October 25, 2014: A Commotion and a Verdict

Finally, in our Akshaye Khanna mini-film-fest, we come to Hulchul (Commotion, 2004), where Akshaye’s romantic heroism is blunted by slapstick comedy to the point where he becomes a caricature of the handsome leading man.  Akshaye plays Jai, the youngest son of virulently misogynist patriarch Angarchand (Amrish Puri at his eye-poppingly gruffest) at war with the family of Laxmidevi, a strong-minded matriarch (Laxmi).  The two wealthy families would do just about anything to ruin each other, and when Jai’s family disrupts the brilliant marriage scheduled for Laxmidevi’s granddaughter Anjali (Kareena Kapoor), her family vows to get even.

Jai and Anjali, college-mates and bitter enemies, are each instructed to pretend to love the other in order to cause rifts within the other family. Cue hilarious faux-romantic love ballad, which is pretty cute:

When they eventually realize that they are being used as pawns for everyone else’s revenge, they fall in love for real and want to marry.  Their only hope for happiness, it seems, lies in convincing at least one of Jai’s bachelor brothers to defy Angarchand’s strict “no women” dictum and get married first.  Will it be Shakti (Arbaaz Khan), ever loyal to his father?  Or Kishan (Paresh Rawal), a sworn celibate?  Or will it be Balram (Jackie Shroff), whose one attempt at marriage years ago started the whole feud to begin with?  Supporting performances by Arshad Warsi as Lucky, Jai’s hapless best friend, and Suniel Shetty as Anjali’s hotheaded but ultimately sympathetic uncle Veeru round out the all-star cast.

There are so many things to hate about this movie, starting with the fact that Anjali is introduced as the best law student at the college and then, after her engagement falls apart, she is turned into a bubblehead.  In typical Bollywood fashion, we are asked to believe that the 30-year-old, balding, heavy-faced Akshaye is an innocent college student.  (Kareena gets a pass—she was only 25 at the time)  Most of the slapstick is reserved for poor Lucky, who falls out of trees, gets dumped into a pot of boiling glue and is tossed around by tall, strong men as if he were a beach ball.  And—worst of all—the romance between Jai and Anjali comes flying out of nowhere, and their chemistry is so bad that Jai’s frequent uncomfortable looks seem perfectly justified.

Still, the story is cute enough not to stop watching, there is enough winking at comedy-drama tropes (can you say Weekend at Bernie’s?)

to cause smiles of recognition, and I can never get enough of Jackie Shroff.

Akshaye, sorry to say, is the unfunniest thing ever in this film; fortunately, he’s more often called upon to be the straight man than to provide the yuks.  Here’s an example of what passes for a funny scene:  Jai and Kishan infiltrating Anjali’s family compound in the guise of a cow.

If you insist on seeing it, at least it’s free and subtitled on YouTube:

Verdict on Akshaye:  C to C-.  Play your own age, buddy.

 

So what have I learned?  I admit to an adoration of Akshaye’s father Vinod Khanna, a frequent bromantic pairing with Amitabh Bachchan. But my opinion of Akshaye still stands:  his work is uneven (good = Border, Dil Chahta Hai and Tees Maar Khan; OK = Aa Ab Laut Chalen; not-so-good = everything else, including the otherwise excellent Taal, where he reminded me of a limp dishrag), his hair is mostly terrible, and for some reason he strikes me as an actor who doesn’t quite know what to do with his hands, or with himself when he doesn’t have a line—there’s that unsure awkwardness about him that a better actor can turn to advantage and which he does not seem to be able to accomplish often enough.

I also find it funny that just as we were starting this challenge, one of our mutually favorite bloggers, Filmi Girl, wrote a post about Akshaye wherein she calls him a “terrible hero” and praises his TMK performance.  I love it when people agree with me.

August 31, 2011: Dancing, Down Under and the Dons

Julie M:  I have no library movies reserved for this weekend–I’ll have to trust the luck of the shelves, and I will probably only get one film because I have other things I need to do around the house–films will only be a distraction! For next weekend I reserved Dhoom, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (for a new-ish Salman Khan performance), and Sarkar (supposed to be an Indian take on The Godfather). Someday–after I watch Sarkar and Don–we will have to have a conversation about why Indian film is so obsessed with gangsters.

 

Jenny K:  Do you think that they are that much more obsessed with gangsters than we are? Maybe we don’t do that many specific mob films as in the seventies, early eighties, but if you add drug trafficking films, thugs-in-the-hood films, and the like, it’s always has been and always will be a mine-able genre for films.

Of the three movies you’ve reserved I’ve only seen Sarkar, which is okay; good performances, especially by KayKay Menon (HKA),  Amitabh and a nice debut by Tanisha, Kajol’s sister.  However, I still think Mani Ratnam’s Velunayakan is a better tribute to The Godfather

Mujhse Shaadi Karogi I never saw because Salman and Akshay Kumar fighting over Priyanka didn’t appeal. Plus one of the plot descriptions has Salman as being a hothead who gets into fights a lot and is in trouble with the authorities about it. Sounds a lot too much like art imitating life.  It’s on Youtube with subtitles, too if you wanted to check it out before you picked it up.

Mujhse Dosti Karogewith Hrithik, Rani and Kareena, is online, too, which is a more popular watch, but may be too sweet for your taste. Don’t know. The best part in it is a sangeet (the musical evening before the actual wedding day) song where the three do numbers in a medley from famous movies of the past. Here is the first of two parts.

MDK is a Yash Raj Youtube Rental. $2.99 Haven’t rented from them, but don’t trust anyone who can’t get the screen ratio right on their Youtube clips…everything they put up is squashed into a 4:3 and so they all look tall and skinny…bleh. I own it and could send it to you.

[JM note:  Stay tuned for a special FilmiGoris feature inspired by Mujhse Shaadi Karogi]

[the next day…]

Julie M:  So here’s the actual Hindi haul for this weekend. Salaam Namaste (Preity and Saif, irresistible once I saw their little faces on the DVD cover), Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (Ajay, ditto), and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (Akshay and Salman)—I got it early. 

 

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, but isn’t it about gangsters again? You gowan like this, they gonna tink youwa “made” woman?!?!   

 

Julie M: Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, I had to get even though it’s about gangsters, because it’s Ajay and, despite my lack of interest in gangsters, he makes a good one.

 

Jenny K: True, true…a delicious bad boy.  Back to your haul: I remember being annoyed by Salaam Namaste, even with Arshad in it. Partially because of Arshad, or rather, because every time they had a dance number with him in it, the dance editing was so choppy that they would never stay on him long enough for me to actually watch him “move”. Sigh. It’s seldom he gets a dance number these days and Saif can’t really touch him. SN is a lot more Western in tone because of it being set in Australia. I think there is a “daring” plot element in that Saif and Preity actually move in together. Egad!

(later that night…)

Julie M:  All right…Salaam Namaste. The “meet cute” part was predictably silly, but the rest of the film was OK. Not great, but OK, watchable. I can tell why they made the couple live in Australia: they did some social shenanigans that would definitely not fly in Mother India. Oh, and plus they could get lots of shots of hardbodies in bathing suits on the beach.

Preity is getting a bit too old for this kind of part but she was good at what they had her do. Saif was likewise good in the romantic lead part (you don’t like him in romantic leads but I do), although he had some unfortunate wardrobe choices: the first time you see him he is in Superman boxers that are loose in the crotch and tight in the thighs, not a good look combined with the overdeveloped “glamour” muscles up top, and that’s not the last underwear shot you get to see. And he wore far too many knit caps for maximum tastefulness, and all those shirts with words on them? Puh-leeze.

Arshad was pretty cute (loved the tiny glasses) but as the comic relief mugged too much. Great comic guest turn by Jaaved Jaffrey as the NRI-turned-Crocodile-Dundee landlord, and the cameo by LittleB near the end was slapstick-predictable given the situation, but funny. (He really should stick to comedy, he has a gift for it.)  Here’s the Jaaved Jaffrey scene. Sorry, poor quality video and no subtitles but you don’t need them to see how hilarious he is.

Jenny K:  Yeah, I loved Jaaved Jaffrey in that, too. I thought he kept me in stitches; the best thing in the movie (sorry, Arshad!). Watching it again, now, I kept thinking of the “Mister Da-Dubey” speech from ZNMD. He hit it dead-on, plus the pseudo-Aussie speak.

 

Julie M:  I thought of that ZMND scene too!!! But the Crocodile Dundee outfit is what sold it for me. 

 

Jenny K:  And hearing the horse whinnies, every time he tipped his hat or put his hands on his hips. And Jaaved saying, “Wife, what is it I always am a sayin’?” Wife saying,  “Sorry?” Delicious!

Jaaved’s just another case in point of the old Bollywood rule…if you have a good dancer,  bury him in comedy roles so deep that no one knows he can even put one foot in front of the other. He was the best thing in Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng, too.

And in this one, do you think he was Hrithik’s role model? Bombay Boys (1998)…I think he sings his own stuff!…Jaaved, Naseerji, Naveen Andrews, all in the same film…guess what I’m going to watch tonight?!

[JK’s Note: The video “Mum-bhai” is not in the film, sadly, but seems to just be promoting Bombay Boys.  Jaaved’s vocals run over the end credits, but, at least in the English version, we still can’t watch him dance…It’s a PLOT!!!]

Here’s the whole film in 11 pieces with subs.

Finally, very early Jaaved, pretty silly…but, gotta love the tin-foiled musical instruments that make up the sets in this one. This one’s for Beth.

 

Julie M:  I’ll have to watch Bombay Boys too. I love all the gangsters he does. I read that he specializes in funny gangster impressions. He is definitely talented…Hrithik wishes he was this funny!  Good looking, too.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, but not quite good looking enough to be a mainstream star when he was younger. Now that he’s built up his muscles so nicely, and the rest of his generation’s stars are middle-aging into a more even playing field, he’d have more of a chance, if he weren’t such a bankable comedian. Oh, well, can’t have everything.

 

Julie M:  I thought of one Western comparison to Jaaved. Maybe Sacha Baron Cohen? Humor very similar, same emphasis on creating character types.

Things that bugged me about SN: the unbelievably lush beach house that miraculously a chef and a DJ/med student could afford; Saif wearing an open shirt or cut-off sleeves in EVERY FRICKIN’ SCENE; overuse of the stupid plot device where people see things and jump to wrong conclusions (man, does that bug me in films no matter what nationality); and the scene where everyone stripped after the beach wedding, possibly excused because most of the wedding guests were those Fosters-addled, fun-loving Aussies, but really. And very marginal music for how much of it there was.

A thing that was cool: in the “My Dil Goes Hmmm” number, where Preity is dancing on the bridge, I actually know the architect who designed that bridge. I mean, I personally met him and worked with him on a project. It’s a very cool bridge. It’s a highly trafficked vehicle bridge, by the way, so they had to have closed it to shoot the scene and that must have caused some problems.


Jenny K: Well, that’s got to be cool…I’d love to visit Australia.

[the next day…]

 

Julie M:  Watching Once Upon a Time… now. Ajay looks good in the longer ’70s hair.  But he’s the only one who does.

[later that evening…]

Julie M:  OK–Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I think in order to accept this movie you have to also accept that there once was a time when there were honest and moral gangsters. (No wonder it starts like a fairy tale.)

In the 1970s (like 1975-78 or so) Sultan Mirza (Ajay) is not so much a mobster as a savvy businessman–over the opening credits he divides up Mumbai among various gangsters, earning their trust and creating mutually respected territories, while he takes control of the shoreline and the international smuggling trade. All is calm and everyone gets rich. He brings in illegal stuff but he has his limits: he doesn’t handle drugs or alcohol, and he is never seen using a gun or murdering people (although he does beat people up, or have it done). He also supports the poor and does favors for the common man without asking repayment, earning their trust and love, and even a grudging kind of respect from the police.

His selfish, angry and ambitious protege Shoaib has no such scruples, and first as an admirer and then as an arrogant usurper continually amps up the violence and bad activities until Sultan has to smack him down. This enrages Shoaib, who plots revenge and (spoiler alert) finally assassinates Sultan just as he (Sultan) seems to be “going straight” and entering politics. This movie portrays the moment when Shoaib takes over as the end of the “golden age” of organized crime, which is nostalgically looked back on by the police-officer-narrator, and we are to assume that the dons now are evil and violent because Shoaib is setting the tone.

I found this movie slow and just barely interesting, except for Ajay, who turned in a great performance as the don with the heart of gold. The look of the piece was fairly stylish but just not realistic, as if it was some kind of sanitized dream of the 1970s (with the obligatory disco number, Parda). There was one nice love song, seen here:

I have to wonder what’s going on where they feel they have to make the gangland world look so…normal.

 

Jenny K:  Sounds like the description, with a few changes, that I would have given of Company…Ajay as practical businessman gangster. Doesn’t he get tired of them?

 

Julie M:  Oh, the Ajay character in Company was much more brutal and interesting (not because of the brutality, though). In OUATIM he is portrayed as almost a gentleman, albeit one that makes money from an illegal business. He is haunted by his past as an abandoned child, he always wears white and surrounds himself with white furniture as if he is in mourning for a happy-go-lucky past he never had, and he has this pathetic sense of honor that allows him to overlook Shoaib’s bad nature, and ultimately causes his own downfall. So I guess he’s supposed to be a tragic hero.

He is in love with a famous actress and she with him, they are planning to get married, and there is one touching scene where she has a medical emergency and he breaks his own rule about roughing people up in order to get her to the hospital. (This is compared to Shoaib’s relationship with his girlfriend, which is erratic and really kind of damaged–don’t let the “Pee Loon” song fool you). In fact, the cops get along really well with Sultan, he kind of helps them out of their problems, and there is one honest cop who at first decides he has to get Sultan but eventually realizes that Sultan is not a bad guy, it is Shoaib who’s the loose cannon. In fact, the whole movie is narrated by that cop, who at the beginning is found to have attempted suicide because Mumbai is now so corrupt and he blames himself for not taking stronger action to stop Sultan and, ultimately, Shoaib.

So it seems Ajay specializes in honest cops or gentleman gangsters. Typecast much?  (I still love you, Ajay!!)

Part 12: The Curse of the Flowered Shirts, and Other Fashion Missteps

Julie M: I saw Company last night. I found it boring until maybe the last 45 minutes–I passed the time by staring at Viveik. Viveik and Ajay acted well (and as usual Ajay seemed to bring out Viveik’s acting abilities), but I didn’t find the story all that compelling. I don’t watch gangster movies in English, so I don’t know why I thought watching them in Hindi would make them more interesting. So please, no more gangster films unless they are funny (like Lago Rahe Munnabhai, and I will probably also borrow Munnabhai MBBS soon). But not goofy/slapstick funny, because I hate that too. I hate the goofy noises in farce-y Indian movies.

Jenny K: Not much to worry about with me sending lots of silly slapstick because I tend not to buy them. I only got the Munnabhai movies because I have a little crush on Arshad Warsi…he plays the sidekick Circuit in the film. He is a really good dancer and he used to choreograph, too, but since he became “comedy gold” they don’t tend to let him waste time tapping his toes.

I keep trying to buy one really bad movie, Mujhe Mere Biwi Se Bachaao, because Arshad is in it and his dance numbers in it are HIL-AR-EEE-OUS, and still fantastic dancing.

Here’s the first one from Youtube. Rekha put on about thirty pounds for the role of a bored rich housewife who hires a nightclub singer/dancer to get her “in shape” for a part in the movies. She’s making fun of every dance movie she’s ever done, including Umrao Jaan (and still dancing rings around girls half her age!), and he’s trying to pull out every SRK “sexy” dance move he can rip off. Very funny (somehow I think of Kirstie Alley and Maks from DWTS) Watch it again after you’ve seen UJ and it will be even funnier. 

And not quite as funny, (unless like me, he reminds you of Matt Drudge in that hat) this introduces Arshad’s character as an entertainer, and I like his moves.

But still, every time I buy a copy it seems to dissolve into a mass of pixels at about Track 15. Never seen the end of it. Seems to be a problem with the master back at Eros Entertainment. Really a bad film so I won’t waste more than ten dollars on it, if that…Or maybe, Naseeruddin Shah, who plays Rekha’s philanderin’ hubby, got a look at the final product, realized, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t save it, and couldn’t convince them to cut him out of it, so he snuck in and mucked up the master copy!  Yesss! Now, if only they had a plot that good!

Sorry, back to what you said earlier…Dhoom is a film that I haven’t seen because a) Hrithik isn’t in it and b) Hrithik isn’t in it and c) Esha Deol is a whiny annoying heroine (except in Yuva) and d) there’s way too much Uday Chopra (LittleB’s sidekick) for my taste without Hrithikness to deflect my attention from it. Or is that Hrithikosity?…Whatever.  Dhoom 3 may be another matter. Rumor is that Aamir is going to be the new villain that LittleB is chasing. Mmmmm….

And you may like Munnabhai MBBS better, because the movies are two years apart but Sanjay Dutt looks five or six years younger, and I find him much sexier in this one. You believe the love story more. He also has a nostalgia thing going because his father in this film is played by his real father Sunil Dutt who was a star in the seventies, I think. He died soon after they filmed this together. I wish I had known that you were up for a girl’s weekend when I put together your next package…ah well. You must make due. Only one fluffy one. Two more issue films for you. 

Julie M:  Thanks for the links. He’s a great dancer and the first one was funny.  So I gather that Rekha is known as being a bit of a looney tune? Explain!

Jenny K:   Rekha is very intense. In interviews she often speaks of herself in the third person, sorta like that annoying kid in Fanaa. “Rehan/Rehka doesn’t want to do that…” yeeeesh.. I also think she likes to tempt career suicide, because she takes some roles that just ache to have you compare them with her earlier roles.  And although she’s still quite beautiful, she doesn’t look quite the way she did in Umrao Jaan.

Julie M: Rangeela. Eh. I find it amazing that the film was done in 1995 and the hair, fashions and makeup make it look like, oh, 1984 or so. Aamir looked cute and young. But otherwise I found the film very boring. Saw most of it on double-speed. Rahman music good, though.

 

Jenny K:   Well, perhaps that’s why the director, the aforementioned Ram Gopal Varma, went on to direct almost solely crime dramas like Company. He agreed with you. Considering the films that Aamir had been forced to do while starting his career, this one almost was sweet. Very traditional plotline. I liked the songs and the dancing enough to put up with most of the silliness. And I get a kick out of how much Urmila’s bust size jumps around with her padding in the various numbers. She’s never been one of my favorites, but I find she gets proportionately more annoying and silly the longer her hair gets (and therefore the bigger the boobs, for some reason). Her hair controls her interpretations, I think.

Julie M:  I liked some of the dancing, but given her outfits I kept feeling like I was watching an aerobics video. (funny about the hair-boob correlation)

Jenny K: As I’ve said before, Indian films tend to be about ten to fifteen years behind the trends, at least fashion-wise, if not in overall style. Not quite so much nowadays, they do seem to be finding the global norm faster. Perhaps due to cultural saturation in film and the internet… everything is available, everywhere, instantly.

I have a theory about Urmila’s fashion in this film, though. I got the general impression of “youthfulness”, colorful, like the title [Rangeela means “Colorful One“], baby-doll length in the skirts, worn with leggings so you don’t see too much leg, lots of caps and ponytails, etc. It was kind of like they didn’t want to lose her audience from her child star days by changing her look to be too sexy, too quickly. Then, toward the end they allowed her to grow up a bit, maybe making the transition both for the actress and the audience. Just a thought.

Also, you just end up getting used to a more decorated sensibility in Indian fashion. Nothing simple, nothing plain. They just don’t groove to it at all. They love to play with their clothes, change them often, add fringe, add zippers, even ones that are totally non-functional. For some this works, for, some, well maybe not even Hrithik can’t make it work… 

Julie M: Saw Bluffmaster…very funny. Double- and triple-bluffs, especially when you consider the film itself is kind of a bluff. Very Hollywood-style.

[Jenny K’s Note: Bachchan Senior has the full one on Youtube, too!]

I’ve noticed that Indian fashions tend to be a bit, um, gaudier than we like them here. In film when it gets too out there I just put it down to an overactive costumer imagination, since I’ve seen it being pretty gaudy (lavender and yellow sari? Eeecccchhh) in real life too.

 

Jenny K:   The Bollywood Fashion Extremes: For Men, or                Your Costuming Rupees, at Work?!?

Military Fashion Through the Ages a la Conan
and this

Men in floral shirts…too floral

Men in headbands…any

SRK trying to make neckties cool in DON
 
or, perhaps aiming for a Brandoesque moment
 
Akshay should just skip the leather jackets (and the beard!)  and this, and also refrain from trying to play a “cool rockstar”

And men should not try to play sexy in a chef’s cap or a tiny yachting cap, or a pimp hat…this outfit on the cover of the DVD scared me from Khalnayak for years (I sort of liked it when I fianlly saw it)

Julie M: Hilarious!!! (I just finished HDDCS and Salman had some pretty heinous shirts in that one)

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam–not so bad, actually. The big dance numbers were awesome, the costuming lovely (albeit unbelievable…in this day and age, who would believe such a wealthy yet super-traditional family?) and except for PAINFULLY drawing out the big reunion moment, the melodrama was fairly easy to handle. Ajay beats Salman hands down acting-wise in this one, although Salman was pretty cute in the first half (which he seemed to spend half of shirtless, you were right), and character-wise as well. Nandini chose the right guy, as I knew she would. And shame on them for trying to pass off some obvious Eastern European country as Italy…they didn’t even bother to disguise the local language or the writing on the taxicabs!

Jenny K:   It’s so sad when they develop a shirt allergy… they begin to fling them off, hither and yon, with almost no provocation. “I know you only asked me for directions to the puja, but I can explain better without this heavy t-shirt clouding my thinking.” It got even worse for Salman as he buffed up. Now he’s a tank in a flowered shirt. In HDDCS, he was still a bit youthful and winsome, however he was so manic, so often that I took to calling this mood “Monkey Boy” ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh-Ooh-Ooh-AHH-AHH-EEEK-EEEK-EEEK!!! “Yes I am from Italy, and I can prove it. Hand me that banana and I’ll eat it while hanging from the rafters and singing O Sole Mio!…With my shirt off, of course!”

So I sat on the Mall in DC for July 4th, with my Indian movie buddies, Pat and Kathy, Kathy’s husband, Mark, and one of Kathy’s friends from work, Reena, who hails from Mumbai, and as we waited for the fireworks, Reena and I passed the time by singing the following song sung. “Aati Kya Khandala”, was sung by Aamir (his own voice this time) in the (otherwise dark and moody) film Ghulam. It had been a big hit and BigB, Jaya and Kajol sang it in K3G at his party. Well, Reena sang it much better than I did, I’d forgotten most of the words that I’d tried to memorize.

And for added American Holiday Silliness, this video features Akshaye Khanna and Aish.  They have been trying to make it in the Big Apple, almost like brother and sister, and suddenly Aish has decided that if she doesn’t convince him of her devotion to him, he’s going to be seduced by this American born Indian vixen, and she goes to Coney Island to break up their date. 

 Julie M: You are hilarious.

I liked The Blue Umbrella but it was too self-consciously arty (i.e., slow-moving). Beautifully shot, boring story. We know Stealing Is Wrong and there will be Consequences, just move it along, please. The little girl was totally adorable but she doesn’t seem to have done much since?

Oh, and I prefer “manic happy Salman” to “romantic Salman” where he gets this sappy expression on his face and gazes deeply into someone’s eyes.

Jenny K:  I think The Blue Umbrella was done as a break between Maqbool and Omkara. After all that angst and violence, he needed a bit of sweetness and art 🙂 It did very well in the filmfest circuit, I believe.

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