May 29, 2013: Two from Tamil Nadu: One Old, One New

NayakanJulie M:  Finished Nayakan (The Godfather, 1987).  WOW.   A “godfather” movie with heart. I have not seen the American Godfather series but if they are anything like this I will have to go right out and see at least the first one.

Jenny K: You and I may be the only two film buffs around who haven’t seen  Coppola’s The Godfather!  I always heard it was the inspiration for Nayakan, but I’m reading Baradwaj Rangan’s series of interviews with Mani Ratnam, the director, and in the chapter on this film, he says that it isn’t strictly so.  When asked by Kamal Haasan what kind of film he’d like to make if they worked together, Mani said, off the top of his head, that he’d do a film based on the life of real life Mumbai don, Varadaraja Mudaliar.  Of course, every filmmaker alive in the Eighties has been influenced by Coppola’s film, in some way or other, but the only scene that everyone seems to agree was a direct homage, was having a scene of enemy gang members being killed while the godfather is performing a religious ritual…of course, I have no way of citing this as gospel, as I haven’t seen both.   Yeah, yeah…I’ll remedy it.  Soon.

Here’s a link to the info on Baradwaj Rangan’s book, Conversations with Mani Ratnam.  I’m really enjoying it.  And his blog and reviews are wonderful, too.   The book is available on Amazon.  Enough interruption by me.  Back to the synopsis.

Julie M: Young Shakti Velu, a Tamil, is accidentally responsible for the police killing his father, a labor leader.  After killing the policeman who killed his father the boy runs away to Mumbai, where he is taken in by a poverty-stricken but kindly slum dweller and hangs around with other Tamil street kids who become his lifelong associates. Velu (Kamal Haasan) grows up hotheaded, distrustful of police and fiercely protective of the community that took him in. He also turns to committing petty crimes in order to bring in some money, even challenging local crime bosses, but also performs good deeds on behalf of individuals in the community. When his father-substitute dies at the hands of police he kills the inspector who killed him; his local community, used to his goodness, refuses to identify him and he goes free. He then suffers an attack of remorse and protects the inspector’s family with kindnesses and cash.

Velu and NeelaAs he ages, Velu grows into the role of “Nayakan,” or godfather, of his community, never hesitating to use violence when necessary but it doesn’t seem to be necessary very often, and helping his people with favors. He falls in love with a young prostitut, Neela, (Saranya Ponvannan) and marries her, and they have a son and daughter as he continues to solidify his position as the don with the heart of gold. Unfortunately, he also sucks up all the criminal enterprises and as time goes on, his enemies start to move in ever closer.

The film is mostly about the personal trials and tribulations of an ordinary man who happens to be in the crime business, and I can see how every subsequent “godfather” movie in India looks to this one as its wellspring. He almost makes crime not so criminal. He loves a girl, loves his children, suffers heartache and loss, seeks redemption and grows old, just like all of us. I appreciated that the film did not dwell on his criminal enterprises and instead focused on the man himself; Kamal Hasan is AMAZING as he “ages” from a young man of 20 or so to about age 70. Unfortunately he succumbed to “Marlon Brando Disease” and stuffed cotton in his cheeks to signify aging–ew–and mumbled a lot at the end; thank heavens for subtitles!  [Ed. note: but, alas, not in this clip!]

Jenny K: Nope…not cotton.  The interview tells me that Kamal Haasan is wearing a pair of dentures cast to give him that lovely jowly look.  “We didn’t want to do too much; otherwise it might have become another Marlon Brando.  It was done subtly.” Obviously didn’t work on us…my reaction was the same as yours.

Julie M: Mani Ratnam’s direction and highly realistic settings–even the one dance number seemed natural–added to the storytelling. This retrospective article by Kamal Haasan gives some great insight into the process of making the film and its lasting impact.

Highly recommended all around; thank you so much for sending it!

[Editor’s Note:  Available, in full, here, but with no subtitles.

Available here, with subtitles, but the first fifteen minute segment has been removed.  Or, go get it from your library…your choice!]

Jenny K:  Glad you liked it as much as I always have.  Mani Ratnam is my favorite director, as I’ve said many a time before.    I haven’t seen it for quite a long time, but Nayakan and Kamal Haasan’s own directorial offering, Hey Ram are two of only a handful of street violence films that I truly enjoyed.  Company, by Ram Gopal Varma, comes to mind, but that may be heightened by the Ajay-factor.

But on a more “down” note, I think you’ve had a lot more friendly visit to Tamil film-land than I have…Went to the theater the other day to catch the highly touted Paradesi (Wanderers), the new Tamil film by national award winning director Bala. Well, I haven’t seen any of his other films, so I can’t truly judge, but I’m inclined not to see anything else. Here’s the trailer.

I really wanted to like this film, as it has high aims. It’s based on the novel Red Tea by Paul Harris Daniel, which I haven’t read (and I’d have to go to the Library of Congress to get a copy) but deals with the terrible experience of naive Tamil villagers who get tricked into working on the southern tea plantations during the last two decades of the Raj. It shows their suffering and I’m sure it’s an issue which deserves to be known, but the execution, especially in the second half of the two hour film, has gaping holes, which to a non-Indian audience are almost unbridgeable.

The first half of the film introduces you to the pre-tea existence of the villagers, as our hero, Rasa, the somewhat simple-minded town crier goes from home to home announcing the upcoming wedding of two of the local young folk. Everyone is supposed to attend, and to feed the town crier, it seems. Rasa lives, and supports his grandmother, on the kindness of his neighbors and seems to have no ambition for anything further than the next meal. Arthavaa Murali, who plays Rasa, is a handsome young man, veteran of only about three films, but makes a good impression with a mix of cheeky sweetness and naivety that reminds me a bit of a Fresh Prince era Will Smith. His abs don’t do badly by comparison, either.

Rasa and Angamma of ParadesiHowever, Bala is always directing Rasa to erupt into floods of tears from all sorts of causes from the death of his uncle to as little as “I’ve worked hard all day and no one will give me any rice!” It may be a cultural thing, with American audiences traditionally uncomfortable with men crying, but I’ve been watching Indian films for quite a while now, and he still seems way too weepy for your traditional hero. It doesn’t help me to identify with him. The lady that catches his eye, Angamma, played by Vedika, is similarly childlike in her teasing ways…it comes across as half K3G Kajol and half Pippi Longstocking. She, in love with Rasa, feels the need to tease him often and ceaselessly until, of course, Rasa breaks down in tears. This brings them together. 

Angamma’s mother puts her foot down against any marriage between the kids, because Rasa is just too much of a “Bin-Picker” (his nickname, the Tamil equivalent of “dumpster diver,” I guess) and has no way to support a wife. So Rasa goes out of the village, determined to succeed or die trying. Rasa brings back a tea plantation recruiter who may just help him achieve the latter end, for himself and a good portion of the village. The recruiter spins stories of easy profit and waves cash advances at anyone who will sign his contracts and go to work on the plantations for a mere year. Many accept, packing their few belongings and head off on a two month walk to their new home. Almost as soon as they leave, Angamma’s mother finds out she’s pregnant and as she’s not married, Mom tosses her out. Rasa’s grandmother, also alone, is happy to take her in. Here falls the intermission, on the body of one of the would-be workers, prone and dying in the path, left where he has fallen as the body of workers are prodded on and over his body, left as worthless. Not a good sign for anyone.

The second half only gets more appalling, on almost every level. First you get the treatment of the poor workers who are tricked into the traditional “owing the company store more than they are paid” scenario. They can’t get away by work or flight, which is punished by mutilation of varying sorts. Of course, the white owner of the plantation is a rapist, and worse still, a bad actor with a very American accent for an officer of the British Raj. This follows in the tradition in many Indian films that all the white actors are at a skill level that suggest they were dragged off their beach chairs and asked if it wouldn’t be fun to be in a movie for a day. Fun for them, not for us. Uniformly bad work by all non-Indian performers.

Rasa finds out after a year, in a letter that gets through, that he’s a father, and is tortured by thoughts of them, as well as overjoyed by the news itself. That’s until the plague hits and reduces the workers by half…then they get a severe attack of the missionaries, too. Can’t these poor coolies get a break?

The missionary doctor and his sexy white wife do a really bad evangelical song and dance to try to bring the relief of Jesus to the poor, downtrodden masses, those of them that are left, anyway. Many accept and join in the dance, primarily because of the bread thrown into the audience during the choruses. I don’t know if I’ve ever before seen an Indian film so openly disrespectful of other religions as in this number. I was tempted to walk out, but it was over fairly quickly, however it left a very bad taste in this Christian mouth. Yes, I know that not all missionaries were welcomed, or pure-hearted in their intentions, but this seemed like a completely out of context cheap laugh cultural slam, and it put me off charity with the filmmakers immediately.

For the plusses: the acting by the principal trio of Arthavaa, Vedika and Dhansika (who played a mother in the camp, deserted by her husband) were uniformly affecting. I’d like to see them in other films. The lovely music by GV Prakash Kumar was very lyrical and atmospheric. The lyrics, by Vairamuthu, at least as translated, seemed almost seamlessly tied to the images that they portrayed, adding depth and poignancy to all the emotional montages they accompanied, especially the climax song. But mostly, I want to applaud the fabulous cinematography of Chezhiyan which is stellar in almost every shot. Very haunting, gorgeous shots of the tea fields and the mountains, especially.

I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend this film with as much enthusiasm as the director and actors had in making it. Their intentions were good, and they achieved some of their aims, but the second half missteps killed my recommendation. If you have the time, threaded through this special promoting the film, are quite a number of nice clips of Paradesi. I wish Arthavaa had kept his short haircut… 

Julie M:  OK, so this begs the question: what is the purpose? Yes, the Raj was bad. Yes, the scenery is lovely; nothing new there. Acting and music excellent–but does not overcome a bad plot and huge cultural stereotyping. Sorry, just in a grumpy mood today.

Jenny K:  No one else has mentioned the missionary scene as bad in the reviews I’ve read, except tangentially. However, all the reviewers were desi, so, perhaps it just hit them as a throw away item number. No biggie. All depends on the audience; the one that the director was aiming at, anyway.

January 9, 2013: Stand By Your Man

Julie M:  Clearing the decks from 2012, we found a few movies we watched but never discussed.  We’ll take them in logical groups…starting with this one, in which we compare two older movies and a more recent one, where women refuse to give up on their guys.

Jenny K:  Oooh, I feel all Tammy Wynette…got to preserve my objectivity…so, the question is, do the men deserve it?   Usually not.

Roja Movie PosterJulie M:  Let’s talk about that after we go over the films!  While riding the exercise bicycle this week I watched Roja (1992), with the charmingly innocent Madhoo at the tender age of 20. I found it sweet and old-fashioned, a story of stand-by-your-man-until-the-terrorists-return-him that we see so often. [snork]

Jenny K:  Nothing will carry you through the pedal-miles like a classic ransom movie, I always say…

Julie M:  Roja (Madhoo) is a naive and sheltered village girl, given to play and girlish plotting to marry off her older sister Lakshmi (Vaishnavi) to the eligible city bachelor Rishi (Arvind Swamy) who has come a’courting. But the best-laid plans go wrong… Lakshmi confesses her love for another, and to save her family’s honor Rishi pretends that she rejected him and proposes instead to Roja. Within a day she is married and must learn to live with this stranger and his mother in the big city.

Just as they have gotten used to each other and shyness is turning to love—i.e., in about a week–Rishi is sent to Kashmir on a secret government mission and takes Roja along. Unexpectedly, and before her very eyes, he is kidnapped by terrorists (aka Kashmiri freedom fighters), who want to use him as a hostage against the release of their brutal and imprisoned leader. The government’s policy of “no giving in to terrorists” is unacceptable to Roja, and she begins a campaign of pestering, weeping and going over everyone’s head to try and get them to effect the exchange.

Will Roja ever see her beloved husband again? Will the terrorists kill Rishi if their demands aren’t met?  I really enjoyed the fact that the whole “terrorist” definition was blurred.   This scene was a bit disturbing, though.

Jenny K:  This was the first movie I saw Pankaj Kapur in (Liquat).  He’s a given for any director who needs a multi-layered interpretation.

Julie M:  Mani Ratnam direction, lush scenery both in Tamil Nadu and Kashmir, heart-thrilling music by AR Rahman before he became superfamous, and one absolutely superior song.

But I prefer the Tamil version.

Romance, drama, politics…everything one could want! After so many modern-kid romances it’s nice to see something with old-timey values, nationalism and a female star who isn’t size 0 and/or nipped and tucked beyond recognition (sorry Genelia, Priyanka and Deepika). Enjoyed it very much although I thought at first I wouldn’t, and I think I’d like the undubbed Tamil version better because of the language. Thanks for the recommend!

It’s available free on YouTube, subtitled,  in 13 parts. Here is Part One.

Jenny K:  I’d give odds that Rahman writes the music with the Tamil lyrics in his head.  They always “sound” better, if you know what I mean.  Not that I understand either well enough to really judge, but…I’m glad you liked Roja!  Early Mani Ratnam films are particularly nice. They, literally, don’t make ’em like that any more.

Julie M:  Even though the title was her name, they gave approximately equal screen time to the kidnapped Rishi and Roja’s efforts to get him back.

[a couple of weeks later…]

Parineeta Classic: Meena Kumari and Ashok KumarJulie M:  Old love stories are the best, aren’t they? I watched the Bimal Roy film Parineeta (The Fiancee, 1953) over the past few days, and somehow, even though it was from 1953, it felt fresh. And this was my first extended experience with the luminous Meena Kumari and the fabulous screen chemistry she had with Ashok Kumar.

Jenny K:  Didn’t I lend you Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, yet?  Guru Dutt directed her in one of her most iconic roles!  Lots of undeserved female devotion in this film, too.  It would fit right into this week’s theme, but, no spoilers!  Definitely in the next shipment, you’ll love her in that one.  It’s on Youtube for free, but the captions are really odd. 

Julie M: In Parineeta, Lalita (Meena Kumari) is an orphan living with her uncle and his large family of all daughters. The middle-class family has recently fallen on hard times, her uncle having mortgaged all he had in order to marry off his eldest daughter and now unable to pay back the loan. The loan is held by his wealthy next-door-neighbor, a professional moneylender, whose family is longtime friends with Lalita’s uncle’s brood. The moneylender secretly does not want the loan repaid, as he wants to collect on the house and give it to his recently returned son Shekhar (Ashok Kumar), who is of marriageable age (as is Lalita).

Lalita and Shekhar’s neighbor-friendship turns to love and a secret promise to marry.  Here’s a clip of the moment just after Shekhar playfully places the bridal garland around her neck; ironically, her little cousin is at the same time commanding all to participate in a mock bridal ceremony for her dolls. 

Jenny K:  Wow!  The lyrics to that song sort of sum up Lalita’s entire outlook on love and marriage, don’t they?

In the novella the movie is based on, by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, that little girl would have been a more likely Lalita than Meena.  The girl in the story was thirteen, whereas both Shekhar and Giren/Girish were schoolmates, both 24.  So when Shekhar drops the garland playfully around Lalita’s neck and then kissed her, would it be unreasonable for her to think she was married?  This was written in the early twentieth century when child marriage was still legal in India.

Julie M:  Oooh, good point.  Not having read the novella I didn’t know that. It did seem awfully weird that Lalita would assume that she was already married when even Shekhar didn’t think that.

Parineeta Updated: Vidya, Saif and SanjuJenny K:  Knowing that adds much more sense to the story than any of the adult behavior in these movies, yours and the 2005 version that I rewatched recently, starring Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan and Sanjay Dutt.  Even given its shift to the 1960’s, the plots are very similar.  Please continue.

Julie M: Just then another handsome and wealthy–but lower-caste–young man, Giren (Asit Baran), enters the picture. Giren falls in love with Lalita and offers to give Lalita’s uncle the money he needs to pay off his debt, then when Shekhar’s father becomes enraged at his plans being thwarted and cuts off contact, offers to move the entire family to one of his homes far away. Lalita’s uncle is grateful and half-promises Lalita to Giren in marriage. Lalita feels she cannot refuse, and Shekhar picks a fight with her, saying she has allowed herself to be sold. After they have left his marriage to another girl is fixed by his family while he pines for Lalita, realizing that his own actions have driven her away but seemingly helpless to do anything about it. 

Jenny K:  In the 2005 version, Lalita (Vidya) helps to confuse the matter by nobly/idiotically keeping most of her family turmoil away from sensitive musician Shekhar’s (Saif’s) tender ears.  She thought he wouldn’t be able to stand it if he found out what a louse his father was. Seems Daddy Dear had hatched this major plot to turn the neighbor’s immense if neglected haveli into a “Heritage Hotel” when he foreclosed on the unsuspecting family.  Ignorance of her motives, plus confusion over her marital state,  makes Shekhar’s mistakes more forgivable… if still stupid.  And it does give them an excuse for a wonderfully poignant love song in the latter half of the film.

Julie M:  Will family honor and gratitude win out over true love? Will Lalita ever stand up for herself? Will Shekhar finally grow a pair and claim his original bride? You pretty much know the answer (no, not really and yes but not in the way you think) but how it plays out is heartfelt.  Giren is a real stand-up guy and under normal circumstances Lalita would have been perfectly happy to end up with him, and why she holds out for the volatile and coddled Maa’s-boy Shekhar is beyond me. Still, if you buy into the entire premise it’s a fascinating movie and provides a good look into Indian culture and values.

Jenny K:  Guess we’re just looking at things through today’s eyes, but am I wrong, or isn’t the ever-hesitating rich boy lover a staple in Bengali literature and film…can we say Devdas (same author)?

Julie M:  You know, the entire time I kept thinking Devdas but thought I was crazy.  Thank you for confirming my mania.

Jenny K:  And Rabindranath Tagore was full of stories of unappreciated, lonely wives/widows as in Choker Bali, put on film in a faithful if plodding version by Rituparno Ghosh starring Aishwarya Rai.  And how’bout  Paroma by Aparna Sen!  The beautiful melancholy must seep into the Bengali blood along with the humidity of the Hooghly River.

Julie M:  I think you’re on to something with the Bengali cultural comments.  The 2005 version of Parineeta went to great extremes to locate the story in Bengal right from the first shot…with Amitabh Bachchan’s lovely voice…

Comparing Roja and Parineeta is fairly obvious.  Both of them have heroines who refuse to give up on their men, believing that they will come back to them.  Things don’t seem to have changed in India in the 40 years between these movies…women are given in marriage against their will, strangers fall in love, and so forth.  Financial difficulties in 1953 turn into terrorist threats in 1992, and Roja is more active in removing the obstacles between her and her true love while Lalita seems content to just wait things out, confident that eventually her love will return to her.  So I guess there has been some progress after all.

Roja Rescues Her Man
Jenny K:
  Well, I’d hope so, but professional victimization always seems to come back in fashion, even in today’s supposedly more modern times.  In my own life, I’ve seen too many women believe the fiction handed down to them that they can’t cope without a man.  Thank God for Bryn Mawr, and my parents, of course…that I was slower to feel that pressure, but you always have to keep telling yourself and your daughters that, to keep it fresh and in the forefront.

Poor little orphan Lalita didn’t have much of a chance to change her fate, and she just lucked into a happy ending at the last minute.  She had a better option with Sanjay’s Girish, but was already “wedded” to her choice by then.  Hope it worked out for her after the final reel.

But with all the inherent flaws of literary adaptation, I did like Saif and Vidya’s version.  It’s a lovely period piece, with great warm shots of Kolkata.  Plus the acting is uniformly good.  It was Vidya’s first film, and she more than held her own with Saif and Sanjay.  Sanju’s part was smallish, but his Girish is a lovely guy and is quite endearing in this, particularly at the “meet cute” as the supposed electrician.  And, though I have been notably tough on Saif Ali Khan in his attempts at assaying a romantic role, in this one he does very well.  Perhaps I just like him more in an angry role than as a callow youth or a funny Romeo.

Julie M: In the 1953 version I’m not sure she really “lucked” into anything.  She seemed to have a bit more agency than luck—in fact, there’s a very Roja-anticipatory scene at the end.  Spoiler alert:  Lalita actually refused Giren so he marries her sister/cousin.  We find that out at the same time that Shekhar does, and it’s a delicious twist that almost makes the whole film.  (end spoiler)  I tend to agree with you on Saif; his romantic roles are best when he’s not set up as the romantic hero but cast as the Giren-ish character.

Jenny K: Or in an all out villain role like the Iago role in Omkara…a Saif tour de force!

Ending on a non-sequitur…Version 2005 has an item number with Rekha in it, onstage at the Moulin Rouge (seems it’s a multi-city franchise), that still irritates me, eight years after I saw it in the theater. Another uncredited musical lift…this one from Louis Armstrong’s “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.”  Why this is still happening?  Use it if you like, but why not credit it? Shame on you, Shantanu Moitra.

Rekha vs. Satchmo:  Compare

March 21, 2012…“A Fine Romance, and Two Hitmen…”

Julie M:  Your long post put me in the mood for a romance, so I went with Alaipayuthey (Pouncing Waves, 2000). Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman should always work together…even though the second half was WAY too overwrought for me, I thought overall it was pretty decent except for the music, which was AMAZING, and the visuals, which reminded me a lot of Dil Se (duh) and were therefore stunning.  Since this was the original Tamil film of which Saathiya (Life Partner, 2002) was a remake, and I’ve never seen Saathiya except for the number you indicated as one of your Valentine’s Day romance songs, you’ll have to clue me in on which you thought was better.

  

Jenny K: Oh, I’m always going to think that Mani Sir directing his own screenplay is going to be the better…not that I didn’t find loads of things to like about Saathiya (can you say Rani…so cute you could eat her up!) but I liked that not everyone in the Tamil version was so gosh-darned well known.  It felt like I was getting to peek in on someone telling their own love story…very intimate and endearing by not being  so slickly produced.  I also had a bit of a problem with Viveik bouncing around in the fields with his color-coordinated backup dancers…that was not as blatant in Alaipayuthey.  Just my opinion.

 

Julie M: Alaipayuthey is the story of two people who fall in love, get married and then wonder what happened. Karthik (Madhavan) sees Shakti (Shalini) at a wedding in her part of the city, and instantly decides she is the one for him, dreaming of her all the time.   

He woos her all over town, stalking her commuter train and professing his love for her until he eventually wears her down and she admits she loves him too. 

Unfortunately, their parents do not hit it off due to class issues so their desired marriage is forbidden—of course they get married secretly, and vow to tell their parents “when the time is right.”  Shortly thereafter Shakti’s older sister Poorni (Swarnamalya) gets an excellent proposal and the groom’s father offers his younger son to Shakti; panicked, she spills the beans about the secret marriage and the groom’s family calls off the match.  The couple’s parents kick them out and they take up illegal residence in a partially-demolished, charmingly decrepit apartment building that they fix up and are blissfully happy in…for a while.  This number (the original from the “Aye Udi Udi” one in Saathiya) is so cute, and I really love the backwards-film trick.

  

Jenny K:  I wonder if it’s a Ratnam thing, or if it’s his cinematographers preference for this backwards filmwork?  Not that I don’t like it, but he seems to use it a lot. Dil Se had it, too in “Satrangi Re” (yellow dress at2:50 in this video).

 

Julie M:  Then they start to fight about little things, and when Shakti’s father dies before she can reach him she blames Karthik.  Eventually they become strangers to one another, and to keep some type of contact with her Karthik arranges to bring Poorni and her ex-groom-to-be back together.  Shakti sees Poorni and Karthik together and misunderstands Poorni’s grateful embrace, and she runs off.  [Spoilers follow. Highlight to reveal.] Once Poorni explains the truth to her she tries to get back to Karthik, but on the way to the train station is hit by a car.  As he waits for her train, then roams the city looking for her, he flashes back to how it all began and how much he loves her.  He eventually finds her in the hospital where she is unknown and unconscious:  his presence rouses her and she professes her love for him too.  They realize that although marriage is hard, their mature love will help them make it through. [end of spoilers]

The movie had me in the palm of its hand right from the opening number, where Shakti and her family are getting ready for the wedding: 

Like I said, the second half was overly dramatic for me, but the first half was sweet and the music (with the lovely picturizations) totally made it all worthwhile.  And this was Madhavan in his debut film, after already being known for TV work. I really like burly-ish men and he’s so cuddly and sweet in this.  He really is one of my filmi crushes. I read online that he re-watched this film and was amazed at how skinny he was back in 2000—to me, he’s only gotten more handsome (he was great as the dad in Kannathil Muthammittal, too)!

 

Jenny K:  And didn’t you love Arvind Swamy’s guest appearance at the end there? His scene with his wife was so moving.  He seems to have been one of Mani Ratnam’s go-to guys, using him in Roja and Bombay, and even in early ones like Thalapathi (that I haven’t seen yet…no subtitles).  He was even in that Kajol/Prabhu Deva film, Minsaara Kanavu (Hindi dub – Sapnay).  This one was his last screen performance, though, unless he’ll be doing Mani Ratnam’s next film, as rumored.  He gave up films and went into business.  A loss for us, he really had a gentle presence. 

 

Julie M:  I love the fact that in Tamil films, they cast actresses who look like human beings rather than pretty models.  I was not a huge fan of Shalini, or, rather, her character Shakti, who was pouty and hard to please even though she was supposedly in love with Karthik. And totally no backbone for standing up to her family even though she was supposedly spunky. Sorry, didn’t work for me.

I also didn’t like this number, a beach party with friends where Shakti expresses her displeasure with Karthik.  I thought it was too much pandering to pop culture, although it’s not as bad as the Saathiya analogue song, “Chori Pe Chori”. Eccch.  

 

Jenny K:  Then we’ll just link to them, rather than showcase them.  No need to needlessly distress the readers.  Warning: Go further at Risk of Exposure to Pandering!  LOL

 

Julie M: My final peeve was [Spoiler] the assumption that an accident will instantly bring about mature wedded love. [End] We all know (well, those of us who’ve been married for two decades) that it’s the day in, day out of being with someone and relying on them that makes it happen.  But, it’s a movie, and overall I thought it was pretty good although Saathiya won all the awards.

 

Jenny K:  Now do you know that for sure?  The Filmfare Awards have a separate show, entirely, for the Southern film entries…I know Rahman won one of them for his score, and it didn’t win best picture that year, but, it did pretty darned well from what I can tell on the international filmfest circuit.  Mumbai isn’t everything, after all.

 
Julie M:  So, which is better: Alaipayuthey or Saathiya? I can tell you, I’d much rather watch R. Madhevan than Viveik Oberoi, and Rani Mukherjee than Shalini. But otherwise they seem nearly identical. So why remake? To gather the Hindi audience who doesn’t speak Tamil?

 

Jenny K:  You hit it on the head…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with desi audience members who speak Hindi (or Punjabi or Bengali) who tell me they will never go to see Tamil films because they’d have to read subtitles (assuming they have them!).

Nowadays, Mani Ratnam tends to film both films simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil to combine, save money and still retain creative control (Yuva, Raavan, etc). And almost without exception, I prefer the Tamil versions. Less polish, more grit always makes it seem more realistic, even if they do keep bursting into song.  And though it’s a close thing, I think the Tamil lyrics “fit” the Rahman music better than almost any Hindi they put to it (sorry Gulzar, no disrespect intended). It just seems to flow a bit easier, as if it’s written with the Tamil in mind and then the Hindi is made to fit, and so it’s a touch more awkward. Could be just me, but I’d bet money the Tamil lyric always comes first.

[a day or so later]

Jenny K:  New Vidya Balan flick out this weekend…Kahaani (Story, 2012)…looks like an eerie psychological thriller…sounds just up your alley! The last shot…very creepy….

Julie M:  Oooooh. It’s here in my local, too. Unfortunately, spending $10 at the movies at this time is not in the cards. I’ll have to wait for the DVD or online streaming version.

 [Later in the week]

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry you won’t be able to see this on the big screen.  Kahaani is what Hindi cinema has been aiming at for a long time, in that it’s as polished as any Western suspense film, but maintains a very vivid, convincing sense of itself and the country that it springs from.  I was completely drawn in.…It’s sort of  a Hitchcock suspense film, with bits of John le Carré or Graham Greene thrown in for the politics and paranoia.  Who’s the villain?…I mean, are the villains??….Wait, are there villains?  Or am I crazy?  Where’s Kim Novak in all of this?  Or Jimmy Stewart?  This feels like a classic in the making, full of ambiguous motives and danger galore.  And the ending succeeded in surprising me!  Imagine that…Wonderful.

The plot is fairly simple, Vidya Balan plays Vidya Bagchi, a talented computer programmer who has come to Kolkata to find her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing after two weeks of working there on another computer project.  Vidya is very, very pregnant, and is determined to not let the red tape of Bengali police and politics keep her from finding her man.  She’s a tough lady under her everpresent maternal glow, and no police official can ignore her, or if he does, it’s very unwise.  She’s befriended by one particular officer,  Inspector Satyoki Rana (an endearing Parambrata Chattopadhyay) who aids her search, even at the risk of losing his job…and his heart to her.

Vidya seems to be going as quickly backwards as forwards in her search.  No one seems to even know her husband was there.  One person thinks that Arnab looks just like one of her ex-employees…but why is he “ex”?  No one knows who or where he is, either.   If Vidya finds a lead, the next thing she knows, that person is dead.  Who is killing them?  It can’t be that harmless looking man from India Insurance, can it?  Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) looks too much like Jim Broadbent to be evil, surely?  Is it the master manipulator A. Khan, who is so mysterious that he has no first name?  Or might the big boss, Dhritiman Chatterjee, (ooh, I loved him in 36 Chowringhee Lane, and Black, too) be blocking her hunt for political reasons? Well, let’s just say that the red herrings flow as fast and furious as color on Holi.

Kahaani is a sensual experience.  The cinematography envelops you in the city of Kolkata, so that you can almost taste it.  The shots of the Durga Pooja alone are worth the ticket price.  The music by Vishal/Shekhar is interesting, diverse and juxtaposes the past and the present seamlessly.  No real production numbers, yet the edgy quality carries the plot very well, as in this song. 

Vidya’s performance is masterful, as expected.  She plays with the camera like a virtuoso, and keeps all her mysteries to herself while making her character very identifiable at the same time.  How does she do that?

But the newsmaker in this film is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays A. Khan, a government higher-up who really steals your attention every time he’s on screen. He was good as the young reporter in Peepli Live, too, but I didn’t recognize him from it until I looked him up. I may now have to find a copy of Patang, as well, to watch him in it. Sigh, it’s an indie film, it’s going to be a difficult “get”. Here are two short articles on him, in the Times of India and the Deccan Chronicle, the latter is better.   

 

Julie M:  Peepli Live is on my list of recent movies to find and watch.  The very LONG list!

 

Jenny K:  You might even call it…wait for it…a Hit List!  But please don’t.  I’m still looking over my shoulder….I may never sleep quietly again, at least not in Kolkata.

Part 11: Mani Returns. Of Ajay

[JK’s Note:  I know it’s a bad pun…you try coming up with a relevant title for this many disparate films in the middle of the night :-)]

Julie M:  Rang De Basanti…was kinda dumb in the first half but then it got good. So sad that they all died but it was done very well. Aamir totally rocks.

[JK Note: Daler Mehndi singing really helps the rocking on the title track!] 

 

Jenny K: I watched it again last night because I knew you had it, and time has been kinder on it in my eyes. I still like the energy of the first half, or even more, right until [Spoilers. Highlight to view.] they decide to ape the past and kill government ministers they don’t agree with. I felt it was more of an “inevitable tragedy” this time, but as it wasn’t a true story, where “it is what it was”, this always feels like more of an endorsement of the strategy than is conscionable to me, even with the half-assed “we’re so sorry” at the radio station. I’d much rather the kid turned evidence over to the cops on his dad than that he killed him while hugging him.[End spoilers.]  Bleh.

I will be perfectly happy when Aamir and SRK stop trying to play college students, or recently ex-college students, and play their ages more often (both 46 this year), or at least closer to their ages. I grant they do 10-15 years younger, reasonably well. I have most of Aamir’s films, so if you want something in particular, let me know.

 

Julie M: I thought in the first half they spent way too much time establishing how goofy and uninvolved these students were. I was bored by the repeated scenes of undergraduate (and Aamir) carousing. I also thought it would have been more effective to have the change in their outlook come about more gradually than via a sudden tragic event, but I understand that in life sometimes that happens. That would have [Spoilersmade their decision to kill the minister more logical. I didn’t find the apology half-assed at all–I thought they put their full asses into it, particularly the kid who killed his dad. I actually found that the most moving part. I thought the scene where the Muslim and the radical Indianist, former bitter enemies, died holding hands was too much, though. [End of spoilers.]

I agree that SRK and Aamir should start playing their ages. B noticed how old Aamir was (particularly as contrasted to the goofy behavior of his character in the early scenes) and made a snarky comment.

 

Jenny K: They both have been doing more realistic ages recently (and buffing their bods up, too) but I still worry they’ll sneak one in. The Indian idea of middle age is not considered food for drama, I think. If you’re not married, you’re suspect, at best odd. If you’re not knuckling down to business, you’re some sort of wastrel. If you don’t have a family well in progress, you’ve wasted your life…(yeesh, I’d be a pariah there!) however, when you have kids in a film, you’re automatically downgraded to “elder” status, unless you’re a widower (KKHH). Can’t win for losin’ I hope they explore a bit more. Much more to tap.

 

Julie M:  Yah, well, now they know the Hollywood-female paradox. Ingénue/single-chick roles, then lots of nuthin’ after age 35 or so, then feisty older woman or “mom” roles starting at 50.

You are more charitable about SRK than I am. I really liked his acting in My Name is Khan but still feel he is constrained in his abilities. Ajay Devgan…HIM I love.

 

Jenny K:  I may send you a “my favorite Ajay pics” package sometime, but you might have to agree to put up with a bit more of the predictable romance/drama rhona-dhona, as they say. He is absolutely GORgeous in one with Preity and Madhuri where he plays a double role (yep, every actor in BW does one at least once) Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke but it’s very melodramatic, esp. toward the end. Then there’s the remake of French Kiss, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha with Kajol (it may be where they met) and Raincoat, both of which I’ve recommended before. In Dewangee he plays a simple songwriter who has lots of trouble fighting for his girl, one of his bests, a good suspense film, but there are some leftover “90’s” bits that may bother you. Chori Chori is a rather cute remake of Goldie Hawn’s Houseboat with Ajay doing Steve Martin to Rani’s Goldie…but he’s not as kooky as Steve is, of course. She is double Goldie’s ditz, the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl as the technical term is nowadays, and loosens Ajay’s staid self up quite a bit.

He’s great as a villain, too…cold and corporate in Company, cold and calculating in Khakee, that I liked with BigB and Akshay Kumar and Aish, he also does cold and almost comatose in a really hilarious anti hero in Qayamat, but I can’t really recommend it because the script is so bad, and the rest of the cast’s hamming doesn’t help elevate it to comedy as Ajay’s take almost does. Also promise me to never get Ishq with Aamir and Ajay together. You will absolutely hate it. Too much slapstick, and bad slapstick, too. Kaal he looks great in but it’s a stupid film and his part is a cameo.

 

Julie M:  I reserved Raincoat at the library, so I’ll get it eventually. And I like the occasional romance/drama, just not regularly. If I’m going to invest 3 hours in reading a movie I want it to be meat and potatoes, not cotton candy.

I’m watching Company tonight. Then I’ll send everything back to you.

 

Jenny K:  I hope you like Company. I haven’t watched it for a while, but remember thinking the boys did very well. And did you see Yuva yet? Maybe I missed your report on it.

Forgot to mention…the character of Sona in RDB was Saif’s sister. Could you tell? I think they both look just like their mother, Sharmila Tagore. Used to be a movie star, now just royalty (poor thing 🙂 . Saif and Soha are sorta prince and princess, too, but the title doesn’t pay the bills.

 

Julie M:  OH–and I really liked Yuva.  Beginning was confusing and arty but eventually it made sense. Did not like to see LittleB as a wife-beater or Rani as an abused wife, but their performances were excellent. Viveik was good too–he always seems to do well when paired with Ajay, at least from the two films I’ve seen them in together. Loved loved loved the last scene when they strode into the parliament chamber dressed in ratty jeans when everyone else was an older man dressed in white traditional clothing, and took their places. Awesome movie all around–thanks!

[Jenny’s Note: Looks like BigB has his own Youtube channel.  He’s put Abhi’s whole film in one piece to watch free, HD w/subtitles, online!  Score!]

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the re-recap. I think almost anything Ratnam and Rahman do together is good…even if Ajay is a very unlikely college student at this point. He falls victim to AK/SRK syndrome, too. Probably ought to put Salman in there as well.

[a few days later…more Mani Ratnam]

Julie M:  Saw Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek)  this evening. Wow–GREAT movie on every level. Great music, great visuals, great story. THAT’s the kind of movie I like!

Jenny K:  Yeah, I said it was Ratnam’s best, better even than Dil Se which I love. The only thing I worry about, occasionally, is that viewers might turn it off during that first light weight song with the kids. The movie isn’t like that at all. I wonder what he was thinking. The ending certainly isn’t for all children. He does like explosions, doesn’t he? I think my favorite song/music combination is that somber one where you’re watching the town in Sri Lanka being moved out of their homes, lonely and bereft, going who knows where. I thought it was rather surprising when I saw the film at a festival here in DC that I’d never really heard about the Tamil Tigers and their uprising in Sri Lanka when it had been going on for over twenty years and was just put down two years ago…twenty six years of war in the north of the island. I’m so out of the loop.

Wish this clip wasn’t so squashed, but it has the subtitles, at least.

 

Julie M:  Oh, I knew about the political background, and liked that it was simply treated as a given rather than a big honking deal like it would have been in Hollywood.

[Later in the week]

Julie M:  Darn my library for only allowing 3 days on borrowed videos!! I have the following movies waiting for me to pick up:

Rangeela
Bluffmaster!
The Blue Umbrella
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Umrao Jaan

Understanding that I can’t pick them up until Saturday and have to get them back Tuesday, which order should I see them in to make sure I get to see the best ones first?

 

Jenny K:  Rangeela and HDDCS are the big fluffy musicals, but both classics in their melodramatic way. Aamir just plain dances his feet off and it’s Rahman’s music in Rangeela. It’s one of those Girl wants to be a film star more than anything. Boy loves her but helps her do it. Will she realize that she loves him, too, or sell out to the Bollywood Life? Sidenote, when Kajol in KKHH is doing that “sexy dance” while they are playing charades at camp, she’s making fun of Urmila Matondkar’s dance on the beach in Rangeela. Urmila had been a child star who in this film is trying way too hard to be taken as a sexy adult (sorta an early version of Brittany Spears). Maybe cross Brittany with Annette Funicello. Aamir out-acts her, of course, though she’s had some good outings, since. Tehzeeb comes to mind.

HDDCS is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who did Devdas and Black. His first film, I think, or second. Still working out his style, but some things are really cool, like Aish is supposed to be a tomboy and starts the film with some sort of game in the desert with the other kids, kilting her sari up and going for it. Almost like a dance.

She falls in love with Salman, who is half  “Italian” half Indian, and a Christian. Her family doesn’t go for it and sets her up with Ajay D. We all know who I’d go for, but I don’t write ’em. When Salman goes back to “Italy” it’s really Hungary and it looks really silly. He also cries a lot in this film toward the end. And Salman never cries convincingly. Don’t know why. Some lovely dancing. High Rhona-dhona level of melodrama.

Umrao Jaan is lovely and a classic, and a must-see if it’s the older version from the eighties with Rekha. If it’s the newer one with Aish, push it to the end of your list…fairly boring, I think. It’s about a courtesan/singer-dancer, I believe the term is nauch girl, who is higher in status than just a prostitute. When you’re talented in these gentlemen’s clubs, you would get to choose, to an extent who you sleep with and when. She falls in love with one of her clients, and you have to see how it works out. Lots of up and downing before the end. I actually liked the novel better, of course, but Rekha is exquisite in it. She played Hrithik’s mom in Koi Mil Gaya and is still a looker, if excentric.

The Blue Umbrella is sort of a kid’s fable by Vishal Bhardwaj, the same director as Omkara and Maqbool.   It’s a simple style, but eloquent and Pankaj Kapur who plays the crazy old coot who befriends the child with the brella is fabulous.

Bluffmaster, is sort of on the level of the Dhoom films. Flashy conmen, LittleB looks cute, Nana Patakar is in it too, and he’s one of my favorite character actors, but I don’t even remember much more about it. Cotton candy film. Fun but not very memorable.

So, if it were me, I’d probably skip the last two unless it’s the new Umrao Jaan then I’d skip that and one of the last two, not sure which. Hope that helps.

 

Julie M:  Thanks. It’s the newer Umrao Jaan. I didn’t know there was a quality difference, so I’ll just check it out and dump it right back in the return bin. My library has the older one too: I just requested it but I won’t get it in hand until next weekend. (that takes care of one decision) I liked Dhoom 2 but haven’t seen Dhoom. I might watch Bluffmaster, then, and Rangeela, and The Blue Umbrella. Will save HDDCS for last and see it only if I have time.

Next weekend B is out of town at a show so I can watch as many girly Bollywood movies as I like.

Part 10: The Directors, Cut, or Not to Cut?

Jenny K:  Okay, as promised.  The directors list, based on what you’ve liked and not liked so far.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and these guys may throw you a quite atypical movie every so often, too. But here goes.

The weepy ones that you don’t like are usually by Karan Johar (warning signs, he always had multiple K’s in his titles, for Karan, I’d assume), Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra, his son. Probably won’t like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ( DDLJ) which is the first SRK/Kajol pairing and is considered a classic for that. I have problems with the amount of slapstick in the first half and the really overplayed fight scene near the end, but I like other bits of it quite a lot. Their chemistry is great and she’s lovely.  But they must have gotten something right, because it has been playing at the same theater in Mumbai, the Maratha Mandir, since the film opened, and hit its 800th week last February, still on the charts that week at Number 8! Really! Veer Zaara should probably be skipped, too. Lots of weeping in the framing story and much bad aging makeup and hair.

Large amounts of slapstick are usually found in the works of David Dawan and Priyadarshan. I avoid them almost completely except, occasionally when Akshaye Khanna is involved. He was in two for Priyadarshan that I actually liked Mere Baap Phele Aap, and one called Hulchul which, honest to God has the funniest wedding sequence in Indian movies…hilarious, mostly because of one actor Paresh Rawal who is perfection itself in almost every genre.  Huh, he’s in MBPA, too!

You’ve had mixed reactions to Sanjay Leela Bhansali who did Devdas (bleh) and Black (thumbs up). You might like, as I said before, Khamosh, the Musical and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and even Guzaarish which is his newest and has Hrithik in it, a remake of Whose Life is it Anyway? But probably should skip Saawariya which is supposed to be an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights, but gets very bogged down in its own atmosphere and blueness (Devdas was victim of too much redness, among other problems).

Ram Gopal Varma is their urban violence/gangsta director. Loves the seedy underbelly of city life. Some are good like Company that I sent you, others, mostly his most recent ones, I find highly missable. He also has one bright twinkly musical from early in his career, Rangeela, which I have a fondness for because Aamir does some wonderful acting and dancing in it, and for its Rahman score. It is a bit silly at times but the weepiness is confined to one scene that I remember, and Aamir is restrained about it. Touching. Let me know if I should send it in a future batch.

Vishal Bhardwaj seems to be becoming another gangland portrait artist, but he likes to draw from classical themes and so transcends mere thuginess.  He’s usually a safe bet for good ideas and interesting adaptations.  And GREAT music. Omkara, you’ve seen, Maqbool (a Macbeth adaptation) and The Blue Umbrella (a sweet, almost childhood fable) should be safe options.

Farhan Akhtar and his sister, Zoya Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai and Luck by Chance) are almost a quality guarantee. They usually do things with a more modern emotional level.  Zoya has the new one coming out, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, that looks like a lot of fun.  Farhan produces films more now than directs, and acts a lot, too. For his acting, check out Rock On! (a sort of buddy film a la DCH with a “whatever happened to our band” format) which I quite liked and Karthik Calling Karthik (which slips only in the final scene for a good suspense film). 

For films Farhan directed, most people like Don, a slick gangster film set in Malaysia, which has SRK in a dual role playing both hero and villain in a mostly convincing way. Boman’s in this one, too. BigB did the original Don, which most say was superior, though, again, his suits scare me. Farhan’s Lakshya is mixed for me. Good performances by Hrithik and Preity, better than Koi.. Mil Gaya (which HR & PZ did together, Farhan didn’t direct it), but the first and second half are very, very, very different, almost schizophrenic. Didn’t like part two much.  The dance number “Main Aisa Kyon Hoon”, coreographed by Prabhu Deva, is perfection, and almost makes up for the schizzyness.

Skip, Skip, Skip most of Subhash Ghai‘s films. Taal was a fluke. Pardes is the only one which has something to recommend, because SRK’s performance is good, but may be a bit too weepy for you. But he wears many a stupid outfit in it (aaak, that big white hat; ew, those overalls!)  and I’ve blocked most of it out. Skip Kisna, even with the splendid visuals a la Taal, Viveik looking pretty and tons of money thrown at it, it’s basically a boring film. Ghai’s early films are way way too old fashioned melodrama for you. You’d hate them.

Mani Ratnam (Dil Se, Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal) as you’ve seen, I can’t get enough of his films. Own most of them…if they have subtitles. Tendency to use old formats and throw the odd unpleasantness in to spice things up for the Indian audiences to make them think, whether they want to or not. Likes explosions,  a lot.  Loves working with Rahman. Yay! They both are from the South, and he sometimes does versions in both Tamil and Hindi simultaneously. First Tier: The ones you have [Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal] and Dil Se, also  Alai Payuthey(Waves), which is a more direct love story (remade, with his permission, with Rani and Viveik as Saathiya, but Waves is better) and Nayakan (or Vellu Nayakan) which is his tribute to The Godfather (tough but very good). Second Tier: Guru and Raavan(both with Little B and Aish), Bombay and Roja. Skip: Iruvar (Aish’s first film) for too much South Indian politics, that you have to know to get the full gist, and Thiruda Thiruda which is just too odd, even for me.

Aparna Sen, Konkona Sen Sharma’s mother. Much more of a serious issues director. Lot of films about women. Very influenced by the Bengali school of Satyajit Ray. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve seen. In chronological order, 36 Chowringee Lane, Paroma, Sati, House of Memories and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and 15 Park Avenue (both starring Konkona). Hardly a song and dance in them.

Rituparno Ghosh, “art film director” who is popular among filmfest circuits, I find rather pretentious and wouldn’t recommend anything except Raincoat which is a sort of tribute to O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi, starring Aish and Ajay Devgan in rather quietly affecting mode. Flee Antarmahal with LittleB, like the plague. I’d suggest burning any copies you find, unless your library objects.

As to the older films, for the most part I skip the 70’s and the 80’s as they went completely disco for a while, though there are some exceptions. I find I like Hrishikesh Mukherjee (another Bengali) especially his film Abhimaan with BigB and his wife Jaya. Lovely quiet film and she almost acts him off the screen. Sorta kinda like A Star is Born. I like the 50’s and the 60’s more. Guru Dutt has a lovely, sort of dreamy style, especially in Pyaasa and Kagaz Ka Phool. Sort of sad, but transcendant.

Early Raj Kapoor is very nice, too, and you can see what western films he’s drawing from, in influence, not copying directly. A good time for exploration in Indian film. Awaara, his most famous, feels like Orson Welles in its cinematography, like he’d just finished watching Citizen Kane, and in Shree 420, he’s definitely pulling from Charlie Chaplin and maybe Douglas Fairbanks a bit. Indian films’ influences always seem about fifteen or so years behind the current vogue in Western films. But they always make their own “take” on them, and they are narrowing the gap quickly, closer each year.  I’m not sure I want them to “catch up” to international cinema.  Most of it isn’t a worthy role model these days.

Julie M:  WOW. Thanks!! I’ll have to run the lists through my library search facility and see if any are owned by the system.

I have to clarify that although overall I didn’t like Devdas, I didn’t hate the LOOK of Devdas. I loved the look and thought it was very beautiful, richly done and evocative. I thought the story was ridiculous, the melodrama over-the-top and the character of Devdas mewly (although SRK seemed to do a good job portraying it, at least in the first half, the only bit that I saw). But it was lovely and I would definitely see more by the same director if the look of the film is important and of high quality.

[a couple of days later]

Julie M:  Got Rang De Basanti from the library and, because I wanted something fun, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Saw JBJ this evening–funny and charming. Complete mindless enjoyment.

 Jenny K:  I bought JBJ just for that number with Big B and the wig.  I had a feeling that BigB in that avatar could be the Father of Indian Flash Mobs if he put his mind to it.  I know I’d follow him 🙂 

Howsoever, I didn’t like the film that much, though it wasn’t awful or anything. I have a problem with Bobby Deol. He’s handsome and all, but I like his “less handsome” older brother, Sunny, much better. Remind me to send you Border the next time. He’s not the sole focus, but it’s a good role for him. Their father, Dharmendra, was even more handsome. Dad did Sholay with BigB and it is sort of considered the classic Masala “Western”. Cons on the run kinda film. Was Amitabh’s first big break. I played it for my mom once and she made me fast forward through all the “ridiculous stuff” with the comic side characters, but “thought Amitabh had something”. You really couldn’t take your eyes off him, even though he wasn’t classically handsome.

[at this point Jenny tries yet again to tempt Julie into going toVancouver, and fails…]

 Jenny K:  Maybe the two of us could skip out of the Festival to one of the local Hindi cinemas on Saturday and go see something “crassly commercial” and not a bit “art house” like Hrithik and Farhan’s new movie that opens that weekend. Hmmm?

Come on, it was directed by Zoya Akhtar who did Luck By Chance, you liked that…[no response from Julie…I can sense she’s torn, but...] Oh, off the subject, sort of…I saw that they used  the “Baware” music from LBC on So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday.

Julie M:  What…the circus number music was on Dance? I don’t watch that program, but under what circumstances does Bollywood music end up in an American reality show? Spill!!

Jenny K:  It’s primarily found a niche on SYTYCD, not realitiy shows in general. Some are nice enough, but some like the Baware number was rather weak, even though the main female dancer, Iveta, is a world champion in the ten main divisions of ballroom dance.  The songs are much too short and  usually only use two dancers, so they don’t really have a chance to duplicate the Bollywood experience.  I also think the choreographer is too influenced by Farah Khan, Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant to do anything particularly innovative on his own.  Check some out on Youtube.
 

Julie M:  I notice that most of the videos are from the British version–this makes sense because of the large Indian or Indian-heritage population there–but here it probably draws a big “huh?” from most of the viewing audience.

Jenny K:  Actually, most of the ones I saw were from the American version. Of course, I only looked at the top, say two pages of them. The among the ones I looked at from the US version were::
Nick and Iveta  
Mollee and Nathan  
Katee and Joshua  
Caitlin and Jason  
Kathryn and Jose  
Kent and Lauren  
Billy and Robert (in yellow!)  
a group number set to Jhoom Bharabar Jhoom  
And a girls group number to Dholna from Pyar Ke Geet

I’m sure you’re right that the London audience is much more familiar with it, but the American kids doing it has proved much more popular with our audienes than say the Russian folk dancing they tried… BO-ring…

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