August 16, 2011:Crying, Courage & Climbing the Khan Tower

Julie M:  This weekend’s movie schedule (starting Saturday) is:

Baabul
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Dil To Pagal Hai

 

Jenny K:  I think you’ll find Baabul touching but slight, Rani cute, John and Salman acceptably restrained and Amitabh and Hema Malini, the mainstays as usual. I think that you, with your Ajay fixation, will like Bhagat Singh fairly well, but it may play a bit long. Dil To Pagal Hai is silly, and you’ll probably hate it, but promise me you’ll watch the song in the rain with Shah Rukh, Madhuri Dixit and the kids [Koi Ladki Hai]…fabulous. One of my favorites…

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Inquilab Zindabad! The Legend of Bhagat Singh was fantastic and seemed to be quite historically accurate. Music was amazing–one of Rahman’s best. Ajay was perfect (could he be anything else?). Can’t see why it didn’t do better with the public; maybe it was too serious a topic? Anyway, I didn’t think it was too long. Now I want to see Rang De Basanti again, and the Bobby Deol version. What a charismatic character. 

This moving scene is where Bhagat Singh and his group are in jail and are on a hunger strike to force better prisoner conditions. Instead of giving them water their jailers try to give them milk to get them to take nourishment. Leads to a beautiful patriotic song and a rare excellent lip-sync performance by Ajay.

Jenny K:  I liked your clip from The Legend of Bhagat Singh, but I think I like the way they used the poem a bit better in Rang de Basanti, just with voice with percussion behind. Aamir Khan’s voice, particularly (not to put down Atul Kulkarni, by any means), was fabulous in his rendition of it. Wikipedia has a nice short article on the poem with the translation. Very interesting.

The best thing about the video, except how fine Ajay looked (“starving” suits him, I guess, but isn’t his hair is exceptionally well groomed for a no-mirror-or-comb environment?) was that it reminded me Sushant Singh was in it playing Sukhdev.  I adore Sushant, he always gives a note of clarity and truthfulness to a role.  He was really busy around that time, 2003-ish, especially in films with Sushmita Sen. Whether or not the film was good, Sushant always is: Samay, Paisa Vasool, Lakshya, Sehar…to name a few. Cute and talented. Sigh. The guy playing Chandrashekar Azad (Akhilendra Mishra) is good, too (loved him in Lagaan as the blacksmith) but, gosh, gosh, and I repeat, gosh…who among these guys was even close to 24 years old?!?!?!

[the next day]

Julie M:  Dil To Pagal Hai was definitely silly and I did hate most of it. Two good things: I loved the Ajay character, thought he was cute and sweet, and any scene that he was in was excellent. (okay, you can move me over to the Akshay Kumar-fan column if only for his smile in this movie) The other was the rain dance scene (“Koi Ladki Hai”) with the kids–awesome, thanks for pointing it out. For the rest…meh to eccchhh. I am surprised that SRK ended up such a big star and got offered juicy parts after this kind of predictable nonsense.

(and is it just me, or do Karisma Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar look a lot alike? Maybe not now, but in the films of, say, the mid-to-late 1990s; this one vs Rangeela, for example.)

Had to put this song in as a clip. Best one I could find with English subtitles. Akshay’s face at 2:44 is just the best.

“Koi Ladki Hai” is here: (sorry, no subtitles–lyrics are basically “I’m in love with a girl who makes it rain”)

[Note: If you want HD you have to manually set it to 720 or up, and you can also activate the subtitles by hitting CC. Both are on the toolbar, but only on the Youtube site, proper.]

 

Jenny K:  Well, all I’m going to say about Dil To Pagal Hai, is that I didn’t send it to you in the A to K box for a reason. Also, I will allow that Akshay Kumar was good in it, but please don’t tell me you’re going over to the Khiladi Side…(a series of kinda-sorta-James-Bondish films he’s done. You know…girls, danger, stunts, more girls, etc). I don’t know if I can take it. I’m very glad you like Koi Ladki Hai…it’s one of my top 20 favorite videos, I think.

But before you offend the whole SRK fanbase, (which is legion, BTW) keep it in mind that you are still approaching Dil To Pagal Hai with an American mindset. I double checked my recollection, and according to boxofficeindia.com, DTPH was the second biggest grosser in India in 1997. Very popular, indeed. Behind only Border, which you have, and I quite like, and just ahead of Pardes, another SRK starrer, and one you’d also probably hate. To give you an idea, since his first film in 1992, he’s put out 69 films and had 18 of them hit in the top five for their year. Different cinematic strokes for different folks…even though we (and many others) love what he does in movies like Dil Se…a lot of people like the Rukhster to be silly and charming. It can make for a phenomenal career.

 

Julie M:  No Khiladi for me, thanks. I just thought Akshay was cute and funny in DTPH, and seemed to me to be the best thing in it. Plus I liked him in Tashan and Bhool Bulaiyya. If you tell me to avoid the Khiladi movies I will. (I haven’t yielded to temptation to try Golmaal 2 and 3, even though they are on the shelves at the library all the time)

And don’t get me wrong…SRK was good at what he was called upon to do in DTPH, but given his popularity in this (and other similar films around the same time where he seems to play the same type of role) it seems, well, unconventional that he was allowed to move beyond it to do some real acting work. Which he does well. What would you say was his “breakthrough” film, the one that got him to be taken seriously and allowed by the box office to do things like, say, Swades and MNIK and Don? Was it Dil Se… or something later?

 

Jenny K:  What you’re not getting here is that SRK wasn’t “allowed” to do the serious films…he’s had to fight to do them. The audiences don’t seem to want to see him do serious at all.  But because he draws so well at the non-serious movies, and is so beloved, that the producers will sometimes “humor” him and let him do a film (or he produces it himself) which they consider a box office risk. Dil Se… and Swades were in no way box office superhits, and My Name is Khan was only a moderate one in the homeland (only squeaking in to number five for 2010). Salman’s hit Dabaang was the winner last year, in terms of grosses.

So, if the Indian audience had their way, Shah Rukh would solely do romantic heroes until the age of 75. He’s pretty stubborn, though, and will insist on doing something else every so often to “keep his hand in,” as it were.

 

Julie M:  I guess I can’t blame audiences for pigeonholing actors, and I also understand that actors need to fight for better parts. Money makes the world go ’round, and the tried-and-true will always sell (n.b. sequels). I suppose that’s why so many actors form their own production companies (like SRK and Red Chillies)–so they can do what they want to do and help other actors do the same.  I cannot understand why Dabangg was so popular (based solely on the trailer). Or rather, I can understand, since it was clearly designed to appeal to 14-to-22-year-old boys. But I don’t have to like it.

 

Jenny K:  Aamir Khan seems to be the only one to be able to fight the pigeonholing trend, as far as I’ve seen, and still be number one at the box office.  He’s up there at the top spot these days just as often as SRK and Salman are…Let the Khan Wars khantinue…

 [later]

Julie M:  Oh. My. God. Was Baabul EXCRUCIATINGLY SLOW or what? The plotlines were somewhat intriguing–albeit with a WQ [Weepiness Quotient] off the charts that left me cold, it was so much–but did they have to drag it out so long? It’s almost as if they were trying for the K3G factor.

[Note: Spoilerish bits in the clip, especially at the end.]

Rani was the best thing about it. I truly coveted her character’s wardrobe, and the jewelry…well, the family in the story owned a jewelry manufacturing company, so it made sense to have it so elaborate. Hema was believable and I didn’t feel that she was as over-the-top as BigB was. John Abraham looked good in the longer hair and less obviously buffed body–nice understated performance, whereas I could have used a bit more charm from Salman to make it believable that Rani would fall for him. BigB’s rug was obvious–even B noticed and asked whether it was real hair or not. Overall…2 stars.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…I thought Salman was much more charming in Baabul than he usually is. It almost worked on me in this film. I particularly liked his vibe with BigB. Drag racing your elders…perhaps unwise, but fun.  I also liked Hema and Amitabh’s chemistry, as I always do, they’ve worked together for so long, it just plays really well. They were the best thing in Veer-Zaara for me, too.

(Though I’m not recommending much more than that number and Main Yahaan Hoon in V-Z. It’s not one of my favorites; too already-seen-that plus very bad aging makeup and wigs).  John was inoffensive, but rather bland for me, again. And as to the length of the film, that is sort of the standard pacing for “emotional family drama” in India. People don’t feel like they’re getting full-impact catharsis without at least two hours of emotional sumo wrestling   I’ve grown to agree, for the most part, over the years.  Bah, 90 minute formats…  Kid-stuff!

 

Julie M:  Emotional family drama…I’d better avoid those in the future, no matter who’s in it. It’s just not my style. Warn me, OK? Put the code letters EFD and I’ll know. I’ll be working on next weekend’s library list soon and will run it by you to catch any clunkers.

 

JennyK:  I know Julie and I, both, were very sad to hear of the passing of Shammi Kapoor, and as neither of us have seen enough of his older films, we’ll probably pre-empt our next film glut with a review of one of his.  We mourn with the rest of the Indian film public at the passing of a classic comedian and, from what I’m told (and have seen in interviews), a very classy fellow.

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.

Part 8: The Arts & Architecture Section of Our Programme

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[later in the week]

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

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

Your thoughts?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Not quite as good looking as either his father Raj Kapoor. Or his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor.

Part 7: The Alpha Males — Aamir, Ajay & Amitabh

Julie M:   Videos from the library: Ghajini, Deewaar and Jodi Ek Din (Life is Magic).

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…not seen any of those, except Deewaar, I think, with Amitabh, right? It’s a bit of a long one, but is pretty famous. Have your sunglasses nearby, as Indian fashion of the seventies is usually very, very BRIGHT! Ghajini is the one Aamir movie that I hadn’t seen because it’s a copy of Memento which I loved, plus a “how the romance started” backstory in the first act. It’s a Hindi remake of a South Indian megahit. Let me know how you liked it and maybe I’ll break down and see it. And IMDb tells me that Jodi Ek Din is a Bengali musical…Bengali films are usually too serious for musical numbers…let me know how it is. No one I know in it.

Julie M:  Deewaar was pretty good. BigB was HOT. His long legs are just made for the 1970s pants style, and he was very dark and brooding. His hair was amazing. Best looking mobster I’ve ever seen in film. The story was pretty interesting, but as usual they overplayed the dramatic aspects and I had to fast-forward through the very last scene between Vijay (the AB character) and his mother. And the end, which was a recap of the beginning (the entire movie was a flashback…I hate that), proceeded too quickly. I kind of wanted a resolution scene. The fashions and makeup were hilarious.

Jodi Ek Din was merely OK. The musical numbers were there basically to expound upon the love between the two main characters and there weren’t many of them. They seemed a bit out of place. I think it was supposed to be at the arty end of popular film, kind of along the lines of Sliding Doors. In fact, the film was kind of a mix between Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day–the plot was, if you get a do-over in your life, what would you do differently and how would it turn out in the end? But not a comedy. It was like magic realism in novels. And a predictable ending. But worth seeing. Warning–the subtitles are original to the movie, not added for the DVD, and so they are not on the letterboxed black bar at the bottom. A lot of the subtitles are white-on-white and very difficult to read.

I liked Memento too, and was wary about Ghajini, but what the heck.

 

Jenny K:  Nice profiles…I may look for it. I will be really interested in your take on Ghajini, considering you like Memento, you’ll be a good judge. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to not like his performance/choice of roles, if you know what I mean. He was my favorite for quite a while.

 

Julie M:  OK–Ghajini. First, it was only barely like Memento in that they used the whole 15-minute-memory thing and the tattooed body/mnemonic devices (and scary body-builder physique and shaved, scarred head) pretty much for shock value, and also, it seems, to capitalize on a very interesting idea first brought out in Western film. Most of the movie was either flashback-backstory of the meet-cute and romance between Sanjay (the AK character) and his lady love and how it was interrupted, treated in typical Bollywood style complete with random musical numbers, and horrible, detailed revenge violence. Really quite violent, in fact.

In Memento, the entire movie was how the character continually and slowly put together what had happened and what to do about it. Very psychological. In Ghajini, it was more about the dramatic contrast between his happy former life and his current obsession for revenge. The memory loss thing was just treated as a casual gimmick and a strong visual to underscore his change.

Action sequences were violent and silly at the same time (lots of sped-up action and goofy sound effects). Lots of agony and highly realistic blood–too much, in fact. It’s like the filmmakers couldn’t decide whether they were making a romance, an action-drama or a thriller and made an hour of each, smooshed into one movie.

Bottom line–watching Ghajini will not tarnish your feelings about Memento, just like watching Chori Chori Chupke Chupke will not tarnish your feelings about Pretty Woman, because the parts swiped (excuse me, BORROWED) from Western movies are not overly germane to the story. In fact, if you had not seen Memento, you would be very confused about the Memento-like elements in Ghajini because they are not explained very well–they just ARE.

Aamir was excellent in it. Really, his acting just gets better and better. Performance was spectacular, although he looked a bit uncomfortable in the romance part, almost like he didn’t want to have to do that aspect of the movie.

Overall I would say you should see it.

 

Jenny K:  Okay, I’ll just look into that…I actually hated having to not buy one of his films, I think I have the complete collection of everything he’s done that has subtitles (and even one that doesn’t Chale Chalo: Madness in the Desert, a Making of Laagan documentary couldn’t be resisted, though I can only watch it on my one DVD player that handles all regions, and that even when the actors interviewed are responding in English, they are dubbed back into Hindi….dad ratted #@%$).

Aamir has a rep for being the more serious actor in the contest of the Khans. Definitely look for Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai Diaries when it comes out on DVD (it’s still making the rounds of festivals right now, I think and is on Netflix download) that his wife directed and he produced and starred in it. Nice quiet performance. And also get Deepa Mehta’s film Earth sometime, it’s part of a trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, all very controversial in India, not much music, dealing with heavy issues for India, the violence of Partition, lesbianism, and the treatment of widows. They are all very effective, but Aamir really acts his socks off in Earth.

I have been debating about when to start sending a few of the heavier films along with the fun fluff. Let me know. And thanks again for the time you took with the Ghajini review. It helped.

 

Julie M:  I’ll take heavier films anytime. B likes those better than the fluffy fun ones and will watch them with me. He liked Ghajini but we had to fast-forward through the interminable scenes of really senseless violence, and ALL the musical numbers. (the only drawback to watching Bollywood movies with my hubby)  Oh–and the telling scene about Ghajini was [spoilers] that it opened with Aamir killing someone. Right up front you know there is a ton of violence. [end of spoilers]

Jenny K:  hmm…maybe I’ll regret just ordering it.

 

Julie M:  You won’t regret it. But just so you know.

[later in the week]

Julie M:  Your package arrived yesterday–thanks!!! Omkara!!

 

Jenny K: When you watch Omkara, don’t let B fast forward through the songs…the music is to die for! The director used to be a music director and is really good at it.

 

Julie M:  I’ll simply watch it without him!!

[later that day…]

Julie M:  So we watched Omkara tonight. REALLY good. Saif Ali Khan was great (and buffed up). I’m not an Othello fan but the adaption was great.

Jenny K:  Thought you’d like it 🙂 what with Saif and all. He’s really much better for me as a villain or some sort of negative character than your basic leading man. Omkara himself was Ajay Devgan, Kajol’s husband. And aside from her singing in English, which was rather weak, wasn’t Kareena much better in this one as Dolly? Also, Konkona was pretty fierce as Saif’s wife. Much stronger a presence than she was in Luck By Chance. I always keep this sound track in my car player. Fabulous.

 

Julie M:  I agree about Konkona, and the music. Both fantastic. I found Kareena marginally better than she usually is but I never really thought the Desdemona (Dolly) character deserved all the fuss that was made about her in the play anyway, so I don’t have much sympathy for actresses who play her. Saif…yum. And this was my first introduction to Viveik Oberoi, who didn’t seem to get much of a chance to show acting chops in this movie as the hapless victim Kesu (Cassio)–anything else he was in that I might like?

I was a little confused in the beginning as to who was who–as I said, Othello is not one of my fave Shakespeare plays so I am not as familiar with it–but eventually it got sorted out and then I went back to re-view the beginning. There was also much more of what I would consider rural/traditional Indian culture and mores that would have made the film more dimensional had I understood it. I might have to research and then view it again before I return it to you.

 

Jenny K:  Hmmm…Viveik. Lessee…he’s a cutie, and can really dance if you give him the chance, but hasn’t been too successful. Avoid Kisna, very long, very scenic, but very bland. That’s the only one I’d say really had him trying to carry a film by himself. He works a lot with Ajay and they seem to bring good things out of each other. First, they did Company together which is one of the few Indian mafia films that I found very engrossing. It was Viveik’s debut and he really played kind of a wild animal of a young hoodlum. Impressive. I think I have it if you can’t find it at the library.

Secondly, they worked together in Mani Ratnam’s film Yuva. Mani Sir directed Dil Se. Yuva has Kareena in it, too, but, as I said before, that and Omkara, Dev and Chameli are her best serious acting to date. I definitely have Yuva. This one has a Rahman score, too. If you liked Omkara, I might send you the director’s version of MacBeth, too [Maqbool], though I don’t think it’s quite as effective as a Shakespeare adaptation.   Strong performances, though, all around.

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the tip on using the computer to watch Main Hoon Na. [JK Note: Some international films, though rated Region 0, still give some dvd players fits.  Often running through the computer to your screen, if you have the appropriate tv hook-ups, will take care of it.] Saw it this evening. There were some very silly parts (why is college always portrayed so goofily in these films?!) and the usual melodrama, but it was sufficiently curtailed. The action scenes were kind of funny in spots. One scene had SRK moving in slow motion while the terrorist dude was moving in regular motion! ridiculous. But Zayed Khan is a cutie.

 

Jenny K:  Some of the behind the scenes stuff from MHN was fun, too…I remember the big fight scene was supposed to be a tongue in cheek homage to John Woo films, so they decided to have slow motion doves in flight, but when they threw them in front of the camera, each time they just plummeted like rocks and didn’t fly. Like city pigeons…flying feathered rocks that they are.

Didn’t you love Sushmita with SRK? I particularly loved when he fell in love he broke into off-key song, and then later went into that colorful video. The director, Farah Khan, is first and foremost a choreographer, and she does such wonderful things with the songs. I liked the young girl, Amrita Rao, too…though her bust kept getting bigger and smaller and bigger again with her padding in the various numbers.

 

Julie M:  Yep–SRK was cute in his head-over-heels schoolboy infatuation scenes. I’ll watch the 2nd DVD of MHN this evening, I think.

Part 5: Names, Hurricanes and Kisses in the Rain

Julie M:  Did you see this? Is Chandramukhi worth seeing?

Jenny K: Rajnikanth is a specific taste. I’ve only seen one of his films, because, as I said before, it’s hard (and expensive) to find Tamil films that have English subtitles. I did pick up one from the 90’s called Muthu, because it was on sale and it said “AR Rahman score” which always sells me and…gosh darned if I didn’t like it in a weird kinda way. WAY over the top, but so silly it works. He’s pretty magnetic in his own uber-cheesy way. He’s also one of the two or three, what I call “kissing bandits”, of Indian film…until very recently it was very odd to see a kiss onscreen in these films, except Rajni and Aamir Khan, who can get away with it in their films. I don’t know about Chandramukhi, but the Robot movie with Aishwarya scared me enough from the reviews that I didn’t go see it. I did think once or twice of going to see Shivaji because it was SUCH a big hit, but still haven’t gotten a copy yet. If you want me to send you Muthu in one of your packages, let me know. You are warned that you might just hate it 🙂

 

Julie M:  Well, there was that super-hot Hrithik/Aish kiss in Dhoom 2… steamy!  Sure, send me Muthu. I like cheesy sometimes. And I love AR Rahman music.

 

Jenny K:  Yeh, but before about five years ago, the kiss was the exception, not the rule…all “sex” scenes were wet sari scenes, singing in waterfalls, etc. Lip kisses were so rare that they got really hot very fast, to the Indian viewer. They really don’t do PDAs culturally.

Here’s Aamir’s most infamous kiss with Kareena’s older sister, Karishma Kapoor, from about fifteen years ago. Raja Hindustani. Sorry no subtitles. Quick synopsis to put it in context. Raja is a poor cab driver in the country. Aarti is a rich girl who’s run away from home, I think to avoid marriage plans and/or an evil stepmother. She’s come back to her mother’s village in the countryside to sort of “find her roots”. Raja volunteers to be her tour guide. They shelter under a tree during a storm. He’s conscious of their class difference and pulls back into the rain. She says “don’t be stupid, come back under here” He comes a bit closer but then the lightning sends her skittering into his arms. Set up a minute long make-out montage. Scandalous. 🙂 Then when their heads clear with the storm, he’s appalled at the liberties he’s taken with her and pulls back with a shocked look on his face (stupid man) and she reads this as disapproval “oh my god, he must think I’m loose!” and runs from him…yet she can’t forget his lips…and those crazy big ears, too, I’ll bet…. Enjoy!

Julie M:  Wow. Now I know why in every Bollywood movie there’s a “wet” scene–rain, river, pool, etc. No exceptions. B and I were making fun of it but it makes sense now.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Dil Chahta Hai tonight. Thanks for sending. It was really weird to see a movie with three very manly men agonizing about love, but I liked it. Too melodramatic with the whole Shalini-Rohit-Akash triangle but it ended well. And I’m a Saif Ali Khan fan.

Why is there a character named Rohit in every movie? Is there a particular set of character traits associated with the name?

 

Jenny K:  Have no clue…SRK is Rahul in practically every third movie and Salman Khan seems to gravitate toward Prem (“love” in Hindi) quite frequently.

 

Julie M:   I also noticed that the surname “Malhotra” came up frequently, but I looked it up and got an answer as to why, so I’m satisfied.

 

Jenny K:  What answer did you find? I’d be interested to know.

 

Julie M:  In the Punjab, there are a few clans/surnames that indicate the princely group of the Khatri (warrior) tribe. Malhotra is one of them. The other surnames from the same order are Khanna, Seth/Sethi, and Kapur/Kapoor. They were all supposed to only marry each other, traditionally.  So if you notice, everyone you see named Malhotra in Indian movies is typically very rich, very powerful or both. And I bet if they’re not, it’s a major plot element.

 

Jenny K:  Ah, that makes sense…thanks for the insight!

 

Julie M:  Just glad that I can teach YOU something!

[a few days further on]

Julie M:  Just wanted to tell you that I saw My Name is Khan today. Dude, what a weeper. Great performance from SRK–has redeemed himself in my eyes from the acting disaster that was Devdas–and fabulous chemistry between SRK and Kajol. Good story, good scenes, drama without melodrama, and nothing too drawn-out.

Kites is waiting for me at the library but I won’t pick it up until later in the week.

I also bought a lot of Bollywood music from iTunes in the last week or so.

 

Jenny K:  You’re well on your way to becoming a true BollyAddict. I think it’s time to introduce you to BollyWhat.com. If you have questions about anything you see “why are those women holding sieves up to the moon?” etc. This website probably has it. Also, if the main indexes don’t answer the question, just post it on the Masala page of the Forum and someone will have answered it in under an hour, usually. Very knowledgeable bunch of both Indian and non-Indian Bollywood film fans. It’s how I started, and you can probably find likely addicts in your neighborhood to start your film sharing with.

By the way…didn’t you think My Name is Khan would have been better without the last say, forty-five minutes? I hated the whole bit with them moving the Hurricane Katrina bit to, where was it, Georgia?… or was it just that the most stereotyped character in the show was named Mama Jenny?   🙂 BTW have you seen SRK and Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? I think you have. They are better together in that than in K3G, and perhaps even than their first film together, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ for short. This film has many weaknesses, the first quarter is too slapsticky for me, but when the two begin to fall in love, and he stops behaving like an idiot, they can’t be matched for sheer chemistry.

Lots of Shah Rukh’s early movies fall into the slapstick clueless lover style, and many have identical twin plots (Indian audiences tend to love them for some reason) but for the four minute silly video of the day, I send you evidence that SRK has watched TOO MANY Jerry Lewis films! From Yes Boss with Juhi Chawla as the object of his desire. I think she’s a darling.

I forgot to recommend Main Hoon Na, another SRK movie that was very tongue in cheek, but pretty funny and charming. Co-star Sushmita Sen, who is sort of an Indian Kirstie Alley, back in the skinny days…a funny bombshell. Your library might have it.

 

Julie M:  My library lists Main Hoon Na but won’t let me reserve it–I think their copy is lost. Another one for purchase when I get the money…as well as KKHH which my library does NOT have and I am DYING to see.

I didn’t mind the last 45 minutes of MNIK, the whole hurricane thing. I did mind Mama Jenny–but I excused it because it’s an Indian film and they might not understand the nuances of the acceptability of writing very large Southern black women into film. But I kept wondering whether I was watching Borat or Forrest Gump. Those seemed definitely to be influences.

Also–thanks for the pointer to BollyWHAT–fun site!

PS. I got a bunch from the library yesterday. Saw Jab We Met last night. Cute and predictable, two good dance numbers. Man, that Shahid Kapur is adorable. And Kareena Kapoor is annoying.

 

Jenny K:  I thought that about Kareena too….especially in K3G and one called Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. Avoid at all costs! But to give her some credits, my favorite movies with her in it are Chameli, where she plays a streetwalker (was very shocking to her fans) and one called Dev with BigB and Fardeen Khan who I don’t usually like but in this film he’s fine, also Omkara where she plays the Desdemona character, and Yuva which she’s very unaffected opposite Viveik Oberoi. Don’t rule her out completely until you’ve seen these four 🙂 And Shahid, though cute, does the same thing over and over, in the past. In his newer ones, like Kaminey, he’s showing a bit more of his father’s bloodlines.  Pankaj Kapur is a fantastic actor, and almost disappears in every film he’s in.

Of the young crop, I prefer Farhan Akhtar in Rock On! and also in Luck By Chance, which you’ve seen, and I find him very easy on the eyes…sort of an Indian JFK Jr.  He’s a wonderful director, too. In Rock On! he sings his own stuff, too…imagine that! [ Note: In Indian film, few, if any of the musical numbers are sung by the actors that they are picturized on.  The soundtracks are finalized well before the films are even shot, in most cases.  Farhan and Amitabh, are the only ones that do their own playback singing on a semi-regular basis.]

Part 4: The Pan-Genre Week — RomCom, Sci-fi and Lots of Aamir

Jenny K:  It’s my day off and I’m going to finally mail the DVD’s today. Sorry for the delay. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is definitely the lighter and fluffier of the two. Though I like both films, Lagaan stays with me longer,  I’d watch KKHH first, as it would suffer coming after, I think. The music in KKHH is cute but not, definitely not, Rahman. The first half, just think of as a Archie, Veronica and Betty style high school musical…though they say they are in college…eh, maybe India is a much more innocent place than good ol’ Amreeka, as they say. The best parts are the chemistry between SRK and Kajol, and to some extent Rani, too. Rani and Kajol are cousins in real life. A note of Pointless BollyTrivia.

Lagaan was one of the first three films that I saw and I quite love it, though it is very long. I found I had no problem looking at Aamir, uninterrupted, in all his rustic glory, but you might want to break it at the intermission because the full run-time is almost four hours (if you add in the deleted scenes from the Bonus Features, it’s over four). I learned all I know about cricket from watching the second half of the film. Probably all I will want to know about cricket, too, but I didn’t find it painful.

The songs, atypically from Indian films, are so well integrated into the plot that you can’t really pull them out well, out of context you feel something’s missing. I don’t recommend the British costumes…pretty awful, historically, and quality-wise….don’t get me started, that’s what I do for a living, costumes, can’t help myself. However, I loved the rest of the production design and cinematography. Lovely. I even bought Chale Chalo: the Making of Lagaan…took me several years to track it down and most of it is dubbed into Hindi, even when it’s in English to begin with (and no subtitles…frustrating!) but I enjoyed it.

Julie M:  LOVED Lagaan. B watched most of the 2nd half with me and liked it too (after he swore he wouldn’t watch any more). Great suggestion!! LOVE Aamir Khan. (and he spent most of the movie with his shirt off…score!!)

Jenny K:  Aamir was my first love…still like him quite a lot, but he’s getting a bit “angry young man” on me as he gets older. I own most of his films until Ghajini, which was a remake of a South Indian hit, which was supposed to be a blatant rip off of Memento…I loved the Chris Nolan film so much that I just couldn’t watch it, even with Aamir…Sigh. Lagaan, Taal and DCH were my first three Indian DVDs…got me hooked. I can’t believe I missed seeing Lagaan on a big screen, for free, when it came out. I can’t even remember the film I chose instead of it. No foresight. Glad you liked it. Did you succumb and watch the extra 20 minutes of “director’s cuts”?

Julie M:  I have not watched any extra features on that one; I plan to if I have time over the rest of this holiday weekend. The weather has turned nice today (if a bit humid) and I have to get plants in the ground. It’s been so wet lately that I couldn’t do anything.

I loved Taal too. In fact, if anyone asks me for a recommendation, I would have them start with that one. Dil Se, even though it was the first one I saw and still probably in the top 3 I have seen so far, I would save because although the music is unbelievably amazing the 2nd half is weird and the ending shocking.

Jenny K:  Yes, the second half is definitely not a conventional Indian film, actually, Dil Se didn’t do well at all at home…SRK’s fans don’t seem to like him being the villain anymore (a few early ones, playing crazy guy, obsessed stalker, etc) except for Don, which is a good twin evil twin type of film updated from one BigB did back in the seventies. Some good bits, but still, except for Dil Se, I think I agree with his fans. He does better being likeable and charming. He can’t top the acting in DS though, shows me he can do it, if required. That fight for his life in the construction site or whatever it was, was the most convincing fight I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film. They’re usually so chop-socky if you know what I mean. And I thought the end of the film was marvelous…as a portrait of obsession, if it had ended with him happily marrying Preity, I just wouldn’t have bought it.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Watched KKHH this evening. Very sweet. I was not a fan of the slapstick elements, and the dance numbers in the college scenes were pretty stupid, but overall a good movie. Thank you so much for sending it!

I have Luck by Chance, 3 Idiots and Koi–Mil Gaya waiting for me at the library, so that is my viewing schedule (mostly) for tomorrow through Tuesday.

Jenny K:  KKHH has it’s flaws, of course, but if you’re a true Kajol fan, you have to have seen it, sometime. She’s lovely in it, isn’t she?

Your “schedule” looks good, with the possible exception of Koi… Mil Gaya, which you may find as cheesy as I did, but it is a milestone of a sort. Kinda the first Indian Sci-fi quasi super hero film. Shah Rukh has another coming out late this fall called Ra.One which may or may not be as scary as KMG, but we will just have to wait and see. KMG is sort of a mix of Flowers for Algernon (aka Charley) with ET. Hrithik is sweet in it, and gorgeous, of course, but I’ll be interested in seeing what you make of it. If you like it, the sequel is called Krrish…w/HR playing his own son.

Julie M:  You weren’t kidding about the cheesiness…guess they are SO not used to sci-fi in India! So much ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I had to howl with laughter. You also forgot to tell me that there was a whiff of Teen Wolf and The Six Million Dollar Man. They even did the Six Million Dollar Man sound at times. And I’ve noticed that none of these actors (even the extras) know how to play basketball in real life–their ball handling skills really blow. However, I did enjoy it (B didn’t so much). HR did a sufficient amount of dancing to satisfy me and he played a pretty convincing mentally retarded young man. Sweet moments with Preity Zinta, too. I will probably try to find Krrish, because I suspect that HR will be super-buff in it, and I love superhero movies anyway.

I LOVED 3 Idiots. B did too. No more to say–it was everything I like in a movie, and miracle of miracles, Kareena Kapoor did not annoy me.

[JK’s Note:  Per Julie’s request, new 3 Idiots video.  For those of us who also want to see the cute (though not particularly plot-relevant) item number, click here to watch Zoobi Doobi, as well !]

Will try to cram in Luck by Chance tomorrow night before everything goes back to the library Tuesday.

Jenny K:  Wow, that certainly is a marathon! I salute you. Worth the trouble, though…Luck By Chance was my favorite of the three you had. Fairly realistic treatment as far as Indian film goes, too. I also love both Farhan Akhtar, and Konkona Sen Sharma (who I’ve met at a couple of festivals, and she’s very nice as well as talented). The director is Farhan’s sister, Zoya Akhtar.

I think I liked Krrish a bit better than I liked KMG because the director (Hrithik’s dad, btw) didn’t feel the need to dress his heir like a dysfunctional idiot. Sorry, costumer reaction, can’t help it.

So, I’ll be interested to see what you think when you go see one in a cinema. That’s the next thing. First one I saw on a big screen was a Hrithik/Kareena one that almost killed me…almost walked out, several times. Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon…run, the opposite direction, as fast as you can. Thank goodness I persevered! Have you checked out your local Indian theater yet? I see they show both Bollywood and Tamil films at the theater near you. Tamil films rarely, if ever have subtitles. I guess South Indian movies are only to be for home viewing. They tend to be a bit broader, but some are quite lovely.

I haven’t seen Dum Maro Dum (with LittleB) that’s playing in your neighborhood now, because it only stayed in mine for one week, I think, and while I hesitated because I don’t always like crime capers, it left. It’s best to go opening weekend because the audiences are best then and are always so lively. Half the fun. The whole family goes, little kids running up and down the aisles and grandmas minding them…more noise in the audience as well, but somehow I don’t mind. When SRK showed up silhouetted against the Manhattan skyline in KHNH every woman in the theater screamed. Very fun.  Also, if you miss the first weekend, and it didn’t do well at the box office…it’s outta there.  Indian audiences want their variety, in any case.  Only Superhits stay.

Julie M:  Do they show it subtitled in theaters? I’ll have to go. That theater is nowhere near my neighborhood but it’s closer than, say, the good art film theater on the south side, which I have made pilgrimage to on occasion and which I think is now closed. Before you did the research I would have said that there aren’t any theaters here that show Bollywood films!

Jenny K:  Hindi films are usually subtitled; Tamil and Telugu films usually aren’t, except at film festivals. Darned shame, too. Some wonderful ones that you should check out if you can find them…or I should send you…are Kannathil Muthamittal, that I think I’ve mentioned and Kandukondain, Kandukondain (sometimes titled I Have Found It) which is a South Indian version of Sense and Sensibility starring Aishwarya Rai.

Julie M:  Does she speak Telegu? Or Tamil? Is it very common for people to speak multiple South Asian languages or does she learn them because she is an actress? I mean, Chinese people commonly know both Mandarin and Cantonese to some degree, more one or the other based on where they grew up, but can converse in both. Is it the same in India?

Luck By Chance was good. It didn’t feel like a typical Hindi film–actually it felt kind of like an art film. Cool cameos by stars (Kareena Kapoor annoyed me: I figured it out, it’s her eyes. She blinks in a very weird way), interesting behind-the-scenes look, and I bet everyone in the credits were real film-industry backstagers. But why did Farhan Akhtar play such a d-bag?

Jenny K:  I know she speaks Tulu which is from where she was raised in Karnatka, and she debuted in one of Mani Ratnam’s (Dil Se…) films Iruvar which was in Tamil as well as this one. She’s also done a few films in a Bengali dialect for Rituparno Ghosh and other directors. So, she’s linguistically very gifted. I’m not sure she knows much more than a learn-your-lines-phonetically level in the Tamil and Bengali, but the regional cinema is the way many people break into the Hindi/Bollywood mainstream films, so most of them speak some other dialects. Most everyone in the cities, at least, or those who have gone to university speak English. I’ve been told that a good many of the scripts come out in English first and then get translated into whatever dialects they end up in.

I thought that Farhan was rather brave and risk-taking, deciding to play his fame-obsessed character so realistically. Most young guys who get hit with fame would have acted the same way. It also let Konkona’s character choose the broader outlook, and let her continue to be strong even as a woman on her own. I liked that. He seems to gravitate to edgier projects. His first film as an actor, Rock On! has him playing the charismatic, if troubled leader of a band who has walked away from it to start a “sensible life”. He has a new one coming out with his buddy Hrithik (they grew up together) in July. He has a very bad haircut in that one though.  Must be a character detail, usually it’s so good.

There is a talk show called Koffee with Karan where Hrithik and Farhan are interviewed and they talk about their childhood together. It’s in a few parts, beginning here.

Julie M:  About Farhan–“edgy” projects in Bollywood seem to be typical projects forHollywood, right? I didn’t see much of a Bollywood style about Luck by Chance. It could have been a mainstream American movie starring Indian actors about the Indian film industry–it felt very familiar to me. Was that what they were going for?

Part 3: SRK, Saif, Salman and Shirtlessness

Julie M:  I went to the library this afternoon (half-day off) and picked up 2 movies which looked good, but were not on your lists. I looked them up and at least one of them seems to be a good choice — Chak de! India. I’m kind of a sucker for inspirational sports movies about women and girls and this one won a bunch of awards, so I figure I won’t abandon it at the intermission.  The other one is Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which said nothing plot-wise on the back jacket but when I looked it up at home it seems to be the first Indian film about surrogate motherhood, so I bet it was too controversial to talk about in the video store. We’ll see about that one.

The video in my library about the blind woman is not Black, it’s  Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, 1981, starring Amitabh past his prime. Worth it? The description seems unduly complicated.

So where do you end up meeting people like Hrithik Roshan in person?

Jenny K:  Both the ones you got are fine. No alarms, unless Salman Khan scares you…he occasionally does me, takes his shirt off WAY too much in my opinion. He’s beefed up so much he’s built like a WWF wrestler these days. Maybe not so much when C4 came out. Chak De is a bit disappointing for me as it’s billed as an SRK film, but it’s really more about the girls on the team…as it should be, but for oglers of Shah Rukh, it doesn’t do that much.

Never saw Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, but Amitabh’s usually good even when his wardrobe is scary (anything in the 70’s…especially that 7 Brides for 7 Brothers remake that I’ve forgotten the name of) [Satte Pe Satta]. His legs are just way too long proportionately, for overalls with boots but somehow, unexplainably,  he carries it off.  And, in my opinion, BigB has never left his prime…just looks better and better with mileage 🙂

I met HR while working a live Bollywood concert in Fairfax. Aishwarya was there too, but I just saw her from a distance. I just chatted at him as he went in the door past me. “The crowd seems to really be glad you’re here…” or something equally witty on my part. He looked at me with those eyes and grinned as he went in. Heck, I’m glad I got something coherent out at all. I almost blacked out when I asked Amitabh a question at Filmfest DC.

Julie M:  OK–watched Chori Chori Chupke Chupke–enjoyed it but the DVD I borrowed was in “anamorphic widescreen” and the picture was all distorted. The only thing I didn’t like were the several HUGE chunks lifted directly from Pretty Woman–with dialogue pretty much intact. But otherwise an entertaining experience. Salman Khan didn’t take his shirt off once, although in one scene he was in a very tight white T-shirt. Will watch Chak de India! this afternoon.

[time passes…]

Julie M:  Two more movies…Chak De India was GREAT, loved it, not typical Bollywood but was refreshing. I thought there was plenty of SRK and for once I liked every facet of the character he played.

Lage Raho Munnabhai was merely OK. It’s not the type of movie that I watch generally, in any language; in fact I pretty much avoid the genre. I liked the Munna character, though, and I liked the last moment of the film when we FINALLY get to see the fiancé and it’s LittleB. (probably tickled the audience too)

Tried to get Kuch Kuch Hota Hai from the library but they system doesn’t have it. I have to decide whether it’s worth going through interlibrary loan or if I should just buy it. It can’t be too expensive if I get it used through secondhand DVD sources online.

The executive secretary at my office was bemoaning the sorry state of daytime dramas, so I’m going to lend her K3G. Another convert?

Jenny K:  Good for you…your first convert 🙂 I almost think that any hard core soaper might like KHNH better…all that hiding your illness and illegitimate children and denying your own love for your lover’s future happiness stuff. Would seem almost like dropping in to Llanview or Genoa City. She might also like Dil Chahta Hai, good drama but in more manageable doses.

Julie M:  Oh, I’m sure she’d like KHNH as well or better, but I don’t own that one. (I don’t recall an illegitimate child in KHNH?? did I miss something?)  I can see that this new hobby is going to get expensive… 🙂

Jenny K: [Spoilers: Highlight to view] Yes, the little girl that Naina’s mother adopted was the father’s illegitimate child with his mistress. That was the whole thing that caused the reconciliation scene in the church. The father killed himself because he felt so guilty about foisting his child on Jennifer, and she was so noble about it, and loved the girl as her own. Then everyone got all teary when SRK brought out the letter and the grandma had to eat crow and make up with Jennifer because she had actually been a better daughter in law than she could have hoped for, lying for her husband to protect his reputation. [End of spoilers]

The trick to beat the expense is, I think, to find your local rental places, or join an online DVD rental club, or get a few others hooked and you each buy a couple and then share them around…I’ve done all three 🙂

Julie M:  Oh, yes, I forgot about [spoilers] the adopted illegitimate child. It seemed a minor plot point once the whole “he’s dying” thing came to the fore.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  Saw Bunty aur Babli this evening. SO cute, and the music is fun. I could swear I had heard the “Kajra Re” song somewhere before–am I dreaming? Anyway, fun to see the Bachchan-Rai trio performing together. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jenny K: Yeah, I particularly like the “drunk” scene before “Kajira Re”, where BigB tells the story about his lost love…he’s hilarious, in that and in the “music video” at the end over the credits. I just love him.  No, you’re not crazy. “Kajira Re” was in that first list of my favorite videos that I gave you.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  OK, got Devdas out of the library (finally). I’ve only watched the first half–or I think it’s the first half, up to the point where Paro gets married and moves into her husband’s mansion, and Devdas wakes up to find that he’s been out for 2 days and Chandramukhi took care of him. I’m afraid it’s too much for me. The costumes are fabulous (it’s supposed to take place in the past, right–somewhere around the turn of the century? They have gaslight but not electricity, it seems, and the British are still in charge so it has to be pre-1947) and the songs make sense, but the drama is too drawn-out for my taste. I’ve peeked online so I know what happens–is it worth seeing the rest of the film?

Jenny K:  I see you agreed with my opinions on Devdas rather than Corliss’ ones. But you have to have seen it if you are making a “full study” of current Bollywood. Devdas, the character, just kills me… [Spoilers] You’d think that Paro would have liked him more if he realized his mistake, dusted himself off and made the most of his privileged life and made her proud of him. But no…the best he could do was do the prototypical monster mope of all time and drink himself to death in epic style.  Ooops…I should have said SPOILER! Sorry. But if you “peeked” maybe it isn’t a surprise.  If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. It affected me sort of like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary…what sheer waste of literary/filmic space wasting time on those egomaniacal losers. SRK is certainly cute, especially in his death scene…should one look cute in your death scene, is it appropriate? You could skip to that to glance at it, if you wanted. Definitely hit the Play All button on the songs menu and watch ’em. Great staging, great costumes, every one. I especially liked the “Chalak Chalak” number and the “Dola Re Dola” number is good, as I think I said before. Persevere…

Julie M:  I will skip the rest of Devdas as I still want to like SRK, but will play all the songs. The choreography, sets and costumes are just stunning.

Saw Hum Tum this weekend. Cute, kinda like When Harry met Sally without the deli scene. Did not buy the Karan character as a professional cartoonist (not enough personal discipline) but Saif Ali Khan was sweet in the role (just as sweet as he was in KHNH).

Part 1: Julie’s Introduction to Bollywood, or Surviving the Blockbuster, K3G

[Jenny K’s Note:  The first several parts of the diablog, are in fact, a recap of the cinema adventures I put Julie through over the past four months. About mid-July, I thought, “Some of these posts are really helpful as a sort of primer for anyone wanting to know what to watch next and where to find it.” It also was a good emerging forum for critiquing them, because as new as Julie is to it, she has a real, informed opinion on them, and isn’t afraid to voice them when she doesn’t agree. I, usually, stick to my guns, and will defend my melodramas to the last sniffle. So, I’m hoping you’ll get different points of view in many cases. Do feel free to jump in and voice your opinions in the comments as often as you like. Friendly disagreement is appreciated here. Unfriendly ones will be sent back to the sender for “re-editing,” if you know what I mean.]

Julie M’s Note:  Being completely inexperienced in the ways of Bollywood I picked my first video up at my local library, which surprisingly has a pretty decent collection. If you live in a large metro area with any kind of Indian population, check the holdings of your system because it’s a free way to start the addiction. Why this particular movie? I first became interested in Bollywood through the music. I adored A.R. Rahman’s work on Slumdog Millionaire and found some music videos randomly on YouTube. When I discovered Jenny’s addiction I first asked her to recommend some great numbers, and she responded with LOTS and LOTS of links. As it happened, the ones I liked best were from Dil Se so I requested it from the library. Unbeknownst to me, Jenny had meanwhile sent me a gift of three videos: Dil Se, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and a compilation DVD starring Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) in remixes and original numbers from his movies. So we were thinking along the same lines.

Julie M:  Hey–just wanted you to know that I watched Dil Se tonight. Pretty weird…not “Bollywood” as I would have expected it, and B [Julie’s husband and occasional viewing companion, at home] thought it was too long. Kind of started out “typical” but got way serious and then the ending! OK…so what’s next, o Bollywood guide?

Jenny K: Oh dear…if he thought Dil Se was too long…don’t let him watch Kabhi Khushie Kabhie Gham…it’s well over three hours. Some people, not used to the length, watch it to the intermission and do the next half on another day 🙂 After you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to the ninety minute format here in the US. I like spending more time with the characters getting to know them.

You did get the other two DVDs didn’t you? I haven’t actually seen the video compilation one, but it looked decent and it was actually in stock…I will say that the last quarter of the list seemed to be videos that SRK wasn’t even in, so I was confused about why they put them in the set. [Note: This is a common problem on compilations, whether DVD or Audio. The CDs, especially are shorter than an average US album, and so there is often filler at the end of the songs from the movie. If you’re lucky, it’s songs from other movies that the star has been in, but that’s not a given.]

Hope you liked Dil Se…It’s one of my favorites, weird or not. It isn’t typical, and didn’t do very well at home in India because the ending wasn’t happy, but for me, if his obsession had ended happily with her dumping her cause and marrying him, having a family and 3.5 kids…well, it just wouldn’t have been the right ending. K3G is much more the typical musical melodrama. The video you liked (I think) with Shah Rukh soaking wet in the shadow of the pyramids is from that one.

Julie M: Did like Dil Se. And you’re right–[Spoilers: highlight to view] it couldn’t have ended with him getting her. But I kind of was hoping he would end up with Preeti after Meghna had completed her mission, and gotten some kind of happiness out of life anyway.  [end of spoilers]

I did not get the other 2 DVDs. ??? forgot what they were…but I just requested K3G from my library. Our system has a lot of Bollywood DVDs–huge Indian community here. Is Om Shanti Om any good? Is that one considered “Bollywood 300-level” because it makes fun of Bollywood? and should I wait until I complete the 101 course before I attempt it??

Jenny K: Okay, K3G,  from what B said when I spoke with him today, I’m not sure that he’ll like it…it’s very melodramatic. I like the ups and downs, it’s like the old pot-boilers of the 50’s. My mom was a Shah Rukh fan and she liked his storyline, but didn’t like the younger son storyline…I make exceptions because Hrithik who plays the younger son, grown up, is so handsome and SUCH a good dancer that I can put up with the AWFUL clothes they often put him in. And it’s even longer than Dil Se… so you might want to make it a two-nighter, breaking it at the intermission.

Pretty funny that you picked the same film that I sent you! No wonder that we were both confused…As to Om Shanti Om…it could stand alone, but I might watch a few more before you tackle it, because the inside jokes will make more sense. Also, it’s almost too melodramatic, in my opinion.

For others that you should see first, Omkara (for B) is an adaptation of Othello set in the millieu of the gangs of the Indian countryside…great music. Also, Taal with Aishwarya Rai (“The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”, TMBWITW for short) is a tad clichéd, plot-wise, about a country girl who falls in love with a rich city boy, and how she loses him and gets him back, but if you haven’t seen too many, you won’t mind the clichés much. I drove all the way to Urbana to see it at Ebertfest one year…gorgeous music, people, scenery. Dil Chahta Hai is a three-guy buddy picture dealing with their growing up and romantic travails…set in Bombay, Goa and Sydney, Australia. Lagaan is another picture that I liked set in the upper western countryside in the late 1800’s about farmers that form a cricket team to beat out the local British soldier’s team to save the village from paying exorbitant taxes. It was up for a best foreign film Oscar back in 2001 or 2002, not sure which. Didn’t win, but it was how I was introduced to Indian film. Kal Ho Naa Ho is another wonderful weepie with Shah Rukh, that has some great visuals and lovely numbers. One I’ve introduced lots of friends to Bollywood with.

There are more, but that will do for a start. I will warn you that most libraries have Asoka in their Shah Rukh collections and I’d wait to see it unless you’re up for a laugh. He looks great in it with the hair extensions and the bare chest and all, but it’s sort of Conan the Barbarian, the Musical, masquerading as early Indian History. Goofy fun and all, but pretty hard to swallow, until you’re ready for it, in my opinion.

[after the long weekend]

Jenny K:  So how did you survive Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham? I’m betting B couldn’t handle it…it’s more of a girl’s guilty pleasure thing, I’ve found. If you didn’t like it, it’s okay to tell me. Some people find it too melodramatic, and Dil Se is more memorable as a full film, but K3G has lots of fun moments, I find, and lots of fun actors that you’ll be seeing a lot of if you keep going in this. Almost everyone in it is a film star in his/her own right, it was a sort of Superstar Glut for Indian film. I’ll be interested in your opinion. How you react will tell me what I recommend next…if you haven’t overdosed on all of it 🙂

Julie M:  Liked it with the following comments:  It’s pretty melodramatic. WAY too much drama in some moments, but it was an interesting insight into Indian culture and mindset particularly among the obscenely wealthy. (I found that on my DVD player I could speed up 2X, still see the subtitles and get the facial expressions, and zoom through the particularly sappy scenes) Some really cool songs. B liked the big dance numbers from an aesthetic perspective but blanked out on the storyline. Hrithik Roshan is too beautiful to be believed and a way better dancer than SRK. Amitabh Bhachan plays the stern dad very well but he’s a terrible dancer. The Anjali character was adorable. I hated the Pooja character–way too shallow–and she never really redeemed herself enough to have the Rohan character believably fall in love with her. And SRK seems to get wet in pretty much all of his films, right? (He showed way too much sappy face in this film–not a good look for him, he seems to do better as the rakish adventurer)

So here is the deal. Recommend me films that are not this melodramatic and don’t have so much of “the formula.” I like great costuming and scenery and great dance music. And the unusual–surprise me!

Jenny K:  I see you got all the good bits and didn’t fall for the drivel. An astute viewer. Still and all, every BollyViewer has to have seen this one. I stand by most of the ones that I recommended before (which have disappeared from my message list, for some unfathomable reason, so I can’t review them) but perhaps you should save Taal for some day when you are home with a cold and can handle another dose of the melodramatic….no, it’s not quite as melodramatic as K3G, but it’s really beautiful, and the music is so amazing that you should see it sometime. Kal Ho Naa Ho, I loved, especially the first time I saw it, but the end is way too weepy, I’m guessing. It’s set in NYC and stars SRK with Preeti from Dil Se again.

Best bets on my original list for you are:
–In a period historical mood: Lagaan
–In a modern romantic dramedy mood: Dil Chahta Hai
–In a crime thriller/tragedy mood: Omkara
–In an oddball political statement movie hiding in what starts like an Indian Shirley Temple movie mood (lots of little kids singing…doesn’t go on like that, trust me): Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) by Mani Ratnam, the director of Dil Se…
–In a mindless gazing at Hrithik Roshan dancing mood: I’d try Dhoom 2, he looks absolutely gorgeous, and dances like a dream, and actually develops screen chemistry with Aishwariya Rai (in my opinion, a first for both of these dancing stars).   But I qualify it, as not a traditional film, but pretty modern; it’s a “young people’s caper flick” lots of skin, quite a bit of slapstick sidekick stuff, and some of the silliest, tongue in cheek crime capers you’ll ever see. Especially the one on the train…I still can’t understand how/why they could use it with a straight face.

Best of luck, intrepid viewer 🙂 I’m proud of you and B, both for making it through K3G!

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