September 7, 2011 Lost in Bombay, Boys…Naveen & Rahul

Julie M:  Saw Bombay Boys this evening. Awesome and hilarious. NRIs in India experiencing the REAL India. Great satire of filmmaking, fabulous performance by Naseeruddin Shah, and Naveen Andrews is always excellent and adorable. Nice one in the “bromance” genre, but I guess this would be called the “anti-DCH,” right? I read that it is considered a cult film…I loved it. I think my favorite scene was when Naveen was trying to speak Hindi and act at the same time, the one where the girl was tied up. I also love that this scene makes fun of product placement in films.  A definite recommend.

Jenny K:  Hmmm….I don’t really know how I felt about Bombay Boys. Definitely some funny bits, particularly when Naseeruddin Shah was trying to threaten the boys while stabbing the table. The look on his face…priceless. And you don’t see a thing, that’s what gets me. Who needs graphic violence?  One look, one laugh, he says it all. 

The performances had some very nice moments. I didn’t even wince once at Rahul Bose’s acting. Don’t get me wrong, I love him in films like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, and 15 Park Avenue, but he has been known, on occasion, to shall we say, chew the scenery (can you say Thakshak?? and worse still Everybody Says I’m Fine!!!).

Perhaps it has something to do with the right director, like Aparna Sen. Tara Deshpande who played Dolly had some nice moments, too. It’s almost a shame that she hasn’t acted since 2002. Got married, moved to Boston, it looks like. “Beantown Killed the Bollywood Star” is running in my head. I have to get more sleep.

But even given the good points, I kept feeling that this film was all over the place. I didn’t know what kind of film I was watching. The funny bits were funny, but not as funny as they thought they were. Perhaps I’d just heard and seen all the bad dancing and singing jokes before, and done better. Maybe it was just watching Nasseerji spin on a dime between really inspired bits of humor and very sadistic violence. Rahul’s doing prat falls, but being beaten senseless all the same…while his girlfriend is trying to slit her wrists. Hysterical…? Are we doing comedy or commentary? It’s takes a very delicate balancing act to try to do both at the same time and I don’t think the director, Kaizad Gustad, had it down pat, at least not in 1997. Nice effort, though…But not enough Jaaved Jaffrey!

 [JK’s Note: When we first posted about this movie, (Aug. 31, Dancing, Down Under and the Dons) we were sucked in by Jaaved Jaffrey’s music video “Mumbhai” which we supposed was an item number, or at least a credit-roller in the film…sadly not.  Do go back and check it out.  Very funny. There’s also a link to the whole film on YouTube.]

 

Julie M:  So aside from the music at the end: which character was Javed Jaffery? The film’s lighting was so dim, I could barely recognize anyone. Oh–and I noticed, watching the credits (looking for Javed!) that Zoya Akhtar was listed as the 2nd AD. Nice.

 

Jenny K:  I didn’t see him anywhere in the film, though I did see Vinay Pathak as the Spot Boy who was promoted to the director. He was wonderful as SRK’s hairdresser friend in RNDBJ, and the businessman who didn’t want to be so boring in Aaja Nachle. I read online that it was a surprise hit in India after it was dubbed into Hindi. I wonder if they did the video to pad the length of the film? I read two reviews, one from the UK which quoted a 105 running time and one from an Indian reviewer that said “the two hour film”. What was in the other 15 minutes? Jaaved-Bhai???

A number of blurbs on Youtube and elsewhere swore that Naveen’s voice was dubbed. I know everyone would have been in the Hindi version, but in the English? His voice was really oddly New Yawky, and a bit higher key than you’re used to hearing him use as Sayid on LOST, but I’ve heard him do lots of different accents and I wouldn’t think a US accent would be too hard for him. Check this one out, a bit of the Brit sliding in at the sides, but pretty good. What do you think?

Nice little made-for-cable film, My Own Country. He sings in it, too.  Sorry about the sound quality.

 

Julie M:  Naveen’s Hindi in the English version might have been dubbed. I was wondering about that. But his fake New York accent was all him, I’m sure of it. (not entirely accurate and slipped a bit in spots, but not as bad as Rahul’s Australian accent which was only there in half a dozen scenes, then it vanished completely.)  I thought the balance of comedy (not really comedy, but satire) and comment was very good. But then again, maybe I just don’t know enough about what they were satirizing.

About stars who sing…I only recently learned that Hrithik, Farhan and Abhay were lip-synching to their own voices in ZMND. Abhay’s voice is really good–a little training and he could be a playback singer. (well, not like Sonu Nigam, but still pretty good)

 

Jenny K:  Don’t get all excited about Abhay’s voice…except for that one song, “Senorita,” all the songs in that film were done with playback singers as usual. Primarily Shankhar Madevan, the composer. Abhay was very nervous about singing in the first place. Don’t think he’ll ever do it regularly. Farhan likes to sing, and did practically the whole Rock On! soundtrack himself, whenever he was pictured singing.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I understood that about “Senorita” being the only one in their own voices, but what a treat. Hrithik’s voice was on key but very thin and tentative, and Farhan’s was OK like a normal guy who can sing, but Abhay had the power and tone. If he only gained more confidence…

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw 15 Park Avenue tonight. Wow–absolutely stunning performance by Konkona Sen Sharma and a powerful portrait of the toll that schizophrenia takes on a family.  The end was really freaky and it took me a while to figure out what happened. Here’s my take: she simply wandered off, literally wandered off the street but also wandered mentally into the world that made her happy. I think the bag lady seen at the beginning was a foreshadowing of Konkona’s character’s eventual fate. I liked how desperation to find the character made her sister echo Konkona’s urgency of finding “15 Park Avenue” so that she sounded just as crazy as the schizophrenic one. So sad. 

Here’s the scene where her former fiance (Rahul) runs into her while both are on vacation in Bhutan(the only thing I found completely unbelievable–so deus ex machina!) and starts reminiscing about their relationship:

 

Jenny K:  I like almost everything Aparna Sen directs. She’s Konkona’s mother, and she has a nice touch with actors because she was a very popular actress back in the seventies and the eighties. I went to an event locally, where Konkona was using 15 Park Avenue to promote greater mental health care for NRIs. It seems that it’s considered such a stigma that it’s often neglected. 

Konkona said, if I remember correctly, that her mother left the ending intentionally vague because she wanted the audience to end it the way they wanted it. I wondered, when I saw it, if Shabana Azmi’s character had been so worried about Konkona for so long, and pulled in so many different ways, that when she lost her, she began to go a bit crazy herself and began to imagine that Konkona had found her lost happiness. Doesn’t really matter. In this kind of film, I sort of like a dreamlike ending.

 

Julie M: I was mesmerized. Not so much with Rahul Bose–he was way too low-key and underplaying the emotional tone of the character–but Konkona really shone. Felt he was phoning it in.

 

Jenny K:  I don’t know what it is with Rahul Bose. Either he’s so subtle he’s almost textureless, or his acting is way over the top. There seems to be no in between for him. I liked him in 15, but it really wasn’t his film, wasn’t focused on him. I just watched him in another Aparna Sen film, The Japanese Wife, where he was playing a very shy Bengali school teacher who only lets his emotions out through letters to his Japanese pen pal. A very quiet film. Rather unique, I thought, and sad. Beautiful cinematography.

Almost all of the voice-over of the letters is in English, though the accents were so thick that I needed the subtitles anyway to be sure of what I was hearing. I thought I wasn’t going to like it, but it drew me in. Aparna seems to love drawing portraits of unusual relationships between lonely people. She doesn’t always have them “go anywhere” in the classic storytelling sense, but she takes you inside their lives in such exquisite detail that you feel like you’ve lived with them for a while.

[later]

Julie M:  Check out today’s Daily Chutney from Samosapedia:

The word for today is “DDLJ.” http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=0946bdaaa4aa27dae7d0ecccb&id=6faa213dce&e=c2b1d08c62

I still haven’t seen it. I do want to, but there are so many others to see!

 

Jenny K:  Everything in its time…I like the Samosapedia site, but will never subscribe to DChut because it always pulls me in with the embedded links and click, click, oh…click…it’s twenty minutes later….it’s  IST, only, yaar.  Adjust madi!

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August 9, 2011: Lovers and Other Burning Subjects

Julie M: Watched Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge [Revered Guest, When Will You Leave?]…somewhat funny, mainly due to Paresh Rawal. Ajay Devgan and Konkona Sen Sharma were serviceable, but as primarily dramatic actors I felt they were wasted in the comic aspect of their roles. A few genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Why why why do they have to insert those stupid boing-boing noises?? Would have been funny enough without them. And from the beginning I knew what the very end would be. Overall–I don’t generally watch this kind of farce-comedy in English (OK, I admit to watching and enjoying Hot Tub Time Machine but deeply regretted saying OK to The Hangover and Are We There Yet) and probably won’t watch more in Hindi either.

Here’s the trailer with English subs.

I think the fact that it was backed by Warner Brothers tells us a lot. This song is probably the best part of the movie:

No subtitles but you get the idea from the action that they are frustrated with this guest and want him to leave.

[Next day]

Julie M: Saw Sholay [Embers] last night. Two things I wish I’d known going in: that it was 3-1/2 hours long, and that it was a WESTERN. I Hate Westerns. From the first plot intimations I kept flashing back to The Magnificent Seven, except the village-protectors were somewhat-comedic crooks instead of professional gunmen (now picturing in my head The Three Amigos, who, despite being actors rather than crooks, were comedic), and there were songs and dances. It seemed only vaguely Indian…in my mind I kept calling it a “curry western”…everything was there: riding around on horseback, the dusty landscape complete with cactus, the rich rancher, the thirst for revenge, gun battles, the innocent townspeople, gun skirmishes before the Final Stand, etc. Even a train robbery. So this is an Indian classic? Hmph.

Having said that, I loved Amitabh’s character and the interplay he had with Dharmendra’s character. Even though he only wore one outfit in the entire movie he looked awesome in it (those legs! those hands! that hair!). And I thought it was funny that I had just seen ATKJ where there was an extended Sholay reference, and then I saw Sholay and viewed the source of the reference. And even though I Hate Westerns, I tried really hard to get past the conventions to see the life lessons: not giving in to bullies, grabbing some fun while you can, and the true meaning of friendship. (I could have done without the slapstick Hitler-parody jailer, though)

Here’s the opening scene:

My favorite song (probably everyone’s favorite too):

Note the orchestration sounds like the old Westerns too…

And if you want to see the scene they refer to in ATKJ, here it is.

I couldn’t find it with English subtitles, but essentially the villain (Gabbar Singh, the one with the beard) is berating his crew for letting two (how many? TWO! how many? TWO!!) strangers get the better of them, and exacts punishment. The guy on the right is the older actor that Chachaji pesters on the film set in ATKJ.

Anyway, I’m glad I watched it but will be sure to warn people that if they don’t like Westerns they will likely not enjoy this film. I can’t say that I entirely enjoyed it although there were moments that I recognized as “classic”.

 

Jenny K:  Sorry about that, I thought I had mentioned that Sholay was a Western, but maybe not. My mom had just the same reaction to the Hitlerized Jailer, too. “Speed up past that bit, let’s get back to Amitabh!” She didn’t like the “silly stuff”. And on the whole, I agree.

I thought Paresh Rawal was wonderful in ATKJ. He’s so versatile in things, hilarious, then touching, sometimes even in the same scene.  Though he does do more in comedy than anything else, I know he’s done a good bit of drama as well. He says he’s most proud of a movie he did last year, Road to Sangam, about a mechanic charged with delivering Ghandi’s ashes back home

and Sardar, a bio-pic he did a few years earlier, about Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel, a compatriot of Ghandi and Nehru who fought to keep all religions safe during partition. The movie’s on YouTube (in 16 parts, with subtitles) I haven’t watched it yet.

Julie M:  One of the movies I reserved from the library for this weekend is The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Can’t wait!

 

Jenny K:  As I remember it, Ajay did a good job, of course, but he seemed a tad old for the role. Bhagat Singh was 24 when he died. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone in film these days, if they want a role. There was at least one other version of the story being filmed at the same time. This one with Bobby Deol in the lead…yet another over-thirty trying it on for size. I think Ajay’s beat Bobby’s to the cinemas, and I believe did better at the box office. I think it was a bit slow for my taste, but Ajay was very heroic.

The multiple Bhagat Singh films explains a joke in KHNH, I think, where Preity’s suitor came to the house with lots of kids in turbans, and when they are introduced to the family all are named Bhagat Singh, of course a very popular Sikh name, but not usually in multiples. When the family looks confused the father says something like “You can never have too many Bhagat Singhs!” This was just the time the other films were in the pipeline and making lots of press.

Though I will say, not having seen the Bobby Deol version…he looks a bit more like the pictures of Bhagat Singh that have come down to us in the papers of the day.  Both too old though.

[the next day]

 

Julie M:  Well, Saawariya [My Beloved] was a bust. The library DVD was all scratched up and it won’t work for more than 20 minutes at a time on any of my players or computers. I got a bit more than halfway through, watching in bits and pieces, and gave up. But from what I saw it is stunningly beautiful visually, and I loved how it was done kind of like a staged play. Not the least of the stunning visuals was Ranbir…this number just about made me faint, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

But then his hair inexplicably turned Beatle-esque (Ringo, I believe) and the bloom came off the rose a little. Still, he’s adorable and I could definitely stand to see more of him (but not THAT way—more of his acting! Acting!!).

This number was cute too:

Overall, too gushy of a story for me to exert the effort to finish the DVD (you know me, I am not the gushy romantic type) and I cheated online to see how it ended. Meh, for the storyline. If it were not directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali it would have been ordinary and boring.

 

Jenny K:  I may have a copy of it if you wanted to see the ending. Not sure, I think I picked it up in a discount bin somewhere. Blockbuster, not the pirated ones. That scene with Ranbir and the towel was a BIG scandal when it came out, but I remember thinking at the time when I saw it on the big screen that it wasn’t worth all the furor. They spoke in the reviews as if he were completely naked, but unless you were his neighbors across the street, you didn’t see it all…and it wasn’t necessary. I think that when he fell off the chair and was seated on the floor that I saw a pair of shorts on him past the edge of the towel in one shot. Still and all, he is a cutie. Yes, you definitely should pick up a copy of Bachna Ae Haseeno. I think it’s his best so far.

 

Julie M:  I’ll try to find BAH. It’s not at the library, so I guess I’ll have to get it another way. Sigh.

[Pusher’s Note: It’s available for rental at YouTube… ]

On another, and seriously disappointing note, it seems as if the my local theater here has stopped showing Indian movies, just since I saw ZMND there a couple of weeks ago. That means my closest first-run theater is now in Chicago. Grrr.

 

Jenny K: Don’t give up hope.  A lot of the theaters that carry Hindi films can’t afford to show them without the big crowds, so they only book them for a week, or at the most, two weeks so the locals learn to come early or miss out.  Then the theaters go back to programming American films in between.  It’s especially true at multiplexes, where only one or at most two theaters are dedicated to the South Asian community’s films.  Check again in late October.   Don 2 is coming out for Diwali… your theater will book SRK.  And I’ve heard a rumor that Hrithik is doing a cameo in it.

Part 7: The Alpha Males — Aamir, Ajay & Amitabh

Julie M:   Videos from the library: Ghajini, Deewaar and Jodi Ek Din (Life is Magic).

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…not seen any of those, except Deewaar, I think, with Amitabh, right? It’s a bit of a long one, but is pretty famous. Have your sunglasses nearby, as Indian fashion of the seventies is usually very, very BRIGHT! Ghajini is the one Aamir movie that I hadn’t seen because it’s a copy of Memento which I loved, plus a “how the romance started” backstory in the first act. It’s a Hindi remake of a South Indian megahit. Let me know how you liked it and maybe I’ll break down and see it. And IMDb tells me that Jodi Ek Din is a Bengali musical…Bengali films are usually too serious for musical numbers…let me know how it is. No one I know in it.

 

Julie M:  Deewaar was pretty good. BigB was HOT. His long legs are just made for the 1970s pants style, and he was very dark and brooding. His hair was amazing. Best looking mobster I’ve ever seen in film. The story was pretty interesting, but as usual they overplayed the dramatic aspects and I had to fast-forward through the very last scene between Vijay (the AB character) and his mother. And the end, which was a recap of the beginning (the entire movie was a flashback…I hate that), proceeded too quickly. I kind of wanted a resolution scene. The fashions and makeup were hilarious.

Jodi Ek Din was merely OK. The musical numbers were there basically to expound upon the love between the two main characters and there weren’t many of them. They seemed a bit out of place. I think it was supposed to be at the arty end of popular film, kind of along the lines of Sliding Doors. In fact, the film was kind of a mix between Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day–the plot was, if you get a do-over in your life, what would you do differently and how would it turn out in the end? But not a comedy. It was like magic realism in novels. And a predictable ending. But worth seeing. Warning–the subtitles are original to the movie, not added for the DVD, and so they are not on the letterboxed black bar at the bottom. A lot of the subtitles are white-on-white and very difficult to read.

I liked Memento too, and was wary about Ghajini, but what the heck.

 

Jenny K:  Nice profiles…I may look for it. I will be really interested in your take on Ghajini, considering you like Memento, you’ll be a good judge. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to not like his performance/choice of roles, if you know what I mean. He was my favorite for quite a while.

 

Julie M:  OK–Ghajini. First, it was only barely like Memento in that they used the whole 15-minute-memory thing and the tattooed body/mnemonic devices (and scary body-builder physique and shaved, scarred head) pretty much for shock value, and also, it seems, to capitalize on a very interesting idea first brought out in Western film. Most of the movie was either flashback-backstory of the meet-cute and romance between Sanjay (the AK character) and his lady love and how it was interrupted, treated in typical Bollywood style complete with random musical numbers, and horrible, detailed revenge violence. Really quite violent, in fact.

In Memento, the entire movie was how the character continually and slowly put together what had happened and what to do about it. Very psychological. In Ghajini, it was more about the dramatic contrast between his happy former life and his current obsession for revenge. The memory loss thing was just treated as a casual gimmick and a strong visual to underscore his change.

Action sequences were violent and silly at the same time (lots of sped-up action and goofy sound effects). Lots of agony and highly realistic blood–too much, in fact. It’s like the filmmakers couldn’t decide whether they were making a romance, an action-drama or a thriller and made an hour of each, smooshed into one movie.

Bottom line–watching Ghajini will not tarnish your feelings about Memento, just like watching Chori Chori Chupke Chupke will not tarnish your feelings about Pretty Woman, because the parts swiped (excuse me, BORROWED) from Western movies are not overly germane to the story. In fact, if you had not seen Memento, you would be very confused about the Memento-like elements in Ghajini because they are not explained very well–they just ARE.

Aamir was excellent in it. Really, his acting just gets better and better. Performance was spectacular, although he looked a bit uncomfortable in the romance part, almost like he didn’t want to have to do that aspect of the movie.

Overall I would say you should see it.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ll just look into that…I actually hated having to not buy one of his films, I think I have the complete collection of everything he’s done that has subtitles (and even one that doesn’t Chale Chalo: Madness in the Desert, a Making of Laagan documentary couldn’t be resisted, though I can only watch it on my one DVD player that handles all regions, and that even when the actors interviewed are responding in English, they are dubbed back into Hindi….dad ratted #@%$).

Aamir has a rep for being the more serious actor in the contest of the Khans. Definitely look for Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai Diaries when it comes out on DVD (it’s still making the rounds of festivals right now, I think and is on Netflix download) that his wife directed and he produced and starred in it. Nice quiet performance. And also get Deepa Mehta’s film Earth sometime, it’s part of a trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, all very controversial in India, not much music, dealing with heavy issues for India, the violence of Partition, lesbianism, and the treatment of widows. They are all very effective, but Aamir really acts his socks off in Earth.

I have been debating about when to start sending a few of the heavier films along with the fun fluff. Let me know. And thanks again for the time you took with the Ghajini review. It helped.

 

Julie M:  I’ll take heavier films anytime. B likes those better than the fluffy fun ones and will watch them with me. He liked Ghajini but we had to fast-forward through the interminable scenes of really senseless violence, and ALL the musical numbers. (the only drawback to watching Bollywood movies with my hubby)  Oh–and the telling scene about Ghajini was [spoilers] that it opened with Aamir killing someone. Right up front you know there is a ton of violence. [end of spoilers]

Jenny K:  hmm…maybe I’ll regret just ordering it.

 

Julie M:  You won’t regret it. But just so you know.

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Your package arrived yesterday–thanks!!! Omkara!!

 

Jenny K: When you watch Omkara, don’t let B fast forward through the songs…the music is to die for! The director used to be a music director and is really good at it.

 

Julie M:  I’ll simply watch it without him!! 

[later that day…]

Julie M:  So we watched Omkara tonight. REALLY good. Saif Ali Khan was great (and buffed up). I’m not an Othello fan but the adaption was great.

 

Jenny K:  Thought you’d like it 🙂 what with Saif and all. He’s really much better for me as a villain or some sort of negative character than your basic leading man. Omkara himself was Ajay Devgan, Kajol’s husband. And aside from her singing in English, which was rather weak, wasn’t Kareena much better in this one as Dolly? Also, Konkona was pretty fierce as Saif’s wife. Much stronger a presence than she was in Luck By Chance. I always keep this sound track in my car player. Fabulous.

 

Julie M:  I agree about Konkona, and the music. Both fantastic. I found Kareena marginally better than she usually is but I never really thought the Desdemona (Dolly) character deserved all the fuss that was made about her in the play anyway, so I don’t have much sympathy for actresses who play her. Saif…yum. And this was my first introduction to Viveik Oberoi, who didn’t seem to get much of a chance to show acting chops in this movie as the hapless victim Kesu (Cassio)–anything else he was in that I might like?

I was a little confused in the beginning as to who was who–as I said, Othello is not one of my fave Shakespeare plays so I am not as familiar with it–but eventually it got sorted out and then I went back to re-view the beginning. There was also much more of what I would consider rural/traditional Indian culture and mores that would have made the film more dimensional had I understood it. I might have to research and then view it again before I return it to you.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…Viveik. Lessee…he’s a cutie, and can really dance if you give him the chance, but hasn’t been too successful. Avoid Kisna, very long, very scenic, but very bland. That’s the only one I’d say really had him trying to carry a film by himself. He works a lot with Ajay and they seem to bring good things out of each other. First, they did Company together which is one of the few Indian mafia films that I found very engrossing. It was Viveik’s debut and he really played kind of a wild animal of a young hoodlum. Impressive. I think I have it if you can’t find it at the library.

Secondly, they worked together in Mani Ratnam’s film Yuva. Mani Sir directed Dil Se. Yuva has Kareena in it, too, but, as I said before, that and Omkara, Dev and Chameli are her best serious acting to date. I definitely have Yuva. This one has a Rahman score, too. If you liked Omkara, I might send you the director’s version of MacBeth, too [Maqbool], though I don’t think it’s quite as effective as a Shakespeare adaptation.   Strong performances, though, all around.

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the tip on using the computer to watch Main Hoon Na. [JK Note: Some international films, though rated Region 0, still give some dvd players fits.  Often running through the computer to your screen, if you have the appropriate tv hook-ups, will take care of it.] Saw it this evening. There were some very silly parts (why is college always portrayed so goofily in these films?!) and the usual melodrama, but it was sufficiently curtailed. The action scenes were kind of funny in spots. One scene had SRK moving in slow motion while the terrorist dude was moving in regular motion! ridiculous. But Zayed Khan is a cutie.

 

Jenny K:  Some of the behind the scenes stuff from MHN was fun, too…I remember the big fight scene was supposed to be a tongue in cheek homage to John Woo films, so they decided to have slow motion doves in flight, but when they threw them in front of the camera, each time they just plummeted like rocks and didn’t fly. Like city pigeons…flying feathered rocks that they are.

Didn’t you love Sushmita with SRK? I particularly loved when he fell in love he broke into off-key song, and then later went into that colorful video. The director, Farah Khan, is first and foremost a choreographer, and she does such wonderful things with the songs. I liked the young girl, Amrita Rao, too…though her bust kept getting bigger and smaller and bigger again with her padding in the various numbers.

 

Julie M:  Yep–SRK was cute in his head-over-heels schoolboy infatuation scenes. I’ll watch the 2nd DVD of MHN this evening, I think.

Part 4: The Pan-Genre Week — RomCom, Sci-fi and Lots of Aamir

Jenny K:  It’s my day off and I’m going to finally mail the DVD’s today. Sorry for the delay. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is definitely the lighter and fluffier of the two. Though I like both films, Lagaan stays with me longer,  I’d watch KKHH first, as it would suffer coming after, I think. The music in KKHH is cute but not, definitely not, Rahman. The first half, just think of as a Archie, Veronica and Betty style high school musical…though they say they are in college…eh, maybe India is a much more innocent place than good ol’ Amreeka, as they say. The best parts are the chemistry between SRK and Kajol, and to some extent Rani, too. Rani and Kajol are cousins in real life. A note of Pointless BollyTrivia.

Lagaan was one of the first three films that I saw and I quite love it, though it is very long. I found I had no problem looking at Aamir, uninterrupted, in all his rustic glory, but you might want to break it at the intermission because the full run-time is almost four hours (if you add in the deleted scenes from the Bonus Features, it’s over four). I learned all I know about cricket from watching the second half of the film. Probably all I will want to know about cricket, too, but I didn’t find it painful.

The songs, atypically from Indian films, are so well integrated into the plot that you can’t really pull them out well, out of context you feel something’s missing. I don’t recommend the British costumes…pretty awful, historically, and quality-wise….don’t get me started, that’s what I do for a living, costumes, can’t help myself. However, I loved the rest of the production design and cinematography. Lovely. I even bought Chale Chalo: the Making of Lagaan…took me several years to track it down and most of it is dubbed into Hindi, even when it’s in English to begin with (and no subtitles…frustrating!) but I enjoyed it.

Julie M:  LOVED Lagaan. B watched most of the 2nd half with me and liked it too (after he swore he wouldn’t watch any more). Great suggestion!! LOVE Aamir Khan. (and he spent most of the movie with his shirt off…score!!)

Jenny K:  Aamir was my first love…still like him quite a lot, but he’s getting a bit “angry young man” on me as he gets older. I own most of his films until Ghajini, which was a remake of a South Indian hit, which was supposed to be a blatant rip off of Memento…I loved the Chris Nolan film so much that I just couldn’t watch it, even with Aamir…Sigh. Lagaan, Taal and DCH were my first three Indian DVDs…got me hooked. I can’t believe I missed seeing Lagaan on a big screen, for free, when it came out. I can’t even remember the film I chose instead of it. No foresight. Glad you liked it. Did you succumb and watch the extra 20 minutes of “director’s cuts”?

Julie M:  I have not watched any extra features on that one; I plan to if I have time over the rest of this holiday weekend. The weather has turned nice today (if a bit humid) and I have to get plants in the ground. It’s been so wet lately that I couldn’t do anything.

I loved Taal too. In fact, if anyone asks me for a recommendation, I would have them start with that one. Dil Se, even though it was the first one I saw and still probably in the top 3 I have seen so far, I would save because although the music is unbelievably amazing the 2nd half is weird and the ending shocking.

Jenny K:  Yes, the second half is definitely not a conventional Indian film, actually, Dil Se didn’t do well at all at home…SRK’s fans don’t seem to like him being the villain anymore (a few early ones, playing crazy guy, obsessed stalker, etc) except for Don, which is a good twin evil twin type of film updated from one BigB did back in the seventies. Some good bits, but still, except for Dil Se, I think I agree with his fans. He does better being likeable and charming. He can’t top the acting in DS though, shows me he can do it, if required. That fight for his life in the construction site or whatever it was, was the most convincing fight I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film. They’re usually so chop-socky if you know what I mean. And I thought the end of the film was marvelous…as a portrait of obsession, if it had ended with him happily marrying Preity, I just wouldn’t have bought it.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Watched KKHH this evening. Very sweet. I was not a fan of the slapstick elements, and the dance numbers in the college scenes were pretty stupid, but overall a good movie. Thank you so much for sending it!

I have Luck by Chance, 3 Idiots and Koi–Mil Gaya waiting for me at the library, so that is my viewing schedule (mostly) for tomorrow through Tuesday.

Jenny K:  KKHH has it’s flaws, of course, but if you’re a true Kajol fan, you have to have seen it, sometime. She’s lovely in it, isn’t she?

Your “schedule” looks good, with the possible exception of Koi… Mil Gaya, which you may find as cheesy as I did, but it is a milestone of a sort. Kinda the first Indian Sci-fi quasi super hero film. Shah Rukh has another coming out late this fall called Ra.One which may or may not be as scary as KMG, but we will just have to wait and see. KMG is sort of a mix of Flowers for Algernon (aka Charley) with ET. Hrithik is sweet in it, and gorgeous, of course, but I’ll be interested in seeing what you make of it. If you like it, the sequel is called Krrish…w/HR playing his own son.

Julie M:  You weren’t kidding about the cheesiness…guess they are SO not used to sci-fi in India! So much ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I had to howl with laughter. You also forgot to tell me that there was a whiff of Teen Wolf and The Six Million Dollar Man. They even did the Six Million Dollar Man sound at times. And I’ve noticed that none of these actors (even the extras) know how to play basketball in real life–their ball handling skills really blow. However, I did enjoy it (B didn’t so much). HR did a sufficient amount of dancing to satisfy me and he played a pretty convincing mentally retarded young man. Sweet moments with Preity Zinta, too. I will probably try to find Krrish, because I suspect that HR will be super-buff in it, and I love superhero movies anyway.

I LOVED 3 Idiots. B did too. No more to say–it was everything I like in a movie, and miracle of miracles, Kareena Kapoor did not annoy me.

[JK’s Note:  Per Julie’s request, new 3 Idiots video.  For those of us who also want to see the cute (though not particularly plot-relevant) item number, click here to watch Zoobi Doobi, as well !]

Will try to cram in Luck by Chance tomorrow night before everything goes back to the library Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Wow, that certainly is a marathon! I salute you. Worth the trouble, though…Luck By Chance was my favorite of the three you had. Fairly realistic treatment as far as Indian film goes, too. I also love both Farhan Akhtar, and Konkona Sen Sharma (who I’ve met at a couple of festivals, and she’s very nice as well as talented). The director is Farhan’s sister, Zoya Akhtar.

I think I liked Krrish a bit better than I liked KMG because the director (Hrithik’s dad, btw) didn’t feel the need to dress his heir like a dysfunctional idiot. Sorry, costumer reaction, can’t help it.

So, I’ll be interested to see what you think when you go see one in a cinema. That’s the next thing. First one I saw on a big screen was a Hrithik/Kareena one that almost killed me…almost walked out, several times. Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon…run, the opposite direction, as fast as you can. Thank goodness I persevered! Have you checked out your local Indian theater yet? I see they show both Bollywood and Tamil films at the theater near you. Tamil films rarely, if ever have subtitles. I guess South Indian movies are only to be for home viewing. They tend to be a bit broader, but some are quite lovely.

I haven’t seen Dum Maro Dum (with LittleB) that’s playing in your neighborhood now, because it only stayed in mine for one week, I think, and while I hesitated because I don’t always like crime capers, it left. It’s best to go opening weekend because the audiences are best then and are always so lively. Half the fun. The whole family goes, little kids running up and down the aisles and grandmas minding them…more noise in the audience as well, but somehow I don’t mind. When SRK showed up silhouetted against the Manhattan skyline in KHNH every woman in the theater screamed. Very fun.  Also, if you miss the first weekend, and it didn’t do well at the box office…it’s outta there.  Indian audiences want their variety, in any case.  Only Superhits stay.

Julie M:  Do they show it subtitled in theaters? I’ll have to go. That theater is nowhere near my neighborhood but it’s closer than, say, the good art film theater on the south side, which I have made pilgrimage to on occasion and which I think is now closed. Before you did the research I would have said that there aren’t any theaters here that show Bollywood films!

Jenny K:  Hindi films are usually subtitled; Tamil and Telugu films usually aren’t, except at film festivals. Darned shame, too. Some wonderful ones that you should check out if you can find them…or I should send you…are Kannathil Muthamittal, that I think I’ve mentioned and Kandukondain, Kandukondain (sometimes titled I Have Found It) which is a South Indian version of Sense and Sensibility starring Aishwarya Rai.

Julie M:  Does she speak Telegu? Or Tamil? Is it very common for people to speak multiple South Asian languages or does she learn them because she is an actress? I mean, Chinese people commonly know both Mandarin and Cantonese to some degree, more one or the other based on where they grew up, but can converse in both. Is it the same in India?

Luck By Chance was good. It didn’t feel like a typical Hindi film–actually it felt kind of like an art film. Cool cameos by stars (Kareena Kapoor annoyed me: I figured it out, it’s her eyes. She blinks in a very weird way), interesting behind-the-scenes look, and I bet everyone in the credits were real film-industry backstagers. But why did Farhan Akhtar play such a d-bag?

Jenny K:  I know she speaks Tulu which is from where she was raised in Karnatka, and she debuted in one of Mani Ratnam’s (Dil Se…) films Iruvar which was in Tamil as well as this one. She’s also done a few films in a Bengali dialect for Rituparno Ghosh and other directors. So, she’s linguistically very gifted. I’m not sure she knows much more than a learn-your-lines-phonetically level in the Tamil and Bengali, but the regional cinema is the way many people break into the Hindi/Bollywood mainstream films, so most of them speak some other dialects. Most everyone in the cities, at least, or those who have gone to university speak English. I’ve been told that a good many of the scripts come out in English first and then get translated into whatever dialects they end up in.

I thought that Farhan was rather brave and risk-taking, deciding to play his fame-obsessed character so realistically. Most young guys who get hit with fame would have acted the same way. It also let Konkona’s character choose the broader outlook, and let her continue to be strong even as a woman on her own. I liked that. He seems to gravitate to edgier projects. His first film as an actor, Rock On! has him playing the charismatic, if troubled leader of a band who has walked away from it to start a “sensible life”. He has a new one coming out with his buddy Hrithik (they grew up together) in July. He has a very bad haircut in that one though.  Must be a character detail, usually it’s so good.

There is a talk show called Koffee with Karan where Hrithik and Farhan are interviewed and they talk about their childhood together. It’s in a few parts, beginning here.

Julie M:  About Farhan–“edgy” projects in Bollywood seem to be typical projects forHollywood, right? I didn’t see much of a Bollywood style about Luck by Chance. It could have been a mainstream American movie starring Indian actors about the Indian film industry–it felt very familiar to me. Was that what they were going for?

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