November 11, 2014: Happy New Year (er, Veteran’s Day)!

So here it is:  the Happy New Year post!  Jenny and Julie both saw this one, and had some very different (and somewhat unpredictable) reactions.

First, the trailer:

Julie’s plot summary:  The action begins in the glitz and glamour of Dubai (city of lights, apparently!), at the World Dance Championships, where the Indian team is mysteriously missing.  Then we zoom backwards in time about six months to a mud-wrestling pit, where, in glorious slo-mo, we watch a buffed and ripped small man and a large, bald and slightly blubbery man whale on each other, until, from the left and right, water comes in to spray the mud off the small man to reveal…Charlie (Shah Rukh Khan), our lead and narrator, and apparently a professional fighter (you can bet that will come in handy later).

Jenny K: Oh, I actually missed the first fifteen minutes, so I missed the mud wrestling scene…that must have been what Kathy was giggling about.  But nothing about Dubai attracted me…the film actually worked on me as an anti-travel plug for the city. Too darn prefabbed and uber-glitzy for me, by half.

Julie M: Out of context in the beginning—yeah, but I didn’t mind it so much later.  Anyway, Charlie has an axe to grind:  his father (Anupam Kher) was framed by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff) for stealing a fortune in diamonds and is imprisoned, and after 8 years the opportunity to avenge him has presented itself. He gathers a handpicked team to pull off the caper of the millennium:  Tammy (Boman Irani), a lisping safecracker, irresistible to the ladies but with an unfortunate side effect of extreme stress; special effects expert Jag (Sonu Sood), who can go ab-to-ab with Charlie but is deaf in one ear and sensitive about his mother; Jag’s nephew Rohan (Vivaan Shah), a painfully shy, teenage hacker extraordinaire; and drunken simpleton Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), who seems to have no redeeming qualities except his physiognomy, which isn’t particularly handsome but is usefully familiar—a dead ringer for Grover’s son (double-role!).

Jenny K:  Oh, is that was Jag’s line of work was…must have missed that, too.  Thought he was just on board as “Ab Competitor” for SRK’s scary new torso.

Happy-New-Year-2014-Shahrukh-Khan-and-Sonu-Sood-300x250

Julie M: Despite their flaws (character and other) the team actually has the skills to pull off the heist, except the most important part: they need to learn how to dance, and fast.  Enter Nandu’s childhood friend Mohini (Deepika Padukone), a high-class bar dancer with a predilection for hearing men speak English, whom they engage to whip the boys into good enough shape to become a contender to represent India at the World Dance Championships in Dubai.

Why is this necessary?  Coincidentally, the contest is being held at the same hotel where the loot is being safeguarded and they need to be contestants to make the plan work.   Through a little hacker magic they end up where they need to be, but they immediately anger the reigning dance champions, the North Korean team (whaaaaa?), not to mention Charan, either of whom has the power to turn Charlie’s well-laid plans to vapor and take our little gang out for good.

Jenny K: I thought that North Korea was chosen, because it’s the only isolated power that isn’t currently in popularity with enough of the world to raise objection.  Who knows…Synopsis behind us, on to the reactions.  I was afraid that you, being the more serious minded of the two Filmi-Goris, would find it tediously frivolous and full of holes, plot-wise. Even I did, somewhat, and spent lots of time distracted as SRK’s blonde streak moved about his hair from scene to scene. Not to say that I found nothing interesting about it, but I could have missed it and not have been at all bereft.

Julie M:  Frivolous and full of holes, sure, but definitely not tedious.  I had a great time!

Jenny K:  SRK looks good, and is in top charming conman mode.  Deepika is lovely and a wonderful dancer, again. Boman is comedy pro, as usual, but I was distracted by the accent he chose, that one that I call the “paan-in-mouth” one. Abhi used it in Bunty aur Babli once or twice, but I don’t like a full movie of it. Jackie Shroff makes a smooth, if underused, villain, and I was glad to see him back. Abhi has the comedic double role that you mentioned, and he pulls it off pretty well, but it was really very slapstick, which, as you know, always leaves me rather cold. Sonu Sood is given the thankless role of comic muscle-bound sidekick, a la early Salman Khan…not much more to say about him than that, I’m afraid. Vivaan Shah was better in 7 Khoon Maaf, but didn’t fall on his face.

Julie M: I liked the way the direction played with Sonu Sood’s abs and the typical Salman Khan “oops, I’ve lost my shirt” bit that always seems to happen in his films.  I always find that the most charming part of a SK film.

Sonu-Sood

Jenny K:  I also didn’t like that they keep trying to mix their genres so much, trying to give all SRK fans what they want from him. You could see all Farah’s influences in there, having Shah Rukh be Tom Cruise in MI 4, Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven and Jackie Chan in multiple films, then putting bits of all of India’s favorite SRK classics in there, too. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with its dance team competition, bits of the Don franchise, touches of the charm and romance of K3G and KKHH, but without Kajol to help pull it off. I just wish Farah had picked a genre and knocked it out of the park, as I know she can, rather than trying to give us thin multiples, none of which really succeed.

Julie M:  I see your point, and checked all the references too, but I read it as parody.  In fact, I found so much parody in the film that may or may not have been intentional, but it was still funny. The comedic bits (the repetition of “the two things you need to know about X”, for example, and the knowing wink about the “intro” numbers for each, including the intro of Abhi’s character which was way too much like the way Ranveer Singh’s characters have been introduced in his last couple of films) varied for me from slightly humorous to fall-on-the-floor laughing, but overall were pretty funny, particularly as the film went on. But Abhi did not handle the comedy as well as we know he can (Bunty aur Babli, Dostana), although it was OK for someone who doesn’t know how good he can be, and the dance numbers, although very glitzy, were uninspired until the very last one.

abhishek bachchan happy new year

Jenny K: Actually, you reminded me about that “two things” bit….I thought it sounded familiar to me at the time, what with BigB doing a lot of the intoning, and I think I’ve tracked it down to these quotes from Bunty aur Babli, that they are saluting in the HNY film. “There are two types of people in this world…”  I’d have to see the movie again to be sure, but I’d bet that they were very close to that pattern.

Julie M:  I bet you’re right—but to introduce the characters, it’s very effective.  We learned to expect hilarious character flaws. With all the setup, the possibilities for comedy are endless, and pretty much all of them are employed.  Gravity-defying and farce-filled fight scenes?  Check.  Fart jokes?  Check.  Pratfalls?  Check.  Awkward dance moves?  Definitely check. (Look for a brief but enthralling flash of Prabhu Deva as one of the dance teachers who give up on them before they find Mohini.)  In lesser hands this could have been wince-inducing, but I think Farah Khan excels at directing zany comedies filled with varying levels of parody and multiple winks at Bollywood (and SRK in particular) tropes old and new.  The result, I found, was hilarious.  I left the theater feeling happy and entertained and satisfied…for about three hours, until all the plot holes came home to roost and I started to realize that although there was a lot to like, and ultimately yes, I did like it, there were some issues as well.

Why bring Jag into the gang when there are absolutely no special effects aspects (aside from some really bad disguises) to the plan?  How can Mohini—admittedly poor and desperate for the money her bar dancing gig gives her—take 6 months off to train a bunch of losers, even if one of them has great abs and speaks fluent English?  Charan is clearly a smart, suave guy: how could he overlook the ONE detail that allows a plan like Charlie’s to work?  And why, oh why, is the music, peppy as it is, so freaking DERIVATIVE?

The key to enjoying a film like this, clearly, is not to think too hard about it. Leave your brain at the door and grab the popcorn.

Part 8: The Arts & Architecture Section of Our Programme

Julie M: Check out this article for its Bollywood connections–BigB and Husain’s Meenaxi.

 

Jenny K:  Interesting article, but sad, too. I was always so impressed about how Husain dealt with controversy. When his film, Meenaxi, offended anyone (indicated by the protests) he just removed the film completely, two weeks after opening it. The Muslim clerics hadn’t objected to the song “Noor-un-ala-Noor,” itself when it came out in advance of the movie, but objected when visually, it used a hymn that they thought was directed toward their god, instead depicted as an almost holy worship of a female character in the film. I’ll send you that film next, if you like. It’s not the strongest plot, but very interesting in a literary way, and is magnificent visually and in its Rahman soundtrack.

Julie M:  Meenaxi…wow. Total visual treat and as a whole, the soundtrack rivals Dil Se which, as you know, is my favorite (even better than Lagaan–sorry). Was a bit confused as to the plotline. My interpretation is [spoilersthat the white-robed Meenaxi character in every scene except at the mehndi is a figment of Nawab’s imagination–he created her to serve as his muse. And he died in service to both his muse and his story. I also interpret that the various inconsistencies among the stories (a Prague girl speaking fluent Hindi? come on!) were a reflection of his unraveling as a writer, and he saw the flaws and it was part of what killed him. Or am I overstating? Kunal Kapoor was so very goodlooking in this…debut and wow. I see that he is also in Rang De Basanti, which is waiting for me at the library so I get to see him some more this weekend.  Thank you for sending it.

Jenny K:  Glad you liked it…I get to see it at the film festival in Vancouver[Note: Indian Summer, a very nice festival, in its formative first year] that I’m going to in two weeks…on a big screen!!  Tabu is being saluted and she’s going to be there to discuss The Namesake, but my timing is such that I won’t be able to be there for that one…my plane doesn’t get in until 11pm. Sad. Had no choice when it’s a free flight. The pluses and minuses of frequent flyer programs.

Actually, almost all the films they are offering are ones that I have seen already. 3 Idiots, Peepli Live (fell asleep before the end of it first time I saw it, but probably because I tried a double header…two Indian movies in the evening are too much!) Meenaxi, Chandni Bar (you’d probably like that one), Maqbool, Iqbal, all good films, though I’ll only be able to do four films in the ten days I’m there…got to do a bit of sightseeing while I’m there.

[at this point Jenny tries to tempt Julie into going to Vancouver with her and Julie calls her Pure Evil]

[Jenny K’s Note: HA!…She wanted to go…hohoho (cue maniacal laughter)]

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Here is my movie lineup for this weekend (from the library):

Chandni Chowk to China
Delhi-6
Rab ne bana di Jodi

Your thoughts?

 

Jenny K:  CC to C I didn’t see…I’m sorta allergic to Akshay Kumar in most cases. He does a lot of cheesy chop-socky kinda action films with babes; guys seem to like them. Delhi-6 is okay, except for the black monkey. I won’t say more except that the grandmother in this one is Waheeda Rehman, a very famous film star from about 25 years ago, and I think she’s still lovely. RNBDJ is mild SRK fun, but I didn’t like it as much as some of my friends did. Too run of the mill.

 

Julie M:  Saw CCtoC last night. First part was very stupid and farce-y. I fell asleep in the middle and woke up for the last hour or so, and didn’t feel as if I’d missed anything. If you like martial arts movies it wasn’t bad, but it was so very formulaic (dumb ordinary guy from India ends up in China via ridiculous circumstances, has to do some kind of heroic task, learns martial arts from an expert, then slaughters the bad guys, gets the girl in the end). Somewhat interesting subplot about girl twins separated in infancy, one ends up a national spokesmodel inIndia, the other an underworld hit girl in China, they meet through this dumb idiot guy and his ridiculous circumstances. Kumar is kinda goodlooking and no doubt expert in martial arts, but so was Stephen Seagal and his movies are no Oscar winners. Pass on future ones.

 

Jenny K:  To be fair to Akshay, he does have one or two films that I like. If you ever see the movie Khakee, he gives a very nice turn as a venal cop with some hidden depths. I guess he’s good looking, but, I know it sounds stupid, he looks too American for me.  And he picks those tough guy film roles that could be American, too.  I could get that at home.

 

Julie M:  Saw Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi tonight.  B saw most of it with me and he liked it. I thought it was very cute and lighthearted fun. Music not bad either. Maybe a bit run of the mill because it seemed very Hollywood-romantic-comedy, but I was completely charmed. I liked that I knew some of the music (motorcycle chase to Dhoom 2 theme!) and some of the stars in the dream dance sequence. Beautiful shots of Amritsar, nice production values to the dancing. All in all, not very taxing and quite entertaining with only the teeniest bit of melodrama (I like drama, just not melodrama). I’d give it a thumbs-up.  I wanted to see the special features disk but no time…I have to see Delhi-6 and another movie, Kyun…Ho Gaya Na (couldn’t resist, it has BigB, Aish and Viveik Oberoi), and return them both on Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Not to say I thought RNDBJ was bad or anything. Just having seen some two dozen films by SRK it seemed rather run-of-the-mill. And even though I like him trying new things (playing shy and retiring, plain-looking nebbish guy convincingly) I object to half a movie going by without him smiling. I love his smile. I actually only remembering a few things about the film, it doesn’t stick with you long, I remember thinking she was rather stupid for not recognizing her own husband, and I also remember liking that scene on the hillside where he spelled out, was it her name? in the lights. That was cute.

Kyun…Ho Gaya Na was a while ago, but it was a big buzz when it came out because Aish and Viveik were dating at the time, and I think it was their first movie together (perhaps their only) and there was an actual kiss in the film, I think (one that Aish conveniently forgot when she was interviewed on US tv around the time Bride and Prejudice came out…”no, I’ve never been kissed onscreen, we don’t do that here in India”. Perhaps she was banking that with KHGN‘s bad audience numbers, no one outside of India had actually seen it :-). Whatever, I don’t recall thinking they had much chemistry in it. Hope I’m wrong.

Hey…You’ve hit a milestone and we didn’t even celebrate it 🙂 I’ve been keeping a list of what you’ve seen so that I don’t duplicate what I send to you, and you’ve seen over thirty-five movies now! I’m counting whatever you see tonight…with both Delhi-6 and KHGN it will be 36! Now that’s an official conversion, I think, an “Interest” with a capital I! You may well last and become a superfan, yet. Welcome to the club!

Jenny
Lead East Coast Recruiter
354 movies and counting (not counting duplicate viewings….it would be too scary!) Well, I have been doing it since the summer of 2003, I think… So you see where it can go… Hmmm… I wonder what I should do for my ten year “anniversary” … go to Bombay???

 

Julie M:  If you go to India tell me–I will go with you! Even though it would cost half a semester’s college tuition for one of the kids.

It was hilarious seeing SRK playing a shy nerd, since he’s so Raj-like in real life (so I understand). That was half the fun for me. [Spoilers, I guess] It made sense to me that she didn’t recognize her husband–if you watch the scenes where they are together, she barely even looks at him, and of course they didn’t sleep together. She probably only registered the clothes, mustache and glasses anyway. (and he spelled out I Love You in lights–so sweet)

Has it been 35 movies? I am calling this a hobby (my son is calling it an obsession). I simply don’t watch many American movies, they are too boring, and summer TV is horrible with all the repeats.

Liked Delhi-6. A little weird and serious for Bollywood but visually very rich and an interesting message. LittleB was great.

KHGN–BORING. I only got partway through. Snore. Also, the CD from the library wasn’t in good shape so it was a good excuse to quit. I assume they get together in the end. Although they were quite pretty, I found myself not really caring about them. So–a dud.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I didn’t want to bias you, if, in fact, you liked it. I think I fell asleep in the movie theater. Not a good sign. Have some recollection of his being a race driver of some type, but truthfully, the most surprising thing about it was the kiss. And really, they don’t have much screen chemistry for a couple that were dating. Oh well, she doesn’t tend to have chemistry with anyone except Hrithik. Even her husband, LittleB. She’s pretty, but reads sort of cold-fishy, as a rule.

Wasn’t the black monkey weird in Delhi-6? But I loved his connection with his grandma, and I liked Rishi Kapoor, the grandma’s old boyfriend, better than I usually do. He was Kajol’s dad in Fanaa, and he was a big star in romantic leads back in the seventies and eighties. Kareena’s uncle, I believe. They are sort of the first family of Indian Cinema. If you ever get the urge to check out the really early stuff get Awara with Raj Kapoor and Pyaasa with Guru Dutt… Classics, both.

 

Julie M: Rishi Kapoor played Roshan’s MOTHER’s old boyfriend, not the grandmother’s. I like Rishi Kapoor. He caught my eye in Hum Tum (the first thing I saw him in) for adding complexity to what could have been a one-dimensional role, and has been great in pretty much everything else since, including Fanaa.

The race driver plot point never went anywhere. You were right, Viveik can dance, but it seems that he can’t act well, so…career in the toilet.

I immediately read the “black monkey” as a metaphor for something dark that lurked in peoples’ souls, particulary in times of crisis or transition, so the entire alternative-dimension aspect of the film, that some critics seemed to hate, did not bother me. I generally hate film violence so the beating/shooting scene at the end upset me a little–went on WAY too long–had to fast-forward through it. I loved LittleB’s character every which way–loved that he started the movie with a strong American accent and only speaking English back when people spoke Hindi to him, and as time went on he lapsed more and more into Hindi and his English words became heavily Indian-accented. A great acting touch from LittleB. But his perspective on life remained very American, even when he decided to stay in India. This character did a good job of showing the best of both worlds.

 

Jenny K:  Now don’t give up on Viveik completely until you see him in Company and Yuva (I sent them off to you, hopefully you should be getting them soon). What I would say is that he can’t carry a film by himself. Given the right vehicle and the right co-stars he can be quite effective. Poor baby. Seldom if ever used correctly.

As to Rishi, I’m just saying that he is aging much better than I would have expected. Here’s what I think of as him as his “famous prime” back in the seventies…in Amar Akbar Anthony, as BigB’s little brother the musician. Okay but always a bit cheesy.

Not quite as good looking as either his father Raj Kapoor.

Or his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor.

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