Nov. 27, 2012: Thanksgiving for the Parade of New Films – Part I

Since the Navratri/Diwali/Thanksgiving/Christmas rush of holidays is in full swing, we’ve thought it justified more trips to the theater, or at least a push to see more recent releases. Bollywood seems to be shaking itself out of some of its old stale tropes and harking back, nostalgically to some of the things we’ve missed.  Very appropriate for a post-Thanksgiving post, I’d think.  In fact, we’ve gotten so much watching done, that we’ll have to split these new film reviews into two parts, and leave Julie’s older, classic film voyaging for another post. 

Julie M:  Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (I Fell in Love With You, 2012), which I watched on DVD, was cute, somewhat. It’s not the type of film I would see if it were an American production, because it’s rather predictable, but there were some moments, mainly having to do with those funloving Punjabis.

Mini (Genelia D’Souza) is an educated and spirited girl stuck in a small Punjabi village, where her father Bhatti (Tinnu Anand) has gotten moderately wealthy running an autorickshaw business. She has also, somehow, gotten a Canadian passport, and between the wealth and the green card she is a very eligible young lady indeed. Bhatti wants her to marry the spoiled and lazy, but quite handsome, Sunny (Kartar Cheema), the son of a somewhat wealthier neighbor; however, Mini wants to have a bit of adventure before she settles down. She reluctantly agrees to the marriage to please her father but is all the while trying to hatch an escape plan.

Enter Viren (Riteish Deshmukh), one of Bhatti’s drivers and a hardworking young man whom Bhatti has just cheated out of both his dreams and his life savings. In a drunken fit, Viren crashes Mini and Sunny’s engagement party to give Bhatti a piece of his mind.  In the commotion Mini sees her chance:  she forces Viren to “kidnap” her, then phones Bhatti with a “ransom” demand, telling Viren that he can keep a share of the proceeds as repayment for what her father cheated him out of while she uses the rest of the money to escape.

Jenny K:  Sounds familiar but promising…I’ve liked Riteish more and more, especially since seeing him hold his own with Amitabh in Aladin a few years back.  And Genelia was very cute (almost too cute) in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na with Imraan.  And, I heard that Riteish and Genelia got married back in February….Perfect type-casting for a cute romance.

Julie M: I’m not sure whether the film release pre-dated or succeeded the wedding, but they’d been together for a very long time before they made the film, which makes the romance film something of a vehicle for both of them. 

Anyway, Viren, bowled over by her audacity, agrees and they find a vacant house to hide out in for a few days while Bhatti gathers the funds. Of course they start to fall in love while having adventures like crashing a wedding, scrounging for cash and going through the obligatory “who sleeps where” tamasha in their purloined residence. The wedding-crash scene was  predictable but still fun.

On the day of the ransom payment they go to the rendezvous point and…both of them get kidnapped for real! by the notorious kidnapper Chowdhary (Om Puri), who proceeds to demand additional ransom from Bhatti.

Is this enough adventure for Mini or has it gone too far? What will she, and everyone else, do when she finds out that Chowdhary, to everyone’s surprise, is Viren’s father?

Jenny K:  All this fake kidnapping stuff this year, this and Barfi!  What is it?  This year’s annual theme at the screenwriting college?

Julie M: Genelia D’Souza has the rubber face, cute mannerisms and mischievous grin made famous by Kajol and is the perfect bubbly girl. Riteish Deshmukh does an excellent “confused” face, which he deploys with regularity over the course of the first third of the film. Their couplehood is inevitable but it’s fun to watch it come together, and who could hate two such pretty people. Not one, not two, but THREE love songs that are mainstream and predictable fill the soundtrack, and there is a glitzy and obligatory-feeling item number with Veena Malik.

There are plot holes all over the place (for example, it’s never explained how she got her Canadian passport, and Chowdhary’s gang is too bumbling for it to make any sense how he got so wealthy; not to mention an absolutely inane turnabout in the last 15 minutes due to a pretty stupid “serious” speech by Chowdhary) but what do you expect from such an obvious vehicle for these two stars. Om Puri’s talent is wasted in his role, which I hate to see.

All in all, not a terrible way to pass the time if you happen to come across it, but it doesn’t break any new ground and you may find yourself checking your watch somewhere in the middle of the second half. Cute date movie if you’re 17, and for us oldsters, Riteish takes his shirt off which is always fun. I give it about a third of a thumbs-up. There is a completely illegal DVD rip on Daily Motion, with Part I, here.

P.S.  I thought the Sunny character seemed familiar…according to what I read, Punjabi actor Kartar Cheema (making his Bollywood debut in TNLHG) modeled his character on the Kajol character’s spoiled and mean fiance in DDLJ. Except in this one he’s not mean, just lazy and not very bright.

Jenny K:  They could do worse than copying DDLJ, except that stupid item number with the fat opera singer in “Paris”…shudder

The first of my string of movie outings was for the long-awaited comeback film for Sridevi, English Vinglish (2012). Kathy, Pat and I hit the local cinema to catch it the first week. Well, all I can say is, what a great way to come back! I can’t believe it’s been over ten years since her last major film! She’s 49 this year, but is still so lovely. Raising a family seems to agree with her. Here’s the trailer.

It’s a bit of a one joke plot with Sridevi cast as Shashi, the long suffering Indian wife, who, through one thing and another (life, mostly), hasn’t pursued her knowledge of English past the rudimentary stages in school, and her family taunts her with it almost daily. A joke, as they see it, quite hilarious, but she becomes more and more depressed that even her husband and kids don’t give her the respect she deserves.

Shashi’s trepidation becomes greater when she has to go to New York City for her niece’s wedding, reuniting with her older sister who is raising her daughters in America all on her own after her husband’s death. Shashi’s in NYC with three weeks to kill before the wedding and decides that enough is enough…she’s going to take a crash English course and surprise everyone. The scenes in the classroom, filled with a multi-culti mix of misfits is not particularly subtle, or believeable from an educational aspect, but the camaraderie and charm of the characters learning together and from each other is rather nice. You can see some of it in the “making of” clip, here.

Julie M:  Did you see Educating Rita?  Sounds somewhat like that one.

 

Jenny K:  Same genre, of course.  I loved Educating Rita, especially as it introduced me to Julie Walters.  But this plot wasn’t about falling in love with her teacher…in this film, an impossibility, as the teacher here was the worst performed role in the film.  And her education doesn’t break up her marriage as in ER, it strengthens it, in a traditionally happy ending at the wedding in NYC with her family.  

Well, happy for everyone except her fellow student, Laurent, from France, who has developed quite a serious crush on Shashi. Poor boy. I’d love to comfort him, myself, if I were given half a chance. He’s played by an actor named Mehdi Nebbou…half Algerian, half German, but all adorable. Definitely a thumbs up film, see it if you can.

AND, I went off tonight on the spur of the moment jaunt with Pat after work to catch Life of Pi (2012).  Not to tempt you out of your vow of complete home video supremacy, Jule, but Irrfan Khan has a much larger part in it as the Adult Pi, lots more face time for him than I’d expected…and what a face, sigh….Pat and I debated (but not for long) about the extra expenditure for 3D.  Worth it!  No, not just for Irrfan-gazing at seeming-finger-tip-reach, though that may have been enough, I grant you, but with tigers menacing, zebras charging, whales leaping overhead and flying fish flinging themselves at our hero willy-nilly, it was well worth the extra few dollars for the heavenly view on a big screen.  Not officially an Indian film, but with all the scenes set there, and some very fine Indian actors (Tabu! and Ang Lee’s new find, Suraj Sharma, as Young Pi does a phenomenal job in his debut role), I thought that it is a necessary mention here.  And a trailer.  

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7WBfntqUoA]
 

In a day or two, we’ll be back with two more of our recent viewings, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and Shah Rukh’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan, so, stay tuned, we’ll be back!

March 30, 2012: Deliver Me from March Madness!

Julie’s been somewhat of a basketball widow this past couple of weeks, which gave her lots and lots of time to catch up on films!

 

Julie M:  B was working and watching basketball tonight, so I took the opportunity to watch Kashmir Ki Kali (Kali of Kashmir, 1964). It started out like a typical Shammi romp, where he is a wealthy, irresponsible playboy goofily chasing a shy, beautiful village girl, whom he almost gets until an impossible amount of drama in the last 30 minutes threatens their happy future together.

  

Jenny K:  Yes, I liked that one, too…it’s always been touted as one of his best. And of course, set in Kashmir…how can you resist?!?

 

Julie M:  Rajiv (Shammi Kapoor) is the reckless heir to a wealthyDelhi industrialist. One day Maa decides to pick him a bride so he’ll settle down; he rejects all the choices and flees to the family’s other home in scenic Kashmir, where he meets Champa (Sharmila Tagore), a poor flower-seller with a blind father. So as not to scare her off he pretends to be the homeowner’s driver (hm…where have I seen THAT before?) and chats her up, then finds numerous occasions to be with her and pitch adorable woo, mostly in song. This one was my favorite.

A particularly hilarious scene has him dressing up in a burkha so he can ride with her and her friends as they travel to a village fair, and there is a crazy sub-plot involving three comely lasses who have rented rooms in his home and are chasing his wealth (that part could have lifted right out as far as I was concerned). There’s also a wonderful dance number at the above-mentioned fair, full of ethnic goodness, although what a Punjabi folk dance is doing in a Kashmiri village is beyond me.

Since I had already seen the disarmingly similar, An Evening in Paris (1967), also with hammy Shammi and Sharmila, I kept having flashbacks–or flash-forwards considering it’s a later film. Though clearly typecast, Shammi is so silly and sweet that I forgave almost everything. Also, this film is worth watching because of the elaborate jewelry, second only to Paheli in films I’ve seen. Overall: fluffy, fun, a thrilling scene near the end with Shammi getting all dishoom on the bad guy and wrestling with him on an elevated rock transport system…what more do you want?

Kashmir Ki Kali available free on YouTube, with English subtitles.

 

Jenny K:  I, who never let basketball bother me, watched Bikini Beach today while getting some housework done. Ah, that Frankie Avalon, winning the fair Annette in a double role, as both himself and, as his own rival, Potato Bug, a goofy British hearthrob of a singer (a Chad and Jeremy type), who also drag races.  I just watch it for Eric Von Zipper. When EVZ likes someone, they STAY liked! In no way deep, but I’m a sucker for fluff, every so often. This may be why I was predisposed to like masalas.

 

Julie M:  I think the 1960s are the 1960s no matter where. I love how Indian films reflect the music of the time, all the while staying true to Indian mores and values.

[the next day…still during the basketball tournament…]

Julie M:  Saw Morning Raga (2004) tonight. LOVED it. It had everything–fantastic music, dramatic storyline (but not too), fabulous performances. Prakash…what a hottie, too bad he didn’t do more work. And Shabana “sang”! I loved that it wasn’t “mainstream,” that the pacing was perfect, visually stunning…I can’t say enough. Just my kind of film. Thank you, thank you for sending it.

Brief plot summary:  Swarnalata (Shabana Azmi) and Vaishnavi (Ranjani Ramakrishnan) are best friends and musical partners, singing traditional carnatic (South Indian) pieces in the privacy of their homes (this piece is the opening of the film).

Swarnalata convinces Vaishnavi to perform publicly with her, but a tragedy en route changes the lives of both families.  Twenty years later Vaishnavi’s son Abhinay (Prakash Rao), an aspiring musician, returns to the village and encounters Swarnalatha, and wants to incorporate her and her music into his band.   Swarnalatha, still blaming herself for the tragedy, refuses.  Can their mutual passion for music overcome the horrors of the past?  And what role does Pinky, Abhinay’s new girlfriend, play in the story?   Click on the Youtube logo, bottom right, if it doesn’t play.

 

Jenny K:  Morning Raga was all part of my minifest “movies about playback, and concert, singers”.  It was a nice little movie…but, Shabana didn’t sing any of it herself, you know. However, all the reviews I have read said they thought she had studied a lot to get the whole set of performance mannerisms right and the lip synch just so. Quite a feat!

 

Julie M:  Yes, apparently she did study, for months, as did Prakash learning to play the violin (even though it wasn’t his playing in the film). I admire that kind of commitment.

And…I was listening to a library CD on my walk this morning and a fusion song came on that had long bits of carnatic music in it, and now I know what it is! 

Morning Raga is available free on YouTube. It’s mostly in English, and the small bits that aren’t English are subtitled.  Part I is here.

 [a few days later..still more basketball…]

Julie M:  Saw Maqbool (2004) tonight. I was really leery of seeing it because of the gangland setting and I kind of wish I had listened to myself, because despite the excellent performances (Irrfan was fantastic!) it was really bloody and violent.

I like how it played with the parallel characters from MacBeth: instead of two sons Abbaji (the King Duncan character) has a daughter, which set up a whole other dynamic re the succession. Lady MacB is not a wife but a mistress, the mistress of both the King and Maqbool, again upping the drama quotient and changing her motivation from ambition for her husband to simply getting rid of a lover she does not love to exchange for one she does love, while still keeping her position. This scene, where she holds a gun to Maqbool’s head and forces him to call her “my love,” is key to her twisted psyche.

Jenny K:  That’s what bothers me the most about Maqbool, when they make Lady MacBeth the mistress, then in this film, Maqbool’s whole motivator is sex, not power and greed as in MacBeth. That bothered me more than, say having “Emilia” [spoilers] not die in Omkara, but in the end, flip the Shakespeare on his head and have her kill her Iago. Shocking, but less fundamentally a change to the plot.

 

Julie M:  I also loved this quwwali song at the gangland funeral.

And I loved how the “witches” are brought together in the single person of the soothsaying cop (Om Puri) and his jovial sidekick (your boy Naseeruddin Shah).

The visuals were good and I suspect would have been better if the DVD had not been mastered from a bad VHS original. Still, all that blood and shooting really soured what could have been a really satisfying drama. Overboard, to my tastes. 

This was a welcome light moment, at the engagement-party festivities for Abbaji’s daughter.

Jenny K:  I’ve always liked Omkara better than Maqbool of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare adaptations, primarily because Maqbool is soooo dark.  I thought as you like Irrfan so much, it was important that you see it. It may not have been his first film, but it was one of the first two that really put him on the map, cinematically. The first was The Warrior by Asif Kapadia. I haven’t seen it, but it has great reviews.  I can’t believe that he didn’t “hit” until he was about 40. He still looks so great and as busy as ever at 50!

Julie M:  Omkara certainly gets my vote, too, for the better of the two. It  was nice to see Irrfan and Tabu act together again. I loved the two of them in The Namesake (2007), which I saw first, but I can’t help but think that their casting in Namesake was inspired by their undeniable chemistry in Maqbool. Excellent, mature actors serious about their craft. LOVE to see that!

 [the next night…isn’t that tournament over yet?]

Julie M:  Saw Kairee (Raw Mango, 2000) tonight. Very indie, very good.

A young city girl (Yogita Deshmukh) arrives in a rural Marathi village to live with her beloved aunt Taani (Shilpa Navalkar) after the tragic death of her parents. At first she is happy in her new life, since she gets to spend a lot of time with her aunt in the beautiful setting. But soon she must go to school, which is taught by an incompetent master and where she is the only girl. She is made to feel bad but is cheered by her aunt’s standing up to the master and getting her transferred to another school where the education is better, the master  is friendlier (a stuttering Atul Kulkarni) and there are more girls. But, gradually she finds out that things are not what they seem in her idyllic new life.   [Sorry, no subtitles.]

It was a very beautiful movie visually, with excellent performances by Shilpa (such an expressive face, especially when she laughs!)  and Atul (good to see him NOT be a villain for a change), and a cameo by Sonali Kulkarni (of Mission Kashmir and Dil Chahta Hai) as the grown-up girl. 

Lots of cryptic references to finding the local peacocks (which the girl never gets to see:  I’m not quite sure what the symbolism is, maybe happiness?) and eating raw mangoes fresh from the tree (which I believe represents perfection), a favorite treat of Taani’s which the girl also never gets to experience.  

 

Jenny K:  Atul is one of my favorite character actors.  He’s given some great performances in Rang De Basante, Chandni Bar, Khakee and this one.  And all so different.  Amazing.  He never just “phones it in” as they say.  Definitely you’ve picked some wonderful basketball distractions. Two points…swooosh!  Into the hoop!

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie M:  Aha!  Then this probably explains it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2011: Scaling the Heights of Hindi Cinema

Julie M:  This evening’s feature in my living room was Mangal Pandey: The Rising. I really enjoyed it, all the while understanding that HUGE liberties were likely taken with history (the Rani-character subplot, for example). Aamir was great (as usual), and the music–Rahman, of course–was fantastic. Same vibe as the music for Lagaan: extremely well integrated with the story. The only song I thought might have been gratuitous was the Holi one. Overall: 4 stars, would recommend it to anyone.


Jenny K:  Glad you liked Mangal Pandey. It had some fine moments (can you say Toby Stevens!) and a brave attempt by Aamir of making what felt like historical verismilitude out of a paragraph and a half of concrete character reference. I ruined it for myself by researching it too thoroughly when it was coming out. I should have known better.

It was sort of fun following the production while it was shooting.  A few of the people I chatted with on the Bollywhat Forum had decided that as they were touring India at the time, they would volunteer as extras on the shoot, as well as giving us all ongoing posts from the set.  It was very cool, and we got to see them both when they didn’t get cut out in the editing room.  They were trying to lure me to come over, too, but I chickened out.  Lost chances…

And even though the Rani scenes were imagined, I really liked them.  The Holi scene was fun, I thought…and it’s so traditional.  Not sure I was groovin’ on her pink dress, though.  Not really her color.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   OK, watched A Wednesday this evening and had enough time (it was less than 2 hrs long!) to start Virasat.

A Wednesday was very good–excellent performance by Naseeruddin Shah–and more Hollywood than Bollywood. American-style thriller with a good twist at the end. B watched it with me for a while (he saw NS and said “Hey, it’s THAT guy again!”) and seemed to like it. I thought it was good but not particularly Indian.

Virasat, on the other hand, is shaping up to be quite satisfyingly traditional. Anil Kapoor in the hero role (with a 12″ mullet–hilarious) is weird to see. Some cheesiness and dad/son melodrama, and a terrifically done flood scene that just happened. Don’t think I’ll make it through the whole thing tonight–it’s just too long–will finish it tomorrow and quickly return it to the library.

Jenny K:  Haven’t seen either of them yet, but I have A Wednesday in my queue at Netflix.  It will be interesting to see how it compares with another film he did the year before called Shoot On Sight.  Could be an interesting flip side.  In SOS, Naseerji plays a commander on the London police force as it tries to track down suicide bombers.  He has to deal with profiling both against the suspects and also towards himself.  Why was he given this high profile case?  Was it because he deserves it, or that  because he’s a Muslim, it makes the Department look colorblind?  Nice performances, and some good suspense.

I look forward to seeing Virasat sometime.  I like me a good Anil movie, especially pre-thinning shears “do”.  Though the mullet is now gone, it was so a part of his head, for so long, that I imagine it sadly rolling along behind him in his shadow, a lonely tumbleweed hairball. Removing the famous Kapoor Mullet was, I imagine, almost as traumatic as shaving his moustache would be!  Sacrilege!!

[another day goes by]

Julie M:  Finished Virasat. It’s the kind of movie that is cheesy when you watch it, but there are scenes you just can’t get out of your head. Anil was GREAT in what ended up ultimately as a tragic role. He did it all–melodrama, fights, romance, dancing (although not much)–and only looked uncomfortable a couple of times. Great character to portray, too. Tabu looked very young and sweet and didn’t seem to have enough to do. The music was not bad–this particular song reminded me a lot of Rahman:

(quality could be better but at least it has subtitles)

The whole movie is available on YouTube.

[Jenny K’s Note: Sadly, none of the three that I found had subtitles…The composer of Virasat, BTW is Anu Malik, who works even more extensively than Rahman, with twice as many scores, including Main Hoon Na, Munnabhai MBBS and Bride & Prejudice.  He’s everywhere, even as a judge on Indian Idol…which you never see Rahman do.]

[and one more day…]

Julie M: One more tonight…saw Chori Chori. Sweet, a bit melodramatic and mushy at the end (required judicious use of the fast-forward button). Ajay was super-hot but barely cracked a smile, and that in-love-weepy look is not a good one for him. I much prefer him slightly dangerous. First filmi wedding I’ve seen where the bride did not wear a red and gold sari, but Rani looked beautiful anyway. And the scenery! I so want to go to Shimla now.

[Jenny K’s Note: Spoilers in the video, skip if you don’t want to know that there’s a happy ending 🙂 ]

Jenny K: Yeah, Shimla is in Himachal Pradesh, where they shot Taal, too. Oooh, oooh, and Darjeeling, where they shot Black, and also Main Hoon Na, I believe.  Also, while we’re establishing the Fantasy Highlands of India Tour, let’s add all of Jammu and Kashmir, like Srinagar where they shot Mission Kashmir (one of Hrithik’s films, with Preity and Sanjay Dutt, that I haven’t sent you, yet because it melds themes of  terrorism and romance in an occasionally awkward way.  Dil Se was much smoother).  The houseboats on Dal Lake are really fascinating.  My friend, Pat rented one to stay on when she was there.  And we also should visit Ladakh where they shot some of Dil Se and lots of Lakshya.  We’ve got to go, even if it’s dangerous, politically.  Hmmm.  Wonder whether we could get Ajay to guard us?

Check out this video by a company called Contemporary Nomad.  Lovely footage of Srinagar.

Julie M: Got some good ones waiting for this weekend too, which promises to be excellent for Hindi movies since B is out of town for 3 days.

Atithi tum kab jaoge?
Minsarakanavu
Saawariya (I know you said I might not like it, but I’m trying it anyway)
Sholay (because it’s a classic)
U Me aur Hum (I loves me my Ajay)

How I’ll fit 5 films into 3 days, I don’t know. SNL is in reruns, right?

Speaking of Ajay…

Ajay gets experimental, signs Priyadarshan’s film

If I remember correctly, Virasat was a Priyadarshan film, right? Cool.

Jenny K: Yes, I do admit to occasional Priyadarshan films that I like, but his touch with comedies is a bit, …um…, broad, shall we say.  I think I like his family-centered comedies better.  They are warmer, with a squishy emotional center, and are very feel-good and reassuringly traditional.  Mere Baap, Pehle Aap, and Hulchul, at it’s root, are both like this.

As to the other films you got from the library, I’ve seen all of them this time!  I was fooled by the Tamil title for Minsarakanavu, because I knew it with the Hindi title Sapnay.  Kajol is, of course, very cute in it, though I don’t believe her wanting to be a nun in it, but, whatever.  Arvind Swamy is sweet, but seems a bit old for her.  Rajiv Menon, the director, also did Kandukondain, Kandukondain (I Have Found It) which had similar pairings and so maybe that’s to be expected.  And I always like Prabhu Deva’s dancing.  Not sure he’s a better match for Kajol, than Arvind, either.  Where’s Aamir when you need him?

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?  I did like, enough to review it on the other blog, here.  I was comparing it to contemporary US comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine which I saw the same weekend.  ATKJ won, needless to say.  How could it lose with Ajay, Konkonal and Paresh Rawal, at least for me.

Saawariya, I reconsidered my “meh” when you said you liked Devdas, sort of, and when I thought you might like Ranbir.  It’s an odd film, but not horrible or anything.  Same director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as Devdas, Khamoshi, HDDCS, Black (which you liked) and Guzaarish.

Sholay (because it’s a classic)… you said it all.  Amitabh, Dharmendra, stylish masala western.  Some slapsticky bits, but as you said, there is always FFwd.

U Me aur Hum, I think I recommended this earlier as the one of two films that I liked Kajol’s chemistry with her hubby.  I think he does better in the second half than the first half.  Second half is definitely more of a weepie.  Hope you survive it. 🙂

[next day…]

Julie M: And to continue the Ajay theme…saw Deewangee this evening. First half–totally predictable and almost insulting in its obviousness. (What tipped me off? Ajay playing a mild-mannered stammerer. Could have been quirky casting, but I knew better) Second half, equally obvious but the action made up for it. Overall, Ajay was fairly brilliant if a teeny tiny bit over the top, Akshaye was…ok, Urmila was busty and danced well. 2.5-3 stars. (I guess I asked for it when I said I liked Ajay when he is a bit dangerous)

[Jenny K’s NoteIt’s on Youtube, in two parts.  Hit the CC red button on the bottom of the screen to give yourself subtitles.  Here’s the second part.]

Jenny K:  I think I liked this one so much because I had not seen Ajay much before it, perhaps HDDCS, where he’s sweet and noble, and so the second half surprised me quite a bit. Urmila being busty did not surprise me. If you like Ajay being dangerous, you have to get Khakee. I looked to see if I owned it, and I can’t find it, so maybe I didn’t buy it. That or his version of Bhagat Singh (one of the martyrs that the kids were making the movie about in Rang de Basanti).

Oh, and Ajay has done that mild-mannered stammerer kinda role, and straight, too.  He did a remake of I am Sam, that Sean Penn as a mentally retarded man raising a smart little girl in Main Aisa Hi Hoon.  Don’t know if I actually made it through that one.  I like him better “bad,” too.

I liked your clip from Virasat. Odd, Anil almost didn’t look like himself. Don’t know what it was. Maybe he’d put on a bit of weight for the film to look less moviestarish, but his face was a lot rounder than it is normally. Nice look on him. I think you may be ready for Nayak with him paired with Rani and the kookiest videos ever. Rahman score! Here’s the loopiest clip for a taste. Don’t ask me to explain, I can’t.

I don’t remember what the lyrics meant, but after listening again, I think with all that “jootha” stuff, which is Hindi for liar, maybe it’s just a case of the “Black” girl calling the kettle pot?  🙂

Julie M:    That clip is so weird it’s scary!!!

So you have not seen Virasat? If not, definitely see it. Anil starts out the film as a typical young-Indian-educated-in-England with Western clothes, scruffy facial hair and oh! that mullet (he looks the way we typically know him in this part), then as the story moves on he becomes more and more traditional in dress, manner and thinking patterns, mostly because he has to, [spoiler] his dad dies and he takes on the role of the landowner/village-protector, but also because he grows up a bit. Also the movie is a bit older and Anil is younger. I had no idea he was as old as he is–born in 1959–so he was in his late 30s when he did Virasat but looked like he was 25.

August 4, 2011: Pairs and Parallels

[Jenny K’s Note: Now that we’re caught up with our back posts, we’re just dating the new ones, and not numbering them: Part 1, Part 2, etc.]

 

Julie M:  THANKS for the super-box of movies!! An abundance of riches. Even though it was almost 10pm when I got free last night, I couldn’t resist diving in. By totally random chance (the close-eyes-and-grab method) I selected Cheeni Kum. Two of my fave actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu.

I liked the fact that it was a love story with two mature people instead of pretty kids. I liked that they didn’t attempt to do the sappy love-song numbers themselves, but had them as background. I liked BigB carrying this on his own instead of being the occasional elder and somewhat ridiculous foil to the younger hero (JBJ, BaB and KANK, I’m talking to you). There were some wonderful moments where we got to see pure joy on BigB’s face, a rare occurrence since I didn’t think his persona owned that emotion. However, overall I would call it merely a serviceable romantic comedy, slightly engaging yet entirely predictable, with obviously manipulative heartstring-tugging elements (the little girl). I kept thinking that I had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery do the same story, or a version thereof, but with a little more charm and chemistry.

Jenny K:  Well, I’m glad you’re surprised. Fun to see how much of “the library” can fit in one small box. No rush to get them back. I liked Cheeni Kum, too, but actually don’t remember that many details about it. He was a chef, and she was a customer with a discriminating palate. That was a challenge to him, which he wasn’t used to. I thought both BigB and Tabu did a good job, but Paresh Rawal, again, made the biggest impression as her father. Amazing what he can tell you with just a slight adjustment to his face…he probably was not responsible for the over- lengthy scene on the roof of his house. Talent and all, it dragged a bit, and could have been cut a bit to it’s benefit.

Not quite sure which CZ-J movie you’re referring to. She did No Reservations where she was a cranky chef, but it was with Aaron Eckhart. Then she did Entrapment with Sean Connery, and there was chemistry, yes, but it was based on them being pupil and teacher, and was a thriller, not on a romantic comedy. Perhaps you are just thinking about her personal life, hmmm?

 

Julie M:  I didn’t say that they HAD done a movie exactly like it…it’s more like BigB and Tabu had the CZ-J/SC vibe, and I kept FEELING like I was watching the other set of actors. I felt the stirrings of a rom-com relationship in Entrapment, so maybe that was it. Paresh Rawal, he was the slapstick overly-frightened uncle in Bhool Bhulaiyaa that I just saw and I couldn’t get that persona out of my head, because I hated it in BB.

No, my objection to Cheeni Kum (which I didn’t love, but didn’t hate: same feeling as Jab We Met for me) was that it was nothing different except for the actors. I’ve quit going to that kind of film out of Hollywood–seen one, seen ’em all. This had the smell of “vehicle” for me.

 

Jenny K:  You’re so darned literal! I had my toungue firmly in cheek…it was all a build up to more effectively pick on Michael Douglas, which, is, given his current state of health, questionable on my part. But old habits die hard, and good jokes are hard to find. Official retraction, so there’s no misunderstanding… I like Michael Douglas as an actor, and I hope he rides his health problems out successfully. There. I feel better now.

But actually, Cheeni Kum was something rather daring in Indian cinema. The May-December thing, at least at their age, while it may be done in life with older, richer guys marrying younger women, it’s not done in popular cinema that often, unless it’s a period film and the girl is a teenager and the older man is the villain in the piece. That I have seen, frequently.

[the next day…]

Julie M:   Tonight’s feature…Iqbal. What a sweet movie. Completely predictable (except for the coach didn’t die: that would have hit all the cliches) but fun, a lot of heart, and made me cheer. Shreyas Talpade…he was good as the friend in Om Shanti Om but glad to have caught his debut movie. (hot hot hot) This is definite Heartland Film Festival stuff–that’s our local–affirming the human spirit, yada yada. And I got to watch more cricket, sort of. 

[Jenny K’s Note: Hey, the whole movie is on YouTube, again…]

Jenny K: You’re a brave one…the thought of watching cricket, except in its edited form, daunts me. I’m assuming that Lagaan gave me its “good parts version” and even then, wasn’t there over an hour and a half of just game footage? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but if I didn’t have the emotional backstory of the players in that one, would I have enjoyed it so much? Don’t think so, but maybe I’ll check out a local team sometime. There has to be one, somewhere around DC.

So, Shreyas Talpade floats your boat, does he? I grant you he’s cute as a puppy, but to quote, “hot hot hot,” did I get that right? Ah, you do seem to like those young things, Shahid, Zayed, now Shreyas. Heaven help you when you see Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Naa. Imraan Khan would be just up your alley in the story of to cute kids who just think they are friends, to learn differently, later. Aamir’s nephew, BTW.

Or maybe Ranbir Kapoor, Rishi’s son. Try Sawaariya, or maybe Bachna Ae Haseeno. Yes, that one might do. A coming of age story about a young guy who thinks he’s a player and it takes three women to knock it out of him. 

In any case, as long as you’re watching the cute little halflings, it leaves the old guard, literally, to me. No, Naseerji, you are not safe from your number one fan! He’s still so cute…though I’m not stalking him. No, really. Just collecting his films….

 

Julie M:  Now, now, I am not ALWAYS a cradle robber. I like Shiney Ahuja, and he’s not a puppy. And Farhan. And, so help me, the big teddy bear that is Boman Irani. And Ajay. AND Shreyas is a bit older now than he was in Iqbal.  Oh, and my library does have Sawaariya, so I’ve requested it. 

 

Jenny K:  Poking around about your HKA post, looking at the trailer and I had thought from looking at it that the guy she slept with looked familiar, and it was KayKay Menon. I think he’s got really good acting chops. I really liked him in Sarkar with BigB and Deewar (the newest one) also with BigB and Akshaye Khanna. Sometimes he reminds me of a young James Woods, don’t know just why. Here’s an interesting article on him from The Hindu newspaper.  

Shiney Ahuja, I only know from that bit in Fanaa, where he was unfortunate enough to meet Aamir in that helecopter. And yes, watching the clip of BB, I think I might have to watch it. It’s rare that Akshay’s sense of humor tickles my funny bone (Never, never, never go see, rent or even touch a copy of Garam Masala, no matter how funny anyone tells you it is. Painful!) I actually giggled once or twice in that trailer. But. I will say that I love him in the yellow outfit. Best thing he’s had on in years! Except the black coat at the end of Bewafaa, which was very fetching. However, it was too late in that film to save it from “awful” status…now, come on, really…is he supposed to be a rock star giving a concert or did he just get confused and stumbled into a random Victoria’s Secret stage show?   

Julie M:  I think both BB and Tashan might change your opinion of Akshay. He’s not over-the-top in either of them, and NO martial-arts stuff whatsoever in BB. (a little in Tashan, towards the end, but it’s not the point of the film)

 

Jenny K:  BigB seems to be allowing a number of his films and Abhishek’s out on Youtube and I found this one on Hulu via IMDb, that I just watched myself last week, Baabul. It was sweet, even if it did have The Shirtless Boys in it (Salman and John Abraham, oddly, fully clothed this time) with Rani. I’ve decided that Salman is more endearing when he only stays for half a film. You should poke around and hunt some up. Oops! Hulu put in a commercial even before the end of the credit song!  

 

Julie M: Re: Cheeni Kum: Purely by chance I found this description of an older movie, Autumn in New York, about a cranky restauranteur and a woman half his age:  

(Warning–there are spoilers in the article) Some elements of plot similar to Cheeni Kum but a completely different outcome. Although–I can totally see this version having the dramatic elements that would make it attractive to Bollywood.

I say this because I watched Matchstick Men last night, which has some elements disturbingly close to the plot of Bluffmaster:  

(Spoilers there, too) But, as we have seen with Ghajini/Memento, elements of a Western film can be appropriated and integrated into a Bollywood film and become a totally different story without affecting the original.

 

Jenny K:  As to Autumn in NY being like Cheeni Kum, you wouldn’t think so if you had seen it. I did, and if you (and Wikipedia) say that he was a restaurant onwer, it may be so, but I don’t remember that being a focus of the film, at all. He may have owned it, but I don’t think he was a chef, and really it only focused on their relationship, or not relationship, and her illness, and if he should be with her, etc.

There was a feeling of Cinderella about it, he had her make one of her crazy hats for a mythical someone, and it turned out it was for her, herself. Then she had to find something to wear with it and go out to a ritzy dinner with him. All very NYC fantasy date for the dying chick. I remember something about her changing his life so much that he put up a Christmas tree for the first time, and there is an image I remember of the tree on his penthouse terrace in the snow.

Very pretty images, sort of a dying woman’s postcards to her lover. You are definitely right that from the melodrama aspect, it SHOULD have been made over into a BW movie, long ago, even if it hasn’t been already. Cheeni Kum is just a much more cranky, crotchety piece, mostly due to AB’s onscreen personality. Love him to pieces…even if this isn’t his best film, by a longshot. 

I read the Matchstick Men synopsis, and then compared it to the Bluffmaster one, which I remembered pretty well when I had reviewed it, and aside from him being out conned at the end, I didn’t find it too close a copy. I think all twist, reverse twist, and twist back again films all feel like they’re from the same bolt of cloth. Which, perhaps they are. On Wikipedia, they say Bluffmaster is an adaptation of 9 Queens, which I never saw, but, again, after I read the synopsis…just that there were two conmen, one who ended up conning the other, was the only similarity that I saw.

Oh well. I think Hollywood is so paranoid about this sort of thing, that they are always crying “PLAGIARISM!” when it’s not even merited. Now Ghajini, what it copied was too specific not to be from Memento, though as you said, it ended up feeling quite different by the end, and in my opinion, suffered in the comparison. Sorry, Aamir…you can’t save everything.

 

Julie M:  Come on, even the introductory con in Matchstick Men was the same con as in Bluffmaster. Obvious to me.  The con that Matchstick Men pulled in the beginning was the same as in Bluffmaster: sell a crappy product to an unsuspecting consumer on the phone, then show up posing as government agents “warning” about the scam and get the consumer to sign a form disclosing bank account information so the scammers can loot it. I’m sure it’s a relatively common scam so it makes sense that it’s used in both films, but it was rendered practically verbatim in Bluffmaster as in MM. Also, there was the scene in MM when the Nic Cage character [Spoilerswakes up in the “hospital room” and finds out that he’s been scammed, and goes back to revisit all the locations and people and finds out they were all faked. Same exact scene in Bluffmaster. I will say that the cons were more elaborate in Bluffmaster and there was the difference that the girlfriend character was actually behind the whole thing (the daughter character in MM was recruited by the scammer). [End of spoilers.]

 

Jenny K:  Okay, okay, I give on the Bluffmaster/Matchstick Men one. That first con does sound overly suspicious, hadn’t remembered that. But, I hold to the Autumn in New York statement. Completely different setup, premise and feel.

Part 13: Fifty Films into Bollywood Paheli

[Jenny K’s Note: Paheli means puzzle.  Also one of our films this post.]

Julie M:  Got your package!!! Thanks for the necklace! Has it really been 50 films? It arrived slightly damaged (a few beads loose in the envelope and the dangly part had detached) but I think B can repair most of it. And thanks for the films. I think this weekend the library haul will include Paheli and Umrao Jaan. I won’t request any others because I got 3 from you.

Next week I have vacation (duh, you know that) so I think I might try to see a movie in the theater, since they only show them in the afternoons. This week my Indian theater is showing Delhi Belly (Aamir!) at a very convenient 2pm show time and Double Dhamaal with your crush Arshad Warsi at a less civilized 5pm; hope it’s still there next week!

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry that the necklace was damaged. I should have wrapped it better, but I was running out of room in the box, and it wedged in rather tightly, so I thought it would be okay. Hate to give a gift that has to be fixed first, thrift store find, or no.

And yes, according to my list, whatever you see next will be your fiftieth film. If you have seen either of the last batch of freebies (I Hate Luv Stories, or Loins of Punjab Presents) then you’ve already gone past that. They do accumulate fast, don’t they? Congrats!

I think I should arm you with my favorite review site at Rediff. Their reviews seem to be evenly balance between the Mumbai point of view and the US India fan base. I usually agree with them, more or less, though the people who respond to the reviews seem to be wildly offended when any negative opinions are voiced. Judging on their responses to your two films, I’d go with Delhi Belly over Double Dhamaal, even with Arshad. As much as I like him, he seems to be picked more often for his talent for mugging than his talented feet.

Julie M:  I have not yet dipped into the freebies. I’m saving those for when the library supply has dried up and I’ve seen the ones you’ve sent in the current box!

Jenny K:  Sounds like a nice weekend. Either Paheli or Umrao Jaan would merit wearing the necklace for “atmosphere” 🙂 Though I think I like Umrao Jaan a bit better. Paheli is very atmospheric, though. Costumes and sets from Rajasthan are lovely. Plot a bit weak toward the end, but that seems to be standard, more and more. What I call SNL Syndrome. Have some good ideas, fun execution and performances, but they don’t know how to end them.

Julie M:  FYI, I tried to watch I Hate Luv Storys. Had to quit because the sound and subtitles were so bad. I’ll try again when I’m in a more charitable mood. It seemed to start out fairly cute, though.

Jenny K: Yeah, my copy of that film is like that, too. What I get for digging in the Previously Viewed bin. If you can’t get through it, dump it. Not a problem. I’m sure it will be in the library chain pretty soon. I have it in my queue at Netflix, so it’s going pretty mainstream. It is cute, but not a “must see”. Of Imraan Khan’s films I think Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na is much better, but it wasn’t in the bin 🙂

Julie M:  Saw Kandukondain Kandukondain last night. Great Rahman music! typical plot–kind of threw a lot in there from movie making/playback singing to family drama to romance–but not too heavy on the melodrama, so it was OK. Good costumes too, and Tabu was good. I liked the song set in Egypt and the medieval castle one–cool dream sequences.

I can see where Jane Austen and that ilk (Brontes, too) would inspire Indian filmmakers [Jenny K’s Note:  Kandukondain, Kandukondain is a South Indian adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.] because of the focus on traditions and cultural mores combined with dramatic moments. Did they ever do a Jane Eyre version in India? because that would be interesting to see. I saw Bride and Prejudice although technically that’s an English film by an Anglo-Indian director.

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Saw Chandni Bar last night. Really good! Would not have found that one on my own, so thank you for sending it.

This weekend my library haul is Paheli, Umrao Jaan (I caught an Umrao Jaan reference in Chandni Bar!) and Munnabhai MBBS. Don’t know what to start with…maybe Umrao Jaan to continue the dancer theme I seem to have going.

Jenny K:  Nach, ladki…. yeah, go with a theme…Glad you liked Chandni Bar. Thought you would. Tabu was great in it…and her awful lover was played by Atul Kulkarni, that guy in Rang de Basanti that was with the radical hindu party who got “converted” via the gospel according to film.

I checked into your Jane Eyre question…seems there was one very loose adaptation, Sangdil, in the fifties with Dilip Kumar, who was very famous, but I find him a very cold fish. Here’s the IMDb write up.  And here’s a bit of the film on youtube, but no subtitles.

[Jenny K’s Note: After much trial and tribulation and an overnight stranding at the US Air Phoenix hub, I have made it to Vancouver.]

Jenny K: Went to see Meenaxi at the festival last night and it was a DVD projection…sigh. Didn’t maintain the original proportions of the film either, so it was a bit “cramped” in the screen, if you know what I mean. I also keep forgetting how weak Tabu’s English is in this film. Sheesh! She’s so good in Hindi that I forget that. Hoping better for 3 Idiots.

Julie M:  I did not think Tabu was bad in The Namesake…thought it was appropriate to the character.

Anyway, I liked Umrao Jaan except that to me it ended quite suddenly. [Spoilers]  She got turned away from her family and then went back to the bordello, which had been trashed and abandoned. She looked at herself in the mirror, and…??? then what? did not feel resolved. (you mentioned that) I liked seeing a young Naseruddin Shah, too, in that film.

I also watched Paheli. SO CUTE! Rani was adorable (she’s looks adorable even when she cries), SRK was fun and sexy. The jewelry was amazing–I want all of it!! Of course I have nowhere to wear it, but it’s still stunning.

Munnabhai MBBS…some cute scenes, overall merely 2 stars. Liked seeing Sunil and Sanjay Dutt act together. Trying to understand your crush on Arshad Warsi. Confused as to how Munna could get married and live happily ever after in MBBS and also in the sequel but to a different woman.

Jenny K:  I wasn’t complaining about her delivery in The Namesake, but just her line readings in “Prague” in Meenaxi. I guess, now that I think of it, since Namesake didn’t bother me and it came afterwards, perhaps she noticed how she came across and worked on it after Meenaxi.

I’m not sure just why Arshad hits me, but he often does. If you like Nasseruddin Shah, and who doesn’t, then see if you find Ishqiya in your library. Might be right up your alley. Nasserji and Arshad in a buddy flick, conmen on the lam from other gangsters who hide out with the widow of another old friend. She’s Vidya Balan, the DJ from Lage Raho Munnabhai. It has funny bits, but I don’t think of it as a comedy.

Julie M: My library has Golmaal Returns and Golmaal 3 but not the original Golmaal. Is it worth tracking it down?

Jenny K: Stay away from the Golmaal films, COMPLETELY, you’ll hate them. Very, very slapstick, and despite the cast, it should be atrocious. I haven’t been able to bring myself to see them.

Julie M:  Speaking of which: this weekend’s haul is Tashan (fun with Akshay), Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (arty) and Om Shanti Om (SRK).

Jenny K:  I’ve only seen OSO of the ones you have listed for this weekend. Let me know what you think, and maybe I’ll pick a few up. I think I bought OSO just for the scene where SRK is pretending to be a South Indian film star to impress the girl. Crazy cowboy outfit and huge mustache is a real hoot and, alarmingly, not that much of an exaggeration. Well, you’ve seen Rajni, so you know 🙂

I liked the one I saw last night at the festival, West is West. Almost all in English. I liked it better than it’s predecessor, East is East, which was funny but ultimately depressing, because the father was such a negative character in it. He has sort of seen the light in the ten years since the first film…a bit…he’s still a bit of a pretentious jack***. but I love Om Puri. He is one of the best character actors they have. In Maqbool, he and Naseeruddin play the “witches” in the Macbeth plot, commenting on everything, playing two corrupt cops with the ugliest collective wardrobes I’ve ever seen. Wonderful…wah, wah, wah, as the saying goes.

Julie M:  Just finished watching Tashan. Action/comedy with a little romance (not too much or too gushy) and kind of a road story as well. Saif Ali Khan is a cool-dude call center worker in Mumbai who moonlights as an English teacher, and he gets mixed up with Anil Kapoor, a don, through Kareena Kapoor, Anil’s employee. Through his infatuation with Kareena he ends up stealing tons of money from Anil, only to have Kareena steal it from him and vanish. Anil calls in Akshay Khanna [Kumar], a petty thug/enforcer in Kanpur, to rough up Saif and then take him to track Kareena and the money down. And the fun goes on from there.

Some flashbacks and back stories, everyone narrates the story at some point and Saif speaks to the camera all the time, for no real reason. But overall it was not bad–I like good action films and the gangster element was more comedic than serious, until the end, which was quite bloody. Probably too much Akshay for you, but I enjoyed it. B caught most of the 2nd half with me and he kind of liked it too. Anil is hilarious as the don who loves to speak English–but he does it all wrong and with a heavy Sean Connery impression. Made me laugh out loud. The musical numbers are forgettable.

I’ll give you a report on the others after I see them.

Jenny K:  Thanks for the update. I’ll remember it when I’m stuck…maybe it’s on Netflix, most of Akshay’s films are. I do think Anil’s a funny guy, even when he’s not trying to be. You should have seen him on the Martha Stewart show when he was plugging Slumdog.

Part 8: The Arts & Architecture Section of Our Programme

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[later in the week]

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

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

Your thoughts?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Or his grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor.

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