Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scriptwriter needs a roundkick in the face - Khiladi.

I loved Om Shanti Om's parody films, as did rest of the universe, but unlike the rest of the universe, who probably did something smart like rewatch Om Shanti Om, I put the original, the very first Khiladi film on my next DVD order.

"It's Akshay doing his khiladi thing!" I told myself. "It can't be all bad!"

Luckily I was right. It isn't all bad. But unlike the other Khiladi franchise film I'd seen, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, it's not delightfully bad, and it's not overall a delight, either.

And no, this is not just my Sakshay bias speaking. This is my Akshay bias speaking. Akshay is a fantastic comedian, a cool dancer and I guess he can do the serious acting thing, too. What he's one-of-a-kind in, however, is the kickass. His karate moves in their whackiest combinations make movie violence incredibly fun to watch. And I thought this was the core of all Khiladi movies. Apparently not.

The film starts out promisingly. Akki does kick ass, he has amazing moves, the secondary hero Deepak Tijori delivers with dumb comedy and everything is gorgeously stupid 90's Bollywood at its best and worst all at the same time. I'm enjoying the ride, laughing out loud constantly and my mind boggles at some of the things the makers of the film came up with. How does Akshay Kumar in drag work for you? I laughed but it did also put me off pink eye shadow for life.

Around one hour and a half, however, the movie makes a dramatic turn from typical college romance masala with a splash of action into a peculiar murder mystery/thriller story. It threw me off completely and made the film drag. There was a song, but it didn't fit the mood at all anymore, and while they did sprinkle some action scenes towards the end, it didn't really make up for a mostly dull second half of the film.

I may rewatch the songs and the first half of the film, however. This catchy college song has so many weird dance moves it's hard not to love it. The canteen fight scene is something I'll definitely recall as one of my favourite Akshay scenes. Akkibatics, baby. There truly is only one khiladi.

In conclusion, the worst films aren't the ones with the least logical storylines or the worst production values. The worst films are those that fail to milk their potential; even if that potential is only in campy enjoyment. This is why Tu Chor Main Sipahi is the worst Sakshay film I know, and this is why Khiladi could be so, so much better. You let Akshay Kumar run lose, do his thing, and you've got a killer movie, I guarantee you. You force a vapid plot twist upon the story and you're not doing anybody any favors.

This film does open doors, though. What should be my next Khiladi film, any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Let's talk about ..Siddharth!

The first time I looked at pictures of Siddharth (shown to me by stimpy, good friend and my door to South-Indian cinema), I thought to myself, "Eh, cross a puppy and a young Portuguese football player and you get this guy. Sure, whatever."

Fast-forward a month or four, and I watched Rang De Basanti, which I adored. The Portuguese football player/puppy cross guy was in it, too, but I was too busy drying my Madhavan-induced tears to pay attention. Everybody else was kicking up a fuss about him, though, a hype that I brushed off quite quickly. Yeah, so he can act. Whatever.

Again, time went by, and somewhere along the line I started seeing a long, long Telugu film title pop up here and there. During one of my visits to stimpy's wonderful film library, she nudged the very same film into my pile of borrowed titles. Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, the film was called. "Everybody's been talking about this film," I said with a shrug. "I guess I could see it."

I popped it in with low expectations and was soon presented with ...

In retrospect, this was the watershed event. I know many people, even existing Siddharth fans, found his character Santosh annoyingly hyper - like a kid high on sugar - during the first half of NVNN. Not me. I love all of it. Ostrich pants, random dancing included.

And now, after having seen everything with this guy (and owning all but two of his movies), it's quite embarrassing to admit that what drew me in was not his award-winning serious acting, but rather the young but fantastic all-around entertainer with an eye for good scripts that we see mainly in his four Telugu films (NVNN, Bommarillu, Aata and Chukkallo Chandrudu - in my personal order of preference). On the other hand I could argue that this Siddharth is exactly what Indian cinema overall needs; younger heroes with not only the sufficient acting and dancing skills but also enough charm to genuinely win over audiences, not just ape the older stars that do.

Tragic times have struck us, though. Since the Vishal Bharadwaj AIDS awareness short, Blood Brothers (also starring Ayesha Takia and Pankaj Kapur), Siddharth hasn't been filming anything. His name is connected to a number of things, but nothing official about anything as far as I know.

Regardless, if you find yourself shaking your head reading this post, or any of the exuberant praise that I give this guy in this blog, don't worry, I didn't see it either for a very long time. In fact, I think the real revelation only happened after I saw Bommarillu and realized I couldn't wait to see whatever his next film would be. The film was of course Aata, and you all know how I feel about that film (obsessed is a good word).

This concludes the first post in my self-indulgent opportunity to fangirl stars "Let's talk about ..!" series, where I'll be going over my favourite Indian actors/actresses. Believe me, there are many. ;)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Something new, something old. Khoya Khoya Chand & Parvarish

Khoya Khoya Chand is one of those films I find it very hard to phrase my thoughts and feelings about. The story is unique; a young actress Nikhat's (Soha Ali Khan) tale in Hindi film industry of the 1940's and the various stages of her love story with the writer-cum-director Zahar (Shiney Ahuja). It's realistic to the point that it hurts, a tragedy but not quite in the full sense of the word.

Perhaps KKC is just a film where the good doesn't shine bright enough to make up for the flaws. Soha is gorgeous and delivers wonderfully, various other cast members do a great job (Sonia Jeenah stood out for me), the music is lovely, it's full of nostalgic mood and color and the way it looks at the industry is refreshingly realistic. These types of portrayals of Bollywood by itself are rare occurances. The flaws, however.. Shiney once again fails to convince me with his performance, and overall the story drags slightly. In the end nothing seems to fall into place, and as a whole it doesn't really hold up nicely like a movie perhaps should.

I guess one could view it as a fictional documentary of sorts. Maybe there is even some criticism of the current industry hidden in the milieu of history - but this is pure speculation. Just for seeing Soha get to dance, though, I have no regrets, even though this is definitely not a must-own movie for me.

If I tried to have a proper theme to this post, I clearly failed, seeing as how Parvarish is not a 1940's or 1950's - and thus a 'proper' golden age oldie, like the era KKC portrayed - but a 1970's superfun masala alá Manmohan Desai (aka the man behind such brilliant masterpieces as Amar Akbar Anthony and Dharam-Veer - and I say this without a hint of sarcasm, you should know). Parvarish released the same year as the previously mentioned Desai films, and is just as wonderful, if slightly less crazy.

If you've never seen a 70's masala film, here's the 101: there's always somebody whose father or mother or grandfather isn't who they think it is. This movie's title translates, "upbringing" (this I learned thanks to Carla's review), which will reveal enough about the plot than I need to explain here. With these kinds of films, you know you're in for a fun time no matter what happens.

And oh, this film is delicious. Amitabh was fun, the girls (Neetu Singh who never fails to bring it and Shabana Azmi in her gorgeous young avatar) nutty in the best sort of way, then we have older Shammi Kapoor and the legendary Amjad Khan, peculiar but entertaining songs, submarines, diamonds, guns ... Did I mention submarines?

And last but so not least, Vinod Khanna whom I adore a bit too much at this point. But him, his character's grey shades, the brief flickers of manpain he gives in this movie, and oh god, so many things, just completely made the movie for me. Excuse me the fangirlism.

I strongly recommend this to anybody who can cope with these insane(ly amazing) 70's rides. It might be a bit of an undiscovered gem, as I suppose people usually opt for AAA when they go for a Desai film. But yes, see it! Go!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Filmi year 2007.

Aata - my film of the year.

2007 was quite an interesting year in films for me. I felt like there was a dry season between the early months of the year and the final months of it. This meant a large portion of my year was destined to be quite Bollyless (or more correctly, Indian cinema-less). I blame the films I anticipated - Guru and Eklavya were both enormous letdowns, and while I liked the former to buy on DVD and should buy the latter for Saif collection, the combination of unexciting Bollywood and the discovery of something new in East-Asian entertainment made me completely abandon Bollywood for a while.

I did still watch movies - when Siddharth's 2006 hit Bommarillu finally got a DVD release, I rushed to watch it and ended up loving it. But that was on the Telugu side of things, of course, and for months the movie was the only Indian film I saw.

So what drew me back in? Ironically, it wasn't Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, though the film was one of my biggest favourites this year. It wasn't Life in a ..Metro, another 07 movie I saw during this period of unenthusiasm. It wasn't even the Dharmendra starrer oldie I watched, Mera Gaon Mera Desh aka Vinod Khanna Is the Gabbar Singh of Sexy. The movie that drew me back into Bollywood in 2007 was ... drumroll please ..

Ek Hasina Thi!

Quite randomly I decided to show another Indian film to my friend who was coming to town, and had seen select favourites of mine (ranging from Bunty aur Babli to Sholay). I considered my pick, then grabbed EHT and went my way. My friend was critical of the movie, unfairly so in my view, but more importantly, I enjoyed my umpteenth viewing of it. And when I returned home, I sort of sat down and asked myself, "Hey, why did you ever drop out of Bollywood happenings?"

I made a list of recent movies I ought to watch and rushed to see EHT director's new film, Johnny Gaddaar, starring some newbie and Dharmendra. I expected to see a lacking movie, thinking maybe Ek Hasina Thi had been a fluke but what I got was quite something else..

Johnny Gaddaar is deliciously clever, awesomely edited and unpredictable like you wouldn't believe. It's also violent and a tribute to the noir genre, which is also fantastic. A tale of deceit truly done right. You know who betrayed who from the get go, but the way the story is told makes the ride enjoyable. Here's my longer review on Livejournal (slight spoilers in the last half of it).

In 2007 I also made this blog, listed my Top 10 Indian actors and did a massive update to my guide to Bollywood for complete newbies.

My favourites this year, by the way, are the J-films; Jab We Met, Johnny Gaddaar, and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. The film I fell most in love with, though? Aata all the way.

And as always, the year doesn't feel quite over yet. I've yet to see a bunch of 07 biggies, from Chak De India! to Tara Zameen Par.

Oh well. Maybe this year.

Memento this ain't - Ghajini.

Ghajini is a film I knew I had to see. When one of your absolute favourites (Aamir Khan) remakes a film with one of your other absolute favourites (Surya), there's no missing out on the original. But the circle of originality has one huge bump - Memento, an American film that I've also seen and loved, and that Ghajini is accused of ripping off quite royally.

I hate to confirm the rumors. While there are a lot of things in the film that are completely original, the similarities are so glaring they're impossible to ignore. Story of vengeance, short term memory loss, the Polaroids and the tattoos.. What Ghajini simply does is take some of the edge off Memento's narrative in order for it to make a more regular Tamil film. While the outcome will possibly surprise Indian audiences, for anybody who has seen Christopher Nolan's original, it falls far, far behind.

Aamir said in his blog that Ghajini is not a Memento rip-off. Suppose it depends on the definition, but to me there are movies that are inspired by genres, by conventions whilst not borrowing from any specific movie (Pyaar ke side effects would be one example I can think of). This sort of inspiration is fine in my books - it happens all over the world, always has, and often with fantastic results. But Ghajini borrows such specific things, that even if the story is Indianized, the narrative is Indianized, when you have some of the exact details from Memento, I'm sorry, I don't know what else to call it.

None of this necessarily means it's a bad movie. It's definitely an okay movie, partly fantastic even (the Asin-Surya love story told in flashback is awesome enough to make me want to buy the DVD), and Surya's performance is solid as usual. But I'm not feeling the biggest urge to rewatch, or purchase. It's also quite on the long side during second half. While it packs a ton of plot twists, the ending is predictable enough. A special mention to Asin, though, for her character was really lovely in this movie and she performed well. I didn't think much of her in the Vikram film Majaa but she shone in this one.

So, Aamir, do your best. I know my expectations are low enough right now.