November 11, 2014: Happy New Year (er, Veteran’s Day)!

So here it is:  the Happy New Year post!  Jenny and Julie both saw this one, and had some very different (and somewhat unpredictable) reactions.

First, the trailer:

Julie’s plot summary:  The action begins in the glitz and glamour of Dubai (city of lights, apparently!), at the World Dance Championships, where the Indian team is mysteriously missing.  Then we zoom backwards in time about six months to a mud-wrestling pit, where, in glorious slo-mo, we watch a buffed and ripped small man and a large, bald and slightly blubbery man whale on each other, until, from the left and right, water comes in to spray the mud off the small man to reveal…Charlie (Shah Rukh Khan), our lead and narrator, and apparently a professional fighter (you can bet that will come in handy later).

Jenny K: Oh, I actually missed the first fifteen minutes, so I missed the mud wrestling scene…that must have been what Kathy was giggling about.  But nothing about Dubai attracted me…the film actually worked on me as an anti-travel plug for the city. Too darn prefabbed and uber-glitzy for me, by half.

Julie M: Out of context in the beginning—yeah, but I didn’t mind it so much later.  Anyway, Charlie has an axe to grind:  his father (Anupam Kher) was framed by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff) for stealing a fortune in diamonds and is imprisoned, and after 8 years the opportunity to avenge him has presented itself. He gathers a handpicked team to pull off the caper of the millennium:  Tammy (Boman Irani), a lisping safecracker, irresistible to the ladies but with an unfortunate side effect of extreme stress; special effects expert Jag (Sonu Sood), who can go ab-to-ab with Charlie but is deaf in one ear and sensitive about his mother; Jag’s nephew Rohan (Vivaan Shah), a painfully shy, teenage hacker extraordinaire; and drunken simpleton Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), who seems to have no redeeming qualities except his physiognomy, which isn’t particularly handsome but is usefully familiar—a dead ringer for Grover’s son (double-role!).

Jenny K:  Oh, is that was Jag’s line of work was…must have missed that, too.  Thought he was just on board as “Ab Competitor” for SRK’s scary new torso.

Happy-New-Year-2014-Shahrukh-Khan-and-Sonu-Sood-300x250

Julie M: Despite their flaws (character and other) the team actually has the skills to pull off the heist, except the most important part: they need to learn how to dance, and fast.  Enter Nandu’s childhood friend Mohini (Deepika Padukone), a high-class bar dancer with a predilection for hearing men speak English, whom they engage to whip the boys into good enough shape to become a contender to represent India at the World Dance Championships in Dubai.

Why is this necessary?  Coincidentally, the contest is being held at the same hotel where the loot is being safeguarded and they need to be contestants to make the plan work.   Through a little hacker magic they end up where they need to be, but they immediately anger the reigning dance champions, the North Korean team (whaaaaa?), not to mention Charan, either of whom has the power to turn Charlie’s well-laid plans to vapor and take our little gang out for good.

Jenny K: I thought that North Korea was chosen, because it’s the only isolated power that isn’t currently in popularity with enough of the world to raise objection.  Who knows…Synopsis behind us, on to the reactions.  I was afraid that you, being the more serious minded of the two Filmi-Goris, would find it tediously frivolous and full of holes, plot-wise. Even I did, somewhat, and spent lots of time distracted as SRK’s blonde streak moved about his hair from scene to scene. Not to say that I found nothing interesting about it, but I could have missed it and not have been at all bereft.

Julie M:  Frivolous and full of holes, sure, but definitely not tedious.  I had a great time!

Jenny K:  SRK looks good, and is in top charming conman mode.  Deepika is lovely and a wonderful dancer, again. Boman is comedy pro, as usual, but I was distracted by the accent he chose, that one that I call the “paan-in-mouth” one. Abhi used it in Bunty aur Babli once or twice, but I don’t like a full movie of it. Jackie Shroff makes a smooth, if underused, villain, and I was glad to see him back. Abhi has the comedic double role that you mentioned, and he pulls it off pretty well, but it was really very slapstick, which, as you know, always leaves me rather cold. Sonu Sood is given the thankless role of comic muscle-bound sidekick, a la early Salman Khan…not much more to say about him than that, I’m afraid. Vivaan Shah was better in 7 Khoon Maaf, but didn’t fall on his face.

Julie M: I liked the way the direction played with Sonu Sood’s abs and the typical Salman Khan “oops, I’ve lost my shirt” bit that always seems to happen in his films.  I always find that the most charming part of a SK film.

Sonu-Sood

Jenny K:  I also didn’t like that they keep trying to mix their genres so much, trying to give all SRK fans what they want from him. You could see all Farah’s influences in there, having Shah Rukh be Tom Cruise in MI 4, Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven and Jackie Chan in multiple films, then putting bits of all of India’s favorite SRK classics in there, too. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with its dance team competition, bits of the Don franchise, touches of the charm and romance of K3G and KKHH, but without Kajol to help pull it off. I just wish Farah had picked a genre and knocked it out of the park, as I know she can, rather than trying to give us thin multiples, none of which really succeed.

Julie M:  I see your point, and checked all the references too, but I read it as parody.  In fact, I found so much parody in the film that may or may not have been intentional, but it was still funny. The comedic bits (the repetition of “the two things you need to know about X”, for example, and the knowing wink about the “intro” numbers for each, including the intro of Abhi’s character which was way too much like the way Ranveer Singh’s characters have been introduced in his last couple of films) varied for me from slightly humorous to fall-on-the-floor laughing, but overall were pretty funny, particularly as the film went on. But Abhi did not handle the comedy as well as we know he can (Bunty aur Babli, Dostana), although it was OK for someone who doesn’t know how good he can be, and the dance numbers, although very glitzy, were uninspired until the very last one.

abhishek bachchan happy new year

Jenny K: Actually, you reminded me about that “two things” bit….I thought it sounded familiar to me at the time, what with BigB doing a lot of the intoning, and I think I’ve tracked it down to these quotes from Bunty aur Babli, that they are saluting in the HNY film. “There are two types of people in this world…”  I’d have to see the movie again to be sure, but I’d bet that they were very close to that pattern.

Julie M:  I bet you’re right—but to introduce the characters, it’s very effective.  We learned to expect hilarious character flaws. With all the setup, the possibilities for comedy are endless, and pretty much all of them are employed.  Gravity-defying and farce-filled fight scenes?  Check.  Fart jokes?  Check.  Pratfalls?  Check.  Awkward dance moves?  Definitely check. (Look for a brief but enthralling flash of Prabhu Deva as one of the dance teachers who give up on them before they find Mohini.)  In lesser hands this could have been wince-inducing, but I think Farah Khan excels at directing zany comedies filled with varying levels of parody and multiple winks at Bollywood (and SRK in particular) tropes old and new.  The result, I found, was hilarious.  I left the theater feeling happy and entertained and satisfied…for about three hours, until all the plot holes came home to roost and I started to realize that although there was a lot to like, and ultimately yes, I did like it, there were some issues as well.

Why bring Jag into the gang when there are absolutely no special effects aspects (aside from some really bad disguises) to the plan?  How can Mohini—admittedly poor and desperate for the money her bar dancing gig gives her—take 6 months off to train a bunch of losers, even if one of them has great abs and speaks fluent English?  Charan is clearly a smart, suave guy: how could he overlook the ONE detail that allows a plan like Charlie’s to work?  And why, oh why, is the music, peppy as it is, so freaking DERIVATIVE?

The key to enjoying a film like this, clearly, is not to think too hard about it. Leave your brain at the door and grab the popcorn.

Part 3: SRK, Saif, Salman and Shirtlessness

Julie M:  I went to the library this afternoon (half-day off) and picked up 2 movies which looked good, but were not on your lists. I looked them up and at least one of them seems to be a good choice — Chak de! India. I’m kind of a sucker for inspirational sports movies about women and girls and this one won a bunch of awards, so I figure I won’t abandon it at the intermission.  The other one is Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which said nothing plot-wise on the back jacket but when I looked it up at home it seems to be the first Indian film about surrogate motherhood, so I bet it was too controversial to talk about in the video store. We’ll see about that one.

The video in my library about the blind woman is not Black, it’s  Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, 1981, starring Amitabh past his prime. Worth it? The description seems unduly complicated.

So where do you end up meeting people like Hrithik Roshan in person?

Jenny K:  Both the ones you got are fine. No alarms, unless Salman Khan scares you…he occasionally does me, takes his shirt off WAY too much in my opinion. He’s beefed up so much he’s built like a WWF wrestler these days. Maybe not so much when C4 came out. Chak De is a bit disappointing for me as it’s billed as an SRK film, but it’s really more about the girls on the team…as it should be, but for oglers of Shah Rukh, it doesn’t do that much.

Never saw Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, but Amitabh’s usually good even when his wardrobe is scary (anything in the 70’s…especially that 7 Brides for 7 Brothers remake that I’ve forgotten the name of) [Satte Pe Satta]. His legs are just way too long proportionately, for overalls with boots but somehow, unexplainably,  he carries it off.  And, in my opinion, BigB has never left his prime…just looks better and better with mileage 🙂

I met HR while working a live Bollywood concert in Fairfax. Aishwarya was there too, but I just saw her from a distance. I just chatted at him as he went in the door past me. “The crowd seems to really be glad you’re here…” or something equally witty on my part. He looked at me with those eyes and grinned as he went in. Heck, I’m glad I got something coherent out at all. I almost blacked out when I asked Amitabh a question at Filmfest DC.

Julie M:  OK–watched Chori Chori Chupke Chupke–enjoyed it but the DVD I borrowed was in “anamorphic widescreen” and the picture was all distorted. The only thing I didn’t like were the several HUGE chunks lifted directly from Pretty Woman–with dialogue pretty much intact. But otherwise an entertaining experience. Salman Khan didn’t take his shirt off once, although in one scene he was in a very tight white T-shirt. Will watch Chak de India! this afternoon.

[time passes…]

Julie M:  Two more movies…Chak De India was GREAT, loved it, not typical Bollywood but was refreshing. I thought there was plenty of SRK and for once I liked every facet of the character he played.

Lage Raho Munnabhai was merely OK. It’s not the type of movie that I watch generally, in any language; in fact I pretty much avoid the genre. I liked the Munna character, though, and I liked the last moment of the film when we FINALLY get to see the fiancé and it’s LittleB. (probably tickled the audience too)

Tried to get Kuch Kuch Hota Hai from the library but they system doesn’t have it. I have to decide whether it’s worth going through interlibrary loan or if I should just buy it. It can’t be too expensive if I get it used through secondhand DVD sources online.

The executive secretary at my office was bemoaning the sorry state of daytime dramas, so I’m going to lend her K3G. Another convert?

Jenny K:  Good for you…your first convert 🙂 I almost think that any hard core soaper might like KHNH better…all that hiding your illness and illegitimate children and denying your own love for your lover’s future happiness stuff. Would seem almost like dropping in to Llanview or Genoa City. She might also like Dil Chahta Hai, good drama but in more manageable doses.

Julie M:  Oh, I’m sure she’d like KHNH as well or better, but I don’t own that one. (I don’t recall an illegitimate child in KHNH?? did I miss something?)  I can see that this new hobby is going to get expensive… 🙂

Jenny K: [Spoilers: Highlight to view] Yes, the little girl that Naina’s mother adopted was the father’s illegitimate child with his mistress. That was the whole thing that caused the reconciliation scene in the church. The father killed himself because he felt so guilty about foisting his child on Jennifer, and she was so noble about it, and loved the girl as her own. Then everyone got all teary when SRK brought out the letter and the grandma had to eat crow and make up with Jennifer because she had actually been a better daughter in law than she could have hoped for, lying for her husband to protect his reputation. [End of spoilers]

The trick to beat the expense is, I think, to find your local rental places, or join an online DVD rental club, or get a few others hooked and you each buy a couple and then share them around…I’ve done all three 🙂

Julie M:  Oh, yes, I forgot about [spoilers] the adopted illegitimate child. It seemed a minor plot point once the whole “he’s dying” thing came to the fore.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Bunty aur Babli this evening. SO cute, and the music is fun. I could swear I had heard the “Kajra Re” song somewhere before–am I dreaming? Anyway, fun to see the Bachchan-Rai trio performing together. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jenny K: Yeah, I particularly like the “drunk” scene before “Kajira Re”, where BigB tells the story about his lost love…he’s hilarious, in that and in the “music video” at the end over the credits. I just love him.  No, you’re not crazy. “Kajira Re” was in that first list of my favorite videos that I gave you.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  OK, got Devdas out of the library (finally). I’ve only watched the first half–or I think it’s the first half, up to the point where Paro gets married and moves into her husband’s mansion, and Devdas wakes up to find that he’s been out for 2 days and Chandramukhi took care of him. I’m afraid it’s too much for me. The costumes are fabulous (it’s supposed to take place in the past, right–somewhere around the turn of the century? They have gaslight but not electricity, it seems, and the British are still in charge so it has to be pre-1947) and the songs make sense, but the drama is too drawn-out for my taste. I’ve peeked online so I know what happens–is it worth seeing the rest of the film?

Jenny K:  I see you agreed with my opinions on Devdas rather than Corliss’ ones. But you have to have seen it if you are making a “full study” of current Bollywood. Devdas, the character, just kills me… [Spoilers] You’d think that Paro would have liked him more if he realized his mistake, dusted himself off and made the most of his privileged life and made her proud of him. But no…the best he could do was do the prototypical monster mope of all time and drink himself to death in epic style.  Ooops…I should have said SPOILER! Sorry. But if you “peeked” maybe it isn’t a surprise.  If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. It affected me sort of like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary…what sheer waste of literary/filmic space wasting time on those egomaniacal losers. SRK is certainly cute, especially in his death scene…should one look cute in your death scene, is it appropriate? You could skip to that to glance at it, if you wanted. Definitely hit the Play All button on the songs menu and watch ’em. Great staging, great costumes, every one. I especially liked the “Chalak Chalak” number and the “Dola Re Dola” number is good, as I think I said before. Persevere…

Julie M:  I will skip the rest of Devdas as I still want to like SRK, but will play all the songs. The choreography, sets and costumes are just stunning.

Saw Hum Tum this weekend. Cute, kinda like When Harry met Sally without the deli scene. Did not buy the Karan character as a professional cartoonist (not enough personal discipline) but Saif Ali Khan was sweet in the role (just as sweet as he was in KHNH).

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