January 5, 2014: Guns and Six-Packs, Part I

Did you miss us?  In the flurry of holidays between Diwali and Christmas we saw two star hunks in two films…and not at home in front of our tvs, but in theaters, no less!  Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Ram-Leela and Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3.  They generated such a flurry of words, that we’ve had to split it into two parts!  Enjoy the festivities with us.

Jenny K:  Kathy and I saw Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (A Play of Bullets:  Ram-Leela, 2013), and if I had just left at the interval, I would have said that SLB had gotten it all back, all that lushness that made Devdas a standout. It’s complete sensory overload, and he can make it all palatable. The trailer gives you an idea. 

Julie M:  I saw it too, with my friend/former student Kristy, who just loves big spectacles.  Should we do a plot summary?  I promise I’ll be quick…Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) are denizens of longtime opposing gangland clans who have all but taken over a Gujarati village.  If this sounds like the setup of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is.  He sees her after he crashes a party at her house and falls instantly in love, they have a way cool balcony scene, they decide to run away together, her relative kills his friend, he kills her relative, and he becomes a wanted man.  And so on and so forth.  There are twists that make this film very Indian (her family’s don is her mother; he gets a masala-style, way overblown but very fun hero entry song a la Salman Khan,  and, true to form, the second half is almost a totally different story that takes Shakespeare to the “what if…” level.

Jenny K:  I wish I had known the translation of the title before I went into the theater…add to that, I was running a bit late and missed a ten minute chunk of the beginning, so I literally didn’t see the bullet-storm coming.  And so, for me, the second half just goes off on a violent tangent that changed my whole review of it. Now, I didn’t expect a happy ending or anything…it is a reworking and an updating of R&J, after all, but this overarching firestorm of violence is just too much.

I feel like SLB locked himself in a screening room, watching an endless loop of Gangajaal and Shakti and no one let him out for months! It’s changed his whole list of emotional colors in his paintbox…with all the problems I’ve had with him over the years, I’d always complain of overdoing the emotional and individual tragedy element.  He’d never be the director giving us those village-wide breast-beating, hair tearing revenge fantasies that I hate.  Yet it seems he’s into it now, and, true to Bhansali’s tendency to needless excess, he’s given us a film so relentless in its symphony of slo-mo jewels of shattering glass and varying liquids, that it overwhelmed the splendor he had worked so hard to get back.

Julie M:  It is super-violent, right from the first scene.  I wasn’t happy about that.  But I disagree that it was relentless. I found it to be very SLB-splendid even with the violence:  a visual treat.  I was totally satisfied, and having Ranveer and Deepika to look at for nearly 3 hours was just like the old days.

Jenny K:  The performances were definitely fun. Ranveer and Deepika generate some real heat onscreen, and have lots of loveliness of body, and often of face (on her part). Deepika is finally finding her groove in a big way. By the way, I ended up seeing it again, the whole of it this time, with Pat.

Julie M:  Totally agree.  Gotta say, it was the hottest, sexiest love story I’d seen in a while…talk about chemistry! And KISSING!!! I was shocked, but intrigued.  I would have preferred that he not have been bearded because I really wanted to see his lips. I’m still fanning myself lest I get the vapors. I’m still thinking about how Ranveer buffed up for this. He should do commercials for whatever program he followed, because…whew.

Jenny K:  Ranveer’s buffing was almost overdone for me. He reminded me of those weightlifters who can’t quite recognize their biceps and thighs as their own and so move very carefully and self-consciously. I actually found Khanji (Sharad Kelkar), Leela’s brother, more attractive in his bedroom scene with his wife…especially with that voice! I was quite impressed with Sharad throughout, and am definitely going to find more of his films. But I agree with you about the beard having to go…had a sort of Amish effect of flattening his chin out.  I, too, found their chemistry together to be very hot. Surprisingly so. Pat thought that Leela’s writhing on the bed in various scenes to be way too vulgar and western for her tastes. I didn’t like it so much in the “balcony scene” (a bit “too much, too soon”, there) but thought it was okay on the wedding night.

A big problem for me would have been eliminaed if SLB hadn’t felt the need to stick the “R&J Rework” tag on it. As a lifelong Bardmonger (literally one who sells the Bard for a living) that sort of challenge has me immediately poking holes in weak parallels…”Shouldn’t Juliet, at least, be just a bit more sheltered and innocent, and not quite so drenched in ‘Eau de Slut?'” And our Ram-eo, why the heck is he portrayed as an arrogant pornographer?

Julie M:  Well, we are talking the criminal underworld here. He’s an arms and porn dealer, she’s a don’s princess daughter who’s grown up with guns, seen her mother undertake all kinds of illicit activities and not batted an eye–plus her mother seems to have ignored her and allowed her to run wild in her gilded palace. And as for Eau de Slut…nobody is an innocent 14-year-old here: these are fully developed hormones running rampant in adults (well, maybe 20/25-year-olds).

Jenny K:  Just shows the weakness of trying to make it an R&J comparison in the first place, if all they can think of (I’m talking to both SLB and Vishal Bhardwaj, who does it a bit better) is making a transition between the moneyed upper classes of Renaissance Verona and a severely fictionalized whup-ass crazy blood-lusting Rajasthani underworld. Both may try to keep their princesses pure, both will probably fail (in a search for drama) but in R-L it seemed doomed from the git-go.

Julie M:  I find it interesting to compare Deepika’s two organized-crime-princess turns this year, Chennai Express and Ram-Leela. She wasn’t allowed to get horny in CE, only feisty, so she really turned it on here. I read that she was extremely embarrassed about the kinds of things she had to say and do in R-L, but man, it was like she was born to do them. Both characters were total fantasy and it worked.

Supriya Pathak as the don in Ram-LeelaJenny K: I like her turn in Chennai Express a lot better, even though in R-L she is an electrically visual presence.  In CE she was more likeable and sweet…I guess I just go for the safe in my heroines and sexy in my villainesses.  How predictable of me!

Speaking of deliciously evil, Supriya Pathak (Pankaj Kapur’s wife) is absolutely the perfect villainess…and mafia don. Revenge personified. But the inter-village hatred and plotting gets sort of confusing after a while.

Julie M:  I too got confused about the clan-warfare machinations midway through the 2nd half, and I’m not really sure how Ram and Leela decided [spoilers] that the only way to end it all was to kill each other, because that seemed a bit drastic to me. Still, it was R&J and they had to die. [end spoilers] And  for once I was mesmerized during every song. Not just the big dance numbers (of which there were THREE!) but even the slower ones. Just fascinated. I nearly fainted with all of those ladies during Tattad Tattad, and I loved how they used a variety of styles for the dance numbers (South, and Punjabi, and Bollywood). Priyanka Chopra Ram Leela Hot Item Song Photos

About the only thing that disappointed me–and I knew it would–was Priyanka Chopra’s item number, which only displayed how bad a dancer she was compared to Deepika and how plastic and bleached her face looked.

Jenny K: Poor Priyanka!  She dances better than I do (I haven’t seen her mambo, though, and mine’s pretty good!), and her acting is usually better than Deepika’s, at least so far.  Loved her in Barfi!, for example.  And Tattad Tattad was fun, but I think the person who nicknamed it “the dandruff song” had it right, seriously odd choreography!

All in all, I’d say, worth seeing, but if you’re gun-shy, I’d consider leaving at the break…who needs the extra hour and a half, anyway!  But for the other point of view, Pat said something along the lines of “three hours of my life wasted” and/or “I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than watch that again”.

Julie M:  I say stay.  I LOVED the entire thing, simply adored it, and felt that it worked, really WORKED. My friend liked it too—her first Bollywood film. I think I may have converted someone.

Nothing says Love like a Revolver

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Part 9: The Many Facets of Rani

Julie M:  WOW!!! You sent so much great stuff! Thanks for the freebies, too!

We must be on the same wavelength because I JUST got Kannathil Muthamittal from the library. I’ll have to check it out and then just dump it into the return bin. Also on my library shelf are Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Black. But I can’t get the DVDs from the library until Saturday, so your stuff will fill the gap tonight and tomorrow.

Thanks again!! (you are so my dealer now)

Jenny K:  Now, I must warn you about both of those library films…they have some good points, but when I saw them, I was left wondering why I bothered. Never bought them. Or, you could just find out for yourself.

Black is a direct copy of The Miracle Worker, in the first half, anyway…with BigB playing Annie Sullivan as an ex-alcoholic, no less. Oh, yeah, I told you this in an earlier post.  I will say, Ayesha Kapoor, the child actress who plays the young “Helen” is fabulous in this role. But, even with Rani and BigB trying their darndest, it just left an odd taste in my mouth.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna…otherwise known as KANK, [Spoilers: highlight to view] deals with adultery in an almost acceptable way, which doesn’t work at all for me. SRK and Rani are married to two completely reasonable choices, Preity and Little B, who are there for them, are attractive, no bad treatment whatsoever, aside from Preity whining a bit, SRK has a kid, too. So, here we are, Preity spends a bit too much time at work and SRK who is very negative for the first third of the movie, at least, meets Rani before her wedding, but doesn’t try to stop her, and then they get to be best friends afterward. Then when that’s not enough, at one point they decide to change it to love. Premeditated. Without splitting from their spouses first. BLECH…And it’s set in NYC, too. So, it can’t be because “divorce isn’t done here, in old Mother India”. BLECH. So all the lovely scenes, lovely songs, beautiful words don’t amount to a hill of beans for me. It may be more “realistic” than most Indian films, but I don’t like seeing my favorite actors endorsing such a line of bad behavior. [End of spoilers] If I wanted that from my films, I’d have stayed with US films. Moral codes have been out of fashion here for years, I don’t have to go to India for it.  End of Rant.   Oh, plus, BigB is having style trauma trying to be an aging Warren Beatty in this film…unforgivable.

Julie M: OK…I’ve been warned. I’ve gotten used to Indian films selectively ripping off other films/plays, and it might be interesting to see bad behavior in an Indian film.

So you like the Indian film moral code with respect to sex and fidelity…but the gangster films are all pretty violent and you don’t really seem to mind. I don’t mind sex in a movie but I hate violence. ???

Jenny K:  Nah…it’s not [more spoilers, I guess the rant’s not over.] the sex, it’s the cheating. And if it’s an out and out bad couple doing it, I wouldn’t mind it so much, it would be in context. What I don’t like is the film’s writers and directors setting up a scenario where they are supposed to be the “good guys” and when someone better comes along, they just walk out, without even a pretense of their being out of control or unable to help their lust. They just go…oh well, we’re going to go this route, regardless of how we’ll hurt our spouses, kids, etc. Just hit me the wrong way, bigtime.

As to the violence, I don’t particularly like it, but it’s part of the masala format, like the melodrama…you just sort of expect the obligatory fight scenes for the guys (they call them dashoom dashoom scenes, don’t know why exactly, descriptive noises? ), and when it’s part of the storyline, I’m basically okay with it, when it’s gratuitous, I just fast forward or go for popcorn, or something. I’d much rather a direct sex scene, but there isn’t much chance of that except occasionally in indie cinema. There is a lot of more realistic films out there in Indian film now that I find much more disturbing…Udaan, for one, which won a bunch of awards last year for its realistic portrayal of a father’s child abuse (beatings, not sexual) which I thought was very well done, was unpleasant in the extreme to watch. Made me miss my mindless escapism and fabulous dance numbers.

Aamir’s Rang de Basanti pushed my “honor code” buttons too. Found myself all but jumping up out of my seat, 45 minutes from the end, going “What? What? They did WHAT? That’s a completely wrong message to put out there!” When I asked some of my Indian friends about their take on it, they almost universally said, “You don’t understand, you’re thinking about it with the legal system here in the US as a reference, but it’s the only way things change in India”… rassafrassa-crimanentlies…that and Gangaajal both had completely out of line endings, in my opinion. RDB has a great score and some wonderful performances though, and has some positive points, before the Great Schism at the end, that may merit a viewing.

Julie M:  Instead of KM, at my library I found Well Done Abba! and watched it tonight. Very funny and sweet. B watched part of it with me and immediately recognized the actor playing the main character as the college principal from 3 Idiots, whereas I had failed to do so. (He really liked 3 Idiots–he said it was his favorite so far)  I’m still going to watch KANK and Black and will report back to you.

[JK Note:  They really need to do some trailers with English subtitles, IMO]

Jenny K:  Ah, I haven’t seen it yet, but the director Shyam Benegal is usually very good. I’ll have to look for it. I love Boman Irani, the guy you mentioned. I think he’s one of the best character actors they have. He was also the principal in Main Hoon Na and he was the Sikh “villain” in Lage Raho Munnabhai…the best friend who shafted Munna and tried to steal his girlfriend’s house. He has a tendency to disappear into his roles and can do comedy as well as drama flawlessly.

Julie M:  OH, I had no idea those were all him! I guess he really does disappear into his roles, whereas SRK is always SRK.

Jenny K:  SRK is a constant, a fixed point of delicious in the universe.

Wanted to check something about Boman online and stumbled into his website…seems he’s a late bloomer in a major way. Started his photography career at age 32, then began a major theater career at 34 and did his first film at the age of 44 about ten years ago…made a success in all of them. I am very humbled.  

Julie M:  REALLY liked Black. I didn’t find it unsettling at all except for the part where [spoilers] she asked him to kiss her (and that’s understandable under the circumstances, even though I believe she regarded him as a father figure for the entire previous time) and he did (which was totally weird). A rare kiss in an Indian movie and it’s freaky. But excellent performances all around, particularly Rani. BigB did some overacting but mostly was good too. B was not familiar with The Miracle Worker so he thought the entire thing was pretty good, if a bit overly dramatic. Ranks up there for me.

[Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director, speaks about the making of Black, in Hindi and English. Part 1 of 3, I believe.]

Jenny K:  Hmmm…well, good, it’s certainly a stylish film. Same director as Devdas and he’s all about the visuals. Perhaps if I had seen it earlier, I would have liked it more. My favorite films by Bhansali are Khamoshi, the Musical (Khamosh means Silence 🙂 about a hearing woman and her deaf parents, and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, both with Salman Khan, oddly enough…but that can’t be helped, he is popular, him and his overdone pecs…

Julie M:  KANK…well, I didn’t much like it but not for the same reasons you didn’t. It was clear to me that [spoilersboth of them were in bad marriages. Maya never loved Rishi but married him out of duty (and they had wildly mismatched personalities), and Dev was cranky due to his life sucking after the accident, which Rhea had zero sympathy for. So why not grab love when you can? And it seemed to really be love, not just fooling around.[end sp.]

No, the reason I didn’t like it was the soap-opera quality of it, the crazy drama/melodrama and extreme weepiness. SRK kept making that face of his that I hate, the half-crying super-emotional weird face. I don’t watch that kind of movie out ofHollywood, why would I watch it out of Bollywood? So, warn me before I see any more of those, ok?

Jenny K:  Well I will, if I can, but they are pretty entrenched in Indian films. Hard to avoid completely.  And you are well into “the going your own route” phase now, you’ll find out what you like and don’t like very fast. I’ll put together a directors list, as they are usually a good indicator of what you’ll get.

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