March 8, 2012: Goin’, Goin’…Gone on Prem Kahaniyan

Jenny K:  It seems all that I’m drawn to recently are prem kahaniyan, or in the gori vernacular, love stories…granted, not traditional romances, but in theaters or out, that’s what I’ve been watching. Here is my take on three of the most recent winners in the “luv stakes” races.

First was “in theater”…three weeks back, some of my Hindi Movie Pack and I went to see the latest Imraan Khan film, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (One Me and One You, 2012). It was an almost sweet, not-quite-meet-cute, shot at romantic comedy that has Imraan depicted as an NRI “good boy” whose life ambition is to get along calmly and with as few disruptions to his life  (and his parents’ wishes) as he can deliver. He has gone into his parents’ chosen field for him, architecture (they own a construction company) and is now serving his lowly intro-level years at a prestigious firm in Las Vegas.

There he meets Quirky Free Spirit, hairstylist Kareena Kapoor at a shared psychiatrist’s office, and she disrupts his life plans (and ruins his haircut!) forever. In the course of trying too hard to prove himself “not boring,” they tie one on and wake up married in a handy Las Vegas wedding chapel! The rest is how they wend their way out of this mess.  This is the first anti-shaadi film I’ve ever seen.

I find it interesting that in the trailer they begin with those really early era graphics, because all through the film I kept being reminded of early Cary Grant films, you know, the ones with Kate Hepburn leading Cary around by the nose into one crazy scrape after another, and doing some of those almost patented double-takes, that Imraan seems to be born to wear, too. No, seriously, it’s also a physical resemblance…the height, the dark hair with the widow’s peak, the dimple in the chin…go check the old still pictures from the 1920’s and ‘30s!

Not that Kareena is quite a Kate Hepburn, but I found, as the film unrolled, that I was interested in how their lives would untangle and if, indeed, they would end up together. No, I won’t say. Just that I enjoyed the ending, and didn’t want to scream at the screenwriters. Nice change. Also liked this number, where the action has moved back to India and the whole family (hers) has gone out to an “old fashioned” New Years Eve celebration at “the club,”dragging him along. I’m still in mourning for his Cary Grant-ish haircut.

Julie M:  I love cute rom-coms too, and have been craving one.  Last one I saw and really liked, unequivocably, was a while back, Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha.  And one of my favorite rom-com genres is “got married too soon,” (made famous on TV by Dharma and Greg). I missed it in the theater, but EMAET is one I will watch for as a library DVD. Kareena did not annoy me in the trailer–let’s hope it’s as enjoyable as Jab We Met (my fave Kareena rom-com). And was Farah Khan the choreographer for “Aunty Ji”? because it’s just her style.

 

Jenny K:  Not Farah…she’s really only directing now, and choreographs for her own films, and Shah Rukh’s occasionally. This one was a guy named Bosco Martis and another one named Rajeev Soorti is listed, too. Bosco is definitely in this making-of video.

 

Julie M:  My research reveals that one of the location shoots was in Pataudi…the home princeship of Kareena’s intended, Saif Ali Khan.  Hmm…

 

Jenny K:  So, next on my oddball romance mix, was Dil Bole Hadippa! (The Heart Says Hurray! 2009) which put the balls in oddball…cricket balls, that is. You wouldn’t think that a cricket romance would be too unusual in Hindi film, Lagaan, right? But this one adds a cross-dressing twist.  Rani Mukherji plays a cricket-mad Punjabi girl from Amritsar named Veera, who has always had a dream to be able to play on a national team but her gender stops her, despite her proven “mad skills” on the cricket field.

One day after being turned away from tryouts, yet again, she goes back to her home with the troupe of wandering players she lives with and has to do a “trouser role,” off the cuff, if you’ll pardon the pun, to stand in for an actor who is falling-down drunk. Translated lyrics are under the original Youtube post.

That she pulls this off successfully leads her to hope that with a little more work she can fool the newly arrived, London-bred son of the team owner who is now coaching his dad’s team. Shahid Kapoor plays Rohan, the tough-to-please coach who fails to recognize his newest phenom, “Veer” as the girl he’s both fighting with and romancing at the local fair; he thinks she’s “Veer’s” twin sister. Ah, the things we swallow for a fun romance with lovely big dance numbers like this one.

I think that this is the most attractive persona that I’ve seen Shahid wear yet. Maybe because he’s not trying so hard to please, as Rohan’s natural disposition tends toward cranky. He sure can dance, though, and even delivers a convincing performance throughout the culminating cricket match where he gets to exercise those impressive biceps, and even does a creditably cute DDLJ Raj impression for Veera.

Julie M:  Again, another difference between us.  I don’t mind Shahid at all, and he’s proven he can do Punjabi-milieu, dance, comedy and romance, in Jab We Met (a seriously underrated film in this genre).  Dil Bole Hadippa! is another on my list of “to watch” given my insane fangirl admiration for Rani; however, since it hasn’t hit my library yet it’s not gonna. Guess I’d better find a place I can pay $3 to stream it. And you know you got me with Shahid’s dancing, and all the bhangra beats.

 

Jenny K:  Well, you don’t have to look far…Yashraj Channel at Youtube, $1.99…

The final leg of my romance trifecta, is an old one, Aandhi (Storm) from 1975. My pal Jayesh loaned me two films, and this was the first one that I got to, and boy was it unexpected. One of lyricist Gulzar’s directorial efforts, this must be his best to date. I’d seen his atmospheric ghost story with Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia, Lekin… but haven’t actually finished it. I always thought that it was a bit too lyrical for my non-poetic soul. This one, on the other hand, was delightfully mater-of-fact for a romance. And it is telling the tale of a mature couple, Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, who find each other again after years apart, all wrapped up in a story of political aspiration and machination. Extra bonus!

The story begins with Artidevi (Suchitra in her second to last film) as a political force who is facing a troubled reelection campaign. Her campaign managers don’t know how she, a Ghandian pacifist, is going to fight her rivals who control the newspapers and the funding of the business elites if she insists on fighting a clean, honest campaign. She goes to another town where a rally is to be held and moves her headquarters to a hotel there. She feels oddly at home there, and finds that the manager of the hotel is none other than her estranged husband.  She left him years ago when her desire for political office couldn’t be sated with a simple home life as a wife and…egad…mother! Surprise number one.

Aarti has lots of trouble fighting her growing attraction to her ex, J.K. (Sanjeev Kumar, who I just loved as the Thakur in Sholay) and more trouble winning back her troubled constituency, especially as they are spurred on to discontent by the opposition, headed by Chandrasen (a deceptively mild-looking villain played by Om Shivpuri). Here’s that scene, with one of the best songs in the R.D. Burman score.  No subtitles, but the main lyric is a tongue in cheek refrain paraphrased as “Here come the high-muckety-mucks carting along their many blessings for us. Let’s see what they’ve got.”

The story goes on unfolding slowly in both the present and the past, letting us know the history of our couple, how they met (the best meeting I’ve seen in any Hindi film, surprise number two), how they married against the wishes of her wealthy, powerful father, and how they came to a decision that they couldn’t stay together. Surprise number three, no one is truly happy, but politics is a stern bedfellow, and asks a lot of one.

 

Julie M:  Wow, a romance with grownups. Or, rather, grownup actors playing their age, in a world that somewhat resembles reality.  God bless the 1970s.

 

Jenny K:  Supposedly loosely based on the life and troubled marriage of Indira Ghandi, this film was banned for a year or two, until her death allowed the clearance to come through. Available, free from Shemaroo, on Youtube, with subtitles you can turn on, I’d highly recommend it.

October 2, 2011: Always a Bridesmaid, Never the “Bride”

Love stories come and go;  some become classics and sometimes they just get an E for Effort… Who knows what makes one stick in your mind and heart? As an example, let’s compare the new romance, Mausam with the classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and see how it stacks up.

Jenny K:  I went out last weekend to see the latest Shahid Kapoor film, Mausam (Seasons) with my friend Sultana.   Well…though it is by no means awful, I’m not sure it merits the bother of a full review. Pankaj Kapur, the freshman director and Shahid’s father, attempts a large, lush, multi-year love saga in the recent past that seems to be aiming for an old time “missed connections” romance with many things reminiscent of Gone With the Wind. It boasts military attacks, burning cities, a rioting populace, the birthing of babies, toddlers in peril, scores of the dead and injured, helpless females who wait endlessly for their men and/or get threatened with rape…Why Mr. Butler…eh, I mean Mr. Kapur…all I can say is Fiddle-dee-dee! You can’t do Gone With the Wind without a Scarlett and Rhett to keep you interested!

As cute as they are…and Shahid has proven more than once that he can do that, especially in his dance numbers…Shahid and Sonam are just not seasoned enough, or gifted enough or their characters aren’t well written enough to sustain the audience’s attention throughout an almost three hour film. Aayat (Sonam), who has lost way too much weight since Saawariya, IMO, ambles about the place like a pretty, young giraffe giggling and retreating throughout the film. She does it so often that she could easily assay the part of a cuckoo in any cinematic clock big enough to hold her. Lovely, but gawky and too tentative, I was left wondering why Hari (Shahid) was so struck by Aayat’s charms. Especially when her rival is the live-wire, Aditi Sharma, the sweet, friendly daughter of the local baker, who steals focus in every scene she’s in. 

And the same goes for Shahid’s Hari. While he’s portrayed as a callow youth, he’s charming and funny, especially when covered with flour, mud, leaves or whatever gets dumped on him in his pursuit of Aayat.

But when he misses his first chance to secure her love (her father spirits her away to Mumbai) he just metaphorically shrugs his shoulders and consoles himself with his love of jet airplanes, and joins the air force. Now, would Rhett do that? For that matter would SRK’s Raj let things stand like that in DDLJ? nahi…Nahi!!…NAHI!!!  I think NOT! Hari is too ready to let things go with the status quo for my taste, not even using his more modern resources effectively to find her during the next SEVEN YEARS! Phones, phone books, relatives, and to some extent, computers (it is only the early 1990s, I realize) could have cleared up this star-crossed mess, with at least one or two reels to spare.

And I will just touch briefly on his Top Gun wardrobe of flight suits and ubiquitous aviator sunglasses! Yes, he looks fetching in this ensemble, but, really, if they’re laying the fly-boy stuff on us, couldn’t they afford to have him do more than one flight sequence instead of just endlessly striding to or from the jets on the tarmac with flight helmet tucked neatly under his arm to allow his locks to waft photogenically in the breeze! And I coulda done without the pencil-thin moustache in this middle section, but I kinda liked the stubble into beard that he sported toward the end. It aged his baby-facedness a bit.

And again, Shahid had an almost inconvenient bit of standby eye-candy to distract me, I mean Aayat, in the form of one Vaibhav Talwar…Note to self: I must go back and watch Teen Patti again. Yowza!   Sorry for the lapse, but with “costars” like these, any reviewer would be tempted to bury the leads!

Summing up, I thought Mausam was a noble effort that fell sort of flat, and definately LONG. Worth seeing only for the great shots of Edinburgh, Scotland (I want to go back!!! Calton Hill!!! Sigh) and Shahid’s wonderful dancing.   2.5 out of 5 stars.   Here’s my favorite example from Mausam, “Saj Dhaj Ke”

And somebody please tell me what happened to Anupam Kher’s character…he just disappeared! 

 

Julie M:  Oh, well.  Sorry for your waste of time.  I had already made up my mind not to see it, and to catch Shahid’s dance numbers via clips. Too bad this was disappointing—I actually liked him in Jab We Met although I know you are not overly a fan of his. 

But to cheer you up, I have good news for you.  I had a half-day today and it was cold and windy out, so I decided to spend the afternoon warm and cozy on the couch watching a DVD, and it had to be something feel-good and not too thinky. In short–the perfect day for DDLJ. Yes, I took the plunge, and totally fell in love with it. 

For the twelve people on the planet who have not seen it, since it’s been constantly running [in Mumbai] since its release 15+ years ago, the full title is Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Will Take The Bride, 1995).  Here’s the trailer (English subs): 

And here’s a quick plot summary.  Simran (Kajol) is the London-born daughter of a Punjabi convenience-store owner (Amrish Puri), and is reluctantly engaged since infancy to Kuljit, the son of her father’s friend, back in India.  As a last fling before marriage she begs her father to let her travel with her girlfriends for a month in Europe.  As it happens, wealthy, fun-loving and insouciant London-born Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) is also on the same European rail tour with his buddies. They meet incredibly cute, she hates him, they end up missing their tour train in Switzerland and then travel together for a while with adorable consequences. 

After they part they realize they are each in love with the other (not knowing that the other feels the same way).  Here’s that scene, shown with him flashing back to their Switzerland time and scenes where she imagines seeing him everywhere: 

Simi’s dad learns that she met a boy in Europe and instantly whisks her off to India for the wedding.  Raj tries to reconnect with Simi, learns that she has left, and trots off to try and intercept her.  The rest of the film is the unfolding of Raj’s very original plan, and its unintended consequences, to stop the wedding and convince Simi’s dad (who already hates him due to an incident in the first half) that only he can make Simi as happy as she deserves to be.

This all sounds very rom-com formulaic, but really, it comes across as very fresh and engaging.  Maybe I’m just used to how it all works now (the goofy first half and melodramatic second half), but I suspect it’s because the SRK/Kajol pairing is absolutely impossible to beat. Sure, there are massive plot holes (if all her luggage was taken away on the train, how could she make all those costume changes when she and SRK were on the road? How the heck did he find her knowing just that she was “Somewhere in the Punjab”?), but who doesn’t love love when it’s presented so charmingly?

This is my new favorite love song, when he just shows up in her field inIndia: 

And who could fail to adore this classic Amrish Puri look?

So, I get it now, I really do. I promise not to rag on SRK too much from now on. And I know I will watch DDLJ every time I need to be assured that even though life really s*cks sometimes, it all works out in the end (and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end).  And I know you like “girls vs boys” dance numbers, so here’s  the one in this film: 

 

Jenny K:  It took me a while to “get” SRK, too, unlike my buddies Pat and Kathy who fell into Kamp Khan almost from the start. And weirdly enough, the reason I didn’t like him at first (beside the goofy slapstick) was that I kept seeing stills from Devdas and thought he was just “too pretty” for my taste with the big doe-like eyes and long eyelashes, etc. I told that to one of the store managers (the pretty part, not the eyelash details) and he looked at me like I was crazy. Well, after a few of Shah Rukh’s offerings, over the course of time, he began to sneak in to my psyche and, as you know, I quite like him, on most occasions, and always find him charming. I like to think I have a more evenly dispersed love of Bollywood Male Amazing-ness, but it may be that I can’t choose just one!

As to the charming…this is one of my favorite interviews with SRK on CNN. In three parts, here’s a link to the first one.  

 

Julie M:  Great interview!  Mostly I like him, too, but there are a few facial expressions that really turn me off (that “lip trembling about to cry” one, for example).   But I never really got the absolute adoration of an entire country and the diaspora for him, until DDLJ.  Raj’s speech at the end about loving her so much that he was willing to give her up to another man if it’s truly what her father thinks is best for her…yeah, that was kind of a ruse on his part but he said it so convincingly, and it rang all the cultural chimes so loudly, that no wonder the actor and character became conflated in the public imagination.

DDLJ is available for rent through YouTube.   As usual with YRF rentals the aspect ratio is likely going to be goofy, and I don’t know if the rental comes with English subtitles. [the page says you can turn them on]

 

Jenny K: I guess it’s safe to say that though you can put the boy in the village and the girl in the field of yellow flowers, it may not be enough to call up the same responses that Aditya Chopra gave us with his Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.  Lightning doesn’t often strike twice…but please, directors, don’t stop trying to find it, because when the jodi has jadoo, it’s unforgettable!

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