August 16, 2011:Crying, Courage & Climbing the Khan Tower

Julie M:  This weekend’s movie schedule (starting Saturday) is:

Baabul
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Dil To Pagal Hai

 

Jenny K:  I think you’ll find Baabul touching but slight, Rani cute, John and Salman acceptably restrained and Amitabh and Hema Malini, the mainstays as usual. I think that you, with your Ajay fixation, will like Bhagat Singh fairly well, but it may play a bit long. Dil To Pagal Hai is silly, and you’ll probably hate it, but promise me you’ll watch the song in the rain with Shah Rukh, Madhuri Dixit and the kids [Koi Ladki Hai]…fabulous. One of my favorites…

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Inquilab Zindabad! The Legend of Bhagat Singh was fantastic and seemed to be quite historically accurate. Music was amazing–one of Rahman’s best. Ajay was perfect (could he be anything else?). Can’t see why it didn’t do better with the public; maybe it was too serious a topic? Anyway, I didn’t think it was too long. Now I want to see Rang De Basanti again, and the Bobby Deol version. What a charismatic character. 

This moving scene is where Bhagat Singh and his group are in jail and are on a hunger strike to force better prisoner conditions. Instead of giving them water their jailers try to give them milk to get them to take nourishment. Leads to a beautiful patriotic song and a rare excellent lip-sync performance by Ajay.

Jenny K:  I liked your clip from The Legend of Bhagat Singh, but I think I like the way they used the poem a bit better in Rang de Basanti, just with voice with percussion behind. Aamir Khan’s voice, particularly (not to put down Atul Kulkarni, by any means), was fabulous in his rendition of it. Wikipedia has a nice short article on the poem with the translation. Very interesting.

The best thing about the video, except how fine Ajay looked (“starving” suits him, I guess, but isn’t his hair is exceptionally well groomed for a no-mirror-or-comb environment?) was that it reminded me Sushant Singh was in it playing Sukhdev.  I adore Sushant, he always gives a note of clarity and truthfulness to a role.  He was really busy around that time, 2003-ish, especially in films with Sushmita Sen. Whether or not the film was good, Sushant always is: Samay, Paisa Vasool, Lakshya, Sehar…to name a few. Cute and talented. Sigh. The guy playing Chandrashekar Azad (Akhilendra Mishra) is good, too (loved him in Lagaan as the blacksmith) but, gosh, gosh, and I repeat, gosh…who among these guys was even close to 24 years old?!?!?!

[the next day]

Julie M:  Dil To Pagal Hai was definitely silly and I did hate most of it. Two good things: I loved the Ajay character, thought he was cute and sweet, and any scene that he was in was excellent. (okay, you can move me over to the Akshay Kumar-fan column if only for his smile in this movie) The other was the rain dance scene (“Koi Ladki Hai”) with the kids–awesome, thanks for pointing it out. For the rest…meh to eccchhh. I am surprised that SRK ended up such a big star and got offered juicy parts after this kind of predictable nonsense.

(and is it just me, or do Karisma Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar look a lot alike? Maybe not now, but in the films of, say, the mid-to-late 1990s; this one vs Rangeela, for example.)

Had to put this song in as a clip. Best one I could find with English subtitles. Akshay’s face at 2:44 is just the best.

“Koi Ladki Hai” is here: (sorry, no subtitles–lyrics are basically “I’m in love with a girl who makes it rain”)

[Note: If you want HD you have to manually set it to 720 or up, and you can also activate the subtitles by hitting CC. Both are on the toolbar, but only on the Youtube site, proper.]

 

Jenny K:  Well, all I’m going to say about Dil To Pagal Hai, is that I didn’t send it to you in the A to K box for a reason. Also, I will allow that Akshay Kumar was good in it, but please don’t tell me you’re going over to the Khiladi Side…(a series of kinda-sorta-James-Bondish films he’s done. You know…girls, danger, stunts, more girls, etc). I don’t know if I can take it. I’m very glad you like Koi Ladki Hai…it’s one of my top 20 favorite videos, I think.

But before you offend the whole SRK fanbase, (which is legion, BTW) keep it in mind that you are still approaching Dil To Pagal Hai with an American mindset. I double checked my recollection, and according to boxofficeindia.com, DTPH was the second biggest grosser in India in 1997. Very popular, indeed. Behind only Border, which you have, and I quite like, and just ahead of Pardes, another SRK starrer, and one you’d also probably hate. To give you an idea, since his first film in 1992, he’s put out 69 films and had 18 of them hit in the top five for their year. Different cinematic strokes for different folks…even though we (and many others) love what he does in movies like Dil Se…a lot of people like the Rukhster to be silly and charming. It can make for a phenomenal career.

 

Julie M:  No Khiladi for me, thanks. I just thought Akshay was cute and funny in DTPH, and seemed to me to be the best thing in it. Plus I liked him in Tashan and Bhool Bulaiyya. If you tell me to avoid the Khiladi movies I will. (I haven’t yielded to temptation to try Golmaal 2 and 3, even though they are on the shelves at the library all the time)

And don’t get me wrong…SRK was good at what he was called upon to do in DTPH, but given his popularity in this (and other similar films around the same time where he seems to play the same type of role) it seems, well, unconventional that he was allowed to move beyond it to do some real acting work. Which he does well. What would you say was his “breakthrough” film, the one that got him to be taken seriously and allowed by the box office to do things like, say, Swades and MNIK and Don? Was it Dil Se… or something later?

 

Jenny K:  What you’re not getting here is that SRK wasn’t “allowed” to do the serious films…he’s had to fight to do them. The audiences don’t seem to want to see him do serious at all.  But because he draws so well at the non-serious movies, and is so beloved, that the producers will sometimes “humor” him and let him do a film (or he produces it himself) which they consider a box office risk. Dil Se… and Swades were in no way box office superhits, and My Name is Khan was only a moderate one in the homeland (only squeaking in to number five for 2010). Salman’s hit Dabaang was the winner last year, in terms of grosses.

So, if the Indian audience had their way, Shah Rukh would solely do romantic heroes until the age of 75. He’s pretty stubborn, though, and will insist on doing something else every so often to “keep his hand in,” as it were.

 

Julie M:  I guess I can’t blame audiences for pigeonholing actors, and I also understand that actors need to fight for better parts. Money makes the world go ’round, and the tried-and-true will always sell (n.b. sequels). I suppose that’s why so many actors form their own production companies (like SRK and Red Chillies)–so they can do what they want to do and help other actors do the same.  I cannot understand why Dabangg was so popular (based solely on the trailer). Or rather, I can understand, since it was clearly designed to appeal to 14-to-22-year-old boys. But I don’t have to like it.

 

Jenny K:  Aamir Khan seems to be the only one to be able to fight the pigeonholing trend, as far as I’ve seen, and still be number one at the box office.  He’s up there at the top spot these days just as often as SRK and Salman are…Let the Khan Wars khantinue…

 [later]

Julie M:  Oh. My. God. Was Baabul EXCRUCIATINGLY SLOW or what? The plotlines were somewhat intriguing–albeit with a WQ [Weepiness Quotient] off the charts that left me cold, it was so much–but did they have to drag it out so long? It’s almost as if they were trying for the K3G factor.

[Note: Spoilerish bits in the clip, especially at the end.]

Rani was the best thing about it. I truly coveted her character’s wardrobe, and the jewelry…well, the family in the story owned a jewelry manufacturing company, so it made sense to have it so elaborate. Hema was believable and I didn’t feel that she was as over-the-top as BigB was. John Abraham looked good in the longer hair and less obviously buffed body–nice understated performance, whereas I could have used a bit more charm from Salman to make it believable that Rani would fall for him. BigB’s rug was obvious–even B noticed and asked whether it was real hair or not. Overall…2 stars.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…I thought Salman was much more charming in Baabul than he usually is. It almost worked on me in this film. I particularly liked his vibe with BigB. Drag racing your elders…perhaps unwise, but fun.  I also liked Hema and Amitabh’s chemistry, as I always do, they’ve worked together for so long, it just plays really well. They were the best thing in Veer-Zaara for me, too.

(Though I’m not recommending much more than that number and Main Yahaan Hoon in V-Z. It’s not one of my favorites; too already-seen-that plus very bad aging makeup and wigs).  John was inoffensive, but rather bland for me, again. And as to the length of the film, that is sort of the standard pacing for “emotional family drama” in India. People don’t feel like they’re getting full-impact catharsis without at least two hours of emotional sumo wrestling   I’ve grown to agree, for the most part, over the years.  Bah, 90 minute formats…  Kid-stuff!

 

Julie M:  Emotional family drama…I’d better avoid those in the future, no matter who’s in it. It’s just not my style. Warn me, OK? Put the code letters EFD and I’ll know. I’ll be working on next weekend’s library list soon and will run it by you to catch any clunkers.

 

JennyK:  I know Julie and I, both, were very sad to hear of the passing of Shammi Kapoor, and as neither of us have seen enough of his older films, we’ll probably pre-empt our next film glut with a review of one of his.  We mourn with the rest of the Indian film public at the passing of a classic comedian and, from what I’m told (and have seen in interviews), a very classy fellow.

August 9, 2011: Lovers and Other Burning Subjects

Julie M: Watched Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge [Revered Guest, When Will You Leave?]…somewhat funny, mainly due to Paresh Rawal. Ajay Devgan and Konkona Sen Sharma were serviceable, but as primarily dramatic actors I felt they were wasted in the comic aspect of their roles. A few genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Why why why do they have to insert those stupid boing-boing noises?? Would have been funny enough without them. And from the beginning I knew what the very end would be. Overall–I don’t generally watch this kind of farce-comedy in English (OK, I admit to watching and enjoying Hot Tub Time Machine but deeply regretted saying OK to The Hangover and Are We There Yet) and probably won’t watch more in Hindi either.

Here’s the trailer with English subs.

I think the fact that it was backed by Warner Brothers tells us a lot. This song is probably the best part of the movie:

No subtitles but you get the idea from the action that they are frustrated with this guest and want him to leave.

[Next day]

Julie M: Saw Sholay [Embers] last night. Two things I wish I’d known going in: that it was 3-1/2 hours long, and that it was a WESTERN. I Hate Westerns. From the first plot intimations I kept flashing back to The Magnificent Seven, except the village-protectors were somewhat-comedic crooks instead of professional gunmen (now picturing in my head The Three Amigos, who, despite being actors rather than crooks, were comedic), and there were songs and dances. It seemed only vaguely Indian…in my mind I kept calling it a “curry western”…everything was there: riding around on horseback, the dusty landscape complete with cactus, the rich rancher, the thirst for revenge, gun battles, the innocent townspeople, gun skirmishes before the Final Stand, etc. Even a train robbery. So this is an Indian classic? Hmph.

Having said that, I loved Amitabh’s character and the interplay he had with Dharmendra’s character. Even though he only wore one outfit in the entire movie he looked awesome in it (those legs! those hands! that hair!). And I thought it was funny that I had just seen ATKJ where there was an extended Sholay reference, and then I saw Sholay and viewed the source of the reference. And even though I Hate Westerns, I tried really hard to get past the conventions to see the life lessons: not giving in to bullies, grabbing some fun while you can, and the true meaning of friendship. (I could have done without the slapstick Hitler-parody jailer, though)

Here’s the opening scene:

My favorite song (probably everyone’s favorite too):

Note the orchestration sounds like the old Westerns too…

And if you want to see the scene they refer to in ATKJ, here it is.

I couldn’t find it with English subtitles, but essentially the villain (Gabbar Singh, the one with the beard) is berating his crew for letting two (how many? TWO! how many? TWO!!) strangers get the better of them, and exacts punishment. The guy on the right is the older actor that Chachaji pesters on the film set in ATKJ.

Anyway, I’m glad I watched it but will be sure to warn people that if they don’t like Westerns they will likely not enjoy this film. I can’t say that I entirely enjoyed it although there were moments that I recognized as “classic”.

 

Jenny K:  Sorry about that, I thought I had mentioned that Sholay was a Western, but maybe not. My mom had just the same reaction to the Hitlerized Jailer, too. “Speed up past that bit, let’s get back to Amitabh!” She didn’t like the “silly stuff”. And on the whole, I agree.

I thought Paresh Rawal was wonderful in ATKJ. He’s so versatile in things, hilarious, then touching, sometimes even in the same scene.  Though he does do more in comedy than anything else, I know he’s done a good bit of drama as well. He says he’s most proud of a movie he did last year, Road to Sangam, about a mechanic charged with delivering Ghandi’s ashes back home

and Sardar, a bio-pic he did a few years earlier, about Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel, a compatriot of Ghandi and Nehru who fought to keep all religions safe during partition. The movie’s on YouTube (in 16 parts, with subtitles) I haven’t watched it yet.

Julie M:  One of the movies I reserved from the library for this weekend is The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Can’t wait!

 

Jenny K:  As I remember it, Ajay did a good job, of course, but he seemed a tad old for the role. Bhagat Singh was 24 when he died. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone in film these days, if they want a role. There was at least one other version of the story being filmed at the same time. This one with Bobby Deol in the lead…yet another over-thirty trying it on for size. I think Ajay’s beat Bobby’s to the cinemas, and I believe did better at the box office. I think it was a bit slow for my taste, but Ajay was very heroic.

The multiple Bhagat Singh films explains a joke in KHNH, I think, where Preity’s suitor came to the house with lots of kids in turbans, and when they are introduced to the family all are named Bhagat Singh, of course a very popular Sikh name, but not usually in multiples. When the family looks confused the father says something like “You can never have too many Bhagat Singhs!” This was just the time the other films were in the pipeline and making lots of press.

Though I will say, not having seen the Bobby Deol version…he looks a bit more like the pictures of Bhagat Singh that have come down to us in the papers of the day.  Both too old though.

[the next day]

 

Julie M:  Well, Saawariya [My Beloved] was a bust. The library DVD was all scratched up and it won’t work for more than 20 minutes at a time on any of my players or computers. I got a bit more than halfway through, watching in bits and pieces, and gave up. But from what I saw it is stunningly beautiful visually, and I loved how it was done kind of like a staged play. Not the least of the stunning visuals was Ranbir…this number just about made me faint, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

But then his hair inexplicably turned Beatle-esque (Ringo, I believe) and the bloom came off the rose a little. Still, he’s adorable and I could definitely stand to see more of him (but not THAT way—more of his acting! Acting!!).

This number was cute too:

Overall, too gushy of a story for me to exert the effort to finish the DVD (you know me, I am not the gushy romantic type) and I cheated online to see how it ended. Meh, for the storyline. If it were not directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali it would have been ordinary and boring.

 

Jenny K:  I may have a copy of it if you wanted to see the ending. Not sure, I think I picked it up in a discount bin somewhere. Blockbuster, not the pirated ones. That scene with Ranbir and the towel was a BIG scandal when it came out, but I remember thinking at the time when I saw it on the big screen that it wasn’t worth all the furor. They spoke in the reviews as if he were completely naked, but unless you were his neighbors across the street, you didn’t see it all…and it wasn’t necessary. I think that when he fell off the chair and was seated on the floor that I saw a pair of shorts on him past the edge of the towel in one shot. Still and all, he is a cutie. Yes, you definitely should pick up a copy of Bachna Ae Haseeno. I think it’s his best so far.

 

Julie M:  I’ll try to find BAH. It’s not at the library, so I guess I’ll have to get it another way. Sigh.

[Pusher’s Note: It’s available for rental at YouTube… ]

On another, and seriously disappointing note, it seems as if the my local theater here has stopped showing Indian movies, just since I saw ZMND there a couple of weeks ago. That means my closest first-run theater is now in Chicago. Grrr.

 

Jenny K: Don’t give up hope.  A lot of the theaters that carry Hindi films can’t afford to show them without the big crowds, so they only book them for a week, or at the most, two weeks so the locals learn to come early or miss out.  Then the theaters go back to programming American films in between.  It’s especially true at multiplexes, where only one or at most two theaters are dedicated to the South Asian community’s films.  Check again in late October.   Don 2 is coming out for Diwali… your theater will book SRK.  And I’ve heard a rumor that Hrithik is doing a cameo in it.

August 4, 2011: Pairs and Parallels

[Jenny K’s Note: Now that we’re caught up with our back posts, we’re just dating the new ones, and not numbering them: Part 1, Part 2, etc.]

 

Julie M:  THANKS for the super-box of movies!! An abundance of riches. Even though it was almost 10pm when I got free last night, I couldn’t resist diving in. By totally random chance (the close-eyes-and-grab method) I selected Cheeni Kum. Two of my fave actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu.

I liked the fact that it was a love story with two mature people instead of pretty kids. I liked that they didn’t attempt to do the sappy love-song numbers themselves, but had them as background. I liked BigB carrying this on his own instead of being the occasional elder and somewhat ridiculous foil to the younger hero (JBJ, BaB and KANK, I’m talking to you). There were some wonderful moments where we got to see pure joy on BigB’s face, a rare occurrence since I didn’t think his persona owned that emotion. However, overall I would call it merely a serviceable romantic comedy, slightly engaging yet entirely predictable, with obviously manipulative heartstring-tugging elements (the little girl). I kept thinking that I had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery do the same story, or a version thereof, but with a little more charm and chemistry.

Jenny K:  Well, I’m glad you’re surprised. Fun to see how much of “the library” can fit in one small box. No rush to get them back. I liked Cheeni Kum, too, but actually don’t remember that many details about it. He was a chef, and she was a customer with a discriminating palate. That was a challenge to him, which he wasn’t used to. I thought both BigB and Tabu did a good job, but Paresh Rawal, again, made the biggest impression as her father. Amazing what he can tell you with just a slight adjustment to his face…he probably was not responsible for the over- lengthy scene on the roof of his house. Talent and all, it dragged a bit, and could have been cut a bit to it’s benefit.

Not quite sure which CZ-J movie you’re referring to. She did No Reservations where she was a cranky chef, but it was with Aaron Eckhart. Then she did Entrapment with Sean Connery, and there was chemistry, yes, but it was based on them being pupil and teacher, and was a thriller, not on a romantic comedy. Perhaps you are just thinking about her personal life, hmmm?

 

Julie M:  I didn’t say that they HAD done a movie exactly like it…it’s more like BigB and Tabu had the CZ-J/SC vibe, and I kept FEELING like I was watching the other set of actors. I felt the stirrings of a rom-com relationship in Entrapment, so maybe that was it. Paresh Rawal, he was the slapstick overly-frightened uncle in Bhool Bhulaiyaa that I just saw and I couldn’t get that persona out of my head, because I hated it in BB.

No, my objection to Cheeni Kum (which I didn’t love, but didn’t hate: same feeling as Jab We Met for me) was that it was nothing different except for the actors. I’ve quit going to that kind of film out of Hollywood–seen one, seen ’em all. This had the smell of “vehicle” for me.

 

Jenny K:  You’re so darned literal! I had my toungue firmly in cheek…it was all a build up to more effectively pick on Michael Douglas, which, is, given his current state of health, questionable on my part. But old habits die hard, and good jokes are hard to find. Official retraction, so there’s no misunderstanding… I like Michael Douglas as an actor, and I hope he rides his health problems out successfully. There. I feel better now.

But actually, Cheeni Kum was something rather daring in Indian cinema. The May-December thing, at least at their age, while it may be done in life with older, richer guys marrying younger women, it’s not done in popular cinema that often, unless it’s a period film and the girl is a teenager and the older man is the villain in the piece. That I have seen, frequently.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   Tonight’s feature…Iqbal. What a sweet movie. Completely predictable (except for the coach didn’t die: that would have hit all the cliches) but fun, a lot of heart, and made me cheer. Shreyas Talpade…he was good as the friend in Om Shanti Om but glad to have caught his debut movie. (hot hot hot) This is definite Heartland Film Festival stuff–that’s our local–affirming the human spirit, yada yada. And I got to watch more cricket, sort of. 

[Jenny K’s Note: Hey, the whole movie is on YouTube, again…]

Jenny K: You’re a brave one…the thought of watching cricket, except in its edited form, daunts me. I’m assuming that Lagaan gave me its “good parts version” and even then, wasn’t there over an hour and a half of just game footage? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but if I didn’t have the emotional backstory of the players in that one, would I have enjoyed it so much? Don’t think so, but maybe I’ll check out a local team sometime. There has to be one, somewhere around DC.

So, Shreyas Talpade floats your boat, does he? I grant you he’s cute as a puppy, but to quote, “hot hot hot,” did I get that right? Ah, you do seem to like those young things, Shahid, Zayed, now Shreyas. Heaven help you when you see Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Naa. Imraan Khan would be just up your alley in the story of to cute kids who just think they are friends, to learn differently, later. Aamir’s nephew, BTW.

Or maybe Ranbir Kapoor, Rishi’s son. Try Sawaariya, or maybe Bachna Ae Haseeno. Yes, that one might do. A coming of age story about a young guy who thinks he’s a player and it takes three women to knock it out of him. 

In any case, as long as you’re watching the cute little halflings, it leaves the old guard, literally, to me. No, Naseerji, you are not safe from your number one fan! He’s still so cute…though I’m not stalking him. No, really. Just collecting his films….

 

Julie M:  Now, now, I am not ALWAYS a cradle robber. I like Shiney Ahuja, and he’s not a puppy. And Farhan. And, so help me, the big teddy bear that is Boman Irani. And Ajay. AND Shreyas is a bit older now than he was in Iqbal.  Oh, and my library does have Sawaariya, so I’ve requested it. 

 

Jenny K:  Poking around about your HKA post, looking at the trailer and I had thought from looking at it that the guy she slept with looked familiar, and it was KayKay Menon. I think he’s got really good acting chops. I really liked him in Sarkar with BigB and Deewar (the newest one) also with BigB and Akshaye Khanna. Sometimes he reminds me of a young James Woods, don’t know just why. Here’s an interesting article on him from The Hindu newspaper.  

Shiney Ahuja, I only know from that bit in Fanaa, where he was unfortunate enough to meet Aamir in that helecopter. And yes, watching the clip of BB, I think I might have to watch it. It’s rare that Akshay’s sense of humor tickles my funny bone (Never, never, never go see, rent or even touch a copy of Garam Masala, no matter how funny anyone tells you it is. Painful!) I actually giggled once or twice in that trailer. But. I will say that I love him in the yellow outfit. Best thing he’s had on in years! Except the black coat at the end of Bewafaa, which was very fetching. However, it was too late in that film to save it from “awful” status…now, come on, really…is he supposed to be a rock star giving a concert or did he just get confused and stumbled into a random Victoria’s Secret stage show?   

Julie M:  I think both BB and Tashan might change your opinion of Akshay. He’s not over-the-top in either of them, and NO martial-arts stuff whatsoever in BB. (a little in Tashan, towards the end, but it’s not the point of the film)

 

Jenny K:  BigB seems to be allowing a number of his films and Abhishek’s out on Youtube and I found this one on Hulu via IMDb, that I just watched myself last week, Baabul. It was sweet, even if it did have The Shirtless Boys in it (Salman and John Abraham, oddly, fully clothed this time) with Rani. I’ve decided that Salman is more endearing when he only stays for half a film. You should poke around and hunt some up. Oops! Hulu put in a commercial even before the end of the credit song!  

 

Julie M: Re: Cheeni Kum: Purely by chance I found this description of an older movie, Autumn in New York, about a cranky restauranteur and a woman half his age:  

(Warning–there are spoilers in the article) Some elements of plot similar to Cheeni Kum but a completely different outcome. Although–I can totally see this version having the dramatic elements that would make it attractive to Bollywood.

I say this because I watched Matchstick Men last night, which has some elements disturbingly close to the plot of Bluffmaster:  

(Spoilers there, too) But, as we have seen with Ghajini/Memento, elements of a Western film can be appropriated and integrated into a Bollywood film and become a totally different story without affecting the original.

 

Jenny K:  As to Autumn in NY being like Cheeni Kum, you wouldn’t think so if you had seen it. I did, and if you (and Wikipedia) say that he was a restaurant onwer, it may be so, but I don’t remember that being a focus of the film, at all. He may have owned it, but I don’t think he was a chef, and really it only focused on their relationship, or not relationship, and her illness, and if he should be with her, etc.

There was a feeling of Cinderella about it, he had her make one of her crazy hats for a mythical someone, and it turned out it was for her, herself. Then she had to find something to wear with it and go out to a ritzy dinner with him. All very NYC fantasy date for the dying chick. I remember something about her changing his life so much that he put up a Christmas tree for the first time, and there is an image I remember of the tree on his penthouse terrace in the snow.

Very pretty images, sort of a dying woman’s postcards to her lover. You are definitely right that from the melodrama aspect, it SHOULD have been made over into a BW movie, long ago, even if it hasn’t been already. Cheeni Kum is just a much more cranky, crotchety piece, mostly due to AB’s onscreen personality. Love him to pieces…even if this isn’t his best film, by a longshot. 

I read the Matchstick Men synopsis, and then compared it to the Bluffmaster one, which I remembered pretty well when I had reviewed it, and aside from him being out conned at the end, I didn’t find it too close a copy. I think all twist, reverse twist, and twist back again films all feel like they’re from the same bolt of cloth. Which, perhaps they are. On Wikipedia, they say Bluffmaster is an adaptation of 9 Queens, which I never saw, but, again, after I read the synopsis…just that there were two conmen, one who ended up conning the other, was the only similarity that I saw.

Oh well. I think Hollywood is so paranoid about this sort of thing, that they are always crying “PLAGIARISM!” when it’s not even merited. Now Ghajini, what it copied was too specific not to be from Memento, though as you said, it ended up feeling quite different by the end, and in my opinion, suffered in the comparison. Sorry, Aamir…you can’t save everything.

 

Julie M:  Come on, even the introductory con in Matchstick Men was the same con as in Bluffmaster. Obvious to me.  The con that Matchstick Men pulled in the beginning was the same as in Bluffmaster: sell a crappy product to an unsuspecting consumer on the phone, then show up posing as government agents “warning” about the scam and get the consumer to sign a form disclosing bank account information so the scammers can loot it. I’m sure it’s a relatively common scam so it makes sense that it’s used in both films, but it was rendered practically verbatim in Bluffmaster as in MM. Also, there was the scene in MM when the Nic Cage character [Spoilerswakes up in the “hospital room” and finds out that he’s been scammed, and goes back to revisit all the locations and people and finds out they were all faked. Same exact scene in Bluffmaster. I will say that the cons were more elaborate in Bluffmaster and there was the difference that the girlfriend character was actually behind the whole thing (the daughter character in MM was recruited by the scammer). [End of spoilers.]

 

Jenny K:  Okay, okay, I give on the Bluffmaster/Matchstick Men one. That first con does sound overly suspicious, hadn’t remembered that. But, I hold to the Autumn in New York statement. Completely different setup, premise and feel.

Part 10: The Directors, Cut, or Not to Cut?

Jenny K:  Okay, as promised.  The directors list, based on what you’ve liked and not liked so far.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and these guys may throw you a quite atypical movie every so often, too. But here goes.

The weepy ones that you don’t like are usually by Karan Johar (warning signs, he always had multiple K’s in his titles, for Karan, I’d assume), Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra, his son. Probably won’t like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ( DDLJ) which is the first SRK/Kajol pairing and is considered a classic for that. I have problems with the amount of slapstick in the first half and the really overplayed fight scene near the end, but I like other bits of it quite a lot. Their chemistry is great and she’s lovely.  But they must have gotten something right, because it has been playing at the same theater in Mumbai, the Maratha Mandir, since the film opened, and hit its 800th week last February, still on the charts that week at Number 8! Really! Veer Zaara should probably be skipped, too. Lots of weeping in the framing story and much bad aging makeup and hair.

Large amounts of slapstick are usually found in the works of David Dawan and Priyadarshan. I avoid them almost completely except, occasionally when Akshaye Khanna is involved. He was in two for Priyadarshan that I actually liked Mere Baap Phele Aap, and one called Hulchul which, honest to God has the funniest wedding sequence in Indian movies…hilarious, mostly because of one actor Paresh Rawal who is perfection itself in almost every genre.  Huh, he’s in MBPA, too!

You’ve had mixed reactions to Sanjay Leela Bhansali who did Devdas (bleh) and Black (thumbs up). You might like, as I said before, Khamosh, the Musical and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and even Guzaarish which is his newest and has Hrithik in it, a remake of Whose Life is it Anyway? But probably should skip Saawariya which is supposed to be an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights, but gets very bogged down in its own atmosphere and blueness (Devdas was victim of too much redness, among other problems).

Ram Gopal Varma is their urban violence/gangsta director. Loves the seedy underbelly of city life. Some are good like Company that I sent you, others, mostly his most recent ones, I find highly missable. He also has one bright twinkly musical from early in his career, Rangeela, which I have a fondness for because Aamir does some wonderful acting and dancing in it, and for its Rahman score. It is a bit silly at times but the weepiness is confined to one scene that I remember, and Aamir is restrained about it. Touching. Let me know if I should send it in a future batch.

Vishal Bhardwaj seems to be becoming another gangland portrait artist, but he likes to draw from classical themes and so transcends mere thuginess.  He’s usually a safe bet for good ideas and interesting adaptations.  And GREAT music. Omkara, you’ve seen, Maqbool (a Macbeth adaptation) and The Blue Umbrella (a sweet, almost childhood fable) should be safe options.

Farhan Akhtar and his sister, Zoya Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai and Luck by Chance) are almost a quality guarantee. They usually do things with a more modern emotional level.  Zoya has the new one coming out, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, that looks like a lot of fun.  Farhan produces films more now than directs, and acts a lot, too. For his acting, check out Rock On! (a sort of buddy film a la DCH with a “whatever happened to our band” format) which I quite liked and Karthik Calling Karthik (which slips only in the final scene for a good suspense film).

For films Farhan directed, most people like Don, a slick gangster film set in Malaysia, which has SRK in a dual role playing both hero and villain in a mostly convincing way. Boman’s in this one, too. BigB did the original Don, which most say was superior, though, again, his suits scare me. Farhan’s Lakshya is mixed for me. Good performances by Hrithik and Preity, better than Koi.. Mil Gaya (which HR & PZ did together, Farhan didn’t direct it), but the first and second half are very, very, very different, almost schizophrenic. Didn’t like part two much.  The dance number “Main Aisa Kyon Hoon”, coreographed by Prabhu Deva, is perfection, and almost makes up for the schizzyness.

Skip, Skip, Skip most of Subhash Ghai‘s films. Taal was a fluke. Pardes is the only one which has something to recommend, because SRK’s performance is good, but may be a bit too weepy for you. But he wears many a stupid outfit in it (aaak, that big white hat; ew, those overalls!)  and I’ve blocked most of it out. Skip Kisna, even with the splendid visuals a la Taal, Viveik looking pretty and tons of money thrown at it, it’s basically a boring film. Ghai’s early films are way way too old fashioned melodrama for you. You’d hate them.

Mani Ratnam (Dil Se, Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal) as you’ve seen, I can’t get enough of his films. Own most of them…if they have subtitles. Tendency to use old formats and throw the odd unpleasantness in to spice things up for the Indian audiences to make them think, whether they want to or not. Likes explosions,  a lot.  Loves working with Rahman. Yay! They both are from the South, and he sometimes does versions in both Tamil and Hindi simultaneously. First Tier: The ones you have [Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal] and Dil Se, also  Alai Payuthey(Waves), which is a more direct love story (remade, with his permission, with Rani and Viveik as Saathiya, but Waves is better) and Nayakan (or Vellu Nayakan) which is his tribute to The Godfather (tough but very good). Second Tier: Guru and Raavan(both with Little B and Aish), Bombay and Roja. Skip: Iruvar (Aish’s first film) for too much South Indian politics, that you have to know to get the full gist, and Thiruda Thiruda which is just too odd, even for me.

Aparna Sen, Konkona Sen Sharma’s mother. Much more of a serious issues director. Lot of films about women. Very influenced by the Bengali school of Satyajit Ray. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve seen. In chronological order, 36 Chowringee Lane, Paroma, Sati, House of Memories and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and 15 Park Avenue (both starring Konkona). Hardly a song and dance in them.

Rituparno Ghosh, “art film director” who is popular among filmfest circuits, I find rather pretentious and wouldn’t recommend anything except Raincoat which is a sort of tribute to O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi, starring Aish and Ajay Devgan in rather quietly affecting mode. Flee Antarmahal with LittleB, like the plague. I’d suggest burning any copies you find, unless your library objects.

As to the older films, for the most part I skip the 70’s and the 80’s as they went completely disco for a while, though there are some exceptions. I find I like Hrishikesh Mukherjee (another Bengali) especially his film Abhimaan with BigB and his wife Jaya. Lovely quiet film and she almost acts him off the screen. Sorta kinda like A Star is Born. I like the 50’s and the 60’s more. Guru Dutt has a lovely, sort of dreamy style, especially in Pyaasa and Kagaz Ka Phool. Sort of sad, but transcendent.

Early Raj Kapoor is very nice, too, and you can see what western films he’s drawing from, in influence, not copying directly. A good time for exploration in Indian film. Awaara, his most famous, feels like Orson Welles in its cinematography, like he’d just finished watching Citizen Kane, and in Shree 420, he’s definitely pulling from Charlie Chaplin and maybe Douglas Fairbanks a bit. Indian films’ influences always seem about fifteen or so years behind the current vogue in Western films. But they always make their own “take” on them, and they are narrowing the gap quickly, closer each year.  I’m not sure I want them to “catch up” to international cinema.  Most of it isn’t a worthy role model these days.

Julie M:  WOW. Thanks!! I’ll have to run the lists through my library search facility and see if any are owned by the system.

I have to clarify that although overall I didn’t like Devdas, I didn’t hate the LOOK of Devdas. I loved the look and thought it was very beautiful, richly done and evocative. I thought the story was ridiculous, the melodrama over-the-top and the character of Devdas mewly (although SRK seemed to do a good job portraying it, at least in the first half, the only bit that I saw). But it was lovely and I would definitely see more by the same director if the look of the film is important and of high quality.

[a couple of days later]

Julie M:  Got Rang De Basanti from the library and, because I wanted something fun, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Saw JBJ this evening–funny and charming. Complete mindless enjoyment.

Jenny K:  I bought JBJ just for that number with Big B and the wig.  I had a feeling that BigB in that avatar could be the Father of Indian Flash Mobs if he put his mind to it.  I know I’d follow him 🙂

Howsoever, I didn’t like the film that much, though it wasn’t awful or anything. I have a problem with Bobby Deol. He’s handsome and all, but I like his “less handsome” older brother, Sunny, much better. Remind me to send you Border the next time. He’s not the sole focus, but it’s a good role for him. Their father, Dharmendra, was even more handsome. Dad did Sholay with BigB and it is sort of considered the classic Masala “Western”. Cons on the run kinda film. Was Amitabh’s first big break. I played it for my mom once and she made me fast forward through all the “ridiculous stuff” with the comic side characters, but “thought Amitabh had something”. You really couldn’t take your eyes off him, even though he wasn’t classically handsome.

[at this point Jenny tries yet again to tempt Julie into going to Vancouver, and fails…]

Jenny K:  Maybe the two of us could skip out of the Festival to one of the local Hindi cinemas on Saturday and go see something “crassly commercial” and not a bit “art house” like Hrithik and Farhan’s new movie that opens that weekend. Hmmm?

Come on, it was directed by Zoya Akhtar who did Luck By Chance, you liked that…[no response from Julie…I can sense she’s torn, but...] Oh, off the subject, sort of…I saw that they used  the “Baware” music from LBC on So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday.

Julie M:  What…the circus number music was on Dance? I don’t watch that program, but under what circumstances does Bollywood music end up in an American reality show? Spill!!

Jenny K:  It’s primarily found a niche on SYTYCD, not reality shows in general. Some are nice enough, but some like the Baware number was rather weak, even though the main female dancer, Iveta, is a world champion in the ten main divisions of ballroom dance.  The songs are much too short and  usually only use two dancers, so they don’t really have a chance to duplicate the Bollywood experience.  I also think the choreographer is too influenced by Farah Khan, Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant to do anything particularly innovative on his own.  Check some out on Youtube.

Julie M:  I notice that most of the videos are from the British version–this makes sense because of the large Indian or Indian-heritage population there–but here it probably draws a big “huh?” from most of the viewing audience.

Jenny K:  Actually, most of the ones I saw were from the American version. Of course, I only looked at the top, say two pages of them. The among the ones I looked at from the US version were::
Nick and Iveta
Mollee and Nathan
Katee and Joshua
Caitlin and Jason
Kathryn and Jose
Kent and Lauren
Billy and Robert (in yellow!)
a group number set to Jhoom Bharabar Jhoom
And a girls group number to Dholna from Pyar Ke Geet

I’m sure you’re right that the London audience is much more familiar with it, but the American kids doing it has proved much more popular with our audiences than say the Russian folk dancing they tried… BO-ring…

Part 9: The Many Facets of Rani

Julie M:  WOW!!! You sent so much great stuff! Thanks for the freebies, too!

We must be on the same wavelength because I JUST got Kannathil Muthamittal from the library. I’ll have to check it out and then just dump it into the return bin. Also on my library shelf are Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Black. But I can’t get the DVDs from the library until Saturday, so your stuff will fill the gap tonight and tomorrow.

Thanks again!! (you are so my dealer now)

Jenny K:  Now, I must warn you about both of those library films…they have some good points, but when I saw them, I was left wondering why I bothered. Never bought them. Or, you could just find out for yourself.

Black is a direct copy of The Miracle Worker, in the first half, anyway…with BigB playing Annie Sullivan as an ex-alcoholic, no less. Oh, yeah, I told you this in an earlier post.  I will say, Ayesha Kapoor, the child actress who plays the young “Helen” is fabulous in this role. But, even with Rani and BigB trying their darndest, it just left an odd taste in my mouth.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna…otherwise known as KANK, [Spoilers: highlight to view] deals with adultery in an almost acceptable way, which doesn’t work at all for me. SRK and Rani are married to two completely reasonable choices, Preity and Little B, who are there for them, are attractive, no bad treatment whatsoever, aside from Preity whining a bit, SRK has a kid, too. So, here we are, Preity spends a bit too much time at work and SRK who is very negative for the first third of the movie, at least, meets Rani before her wedding, but doesn’t try to stop her, and then they get to be best friends afterward. Then when that’s not enough, at one point they decide to change it to love. Premeditated. Without splitting from their spouses first. BLECH…And it’s set in NYC, too. So, it can’t be because “divorce isn’t done here, in old Mother India”. BLECH. So all the lovely scenes, lovely songs, beautiful words don’t amount to a hill of beans for me. It may be more “realistic” than most Indian films, but I don’t like seeing my favorite actors endorsing such a line of bad behavior. [End of spoilers] If I wanted that from my films, I’d have stayed with US films. Moral codes have been out of fashion here for years, I don’t have to go to India for it.  End of Rant.   Oh, plus, BigB is having style trauma trying to be an aging Warren Beatty in this film…unforgivable.

Julie M: OK…I’ve been warned. I’ve gotten used to Indian films selectively ripping off other films/plays, and it might be interesting to see bad behavior in an Indian film.

So you like the Indian film moral code with respect to sex and fidelity…but the gangster films are all pretty violent and you don’t really seem to mind. I don’t mind sex in a movie but I hate violence. ???

Jenny K:  Nah…it’s not [more spoilers, I guess the rant’s not over.] the sex, it’s the cheating. And if it’s an out and out bad couple doing it, I wouldn’t mind it so much, it would be in context. What I don’t like is the film’s writers and directors setting up a scenario where they are supposed to be the “good guys” and when someone better comes along, they just walk out, without even a pretense of their being out of control or unable to help their lust. They just go…oh well, we’re going to go this route, regardless of how we’ll hurt our spouses, kids, etc. Just hit me the wrong way, bigtime.

As to the violence, I don’t particularly like it, but it’s part of the masala format, like the melodrama…you just sort of expect the obligatory fight scenes for the guys (they call them dashoom dashoom scenes, don’t know why exactly, descriptive noises? ), and when it’s part of the storyline, I’m basically okay with it, when it’s gratuitous, I just fast forward or go for popcorn, or something. I’d much rather a direct sex scene, but there isn’t much chance of that except occasionally in indie cinema. There is a lot of more realistic films out there in Indian film now that I find much more disturbing…Udaan, for one, which won a bunch of awards last year for its realistic portrayal of a father’s child abuse (beatings, not sexual) which I thought was very well done, was unpleasant in the extreme to watch. Made me miss my mindless escapism and fabulous dance numbers.

Aamir’s Rang de Basanti pushed my “honor code” buttons too. Found myself all but jumping up out of my seat, 45 minutes from the end, going “What? What? They did WHAT? That’s a completely wrong message to put out there!” When I asked some of my Indian friends about their take on it, they almost universally said, “You don’t understand, you’re thinking about it with the legal system here in the US as a reference, but it’s the only way things change in India”… rassafrassa-crimanentlies…that and Gangaajal both had completely out of line endings, in my opinion. RDB has a great score and some wonderful performances though, and has some positive points, before the Great Schism at the end, that may merit a viewing.

Julie M:  Instead of KM, at my library I found Well Done Abba! and watched it tonight. Very funny and sweet. B watched part of it with me and immediately recognized the actor playing the main character as the college principal from 3 Idiots, whereas I had failed to do so. (He really liked 3 Idiots–he said it was his favorite so far)  I’m still going to watch KANK and Black and will report back to you.

[JK Note:  They really need to do some trailers with English subtitles, IMO]

Jenny K:  Ah, I haven’t seen it yet, but the director Shyam Benegal is usually very good. I’ll have to look for it. I love Boman Irani, the guy you mentioned. I think he’s one of the best character actors they have. He was also the principal in Main Hoon Na and he was the Sikh “villain” in Lage Raho Munnabhai…the best friend who shafted Munna and tried to steal his girlfriend’s house. He has a tendency to disappear into his roles and can do comedy as well as drama flawlessly.

Julie M:  OH, I had no idea those were all him! I guess he really does disappear into his roles, whereas SRK is always SRK.

Jenny K:  SRK is a constant, a fixed point of delicious in the universe.

Wanted to check something about Boman online and stumbled into his website…seems he’s a late bloomer in a major way. Started his photography career at age 32, then began a major theater career at 34 and did his first film at the age of 44 about ten years ago…made a success in all of them. I am very humbled.

Julie M:  REALLY liked Black. I didn’t find it unsettling at all except for the part where [spoilers] she asked him to kiss her (and that’s understandable under the circumstances, even though I believe she regarded him as a father figure for the entire previous time) and he did (which was totally weird). A rare kiss in an Indian movie and it’s freaky. But excellent performances all around, particularly Rani. BigB did some overacting but mostly was good too. B was not familiar with The Miracle Worker so he thought the entire thing was pretty good, if a bit overly dramatic. Ranks up there for me.

[Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director, speaks about the making of Black, in Hindi and English. Part 1 of 3, I believe.]

Jenny K:  Hmmm…well, good, it’s certainly a stylish film. Same director as Devdas and he’s all about the visuals. Perhaps if I had seen it earlier, I would have liked it more. My favorite films by Bhansali are Khamoshi, the Musical (Khamosh means Silence 🙂 about a hearing woman and her deaf parents, and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, both with Salman Khan, oddly enough…but that can’t be helped, he is popular, him and his overdone pecs…

Julie M:  KANK…well, I didn’t much like it but not for the same reasons you didn’t. It was clear to me that [spoilersboth of them were in bad marriages. Maya never loved Rishi but married him out of duty (and they had wildly mismatched personalities), and Dev was cranky due to his life sucking after the accident, which Rhea had zero sympathy for. So why not grab love when you can? And it seemed to really be love, not just fooling around.[end sp.]

No, the reason I didn’t like it was the soap-opera quality of it, the crazy drama/melodrama and extreme weepiness. SRK kept making that face of his that I hate, the half-crying super-emotional weird face. I don’t watch that kind of movie out ofHollywood, why would I watch it out of Bollywood? So, warn me before I see any more of those, ok?

Jenny K:  Well I will, if I can, but they are pretty entrenched in Indian films. Hard to avoid completely.  And you are well into “the going your own route” phase now, you’ll find out what you like and don’t like very fast. I’ll put together a directors list, as they are usually a good indicator of what you’ll get.

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 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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