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.

Part 5: Names, Hurricanes and Kisses in the Rain

Julie M:  Did you see this? Is Chandramukhi worth seeing? 
 

Jenny K: Rajnikanth is a specific taste. I’ve only seen one of his films, because, as I said before, it’s hard (and expensive) to find Tamil films that have English subtitles. I did pick up one from the 90’s called Muthu, because it was on sale and it said “AR Rahman score” which always sells me and…gosh darned if I didn’t like it in a weird kinda way. WAY over the top, but so silly it works. He’s pretty magnetic in his own uber-cheesy way. He’s also one of the two or three, what I call “kissing bandits”, of Indian film…until very recently it was very odd to see a kiss onscreen in these films, except Rajni and Aamir Khan, who can get away with it in their films. I don’t know about Chandramukhi, but the Robot movie with Aishwarya scared me enough from the reviews that I didn’t go see it. I did think once or twice of going to see Shivaji because it was SUCH a big hit, but still haven’t gotten a copy yet. If you want me to send you Muthu in one of your packages, let me know. You are warned that you might just hate it 🙂

 

Julie M:  Well, there was that super-hot Hrithik/Aish kiss in Dhoom 2… steamy!  Sure, send me Muthu. I like cheesy sometimes. And I love AR Rahman music.

 

Jenny K:  Yeh, but before about five years ago, the kiss was the exception, not the rule…all “sex” scenes were wet sari scenes, singing in waterfalls, etc. Lip kisses were so rare that they got really hot very fast, to the Indian viewer. They really don’t do PDAs culturally.

Here’s Aamir’s most infamous kiss with Kareena’s older sister, Karishma Kapoor, from about fifteen years ago. Raja Hindustani. Sorry no subtitles. Quick synopsis to put it in context. Raja is a poor cab driver in the country. Aarti is a rich girl who’s run away from home, I think to avoid marriage plans and/or an evil stepmother. She’s come back to her mother’s village in the countryside to sort of “find her roots”. Raja volunteers to be her tour guide. They shelter under a tree during a storm. He’s conscious of their class difference and pulls back into the rain. She says “don’t be stupid, come back under here” He comes a bit closer but then the lightning sends her skittering into his arms. Set up a minute long make-out montage. Scandalous. 🙂 Then when their heads clear with the storm, he’s appalled at the liberties he’s taken with her and pulls back with a shocked look on his face (stupid man) and she reads this as disapproval “oh my god, he must think I’m loose!” and runs from him…yet she can’t forget his lips…and those crazy big ears, too, I’ll bet…. Enjoy!  

 

Julie M:  Wow. Now I know why in every Bollywood movie there’s a “wet” scene–rain, river, pool, etc. No exceptions. B and I were making fun of it but it makes sense now.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Dil Chahta Hai tonight. Thanks for sending. It was really weird to see a movie with three very manly men agonizing about love, but I liked it. Too melodramatic with the whole Shalini-Rohit-Akash triangle but it ended well. And I’m a Saif Ali Khan fan.

Why is there a character named Rohit in every movie? Is there a particular set of character traits associated with the name?

 

Jenny K:  Have no clue…SRK is Rahul in practically every third movie and Salman Khan seems to gravitate toward Prem (“love” in Hindi) quite frequently.

 

Julie M:   I also noticed that the surname “Malhotra” came up frequently, but I looked it up and got an answer as to why, so I’m satisfied.

 

Jenny K:  What answer did you find? I’d be interested to know.

 

Julie M:  In the Punjab, there are a few clans/surnames that indicate the princely group of the Khatri (warrior) tribe. Malhotra is one of them. The other surnames from the same order are Khanna, Seth/Sethi, and Kapur/Kapoor. They were all supposed to only marry each other, traditionally.  So if you notice, everyone you see named Malhotra in Indian movies is typically very rich, very powerful or both. And I bet if they’re not, it’s a major plot element.

 

Jenny K:  Ah, that makes sense…thanks for the insight!

 

Julie M:  Just glad that I can teach YOU something!

[a few days further on]

Julie M:  Just wanted to tell you that I saw My Name is Khan today. Dude, what a weeper. Great performance from SRK–has redeemed himself in my eyes from the acting disaster that was Devdas–and fabulous chemistry between SRK and Kajol. Good story, good scenes, drama without melodrama, and nothing too drawn-out.

Kites is waiting for me at the library but I won’t pick it up until later in the week.

I also bought a lot of Bollywood music from iTunes in the last week or so.

 

Jenny K:  You’re well on your way to becoming a true BollyAddict. I think it’s time to introduce you to BollyWhat.com. If you have questions about anything you see “why are those women holding sieves up to the moon?” etc. This website probably has it. Also, if the main indexes don’t answer the question, just post it on the Masala page of the Forum and someone will have answered it in under an hour, usually. Very knowledgeable bunch of both Indian and non-Indian Bollywood film fans. It’s how I started, and you can probably find likely addicts in your neighborhood to start your film sharing with.

By the way…didn’t you think My Name is Khan would have been better without the last say, forty-five minutes? I hated the whole bit with them moving the Hurricane Katrina bit to, where was it, Georgia?… or was it just that the most stereotyped character in the show was named Mama Jenny?   🙂 BTW have you seen SRK and Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? I think you have. They are better together in that than in K3G, and perhaps even than their first film together, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ for short. This film has many weaknesses, the first quarter is too slapsticky for me, but when the two begin to fall in love, and he stops behaving like an idiot, they can’t be matched for sheer chemistry.

Lots of Shah Rukh’s early movies fall into the slapstick clueless lover style, and many have identical twin plots (Indian audiences tend to love them for some reason) but for the four minute silly video of the day, I send you evidence that SRK has watched TOO MANY Jerry Lewis films! From Yes Boss with Juhi Chawla as the object of his desire. I think she’s a darling.  

I forgot to recommend Main Hoon Na, another SRK movie that was very tongue in cheek, but pretty funny and charming. Co-star Sushmita Sen, who is sort of an Indian Kirstie Alley, back in the skinny days…a funny bombshell. Your library might have it.

 

Julie M:  My library lists Main Hoon Na but won’t let me reserve it–I think their copy is lost. Another one for purchase when I get the money…as well as KKHH which my library does NOT have and I am DYING to see.

I didn’t mind the last 45 minutes of MNIK, the whole hurricane thing. I did mind Mama Jenny–but I excused it because it’s an Indian film and they might not understand the nuances of the acceptability of writing very large Southern black women into film. But I kept wondering whether I was watching Borat or Forrest Gump. Those seemed definitely to be influences. 

Also–thanks for the pointer to BollyWHAT–fun site!

PS. I got a bunch from the library yesterday. Saw Jab We Met last night. Cute and predictable, two good dance numbers. Man, that Shahid Kapur is adorable. And Kareena Kapoor is annoying.

 

Jenny K:  I thought that about Kareena too….especially in K3G and one called Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. Avoid at all costs! But to give her some credits, my favorite movies with her in it are Chameli, where she plays a streetwalker (was very shocking to her fans) and one called Dev with BigB and Fardeen Khan who I don’t usually like but in this film he’s fine, also Omkara where she plays the Desdemona character, and Yuva which she’s very unaffected opposite Viveik Oberoi. Don’t rule her out completely until you’ve seen these four 🙂 And Shahid, though cute, does the same thing over and over, in the past. In his newer ones, like Kaminey, he’s showing a bit more of his father’s bloodlines.  Pankaj Kapur is a fantastic actor, and almost disappears in every film he’s in.

Of the young crop, I prefer Farhan Akhtar in Rock On! and also in Luck By Chance, which you’ve seen, and I find him very easy on the eyes…sort of an Indian JFK Jr.  He’s a wonderful director, too. In Rock On! he sings his own stuff, too…imagine that! [ Note: In Indian film, few, if any of the musical numbers are sung by the actors that they are picturized on.  The soundtracks are finalized well before the films are even shot, in most cases.  Farhan and Amitabh, are the only ones that do their own playback singing on a semi-regular basis.]

  • Categories

  • Blog Stats

    • 55,403 visits
  • May 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jan    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 21 other followers