Friday, December 26, 2008

The filmi year 2008.

I already said in the review for Rock On!! that it felt like 2008 was less of a year for Indian films than 2007. Each year I miss out on films that came out during that year, and weirdly enough, the films I missed out on in 2007 (such as Chak De India, Aaja Naachle and Bhool Bhulaiyaa) were some of the ones I enjoyed the most this year. So perhaps 2008 will also reveal some interesting flicks during 2009, but so far, having seen most of the big films of 2008, I feel rather unexcited.

Filmi Girl detailed her disappointments and favourites for the past year, but I'll lay out how the year was for me in a different format.

The Film That Should've But Wasn't: Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

I understand I am completely in the minority for this one. I guess it was hype overkill; all the praise showered onto the movie, its plot, "freshness" and its stars, you forget it's still a debutante film director and first films are rarely if ever flawless. I liked Imraan and the kind of youthful romance/friendship themes should be exactly just my thing but something fell short in Jaane Tu. I thought about it a lot and came to the conclusion that despite loving Genelia in Bommarillu, I wasn't into her character in this film at all. While I love the song "Kabhi Kabhi Aditi", the picturization of it pinpoints what turns me off about her character; she feels things so extremely and doesn't even try to get over the devastation of losing a pet, and so comes off as this generally high maitenance little lady. I just raised my eye brow like, "Geez, cheer up emo kid!".

The romance doesn't quite work, I suppose because we see them being friends and essentially already in love. When you fail to see the process of the relationship, sometimes you buy it, sometimes it makes you feel like you're missing out on something that would've made you more into the movie.

But I don't want to argue these points - if you liked the movie, I'm happy for you. Just trying to detail the reasons - more to myself than anybody else - of why I didn't like it, even though I was so sure I would!

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Have a Clear Loser: Race

In my initial review, I was almost happy to have seen Race, because it's sometimes nice to mock something so completely. But in retrospect, god, what a wasted opportunity. You have perfectly capable actors like Saif, Anil and Akshaye, and some okay-to-whatever actresses like Bipasha and Katrina and the only real offering of the movie are awkward songs with skintastic picturizations. Yawn. And yet, this one was a box office success! India, sometimes I just don't understand you...

Veracious Goes Against The Grain: Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic & Tashan

So I hated Race but the other two Saif films this year, yes, the ones that absolutely tanked in the box office, I quite liked! Thoda Pyaar was a saccharine sweet Disney film in Hindi but it worked, thanks to the sincerity of the director and the brilliance of Rani Mukherjee. Tashan on the other hand, flawed movie that could've been so much better, but also a fun action masala that proves why Akshay Kumar is one of the top stars in India and why Kareena Kapoor excels if you give her a good role.

Close But No Cigar: Dostana

I really enjoyed Dostana but it doesn't quite end up on the "oh em gee favouritest ever in the universe" list of films. It had flaws, but even more annoying, it had flaws that bugged me. The first half was a pretty damn good comedy, though, and I'll be getting it on DVD. The soundtrack is also my most-listened-to of the year.

Call Me a Groupie: Rock On!!

I don't have quite as clear a favourite this year as last year with Aata, a Telugu film I loved to pieces despite it's cheesiness. But if I had to pick one, it'd probably have to be Rock On!!, a fun film that I'll probably be rewatching a lot.

Missing Out on the Biggies: Bachna Ae Haseeno, Rab Ne Jodi.., Ghajini, Yuvraaj, U Me aur Hum..

It seems like the best films this year were the not-so-big, not-so-mainstream ones, but I definitely do want to see some of these big name movies. Maybe next year.

Film Experience of the Year: Jodhaa-Akbar

I saw this in the theaters thanks to being able to visit the UK in March and wow, what an experience. The most epic film of all time, surely, and the epicness was certainly over-whelming. It gets boring every now and again, but to make up for it, there's hot chemistry, intense romance and elephants. There are few things I love more than elephants. Did I mention .. elephants!

And a final plug to everybody and anybody visiting London:

Ayngaran Video
30 High Street Colliers Wood
London, SW19 2AB

Take the Jubilee Line (if I recall correctly) to Colliers Wood, follow the street you get on when you get out of the tube station, and find this shop. Ayngaran is the best releaser of Tamil DVD's and their London shop is full of offers, and a very nice helpful staff, brimming with movie recommendations. Highly recommended!


Navel-gazing ahead: Yeah, my blog was featured in the press a smidgeon this year. It was awkward, but also pretty cool. Here's the latest, on Filmfare October or November or whatever:

Thanks to Reema for the scan!

I might post before 2009, I might not. If not, have a great new year, guys!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Proximity awards -- the remix.

The lovely Shweta gave me a Proximity Award and since I've been seeing similar posts all over my Bollywood-related blog roll. Since I've wanted to do the same but have been struggling who I should mention and post about. I think you guys already know I love your blogs and stuff. To the right there's a list of the blogs I try to follow as closely as possible. So instead I thought I'd mix it up a little and talk about the people I don't link to on a regular basis (as their blogs are not all-Bollywood) but the people who I still love as some of my closest Bollywood-loving online pals.

Dangermousie fangirls everything from Asian dramas to historical novels, and among her favourite things is Bollywood; the angstier and more romantic the better! If I wasn't into Bollywood, her posts about it would make me want to be. Most things she posts about just make you want to get into the things she's talking about. We used to discuss Fanaa at ridiculous lengths when it first came out and though our tastes do not always match, I feel like I really know what pushes her buttons.

, the brilliant mind behind Bollywood fanvids such as this Don one, is quite simply inspirational sometimes. If we as white girls actually had more than a snowball's chance in hell to become Bollywood script writers (assuming such a species exists!), I'd definitely team up with her to make some of the best films ever. Our tentative speculations on the sequel of Kal Ho Naa Ho is just all around brilliant stuff. Karan, if you're reading, we don't mean to step on your toes so just give us the go ahead and watch the industry be rocked!

jhana has a trillion times the graphic/vidding skills I do, is my guide to university life, oftens gives me the first review of a movie I can trust (more than Rediff, BollywoodHungama and such) and is the one person I go to when I need to snark Saif's latest career turn (which is often). We've concluded that our taste is pretty much dead on when it comes to comedies but in most dramas, we split ways.

Anita's LJ is locked down apart from fanfiction, so I won't be linking to it, but regardless, she's one of my favourite peeps to discuss Bollywood with. Our tastes may be miles apart when it comes to certain movies, but her enthusiastic fangirling of "Rukhie-jaan" and his various leading ladies is fun and her semi-daily picspams give me a load of prettiness on my Livejournal friends page. She's usually also seen pretty much all the recent movies, despite her sometimes hectic schedules, so she's a good go-to person for views on some films that I'm unsure about.

The main characters of Ek Duuje Ke Liye, 1981, enjoying proximity.

And I think that's it for me until Christmas. Those who celebrate any holiday during this time in year, have a good one! Those who don't, here's to hoping you get a day off.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Haiku day!

thinking of Dil Se
the nationalist message
is it? I ask you

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why is the sky blue, why is Farhan Akhtar perfect? Rock On!! review, now with bonus fangirlism.

Dear Mrs. Farhan Akhtar,

It's not in my right to speculate how your marriage came into being nor does it feel right to try and hunt down that piece of information via Google or otherwise. Regardless, I'd just want to congratulate you and wish you a lasting and wonderful marriage and life.

Yours sincerely,


PS. You do know that there are about a billion women on this earth who are incredibly jealous of your position?

PS. He named your second kid Akira?! Ohmygod. I bet you'd hate him if he wasn't so completely awesome.

So yeah. I watched Rock On!! and despite all the hype surrounding it, I wasn't the least bit disappointed. Of course it deals with a number of rock film clichés, and you have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen, but regardless of that, while watching, I was just sucked in by the story-telling and the clever-not-too-clever narrative and the solid performances all around.

It says something about 2008 as a filmi year, I suppose, that I honestly think this could be my favourite film of the year so far. Fine, there's a ton of films I've missed but even the ones I've liked and bought on DVD, or considered buying on DVD, have been "just okay" as film experiences. I've liked a film, really liked a film, but only Rock On!! has been a film I've *loved*.

Part of what makes the story work so well is the relative realism and lack of over-dramatization of situations and people. You know, there's a few nasty people in the film but they're not portrayed as complete villains. At the core, the emotions are real and present, however, and I especially liked Prachi Desai as Shakhi, wife of Aditya (Farhan Akhtar), who begins to unravel the mystery of the man she married and sets things in motion. The scenes of confrontation between her and him were also the key moments when I realized that Farhan is as capable an actor as he is a director.

At the same time, the film is keen on some filminess, and so certain improbable moments don't make you groan at their impossibility, but rather cherish them.

The soundtrack is of course made by the true rockstars of India, Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, and it's a solid rock record, though I did find myself wishing they'd break Bollywood pattern and showcase some genuine desirock bands on the record as well. Farhan's voice fits the songs and while the lyrics aren't made of deep world-altering thoughts, they're lovely. It backs up the film's central idea of rock ; as a fun way of self-expression, free of rules and regulations of more classical music. In the West, progress has lead to unpleasant phenomenons like rock elitism and categorization of music into every sub-genre imaginable. Rock On!! portrays a pure, simple view of rock that some fans of the music genre would snort at but I personally embrace. It's what rock should be - picking up an instrument and learning how to play it just for the fun of it, playing in a band because it adds something to your life.

Besides liking Arjun Rampal (who's been great in everything I've seen him recently - even if most of what I've seen have been small side roles in films like OSO, KANK, Don..), I couldn't put my finger on where I'd seen Purab Kohli (who played KD) before. Then it hit me. He was Nigel in the wonderful Onir film My Brother Nikhil. He was just ace here.

It seems sort of silly to say "a movie you don't want to miss out on", but I know how we Bollywood fans are - sometimes only keeping our eye on the big budget entertainers with truckloads of stars and glamour in them. So give this film a chance, you guys. Farhan is great (and easy on the eyes), the rest of the cast is great, the music is catchy and the story wonderful. Out on DVD now!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Memelicious; Saif Ali Khan alphabets.

For one of my favourite actors in the world of Hindi cinema, I talk about Saif quite a little. I could pretend I have no idea why that is, but honestly, I know exactly why. It's because he released Race this year (not all his fault but good god!), it's because he seems to be only in the news to gloat about how awesome it is to date Kareena Kapoor (I love her, too, but I honestly don't care about the two of them anymore!), it's because .. well, I guess the level of enthusiasm has dropped from "ooh, new Saif film!" to wary optimism (occasionally pessimism) about his future films. The man's never been perfect (and don't I know it) but sometimes he's a little less imperfect, you have to admit. 2006 was a terrific year to be a Saif fan, for example.

But as the fun alphabet meme's been going around, Beth giving some love to Rani Mukherjee and Shweta listing Hindi noir films of the olde, I thought I'd list alphabets Saif-ly.

A is for Akshay. Bet you failed to see this one coming. Yes, Akshay Kumar, current king of the box office (save Tashan for numerous reasons I could speculate, but hopefully none of them is the fact Saif and Akshay starred in the film together), the best co-star Saif can have and has had as far as I'm concerned. Don't get me wrong, he's great with a lot of other people, as well, but something about his chemistry with Akshay just gels and they both have comic timing to die for.
Plus they get along great in real life. Here's hoping they do something together in the future.

B is for Being Cyrus. Excellent dark comedy in English, directed by Homi Adajania. It has some parts that are a little too weird, but I adore everybody's performance in this (Simone Singh, Dimple Kapadia, Boman Irani, Naseeruddin Shah & Saif naturally - what a cast!), and remember Saif saying in an interview it's the kind of film he enjoys the most himself. I've heard rumors the director is working on a new film that will be produced by Saif's company - let's hope it turns out to be true.

C is for Cyrus or see how incredibly uninventive I am even this early in the post.

D is for Dil Chahta Hai. Predictable, I know, but what else would you place here? Saif as the hopeless Sameer is just one of his absolute funniest, effortless performances, and it's also the one that convinced a lot of people this guy should stay in movies. The friendship between the trio of guys in this film is still considered one of the most realistic, wonderful depictions of friendship in Hindi film history and it's often mentioned as changing the tone of Bollywood films and bringing them to the new millennium. Quite a lot of praise for one movie, but if you still haven't seen it, forget everything I just said and watch it for a fun time.

E is for Ek Hasina Thi. If you haven't seen this movie yet, drop everything you're doing, rush to Nehaflix, your local Hindi DVD retailer and buy this film. Now. I'm 100% serious. I remember when after seeing Hum Tum (a film that showed that that guy I liked a lot in Kal Ho Naa Ho was good in other films, too, and I was beginning to consider myself a fan) I was browsing IMDb and checking out Bollywood films I potentially wanted to see, and ran into EHT. I only remember seeing the poster with the streams of blood and the tag line "It started like any other love story..." and I knew I had to get my hands on the film. It is quite simply all-around excellent, and even if it wasn't, I'd want to own it because Saif looks his absolute hottest in this film.

F is for funny.
Because comedy's really what appeals to me most about certain actors, and Saif is one of those actors. Even when I drag myself through his godawful (or just very very mediocre) 90's films, sometimes the script is barely good enough to allow his comic timing to surface itself. The thing is, he had it in him all along but the films he chose to do (or got offered) were mostly dreadful junk. Somewhere along the line he grew confidence and the ability to choose wiser and for that I'm glad. Nowadays the same problem persists, though: there simply aren't good enough Hindi comedies to go around.

G is for gay jokes.
See also: Kantabeen. See also: Filmfare 2004. See also: this clip. You know you want to.

H is for Hameesha.
Some people might tell you this movie is cheesy fluff. Some people might tell you this movie is adorable and stupid. Some people might tell you you'll want to see it. Some people are wrong. Hameesha ('always') is a godawful, boring, ridiculous 90's movie starring Saif and Kajol, where Saif's mullet is out of control, so much so it gets it should get its own credit, the story is some dumb crap with reincarnation, and it remains the only film where I've found Kajol's acting completely unconvincing. "Neela dupatta" may be a fun song, the fashion may be laughably bad but please don't subject yourself to this movie. Oh god please.

I is for Ishwar 'Langda' Tyagi
aka the role we'll hopefully remember him from in the future. A part of the appeal of Omkara is no doubt the fact that some of its cast steps outside their usual character nichés to portray something radically different. The change from the modern, super-rich, English-speaking NRI type characters to a dirty UP gangster who's most at home in the village is indeed a stark one. Roles like this don't come very often, and I'm glad Saif had this opportunity. Here's to hoping it won't be the last one!

J is for jodis. Probably one of the most popular Saif jodis is Preity-Saif, here in a misleadingly adorable picture from Kya Kehna which is actually NOT a very good film, and their pairing in it is also not too romantic. Do not be fooled!

K is for Karan. Karan, not for Karan Johar who put him him Kal Ho Naa Ho, but Karan as Karan Kapoor of Hum Tum and Karan Singh Rathod from Ek Hasina Thi. Two excellent but very different performances, both from 2004. Karan Kapoor is the character who grows up and matures during the movie, while Karan Singh Rathod is the character who remains the same throughout the film. Whatever change might occur in him, it's only on the surface, a mask he puts on and off as he wishes. Two of my favourite performances by him, and good films, too.

L is for Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega.
An underrated film, one of the few truly situtional comedies Bollywood has produced, also starring Aftab Shivdasani, Fardeen Khan and Sonali Bendre, including Johnny Lever at his funniest (yes, I said it - he is truly funny in this one). This is a predecessor to Dil Chahta Hai, but Saif's performance is up to that DCH level and so if you're running out of post-2001 Saif films to watch, rent this one.

M is for "My adorable darling". The catchiest, worst Hinglish song ever, from Main Khiladi Tu Anari. Sung by Anu Malik himself! God, the horror.

N is for "No Smoking". The theme is central in the episodic film Darna Mana Hai ('fear is forbidden' - should more accurately be called 'fear is impossible because the film is more funny than scary'), where Saif stars in a segment where he plays a photographer checking into a motel run by Boman Irani's character. I love it a lot, Boman and Saif are just hilarious together.

O is for "Ole ole" from Yeh Dillagi. Mullet!Saif classic. Watch here.

P is for Parampara. An early 1990's film with Saif and Aamir as frenemies. You might ask yourself, "why haven't I seen this?". The answer is: the universe is smart and has made sure the DVD's of it aren't that widely available. It's just not very good. Sadly it's not incredibly bad, either, so I know some of you have seen it, and some of you are googling for the DVD as I type this.

Q is for "quite painful" which is the only way I can describe watching a song DVD filled with songs from Saif's crappy 90's film catalogue. You'll never see so much crotch-thrusting in your life. I had to take a shower afterwards because I just felt gross - it's like bad cinema taints your skin.

R is for Rohit Patel. I remember like it was not yesterday but a day way cooler than yesterday and thus worth remembering. Me and my friend, going to the Helsinki International Film Festival to see Kal Ho Naa Ho, a film about which we knew virtually nothing except it starred Shahrukh Khan, an actor we both quite liked. But the weirdest thing happened - instead of loving Shahrukh like usually, I found I kind of preferred the other guy - the awkward Rohit who failed at love but made funny jokes and was otherwise sympathetic. He gets shafted in the movie, but I still think fondly of him.

S is for Sharmila & Soha. The two gorgeous filmi women in his family; the mother and the sister.

T is for Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Sure, it's a cheesy children's movie, but it sure as hell beats the other Saif/Rani children's film starting with T where the worst thing EVER is when a super-rich family has to go middle class and live in an apartment (ugh can you imagine the horror!)... Needless to say, I hate the latter movie. Thoda Pyaar is quite sweet, though.

U is for "unwise" which is how I would describe watching more than three song picturizations from really bad 90's Saif Ali Khan movies.
V/W is for "Woh ladki hai kahan". Fantastic song and funny picturization from DCH.

X is this scene in Parineeta.

Y is for Yeh Dillagi, the most recommendable Saif film from the 90's (next to MKTA) and Yash Raj Films, the production house who just loooves casting Saif.

Z is for zzz or congratulations whoever made it through this incredibly long post!