March 21, 2012…“A Fine Romance, and Two Hitmen…”

Julie M:  Your long post put me in the mood for a romance, so I went with Alaipayuthey (Pouncing Waves, 2000). Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman should always work together…even though the second half was WAY too overwrought for me, I thought overall it was pretty decent except for the music, which was AMAZING, and the visuals, which reminded me a lot of Dil Se (duh) and were therefore stunning.  Since this was the original Tamil film of which Saathiya (Life Partner, 2002) was a remake, and I’ve never seen Saathiya except for the number you indicated as one of your Valentine’s Day romance songs, you’ll have to clue me in on which you thought was better.

  

Jenny K: Oh, I’m always going to think that Mani Sir directing his own screenplay is going to be the better…not that I didn’t find loads of things to like about Saathiya (can you say Rani…so cute you could eat her up!) but I liked that not everyone in the Tamil version was so gosh-darned well known.  It felt like I was getting to peek in on someone telling their own love story…very intimate and endearing by not being  so slickly produced.  I also had a bit of a problem with Viveik bouncing around in the fields with his color-coordinated backup dancers…that was not as blatant in Alaipayuthey.  Just my opinion.

 

Julie M: Alaipayuthey is the story of two people who fall in love, get married and then wonder what happened. Karthik (Madhavan) sees Shakti (Shalini) at a wedding in her part of the city, and instantly decides she is the one for him, dreaming of her all the time.   

He woos her all over town, stalking her commuter train and professing his love for her until he eventually wears her down and she admits she loves him too. 

Unfortunately, their parents do not hit it off due to class issues so their desired marriage is forbidden—of course they get married secretly, and vow to tell their parents “when the time is right.”  Shortly thereafter Shakti’s older sister Poorni (Swarnamalya) gets an excellent proposal and the groom’s father offers his younger son to Shakti; panicked, she spills the beans about the secret marriage and the groom’s family calls off the match.  The couple’s parents kick them out and they take up illegal residence in a partially-demolished, charmingly decrepit apartment building that they fix up and are blissfully happy in…for a while.  This number (the original from the “Aye Udi Udi” one in Saathiya) is so cute, and I really love the backwards-film trick.

  

Jenny K:  I wonder if it’s a Ratnam thing, or if it’s his cinematographers preference for this backwards filmwork?  Not that I don’t like it, but he seems to use it a lot. Dil Se had it, too in “Satrangi Re” (yellow dress at2:50 in this video).

 

Julie M:  Then they start to fight about little things, and when Shakti’s father dies before she can reach him she blames Karthik.  Eventually they become strangers to one another, and to keep some type of contact with her Karthik arranges to bring Poorni and her ex-groom-to-be back together.  Shakti sees Poorni and Karthik together and misunderstands Poorni’s grateful embrace, and she runs off.  [Spoilers follow. Highlight to reveal.] Once Poorni explains the truth to her she tries to get back to Karthik, but on the way to the train station is hit by a car.  As he waits for her train, then roams the city looking for her, he flashes back to how it all began and how much he loves her.  He eventually finds her in the hospital where she is unknown and unconscious:  his presence rouses her and she professes her love for him too.  They realize that although marriage is hard, their mature love will help them make it through. [end of spoilers]

The movie had me in the palm of its hand right from the opening number, where Shakti and her family are getting ready for the wedding: 

Like I said, the second half was overly dramatic for me, but the first half was sweet and the music (with the lovely picturizations) totally made it all worthwhile.  And this was Madhavan in his debut film, after already being known for TV work. I really like burly-ish men and he’s so cuddly and sweet in this.  He really is one of my filmi crushes. I read online that he re-watched this film and was amazed at how skinny he was back in 2000—to me, he’s only gotten more handsome (he was great as the dad in Kannathil Muthammittal, too)!

 

Jenny K:  And didn’t you love Arvind Swamy’s guest appearance at the end there? His scene with his wife was so moving.  He seems to have been one of Mani Ratnam’s go-to guys, using him in Roja and Bombay, and even in early ones like Thalapathi (that I haven’t seen yet…no subtitles).  He was even in that Kajol/Prabhu Deva film, Minsaara Kanavu (Hindi dub – Sapnay).  This one was his last screen performance, though, unless he’ll be doing Mani Ratnam’s next film, as rumored.  He gave up films and went into business.  A loss for us, he really had a gentle presence. 

 

Julie M:  I love the fact that in Tamil films, they cast actresses who look like human beings rather than pretty models.  I was not a huge fan of Shalini, or, rather, her character Shakti, who was pouty and hard to please even though she was supposedly in love with Karthik. And totally no backbone for standing up to her family even though she was supposedly spunky. Sorry, didn’t work for me.

I also didn’t like this number, a beach party with friends where Shakti expresses her displeasure with Karthik.  I thought it was too much pandering to pop culture, although it’s not as bad as the Saathiya analogue song, “Chori Pe Chori”. Eccch.  

 

Jenny K:  Then we’ll just link to them, rather than showcase them.  No need to needlessly distress the readers.  Warning: Go further at Risk of Exposure to Pandering!  LOL

 

Julie M: My final peeve was [Spoiler] the assumption that an accident will instantly bring about mature wedded love. [End] We all know (well, those of us who’ve been married for two decades) that it’s the day in, day out of being with someone and relying on them that makes it happen.  But, it’s a movie, and overall I thought it was pretty good although Saathiya won all the awards.

 

Jenny K:  Now do you know that for sure?  The Filmfare Awards have a separate show, entirely, for the Southern film entries…I know Rahman won one of them for his score, and it didn’t win best picture that year, but, it did pretty darned well from what I can tell on the international filmfest circuit.  Mumbai isn’t everything, after all.

 
Julie M:  So, which is better: Alaipayuthey or Saathiya? I can tell you, I’d much rather watch R. Madhevan than Viveik Oberoi, and Rani Mukherjee than Shalini. But otherwise they seem nearly identical. So why remake? To gather the Hindi audience who doesn’t speak Tamil?

 

Jenny K:  You hit it on the head…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with desi audience members who speak Hindi (or Punjabi or Bengali) who tell me they will never go to see Tamil films because they’d have to read subtitles (assuming they have them!).

Nowadays, Mani Ratnam tends to film both films simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil to combine, save money and still retain creative control (Yuva, Raavan, etc). And almost without exception, I prefer the Tamil versions. Less polish, more grit always makes it seem more realistic, even if they do keep bursting into song.  And though it’s a close thing, I think the Tamil lyrics “fit” the Rahman music better than almost any Hindi they put to it (sorry Gulzar, no disrespect intended). It just seems to flow a bit easier, as if it’s written with the Tamil in mind and then the Hindi is made to fit, and so it’s a touch more awkward. Could be just me, but I’d bet money the Tamil lyric always comes first.

[a day or so later]

Jenny K:  New Vidya Balan flick out this weekend…Kahaani (Story, 2012)…looks like an eerie psychological thriller…sounds just up your alley! The last shot…very creepy….

Julie M:  Oooooh. It’s here in my local, too. Unfortunately, spending $10 at the movies at this time is not in the cards. I’ll have to wait for the DVD or online streaming version.

 [Later in the week]

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry you won’t be able to see this on the big screen.  Kahaani is what Hindi cinema has been aiming at for a long time, in that it’s as polished as any Western suspense film, but maintains a very vivid, convincing sense of itself and the country that it springs from.  I was completely drawn in.…It’s sort of  a Hitchcock suspense film, with bits of John le Carré or Graham Greene thrown in for the politics and paranoia.  Who’s the villain?…I mean, are the villains??….Wait, are there villains?  Or am I crazy?  Where’s Kim Novak in all of this?  Or Jimmy Stewart?  This feels like a classic in the making, full of ambiguous motives and danger galore.  And the ending succeeded in surprising me!  Imagine that…Wonderful.

The plot is fairly simple, Vidya Balan plays Vidya Bagchi, a talented computer programmer who has come to Kolkata to find her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing after two weeks of working there on another computer project.  Vidya is very, very pregnant, and is determined to not let the red tape of Bengali police and politics keep her from finding her man.  She’s a tough lady under her everpresent maternal glow, and no police official can ignore her, or if he does, it’s very unwise.  She’s befriended by one particular officer,  Inspector Satyoki Rana (an endearing Parambrata Chattopadhyay) who aids her search, even at the risk of losing his job…and his heart to her.

Vidya seems to be going as quickly backwards as forwards in her search.  No one seems to even know her husband was there.  One person thinks that Arnab looks just like one of her ex-employees…but why is he “ex”?  No one knows who or where he is, either.   If Vidya finds a lead, the next thing she knows, that person is dead.  Who is killing them?  It can’t be that harmless looking man from India Insurance, can it?  Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) looks too much like Jim Broadbent to be evil, surely?  Is it the master manipulator A. Khan, who is so mysterious that he has no first name?  Or might the big boss, Dhritiman Chatterjee, (ooh, I loved him in 36 Chowringhee Lane, and Black, too) be blocking her hunt for political reasons? Well, let’s just say that the red herrings flow as fast and furious as color on Holi.

Kahaani is a sensual experience.  The cinematography envelops you in the city of Kolkata, so that you can almost taste it.  The shots of the Durga Pooja alone are worth the ticket price.  The music by Vishal/Shekhar is interesting, diverse and juxtaposes the past and the present seamlessly.  No real production numbers, yet the edgy quality carries the plot very well, as in this song. 

Vidya’s performance is masterful, as expected.  She plays with the camera like a virtuoso, and keeps all her mysteries to herself while making her character very identifiable at the same time.  How does she do that?

But the newsmaker in this film is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays A. Khan, a government higher-up who really steals your attention every time he’s on screen. He was good as the young reporter in Peepli Live, too, but I didn’t recognize him from it until I looked him up. I may now have to find a copy of Patang, as well, to watch him in it. Sigh, it’s an indie film, it’s going to be a difficult “get”. Here are two short articles on him, in the Times of India and the Deccan Chronicle, the latter is better.   

 

Julie M:  Peepli Live is on my list of recent movies to find and watch.  The very LONG list!

 

Jenny K:  You might even call it…wait for it…a Hit List!  But please don’t.  I’m still looking over my shoulder….I may never sleep quietly again, at least not in Kolkata.

Part 11: Mani Returns. Of Ajay

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

[a few days later…more Mani Ratnam]

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

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

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

 

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

[Later in the week]

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Part 2: Rahman Recommendations and HrithikMania

Julie M:  OK, I got Taal out of the library a couple of days ago because I knew that yesterday I was going to be flat out on the couch recuperating from minor surgery. I know you said it was melodramatic, but you also said the music was great, so…I actually liked this one a lot. I couldn’t stand the Manav character (he was such a blah) but the music really was fabulous. Pretty much a standout soundtrack all the way around, and the choreography was fantastic starting right from the opening credits. I re-ran all the songs numerous times after I finished the film.  You are right: A.R. Rahman is The Man. Any more recommendations for his films?

Jenny K: Okay, recommendations. The first five are good films that have especially good AR Rahman sound tracks.

Lagaan, I mentioned before. A must-see. The only Bollywood film that the numbers are so integrated into the plot that you can’t show them without the movie, really.

Nayak, a serious social commentary in the most over the top, goofy slapstick style you’ll ever see. I love it, but you have to be in the right mood for it…maybe you need to be on hallucinogens to truly get everything out of it…hehehehe. Shakalaka Baby!

Meenaxi is sort of Bollywood meets Pirandello…sort of Six Characters in Search of An Author, though a bit wandery, plot-wise. Great visuals, and some of Rahman’s best music. You’ll find yourself buying the CD’s too. For buying things, I always suggest using Nehaflix.com.  Their website has a good selection, fairly easy to use and is very good at reliability and returns, if anything goes wrong. [JK’s Note:  I’m in mourning…Nehaflix got sued and lost.  Trying to reform under the name The Khan Store at Amazon.com.  Not a great selection yet, but they’re working on it.]

Swades is another film by the director of Lagaan, but this one isn’t period. It’s a modern day story of an Indian scientist from NASA who is pulled back home to find the nurse who raised him.  He finds her and make her life, and that of the whole village, better. Very sweet earnest film. A much quieter Rahman score.

I’d say again, Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek), merits a viewing. Harder to find, as it’s South Indian and not as much call for it in local markets.  Often they don’t have subtitles, check it out first.  It’s worth the hunt, though, it’s very moving.

Now a few in the Non-Rahman film category.

Lots of folks like Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s retelling of the Bengali classic story. The visual style is lavish, lush, and the music is good, not Rahman, but good. Great costumes, but the sets are so over the top and the lighting is overall so red in tone that it’s not my favorite, a bit too melodramatic, and I thought SRK’s hero was really self indulgent.  Even though it’s a classic, but it’s hard to feel that sorry for his problems when he caused them himself…but the numbers are so fun, pull up “SRK in Devdas songs” on Youtube and judge for yourself. “Chalak chalak” has the black dress that I’m going to make for myself once my diet kicks in. Also catch Dola Re Dola. Richard Corliss, the Time.com critic doesn’t agree with my criticisms. He’s a full-on convert. Check it out, here.  Funny, funny, albeit accurate article about his descent into BollyMania…closely resembling my fall. For the Devdas bit, scan down to “Deaf to Devdas“.

If you’re in the mood for a comedy, get Lage Raho Munna Bhai which tells of a local good-hearted mob boss who in trying to impress a lovely radio DJ, by saying he’s a Ghandi scholar and then has to study up to prove it…and Ghandi “arrives” to help him. Every one I’ve shown this to loves it. The earlier film Munnabhai MBBS is very popular, too.

That should keep you for a while 🙂

[after a couple of days]

Julie M:  Have to bring you up to date…I watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend along with Bride and Prejudice. Yes, I know B&P is not really Bollywood, but it was still fun, in the Bollywood spirit and I didn’t have to read subtitles! I liked the entire first half of KHNH but after the intermission it took a very weird turn. Started like a rom-com farce but then got way too melodramatic. Still, some nice performances particularly the Rohit character’s actor (I forget the name now) [note:  Saif Ali Khan]. I was so proud of myself for recognizing something…there is a brief moment during the wedding dance scene where SRK’s character is dancing right next to a random girl, and it was Kajol from K3G–wearing the same costume as she did in that film–and they exchanged a brief grinning glance. I had to reverse the DVD to make sure I wasn’t seeing things…it was awesome and thanks to you I caught the reference!!

I also saw an entirely horrible movie, The Mistress of Spices, which if you have not seen I recommend that you avoid unless you are a total Aishwarya Rai or Dylan McDermott fan. I read the book a while ago and it was good, but the movie version was AWFUL.

I have Lagaan on reserve from my library (it is on order so I’ll have to wait a while) and the system does not have Meenaxi, so will have to find that elsewhere. There’s also a film that is always on the library’s video shelves–can’t recall the title but it’s about a blind girl and a guy who loves her. ???familiar to you? is it good?

Anyway, thank you so much for introducing me to this wonderful (if time-consuming) hobby!

Jenny K:  Hey, I’m proud of you too…When you see Lagaan you’ll see another “inside joke” scene that you’ll recognize. When they were redoing the restaurant, they were playing a song “Chale Chalo” which is from Lagaan and is choreographed to remind you of it. Made me laugh. I agree that the second half of the movie changed tone after his disease was revealed, and the plot became more of a Lifetime Channel one, with him trying to find a happy life for Naina. Not very believeable, but I liked it anyway, in spite. Loved some of the big dance numbers and the scene where SRK barks at Rohit pretending to be Laila the Dog is oddly sexy. What does that say about me?!?!?

Hey, if you’re tired of reading subtitles, see if your library has one called Being Cyrus. It stars Saif Ali Khan (aka Rohit) in a non-comedy and he does a really good job of it, and the lion’s share of the dialogue is in English. It’s definitely not a feel-good musical (actually, not a song in it, as I recall), but more of a western style moody thriller. He’s also in the Iago role in Omkara (the Othello adaptation). His best role yet, I think.

The one about the blind girl is probably Black. I can’t really recommend that one, as it’s a direct rip off (in the first half) of The Miracle Worker, with the dad from K3G playing Annie Sullivan. Really odd transposition…when a 6′ 4″ Amitabh barks at the little blind kid and pushes her around to “tame her,” it’s just…different, and not in a good way. Then the second half gets all “I’m falling in love with you” when the girl grows up which adds an extra level of weird, even if he doesn’t give in to the temptation offered to him. I really like Amitabh, but this is NOT one of the ones I like him in, though I do admire the effort he was putting into it.  For an unadulterated dose of Bachchan at his recent best, try Bunty aur Babli, the first picture that he and his son Abhishek did together…sort of a benevolent Bonnie and Clyde caper picture with Amitabh (or BigB as we call him in Bollybiz) playing an amalgam of all the tough cops he’s ever done on screen with his tongue firmly in cheek. He’s especially hilarious in a fake music video over the end credits. He is so cool, even at 68.

Glad you’re enjoying it. Did you ever see Dhoom 2? Don’t worry about telling me if you didn’t like it. The only way that would bother me is if I recommended it, you BOUGHT it and you hated it. However, I’ve done a good bit of that, myself and am constantly glad that getting DVDs at under ten dollars is easy to do. You don’t mind the missteps as much.

Julie M:  I did see Dhoom 2–I thought it was a lot of fun, and Hrithik Roshan was so gorgeous in every single scene I felt like I was going to swoon. They really buffed him up for that one. And there was actual kissing in a Bollywood movie–the horror!! (kidding) Completely fluffy and escapist. Sometimes I’m just in that kind of mood.

Jenny K:  Ah, HrithikMania… don’t I know it. Met him once and spoke to him, he smiled right at me alone. Just as handsome in person, too, darn his perfection. Next time you are in that fluffy and escapist mood you could check out his first movie, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, from 2000. Not a particularly good movie (part of a long tradition of “Identical Twin” movies in Indian cinema) but it has some great dance numbers, “Ek Pal Jeena” in particular, in the second half, and of course he’s absolutely gorgeous in it. 

For other “gorgeous options” from him I’d say Kites and Guzaarish but the first is complete fluff set inLas Vegas and most of it in English. Only one dance number. Criminal shame. Guzaarish is an Indian remake of Whose Life Is It Anyway? that old Richard Dreyfus film on the euthanasia debate, blown up with flashbacks of Hrithik’s show-biz past to get him out of his wheelchair occasionally. Hrithik does nicely, but he still doesn’t dance much.

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