Sept. 22, 2012: Imraan/Ranbir ~ Glory & Hope for the Future

Jenny K:  What is wrong with most romantic comedy writers these days!  I find it hard to FIND any romance in them.  No lightness, and very little sweetness.  I feel old…”I remember when I was a youngster, and I walked fifteen miles, Uphill, IN THE SNOW! to see that cute little Meg Ryan or Kajol girl win over that adorable wisecracking goofball…they knew how to strum a viewer’s heartstrings…”  Harrrumph!

This mood started when I went back into the Netflix queue, and watched another stupid fluffy Indian themed English language romance today, When Harry Tries to Marry (2011)…completely useless. The two leads were tolerable, but the script was so bad, with so many holes in it, that it isn’t worth the effort. And in this one, not only were the lions-share of the gori actors completely wooden, as usual, but most of the desi ones were wooden, too! Bleh. Fooled by a pretty trailer, again! Actually, the film looks good…it just doesn’t deliver any sort of coherent plot, and so it’s a waste of time.

Julie M: Pass-adena.  Even the leads looked generic.  Bleah.

Jenny K: The mood continued, without my expecting much, but I bravely tried again, picking Break Ke Baad (2010), starring Deepika Padukone and my current favorite flavor of youngster eye candy, Imraan Khan. And then, just a few lines in, I remembered why he’s always able to cheer me up…he’s his uncle Aamir, back before he became Angry-Earnest-Man-with-a-MESSAGE.  And yes, with Aamir, message has to be in all caps (Taare Zameen Par, anyone?  Yes, we know he has a learning disability….Noble, but stop screaming at the boy’s parents, that won’t make them listen!).   Maybe Imraan will end up just like AK, but for now, he’s still got the innocence and sweetness in droves.  I could just watch him for hours!  Even if he doesn’t feel the need to try as many new things.

Julie M:  I don’t know, I like Imraan’s acting OK but for youthful sighs and decent acting I’m still going to stick with Ranbir Kapoor and Ranvir Singh.  And Prateik… not for acting because he’s so hit and miss, but just for looking at.  But Imraan has the heritage and the role model:  one to watch, for sure.

Jenny K:  Break Ke Baad takes the same format that we’ve seen Imraan shine in, in half a dozen films since his debut, but if Baad ain’t Broke, why fix it, na? The recipe is simple, take a bit of Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Naa, a touch of I Hate Luv Stories, a skosh of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and quite a bit of Ek Main aur Ekk Tu, and stir wildly. But basically he’s the good boy, the sweet kid, probably a bit mistaken in the degree of his devotion to a rather undeserving girlchild, but with no reason in the world that these vixens should overlook/undervalue such obvious hunkitude. They don’t deserve him!

Plotwise, it’s as follows: Abhay Gulati, also known as Gelato, also known as Sunita (these kids go too far on multiple nicknames for my ID-clarity) is played by Imraan. He’s been in love with Deepika’s character Aaliya Khan, alias Al, alias Shahrukh, since they met cute in a movie theater when they were roughly eight and ten. They bonded over love of films. She was to be a diva of the screen while he would run his father’s cinema chain. A perfect pair, so they both thought.

Until, Aaliya applies for a scholarship to a university in Australia’s Gold Coast, somewhere, and goes off for a year long “break” from her overprotective mother (Sharmila Tagore) and her boyfriend, both. Here’s a scene before she gets the idea to leave which shows their standard dynamic…she’s the goofball adventurer, always pushing the envelope, and he’s her anchor, keeping her safe. Very cute scene.

Julie M:  So weird, but when she said “I’m Shahrukh Khan” she actually looked like him a little. I’m sort-of impressed she can do the impression.

Jenny K:  OMG!  Did you forget OSO?   They must have spent a good length of time together on that one.  But you’re right, her acting chops are getting sharper.

However…when she goes off to Australia, her inner voice has her almost immediately jump the rails, taking acting classes against her mother’s wishes, moving out of her aunt’s house and into a beachfront playpen of a place with other kids, all of whom party way too much to be good for Aaliya’s already wild temperament. Abhay jumps on the next plane to be sure she’s alright, and just succeeds in fighting with her and forcing her to break up with him. Does he listen? Nope. He moves in to the beach front, too. Will they get back together? What do you think? Here’s the trailer, no subtitles to this one, however. Sorry, but you get the idea. 

I thought Deepika was much more competent than I usually find her, acting-wise. And she’s always breathtakingly beautiful (especially walking up from the ocean in her bathing suit). Perhaps she has a natural affinity for playing a stubborn B…h. I’m not sure why Abhay even wants her back, but he does, and I have no willpower to say no to this sweetie-pie, even if his heroines seem to have no problem doing just that. Check it out if you have a chance.

Julie M: I’ll keep it in the list…but lately these cute-kid romcoms just aren’t attracting me anymore.  It’s not that it’s a romance, which I don’t mind and actually even like, but they are so YOUNG.  And it’s clearly done for an audience that thinks they invented romance.  EMAET, which I have not seen yet but I’ve read all the reviews and seen all the trailers, is a bit more up my alley…

Jenny K:  Well, it was cute, except for Imraan’s second act haircut…in depth analysis, of that film, here.

Suffice it to say my will to live was so rejuvenated by BKB, that I even went out to see another of the young guns, Ranbir Kapoor in his new comedy, which is still in the local theatres.  I’m not going to give the title yet, just going to start with the trailer…I just can’t say it…because, for an American audience, it’s probably one of the worst titles ever chosen. 

Julie M:  ERGH.  But being that it’s Ranbir, I’m all ears!

Jenny K:  I know, I shouldn’t have let a few little letters set me against a film, but what with the vomitous title and the prospect of an evening with slapstick and silent movie shenanigans galore, I hadn’t started out the evening wanting to see it.  The film I went to the theater to see, Ustad Hotel, a Malayalam film, chose to come into my local theater with, you’ve guessed it, NO SUBTITLES! Too bad. So, regretfully, Kathy and I chose to go see B****! which I still can’t type out, and what do I get?…over two hours in a dark theater with almost no subtitles, because we didn’t need them! Go figure.

Awash in all the good feeling that The Artist spread over the international cinemascape, India has dropped this little gem into our laps. It has Ranbir Kapoor channeling his granddad, Raj Kapoor in full “Little Tramp” mode, plus Roberto Benigni, and perhaps a bit of vintage Jimmy Stewart, to give us our rather adorable deaf -mute hero.  He was originally named Murphy by his parents, but due to his inability to pronounce his own name, he’s saddled with…with…the name you saw in the trailer. I can’t say it…maybe I’ll get over it by the end of this critique. What I will say is that Ranbir has a definite gift for physical comedy. Doesn’t say anything throughout the whole film, yet you almost always know exactly what he is trying to say to the people in his life. Extraordinary job, and I tend to hate silent movie shtick.

Julie M:  He does move spectacularly, doesn’t he? Sigh.

Jenny K:  He plays a young man from Darjeeling who has few visible aims in life and he falls for a lovely girl, Shruti (Ileana D’cruz turning in a delightful performance in, I believe, her first Hindi film) who is, unfortunately already engaged to a run of the mill cute rich guy from Kolkata. Now, she’s a bit bored by her absentee fiancee who says all the right things and could give her everything her parents could want for her, but Bbb…Ranbir, a man of no words, gives her spontaneity, adventure and a single minded focus on her that wins Shruti’s heart eventually. Yet despite all of this charm and good-heartedness, she eventually gives in to her parents’ practical view of love vs. marriage, and goes back to Kolkata to marry.

Brf! is heartbroken, and to top it all off, his father is laid off of his job as a chauffeur to the rich Singh family who live in the mansion up the hill. He has known the family and their autistic daughter, Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) practically all his life. When his dad falls ill and needs an operation, and Mr. Singh won’t agree to a loan, well what’s our literally tongue-tied hero to do but try to arrange to kidnap Jhilmil and hold her for ransom…but plan as he might, it’s no good at all kidnapping someone who’s been already kidnapped an hour beforehand. SO…thwarted as a kidnapper, he tries to rob a bank…now try doing that without being able to say “stick ’em up” or being able to hear the cops behind you. Hilarious.

Well, nothing goes as he’d hoped, and somehow he can’t seem to get the money or give the girl back…he and Jhilmil are thrown together time and again, and a lasting bond ensues. Priyanka does a wonderful job playing Jhilmil in an understated, yet eloquent portrayal of autism. She looks distracted, about 14 years old, yet still manages to be fetchingly gamin under that crazy curly mop. Here’s a song showing a bit of their developing relationship. 

Julie M:  I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that Priyanka seems to have done this competently. . ..The last few movies I’ve seen her in (cough-AGNEEPATH-cough), she really stunk up the place.  Not accurately autistic though—more like she’s playing developmentally disabled, to my eyes.  Directorial discretion, I suppose.

Jenny K:  Awww…I thought you liked her in 7 Khoon Maaf?  Remember?   I thought there was progress there, too.

But, summing up, in spite of my predisposition to pooh-pooh, I really rather liked B…b…Barfi! The only thing I could wish is that writer/director Anurag Basu had dispensed with the older age framing story. It just added a layer of confusion that I didn’t need. When you’re not going to spell things out with lots of words, then simpler is better. But I do predict there will be quite a number of best acting nominations at the next Filmfare awards, and maybe a few wins.

And all I can do is thank the Second Gen Twosome for rescuing me from my “Why-Don’t-They-Make-‘Em-Anymore” Blues.  It seems the future has a much brighter aspect than I had hoped.  I’m even looking forward to the Diwali film releases, again!

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April 11, 2012: Abhay, Aisha, and Crap, on the Road

Jenny K:  I don’t know…the world must be coming to an end. I watched Delhi Belly the other day and didn’t hate it near as much as I thought I would.  Yes, it’s disgusting and gross, just like I thought…practically a Hindi Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest. However, it was pretty tightly scripted for one of those things, and the cameo appearances were good. I especially liked Vijay Raaz (Monsoon Wedding) as Cowboy the thwarted drug baron. He was really evil in a very charming way.  And, even covered with plaster dust, Imraan is always Imraan.

Short synopsis. Three slacker friends live in one incredibly dirty apartment in Delhi. Taashi (Imraan Khan), the semi-normal one, has a very rich girly fiancee, Sonia (Shenaaz Treasury). Sonia smuggles something into the country, as a favor for a friend. She has no idea what she’s carrying. She passes the delivery on to Taashi, who is very busy trying to be a “real reporter” not just a gossip journo, and passes it to his photographer and roommate, Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor), who has eaten something dangerously bad (any roach-riddled thing in their kitchen!) and is nursing the worst case of Delhi Belly on record. His bowels play the actual soundtrack to the film. Almost not kidding.

Due to his frequent emergency dashes to the loo, Nitin passes the delivery on to their other roommate, Arup (Vir Das) an unassuming cartoonist, silently seething in incipient anarchy against his boor of a boss. At the same time, he’s to deliver Nitin’s stool sample to the doctor’s office, and, of course, mixes up the two packages and delivers the crap to the drug baron. The whole rest of the movie is the plotting that goes on, trying to trade the drugs for hostages, money, etc. And it’s pretty fun, if gross, to watch. And yes, Aamir’s cameo at the end in “Return of the Disco Fighter” is fun, but not really necessary.

Julie M:  I’ll watch for it at my library but the out-and-out Indian comedies tend to make me squirm, and I’m not a fan of extended poo jokes. I can barely stand the comic-relief characters in more serious movies. Yes, I’m looking at you, fat guy from Bodyguard. But having said that, the trailer looks fun. Unless it’s one of those situations when the trailer shows all the good parts and the rest is just bad.  Like almost every Judd Apatow movie.

  

Jenny K:  No, it’s definitely better than those…trust me.  I’m not a full-out slapstick fan, either.

 

Julie M:  My recent film was Road, Movie (2009) with (sigh) Abhay Deol, who I had wanted to see more of every since Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, my first experience with him.  Road is a great “film festival” type film, full of finely drawn characters and beautiful cinematography, a main character who finds himself during a journey, and plenty of heart. Here’s the trailer.

Vishnu (Abhay) is a young, middle-class city dweller who yearns for more out of life than slotting into his father’s barely-there hair-oil business. When his uncle needs to transport his old mobile-cinema truck to a museum on the other side of the country, Vishnu jumps at the chance for a solo road trip and maybe some adventure along the way.

He picks up a young runaway (Mohammad Faizal) who is his complete personality opposite, and when the truck breaks down an elderly mechanic (Satish Kaushik) bails him out for the price of a ride through the Rajasthan landscape. They get lost and wander without food or water, get picked up by the cops for having no papers, meet a gypsy woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) on the run from an evil water-lord (Yashpal Sharma), conjure up a carnival and, like Sheherezade, find that they constantly have to show films in order to live for another day. By the end Vishnu learns to appreciate friendship offered with no strings and realizes what being a man really means.

In addition to lovely, quiet performances from the stellar ensemble cast and constant, very lush visuals (including Abhay Deol), Road, Movie has some great stuff to offer the Bollywood film fan. I counted clips from no less than five classic films I had seen including Deewar, Umrao Jaan and Pyaasa plus many others I have not yet seen. In fact, hair oil as a theme and metaphor pops up throughout the film, not in the least of which is through the wonderful song “Sar Jo Tera Chakraye” from Pyaasa, which gets a pop remix in addition to showing the original number. Here’s the music video.

The film moves fairly slowly and the camera lingers on the landscape and Deol’s sweaty, dusty frame far too often—I mean, often enough for me but maybe too much for someone else—however, I would recommend it for a nice change of pace away from romantic comedies and gangster shoot-em-ups. And it’s only about an hour and a half investment of one’s time.

Road, Movie is available free on Youtube, unfortunately without subtitles.  

 

Jenny K:  I watched Road, Movie on Netflix and it was an unusual one.  I loved the dreamy, almost surrealistic quality of the road trip, with the women with the water pots on their heads appearing every so often, from nowhere without notice.  I liked Abhay Deol and all the leads, especially Satish Kaushik as Om, were very good at their roles.  The visuals were mesmerizing, with the director, Dev Benegal and the cinematographer, Michel Amathieu painting color-drenched murals behind the silhouetted truck.  Remind me never to go to that endless plate of sun-parched salt where the mela “appeared”…I shuddered just looking at it.  Why would I want to go there?  Why would they? 

That is, in a nutshell, what the problem with this film is for me…dreamy as it is to look at, it didn’t make much sense.  And the nonsensical quality wasn’t whimsically charming, as perhaps what they were going for, it just interrupted my “suspension of disbelief,” so often it became mildly annoying.  

Why was Abhay’s character so clueless?  He didn’t seem actually stupid, yet seemed set on alienating all of those best placed to help him on his trip.  Why, if he’s so self-absorbed, would he agree to keep driving for what seemed like days at a time, aimlessly into the desert, until they were all but dead from dehydration?  And in the middle of nowhere…where did those carnival folk come from, and go to?    Were they there at all?  Who knows?  Oh, dear.  I’ve never liked magic realism much…

Julie M:  I guess that’s another difference between us.  I was perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the scenery (including Abhay), and let the possibilities wash over me.  I’m not even 100% sure the carnival was real—it might well have been a thirst-induced hallucination—and I felt that the dry, endless desert represented how Vishnu perceived his life, dull and devoid of joy, and these other characters were personifications of lessons he had to learn in order to bring himself back into balance…the filmmaking technique certainly could lead one to think in that direction.

I have to interject at this point, briefly, that after Road, Movie I saw Brick Lane (2007), also with Satish Kaushik and Tannishtha Chatterjee, this time as a Bangladeshi immigrant couple living in London with their children.  Here’s the trailer.

Brick Lane was a dazzling showcase for Tannishtha’s talents, and both of them acted extremely well and almost entirely in English. Overall, though, I found it not nearly as fascinating as the book.  A.O. Scott from the NYT agrees with me.    And that’s all I’m going to say on that.  It’s available online, for $2.99 on YouTube.  

[after a few more days]

Jenny K:  Pat and Kathy and I tiptoed through my Netflix queue the other day and gave into Pat’s not-so-secret crush on Shahid…we put in Kismat Konnection (2008), and only lasted about fifteen minutes before she herself was screaming for a change. Part of it was, I will admit, the Netflix subtitle cut-off problem on my tv. However, the plot was so weak, that I’ve blocked the whole thing out of my mind.

  

Julie M:  I found it on YouTube, free, subtitled, in parts.  Maybe this will solve your subtitle issue, but not the screamingly bad issue. So you’re saying that I should nix my own Shahid leanings and avoid it, eh?  Pity.

Jenny K:  Well, you seem to be willing to overlook his weaker movies, if he’s cute enough…so, you might still like it.  We ended up ditching Shahid in favor of Aisha (2010) also starring our boy, Abhay Deol. It’s an adaptation of Emma, the novel by Jane Austen…or rather, it’s a remake of Clueless (1995) which was a better adaptation of Emma.

The star, Sonam Kapoor, was less absent than she was in Mausam (but still as giraffe-like) as our rich girl Emma, I mean Aisha, gleefully filling her idle hours as a matchmaker to her shy, lower caste friend Shefali. It wasn’t obvious to a non-desi like me what was so low-caste about her; Shefali seemed nicer and prettier than our Emma’s crabby best friend Pinky (Ira Dubey), and so we lost a critical bit of the plot motivator, IMO. And because her father was not a stay-at-home recluse, why didn’t Aisha want to get married herself? No clue. 

Abhay played their version of Mr. Knightley quite well, but wasn’t really old enough to convey the “surprise” element of their romance. He wasn’t any kind of guiding/restraining hand for Aisha as Knightley was in Emma. They still fought cute, but you were mighty good and ready for them to realize their mutual affection, well before the end. Most of the supporting cast members were interesting, if not earthshakingly so. I particularly liked Arunoday Singh as Druv (the putative Frank Churchill) who was not nearly as reprehensible in his behavior as FC in the novel. Arunoday was quite buff and dapper with his red shirt and the spiffy Panama hat he wears in the dance number below. He has a better looking Gregory Hines thing going on.

So, I liked Aisha, on the whole, as I like most BollyAusten remakes (Bride and Prejudice, Kandukondain Kandukondain), but thought it could have made the connections a bit tighter and therefore clearer. I can’t even fathom how a plan to fix up Shefali with her “Mr. Elton,” Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar, who isn’t as big a dud as he should be), could consist of stranding the two of them alone at a hotel and making overnight reservations for them…in INDIA? WTHeck was Aisha thinking would happen???? Nice kids, they walked home, understandably tired and grumpy about her treatment of them. Clueless, indeed…

  

Julie M:  I have to come clean and admit here that I am SO not an Austen fan and have never read Emma. I did see Clueless, though, so am somewhat familiar with the story. I have tried to get through P&P at least four times and not made it past the first few chapters, and perish the thought of anything else like Sense and Sensibility (although the recent version that adds sea-monsters might be more to my liking). So anything Austen, or twists on Austen, whoosh right over my head at least in their comparison to the original.  I loved B&P, loved KK, and maybe I loved them more because I had absolutely no expectations.

  

Jenny K:  Not like Austen? Are you sure you’re a girl??  Does B know???  That sea-monsters comment is a dead give-away, BTW.  Next you’ll be asking for zombies in Devdas!

March 8, 2012: Goin’, Goin’…Gone on Prem Kahaniyan

Jenny K:  It seems all that I’m drawn to recently are prem kahaniyan, or in the gori vernacular, love stories…granted, not traditional romances, but in theaters or out, that’s what I’ve been watching. Here is my take on three of the most recent winners in the “luv stakes” races.

First was “in theater”…three weeks back, some of my Hindi Movie Pack and I went to see the latest Imraan Khan film, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (One Me and One You, 2012). It was an almost sweet, not-quite-meet-cute, shot at romantic comedy that has Imraan depicted as an NRI “good boy” whose life ambition is to get along calmly and with as few disruptions to his life  (and his parents’ wishes) as he can deliver. He has gone into his parents’ chosen field for him, architecture (they own a construction company) and is now serving his lowly intro-level years at a prestigious firm in Las Vegas.

There he meets Quirky Free Spirit, hairstylist Kareena Kapoor at a shared psychiatrist’s office, and she disrupts his life plans (and ruins his haircut!) forever. In the course of trying too hard to prove himself “not boring,” they tie one on and wake up married in a handy Las Vegas wedding chapel! The rest is how they wend their way out of this mess.  This is the first anti-shaadi film I’ve ever seen.

I find it interesting that in the trailer they begin with those really early era graphics, because all through the film I kept being reminded of early Cary Grant films, you know, the ones with Kate Hepburn leading Cary around by the nose into one crazy scrape after another, and doing some of those almost patented double-takes, that Imraan seems to be born to wear, too. No, seriously, it’s also a physical resemblance…the height, the dark hair with the widow’s peak, the dimple in the chin…go check the old still pictures from the 1920’s and ‘30s!

Not that Kareena is quite a Kate Hepburn, but I found, as the film unrolled, that I was interested in how their lives would untangle and if, indeed, they would end up together. No, I won’t say. Just that I enjoyed the ending, and didn’t want to scream at the screenwriters. Nice change. Also liked this number, where the action has moved back to India and the whole family (hers) has gone out to an “old fashioned” New Years Eve celebration at “the club,”dragging him along. I’m still in mourning for his Cary Grant-ish haircut.

Julie M:  I love cute rom-coms too, and have been craving one.  Last one I saw and really liked, unequivocably, was a while back, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha.  And one of my favorite rom-com genres is “got married too soon,” (made famous on TV by Dharma and Greg). I missed it in the theater, but EMAET is one I will watch for as a library DVD. Kareena did not annoy me in the trailer–let’s hope it’s as enjoyable as Jab We Met (my fave Kareena rom-com). And was Farah Khan the choreographer for “Aunty Ji”? because it’s just her style.

 

Jenny K:  Not Farah…she’s really only directing now, and choreographs for her own films, and Shah Rukh’s occasionally. This one was a guy named Bosco Martis and another one named Rajeev Soorti is listed, too. Bosco is definitely in this making-of video.

 

Julie M:  My research reveals that one of the location shoots was in Pataudi…the home princeship of Kareena’s intended, Saif Ali Khan.  Hmm…

 

Jenny K:  So, next on my oddball romance mix, was Dil Bole Hadippa! (The Heart Says Hurray! 2009) which put the balls in oddball…cricket balls, that is. You wouldn’t think that a cricket romance would be too unusual in Hindi film, Lagaan, right? But this one adds a cross-dressing twist.  Rani Mukherji plays a cricket-mad Punjabi girl from Amritsar named Veera, who has always had a dream to be able to play on a national team but her gender stops her, despite her proven “mad skills” on the cricket field.

One day after being turned away from tryouts, yet again, she goes back to her home with the troupe of wandering players she lives with and has to do a “trouser role,” off the cuff, if you’ll pardon the pun, to stand in for an actor who is falling-down drunk. Translated lyrics are under the original Youtube post.

That she pulls this off successfully leads her to hope that with a little more work she can fool the newly arrived, London-bred son of the team owner who is now coaching his dad’s team. Shahid Kapoor plays Rohan, the tough-to-please coach who fails to recognize his newest phenom, “Veer” as the girl he’s both fighting with and romancing at the local fair; he thinks she’s “Veer’s” twin sister. Ah, the things we swallow for a fun romance with lovely big dance numbers like this one.

I think that this is the most attractive persona that I’ve seen Shahid wear yet. Maybe because he’s not trying so hard to please, as Rohan’s natural disposition tends toward cranky. He sure can dance, though, and even delivers a convincing performance throughout the culminating cricket match where he gets to exercise those impressive biceps, and even does a creditably cute DDLJ Raj impression for Veera.

Julie M:  Again, another difference between us.  I don’t mind Shahid at all, and he’s proven he can do Punjabi-milieu, dance, comedy and romance, in Jab We Met (a seriously underrated film in this genre).  Dil Bole Hadippa! is another on my list of “to watch” given my insane fangirl admiration for Rani; however, since it hasn’t hit my library yet it’s not gonna. Guess I’d better find a place I can pay $3 to stream it. And you know you got me with Shahid’s dancing, and all the bhangra beats.

 

Jenny K:  Well, you don’t have to look far…Yashraj Channel at Youtube, $1.99…

The final leg of my romance trifecta, is an old one, Aandhi (Storm) from 1975. My pal Jayesh loaned me two films, and this was the first one that I got to, and boy was it unexpected. One of lyricist Gulzar’s directorial efforts, this must be his best to date. I’d seen his atmospheric ghost story with Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia, Lekin… but haven’t actually finished it. I always thought that it was a bit too lyrical for my non-poetic soul. This one, on the other hand, was delightfully mater-of-fact for a romance. And it is telling the tale of a mature couple, Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, who find each other again after years apart, all wrapped up in a story of political aspiration and machination. Extra bonus!

The story begins with Artidevi (Suchitra in her second to last film) as a political force who is facing a troubled reelection campaign. Her campaign managers don’t know how she, a Ghandian pacifist, is going to fight her rivals who control the newspapers and the funding of the business elites if she insists on fighting a clean, honest campaign. She goes to another town where a rally is to be held and moves her headquarters to a hotel there. She feels oddly at home there, and finds that the manager of the hotel is none other than her estranged husband.  She left him years ago when her desire for political office couldn’t be sated with a simple home life as a wife and…egad…mother! Surprise number one.

Aarti has lots of trouble fighting her growing attraction to her ex, J.K. (Sanjeev Kumar, who I just loved as the Thakur in Sholay) and more trouble winning back her troubled constituency, especially as they are spurred on to discontent by the opposition, headed by Chandrasen (a deceptively mild-looking villain played by Om Shivpuri). Here’s that scene, with one of the best songs in the R.D. Burman score.  No subtitles, but the main lyric is a tongue in cheek refrain paraphrased as “Here come the high-muckety-mucks carting along their many blessings for us. Let’s see what they’ve got.”

The story goes on unfolding slowly in both the present and the past, letting us know the history of our couple, how they met (the best meeting I’ve seen in any Hindi film, surprise number two), how they married against the wishes of her wealthy, powerful father, and how they came to a decision that they couldn’t stay together. Surprise number three, no one is truly happy, but politics is a stern bedfellow, and asks a lot of one.

 

Julie M:  Wow, a romance with grownups. Or, rather, grownup actors playing their age, in a world that somewhat resembles reality.  God bless the 1970s.

 

Jenny K:  Supposedly loosely based on the life and troubled marriage of Indira Ghandi, this film was banned for a year or two, until her death allowed the clearance to come through. Available, free from Shemaroo, on Youtube, with subtitles you can turn on, I’d highly recommend it.

Sept. 14, 2011:The New POPular Stars: Pretty On Parade

As it happens, this weekend we both watched recent, cute and fun romantic comedies headed by talented young newcomers, the men, especially, made us look twice.  Julie selected Band Baaja Baaraat (Band, Horns, Revelry — 2010) on DVD, while Jenny opted for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (My Brother’s Bride, 2011) in the theater.  Here’s how the party went down:

Julie MBand Baaja Baaraat is a typical romantic comedy–and is entirely predictable — although well done and with very likable leads.

Anushka Sharma (last seen as Taani in Rab ne Bana di Jodi) plays Shruti, a “together” young Punjabi woman from Delhi with an ambitious life goal–she wants to be the most in-demand wedding planner in the world–and through a series of circumstances she ends up business partners with Bittoo (Ranveer Singh), an irresponsible cut-up trying to get out of working on his father’s rural sugar cane farm for the rest of his life. She has only one rule: don’t mix business with romance. Bittoo agrees, reluctantly because he is half in love with her already. They get along great, complement each other’s style, and become incredibly successful over the course of the next two years. 

[SPOILERS, kinda…if you didn’t see them coming already.…]

One late night, partying after their first super-duper expensive wedding job, they end up in bed together, occasioning a fairly explicit (although not really showing anything) naked scene.  The next day she realizes she is in love with him, while he makes it clear to her that he thinks of it as just a casual hook-up.  The first half ends with the Big Reveal of this conflict.  I’m not going to go into more plot details but you can probably figure out how it ends up. The business is affected, more circumstances throw them together again, and I don’t have to say more except there is a very romantic kiss that made me wish I was 22 again.

Anushka is cute and fiery, and channels Kajol all the way in manner, facial expressions and dancing style. Ranveer is charming and very good-looking (VERY!), and is more than competent in the role although to my mind he is much better at being the offhand wisecracking kook–he falls flat in the last 20 minutes as he takes on a more romantic persona. Their chemistry is excellent, and that, in addition to the high production value, is the key to the film’s success.

The plot does not give over to slapstick and moves along with virtually no sub-plots. Costumes and sets are exceedingly colorful and exuberant–a plot point is that their business is known for “kitschy” weddings rather than the classy affairs a rival planner specializes in, no doubt occasioning much merriment in the office of the set dresser because they clearly had fun with it.

Lots of highly visual, high-energy and danceable songs that are well-integrated into the plot and action. One song in particular “Ainvayi Ainvayi Lut Gaya” becomes their company’s “signature” number, which they perform at all the weddings they coordinate. Tons of English words, and both the songs and the dialogue is packed with pop-culture slang and references that give it a fresher feel than the tired plot would ordinarily signal.

Here is “Ainvayi Ainvayi”, as performed at their first wedding job together, in which you see her starting out exasperated with him because he has booked this lame college band (his slacker friends) and then getting into the spirit of the song. No wonder their partnership and business take off.  And it’s a total earworm as well—I’ve been humming it for three days.


This song, “Dum Dum Mast Hai”, comes in the 2nd half at their biggest wedding job yet, where they have arranged for Shah Rukh Khan to perform but he has broken his ankle and they have to quickly, and of course absolutely unbelievably, pull together this massive dance number on 24 hours’ notice with themselves as the lead dancers.

Jenny K:  I never saw Band Baaja Baaraat, but the clips make it look fun. Ranbeer Singh is new to me…actually IMDb says it’s his first film. Looks like he did a good job.

 

Julie M:  After further research I noticed that Ranveer Singh got his B.A. from Indiana University just a few years ago. IU is only 60 miles from me.  Given how totally adorable he is, you would have thought I would have felt the heat all the way up here in Indy…ok, I’ll stop now.  But he really is cute and I predict a career path for him doing roles that SRK did at that age.

 

Jenny K:  In that second number, he’s even wearing a very SRK choice in wardrobe!  The designers would seem to agree with you…as I do.  But in truth, the films that Shah Rukh did at that age submerged him in plots either psychopathic, seriously slapstick or revenge oriented.  Let’s not wish that on these boys.

 

Julie M: I think this movie is perfect for young people who have not yet become jaded on rom-com conventions. I thought it was pleasantly diverting and at times highly enjoyable, but I called pretty much every plot development within the first 10 minutes and spent the rest of the movie watching my predictions come to life.  Man, I hate when that happens.

 

Jenny K:  Well, there is such a thing as RomCom Comfort Food, that some of us never get jaded by…so as long as there are attractive lead characters amidst beautiful scenery and a happy ending that will do until the next wonder-hit comes along. Somehow you don’t mind the predictability, it is actually reassuring.

There is lots of cute new talent around these days. I went to see Mere Brother Ki Dulhan last night to see the now tried and true Imraan Khan. That young man  just has a face that I can’t stop looking at.  May be the Aamir resemblance, I just don’t know…maybe the moustache, here.  Click for a close up. 

But the surprise was the young man starring as his brother, Ali Zafar, who does quite well for himself in his second film. I read that he’s quite a popular singer, especially in his home country of Pakistan.  From his showing in this movie, I can say that Ali handled the comedy as deftly as the dancing, held his own with Imraan and Katrina, has a seductively rich speaking voice, and a recurring resemblance to a young John Stamos, that didn’t hurt him in my book. Check out the comparison shots and see what I mean….do you think John Stamos is actually Hindustani, not Greek?

 

Given that this film was a time-pass, I quite liked it.  The lead couple, Imraan and Katrina, meet cute in a 5 year old flashback, where she’s a Free Spirited Rock Chick (has to be capitalized, she’s definitely an Archetype),

and he’s a calm, steady, nice guy that she doesn’t truly value at the time. Flash forward to where Kush (Imraan) is standing-in for his brother, Luv (Ali) who lives in London and wants Kush to find him a nice, non-NRI Indian bride.  After much fruitless searching, Kush finally decides on Dimple (Katrina) as Luv’s perfect bride.  But the way these stories go, lo-and-behold, in three short song medleys they realize they are in love with each other, and Bhaisaab is a distant, but ever nearing, memory… Egad! How will this turn out? 

Well, of course, we know…but I think its fun how they get there. My friend Pat thought the leading ladies were both “annoying,” but I didn’t agree.  Katrina has scored another endearing portrayal, and yet it’s still distinct from her role in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the love songs. The movie is shot in and around the Taj Mahal, which is, of course, gorgeous and yet somehow never too much of a good thing.

My favorite song is one that took place when they all get a bit drunk on bhang (a local mixture of milk, almonds, sugar and spices with marijuana, delicious and potent!) at a roadside inn and the sing a song in tribute to Madhubala, who starred in the classic romance Mughal-e-Azam, and that poster is conveniently on the billboard next to their table?!?  Unlikely, yes;  lots of raucous fun, definitely.

Pointless Nitpicking: I don’t get why no one thinks of the problem inherent in comparing an upbeat modern love story to Shah Jahan’s memorial to his dead wife, and also to M-e-A which details a doomed, albeit richly bejeweled, love story in another royal setting, neither of which have happy endings.

 

Julie M:  I bet they are anticipating a huge, young, NRI audience for this film, who are not as sensitive to such nuances.  I think the Taj Mahal is marketed to foreigners primarily on the love aspect and not so much on the death/tomb aspect.

 
Jenny K:  Also weird that though Ali supposedly sings so well in real life, they didn’t use his voice, or his built-in audience to boost the soundtrack sales. Strange. IMDb says that Ritesh Deshmukh was originally offered Ali’s role. Maybe the score was already recorded when he was cast, but it still seems a wasted opportunity. Ah, I found a clip of him singing in a video ad for Lux soap. Cute, but looks like he needs to take Cowboy Hat Wrangling 101.  [JK’s Note: DustDevil pointed out that “Madhubala” is sung by Ali.  Well, see…it did make sense…I was right, and blind at the same time! Thanks, DD!]

Julie M:  What does all that have to do with Lux soap, in the video? And do they really have 4 1/2 minute commercials in Pakistan?  He is adorable, though.  Someone to watch.

 

Jenny K: Lux has a history of doing ads with Bollywood stars. Here it is, in brief:

Then afterwards the men got in the act…Mr. Metrosexual SRK being the first. Very tongue in cheek.

And then Aish and Abhi:

Now it looks like they are going with even longer videos with the youngsters like Ali Zafar which you have, above.  The three girls on the billboard become the three girls in the western, the pirate story and the “man on the street” bit, respectively.

 

Julie M: That’s making sense now. Kind of like how makeup companies in this country use stars as models: Drew Barrymore and Taylor Swift for Cover Girl.

 

Jenny K: And Beyonce and Aishwarya for L’Oreal…that girl is certainly the crossover queen, isn’t she.  Workin’ all the angles!

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