December 27, 2011: Déjà Vu All Over Again

We are back (somewhat) from our holiday break, and we’ve been puzzling lately on one of our favorite filmi topics:  Hindi remakes of American films.  So far we’ve brought you quite a few, like Kaante and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.  Tune in to our latest discussion of three more…

 

Julia M:  My weekend library haul this time includes Shaurya (Valor, 2008) with Rahul Bose.  I am determined to try and like him!  If you’ve not seen it, you can catch Shaurya free on YouTube with English subtitles:

 

Jenny K:  I keep trying to think of a film of Rahul’s that has the other, more manic side of his personality, but the two that I am thinking of are so bad that I can’t recommend them. I’ll keep trying.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Shaurya was clearly inspired by A Few Good Men. More than, since it’s the same plot with a couple of twists. But it’s not as interesting as the original, not even close. Rahul Bose displays an actual personality, though, and some animation, so it’s worth watching. And Jaaved Jaffrey is pretty good as the prosecutor/Rahul’s best friend (love his deep sexy voice).

Jenny K:  Does anyone say “Such…you can’t handle Such” [ Such “truth” hai]?  Now, who is it who plays the Jack Nicholson anyway?

 

Julie M:  Yes indeed–KK Menon plays the Jack Nicholson character’s analogue in Shaurya and he does say that. It’s not translated very well, and he doesn’t yell it like Nicholson did, but it’s said. I was looking for it and was very proud that my rudimentary Hindi skills overcame the inexact subtitles in that instance–enough so that I recognized the quote.  Here’s that scene (start at about 6:00 in for the full effect).

And KK was really good as Brig. Gen. Pratap. It’s more of an extended cameo appearance rather than a role, just two or three scenes, but he totally nailed it without Jack’s histrionics.  Here’s the scene where he’s first introduced.  No subtitles, but he’s doing some golf practice at the border and knocks one into enemy territory, then makes an underling go and retrieve it.  Totally creepy. 

[about a week later]

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ve now watched Shaurya and then A Few Good Men again after, and am ready to voice a more informed opinion. The director of the former definitely used the Aaron Sorkin/Rob Reiner film as a template, no doubt about it. The basic plot of the maverick outsider lawyer in the military played by Rahul in Shaurya is, of course Tom Cruise in the earlier film, and KK Menon takes on the Nicholson role. Once again the bad guy is a superior officer with aims at a high office and a feeling of absolute godlike correctness in anything he chooses to do. They meet in a semi-friendly fashion at the Brigadier’s base, over a meal and discuss the case. There are in both films an innocent victim murdered and an innocent murderer, depending on your side in the argument. There’s lots of researching done by Rahul’s helpful co-workers, and a nifty if unlikely courtroom triumph for the underdog at the end, where Rahul, like Tom Cruise, is up against his best friend as prosecutor. Even the courtrooms look vaguely the same…old fashioned military decorum with lovely big windows. But there is definitely more than a few differences that make the Indian film its own take on the shared themes.

The first thing that I find different is that Rahul’s co-investigators are outsiders, journalists, and would in no way be allowed or even encouraged to help with a military case. Rahul’s job was to keep all of this out of the press, and he even got in trouble for it…yet here’s Minissha, practically in the next scene being let in on all the dirt…yet she doesn’t feel the need to print it. All her earlier ambition chucked out the window, it seems. Highly unbelievable on all fronts. I guess things couldn’t be stretched so far as to allow a mere woman to be an equal legal partner as Demi Moore was in AFGM.

 

Julie M:  And yet, Nargis was a lawyer, on her own, 60 years ago in Awaara…no problem there…nouvelle prudery?

 

Jenny K:  And then, there is the change in motive for the case. Instead of pondering the nature of power and how a bad job can make a military hero a villain by what he’s asked to do (Jack’s Colonel truly believes he’s doing right by his men and the country by defying the orders of his higher ups about Code Red prohibition), the Hindi film has to make all the bad guys explainable in their motives and much more sympathetic. With ethnic bigotry as the focus of the piece, the defendant was perfectly justified shooting his superior, who was about to kill a local child. He was also right to take his punishment, as he saw it. Further justification is needed when you learn that the Brigadier isn’t an out and out rotter…his wife, child and, don’t say it, his mother have all been killed by a native boy who he took into his home and trusted. Well, no more Mr. Nice Guy! He’s going to wipe out the whole race, so this kind of thing can’t happen to anyone else. Makes Nicholson look downright simple in his monomania..”I’m right and everyone else can just fall in line or get out!”

All in all, though Shaurya had some nice moments and some nice performances from Rahul, Jaaved and KK, I’m always going to choose the Reiner film, because it’s an almost perfect film. Stands up and salutes as well today as it did when it came out in ’92. Hoo-Rah!

 

Julie M:  You expressed almost perfectly my sentiments about Shaurya vs AFGM, right down to the ridiculousness of Minissha’s character Kaavya being able to be as much help as she was (although truly, how much investigating did she actually do?).  I too felt that the racial/ethnic/religious angle was uniquely Indian–maybe because they don’t at bottom believe their public fiction, like we do, that race (or caste, in their case) no longer matters, they can get away with it in a film whereas we can’t here, not in big-budget Hollywood films anyway. My big surprise at this film was that Rahul was so much less low-key than he usually is–almost manic–and his character is given a simplistic, yet highly effective reason for all the high-danger sporting activity. Since Indian films don’t get into the dark side of psychology very much, I found it refreshing.

[several weeks later]

Julie M:  Hum Kaun Hai (Who Are We? 2004) is an almost identical remake of The Others (2001), except without the atmosphere and with very weird, wholly Indian “explanation” scenes tacked in that inexplicably reunite Amitabh Bachchan (as the main character’s missing husband) and Dharmendra (as a totally new character not in the original).

First, the similarities. Basically, everything is the same. Dimple Kapadia takes on the role that Nicole Kidman portrayed in the original film, and does an excellent portrayal of a deeply religious (Catholic) woman trying to deal with a beloved husband missing in the war while faced with circumstances which seem to indicate that her house is haunted, or that her servants for some reason are making her think it is. Two cute kids (Hansika Motwani aka Baby Hansika, Master Aman) with a disease that renders them unable to be in bright light; three servants who appear out of nowhere to take care of them; the need to lock doors and keep curtains drawn to keep the kids from inadvertently stumbling into daylight; a mom plagued with migraines. Photos of dead people in a creepy album. All the same from start to finish. In fact, if you squint you could swear that Fionnula Flanagan, who played the matronly servant in the original, had reappeared in the remake and was speaking Hindi.

Now, the differences. First, the quality of the film stock was very bad—or maybe it was just the print that the DVD was taken from—it had color problems, jarring jump-cuts and bad sound. Looked very low-budget. (OK, had to get that off my chest) Where the original took place on a dim, misty remote island where the viewer could really believe that the house was haunted (and there was some meaning to the fog as well), HKH takes place in a sunny, park-like estate with the merest wisps of fog floating in and out, and it looked at times as if the fog was digitally added. The dimness of the original is replaced throughout by bright light, even in the “candlelit” scenes, which was jarring. The original took place in the 1940s, whereas the remake takes place in the present day (there are mentions of television, for example), removing the otherworldly quality that made the original so creepy. Dimple Kapadia seems very strong and capable, in dramatic contrast to Nicole Kidman’s ethereal fragility, which actually made her descent into screaming panic so much more scary (you kind of expect Kidman to fall apart, based on her looks). HKH had multiple flashbacks to the married couple’s love for each other, setting up the totally weird ending where we get an explanation of the husband’s strange reappearance that is totally different from the original film’s. (won’t go into details because it’s a major spoiler) And a final scene that is just really, really stupid.

In general the 2nd half was much, much better than the first half, which unfolded at a breakneck pace and with as much drama as reading the newspaper. And I was just as freaked out with what was the second-to-last scene in the original (but ended up as perhaps the third- or fourth-to-last scene in the remake). But then they had to ruin it with the last two scenes.

If you’ve not seen The Others, you will like Hum Kaun Hai just fine as it represents a genre rarely seen in Indian film (a creepy psychological story with ghosts—but maybe this is a growing trend, because 2007’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa entered into that genre as well). But if you have seen and loved the original, you’ll spend a lot of time rolling your eyes at Hum Kaun Hai.

 

Jenny K:  You make Hum Kaun Hai sound like a fun watch. I had seen The Others, but just when it originally came out, and I don’t have many clear memories about it, so I may be safe. And I love Dimple.

 

Julie M:  Well, I’ll make it easy for you to see it.  The film is available free on YouTube. I saw it on DVD where the running time was just over 120 minutes; online the running time is about 106 minutes, so there may be some missing scenes.  But I checked—the “added” scenes are all there, in all their ridiculous glory.

[a week or so later]

Julie M:  As a follow-up to many discussions, I’m finally watching Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (Love Had to Happen, 1998), even though I know it’s a remake of French Kiss (1995), but since I haven’t seen FK I figure I’m safe.  I’ll watch FK after, in order to give this one a fair chance. After a disastrously farcical first half, it’s settling down into a decent movie.  Here’s Part 1: 

It’s nice to see Ajay help the girl he loves connect with the boy SHE loves, just like in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (although this is an earlier film). And he and Kajol have nice chemistry in this. Not as much as in U, Me Aur Hum, but they are cute. She more than he, although he got much cuter once he shaved off his mustache.

Oh, and BTW, what is UP with Indian movies and the first half/second half dichotomy?

 

Jenny K:  You know, until this past year, I’d have said that it was always a first half strong/second half fizzle out tendency. This year, not so much. And I always felt that Ajay and Kajol’s chemistry in this was much stronger than in U Me Aur Hum. In that one, he was such a conceited guy in the first half, and then he was so concerned in her care and worried, that chemistry didn’t enter into it, at least in the traditional way. Interesting that you got it completely differently.

 

Julie M:  Here’s my take. (it only applies to masala or romances) If the first half is really stupid, the second half is strong. If the first half is great, the second half falls flat. Examples that come to mind right away are K3G and KHNH. Great first half, overly melodramatic 2nd half.

 

Jenny K:  But we must note that that’s coming from the point of view of a die hard non-sentimentalist.  I will grant you that K3G goes a bit too far in it’s emotional histrionics in the second half, but there are enough good moments in it (especially that dance number with Hrithik and Co. in those GORGEOUS sherwanis!) that I still enjoy it.  And KHNH is supposed to be an emotional love smorgasbord…so you must be prepared to eat a full gut-wrenching load, or you just skip it altogether.  I love it.

Oooh…that reminds me.  I just watched Affair to Remember, that transatlantic smorgasbord with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.  Wish I had put in the Indian match-up of this one, Mann with Aamir and Manisha.  It takes all the emotional fluffery and pads it out to double its length with much anguish and gnashing of teeth and even more silly songs than the original, which were very silly in the first place “Tomorrowland” being the most unlikely choice for a nightclub song that one could think of.  It’s free on Youtube as well, with subtitles.  Aamir is young and peppy, and Manisha smiles more than once or twice, Rani does a cute item number early on, but I can’t even go into the grandmother’s shawl scene at the end because the translation of that one into an “Indian version” had me rolling on the floor with it’s unintentional hilarity.  You just have to see it.

 

Julie M:  But back to the films at hand.  The setup is standard rom-com fare: the male half of an engaged couple leaves for a business trip to a different country and falls for another woman, prompting the female half to follow and try to win him back. En route she meets a native of the country she’s going to, and circumstances force them to be together unexpectedly. They get to know each other, become friends, and he helps her with a plan to win back her fiance by pretending they are lovers. Pretense turns to reality, and at the end the fiance is overthrown in favor of the new romance.

The plots of the two movies were, with the exception of a couple of added scenes in the Indian version and a slight adaptation to make it more desi (changing the setting from Toronto/Paris to Paris/India; and some details, because I somehow don’t think India is big on vineyards) exactly the same, with key scenes absolutely shot-for-shot identical–down to the female character’s wardrobe. The Indian version adds terminal clumsiness to the female character who is already afraid to fly, occasioning much (to my mind, unnecessary) slapstick in the first half of PTHHT; but that’s balanced by the FK subplot where the female character is American trying to get Canadian citizenship, which is jeopardized by the trip. In FK there is a language barrier, which is very funny, and is absent in PTHHT. And of course, the Indian version adds musical numbers, only one of which was at all memorable.

I think Ajay made a better Luc/Shekhar than Kevin Kline, and, much as I love Kajol, I think Meg Ryan made a better Kate/Sanjana. I could believe Ajay as both a thief and an ordinary village boy with dreams of land, but Kevin always had the thief about him–the vineyard scenes fell a little flat. Meg Ryan…well, she pretty much invented, for the late-80s and 90s, the cute-and-bewildered rom-com heroine with questionable taste in men, and even Kajol can’t compete.

 

Jenny K:  I’d agree that Meg slightly edges Kajol out, as she is the prototype and does that type of role (cranky/cute) almost better than anyone. I’m sorry she’s sworn off. I have always described Kajol to people as a sort of Meg Ryan type…even physically, with those big eyes and killer smile…and the coloring differences just give you great variety. I do agree with you that the clumsiness thing was rather unnecessary.

 

Julie M:  Frequently the reasons for remaking a Hollywood movie for Bollywood audiences are unclear, and the remake falls flat. FK was a great choice for an Indian remake: it has all the elements of comedy, romance and drama built right in, and obvious points at which a song would underscore the plot or action. Comparing these two versions is also instructive, for newbies, in the differences in pacing between American and Indian movies. American films move right along, with no wasted plotlines or introduction, whereas Indian films take more time on the setup and draw out the denouement, sometimes excruciatingly long, to wring out every drop of drama and sentiment.

 

Jenny K:  I actually liked the longer format for PTHHT, and think it works well for the story. The ninety minute format for French Kiss always left me wondering why, in that short a time, Kate fell for Luc…Kevin Kline or no Kevin Kline, who has always been a favorite of mine. So, with the longer time spent at Ajay’s home, etc, that all makes more sense to me.

 

Julie M:  Me too, having seen FK second.  But if I had only seen FK, then I’d put it down to “movie convention.”  Of COURSE she’ll fall in love with him once he demonstrates his knowledge of wine, because THAT’s what’s important in a relationship.  Oh, and that he knows his diamonds.  But in PTHHT I must tip a hat to this song,  which shows to best advantage the chemistry between Ajay and Kajol in this film  (sorry for the bad quality and no subtitles).

Overall, I’d say that if one hadn’t seen FK then PTHHT would be 100% satisfying, adorable, and stand-alone excellent—ranking among the best of Indian romance films. But for American audiences, FK is going to win out, if you like that kind of thing (I’ve seen way too many and am jaded on the genre).

PTHHT is available in one link, free on YouTube, with subtitles.

Advertisements

October 2, 2011: Always a Bridesmaid, Never the “Bride”

Love stories come and go;  some become classics and sometimes they just get an E for Effort… Who knows what makes one stick in your mind and heart? As an example, let’s compare the new romance, Mausam with the classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and see how it stacks up.

Jenny K:  I went out last weekend to see the latest Shahid Kapoor film, Mausam (Seasons) with my friend Sultana.   Well…though it is by no means awful, I’m not sure it merits the bother of a full review. Pankaj Kapur, the freshman director and Shahid’s father, attempts a large, lush, multi-year love saga in the recent past that seems to be aiming for an old time “missed connections” romance with many things reminiscent of Gone With the Wind. It boasts military attacks, burning cities, a rioting populace, the birthing of babies, toddlers in peril, scores of the dead and injured, helpless females who wait endlessly for their men and/or get threatened with rape…Why Mr. Butler…eh, I mean Mr. Kapur…all I can say is Fiddle-dee-dee! You can’t do Gone With the Wind without a Scarlett and Rhett to keep you interested!

As cute as they are…and Shahid has proven more than once that he can do that, especially in his dance numbers…Shahid and Sonam are just not seasoned enough, or gifted enough or their characters aren’t well written enough to sustain the audience’s attention throughout an almost three hour film. Aayat (Sonam), who has lost way too much weight since Saawariya, IMO, ambles about the place like a pretty, young giraffe giggling and retreating throughout the film. She does it so often that she could easily assay the part of a cuckoo in any cinematic clock big enough to hold her. Lovely, but gawky and too tentative, I was left wondering why Hari (Shahid) was so struck by Aayat’s charms. Especially when her rival is the live-wire, Aditi Sharma, the sweet, friendly daughter of the local baker, who steals focus in every scene she’s in. 

And the same goes for Shahid’s Hari. While he’s portrayed as a callow youth, he’s charming and funny, especially when covered with flour, mud, leaves or whatever gets dumped on him in his pursuit of Aayat.

But when he misses his first chance to secure her love (her father spirits her away to Mumbai) he just metaphorically shrugs his shoulders and consoles himself with his love of jet airplanes, and joins the air force. Now, would Rhett do that? For that matter would SRK’s Raj let things stand like that in DDLJ? nahi…Nahi!!…NAHI!!!  I think NOT! Hari is too ready to let things go with the status quo for my taste, not even using his more modern resources effectively to find her during the next SEVEN YEARS! Phones, phone books, relatives, and to some extent, computers (it is only the early 1990s, I realize) could have cleared up this star-crossed mess, with at least one or two reels to spare.

And I will just touch briefly on his Top Gun wardrobe of flight suits and ubiquitous aviator sunglasses! Yes, he looks fetching in this ensemble, but, really, if they’re laying the fly-boy stuff on us, couldn’t they afford to have him do more than one flight sequence instead of just endlessly striding to or from the jets on the tarmac with flight helmet tucked neatly under his arm to allow his locks to waft photogenically in the breeze! And I coulda done without the pencil-thin moustache in this middle section, but I kinda liked the stubble into beard that he sported toward the end. It aged his baby-facedness a bit.

And again, Shahid had an almost inconvenient bit of standby eye-candy to distract me, I mean Aayat, in the form of one Vaibhav Talwar…Note to self: I must go back and watch Teen Patti again. Yowza!   Sorry for the lapse, but with “costars” like these, any reviewer would be tempted to bury the leads!

Summing up, I thought Mausam was a noble effort that fell sort of flat, and definately LONG. Worth seeing only for the great shots of Edinburgh, Scotland (I want to go back!!! Calton Hill!!! Sigh) and Shahid’s wonderful dancing.   2.5 out of 5 stars.   Here’s my favorite example from Mausam, “Saj Dhaj Ke”

And somebody please tell me what happened to Anupam Kher’s character…he just disappeared! 

 

Julie M:  Oh, well.  Sorry for your waste of time.  I had already made up my mind not to see it, and to catch Shahid’s dance numbers via clips. Too bad this was disappointing—I actually liked him in Jab We Met although I know you are not overly a fan of his. 

But to cheer you up, I have good news for you.  I had a half-day today and it was cold and windy out, so I decided to spend the afternoon warm and cozy on the couch watching a DVD, and it had to be something feel-good and not too thinky. In short–the perfect day for DDLJ. Yes, I took the plunge, and totally fell in love with it. 

For the twelve people on the planet who have not seen it, since it’s been constantly running [in Mumbai] since its release 15+ years ago, the full title is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Will Take The Bride, 1995).  Here’s the trailer (English subs): 

And here’s a quick plot summary.  Simran (Kajol) is the London-born daughter of a Punjabi convenience-store owner (Amrish Puri), and is reluctantly engaged since infancy to Kuljit, the son of her father’s friend, back in India.  As a last fling before marriage she begs her father to let her travel with her girlfriends for a month in Europe.  As it happens, wealthy, fun-loving and insouciant London-born Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) is also on the same European rail tour with his buddies. They meet incredibly cute, she hates him, they end up missing their tour train in Switzerland and then travel together for a while with adorable consequences. 

After they part they realize they are each in love with the other (not knowing that the other feels the same way).  Here’s that scene, shown with him flashing back to their Switzerland time and scenes where she imagines seeing him everywhere: 

Simi’s dad learns that she met a boy in Europe and instantly whisks her off to India for the wedding.  Raj tries to reconnect with Simi, learns that she has left, and trots off to try and intercept her.  The rest of the film is the unfolding of Raj’s very original plan, and its unintended consequences, to stop the wedding and convince Simi’s dad (who already hates him due to an incident in the first half) that only he can make Simi as happy as she deserves to be.

This all sounds very rom-com formulaic, but really, it comes across as very fresh and engaging.  Maybe I’m just used to how it all works now (the goofy first half and melodramatic second half), but I suspect it’s because the SRK/Kajol pairing is absolutely impossible to beat. Sure, there are massive plot holes (if all her luggage was taken away on the train, how could she make all those costume changes when she and SRK were on the road? How the heck did he find her knowing just that she was “Somewhere in the Punjab”?), but who doesn’t love love when it’s presented so charmingly?

This is my new favorite love song, when he just shows up in her field inIndia: 

And who could fail to adore this classic Amrish Puri look?

So, I get it now, I really do. I promise not to rag on SRK too much from now on. And I know I will watch DDLJ every time I need to be assured that even though life really s*cks sometimes, it all works out in the end (and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end).  And I know you like “girls vs boys” dance numbers, so here’s  the one in this film: 

 

Jenny K:  It took me a while to “get” SRK, too, unlike my buddies Pat and Kathy who fell into Kamp Khan almost from the start. And weirdly enough, the reason I didn’t like him at first (beside the goofy slapstick) was that I kept seeing stills from Devdas and thought he was just “too pretty” for my taste with the big doe-like eyes and long eyelashes, etc. I told that to one of the store managers (the pretty part, not the eyelash details) and he looked at me like I was crazy. Well, after a few of Shah Rukh’s offerings, over the course of time, he began to sneak in to my psyche and, as you know, I quite like him, on most occasions, and always find him charming. I like to think I have a more evenly dispersed love of Bollywood Male Amazing-ness, but it may be that I can’t choose just one!

As to the charming…this is one of my favorite interviews with SRK on CNN. In three parts, here’s a link to the first one.  

 

Julie M:  Great interview!  Mostly I like him, too, but there are a few facial expressions that really turn me off (that “lip trembling about to cry” one, for example).   But I never really got the absolute adoration of an entire country and the diaspora for him, until DDLJ.  Raj’s speech at the end about loving her so much that he was willing to give her up to another man if it’s truly what her father thinks is best for her…yeah, that was kind of a ruse on his part but he said it so convincingly, and it rang all the cultural chimes so loudly, that no wonder the actor and character became conflated in the public imagination.

DDLJ is available for rent through YouTube.   As usual with YRF rentals the aspect ratio is likely going to be goofy, and I don’t know if the rental comes with English subtitles. [the page says you can turn them on]

 

Jenny K: I guess it’s safe to say that though you can put the boy in the village and the girl in the field of yellow flowers, it may not be enough to call up the same responses that Aditya Chopra gave us with his Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.  Lightning doesn’t often strike twice…but please, directors, don’t stop trying to find it, because when the jodi has jadoo, it’s unforgettable!

August 8, 2011: Handling the Obvious

Julie M:  The weekend has started…watched Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai this evening. Dumbest. Movie. Ever. Do NOT get me started on the ridiculousness of plot, the awkwardness of action, and the stupidness of dialogue. Plus the entire first half read like product placements for Coke and fancy cars. Favorite stupid moments: Hrithik’s obvious spray tan in the 2nd half, the ENTIRE sequence on the cruise ship and the infamous mesh shirt.  And this one.  Check out the video below and carefully watch the sky as it flips from daylight to dark to evening to daylight and around and around, randomly.

Why did I watch it to the end? Well, you know why.

Jenny K:  Okay, tell me how you really feel about it. I’m assuming that you don’t want to keep a copy of KNPH? I think, if you’ll scroll back that I said, “There are two clips of KNPH that you have to see”. I didn’t say you had to watch the whole thing…you asked for it.

And you didn’t like the mesh shirt? The biggest problem I had with his “look” in this film was its dichotomy. His head, in his down-under look, was much more conservative. Shorter hair, wire rimmed glasses, etc, while the bottom half was…well, packaged for easy viewing, is the phrase that keeps jumping into my head. Sort of gave the impression of a high school gigolo with his inner stockbroker struggling to get out. I think it’s safe to say, Hrithik’s look is refining with age. Didn’t really scare me once in ZNMD, except perhaps, with the contrast vests and the rolled up pants, which I wish he’d take a vow against. It’s like he’s trying to make himself look shorter, or something?!?

Ah, Product Placement! That’s a fact of life in film, the world over. Some producers are just more subtle about it than others. Example, Mr. Subhash Ghai, who brought you Ishq Bina, a “Meet-Cute via Coke” scene in Taal (which I loved, so I overlooked it)

and the even worse, the “Coke as Tragic Memory Trigger” scene, same movie (less forgivable)

well, he went on two years later to commit Terminal Product Placement Saturation (TPPS) in Yaadein. Jackie Shroff is a trouper, (the things SG asks him to do!) but his character is shown as so in love with Coke that he can’t go to the grocery store without clasping a can of it to his manly chest. He seems to be singing more to it than to the images of his dead wife. And I’ve never before considered a Coke-Themed wedding, but the bride doesn’t seem too happy about it either. Chee!

Julie M:  I did notice the Coke product placement in Taal in the middle of MY FAVORITE SONG!! but generally in Indian film it has not been so bad (not as bad as in American films, chee!), until KNPH, where it is egregious. Or maybe I was bored with the movie and it hit me harder. Anyway.

The weird thing I noticed–well, one of the many weird and stupid things–in KNPH was that in the 2nd half his skin was way darker, like, is there more sun in New Zealand than in INDIA??!! or was that to drive home the point that this is supposed to be a different person? I liked the little glasses, actually, but hated hated hated the logo shirts (more product placement, or part of the character?). The cargo pants were, um, delicious, if that’s the right word. But overall, if I want to see the Ek Pal number I can catch it on YouTube, ditto the flashy number from the 2nd half (forget what it’s called). Do not need to own the movie. If I were to actually buy a Hrithik movie (so I can see it anytime, mmm) it would definitely be Dhoom 2. In fact, I’m going to, and hide it in a special place so B doesn’t get jealous. Krrish shows him off pretty well, too. And…sigh…I might just end up seeing Krrish 2 in the theater, kicking and screaming all the way (not!).

[Jenny K’s comment: You’re assuming that B isn’t reading this blog on his own time…]
Julie M: Tonight I am giving myself a Kajol double-feature, with Minsara Kanavu (aka Sapnay) and U Me aur Hum. Drinking iced chai. Wanted to make myself biryani but it’s too hot to cook much, so am making chorizo instead.

[later that evening]

Julie M: Wow. I should NEVER do a Hindi double-feature ever again, no matter how many videos I have to watch before I have to get them back to the library. It was just too crazy much and I am wrung out.

Minsara Kanavu was fun but had several key flaws. Far too many slapstick-y moments, and I couldn’t understand her attraction to the Deva character (who I could have sworn was gay, and not just because he was a hairdresser). For that matter, the entire ending was just unbelievable. Great Rahman music, although this number (note the product placements!) was more Broadway than Bollywood:

Kajol was adorable.

U Me aur Hum was typical. Meet way too cute, then huge melodrama in the 2nd half. The WQ (weepiness quotient) was turned up to 11–maybe the highest I’ve seen since KHNH–and even though I saw it coming for about 45 minutes I still bit and, yes, cried a little at the end. It was great in the first half to see Ajay smiling, laughing and happy since I’ve not seen it enough in the films I’ve seen him in. The second half had amazingly real, incredible, emotional performances by both Ajay and Kajol (disappointingly, in the next-to-last scene their “old” makeup looked obviously fake and bad which put me off liking it as much as I could). The music did not strike me as anything special…except the drunk number “Dil Dhakda Hai” was fun.

I think that Ajay does better in films where he is not called upon to “sing” even though he did slightly  in this one song. He just looks too uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s all the strippers.

I haven’t decided yet what I am going to watch tomorrow, but I have to watch two. I’ll definitely split them up…watch one early in the day and one in the evening. And get out of the house in between, for sure.

Jenny K:  Try yourself a triple feature sometime, but not until you’ve been in training a bit longer. I think it involves doing serious shots of chai, alternating with ladoos (for the sugar rush) and short bursts of bhangra dancing in between shows to send the blood back into your feet. I’ve only tried it a few times at high density film fests, usually involving Bachchans.

A few years back, Filmfest DC programmed Bawandar (with a planned visit from Nandita Das, that didn’t happen that day) and two presented by BigB himself (with LittleB in tow), Dev and Black. I gathered my few senses left me and raised my hand to ask AB, Sr. a question…and he picked me, looked straight at me with those intense eyes, and expected me to be coherant…tall order. I think I managed it, as he nodded and answered it, but I don’t, to this day, remember what he said, as all my concentration went into not falling over and mumbling something along the lines of “I love your…eyes…I mean… movies, and can I stow away in your luggage?” I settled on smiling and nodding a lot.

Oh, about Sapnay, I do remember it being sorta Disneyesque. Kajol’s character could have been played by Haley Mills in her heyday, if she coulda handled the Tamil, but I thought it was sweet. And I’m glad you said Prabhu Deva’s character seemed gay (I’m betting he was going for kookily carefree, with those long legs, it would be an easy option, I’m thinking). He’s thought of as quite the ladies man in real life, I hear. And I think I’ve said before that he’s one of my favorite choreographers (Hrithik’s “Main Aisa Kyon Hoon” from Lakshya and Madhuri’s “Kay Sera” number from Pukar) and he can do no wrong, dance-wise, in my eyes.

Julie M:  Great number! He kind of reminds me of a younger, Indian Tommy Tune with a dash of Fosse. Maybe it’s the height and the legs.

Part 6: A Whole Lot of Roshan Goin’ On

Julie M:  Saw Swades [Note: pronounced Swa-desh, from the Sanskrit for “one’s own country.“] this evening. Reminded me of those indie movies of the 1980s where a stuffy Englishman falls in love with a Scottish village, who adopts him. B watched it with me and he actually stayed through most of it.  Next up: Kites, then the historical romance Jodhaa Akhbar.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, stock up on the caffeine for Jodhaa Akhbar….I fell asleep about twenty minutes in, during a battle scene with elephants, no less. Yes, Hrithik looks fetching, but I don’t think the director, Ashotosh Gowariker, who did Swades, knows how to pace an actual armies in your face action film.  He’s wonderful at heartfelt, earnest stories though.  I usually like his films.

 

Julie M:  Duly noted.  Kites was OK. Lots of good shots of Hrithik with shirt off, totally buff, but not enough dancing. REALLY not enough dancing.

 

Jenny K: Exactly what I thought when I saw it. very astute, my novice 🙂 I also didn’t really like his beard. And when, may I ask, did he wear this ensemble in the film, which came up when I did a search for the movie on Google…

 

Julie M:  That is so funny!!! I also thought it was hilarious that he was in Las Vegas, an Indian, and everyone he interacted with was Indian or spoke fluent Hindi. That’s some weird alternative Vegas.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, and when in Georgia or Alabama or wherever in the apocryphal deep south Mama Jenny was supposed to be living, everyone knew and could sing along with the lyrics to that old Hindi Classic, “We Shall Overcome”! You just gotta get used to it…

 

Julie M: So more this weekend…we adopted kittens and I was hanging around the house watching them anyway…saw ALL (whew) of Jodhaa Akbar, plus Fanaa. Liked the first, loved the second.

Jodhaa Akbar was very long and the political intrigue stuff was not handled very well–way too drawn out for what it was–yet it was so beautiful that I excused all that. HR only used maybe 3 facial expressions (regal, bemused and nose-flaringly angry), and he didn’t dance, but I did get to see him move in the fight scenes and that was a treat. Aish was mainly decorative except for a couple of scenes where she played feisty…she’s done better. The screen chemistry from Dhoom 2 just wasn’t there, but it felt like an old-time Hollywood epic like Cleopatra.

Fanaa was great in all ways. Predictable at first, until it wasn’t, and then after the intermission it was like it turned into a different, and better, movie. Mark me down as a complete Kajol fan.

 

Jenny K:   She has that certain something, doesn’t she? Oddly, she doesn’t have the same screen chemistry with her husband, Ajay Devgan, that she does with SRK.  And it’s even better with Aamir in Fanaa. Aamir is much edgier, and therefore much sexier with her, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ajay (crazy dangerous eyes) but the only two movies I liked their chemistry in were Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha which is a direct copy of French Kiss.

Strange, the whole movie is on Youtube right now, in it’s entirety, in HD, with subtitles!

There’s a lot of that going on in Indian film, but aside from a really awful song and dance on the plane which I advise you to scurry through on fast forward…I like this French Kiss better than the original. Now how often can you say that?!?  In this case, the film benefits from a longer format,  where it can better explain why they fall in love than the Kline/Ryan film can in it’s hour and three quarter running time. The second film they “click” in is one Ajay directed called U Me Aur Hum, which isn’t really a comedy and she acts brilliantly, maybe better than he does, but he catches up in the second, sadder, half.

[a few days on]

Julie M: Is it worth seeing Salaam-e-Ishq? I get that it’s kind of like Love Actually, which was not a universal success with me. I liked a couple of the stories but by no means all.

 

Jenny K:   I did see it when it came out in the theaters about four years ago, mainly because of my yen for Akshaye Khanna cancelled out my general apathy toward Salman Khan. Oddly enough, I found that the only story that I truly enjoyed out of the six love stories that they told, centered on a lonely cabbie and his white girl passenger, starring Govinda, who I would have sworn on a stack of bibles couldn’t generate a non-over-the-top performance. I was wrong. He was completely sweet and endearing. All the other stories were sort of forgettable, even my boy Akshaye.  Never bothered to buy it. Don’t worry about it being a direct copy of Love Actually, just the format. I didn’t like the original much either..

[a few days later]

Julie M: Saw Krrish tonight. What a weird amalgam of genres! Was I watching a martial arts movie? A Bollywood romance? a family drama? I liked watching HR move (a LOT), but the story was kinda dumb and it was not a superhero movie in the sense we are familiar with. and WOW–resurrection story too. But I liked the callback to KMG at the end–sweet. Overall–eh. I hear there is a Krrish 2 in the works.

 

Jenny K: Yeah, there’s always a “2” now…especially with SRK doing his superhero movie now called Ra.One which is spelled like that because then it sounds like Raavan, a Hindu demigod of the negative variety. Not sure why he wants his hero to be a villain…and I’m not sure I like the CGI, which they are trying to develop now. I think his animated character has no real weight…sorta bouncy. I had that same problem with trailers for The Hulk. One of the reasons I wouldn’t see it.

As to the “weird amalgam”…that’s the nature of masala films, I’m afraid. Though I will grant that Krrish is a bit weirder a mix than most. The producers are aiming for as large an audience as they can get and so put in something for everyone so they get their paisa vasool, or their “money’s worth”. Going to a movie is sort of a holiday outing in India, you take the whole family from grannies to babies and everyone enjoys the AC and the film and wanders about for the whole three hours. After you get used to it, I find I miss that “film for all” element in the more modern western-style films. Too many semi-dressed babes, too much crime, no family stuff. And the new ones are just under two hours….pshaw! Not enough time to develop characters you care about!

 

Julie M:  Well, the American way is to get you interested in the characters and cut them off before you’ve gotten your fill, leaving the door open for a sequel or three. Gotta bring in the $.

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

    • 56,575 visits
  • September 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jan    
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
  • Archives

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

    Join 21 other followers