Feb. 7, 2012: Hravished by Hrithik, Part 2 – Mission Kashmir & Guzaarish

Having survived Super Sunday, we are back with two more do-not-miss experiences with this month’s favorite hero, Hrithik Roshan that just wouldn’t fit into the last post.  Think of this as a post-tailgate party…and excuse the Super Bowl allusions, because Julie seems to have caught the fever, seeing as her city of residence is hosting it this year.

 

Julie MMission Kashmir (2000) was…WOW. So well done, I almost didn’t notice the excessive violence.  Here’s the trailer.

Brief plot: Sanjay Dutt is Inayat Khan, a police officer in Kashmir, which has been torn by civil war for decades. An evil revolutionary leader (Puru Rajkumar) has forced the city’s doctors to stop treating injured police and their families, and this prohibition leads Khan’s son to die after an accident. In his grief, Khan leads his troops to massacre everyone in the home where the revolutionary is hiding out, except for one boy, Altaaf, who Khan reluctantly adopts to please his grieving wife (Sonali Kulkarni). The boy learns to love the Khans but eventually finds out that Khan murdered his family, and runs away only to fall in with, and be raised by, a SUPER evil terrorist (Jackie Shroff).

Ten years later Altaaf (Hrithik Roshan) returns to his former home town with his terrorist cell to complete an operation called “Mission Kashmir,” and coincidentally get revenge on Khan, preferably by killing him. As part of the mission he meets up with his childhood best friend (Preity Zinta) and falls in love with her, then must choose between continuing on with his missions and stepping off for the chance for the life he thought he could never have.  Khan, meanwhile, must figure out exactly what Mission Kashmir is and stop it, while saving himself from Altaaf’s murderous intentions.

Jenny K:  I almost didn’t recognize Jackie in this one…malicious, evil eyes.  He’s almost comic-book evil in MK, isn’t he?  Not nearly so sweet as he was in Devdas or Yaadein…his Coke-can friend in that film wouldn’t recognize him.

 

Julie M:  Yes—his snarly, filthy hair really hid him—but he doesn’t hold a candle to the over-the-top cartoonish performance of Sanjay Dutt in Agneepath.  But I admit that one of the attractions for seeing Agneepath was the opportunity to see Hrithik and SD reunited as enemies, because they had such great and multi-layered chemistry in MK.  Excellent performances all around.  Here’s a clip showing a particularly tense moment, showing the quality of Hrithik’s muscles…I mean, the quality of the lead actors’ performances.

I also found, and enjoyed, plenty of what I call “beautiful-terrible” filmmaking, which I often find in director Stanley Kubrick’s work.  This is when terrible things are happening, but they are filmed so beautifully that I’m feeling several emotions at once.  Example:  in MK, there was much shooting but very little blood.  Unrealistic, I know, but it makes the viewer focus on the reasons for the violence and its implications rather than on the violence itself.  Very effective.   Agneepath, unfortunately, had a lot of terrible things that the camera dwelled on almost gleefully for effect, with no eye to the potential beauty.  For those so inclined, a serious analysis of the film can be found here.

 

Jenny K:  Maybe your attraction to the Cinema of the B-T explains why you like Mani Ratnam films…well, why both of us like his work.  Some of his films are a visual ode to violence and devastation.  Not that he’s justifying it, at all, but he is always recording something visceral and memorable about war, and how it changes and heightens everything it touches.

 

Julie M:  Mission Kashmir also had, surprisingly, a couple of great musical numbers like this one, when Hrithik’s character shows up at this TV studio he wants to take over as part of the terrorist plan, and discovers that his old friend, now a well-known TV personality, is in mid-performance.  Of course he just joins right in.

You’d think the songs would be out of place in a bloodbath film like this, but they are so well-integrated into the plot that they make a certain kind of sense, unlike the random numbers in Agneepath.

 

Jenny K:  I’m glad you mentioned the “Bumbro” number where Preity meets up with Hrithik again, it’s a classic.  MK is not my favorite film, but has some wonderful visuals. Did you see Shankar, Eshaan and Loy, playing their song in “in person” no less, at the back of the big group number?  Looked like an ad for India Disney’s Small World Show, if there was such a thing.  

Julie M:  Was that really them? I noticed that the camera spent an unusual amount of time focusing on the band and wondered if maybe it was some famous pop star, but this makes more sense. I thought that number was kind of odious and Hrithik looked sappy in it. (I also thought it was stupid the way his character was able to crash not one, but TWO dance numbers without anyone noticing.)  But I let it go, because it’s so wonderful to watch him dance.  And during the film he is often sweaty and flexy.  

I’d rate this a 4 star experience as a film, and a 5+ star experience with Hrithik.  If you’re following his career, this makes THREE films he starred in his debut year.  Between Fiza and MK, 2000 was a pretty intense year for a guy who debuted in something as silly as Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai, which was a crowd-pleaser and may have made his name but doesn’t really show what he can do as an actor.

[the next day]

Julie M:  Saw Guzaarish (Request, 2010) tonight. Visually quite luscious, and as has also been my experience with all of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali films I’ve seen so far, a little on the slow side. Not as stylized and deathly boring as Saawariya, though.

The plot involves former illusionist (I refuse to use the term magician) and now quadriplegic Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), who, on the 14th anniversary of the stage accident that crippled him, has decided he wants to end his life.

 

Jenny K:  Fourteenth?  News to me.  If you went by the flashbacks, I’d have said he hadn’t aged more than two or three years…testament to the anti-aging effects of Goan weather, I guess…hydration, ya know.

 

Julie M:  His announcement shocks everyone, particularly his nurse Sofia (Aishwarya Rai), because he has always been so lively, positive and inspirational through his popular radio program and his speaking engagements. Trouble is, euthanasia is illegal in India, so he engages his best friend (Shernaz Patel), an attorney, to argue the case for him. While the case proceeds, he also becomes mentor to a manic young man (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who wants to carry forward Ethan’s stage performances.

Aside from the beauty of the film, Hrithik’s performance (conducted easily half or more in English, and I read that more was performed in English but Hindi was dubbed into the final film for political reasons) was astonishing. And not just because he convincingly plays a quadriplegic, which I imagine is extremely difficult. No, for the first time I felt that he had really thought this character through and wasn’t just projecting a series of “types.” He was thoroughly natural, and as the character has a great sense of humor and wit, I felt that we were seeing Hrithik let go of being a movie star and finally become a real actor.

 

Jenny K:  When I first watched it, I had read it was a remake of Whose Life Is It Anyway? the stage play and later the film with Richard Dreyfuss in the lead as the paralized sculptor who can no longer practice his art.  Guzaarish definitely addresses a lot of the same issues, but of course, Bhansali feels the need to dress things up, extend them and take them out of the decidedly unglamorous location of the hospital room. 

Again, it’s disappointing that, in an Indian film, they couldn’t have the woman that Hrithik bonds with be his doctor, as Dreyfuss does with Christine Lahti in WLIIA?  The woman, in this case Aish, is demoted to his faithful nurse.  She’s also made the hypothetical love interest, unlike in the American film, where it’s compassion not love.  I don’t mean to detract from Guzaarish, I rather liked it, and as you said, it was much better than Saawariya, but I can’t help noticing this trend.

 

Julie M:  As usual, Aish and Hrithik have excellent chemistry.   This scene (no subtitles, but it’s half in English anyway) comes at the point where Sofia finds out that Ethan has petitioned for euthanasia but has not told her:  she gets all huffy and tells him that clearly he doesn’t think enough of her to tell her personally, so from this point forward she will be just his nurse, not his friend. 

Her clearly passionate Sofia, in love with Ethan but unable to express it except through her professional care for him, is finally released in this scene where she has a couple of drinks and is moved to dance.

And we also get to see Hrithik move and dance as Ethan flashes back to moments in his stage career, particularly in this dream sequence.

Jenny K:  I felt there was too little dancing and too much floating by HR.  But that may be just me wanting more of a good thing, when he’s trying so hard, and successfully, to do a dramatic role here.  Is it just me, or is Aish channeling her inner Rekha in this film?

 

Julie M:  Aditya Kapoor also does a nice job as the apprentice illusionist, although he could have used more screen time.  The DVD I saw had some deleted scenes that included a really nice one between him and Sofia, that I have no idea why it was cut because it’s greatly character-developing for them both. 

But the real star is the film’s look. The setting is Goa and 90% of the action takes place in a decaying old Portuguese mansion–a character in itself–lushly appointed with centuries of antiques, greenery and family portraits. Every time of day is captured at some point in the film–even the moments just before and at dawn–and the famous Goa beaches are also represented in a very moving scene where Ethan’s overwhelming stillness is brilliantly compensated for by juxtaposing a wide shot of him in his wheelchair with crashing ocean waves lapping at his feet. SLB is the master of gorgeous filmmaking and even if you aren’t a fan of heartstring-tuggers (and this one is definitely a weeper, albeit an upbeat one), you can easily distract yourself by admiring all the lovely cinematic technique: scenery, costumes, props, locations…and, of course, Hrithik.  A solid 3 stars from me.

And luckily it’s available free on YouTube here.  Sit back with your left-over Super Noshes, kick back and Hrelish it!

November 28, 2011: Thankful for Guilty Pleasures!

Here we are, still in Thanksgiving Week, and what are we doing?  We’re dodging Black Friday and Cyber Monday by watching our favorite Guilty Pleasures Bollywood films.  Come join us! 

 

Julie M:  Got Jaan-e-Mann (Darling, 2006) from the library.  Preity, Salman and Akshay…how can it miss?

 

Jenny K:  Tell me if it’s worth seeing. It was being filmed in NYC almost simultaneously with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and there were lots of reports on Bollywhat.com’s forum on the sightings around the city. Lots of fun reading about it, but I remember seeing references to Salman in drag as Marilyn in the Seven Year Itch white dress looking not very fetching, and I recall references to Anupam Kher playing a Toulouse-Lautrec-ish style dwarf, completely on his knees for the shoot. I just gave up at that point and didn’t go to see it.  Here’s a link to a Rediff article on what Anupam went through doing it.

 

Julie M:  Despite my general aversion to Salman, I really enjoyed Jaan-e-Mann. On a number of levels it is a typical love story, but there were staging devices that made it interesting and the first half was unrelentingly funny.

In the opening we are introduced to Agastya (Akshay Kumar), an astronaut in a space vehicle with a blonde astro-companion, telling her a flashback story of his friend Suhan (Salman Khan). Suhan is an out-of-work actor with a favorite uncle, who happens to be a dwarf (occasioning a run of puns that I’m sure in Hindi are hilarious but I just didn’t get in translation). He gets a letter from his ex-wife Piya (Preity Zinta) stating that since he has not paid alimony for the past many-X months, she will accept a one-time settlement of 50 lakhs and he has no further obligation to her. We learn through a flashback number (it’s a flashback within a flashback, if you are keeping track) that Piya left him after he was forced by his agent to separate from her as a positive career move (heroes can’t be married, doncha know). This is actually a very cool and surreal number and I love how it’s done.  As the flashbacks nest the dance numbers get crazier and crazier.

Suhan and his uncle decide that since he doesn’t have the money, the best way to get out of paying the sum is to find someone to marry her. Enter Agastya, Piya’s formerly nerdy college acquaintance, who is looking to hook back up with her, and not recognizing Suhan as her ex-husband. Brainstorm: put Agastya with Piya and have him marry her!  Here’s the number where Suhan and his uncle convince Agastya that his destiny lies with Piya (warning—this is a moderately offensive, all-dwarf dance number):

The guy in the purple suit is Salman as Agastya’s nerdy self in college. Love the cardboard cutout representing Piya (in college-age getup), and then the dwarf dressing up as Piya.

 

Jenny K:  It still looks a bit scary, especially in the dwarf number, but I’ll take your word for it. All those nods to KHNH and DCH (NY bridge shots, tilted just that way and the surprise red rose in the park) are sort of cute but also odd. And from the clips you have here it looks as if Preity is doing an extended cameo and never actually speaks! Funny!

 

Julie M:  Actually Preity does speak, quite a bit, but it’s true, you do go through the first, oh, hour or more without actually seeing Preity’s character in live action, only in flashback montages, and so when the real person shows up you have to get re-introduced to her through her own actions instead of filtered through everyone else’s years-old perceptions of her. And she’s very different in “person” from how the other two have portrayed her in the montages. I told you that there were some narrative devices that elevate this film above the typical crazy-comedy-romance genre.

 

Jenny K:  With all the numbers condensing through montages, is the movie shorter than normal Bollywood, or do they just pack three times as much in it?

 

Julie M:  It’s a full three hours—but you don’t notice.  It’s kind of strange how the montages tell the back stories very quickly and concisely, since Bollywood movies usually linger lovingly on back stories, but it leaves more time for the main action which consists of the developing friendship between Suhan and Agastya (Salman kind of channels SRK’s typical Raj-Rahul character in this), Suhan’s letting go of his longtime anger against Piya and the Piya/Agastya romance which has some very fun scenes. But all of these are typical rom-com-melodrama fare.

  

Jenny K:  With Salman it’s a Prem-Raj/Suraj type.  Only one Rahul that I can remember…but I get what you mean. 

 
Julie M: The rest of the film is controlled chaos as Suhan and his uncle make over the nerdy Agastya in Suhan’s trendy image and then drag him to New York to throw him in Piya’s path. Complication: Agastya is painfully shy and Suhan must stay within 100 meters of him with a transmitter to feed him lines without Piya recognizing him, occasioning many ridiculous but funny costumes. In the process Suhan learns the real reason(s) Piya left him and has to make a decision: continue with the ruse and let Piya be happy with Agastya, or try to get back together with her himself?

  

Jenny K:  And you found all of that funny?  The chaos sounds like it was not in the least controlled…but maybe that’s just me.  Put Salman and Akshay together and my hulchul-meter just goes spinning out of control.

 

Julie M: Overall the first half was crazy-hilarious, with the second half toned down and more romantic without the melodrama.  The ending comes fast and funny.

This setup had the potential to be really awful, and there are indeed some cringeworthy moments. There is even the obligatory senseless dual role, this time for Anupam Kher as the dwarf uncle in Mumbai and a look-alike but non-dwarf cafe manager in New York. But Akshay makes such a fetching nerd with his tiny glasses, and his smile is so adorable, and he and Salman make such a good buddy team, that I forgave the flaws. It’s much more fun to see them working together than at odds like in Mujse Shaadi Karogi. And Preity and Salman have excellent chemistry even though it’s seen only in flashbacks until the last 30 minutes. Sallu was actually rather engaging and almost like a real person.  He only opened up one small can of dishoom in the whole film, showing admirable restraint there if not for going shirtless, which he did early and often, and in one scene he 97% convinced me that he has some actual acting talent.

One of the best scenes was the introduction of the Suhan character via a dream sequence where he’s accepting a Filmfare Best Lead Actor award…in the 70s! Cool B/W footage of older stars with Salman inserted into the clip.

So…Jaan-e-Mann could have been awful but wasn’t. I might have hated it if I was in a really foul mood, but this is the kind of film that is so goofily good-natured that all its flaws can be forgiven.  It’s easily skip-able story-wise and actor-wise (no new ground for any of the leads) but it really is cool how they tried to do something different with the montages reflecting the layered flashbacks. And for that it’s worth seeing.

 

Jenny K:  The director, Shirish Kunder, is Farah Khan’s husband. He was her editor first and they fell in love working on Main Hoon Na, I think. He seems to have absorbed all her love of color and raucous energy and translated it in his own way. She choreographed for him, of course. Good to keep it all in the family!

 [a few weeks later]

Julie M:  So I was taking it easy this afternoon, and thought I’d watch a funny film from your box, so I selected Marigold (2007), anticipating a gleeful Hollywood/Bollywood fusion and Salman Khan acting entirely in English.

At first glance it was full of possibilities for an American-made film meant to introduce American audiences to the joys of Bollywood films without the offputting length and subtitles. Here’s the trailer.

American C-grade actress Marigold Lexton (played by real-life C-grade actress Ali Larter) with a bad attitude finds herself stuck in India and gets a part in a Bollywood film, where Prem Rajput (Salman Khan) is the choreographer, and love ensues. Complications arise in the form of Prem’s disapproving royal family and longtime-arranged fiancee, and Marigold’s boyfriend who arrives on the scene, but all ends well and the characters grow as people. Add sweet love songs, big dance numbers, music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, lyrics by Javed Akhtar, and location shooting in Goa, and it couldn’t miss, right?

WRONG. I found the film a series of misses, although in some areas they were near misses. Salman Khan, locked into amused-smile “romantic” mode, was curiously low-key, displaying very little of the good-natured manic charm that makes him such a huge star in India. Ali Larter (and she was cast exactly why?) lacked the necessary comic timing to successfully pull off the b*tchy-cum-lovestruck Marigold. The story did not adequately build the case for Prem’s and Marigold’s attraction to each other, and the complications were not intense enough to make the audience feel that they could possibly be insurmountable and hence the stuff of dramatic tension.

I did like this number, which was the last scene in the film and very typical of an Indian-made Bollywood spectacle:

Maybe I’ve been watching REAL Bollywood, but the whole thing seemed rushed and some key scenes seemed to be missing–particularly, scenes where choreographer Prem takes the decidedly non-graceful Marigold in hand and teaches her how to dance, which would have given them a very nice and logical foundation for romance.

 

Jenny K:  Is this the same woman who was defending Bride and Prejudice so staunchly?  Well, I’ll agree that it was more effective than Marigold, but I wonder how you’d review B&P now?

 

Julie M:  I much preferred Bride and Prejudice as a film all in English, with a major Bollywood star, as one to introduce the genre to Western audiences and actually convince them that it’s worth a second look. All in all, if this was supposed to be a “crossover” film it didn’t do either Hollywood or Bollywood any favors.

This number, where Marigold supposedly proves her mettle as an actress and dancer, fell flat with me; it’s as if the entire dance troupe was infected with Ali Larter’s chronic stiffness despite the energetic choreography.

And the movie took itself too seriously: to my mind, romantic comedies (in any language) succeed because the characters know it’s a story and have fun with it. Finally, Salman only displays one bad shirt choice, which I have to admit despite my snarkiness I always look forward to in his films.

  

Jenny K:  I loved the white jacket with the fringe on the arms!  Very cool.  Who would have thought I’d have been approving his sartorial choices?!?

 

Julie M:  The sets and costumes were stunning, and I did enjoy a couple of the dance numbers, above, which were clearly given a lot of thought. In this beachside number, Marigold is introduced to the concept of dance numbers as integral to Bollywood filmmaking, and it’s a pretty awesome song too. 

Jenny K:  I felt much like you the first time I saw it. Ali was much too b*tchy to be at all endearing, and Salman being fully clothed and always charming didn’t seem to be at all believable to me. However, I sent it on because I watched it again recently on Netflix (It had been a two year gap, I think, since I saw it first) and I had really mellowed on it. Thought it did much better on second viewing, and I saw many more funny bits in Ali’s performance and much more sweetness in SK’s.

 [about a week later]

 Jenny K:  Went to see Rockstar with Pat and a friend of hers on the day it opened, after I got off work. Mid-week, how decadent! 

My main comment is: best Rahman Score since Meenaxi….some of the songs were just wonderful! Odd, though. I went through some of the clips of the videos on YouTube, and it must be that the numbers are very integrated into the plot, because the song that moved me the most is very generic looking here.

Admittedly, this is edited to pull out, I think, five minutes of build-up, and so that may have a lot to do with it. This one is the lead couple of Ranbir and Nargis reunited in Prague during an international music festival. In context it’s permeated with a bittersweet quality of remembrance of their time together two years past, of the fun they had before she was married. Their chemistry really built up in the longer version.

Basically, I liked it. Without too many specifics, I’ll say it was a nice performance by Ranbir, if you ignore the first, say, quarter of the film. They needed to just take ten minutes and say, “Jordan is a nice boy but is too bland and has no real drive and focus for his musical inspiration, and so he fixated on a random beauty to try to give him one.” See, there I saved us a good forty-five minutes of tedious exposition in one sentence.

The film only got rolling when things got darker, and this qawwali number marks where the slow first quarter finally picks up.  I’m always a sucker for a good qawwali…nice boy Jordan (Ranbir) is finally getting the more troubled life he wants to make his music more gritty…he tells his dad he won’t ever work in the family business and they kick him to the curb, and he winds up sleeping in the Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque, where he begins to find enlightenment and deepen his music with worship. Nice segment.

Drama, angst, sturm und drang continue as the film progresses…Ranbir’s hair gets even longer, and his facial hair more scruffy, and he gets much more physically attractive…though the look they gave him in this last big number went too far…Ranbir as Yanni in his Sgt. Pepper Phase…shudder. Angst is one thing but fashion masochism is something else again.

Julie M:  You know, that look isn’t so bad.  Maybe it’s just that it’s Ranbir, but I think it’s kind of cute.

 

Jenny K:  You are a hopeless case,  Jules. 

Newcomer Nargis Fakhri does alright, if a bit of an emotional, turn-on-a-dime shuttlecock in the first half, and she looks too much like Katrina Kaif. There’s a lovely cameo by Shammi Kapoor, in his last appearance. And the film looks wonderful with typically great cinematography by Anil Mehta (Lagaan, KHNH, Marigold). Don’t know if you’d consider it worth seeing on a big screen or not.

 

Julie M:  I’m so mad at the theater here, it’ll be a cold day in h*ll when I try to see a movie that isn’t action-based, because it’s impossible to tell when something is going to be subtitled.  But I’ll report back if I go. 

Meanwhile, your report got me into such a Ranbir mood that I actually PAID to see Bachna Ae Haseeno (Lucky Boy—not a literal translation—2008) through YouTube.  Here’s the trailer.

I had a lot of fun with it. Ranbir was absolutely winning as Raj Sharma, the handsome, successful cad (aka “killer”) who, 8 years apart, loves and then leaves two women (Minissha Lamba, Bipasha Basu) when they start to get serious about him, only to himself be dumped after he falls head-over-heels a few years later for a third (Deepika Padukone).

 

Jenny K:  Hah!  I thought you’d like BaH! Just the right mix of heartfelt and cheeky. And I remember the wonderful dancing, too. He’s right up there, though I am much more likely to have Imraan Khan as my menu-topper for guilty pleasure viewing, Ranbir does have his good points.

 

Julie M: I also liked this bhangra number, where Ranbir crashes a wedding so he can approach Minissha and apologize to her:

He realizes that he needs to redeem himself, and the journey he takes to apologize to his former lovers and atone for the impact his caddishness has taken on their lives is alternately funny and sweet.

The music was fun and Ranbir can dance, and dance well. Check out the number that appears over the opening credits: 

I thought the quick costume changes towards the end of the song were particularly interesting.  I was tickled to learn that it was a remake of/homage to this 1977 number, starring Ranbir’s dad Rishi Kapoor.  How much do you love the fluffy white suit and matching hat!!

Jenny K:  Fluffy!?!  Them there are industrial-grade full-on white paillettes!  Huge wonkin’ flat sequins that dangle and flip with each twitch of Rishi’s swivelin’ hips.  Gotta love it, as you say…though I’m not sure that paillettes should ever grace a man’s cap.  Sets a bad precedent.

 

Julie M:  The film had a “friendly appearance” by Kunal Kapoor, which I was not expecting, was a bonus (yum). And the first love story is inspired by DDLJ (not ripping it off–the Minissha character is a fan of the film, leading Raj to woo her using the film as a key to her heart), which made me giggle for the entire first half-hour of the film.  Here’s the entire song:

Granted, it was not a perfect film. It was overrun with anachronisms, which always bug me (example: the first story supposedly took place in 1996, but the cars and fashions were all wrong and there were modern cell phones; later, at a party, they dance to music from films that had not yet been released). The best friend character (“comedically” played by Hiten Paintal) was an *ss but Raj never seems to notice.

I remain bewildered as to why Deepika is given parts where she is expected to act, because clearly she is best suited for eye-candy roles (even Bipasha out-acted her, and that’s saying something, because I’m not a Bipasha fan either).  Ranbir spends too much time alternating between wearing obvious-branded Abercrombie clothing and wandering around inexplicably shirtless, although I’m not really complaining about the latter.

Finally, I liked this number, where, in order to obtain her forgiveness, Bipasha is making Ranbir dance (literally) attendance on her and he parodies the dancing styles of major Bollywood stars.

Ranbir’s acting in BAH redeemed him from the weird and confusing Saawariya and gives a hint as to how amazing he would be in Raajneeti. All in all, it was a nice Friday treat and a “guilty pleasure” to admit that I enjoyed greatly.

 

Jenny K:  I give thanks and hope the rest of the holiday season goes as well!  God Bless Us, Everyone!

August 31, 2011: Dancing, Down Under and the Dons

Julie M:  I have no library movies reserved for this weekend–I’ll have to trust the luck of the shelves, and I will probably only get one film because I have other things I need to do around the house–films will only be a distraction! For next weekend I reserved Dhoom, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (for a new-ish Salman Khan performance), and Sarkar (supposed to be an Indian take on The Godfather). Someday–after I watch Sarkar and Don–we will have to have a conversation about why Indian film is so obsessed with gangsters.

 

Jenny K:  Do you think that they are that much more obsessed with gangsters than we are? Maybe we don’t do that many specific mob films as in the seventies, early eighties, but if you add drug trafficking films, thugs-in-the-hood films, and the like, it’s always has been and always will be a mine-able genre for films.

Of the three movies you’ve reserved I’ve only seen Sarkar, which is okay; good performances, especially by KayKay Menon (HKA),  Amitabh and a nice debut by Tanisha, Kajol’s sister.  However, I still think Mani Ratnam’s Velunayakan is a better tribute to The Godfather

Mujhse Shaadi Karogi I never saw because Salman and Akshay Kumar fighting over Priyanka didn’t appeal. Plus one of the plot descriptions has Salman as being a hothead who gets into fights a lot and is in trouble with the authorities about it. Sounds a lot too much like art imitating life.  It’s on Youtube with subtitles, too if you wanted to check it out before you picked it up.

Mujhse Dosti Karogewith Hrithik, Rani and Kareena, is online, too, which is a more popular watch, but may be too sweet for your taste. Don’t know. The best part in it is a sangeet (the musical evening before the actual wedding day) song where the three do numbers in a medley from famous movies of the past. Here is the first of two parts.

MDK is a Yash Raj Youtube Rental. $2.99 Haven’t rented from them, but don’t trust anyone who can’t get the screen ratio right on their Youtube clips…everything they put up is squashed into a 4:3 and so they all look tall and skinny…bleh. I own it and could send it to you.

[JM note:  Stay tuned for a special FilmiGoris feature inspired by Mujhse Shaadi Karogi]

[the next day…]

Julie M:  So here’s the actual Hindi haul for this weekend. Salaam Namaste (Preity and Saif, irresistible once I saw their little faces on the DVD cover), Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (Ajay, ditto), and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (Akshay and Salman)—I got it early. 

 

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, but isn’t it about gangsters again? You gowan like this, they gonna tink youwa “made” woman?!?!   

 

Julie M: Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, I had to get even though it’s about gangsters, because it’s Ajay and, despite my lack of interest in gangsters, he makes a good one.

 

Jenny K: True, true…a delicious bad boy.  Back to your haul: I remember being annoyed by Salaam Namaste, even with Arshad in it. Partially because of Arshad, or rather, because every time they had a dance number with him in it, the dance editing was so choppy that they would never stay on him long enough for me to actually watch him “move”. Sigh. It’s seldom he gets a dance number these days and Saif can’t really touch him. SN is a lot more Western in tone because of it being set in Australia. I think there is a “daring” plot element in that Saif and Preity actually move in together. Egad!

(later that night…)

Julie M:  All right…Salaam Namaste. The “meet cute” part was predictably silly, but the rest of the film was OK. Not great, but OK, watchable. I can tell why they made the couple live in Australia: they did some social shenanigans that would definitely not fly in Mother India. Oh, and plus they could get lots of shots of hardbodies in bathing suits on the beach.

Preity is getting a bit too old for this kind of part but she was good at what they had her do. Saif was likewise good in the romantic lead part (you don’t like him in romantic leads but I do), although he had some unfortunate wardrobe choices: the first time you see him he is in Superman boxers that are loose in the crotch and tight in the thighs, not a good look combined with the overdeveloped “glamour” muscles up top, and that’s not the last underwear shot you get to see. And he wore far too many knit caps for maximum tastefulness, and all those shirts with words on them? Puh-leeze.

Arshad was pretty cute (loved the tiny glasses) but as the comic relief mugged too much. Great comic guest turn by Jaaved Jaffrey as the NRI-turned-Crocodile-Dundee landlord, and the cameo by LittleB near the end was slapstick-predictable given the situation, but funny. (He really should stick to comedy, he has a gift for it.)  Here’s the Jaaved Jaffrey scene. Sorry, poor quality video and no subtitles but you don’t need them to see how hilarious he is.

Jenny K:  Yeah, I loved Jaaved Jaffrey in that, too. I thought he kept me in stitches; the best thing in the movie (sorry, Arshad!). Watching it again, now, I kept thinking of the “Mister Da-Dubey” speech from ZNMD. He hit it dead-on, plus the pseudo-Aussie speak.

 

Julie M:  I thought of that ZMND scene too!!! But the Crocodile Dundee outfit is what sold it for me. 

 

Jenny K:  And hearing the horse whinnies, every time he tipped his hat or put his hands on his hips. And Jaaved saying, “Wife, what is it I always am a sayin’?” Wife saying,  “Sorry?” Delicious!

Jaaved’s just another case in point of the old Bollywood rule…if you have a good dancer,  bury him in comedy roles so deep that no one knows he can even put one foot in front of the other. He was the best thing in Akshay Kumar’s Singh is Kinng, too.

And in this one, do you think he was Hrithik’s role model? Bombay Boys (1998)…I think he sings his own stuff!…Jaaved, Naseerji, Naveen Andrews, all in the same film…guess what I’m going to watch tonight?!

[JK’s Note: The video “Mum-bhai” is not in the film, sadly, but seems to just be promoting Bombay Boys.  Jaaved’s vocals run over the end credits, but, at least in the English version, we still can’t watch him dance…It’s a PLOT!!!]

Here’s the whole film in 11 pieces with subs.

Finally, very early Jaaved, pretty silly…but, gotta love the tin-foiled musical instruments that make up the sets in this one. This one’s for Beth.

 

Julie M:  I’ll have to watch Bombay Boys too. I love all the gangsters he does. I read that he specializes in funny gangster impressions. He is definitely talented…Hrithik wishes he was this funny!  Good looking, too.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, but not quite good looking enough to be a mainstream star when he was younger. Now that he’s built up his muscles so nicely, and the rest of his generation’s stars are middle-aging into a more even playing field, he’d have more of a chance, if he weren’t such a bankable comedian. Oh, well, can’t have everything.

 

Julie M:  I thought of one Western comparison to Jaaved. Maybe Sacha Baron Cohen? Humor very similar, same emphasis on creating character types.

Things that bugged me about SN: the unbelievably lush beach house that miraculously a chef and a DJ/med student could afford; Saif wearing an open shirt or cut-off sleeves in EVERY FRICKIN’ SCENE; overuse of the stupid plot device where people see things and jump to wrong conclusions (man, does that bug me in films no matter what nationality); and the scene where everyone stripped after the beach wedding, possibly excused because most of the wedding guests were those Fosters-addled, fun-loving Aussies, but really. And very marginal music for how much of it there was.

A thing that was cool: in the “My Dil Goes Hmmm” number, where Preity is dancing on the bridge, I actually know the architect who designed that bridge. I mean, I personally met him and worked with him on a project. It’s a very cool bridge. It’s a highly trafficked vehicle bridge, by the way, so they had to have closed it to shoot the scene and that must have caused some problems.


Jenny K: Well, that’s got to be cool…I’d love to visit Australia.

[the next day…]

 

Julie M:  Watching Once Upon a Time… now. Ajay looks good in the longer ’70s hair.  But he’s the only one who does.

[later that evening…]

Julie M:  OK–Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I think in order to accept this movie you have to also accept that there once was a time when there were honest and moral gangsters. (No wonder it starts like a fairy tale.)

In the 1970s (like 1975-78 or so) Sultan Mirza (Ajay) is not so much a mobster as a savvy businessman–over the opening credits he divides up Mumbai among various gangsters, earning their trust and creating mutually respected territories, while he takes control of the shoreline and the international smuggling trade. All is calm and everyone gets rich. He brings in illegal stuff but he has his limits: he doesn’t handle drugs or alcohol, and he is never seen using a gun or murdering people (although he does beat people up, or have it done). He also supports the poor and does favors for the common man without asking repayment, earning their trust and love, and even a grudging kind of respect from the police.

His selfish, angry and ambitious protege Shoaib has no such scruples, and first as an admirer and then as an arrogant usurper continually amps up the violence and bad activities until Sultan has to smack him down. This enrages Shoaib, who plots revenge and (spoiler alert) finally assassinates Sultan just as he (Sultan) seems to be “going straight” and entering politics. This movie portrays the moment when Shoaib takes over as the end of the “golden age” of organized crime, which is nostalgically looked back on by the police-officer-narrator, and we are to assume that the dons now are evil and violent because Shoaib is setting the tone.

I found this movie slow and just barely interesting, except for Ajay, who turned in a great performance as the don with the heart of gold. The look of the piece was fairly stylish but just not realistic, as if it was some kind of sanitized dream of the 1970s (with the obligatory disco number, Parda). There was one nice love song, seen here:

I have to wonder what’s going on where they feel they have to make the gangland world look so…normal.

 

Jenny K:  Sounds like the description, with a few changes, that I would have given of Company…Ajay as practical businessman gangster. Doesn’t he get tired of them?

 

Julie M:  Oh, the Ajay character in Company was much more brutal and interesting (not because of the brutality, though). In OUATIM he is portrayed as almost a gentleman, albeit one that makes money from an illegal business. He is haunted by his past as an abandoned child, he always wears white and surrounds himself with white furniture as if he is in mourning for a happy-go-lucky past he never had, and he has this pathetic sense of honor that allows him to overlook Shoaib’s bad nature, and ultimately causes his own downfall. So I guess he’s supposed to be a tragic hero.

He is in love with a famous actress and she with him, they are planning to get married, and there is one touching scene where she has a medical emergency and he breaks his own rule about roughing people up in order to get her to the hospital. (This is compared to Shoaib’s relationship with his girlfriend, which is erratic and really kind of damaged–don’t let the “Pee Loon” song fool you). In fact, the cops get along really well with Sultan, he kind of helps them out of their problems, and there is one honest cop who at first decides he has to get Sultan but eventually realizes that Sultan is not a bad guy, it is Shoaib who’s the loose cannon. In fact, the whole movie is narrated by that cop, who at the beginning is found to have attempted suicide because Mumbai is now so corrupt and he blames himself for not taking stronger action to stop Sultan and, ultimately, Shoaib.

So it seems Ajay specializes in honest cops or gentleman gangsters. Typecast much?  (I still love you, Ajay!!)

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