May 4, 2016: SRK, Still FANtastic at 50!

Fan: SRK on the gates of MannatOut of the drought and dearth of inspirational films coming out of Bollywood these days, Shah Rukh Khan’s FAN has stirred our sluggish viewing hearts back to our keyboards! Imagine that! It spurred many a thought and pulled a post out of fingers so stiff from boredom that I thought we’d be indulging in another multi-month of reviewing sloth. Thank you, SRK!

Jenny K: Hey there…are you going to get a chance to see SRK’s Fan? Pat, Kathy, Jayesh and I went to see it last night and it was very interesting, and not just for the surface action! He provides that, of course, but this added something different. I’m still mulling it over. Though knowing that you don’t really like Shah Rukh, maybe I shouldn’t recommend it, but I had some theories about it that I wanted to run past you, if you saw it. The house was packed (a regular multiplex, not a desi cinema) and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I liked it, but Pat and Kathy, die hard Rukhies, LOVED it. Here’s the trailer with subtitles that you can switch on.

Julie M: This one was the first film in a LOOOONG time to interest me even a little…I’m going right now!
[five hours later…]

Mind. Blown. Let’s talk tomorrow.
[Next day…]

OK—for the readers—brief plot overview, if I can do it without spoilers. Gaurav Chandna is a young man in Delhi who bears a striking physical resemblance to his hero, Aryan Khanna, an actor 30 years older; in fact, Gaurav calls himself Aryan’s “biggest fan” and has built his life around studying, admiring, and even imitating him. He calls himself “Aryan Khanna Junior” and longs to meet his hero in person, convinced that they would get along as good friends once “Senior” learns of his admiration. After Gaurav wins money in a performance contest he travels to Mumbai for Khanna’s annual birthday greeting to his fans to meet the star; but is rebuffed from getting close to him. This sets off a chain of events that both draw the pair together and separate them even further.

Reaction: Fan was SO GOOD. Plenty of “insider” SRK jokes, like the ring tone on Gaurav’s phone being the theme from DDLJ (I had to explain that to my companion, she hadn’t seen it), and how did they get him to look 30 years younger?! This is probably the best acting I’ve seen SRK do, bar none. Of course he had to try to top Aamir’s turn in Dhoom 3, but Aamir was better, I think, at doing two totally different characters.

Jenny K: I agree, though I thought Shah Rukh’s acting gave Aamir a very close run. He was using nuances of performance that I hadn’t seen for a very long time! And, it’s funny that we both thought immediately of

[spoiler alert] [spoiler alert] [spoiler alert] 

the final twins scene from Dhoom 3. What is it with the falling twin thing in Bollywood films? Showing us what a “leap” they’re attempting? Sorry, couldn’t help it.

[end spoiler alert]

Still, compared to all the cop/gangster mediocrities and misbegotten attempts at superhero films that have been emerging from Mumbai lately, Fan is close to groundbreaking!Fan: SRK as Gaurav

The de-aging effects were fascinating. His transformation was done for the most part with practical makeup effects, albeit done by Greg Cannom, Brad Pitt’s makeup designer from Benjamin Button.

The face I understand…latex pieces on the cheek and jaw, CGI narrowing the nose and taking out the lines and bags around the eyes, plus they spoke about a specific kind of contact lens that (I think) bulged out the eyes a bit, and a dental piece that changed and evened his teeth and added a slight lisp…plus the DDLJ era wig. What I don’t understand is how they got the doughy almost adolescent torso when he took his shirt off. Did they use a body double? Or did they just let him carb-out for a month and then CGI out any left-over body hair/extraneous texture? Final verdict, he still looks better to me as he is, at fifty, nose, wrinkles and all!

Fan: SRK as AryanJulie M: I noticed the teeth prosthesis–that was the only unconvincing aspect of the transformation. I also noticed the body differences–I suspected a body double with a CGI-enhanced head. But I also noticed that the 50-year-old SRK—I mean Aryan—looks way better on film than in real life (SRK’s real life), which I suspect is also due to some more-careful-than-usual special effects wizardry.

Flaws: the fight scenes went on too long (as usual, Indian film never knows when to quit on fight scenes), the of-course-he-did motorcycle chase, and the lack of a strong female lead–but I can excuse that last one because that’s not where the story really is. The other two, well, they are never my favorite parts of any film, Indian or American.

Jenny K: Actually, I saw in the credits that they were using Korean fight directors in this film for the first time. I think this is why Kathy liked it as much as she did…she’s been mega-binging on Korean films these days, and they’re luring her away from Mother India!

Julie M: Yeah, I noticed that the quality of the fighting was stepped up a little. Still too much of it, though.Fan 4

Jenny K: I liked the climbing out the window stunt, though.  Way vertiginous!

My main complaint with it, and it’s coming to be my universal gripe, is that there aren’t enough musical numbers for my song-loving palate. With all the backstage and onstage settings, all I got was snippets! And the big number, “Jabra,” which is a nice one and a big hit, is only available online, not present in the film, even over the end credits! What a waste! Here’s one with subtitles.

Julie M: But the “meta” aspect is the mind-blowing thing: an actor of incredible fame who always says he owes it all to his fans playing an actor of incredible fame who says he owes it all to his fans–but really can’t care about his fans because he would then have no time to act, which is what the fans like. There is one little speech in the film that approaches that last bit, which I think could have been done slightly more thoughtfully and REALLY blown me away.

Jenny K: I know when I first heard about Fan, and they hadn’t mentioned that it was a duplicate role, I thought how cool it was that SRK was fostering the stardom of a new young actor as the “fan.” But then I found out he was playing opposite himself, as he has done many times before, this time with the benefit of state-of-the-art CGI, and I was mildly appalled, and disappointed at the dashing of my hopes of his generosity of spirit.

Now, after seeing the finished product, I don’t believe I’ve given Shah Rukh enough credit. It actually isn’t the vanity piece I’d feared, and I left the cinema reading all sorts of things into his performance. He hasn’t put this out there as proof of his acting chops… I already knew that (Dil Se!). It seemed to me as if, with this film, Shah Rukh, as an actor, is giving us an intellectual musing on the fight within himself about what one loses when you become a star, on what comes with public acclaim and what you have to do to keep it. The character of Aryan, and by extension SRK himself, has lost his youth, his innocence, his capacity for spontaneous behavior and self-expression without self censoring, etc. He always has to “do what’s expected” or all will be taken away. I’m not left with the sense that either the actor or the character regrets the choices he’s made, but that he is always aware of them, and the costs involved. And instead of seeing him as stealing a role from a young actor, I ended up feeling that he had no choice but to act both sides of himself for us.

Julie M: Whoah. Well said, girl.

Jenny K: Thanks, glad you agree. You see some of the same thought processes involved in his two part behind-the-scenes documentaries by Nasreen Munni Kabir, The Inner/Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan (2006). My mother loved these, and trapped my father in the living room until he watched the Inner World with her. Nice memories!

[Ware! Ware! Spoilers ahead! Read on at your own peril!!!!!]Gaurav in the Crowd

Julie M: Final thing for now–about the end–I totally thought Aryan was going to apologize after he saw Gaurav lying dead on the sidewalk, and then when he didn’t I thought he was going to mouth an apology when he “saw” Gaurav in the birthday crowd at the very end. The fact that he didn’t meant that Aryan hasn’t grown from the experience, and in a way it means SRK is not as “humbled” by his fans as he pretends to be.

Jenny K: I didn’t think that Aryan had to apologize for anything except calling the police in on Gaurav at the beginning. That was “full-on heavy-handed star” mentality in action. But what he said was reasonable, and Gaurav would have been wiser to take what he said as a wakeup call. But he didn’t, and he actively chose to not let Aryan save him…he let go, didn’t he? At least that’s the impression I’m left with. But Gaurav was bat-shit crazy…so it probably would never have ended happily.

Julie M: Absolutely bat-shit crazy and I knew from the very moment he was introduced that he would die in the end. But I expected a bit of thaw, or at the very least some humanity, from the star…that didn’t really happen. I think SRK was taking some real risks with this, harking back to the early days when he did negative roles before he hit it big with romantic-hero stuff.

So, we’re both giving out two serious thumbs up for this unique departure for Mr. Movie Star Badshah Khan! Go out and catch this special picture, even if it doesn’t have enough music and dancing for Jenny the die-hard. Continue reading

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.

Aug. 19, 2013: 2JPK’s Party on the Chennai Express

Julie M:  OK…This was a special Filmi-Goris x 4 outing, with the much-storied Pat and Kathy joining Jenny and Julie IN PERSON for the opening weekend of Shah Rukh Khan’s latest, Chennai Express (2013).

In short: if you are a die-hard SRK fan this is something you will definitely enjoy. If you aren’t…well…

Jenny K: You can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Chennai-ExpressJulie M: Plot summary: Rahul (SRK) is a 40-year-old working in his grandfather’s Mumbai sweet shop, the grandfather who raised him after his parents died when he was a young boy. He’s not been allowed to go out on his own or get married, and he is the apple of Grandpa’s eye, so he’s been in a sort of prolonged adolescence his whole adult life. In fact, he and his two boyhood buddies are planning a secret bro’s vacation to Goa to scope out the lay-deez when Grandfather suddenly passes away. Grandmother tasks Rahul with taking the ashes ALL the way to southeast India–to G’pa’s ancestral village, it seems–in the exact opposite direction from Goa. He and the gang hatch an alternative plan that involves throwing Grandma off the trail by SEEMING to board a southward train–the Chennai Express–while in reality escaping at the next station to turn right around and go beachward.

Well, life throws Rahul a curve and he ends up “rescuing” Meena (Deepika Padukone), a Tamil don’s daughter, who is being dragged back to Daddy after escaping a forced engagement, only to find himself also dragged southward with her and her captors. Escape is impossible, as is Meena, so Rahul has only his charm and his wits (both in short supply) to try and get himself out of a number of scrapes, including a looming fight to the death with the seriously large dude Meena is engaged to, all the while accompanied by a very large urn containing Grandpa’s mortal remains.

Running for the trainThis is one slapstick film complete with mud-dunkings, comic car chases and misunderstandings arising from language barriers. SRK mugs his way through situation after situation with his trademark babble-banter that to me seemed to work better when he was younger, all the while somehow making the girl fall in love with him. Too slapstick for me in the first half; luckily the 2nd half finds Rahul eating some hero pills offstage and finally sacking up.

Jenny K:  Mud-dunkings and comic car chases are director Rohit Shetty’s oeuvre, as I understand it (Golmaal…need I say more?). Should we expect it to make sense?

Kathy K:  Yes, the plot is ridiculous and its 30 minutes too long (especially when they are beating SRK to a pulp), but as a die-hard SRK fan, he once again saved the show for me.

Pat B: I have to go with Julie on this one. There were a few humorous moments like when Meena makes the comment about Rahul being fifty (the look on his face was worth it)

Jenny K:  She actually said “having no mother for fifty years” right after he had said she died when he was eight…so I don’t blame him for looking aghast when she was saying he must be fifty-EIGHT!  It was funny.

Pat B:  And the DDLJ music playing while she is running for the train (and then the others running for the train)…I smiled and chuckled. But, the other overdone mugging stuff made me uncomfortable and I felt it was done for lack of a better script and more clever scenes.

Julie M: SRK was my least favorite part of the film; but there was plenty of other stuff to like. The scenery, for example, was fabulous. The two big dance numbers showcase all that is fun about Bollywood from about 10-15 years ago, particularly this one.

Pat B: Oddly, I wasn’t that taken by the big dance scenes. I liked the old style grandeur of them, but I just was less than impressed by the dance choreography. The one scene I did fall for was the beautiful romantic scene with the song, “Titli”, between the lovers. Stunning! (The one where Kathy tapped me on the shoulder and nodded her head….yeah, Shah Rukh was totally gorgeous in that scene).

Jenny K: You probably like “Titli” better because Farah Khan choreographed it, and it’s more Bolly-Traditional.  The “1-2-3-4 (Booty Shake)” number [at the bottom of the post] is Kolly-Traditonal, the whole way  — from the item girl, Priyamani (who I thought was fabulous!) to the choreographer, Raju Sundaram, who is Prabhu Deva’s brother.

The cinematography was really lush, I was especially seduced by the vistas at the top of the temple stairs in the scene right before Pat’s song begins (nice scene, acting-wise, as well) and the scenes of the tea plantations, almost as lovingly shot as in last month’s Paradesi. Despite the “Kashmir” title of Julie’s song, I’d bet they were the same fields in Paradesi, which were supposed to be in Tamil Nadu…if anyone bothered to report on locations. Bother.

But just like cotton candy, this movie has faded from my consciousness along with its fairly shallow sweetness. Nothing too offensive about it, except some of SRK’s wardrobe (what is it with all those spray painted waistcoats in the final number?!? Yuck!), yet nothing too memorable.

Pat B: Gone for me too, Jenny, except that one beautiful song and scene. I am so happy I saw that on the big screen. And the lushness does make me want to go to South India…great travel promo.

Kathy K:  What would have completed this vintage trip down masala lane would have been one or two more full songs.  Have you noticed how the new movies are getting away from these?  Sigh.  The film had a good item number, but the other songs could have been placed better.  It seemed end-loaded with dance numbers.

Julie M: I didn’t even mind the now-obligatory rap song over the ending credits.

I also liked a running gag wherein the two leads must communicate in Hindi through song to throw off the bad guys, who only spoke Tamil, allowed the audience to have fun recognizing classic Bollywood tunes. And I was impressed with Deepika Padukone, despite her casting as the typical feisty love interest that might have been played by Kajol back in the day, actually showed some acting talent.

Jenny K:  I agree. I think Deepika has matured in her performances quite a bit. Shah Rukh was charming in the second half but the first half’s humor, as I expected, was too broad for me and had a slightly annoying aftertaste to all of it. While I laughed at the “Now you have annoyed me so much that I have to go sit down” bits, when they kept repeating, I found myself thinking that this stuttering buffoon before me was an incarnation that Shah Rukh had left behind him long ago. Why did he feel the need to revisit it?

Chennai-Express OutfitsJulie M: I did not hate it and found plenty to like, but the ending and the EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG AND BLOODY fight scene ruined all my goodwill for this film.  Plus, I found the ending full of mixed messages. “Give your daughters agency, but let me have her only after I’ve successfully fought for her.” WTF? It would have made much more sense if Rahul had foregone the “we’re modern now” speech, fought the big scary dude for his own reasons [self-respect, etc.], won, and then said “By the way, Dad, I shouldn’t have had to do this to win your daughter if I was who she wanted all along.” I also feel that they did not sufficiently set up Rahul as an arrested-adolescent early in the film, which would have made the 2nd half make WAY more sense narratively (stepping up to be the next generation of manliness once Grandpa has died).

Pat B: I think it was a bad redo of the end of DDLJ.

Jenny K: But, as Pat would agree, half the enjoyment of the film was getting the audience to reference old SRK nostalgic classics like DDLJ in the first place (his last line of the movie before the credits was that title, wasn’t it?). But I go along with consensus that  the end fight could have been shortened or skipped altogether…I know the guys like that sort of thing, but I really felt that I’d seen it all before, substituting sticks for shovels. Check that scene out and see what I mean.

Plus, cinematically, there were some very odd effects.  Perhaps it’s just loaded with Tamil film references that I don’t know yet…like the credit song’s homage to Rajinikanth. I mean, those multiple shots of our hero from the feet up, as he is walking on glass…look awfully similar to this one, yes? Look at 1:00 and 1:20. All that slo-mo circular pan on RK, with him frozen in mid kick, just makes me wonder if his martial arts are, shall we say, augmented, a good percent of the time. Sacreligious, I know…

Julie M: I did like the “walking on glass” bit. It was so contrived and in such an obvious way that it tickled me, because they knew they were working with a trope.

So, all in all, it all added up to a meh-plus for me. Not something to search out, particularly, but fun if you have the opportunity. Wait for the DVD version; a big screen is not necessary for this one.

Kathy K: On a final note, just go to relax and listen to the wonderful audience laugh at the inside language, jokes and applaud when SRK comes on screen.

Pat B: It gave me great dreams that night. Move over, Gauri.

Kathy K: Of course, there are his eyes, lashes, nose, lips…… Ouch! Jenny just slapped me!

Jenny K:  Sorry…sometimes drastic measures are necessary.

When we began this, I thought we were all grown women….but, I guess, Shah Rukh can make women of all ages forget for a while.

By the way, don’t click the video if you don’t want to be singing the chorus for the next week.

 

Nov. 29, 2012: Thanksgiving for the Parade of New Films — PART II

Okay, now that we’ve had a few days to digest our holiday film feast, Julie and I are back with Part II of the new reviews.  It seems like I’m spending an inordinate amount of time at the Loehmann’s Cinemas in Falls Church, VA, even for me!  I’m blaming it on Kathy and Pat for enabling me…and Shah Rukh for refusing to age, and continuing to ensnare us, year after year in those fathomless dimples of his.

Jenny K:  Well…finally over my latest crazy costume deadline, and I decided to celebrate by going out to see the latest food comedy out there in Hindi Movieland, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012). It had me thinking two things…one, why does everyone in this film remind me of someone else (not necessarily in a bad way) and, two, where can I get some hot parathas after this movie lets out!!! Every third shot has someone flipping the bread over on the griddle, over an open flame and someone slathering ghee all over it!  It’s a crime they don’t have any Indian food at the concession stand…I’m hungry!  And that may be partly inspired by our star…Kunal Kapoor has his first solo starring hero role since his debut in Meenaxi.  Here’s the trailer, with optional subtitles.

Julie M:  Oooh, baby, food AND Kunal Kapoor?  Let me at it!!

Jenny K:  Kunal does a nice job in a slightly quiet role, and only falls short a bit in the dancing aspect (as exhibited in the final number over the credits, particularly). Madhuri must have been riding him like crazy in Aaja Naachle, because I didn’t notice a particular lack, in that one. He’s cut his long hair and shaved his beard, and though I thought I would miss them, he’s quite dishy in this new look. Sort of a cross between Aamir and Hrithik, if you can imagine that.

 

Julie M:  Mmmm…tasty…but I like Kunal’s long hair and slightly scruffy look he’s known for better than this, dishy or not.  It about killed me to see Don 2 and he had cut his locks for that one!

 

Jenny K:  Kunal plays Omi, a sad sack, would-be player who steals money from his family and goes off to make his fortune, supposedly, in London, but when the story starts he’s come back with his tail between his legs, and an NRI-Indian mob boss who he owes money to, hot on his trail. He tries to get more money from his family while making them think he’s changed his ways and become a hot young lawyer back in LimeyLand. His grandfather, played by Vinod Nagpal, who reminds me a bit of Pankaj Kapur for some reason, has had a stroke or something and no longer remembers his relatives or, more importantly, the recipe for his famous chicken khurana which made his restaurant thrive. Of course, Omi’s return is central to the rebirth of the family fortunes, but it takes a reaaaaaly long time to get there.
Kunal’s leading lady Huma Qureshi, has been in a few films lately,  (Gangs of Wasseypur, Trishna) but this seems to be her first try at romantic comedy.  She plays the role of Omi’s young love, Harman, who he left behind and she’s gone on to become a doctor.

Harman is now engaged to Omi’s adopted brother Jeet (Rahul Bhagga), but neither one of the engaged pair seem particularly enthused about this turn of events. Huma is a nicely rounded beauty, who oozes intelligence and a shy sex appeal that sort of harks back to the early Kajol charm, say in DDLJ. She depicts her resistance to Omi’s return and the gradual crumbling of her resolves in a very believable way. I look forward to seeing her again.  Here’s the video of the title song.

 

Julie M:  That’s kind of a big topic:  “Who is the Next Kajol?”  You like Huma, I like Genelia, and for a while there Anushka Sharma had some possibilities.  At least we know it’s not Priyanka Chopra, right?

 

Jenny K:  Kajol has a much more girl-next-door quality than most of the new girls have, and that Priyanka isn’t really shooting for, is she?  I sort of thought she was gunning for the Next Madhuri or the Next Aish, at best…however, her performance in Barfi! may be showing her aim for more substance over the glamour angle.

 

Julie M:  We’ll reserve judgment until we see her performance in the upcoming Zanjeer remake, where she plays the role made famous by the feisty Jaya Badhuri (Bachchan).  Although substance that’s not…more about that when we review the 1973 original.

 

Jenny K:  Where Luv Shuv’s concerned, I think that the plot had a few too many extra characters for clarity, and a few dead-end red herrings that made me go “Really?” too often.  Although the script could have benefited from at least twenty minutes off of it, I enjoyed the end result. Especially liked the pagal Uncle Titu played by Rajesh Sharma, who I feel like I’ve seen before, and I must have in The Dirty Picture, but can’t really place him. Here’s a nice article on him.  

When watching this sort of unfortunate final-credit item number, I just kept wishing that Javeed Jaffrey had played the gangster in this one…someone in the number should know how to dance.  Liked the soundtrack, though, by Amit Trivedi.

Julie M:  LSTCK looks very sweet, kind of Today’s Special vibe-y and very indie-feeling. EVERYTHING is at my local theater but I have no time to go!!! I don’t know about Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it’s gotten mixed reviews but it would be nice to see SRK in a Yash Chopra film again.

Jenny K:  I’m going to see JTHJ with Kathy and Pat tonight, I think. I’ll let you know where I stand.

[the next day…]

Jenny K:  Well, I survived the evening, and enjoyed Jab Tak Hai Jaan (As Long As I Live, 2012)…somewhat. Nice being out with the girls, but even they, who are the ultimate SRK fans, seemed a bit underwhelmed.  Paraphrasing Kathy’s verdict, “Good, of course, but I’ve seen it before, and done better.”  We all sort of felt that Veer Zaara had that thwarted love thing pretty well perfected for director Yash Chopra, and wondered why he wanted to have his last film seem like a slightly watercolor version of that earlier film.

SRK looked pretty good, but I think that his own personal digital effects company may have de-aged his face a bit for the first half when he was supposedly playing 28.

I liked the look in the second half, at “38,” almost better, though with the amount of gray hair in the stubble, I’d think that 38 was a kind estimate. He is in good shape, pretty buff, not too buff or too skinny, both of which we like him to avoid. His performance was the strongest in the movie, charming and touching without overacting.

Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma were both pretty and endearing leading ladies. Neither had the Kajol certain-something in the chemistry with him, but certainly not as bland as all the reviews have said.

Katrina sort of danced him off the floor in the following number, “Ishq Shava,”  though it has more impact during the actual scene.  This clip has been edited down from about three separate sections of the number, in the dance hall, on the ship and outside the dance hall on the dock. It’s a much longer number and has more drama, especially at the beginning where SRK is encouraging Katrina’s character to “let it all out” and finally be herself. She dances with at least three other guys before he joins her, and you can’t take your eyes off her. Kat may not be a flawless actress, but no one should say she can’t dance.  

Julie M:  I don’t think she’s as bad as everyone says.  Maybe because my first experience with her was in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which you said was an unusually good performance for her, but really, she’s no better or worse than any of the other beauty queens out there now.

Jenny K:  The thing that may bring the audience out in droves is Shah Rukh’s first on-screen kissing…yep, at the ripe old age of 47…he’s given in. Maybe not open mouth kissing, they still block those shots with the back of Katrina’s head, but definitely several lip on lip shots, where he seemed not to be able to get enough of Katrina.  Each time he made the plunge there was an audible “OOOOhhhhoooohhhhh!” from the audience.  Even the young college age guys were hooting and laughing a bit.

My main reaction was “Why, and why now?”…maybe it was a business decision. I can almost hear his wife, Gauri, who’s often an executive producer on his films, brainstorming with him, “What can we do to put people in the seats?…old fashioned romance, separated lovers, FABULOUS shots of Ladakh scenery, all sorts of visual reminders of DDLJ, a bit more skin, and, yes, Shah Rukh, you’re going to have to follow Hrithik’s lead and lay on the lips…I know it’s tough, but, heck, your lips are twice as big as HR’s so you should get twice the hoopla, hai na?”

Julie M:  !!!! OK, you’ve got me.  Gotta see this.

Jenny K:  The negatives are all on the writer’s side, I’m afraid: the plot…big holes, especially in the second half, and the length. Anushka (so cute in Band Baaja Baaraat, and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) did as much as she could, but the plot had her playing the “door-prize role” Preity Zinta rather perfected in Dil Se… and the writers chose to have him pine and whine, as usual, for his old “ideal” girl.  My hopes for a more healthy ending were dashed. In addition, my stand on three hour films is weakened when it doesn’t actually advance the story. Note to Aditya Chopra: you really needed to credit the writers of The Hurt Locker for a large chunk of this movie.

Julie M:  I didn’t see The Hurt Locker.  Can you expand on that…is it a direct rip-off, or did they actually write some of it?  Pardon my lack of currency here.

 

Jenny K:  Well, no, not a slavish copy, of course.  The original would have been too unrelievedly depressing for the audience SRK usually draws.  But both deal with a man who is so cavalier about his own life that he can defuse bombs with complete cool and apparent disregard for his own safety (no special suit, very little back-up, if any, etc.).  They both come on like Army Supermen…Shah Rukh, of course, does it with a tight black tee, dark shades and a cool motorcycle.  Bet Jeremy Renner wishes he wrote that last one into his contract!

Next time, we’ll see what Aamir Khan has up his sleeve with Talaash!

March 5, 2012: Politics, Poetry, Prose ~ A Filmi World-Serious

Julie M:  Watched Hey Ram (2000) tonight. I am officially in love with Kamal Haasan, who although he is not as good looking as Aamir Khan, is, I think, the better actor. The film was gut-wrenching and absolutely excellent, the story of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary times, doing things he thought he’d never do as he searches for his convictions. Supporting turns by SRK and Rani Mukherji were likewise excellent (although SRK really overplayed his character’s death scene, what a ham!), and it took me a while to recognize that it was Naseeruddin Shah playing Gandhi, he so completely inhabited the role.          

Jenny K: I know what you mean, but it’s hard to miss that highly identifiable nose.  He’s cute even creaky, old and in a dhoti…I’m so far gone…

 

Julie M:  Haasan plays Sakhet Ram, a Hindu archaeologist in the 1940s who gets along well with the British and is vehemently opposed to Partition and the idea of Pakistan.  Shah Rukh Khan is his friend and fellow archaeologist.  A personal tragedy involving Ram’s wife (Rani Mukherji) radicalizes his hatred towards Muslims, and he becomes an anti-Gandhi activist.  There’s quite a bit of violence and political back-and-forth, which was a little confusing, but a bit of research straightened things out for me.

This review/analysis does more than I ever could to unpack the layers of the film.  I had to read it several times and it only confirmed my opinion of Kamal Haasan’s incredible talent as writer, producer, director and actor.  And I really liked this German compilation of clips to music (not from the film).

Thanks for including this one in the box: amazing. You can tell how much I liked it by how speechless I am.

 

Jenny K:  I should read the article thoroughly and then watch it again… Glad you liked it, though Rani’s final scene gave me the heebie jeebies for a while afterwards the first time I saw it. If you like Kamal Haasan that much, I’ll send you VeluNayakan, that Godfather film the next time I send a package. I know you don’t like mob films much, but it really is one of the best of his that I have seen, plus, it has Mani Ratnam directing it.

 

Julie M:  So I watched the first hour of Pyaasa (Eternal Thirst, 1957) and was thoroughly bored. Unsuccessful poet Vijay (Guru Dutt—who also produced and directed the film, coincidentally like Kamal Haasan!) is turned out by his family, is appreciated only by a prostitute, and meets up with his ex-girlfriend who, as it turns out, is married to someone who can get his poems published.  What to do? Who to choose? Bleh. Snore. Great songs, though, and Mala Sinha is (was) so stunning as Meera, the ex. Didn’t find Waheeda Rehman (as the prostitute) particularly mesmerizing, though–but I understand her big part comes later in the film.  Worth continuing to plow through it?

 

Jenny K:  Wouldn’t have sent it if I didn’t think so…a different kettle of fish from Raj Kapoor’s Awaara, but just as well known, and also classic.  I think the tension builds as it goes on. It’s a bit more along the lines of Devdas in the tortured poet thing, but I found it easier to take. The last scene in the lecture hall is wonderful, and where he is silhouetted in the doorway, it’s almost messianic in its imagery…and the song is fabulous.

But, of course, you must decide for yourself.

[the next day]

Julie M:  I took your advice and finished Pyaasa. Thanks for encouraging me to push on; glad I did.  It actually made more sense to me than Devdas, maybe because I understand the artistic temperament more than I understand stupid boys too weak to claim their love for themselves. I understood why he rejected those who were only willing to acknowledge him once he proved himself financially desirable, because I would have done exactly the same thing. And about the messianic thing, I know it’s Hindu but I found lots of Christ-like imagery (hanging out with prostitutes, “you will deny me three times”, the Christ on the cover of the magazine Meena is reading when she learns that Vijay is dead, etc.) except, of course, this has a much happier ending, we are led to assume.

 

Jenny K:  Some things are universal in their appeal to the human psyche, aren’t they? Whatever your religious point of view.

 

Julie M: Wonderful music, very interesting and poetic lyrics.  I particularly liked this one, where Waheeda’s character is flirting with Vijay thinking he’s a potential customer, but all he wants is his poems back, which she had bought as scrap paper. 

This one was cute, too. The massage-wallah is talking about how great people will feel after he works on them. 

I also liked the call-back to Awaara‘s dream-sequence with the dream sequence in this film. 

At first I thought that Rehman, who played Meena’s evil husband, was Dev Anand–if you take off the glasses they have a similar look. Or maybe it’s just the period–a lot of male actors looked alike.

 

Jenny K:  I thought Rehman reminded me of Prithviraj Kapoor crossed with tiny bits of Shammi (in his quieter moments)…

 

Julie M:  My other weekend viewing was Aarakshan (Reservation, 2011), the one I missed in the theater. This was the film starring (sigh) Amitabh Bachchan as the principled principal Prabhakar Anand, staunchly defending his view that education should be available to anyone from any caste and a reservation (aka quota/affirmative action) system acts to ensure access.

Saif Ali Khan co-stars as Deepak Kumar, a member of one of the low castes whose education was facilitated by Anand’s beliefs and who regards Anand as a mentor. Deepika Padukone plays Poorbi, Anand’s daughter and Deepak’s girlfriend, and Prateik (sigh) is Sushant, a college student and Poorbi and Deepak’s good friend. The villain is Manoj Bajpai, and Yashpal Sharma is a helpful stable owner. Hema Malini makes a cameo appearance at the end, although her photo is seen throughout the first half.

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I read reviews about this one and thought it sounded too dry to have me spend my hard-earned pesos on it, even given the good intentions of the theme, and Amitabh’s presence.  Was the story interesting?

 

Julie M:  The plot involves Anand, the longtime head of the renowned private college S.T.M., who has a practice of giving a “leg up” to lesser qualified but very promising applicants from backward castes. This enrages the trustees and the upper-caste parents whose children score higher but are rejected because there are no places. Things come to a head when a government minister’s son is rejected, and he installs the evil Mithilesh Singh first as a trustee, then as vice-principal, in an attempt to find a way to oust Anand.

Singh also runs a private coaching school for high-caste students as a very profitable side business. When the government formally adopts a 27% reservation system for public education and employment, the situation blows up both around the country and at S.T.M. Deepak (a S.T.M. instructor headed for the US for his doctorate) and Sushant are on opposite sides of the issue and have a violent confrontation; Anand fires Deepak and expels Sushant. Deepak flees to the US and Sushant disappears. Then Anand loses his job over some comments he made to the press and the family leaves town for a while.

When they return they find that their house has been taken over by Singh’s coaching school and they have no legal way to stop it. Anand puts his principles into action by starting a rival coaching school, for free, in the stable across the street, where he takes all comers, aided by Deepak and Sushant, who have since returned and are buddies again.  This school becomes so popular that Singh seeks to ruin it. You can pretty much guess that he fails; at the end Anand is vindicated and S.T.M.’s founder, played by Hema Malini, funds a new coaching academy with Anand as the principal and chief trustee.

 

Jenny K:  Oh, that Manoj Bajpai! He’s such a delicious villain…I’ve seen him in very few films that he wasn’t indulging in lots of moustache twirling fun. I remember first hearing of him when he was full of sour grapes that he hadn’t been asked to do Devdas rather than SRK. Not sure I can see it. My favorite one with him is still the very over-the-top-and-loving-it Aks with BigB. My winner for Best Psychopath Serial Killer in Hindi films…if not for accuracy, then for sheer audacity. Rather creepy, though…lots of rather unhealthy imagery. Can’t say it’s a true thumbs up.

 

Julie M:  The first half of the film is what you’d expect: plenty of dramatic speeches by various characters on both sides of the reservation system issue, with personality-developing scenes for the main characters. Some people would find the speeches tiresome, but my love for issue-driven film and lack of real knowledge of the issue made it fascinating for me. The second half delves into the family drama and exposes the true evilness of the villain, with inspirational scenes of Anand’s influence on his young students and a stirring climax where the scrappy stable school resists the might of the corrupt government and profiteering private school system. Although it was all somewhat predictable, I was nevertheless quite entertained.

There was one big dance number that was very out of place, however, I liked much better this number from early in the film, introducing the Deepak/Poorbi romance.

This was about as romantic as it got, since they ended up fighting and then separated for most of the rest of the film, never really getting back together.

 

Jenny K:  Were you really expecting romance in such a blatant issue film?  Well, with your favorite, Saif in it, you probably had your fingers crossed.

 

Julie M:  I hated Saif’s mustache and the fact that he was OBVIOUSLY way too old for Deepika’s character (he was supposed to be a recent college grad, she was a college student who somehow had all day-every day free to hang out at her dad’s school). I kept rooting for Poorbi to throw Deepak over and get together with Sushant, because they were a much cuter couple. Alas, she fought with Sushant, too, and after they were out of the action she had nothing else to do except throw tantrums at her parents and narrow her eyes when she was in the presence of the evil Singh.

Overall I liked it–good issue and decent writing and drama. Three stars, would have been 3-1/2 had it not been so darned predictable.

Jan. 27, 2011: Doubles Trouble…Disguised and Confused

Julie M:  Okay, I’ve got a question.  Why are fraudulent and duplicate identities such a popular theme in Indian film? American films don’t do it so often–well, maybe they do in stupid farces I don’t watch–so what’s so attractive about the theme to Indian audiences? Maybe a secret wish to pretend to be someone that has a different kind of life? To experience a kind of reincarnation without forgetting previous lives?

Jenny K:  They certainly do use the theme more than we do, but it is a classic back to Shakespearean plays and beyond. Of the ones we’ve done already, there’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which I watched again last night on Netflix (liked it better this time), Don 1&2, the second half of DDLJ, etc. Lots of others we haven’t talked about, like Shah Rukh in Duplicate. SRK doesn’t seem to want to be himself very often, does he? Or some say, he’s always being himself. Oh well, it worked for Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn…

 

Julie M:  Is there an Indian actor of major status who has NOT done a double role like this?

 

Jenny K:  A double role or a disguised role? But I think for the men it’s a no to either question. I think there are a few of the women who have done one or the other, and a few that have done neither. Women, I guess are supposed to be dumb enough to be fooled but not men…

Julie M:  Well, I guess you can count Rani’s second identity as the prostitute in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, but it’s not like she was trying to deceive anyone, just protecting her own honor, somewhat.

Jenny K:  It’s just not as often that you see the women do this kind of thing. Rani and Abhishek both did lots of identity shifting in Bunty Aur Babli, but that isn’t quite the same thing.

Julie M:  No, it’s not…the whole plot of BaB is the crime spree:  the alternate identities just helped them pull it off.  Although, the reason they did the crime spree in the first place is because they wanted to distance themselves from their failures as their actual selves…so it does make a weird kind of sense.

Jenny K:  Kajol has had at least one twin role that I remember, in Dushman.  Never seen Aish do either, to my recollection. Preity and Ajay pretend to be rich players in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, that also ends up with Ajay playing a twin role. Then there is Khal Nayak where Madhuri takes on a false identity.

Julie M:  Duh, Khal Nayak. I just saw that.

Jenny K:  I’m sure there’s more…Wait. Haven’t watched it yet, but Rani pretends to be a man in Dil Bole Hadippa! so she can play cricket, but then falls for Shahid. Got it in my queue at Netflix. She must have been the tiniest Sikh guy to ever wear the beard.

Julie M:  Maybe women-pretending-to-be-men, a la DBH!, in order to achieve something that is denied to women by the culture is a different issue? DBH! is very Shakespearean as well. Like Twelfth Night, recently made into the delightful-ish 2006 teen comedy She’s the Man, where a girl pretends to be her twin brother so she can play soccer and falls for a guy on her team.

Jenny K:  That’s really loosely Twelfth Night, isn’t it? Viola pretended to be a boy to save her own life…a woman alone in the world back then was in desperate straights…she wasn’t doing it to achieve something she couldn’t have as a woman. She thought her brother was dead, too, not that that is a particular issue, but it adds to the pathos. In the US we tend to do more body-switching or regressing films to “show how the other half lives,”  films like 17 Again (which I loved)/Back to the Future/Freaky Friday and that more recent one with Ryan Reynolds and Paul Rudd that seemed too crass to watch, so I didn’t. We seem to like it better when the characters have little or no control over the switching. I wonder why that is?

Julie M:  The Change-up, and it’s Jason Bateman, not Paul Rudd.

Jenny K:  Six of Juan, half a dozen of his brother… 🙂

Julie M:  Nah, Bateman is a much better actor…and technically B to the F is time travel with the characters playing themselves in the past/future, but I see what you mean. To me, body-switching plots in American movies tend to be for the purpose of learning how to empathize. (except for the action movie Face/Off—where it’s for evil—but that’s not body-switching, just face-switching) Maybe it’s a Christian thing–walk a mile in another person’s shoes etc., but what do I know from that, I’m Jewish–and I think that is culturally more attractive to Americans particularly when it’s a switch between generations. Adults always say they want to go back to high school, knowing what they know now, right?

Whereas dual- or alternate-identity plots in Indian film seem to be for the purpose of trying to cram two different lives into one normal lifespan, and may be more attractive in Indian culture.  But here’s a rare Indian body-switching AND gender-switching plot—Mr. Ya Miss—sounds a lot like the awful Rob Schneider film The Hot Chick.

But all this is very different from dual-role movies, where one character is the visual double of another, generally an opposite-personality type, both played by the same actor, and that is the basis of the plotline.  Sometimes one dies and the other replaces him (Kaho Na Pyaar Hai).  Sometimes they turn out to be actual twins but separated, so that one is unaware of the other’s existence (in which case, the purpose seems to be to heighten the story’s melodrama). That, I think, plays with the popular notion/fantasy that everyone has a doppelganger somewhere, and what would happen if they came into the same life-space at the same time.  I found a fun slideshow of recent and famous dual roles.

It’s also a way to get hot or new starlets some extra screen time, particularly when one of the characters is evil or likes to wear revealing clothes (or both):  I refer you to Bipasha Basu in Dhoom 2 and Deepika Padukone (ick) in Om Shanti Om and Chandni Chowk to China (ick) as two examples. So, women seem to get these kinds of roles although they don’t typically play characters with alternate identities.

(warning:  my inner nerd comes out here)  I thought this was pretty cool about why superheroes have been popular as alter egos á la Ra.One, and also sheds light on why dual identities are popular:

“Reincarnation is par for the course. It can be a cosmic pathway for attaining an alternate identity, sense of self, or supreme liberation… Women, who can often be powerless in the real world, can channel the divine female energy to break social convention and triumph over evil.”

Jenny K:  I still stand by my statement that the girls do the double roles much less frequently than the guys do.  My theory may have something to do with watching Pat and Kathy go crazy at every version of SRK that they can possibly watch, the more the better.  Cases in point:  Ra.One and Don 2, every different identity and/or disguise, and even every different makeover elicits hours of post-show dissection. The girls, not so much.

Julie M:  Aha!  Then this probably explains it:

“Audiences have always loved to see their favourite hero in two viable characters where one is shy and the other is daring at an exciting price of single ticket.”

And if the hero is hot…well, who can blame them?!

Speaking of alternate identities, I recently had fun with the comedy Chachi 420 (Aunty Fraud, 1998) despite its being a direct rip-off of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). The basic plotline of the two movies is identical: a man, faced with losing the right to see his kid(s) as he and his wife divorce bitterly, disguises himself as a woman so he can get a job as their nanny and stay in their lives. Both characters face complications trying to maintain their dual identities. The differences in details and ending, though, are emblematic of the vast differences between Indian and American culture, and where the comedy comes from is likewise wildly variant.  I think may help shed light on why alternate-identity films are so popular.

To start with, the basis of the separation of the men from their children is very different. Jai (Kamal Haasan—who also directed the film), the dad in Chachi 420, has very limited visitation with his young daughter because the divorce was granted on the basis of fairly minor “cruelty” to his wife Janki (Tabu).  Not much chance for comedy there. In the American version, a culture where joint custody is pretty much the default in divorce judgments except in extreme circumstances, dad Daniel (Robin Williams) was refused joint custody and given only weekly visitation with his 3 children because he was an unemployed voice actor and generally an irresponsible person.  Voice actor=funny.  Irresponsible=funny.

The relationship of the father to the ex-wife is different, as well.  Jai still loves Janki dearly and hopes for reconciliation (another motive for trying to get closer to the family), but Daniel understands that his relationship with his wife (Sally Field) is at an end–for him, it’s all about the kids.

Both films have comedic love sub-plots. Daniel’s wife has a boyfriend that Daniel works to crowd out of the picture, as he doesn’t think he’s good for the kids (and he’s a bit jealous as well)–how he undermines the boyfriend is very funny but is not the main source of the film’s comedy, which derives from Robin Williams dealing with being in a dress, learning to cook and clean, and having to switch identities in seconds to keep from being found out.

But in Chachi 420, Janki’s widower father falls in love with Chachi, as does Jai’s landlord, and a good portion of the Indian film’s comedy is in Chachi trying to evade their advances. That, and seeing how Chachi beats people up: there is an extended fight scene in a marketplace that is pretty funny, done in South Indian filmi fashion with Chachi standing in for the character normally played by Rajnikanth, but it goes on way too long. Sorry, I can’t find a clip of that scene, but trust me, it’s hilarious.

Jenny K:  So they combined Mrs. Doubtfire with Tootsie, it seems, with the older suitors thing, and doubled it, just to make sure we got the joke!

Julie M:  The reveal scenes where the dual identities are discovered are also very different. In Mrs. Doubtfire, the reveal takes place in public, in a restaurant, where Daniel has to go back and forth between two tables in his different personas and ultimately slips up–and is absolutely hilarious. In Chachi 420, it’s much more serious.  Jai (as Chachi) saves his wife from drowning herself in a river once she realizes how she drove Jai away and that she still loves him; he reveals his true self to her (and her alone) to keep her from continuing suicide attempts.  They reconcile and reunite the family, inventing a tragic death for Chachi.  Mrs. Doubtfire‘s Daniel and his wife never reconcile, but he does end up with a new job hosting a kids’ TV program in the persona of Mrs. Doubtfire, which proves he is responsible enough for a joint custody arrangement.

Jenny K:  You can usually see where the “homage” directors are drawing from the originals, and that’s part of the fun.  I’m, in most cases, pretty good at it…but the suicide on the bridge thing has got me stumped.  Where did that come from?

Julie M:  Oh, that was totally out of the blue. She sees Jai (who has been promoted from choreographer’s assistant to head choreographer on his current film) on TV giving an interview. Jai goes into detail about how he has two children, his 5-year-old daughter and his ex-wife who acts just as childish, and this triggers an extensive flashback as to how they met–very cute, she hit him with her car on a film set–fell in love, eloped and had their daughter.

She realizes how great Jai really is, and she runs to his house to find him, only to find a bunch of Chachi’s clothes and Jai’s dance assistant. (the assistant thinks Chachi is Jai’s housekeeper) Janki leaps to the conclusion that Jai is seeing both the assistant and Chachi, and this prompts her to throw herself off a bridge instead of, hm, I don’t know, leaving him a NOTE??!!!

Jenny K:  You and I obviously don’t feel things deeply enough.  I’ll try to do better.

Julie M:  It’s also a testament to Kamal Haasan’s acting talent that he makes a really good woman. Robin Williams does not–and that’s the funny part of Mrs. Doubtfire.  Here’s the first public appearance of Jai as Chachi.

Jenny K:  I see what you mean…he does look nice…only his forearms give him away. I don’t think I would have recognized him. He is a wonderful actor, though I think I’ve pretty much only seen him in his dramas and not seen his comic side before.

Julie M:   What I thought was funny is that as Chachi, he tucks the front of his sari back between his legs like he is wearing a dhoti, and nobody seems to notice. And throughout the film his fake boobs get bigger and bigger–he is positively svelte in that first reveal scene compared to later in the movie.

It’s also telling that Kamal, in the Jai persona, is a complete straight-man, while as Chachi he’s doing the comedy. It’s like he doesn’t want to pollute peoples’ visions of him as a dramatic actor.

January 8, 2012: Starting the New Year With a Bang

We just can’t escape action films, even though it was the HOLIDAYS, for gosh sake… and everywhere we turn,  people are shooting at us or each other (some in IMAX and 3D)!   So, rather than fight ’em, we decided we might as well join Messers Cruise, Craig and Downey and give in.  But Bollywood has it’s own take on hair-raising, guy-friendly escapism and we watched a bunch of them over our break, including Don 2.  Here’s our take on three, or toke, given the title of the first one!

 

Julie M:  Dum Maaro Dum (Puff, Take a Puff, 2011) is a violence-infused action/thriller about the attempts of one man to single-handedly clean up the contemporary drugs-and-gangsters scene in Goa. This trailer pretty much shows the visuals and style of the film.

The title/item song is a remake of this number from 1971’s Hare Ram Hare Krishna.

 
Jenny K:  It was funny…when I watched your trailer, I thought of the Hare Ram, Hare Krishna movie, but I didn’t recall at that time that that was the name of the song. It was one of Dev Anand’s first films as a director, and Zeenat Aman’s first big hit.  I believe it caused a big to-do with all the drug takin’and the implied free lovin’.

 
Julie M:  Abhishek Bachchan plays the one-man, ACP Vishnu Kamath, an ex-corrupt-cop with a new mission to set things right because his family (Vidya Balan, in a cameo appearance, plays his wife) was killed in a car crash with a drugged-out driver.

Vishnu chases various figures including a small-time player named Ricky (Gulshan Devaia), a reluctant “businessman” named Lorry (Prateik Babbar), an elusive capo-dei-tutti-capi named Michael Barbossa (hey, wasn’t he a pirate?) and, with perhaps the funniest criminal name in Indian film, Lorsa “The Biscuit” Biscuita (played by Aditya Pancholi).  There are the requisite scantily-clad females as well: Bipasha Basu plays Zoe, Biscuit’s second-in-command and girlfriend, there is a pass-around chickie named Rozana (Mariah Pucu Gantois Gomes), and Deepika Padukone steps in to gyrate as the item girl in the title song, which takes place at a rave about two thirds of the way through the film.  

 

Jenny K: I still think Zeenat Aman was much sexier than Deepika, even given how overtly sensual DP’s choreography was. Just my old-fashioned opinion.

 

Julie M:  Similar to Yuva, the main action starts with Lorry getting busted for carrying drugs at the Goa airport and then splits off into flashbacks showing how each of the characters got to that point, then picks back up and moves forward through to the end. It would have been interesting as a technique, except Yuva did it first, and DMD added some very headache-inducing half-time and double-time sequences as well as half-screen double-images (yikes) to heighten the sense that it was in the characters’ memories.  Supposed to be hip and cool, but seemed overly self-conscious to me.

There is one character common to all the stories: the singer Joki, yummily played by Rana Daggubati, check him out in this song.   He’s kind of like a visual narrator since he is the only one who seems to appear in all the various story threads, and he gets to have a hot love scene with Bipasha (thereby standing in for all the males in the audience…).

Things really get going after the drug bust, as Kamath and his team work into the organization and go after Barbossa. Lots of people die, some spectacularly, some gruesomely. And while the end is a perfect revenge fantasy, you get the feeling that it is only a temporary lull in the permanent party-and-kill scene.  No wonder this film aroused the ire of the Goa tourism people.  [youtube-http://movies.ndtv.com/movie_Story.aspx?id=ENTEN20110173562&keyword=&subcatg=]

Abhi does OK in his role, a little wooden though, and as the film started I thought to myself, “Gee, I hope he doesn’t rap in this movie.” Alas, he does, talking about how good it is to be a corrupt cop (ugh). This video intersperses scenes from the movie with scenes of the song, because nobody should see the rap video in its entirety.

 

Jenny K: His dad still does it better, of course, example from Aladin.  Sorry, Abhi…

 

Julie M:  Overall, Dum Maaro Dum is a stylishly made, but ultimately not very interesting, gangster movie that caters to the under-30 set (although if that’s true, why Abhi was chosen as the star completely defeats me). I thought it was merely OK.

[a day or two later]

Jenny K:  Well, I finally got to see Don 2 today…and I’m not sure that you should see it. You always complain when there is too much dishoom, and this film is dishoom to the max.

This is the sequel to Farhan Akhtar’s popular remake Don (2006) [Amitabh starred in the original] in which Shah Rukh Khan essays the double roles of the South Asian Kingpin of Crime, the titular Don, and his simple but sincere doppleganger Vijay. In this follow-up film, I am really missing Vijay, because there’s no simple or sincere focus in the entire movie, and I, for one, had no one to root for.

 

Julie M:  True, I sincerely dislike pointless and gratuitous dishoom…although our holiday entertainment has been a complete re-watch of the four Die Hard movies, which I love. Maybe it’s just Bruce Willis.  But I liked the Vijay character, particularly in the original 1978 Don, and if this film has gone another direction then I question the wisdom of even going.  And my common complaint about most Indian action films is that so few of the stars can dish out a punch without my wanting to laugh hysterically at its awkwardness.

  

Jenny K:  I will agree with Kathy, my co-viewer that day, that the fight choreography looks much more convincingly done, even making it seem plausible when the often physically smaller SRK gets the drop on his larger combatants, however, it is pretty much relentless. I’m hoping Shah Rukh has finally exorcised his Jackie Chan fantasy, and can get it out of his system.

The thumbnail synopsis has Don being singled out by the European drug tsars for a hit, because he’s so dangerous to their business…so Don develops a very convoluted plan to turn himself in to protect himself from their reach and secure himself with immunity for his past crimes by providing the authorities with names, dates, etc. in their quest for these other drug dealers. Seems he’s “tired of his life of crime”…oddly, the powers that be (returning in their roles as the police investigators, Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra) don’t really buy it and toss him in prison.

Ah, but that’s all part of the plan…Don always has a plan…far-fetched or not…and always assayed with consummate style.  SRK is at the top of his game in style, slickness, suavity and any other S-ettes you can think of, but I find I’m hard pressed to be engrossed in a caper film of almost three hours long, when the “hero” is so enormously ethically challenged. He’s ruthless, he’s a player with girls and lives, a major egomaniac, and he has the largest custom fitted designer wardrobe ever sported by a recently released jailbird.

 

Julie M:  Since I’m still recovering from a cold, and it’s snowing like crazy, and I’m back to work tomorrow, and this seems like a typical Hollywood-style action crap-fest, I will skip an attempt to see Don 2 in the theater today. If it’s still around over the weekend I’ll consider it, but if I don’t get there, I’ll just wait until it’s out on DVD. I’ll get my SRK fix another way.

 

Jenny K:  Definitely not a “crap-fest” but… He’s The King, as everyone in and out of the film constantly tells us.   And HE’s BACK!  And THE CHASE CONTINUES…and continues…and continues…as I dozed…once…in the seemingly endless set up to the caper in the bank. Which wasn’t too bad, given the sheer lack of sleep I’ve had for the past two weeks of holiday run-up. Needless to say, Kathy disagrees with me on almost every point of this assessment. She loved it. Eh, it may just not be my type of film.

However, the most fun I had with Don 2 was watching this promo reworking one of the songs from the earlier film to get us into the theater for the new “adventure”. Shah Rukh looks amazing in it, and looks like he’s having a great time…and is a bit tongue-in-cheek in his swaggering here, which is something the movie as a whole could have used more of, as does Robert Downey, Jr. in almost any of his genre films.

 

Julie M:  WOW.  So ishtylish. If the whole movie were like that I’d go, but since you say it isn’t, I’ll wait for the DVD and I can fast-forward through the dishoomiest parts.   SRK looks kinda gaunt underneath the perfectly-fitted leather jacket, though. If he looks that skeletal in the entire film, ugh. Get that man some parathas, stat.

 

Jenny K:  If you fast forward through all the dishoom in Don 2, you ‘ll have about 22 minutes left…hehehe… and as to his look, almost all the outfits were stylin’. Lots of leather. And no odd tie/shirt combos like in the last Don film. Priyanka and Boman looked very well groomed, too.

All my style issues were with Shah Rukh’s hair. In about two thirds of the movie, I think he looked pretty good, even with occasional “leftover Ra.One hair moments”, Kathy’s phrase. The long hair phase was about twenty minutes or so, and was too girly for him, especially pulled back at the top  (even with the shotgun)…however, I liked the facial hair that went with it, and thought he should have kept it for a transitional phase, but he didn’t.  At the end, he rides off on a motorcycle with his Ra.One  “South Indian” curly locks blowing in the breeze.  Very fetching.  End of SRK Hairscaping. Glad you liked the video clip…I had to watch it more than once, myself.

 

Julie M:  And did you notice that in all the Don 2 publicity shots, Farhan’s muscles have gotten way out of control?

 

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen any of them…show me what you meant. Would be a shame if he wasted that sexy boy-next door thing he has going.

 

Julie M:  Oh, gosh. Here’s one.   And another.  And here’s a possibility as to why the new physique.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm.  Here’s the older article about Mehra’s casting ideas on this film.  Farhan’s pushing it a bit playing 22, and he’s much better looking than Milkha Singh, but, if they’ve decided to not go with an unknown…Farhan is better than most, but I think I might go with that kid from Udaan first, Rajat Barmecha. He’d be almost the right age now and had quite a lot of potential in that film.

 

Julie M:  Whoops, so much for an unknown. Oh, well, something else to watch Farhan in.  By the way, you need to send me Rock On! and Karthik Calling Karthik.  Because I just did my first official Indian film re-watch, of ZNMD, and I need more Farhan, and I know you can hook me up.

 

Jenny K:  Now, I don’t buy everything he’s in…almost, but not everything.  I can send you Rock On! but I don’t think I bought KCK.  It was good, but spoiled itself a bit with an added-on, unnecessary happy ending, IMO.

[a couple of days on]

Julie M:  While lying around today trying not to be sick, I watched Kachche Dhaage (Raw Threads, 1999). I thought it was a decent action movie with a gratuitous couple of love stories, without which it could have been a great action movie. Check out this “making of” feature, which does not spoil the film but serves as a good trailer.

 
Aftab (Ajay Devgan) is a minor criminal in a Rajasthan village, engaging for his living in a bit of cross-border smuggling of goods, occasionally including arms, from India to Pakistan. He is trying to marry Rukhsana (Manisha Koirala), whose parents won’t agree because he is illegitimate. Dhananjay (Saif Ali Khan) is a citified yuppie, a broker of financial deals with a contemporary lifestyle and a knockout wife, Ragini (Namrata Shirodkar). The two find out that they are half-brothers over their father’s deathbed and instantly hate each other, exacerbated by the fact that one is Moslem and the other is Hindu.

When a circumstance forces Aftab to call on Dhananjay for a favor, it sets off a series of events involving the both of them escaping from arrest while chained together, corrupt border enforcement officers, a clueless attorney, a runaway train and lots and lots of shooting of various weapons. While on the run together the two of them learn to rely on each other for their lives, and by the end they have forged a true brotherly bond as they collaborate to bring the bad guys to justice.

I am a big fan of good action films and buddy comedies. This is a buddy action film that hinges on the audience believing in the growing relationship between the two heroes, which only truly comes into play in the last quarter of the film. Ajay is suitably glowering as the resentful Aftab and Saif is a proper angrezi [English/Westernized] figure, which means his effete mannerisms are laughable and his wardrobe completely inappropriate. The roles were not particularly challenging for them, and they pulled them off competently.

The love stories are completely irrelevant to the film and to my mind could have been ignored without affecting the storyline. Some other device could have been introduced to reinforce Aftab’s illegitimate status, and another kind of deus ex machina introduced to effect their escape from the runaway train–it didn’t have to be Ragini driving up in a jeep. But it does lead to this amazing stunt sequence, done entirely by Ajay.

 

Jenny K:  Of course Ajay’s stunt scene would be good. His father is a stunt man and Ajay got his start by doing crazy far-out stunts.  Someone has collected some clips of his best “entrances” on Youtube.

 

Julie M:  The love songs were merely OK, nothing special. The big dance numbers were 100% gratuitous, although fun, particularly this item number, which occurs at the point where the two escapees have lodged for the night at a small village. Despite its flaws the movie is a lot of fun and a good one to see on DVD.

 

Jenny K:  I haven’t seen it in a while, but most of your remarks had me going “yeah, I thought so, too”. I did like their eventual chemistry together, and watching it grow. It sort of felt to me a bit like a lesser version of Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin’s chemistry as they trekked across country, handcuffed together in Midnight Run (1988).

 

Julie M:  I had forgotten about Midnight Run: I’ll have to watch it again. It was probably deliberate on the filmmakers’ part, the allusion to the earlier film, with the typical Indian twist that they are not just opposite character types, but also half-brothers.  Here are some cute clips. 

[Editor’s Note: Lots of use of the “F” word…very New Yawk.  Be warned.]

 

Jenny K:  I don’t think it’s close enough to be a copy, what with the bail jumper/bondsman pairing that it is. It’s at best an homage thing…I just thought the feeling was similar. MR still has the best helicopter stunt ever done, in my opinion, when DeNiro’s character shoots the rotor out of the pursuing copter’s tail and so it spirals out of control and into the hillside, exploding. First believable use of handgun vs. big flying object I’ve ever seen in the movies. Stuck with me ever since…gives all those action directors (from both countries) something to shoot for, literally!

  • Categories

  • Blog Stats

    • 56,016 visits
  • July 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Jan    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 22 other followers