Nov. 29, 2012: Thanksgiving for the Parade of New Films — PART II

Okay, now that we’ve had a few days to digest our holiday film feast, Julie and I are back with Part II of the new reviews.  It seems like I’m spending an inordinate amount of time at the Loehmann’s Cinemas in Falls Church, VA, even for me!  I’m blaming it on Kathy and Pat for enabling me…and Shah Rukh for refusing to age, and continuing to ensnare us, year after year in those fathomless dimples of his.

Jenny K:  Well…finally over my latest crazy costume deadline, and I decided to celebrate by going out to see the latest food comedy out there in Hindi Movieland, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012). It had me thinking two things…one, why does everyone in this film remind me of someone else (not necessarily in a bad way) and, two, where can I get some hot parathas after this movie lets out!!! Every third shot has someone flipping the bread over on the griddle, over an open flame and someone slathering ghee all over it!  It’s a crime they don’t have any Indian food at the concession stand…I’m hungry!  And that may be partly inspired by our star…Kunal Kapoor has his first solo starring hero role since his debut in Meenaxi.  Here’s the trailer, with optional subtitles.

Julie M:  Oooh, baby, food AND Kunal Kapoor?  Let me at it!!

Jenny K:  Kunal does a nice job in a slightly quiet role, and only falls short a bit in the dancing aspect (as exhibited in the final number over the credits, particularly). Madhuri must have been riding him like crazy in Aaja Naachle, because I didn’t notice a particular lack, in that one. He’s cut his long hair and shaved his beard, and though I thought I would miss them, he’s quite dishy in this new look. Sort of a cross between Aamir and Hrithik, if you can imagine that.

 

Julie M:  Mmmm…tasty…but I like Kunal’s long hair and slightly scruffy look he’s known for better than this, dishy or not.  It about killed me to see Don 2 and he had cut his locks for that one!

 

Jenny K:  Kunal plays Omi, a sad sack, would-be player who steals money from his family and goes off to make his fortune, supposedly, in London, but when the story starts he’s come back with his tail between his legs, and an NRI-Indian mob boss who he owes money to, hot on his trail. He tries to get more money from his family while making them think he’s changed his ways and become a hot young lawyer back in LimeyLand. His grandfather, played by Vinod Nagpal, who reminds me a bit of Pankaj Kapur for some reason, has had a stroke or something and no longer remembers his relatives or, more importantly, the recipe for his famous chicken khurana which made his restaurant thrive. Of course, Omi’s return is central to the rebirth of the family fortunes, but it takes a reaaaaaly long time to get there.
Kunal’s leading lady Huma Qureshi, has been in a few films lately,  (Gangs of Wasseypur, Trishna) but this seems to be her first try at romantic comedy.  She plays the role of Omi’s young love, Harman, who he left behind and she’s gone on to become a doctor.

Harman is now engaged to Omi’s adopted brother Jeet (Rahul Bhagga), but neither one of the engaged pair seem particularly enthused about this turn of events. Huma is a nicely rounded beauty, who oozes intelligence and a shy sex appeal that sort of harks back to the early Kajol charm, say in DDLJ. She depicts her resistance to Omi’s return and the gradual crumbling of her resolves in a very believable way. I look forward to seeing her again.  Here’s the video of the title song.

 

Julie M:  That’s kind of a big topic:  “Who is the Next Kajol?”  You like Huma, I like Genelia, and for a while there Anushka Sharma had some possibilities.  At least we know it’s not Priyanka Chopra, right?

 

Jenny K:  Kajol has a much more girl-next-door quality than most of the new girls have, and that Priyanka isn’t really shooting for, is she?  I sort of thought she was gunning for the Next Madhuri or the Next Aish, at best…however, her performance in Barfi! may be showing her aim for more substance over the glamour angle.

 

Julie M:  We’ll reserve judgment until we see her performance in the upcoming Zanjeer remake, where she plays the role made famous by the feisty Jaya Badhuri (Bachchan).  Although substance that’s not…more about that when we review the 1973 original.

 

Jenny K:  Where Luv Shuv’s concerned, I think that the plot had a few too many extra characters for clarity, and a few dead-end red herrings that made me go “Really?” too often.  Although the script could have benefited from at least twenty minutes off of it, I enjoyed the end result. Especially liked the pagal Uncle Titu played by Rajesh Sharma, who I feel like I’ve seen before, and I must have in The Dirty Picture, but can’t really place him. Here’s a nice article on him.  

When watching this sort of unfortunate final-credit item number, I just kept wishing that Javeed Jaffrey had played the gangster in this one…someone in the number should know how to dance.  Liked the soundtrack, though, by Amit Trivedi.

Julie M:  LSTCK looks very sweet, kind of Today’s Special vibe-y and very indie-feeling. EVERYTHING is at my local theater but I have no time to go!!! I don’t know about Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it’s gotten mixed reviews but it would be nice to see SRK in a Yash Chopra film again.

Jenny K:  I’m going to see JTHJ with Kathy and Pat tonight, I think. I’ll let you know where I stand.

[the next day…]

Jenny K:  Well, I survived the evening, and enjoyed Jab Tak Hai Jaan (As Long As I Live, 2012)…somewhat. Nice being out with the girls, but even they, who are the ultimate SRK fans, seemed a bit underwhelmed.  Paraphrasing Kathy’s verdict, “Good, of course, but I’ve seen it before, and done better.”  We all sort of felt that Veer Zaara had that thwarted love thing pretty well perfected for director Yash Chopra, and wondered why he wanted to have his last film seem like a slightly watercolor version of that earlier film.

SRK looked pretty good, but I think that his own personal digital effects company may have de-aged his face a bit for the first half when he was supposedly playing 28.

I liked the look in the second half, at “38,” almost better, though with the amount of gray hair in the stubble, I’d think that 38 was a kind estimate. He is in good shape, pretty buff, not too buff or too skinny, both of which we like him to avoid. His performance was the strongest in the movie, charming and touching without overacting.

Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma were both pretty and endearing leading ladies. Neither had the Kajol certain-something in the chemistry with him, but certainly not as bland as all the reviews have said.

Katrina sort of danced him off the floor in the following number, “Ishq Shava,”  though it has more impact during the actual scene.  This clip has been edited down from about three separate sections of the number, in the dance hall, on the ship and outside the dance hall on the dock. It’s a much longer number and has more drama, especially at the beginning where SRK is encouraging Katrina’s character to “let it all out” and finally be herself. She dances with at least three other guys before he joins her, and you can’t take your eyes off her. Kat may not be a flawless actress, but no one should say she can’t dance.  

Julie M:  I don’t think she’s as bad as everyone says.  Maybe because my first experience with her was in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which you said was an unusually good performance for her, but really, she’s no better or worse than any of the other beauty queens out there now.

Jenny K:  The thing that may bring the audience out in droves is Shah Rukh’s first on-screen kissing…yep, at the ripe old age of 47…he’s given in. Maybe not open mouth kissing, they still block those shots with the back of Katrina’s head, but definitely several lip on lip shots, where he seemed not to be able to get enough of Katrina.  Each time he made the plunge there was an audible “OOOOhhhhoooohhhhh!” from the audience.  Even the young college age guys were hooting and laughing a bit.

My main reaction was “Why, and why now?”…maybe it was a business decision. I can almost hear his wife, Gauri, who’s often an executive producer on his films, brainstorming with him, “What can we do to put people in the seats?…old fashioned romance, separated lovers, FABULOUS shots of Ladakh scenery, all sorts of visual reminders of DDLJ, a bit more skin, and, yes, Shah Rukh, you’re going to have to follow Hrithik’s lead and lay on the lips…I know it’s tough, but, heck, your lips are twice as big as HR’s so you should get twice the hoopla, hai na?”

Julie M:  !!!! OK, you’ve got me.  Gotta see this.

Jenny K:  The negatives are all on the writer’s side, I’m afraid: the plot…big holes, especially in the second half, and the length. Anushka (so cute in Band Baaja Baaraat, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) did as much as she could, but the plot had her playing the “door-prize role” Preity Zinta rather perfected in Dil Se… and the writers chose to have him pine and whine, as usual, for his old “ideal” girl.  My hopes for a more healthy ending were dashed. In addition, my stand on three hour films is weakened when it doesn’t actually advance the story. Note to Aditya Chopra: you really needed to credit the writers of The Hurt Locker for a large chunk of this movie.

Julie M:  I didn’t see The Hurt Locker.  Can you expand on that…is it a direct rip-off, or did they actually write some of it?  Pardon my lack of currency here.

 

Jenny K:  Well, no, not a slavish copy, of course.  The original would have been too unrelievedly depressing for the audience SRK usually draws.  But both deal with a man who is so cavalier about his own life that he can defuse bombs with complete cool and apparent disregard for his own safety (no special suit, very little back-up, if any, etc.).  They both come on like Army Supermen…Shah Rukh, of course, does it with a tight black tee, dark shades and a cool motorcycle.  Bet Jeremy Renner wishes he wrote that last one into his contract!

Next time, we’ll see what Aamir Khan has up his sleeve with Talaash!

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Sept. 14, 2011:The New POPular Stars: Pretty On Parade

As it happens, this weekend we both watched recent, cute and fun romantic comedies headed by talented young newcomers, the men, especially, made us look twice.  Julie selected Band Baaja Baaraat (Band, Horns, Revelry — 2010) on DVD, while Jenny opted for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride, 2011) in the theater.  Here’s how the party went down:

Julie MBand Baaja Baaraat is a typical romantic comedy–and is entirely predictable — although well done and with very likable leads.

Anushka Sharma (last seen as Taani in Rab ne Bana di Jodi) plays Shruti, a “together” young Punjabi woman from Delhi with an ambitious life goal–she wants to be the most in-demand wedding planner in the world–and through a series of circumstances she ends up business partners with Bittoo (Ranveer Singh), an irresponsible cut-up trying to get out of working on his father’s rural sugar cane farm for the rest of his life. She has only one rule: don’t mix business with romance. Bittoo agrees, reluctantly because he is half in love with her already. They get along great, complement each other’s style, and become incredibly successful over the course of the next two years. 

[SPOILERS, kinda…if you didn’t see them coming already.…]

One late night, partying after their first super-duper expensive wedding job, they end up in bed together, occasioning a fairly explicit (although not really showing anything) naked scene.  The next day she realizes she is in love with him, while he makes it clear to her that he thinks of it as just a casual hook-up.  The first half ends with the Big Reveal of this conflict.  I’m not going to go into more plot details but you can probably figure out how it ends up. The business is affected, more circumstances throw them together again, and I don’t have to say more except there is a very romantic kiss that made me wish I was 22 again.

Anushka is cute and fiery, and channels Kajol all the way in manner, facial expressions and dancing style. Ranveer is charming and very good-looking (VERY!), and is more than competent in the role although to my mind he is much better at being the offhand wisecracking kook–he falls flat in the last 20 minutes as he takes on a more romantic persona. Their chemistry is excellent, and that, in addition to the high production value, is the key to the film’s success.

The plot does not give over to slapstick and moves along with virtually no sub-plots. Costumes and sets are exceedingly colorful and exuberant–a plot point is that their business is known for “kitschy” weddings rather than the classy affairs a rival planner specializes in, no doubt occasioning much merriment in the office of the set dresser because they clearly had fun with it.

Lots of highly visual, high-energy and danceable songs that are well-integrated into the plot and action. One song in particular “Ainvayi Ainvayi Lut Gaya” becomes their company’s “signature” number, which they perform at all the weddings they coordinate. Tons of English words, and both the songs and the dialogue is packed with pop-culture slang and references that give it a fresher feel than the tired plot would ordinarily signal.

Here is “Ainvayi Ainvayi”, as performed at their first wedding job together, in which you see her starting out exasperated with him because he has booked this lame college band (his slacker friends) and then getting into the spirit of the song. No wonder their partnership and business take off.  And it’s a total earworm as well—I’ve been humming it for three days.


This song, “Dum Dum Mast Hai”, comes in the 2nd half at their biggest wedding job yet, where they have arranged for Shah Rukh Khan to perform but he has broken his ankle and they have to quickly, and of course absolutely unbelievably, pull together this massive dance number on 24 hours’ notice with themselves as the lead dancers.

Jenny K:  I never saw Band Baaja Baaraat, but the clips make it look fun. Ranbeer Singh is new to me…actually IMDb says it’s his first film. Looks like he did a good job.

 

Julie M:  After further research I noticed that Ranveer Singh got his B.A. from Indiana University just a few years ago. IU is only 60 miles from me.  Given how totally adorable he is, you would have thought I would have felt the heat all the way up here in Indy…ok, I’ll stop now.  But he really is cute and I predict a career path for him doing roles that SRK did at that age.

 

Jenny K:  In that second number, he’s even wearing a very SRK choice in wardrobe!  The designers would seem to agree with you…as I do.  But in truth, the films that Shah Rukh did at that age submerged him in plots either psychopathic, seriously slapstick or revenge oriented.  Let’s not wish that on these boys.

 

Julie M: I think this movie is perfect for young people who have not yet become jaded on rom-com conventions. I thought it was pleasantly diverting and at times highly enjoyable, but I called pretty much every plot development within the first 10 minutes and spent the rest of the movie watching my predictions come to life.  Man, I hate when that happens.

 

Jenny K:  Well, there is such a thing as RomCom Comfort Food, that some of us never get jaded by…so as long as there are attractive lead characters amidst beautiful scenery and a happy ending that will do until the next wonder-hit comes along. Somehow you don’t mind the predictability, it is actually reassuring.

There is lots of cute new talent around these days. I went to see Mere Brother Ki Dulhan last night to see the now tried and true Imraan Khan. That young man  just has a face that I can’t stop looking at.  May be the Aamir resemblance, I just don’t know…maybe the moustache, here.  Click for a close up. 

But the surprise was the young man starring as his brother, Ali Zafar, who does quite well for himself in his second film. I read that he’s quite a popular singer, especially in his home country of Pakistan.  From his showing in this movie, I can say that Ali handled the comedy as deftly as the dancing, held his own with Imraan and Katrina, has a seductively rich speaking voice, and a recurring resemblance to a young John Stamos, that didn’t hurt him in my book. Check out the comparison shots and see what I mean….do you think John Stamos is actually Hindustani, not Greek?

 

Given that this film was a time-pass, I quite liked it.  The lead couple, Imraan and Katrina, meet cute in a 5 year old flashback, where she’s a Free Spirited Rock Chick (has to be capitalized, she’s definitely an Archetype),

and he’s a calm, steady, nice guy that she doesn’t truly value at the time. Flash forward to where Kush (Imraan) is standing-in for his brother, Luv (Ali) who lives in London and wants Kush to find him a nice, non-NRI Indian bride.  After much fruitless searching, Kush finally decides on Dimple (Katrina) as Luv’s perfect bride.  But the way these stories go, lo-and-behold, in three short song medleys they realize they are in love with each other, and Bhaisaab is a distant, but ever nearing, memory… Egad! How will this turn out? 

Well, of course, we know…but I think its fun how they get there. My friend Pat thought the leading ladies were both “annoying,” but I didn’t agree.  Katrina has scored another endearing portrayal, and yet it’s still distinct from her role in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the love songs. The movie is shot in and around the Taj Mahal, which is, of course, gorgeous and yet somehow never too much of a good thing.

My favorite song is one that took place when they all get a bit drunk on bhang (a local mixture of milk, almonds, sugar and spices with marijuana, delicious and potent!) at a roadside inn and the sing a song in tribute to Madhubala, who starred in the classic romance Mughal-e-Azam, and that poster is conveniently on the billboard next to their table?!?  Unlikely, yes;  lots of raucous fun, definitely.

Pointless Nitpicking: I don’t get why no one thinks of the problem inherent in comparing an upbeat modern love story to Shah Jahan’s memorial to his dead wife, and also to M-e-A which details a doomed, albeit richly bejeweled, love story in another royal setting, neither of which have happy endings.

 

Julie M:  I bet they are anticipating a huge, young, NRI audience for this film, who are not as sensitive to such nuances.  I think the Taj Mahal is marketed to foreigners primarily on the love aspect and not so much on the death/tomb aspect.

 
Jenny K:  Also weird that though Ali supposedly sings so well in real life, they didn’t use his voice, or his built-in audience to boost the soundtrack sales. Strange. IMDb says that Ritesh Deshmukh was originally offered Ali’s role. Maybe the score was already recorded when he was cast, but it still seems a wasted opportunity. Ah, I found a clip of him singing in a video ad for Lux soap. Cute, but looks like he needs to take Cowboy Hat Wrangling 101.  [JK’s Note: DustDevil pointed out that “Madhubala” is sung by Ali.  Well, see…it did make sense…I was right, and blind at the same time! Thanks, DD!]

Julie M:  What does all that have to do with Lux soap, in the video? And do they really have 4 1/2 minute commercials in Pakistan?  He is adorable, though.  Someone to watch.

 

Jenny K: Lux has a history of doing ads with Bollywood stars. Here it is, in brief:

Then afterwards the men got in the act…Mr. Metrosexual SRK being the first. Very tongue in cheek.

And then Aish and Abhi:

Now it looks like they are going with even longer videos with the youngsters like Ali Zafar which you have, above.  The three girls on the billboard become the three girls in the western, the pirate story and the “man on the street” bit, respectively.

 

Julie M: That’s making sense now. Kind of like how makeup companies in this country use stars as models: Drew Barrymore and Taylor Swift for Cover Girl.

 

Jenny K: And Beyonce and Aishwarya for L’Oreal…that girl is certainly the crossover queen, isn’t she.  Workin’ all the angles!

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