, they couldn’t have the woman that Hrithik bonds with be his doctor, as Dreyfuss does with Christine Lahti in WLIIA?  The woman, in this case Aish, is demoted to his faithful nurse.  She’s also made the hypothetical love interest, unlike in the American film, where it’s compassion not love.  I don’t mean to detract from Guzaarish, I rather liked it, and as you said, it was much better than Saawariya, but I can’t help noticing this trend.

 

Julie M:  As usual, Aish and Hrithik have excellent chemistry.   This scene (no subtitles, but it’s half in English anyway) comes at the point where Sofia finds out that Ethan has petitioned for euthanasia but has not told her:  she gets all huffy and tells him that clearly he doesn’t think enough of her to tell her personally, so from this point forward she will be just his nurse, not his friend. 

Her clearly passionate Sofia, in love with Ethan but unable to express it except through her professional care for him, is finally released in this scene where she has a couple of drinks and is moved to dance.

And we also get to see Hrithik move and dance as Ethan flashes back to moments in his stage career, particularly in this dream sequence.

Jenny K:  I felt there was too little dancing and too much floating by HR.  But that may be just me wanting more of a good thing, when he’s trying so hard, and successfully, to do a dramatic role here.  Is it just me, or is Aish channeling her inner Rekha in this film?

 

Julie M:  Aditya Kapoor also does a nice job as the apprentice illusionist, although he could have used more screen time.  The DVD I saw had some deleted scenes that included a really nice one between him and Sofia, that I have no idea why it was cut because it’s greatly character-developing for them both. 

But the real star is the film’s look. The setting is Goa and 90% of the action takes place in a decaying old Portuguese mansion–a character in itself–lushly appointed with centuries of antiques, greenery and family portraits. Every time of day is captured at some point in the film–even the moments just before and at dawn–and the famous Goa beaches are also represented in a very moving scene where Ethan’s overwhelming stillness is brilliantly compensated for by juxtaposing a wide shot of him in his wheelchair with crashing ocean waves lapping at his feet. SLB is the master of gorgeous filmmaking and even if you aren’t a fan of heartstring-tuggers (and this one is definitely a weeper, albeit an upbeat one), you can easily distract yourself by admiring all the lovely cinematic technique: scenery, costumes, props, locations…and, of course, Hrithik.  A solid 3 stars from me.

And luckily it’s available free on YouTube here.  Sit back with your left-over Super Noshes, kick back and Hrelish it!

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

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

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

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

[later that day…]

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

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

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

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

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

[the next day]

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

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

 [the next day]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[couple of days later]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 8: The Arts & Architecture Section of Our Programme

Julie M: Check out this article for its Bollywood connections–BigB and Husain’s Meenaxi.

 

Jenny K:  Interesting article, but sad, too. I was always so impressed about how Husain dealt with controversy. When his film, Meenaxi, offended anyone (indicated by the protests) he just removed the film completely, two weeks after opening it. The Muslim clerics hadn’t objected to the song “Noor-un-ala-Noor,” itself when it came out in advance of the movie, but objected when visually, it used a hymn that they thought was directed toward their god, instead depicted as an almost holy worship of a female character in the film. I’ll send you that film next, if you like. It’s not the strongest plot, but very interesting in a literary way, and is magnificent visually and in its Rahman soundtrack.

Julie M:  Meenaxi…wow. Total visual treat and as a whole, the soundtrack rivals Dil Se which, as you know, is my favorite (even better than Lagaan–sorry). Was a bit confused as to the plotline. My interpretation is [spoilersthat the white-robed Meenaxi character in every scene except at the mehndi is a figment of Nawab’s imagination–he created her to serve as his muse. And he died in service to both his muse and his story. I also interpret that the various inconsistencies among the stories (a Prague girl speaking fluent Hindi? come on!) were a reflection of his unraveling as a writer, and he saw the flaws and it was part of what killed him. Or am I overstating? Kunal Kapoor was so very goodlooking in this…debut and wow. I see that he is also in Rang De Basanti, which is waiting for me at the library so I get to see him some more this weekend.  Thank you for sending it.

Jenny K:  Glad you liked it…I get to see it at the film festival in Vancouver[Note: Indian Summer, a very nice festival, in its formative first year] that I’m going to in two weeks…on a big screen!!  Tabu is being saluted and she’s going to be there to discuss The Namesake, but my timing is such that I won’t be able to be there for that one…my plane doesn’t get in until 11pm. Sad. Had no choice when it’s a free flight. The pluses and minuses of frequent flyer programs.

Actually, almost all the films they are offering are ones that I have seen already. 3 Idiots, Peepli Live (fell asleep before the end of it first time I saw it, but probably because I tried a double header…two Indian movies in the evening are too much!) Meenaxi, Chandni Bar (you’d probably like that one), Maqbool, Iqbal, all good films, though I’ll only be able to do four films in the ten days I’m there…got to do a bit of sightseeing while I’m there.

[at this point Jenny tries to tempt Julie into going to Vancouver with her and Julie calls her Pure Evil]

[Jenny K’s Note: HA!…She wanted to go…hohoho (cue maniacal laughter)]

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Here is my movie lineup for this weekend (from the library):

Chandni Chowk to China
Delhi-6
Rab ne bana di Jodi

Your thoughts?

 

Jenny K:  CC to C I didn’t see…I’m sorta allergic to Akshay Kumar in most cases. He does a lot of cheesy chop-socky kinda action films with babes; guys seem to like them. Delhi-6 is okay, except for the black monkey. I won’t say more except that the grandmother in this one is Waheeda Rehman, a very famous film star from about 25 years ago, and I think she’s still lovely. RNBDJ is mild SRK fun, but I didn’t like it as much as some of my friends did. Too run of the mill.

 

Julie M:  Saw CCtoC last night. First part was very stupid and farce-y. I fell asleep in the middle and woke up for the last hour or so, and didn’t feel as if I’d missed anything. If you like martial arts movies it wasn’t bad, but it was so very formulaic (dumb ordinary guy from India ends up in China via ridiculous circumstances, has to do some kind of heroic task, learns martial arts from an expert, then slaughters the bad guys, gets the girl in the end). Somewhat interesting subplot about girl twins separated in infancy, one ends up a national spokesmodel inIndia, the other an underworld hit girl in China, they meet through this dumb idiot guy and his ridiculous circumstances. Kumar is kinda goodlooking and no doubt expert in martial arts, but so was Stephen Seagal and his movies are no Oscar winners. Pass on future ones.

 

Jenny K:  To be fair to Akshay, he does have one or two films that I like. If you ever see the movie Khakee, he gives a very nice turn as a venal cop with some hidden depths. I guess he’s good looking, but, I know it sounds stupid, he looks too American for me.  And he picks those tough guy film roles that could be American, too.  I could get that at home.

 

Julie M:  Saw Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi tonight.  B saw most of it with me and he liked it. I thought it was very cute and lighthearted fun. Music not bad either. Maybe a bit run of the mill because it seemed very Hollywood-romantic-comedy, but I was completely charmed. I liked that I knew some of the music (motorcycle chase to Dhoom 2 theme!) and some of the stars in the dream dance sequence. Beautiful shots of Amritsar, nice production values to the dancing. All in all, not very taxing and quite entertaining with only the teeniest bit of melodrama (I like drama, just not melodrama). I’d give it a thumbs-up.  I wanted to see the special features disk but no time…I have to see Delhi-6 and another movie, Kyun…Ho Gaya Na (couldn’t resist, it has BigB, Aish and Viveik Oberoi), and return them both on Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Not to say I thought RNDBJ was bad or anything. Just having seen some two dozen films by SRK it seemed rather run-of-the-mill. And even though I like him trying new things (playing shy and retiring, plain-looking nebbish guy convincingly) I object to half a movie going by without him smiling. I love his smile. I actually only remembering a few things about the film, it doesn’t stick with you long, I remember thinking she was rather stupid for not recognizing her own husband, and I also remember liking that scene on the hillside where he spelled out, was it her name? in the lights. That was cute.

Kyun…Ho Gaya Na was a while ago, but it was a big buzz when it came out because Aish and Viveik were dating at the time, and I think it was their first movie together (perhaps their only) and there was an actual kiss in the film, I think (one that Aish conveniently forgot when she was interviewed on US tv around the time Bride and Prejudice came out…”no, I’ve never been kissed onscreen, we don’t do that here in India”. Perhaps she was banking that with KHGN‘s bad audience numbers, no one outside of India had actually seen it :-). Whatever, I don’t recall thinking they had much chemistry in it. Hope I’m wrong.

Hey…You’ve hit a milestone and we didn’t even celebrate it 🙂 I’ve been keeping a list of what you’ve seen so that I don’t duplicate what I send to you, and you’ve seen over thirty-five movies now! I’m counting whatever you see tonight…with both Delhi-6 and KHGN it will be 36! Now that’s an official conversion, I think, an “Interest” with a capital I! You may well last and become a superfan, yet. Welcome to the club!

Jenny
Lead East Coast Recruiter
354 movies and counting (not counting duplicate viewings….it would be too scary!) Well, I have been doing it since the summer of 2003, I think… So you see where it can go… Hmmm… I wonder what I should do for my ten year “anniversary” … go to Bombay???

 

Julie M:  If you go to India tell me–I will go with you! Even though it would cost half a semester’s college tuition for one of the kids.

It was hilarious seeing SRK playing a shy nerd, since he’s so Raj-like in real life (so I understand). That was half the fun for me. [Spoilers, I guess] It made sense to me that she didn’t recognize her husband–if you watch the scenes where they are together, she barely even looks at him, and of course they didn’t sleep together. She probably only registered the clothes, mustache and glasses anyway. (and he spelled out I Love You in lights–so sweet)

Has it been 35 movies? I am calling this a hobby (my son is calling it an obsession). I simply don’t watch many American movies, they are too boring, and summer TV is horrible with all the repeats.

Liked Delhi-6. A little weird and serious for Bollywood but visually very rich and an interesting message. LittleB was great.

KHGN–BORING. I only got partway through. Snore. Also, the CD from the library wasn’t in good shape so it was a good excuse to quit. I assume they get together in the end. Although they were quite pretty, I found myself not really caring about them. So–a dud.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I didn’t want to bias you, if, in fact, you liked it. I think I fell asleep in the movie theater. Not a good sign. Have some recollection of his being a race driver of some type, but truthfully, the most surprising thing about it was the kiss. And really, they don’t have much screen chemistry for a couple that were dating. Oh well, she doesn’t tend to have chemistry with anyone except Hrithik. Even her husband, LittleB. She’s pretty, but reads sort of cold-fishy, as a rule.

Wasn’t the black monkey weird in Delhi-6? But I loved his connection with his grandma, and I liked Rishi Kapoor, the grandma’s old boyfriend, better than I usually do. He was Kajol’s dad in Fanaa, and he was a big star in romantic leads back in the seventies and eighties. Kareena’s uncle, I believe. They are sort of the first family of Indian Cinema. If you ever get the urge to check out the really early stuff get Awara with Raj Kapoor and Pyaasa with Guru Dutt… Classics, both.

 

Julie M: Rishi Kapoor played Roshan’s MOTHER’s old boyfriend, not the grandmother’s. I like Rishi Kapoor. He caught my eye in Hum Tum (the first thing I saw him in) for adding complexity to what could have been a one-dimensional role, and has been great in pretty much everything else since, including Fanaa.

The race driver plot point never went anywhere. You were right, Viveik can dance, but it seems that he can’t act well, so…career in the toilet.

I immediately read the “black monkey” as a metaphor for something dark that lurked in peoples’ souls, particulary in times of crisis or transition, so the entire alternative-dimension aspect of the film, that some critics seemed to hate, did not bother me. I generally hate film violence so the beating/shooting scene at the end upset me a little–went on WAY too long–had to fast-forward through it. I loved LittleB’s character every which way–loved that he started the movie with a strong American accent and only speaking English back when people spoke Hindi to him, and as time went on he lapsed more and more into Hindi and his English words became heavily Indian-accented. A great acting touch from LittleB. But his perspective on life remained very American, even when he decided to stay in India. This character did a good job of showing the best of both worlds.

 

Jenny K:  Now don’t give up on Viveik completely until you see him in Company and Yuva (I sent them off to you, hopefully you should be getting them soon). What I would say is that he can’t carry a film by himself. Given the right vehicle and the right co-stars he can be quite effective. Poor baby. Seldom if ever used correctly.

As to Rishi, I’m just saying that he is aging much better than I would have expected. Here’s what I think of as him as his “famous prime” back in the seventies…in Amar Akbar Anthony, as BigB’s little brother the musician. Okay but always a bit cheesy.

Not quite as good looking as either his father Raj Kapoor.

Or his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor.

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 3: SRK, Saif, Salman and Shirtlessness

Julie M:  I went to the library this afternoon (half-day off) and picked up 2 movies which looked good, but were not on your lists. I looked them up and at least one of them seems to be a good choice — Chak de! India. I’m kind of a sucker for inspirational sports movies about women and girls and this one won a bunch of awards, so I figure I won’t abandon it at the intermission.  The other one is Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which said nothing plot-wise on the back jacket but when I looked it up at home it seems to be the first Indian film about surrogate motherhood, so I bet it was too controversial to talk about in the video store. We’ll see about that one.

The video in my library about the blind woman is not Black, it’s  Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, 1981, starring Amitabh past his prime. Worth it? The description seems unduly complicated.

So where do you end up meeting people like Hrithik Roshan in person?

Jenny K:  Both the ones you got are fine. No alarms, unless Salman Khan scares you…he occasionally does me, takes his shirt off WAY too much in my opinion. He’s beefed up so much he’s built like a WWF wrestler these days. Maybe not so much when C4 came out. Chak De is a bit disappointing for me as it’s billed as an SRK film, but it’s really more about the girls on the team…as it should be, but for oglers of Shah Rukh, it doesn’t do that much.

Never saw Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, but Amitabh’s usually good even when his wardrobe is scary (anything in the 70’s…especially that 7 Brides for 7 Brothers remake that I’ve forgotten the name of) [Satte Pe Satta]. His legs are just way too long proportionately, for overalls with boots but somehow, unexplainably,  he carries it off.  And, in my opinion, BigB has never left his prime…just looks better and better with mileage 🙂

I met HR while working a live Bollywood concert in Fairfax. Aishwarya was there too, but I just saw her from a distance. I just chatted at him as he went in the door past me. “The crowd seems to really be glad you’re here…” or something equally witty on my part. He looked at me with those eyes and grinned as he went in. Heck, I’m glad I got something coherent out at all. I almost blacked out when I asked Amitabh a question at Filmfest DC.

Julie M:  OK–watched Chori Chori Chupke Chupke–enjoyed it but the DVD I borrowed was in “anamorphic widescreen” and the picture was all distorted. The only thing I didn’t like were the several HUGE chunks lifted directly from Pretty Woman–with dialogue pretty much intact. But otherwise an entertaining experience. Salman Khan didn’t take his shirt off once, although in one scene he was in a very tight white T-shirt. Will watch Chak de India! this afternoon.

[time passes…]

Julie M:  Two more movies…Chak De India was GREAT, loved it, not typical Bollywood but was refreshing. I thought there was plenty of SRK and for once I liked every facet of the character he played.

Lage Raho Munnabhai was merely OK. It’s not the type of movie that I watch generally, in any language; in fact I pretty much avoid the genre. I liked the Munna character, though, and I liked the last moment of the film when we FINALLY get to see the fiancé and it’s LittleB. (probably tickled the audience too)

Tried to get Kuch Kuch Hota Hai from the library but they system doesn’t have it. I have to decide whether it’s worth going through interlibrary loan or if I should just buy it. It can’t be too expensive if I get it used through secondhand DVD sources online.

The executive secretary at my office was bemoaning the sorry state of daytime dramas, so I’m going to lend her K3G. Another convert?

Jenny K:  Good for you…your first convert 🙂 I almost think that any hard core soaper might like KHNH better…all that hiding your illness and illegitimate children and denying your own love for your lover’s future happiness stuff. Would seem almost like dropping in to Llanview or Genoa City. She might also like Dil Chahta Hai, good drama but in more manageable doses.

Julie M:  Oh, I’m sure she’d like KHNH as well or better, but I don’t own that one. (I don’t recall an illegitimate child in KHNH?? did I miss something?)  I can see that this new hobby is going to get expensive… 🙂

Jenny K: [Spoilers: Highlight to view] Yes, the little girl that Naina’s mother adopted was the father’s illegitimate child with his mistress. That was the whole thing that caused the reconciliation scene in the church. The father killed himself because he felt so guilty about foisting his child on Jennifer, and she was so noble about it, and loved the girl as her own. Then everyone got all teary when SRK brought out the letter and the grandma had to eat crow and make up with Jennifer because she had actually been a better daughter in law than she could have hoped for, lying for her husband to protect his reputation. [End of spoilers]

The trick to beat the expense is, I think, to find your local rental places, or join an online DVD rental club, or get a few others hooked and you each buy a couple and then share them around…I’ve done all three 🙂

Julie M:  Oh, yes, I forgot about [spoilers] the adopted illegitimate child. It seemed a minor plot point once the whole “he’s dying” thing came to the fore.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Bunty aur Babli this evening. SO cute, and the music is fun. I could swear I had heard the “Kajra Re” song somewhere before–am I dreaming? Anyway, fun to see the Bachchan-Rai trio performing together. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jenny K: Yeah, I particularly like the “drunk” scene before “Kajira Re”, where BigB tells the story about his lost love…he’s hilarious, in that and in the “music video” at the end over the credits. I just love him.  No, you’re not crazy. “Kajira Re” was in that first list of my favorite videos that I gave you.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  OK, got Devdas out of the library (finally). I’ve only watched the first half–or I think it’s the first half, up to the point where Paro gets married and moves into her husband’s mansion, and Devdas wakes up to find that he’s been out for 2 days and Chandramukhi took care of him. I’m afraid it’s too much for me. The costumes are fabulous (it’s supposed to take place in the past, right–somewhere around the turn of the century? They have gaslight but not electricity, it seems, and the British are still in charge so it has to be pre-1947) and the songs make sense, but the drama is too drawn-out for my taste. I’ve peeked online so I know what happens–is it worth seeing the rest of the film?

Jenny K:  I see you agreed with my opinions on Devdas rather than Corliss’ ones. But you have to have seen it if you are making a “full study” of current Bollywood. Devdas, the character, just kills me… [Spoilers] You’d think that Paro would have liked him more if he realized his mistake, dusted himself off and made the most of his privileged life and made her proud of him. But no…the best he could do was do the prototypical monster mope of all time and drink himself to death in epic style.  Ooops…I should have said SPOILER! Sorry. But if you “peeked” maybe it isn’t a surprise.  If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. It affected me sort of like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary…what sheer waste of literary/filmic space wasting time on those egomaniacal losers. SRK is certainly cute, especially in his death scene…should one look cute in your death scene, is it appropriate? You could skip to that to glance at it, if you wanted. Definitely hit the Play All button on the songs menu and watch ’em. Great staging, great costumes, every one. I especially liked the “Chalak Chalak” number and the “Dola Re Dola” number is good, as I think I said before. Persevere…

Julie M:  I will skip the rest of Devdas as I still want to like SRK, but will play all the songs. The choreography, sets and costumes are just stunning.

Saw Hum Tum this weekend. Cute, kinda like When Harry met Sally without the deli scene. Did not buy the Karan character as a professional cartoonist (not enough personal discipline) but Saif Ali Khan was sweet in the role (just as sweet as he was in KHNH).

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