September 7, 2011 Lost in Bombay, Boys…Naveen & Rahul

Julie M:  Saw Bombay Boys this evening. Awesome and hilarious. NRIs in India experiencing the REAL India. Great satire of filmmaking, fabulous performance by Naseeruddin Shah, and Naveen Andrews is always excellent and adorable. Nice one in the “bromance” genre, but I guess this would be called the “anti-DCH,” right? I read that it is considered a cult film…I loved it. I think my favorite scene was when Naveen was trying to speak Hindi and act at the same time, the one where the girl was tied up. I also love that this scene makes fun of product placement in films.  A definite recommend.

Jenny K:  Hmmm….I don’t really know how I felt about Bombay Boys. Definitely some funny bits, particularly when Naseeruddin Shah was trying to threaten the boys while stabbing the table. The look on his face…priceless. And you don’t see a thing, that’s what gets me. Who needs graphic violence?  One look, one laugh, he says it all. 

The performances had some very nice moments. I didn’t even wince once at Rahul Bose’s acting. Don’t get me wrong, I love him in films like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, and 15 Park Avenue, but he has been known, on occasion, to shall we say, chew the scenery (can you say Thakshak?? and worse still Everybody Says I’m Fine!!!).

Perhaps it has something to do with the right director, like Aparna Sen. Tara Deshpande who played Dolly had some nice moments, too. It’s almost a shame that she hasn’t acted since 2002. Got married, moved to Boston, it looks like. “Beantown Killed the Bollywood Star” is running in my head. I have to get more sleep.

But even given the good points, I kept feeling that this film was all over the place. I didn’t know what kind of film I was watching. The funny bits were funny, but not as funny as they thought they were. Perhaps I’d just heard and seen all the bad dancing and singing jokes before, and done better. Maybe it was just watching Nasseerji spin on a dime between really inspired bits of humor and very sadistic violence. Rahul’s doing prat falls, but being beaten senseless all the same…while his girlfriend is trying to slit her wrists. Hysterical…? Are we doing comedy or commentary? It’s takes a very delicate balancing act to try to do both at the same time and I don’t think the director, Kaizad Gustad, had it down pat, at least not in 1997. Nice effort, though…But not enough Jaaved Jaffrey!

 [JK’s Note: When we first posted about this movie, (Aug. 31, Dancing, Down Under and the Dons) we were sucked in by Jaaved Jaffrey’s music video “Mumbhai” which we supposed was an item number, or at least a credit-roller in the film…sadly not.  Do go back and check it out.  Very funny. There’s also a link to the whole film on YouTube.]

 

Julie M:  So aside from the music at the end: which character was Javed Jaffery? The film’s lighting was so dim, I could barely recognize anyone. Oh–and I noticed, watching the credits (looking for Javed!) that Zoya Akhtar was listed as the 2nd AD. Nice.

 

Jenny K:  I didn’t see him anywhere in the film, though I did see Vinay Pathak as the Spot Boy who was promoted to the director. He was wonderful as SRK’s hairdresser friend in RNDBJ, and the businessman who didn’t want to be so boring in Aaja Nachle. I read online that it was a surprise hit in India after it was dubbed into Hindi. I wonder if they did the video to pad the length of the film? I read two reviews, one from the UK which quoted a 105 running time and one from an Indian reviewer that said “the two hour film”. What was in the other 15 minutes? Jaaved-Bhai???

A number of blurbs on Youtube and elsewhere swore that Naveen’s voice was dubbed. I know everyone would have been in the Hindi version, but in the English? His voice was really oddly New Yawky, and a bit higher key than you’re used to hearing him use as Sayid on LOST, but I’ve heard him do lots of different accents and I wouldn’t think a US accent would be too hard for him. Check this one out, a bit of the Brit sliding in at the sides, but pretty good. What do you think?

Nice little made-for-cable film, My Own Country. He sings in it, too.  Sorry about the sound quality.

 

Julie M:  Naveen’s Hindi in the English version might have been dubbed. I was wondering about that. But his fake New York accent was all him, I’m sure of it. (not entirely accurate and slipped a bit in spots, but not as bad as Rahul’s Australian accent which was only there in half a dozen scenes, then it vanished completely.)  I thought the balance of comedy (not really comedy, but satire) and comment was very good. But then again, maybe I just don’t know enough about what they were satirizing.

About stars who sing…I only recently learned that Hrithik, Farhan and Abhay were lip-synching to their own voices in ZMND. Abhay’s voice is really good–a little training and he could be a playback singer. (well, not like Sonu Nigam, but still pretty good)

 

Jenny K:  Don’t get all excited about Abhay’s voice…except for that one song, “Senorita,” all the songs in that film were done with playback singers as usual. Primarily Shankhar Madevan, the composer. Abhay was very nervous about singing in the first place. Don’t think he’ll ever do it regularly. Farhan likes to sing, and did practically the whole Rock On! soundtrack himself, whenever he was pictured singing.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I understood that about “Senorita” being the only one in their own voices, but what a treat. Hrithik’s voice was on key but very thin and tentative, and Farhan’s was OK like a normal guy who can sing, but Abhay had the power and tone. If he only gained more confidence…

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw 15 Park Avenue tonight. Wow–absolutely stunning performance by Konkona Sen Sharma and a powerful portrait of the toll that schizophrenia takes on a family.  The end was really freaky and it took me a while to figure out what happened. Here’s my take: she simply wandered off, literally wandered off the street but also wandered mentally into the world that made her happy. I think the bag lady seen at the beginning was a foreshadowing of Konkona’s character’s eventual fate. I liked how desperation to find the character made her sister echo Konkona’s urgency of finding “15 Park Avenue” so that she sounded just as crazy as the schizophrenic one. So sad. 

Here’s the scene where her former fiance (Rahul) runs into her while both are on vacation in Bhutan(the only thing I found completely unbelievable–so deus ex machina!) and starts reminiscing about their relationship:

 

Jenny K:  I like almost everything Aparna Sen directs. She’s Konkona’s mother, and she has a nice touch with actors because she was a very popular actress back in the seventies and the eighties. I went to an event locally, where Konkona was using 15 Park Avenue to promote greater mental health care for NRIs. It seems that it’s considered such a stigma that it’s often neglected. 

Konkona said, if I remember correctly, that her mother left the ending intentionally vague because she wanted the audience to end it the way they wanted it. I wondered, when I saw it, if Shabana Azmi’s character had been so worried about Konkona for so long, and pulled in so many different ways, that when she lost her, she began to go a bit crazy herself and began to imagine that Konkona had found her lost happiness. Doesn’t really matter. In this kind of film, I sort of like a dreamlike ending.

 

Julie M: I was mesmerized. Not so much with Rahul Bose–he was way too low-key and underplaying the emotional tone of the character–but Konkona really shone. Felt he was phoning it in.

 

Jenny K:  I don’t know what it is with Rahul Bose. Either he’s so subtle he’s almost textureless, or his acting is way over the top. There seems to be no in between for him. I liked him in 15, but it really wasn’t his film, wasn’t focused on him. I just watched him in another Aparna Sen film, The Japanese Wife, where he was playing a very shy Bengali school teacher who only lets his emotions out through letters to his Japanese pen pal. A very quiet film. Rather unique, I thought, and sad. Beautiful cinematography.

Almost all of the voice-over of the letters is in English, though the accents were so thick that I needed the subtitles anyway to be sure of what I was hearing. I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but it drew me in. Aparna seems to love drawing portraits of unusual relationships between lonely people. She doesn’t always have them “go anywhere” in the classic storytelling sense, but she takes you inside their lives in such exquisite detail that you feel like you’ve lived with them for a while.

[later]

Julie M:  Check out today’s Daily Chutney from Samosapedia:

The word for today is “DDLJ.” http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=0946bdaaa4aa27dae7d0ecccb&id=6faa213dce&e=c2b1d08c62

I still haven’t seen it. I do want to, but there are so many others to see!

 

Jenny K:  Everything in its time…I like the Samosapedia site, but will never subscribe to DChut because it always pulls me in with the embedded links and click, click, oh…click…it’s twenty minutes later….it’s  IST, only, yaar.  Adjust madi!

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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 transcendant.

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 toVancouver, 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 realitiy 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 audienes than say the Russian folk dancing they tried… BO-ring…

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