Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tough luck. Salaam-e-Ishq and the wonder of rewatches.

Sometimes it's time to just face the facts. That movie you pretty much loved when you first saw it, as a celebration of what Bollywood is all about, back when it first came out, the movie you kept in the back of your head for a future DVD purchase, that movie you've been meaning to re-watch for ages ... that movie, it turns out, might not be as good as you thought.

What's even sadder is that you ( - me - all of us at one point I suppose) have always recognized its flaws. As any film, it certainly had some. But now, rewatching, you find yourself wishing it was at least half as exciting as the first time. This is the review of my initial thoughts, by the way. It's from 2007, obviously. But god, that date seems like ages ago.

As most of you probably know, Salaam-e-Ishq is Nikhil Advani's first movie on his own, without the ever-watchful eye of Karan Johar leaving its mark on the movie. It features, what, six different couples and their storylines as they deal with love; difficulties with it, rediscovery of it, or just fulfilling it. As you might assume, it's a little too ambitious a concept to pull off and keep it interesting - the storylines do cross over, but remain mostly separate, and as some of them are not as good as the others, the viewer does begin wishing they got back to those good storylines and just leave the rest be. The film runs long, even longer in its original theatrical version, and you can really feel it at times. The first time I saw it, I felt it would've made a better mini-series than a movie; too bad India hasn't familiarized itself with the format of a television mini-drama yet.

For me on this particular rewatch, only three storylines seemed worthwhile. The above screencap is the least entertaining of the three but fun enough all the same; Akshaye Khanna plays the playboy-like, commitment-phobic Shiven whose patient fiancee Gia (Ayesha Takia) finally ditches him so he may rediscover the meaning of love and whatnot. While this is one of the few Akshaye Khanna films I quite like (or don't actively dislike), the character being such an asshole does really get to me. He has quite literally no reason to act that way, and his progress of learning how to appreciate Gia is not very satisfying for me - especially because they cut one (slightly comedic) scene where he explains to a hallucination Gia why he's so afraid of commitment (my memories of this are fuzzy but that's how I recall it). That scene seems to have made all the difference for me.

I'm much less ambivalent about my adoration for this storyline; Kkamini (Priyanka Chopra), an item girl striving to be a fully-fledged heroine comes up with a plan to pretend to have a secret boyfriend, Rahul, until a mystery man (Salman Khan) actually enters her life - in front of all cameras - and claims to be said Rahul. I love everything about this storyline. It's self-referential (Salman addresses the audience, pointing at the camera), it's funny (this is possibly the best I've seen of Priyanka's comedienne skills), it's sweet (the slow falling in love, the reveal of Rahul's actual identity..) and most importantly, both actors absolutely excel in their roles. I'm still not huge on Priyanka but this is without a doubt my favourite performance of hers, just spot-on as the diva-like wannabe-starlet. And Salman is in his element, subtly funny and romantic and just a great presence against Priyanka's manic Kkamini.

Akshaye approves!

The third storyline, and who could've been stars of their own movie in my opinion, was that of Raju (Govinda), a taxi driver who dreams of love, and ends up trying to help Stephanie (Shannon Esra, a white South-African actress) find her Indian jackass of a boyfriend, even though Raju is falling in love with her as they journey around India. I'm not sure if this is the performance that brought Govinda back as I haven't seen much of him as of late, but it certainly is a solid one, and the romance developing despite communication difficulties is just so touching and heartfelt and punctuated by some of the best scenes in the film.. it's hard not to love this one. I was too busy enjoying it to screencap it, really.

So, what's the final judgment? I guess there isn't one, really. Maybe I'll rewatch in 2011 and realize what a wonderful joyride this movie is, despite its numerous flaws - the soundtrack is catchy and the picturizations are certainly memorable. Maybe this time it was just the wrong movie at the wrong time. The point is, I guess, that I wish some of these storylines had gotten their own films - their own chances to shine and be as lengthy and as elaborate as they needed to be. Then the filler stories wouldn't have had to be there. But it is what it is, I suppose. A tribute to love; through sickness and through health.

(And before you ask, I didn't mention John-Vidya because I am a heretic and not a huge fan of it. Vidya does some great acting but overall, I'm just not into it.)


memsaab said...

That has happened to me a lot too :) Luckily the reverse is also true---films that kind of bored me the first time around really enthrall me later!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

You know I love this movie, despite everything. I think I want a rewatch too, esp of the Salman and Akshaye Khanna bits- high on the Akshay Khanna bits. I really loved him going all out on the song w/ Priyanka :)

Anita said...

Ok, maybe I'm just a really weird person, but re-watches always make me like a movie that I previously didn't. If I already love love LOVED a movie, it may be a little less enjoyable the second time, but I still love it to bits regardless. But if a movie was just meh-ish for me or downright bad, a re-watch almost always makes me love it. I am SO WEIRD! XD Of course, I have to have enough of a liking for it to actually watch it again, so there's that. :P But examples of this are Hum Tum, Dil To Pagal Hai, Fanaa, Devdas, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, the list goes on and on.

Anyway, I was kindasorta surprised when you said how much you liked S-E-I. I was actually BORED when I watched it the first time and struggled to finish it, which is CRAZY when you consider me and my BW movies. But because I'm weird, as I mentioned above, maybe a re-watch would get me to suddenly really enjoy it. Who knows?! *shrugs*

lapetitediva said...

I thought this movie was alright, and not quite as bad as some critics made it out to be.

Perhaps if someone other than Vidya Balan had been paired with John Abraham, I would've watched that storyline, but I have an irrational dislike for Vidya, so I fast-forwarded past every scene in that story.

The newlyweds unable to get it on might've worked better as a comedy track in another film, but here, as a separate storyline, I felt it was a waste, as was the Shiven-Gia one.

I kinda liked the Priyanka-Salman story, although I gotta confess, Priyanka's neck rolls were a bit distracting.

I suprisingly liked the Anil-Juhi one. I say "suprisingly" because I'm not an Anil Kapoor fan. I just wish the part where he dances horribly in the club hadn't been cut out. It was really jarring.

I liked the Govinda-Shannon story the best, in spite of a couple of qualms I had with the storyline.

I think I rewatched this once or twice before retiring it to the depths of my messy closet, which seems like such a waste. I wish I had just watched it online instead.

Darshit said...

What a co-incidence? Its 3.30am in India, I am roaming on railway station. Reading ur post and someone is playing on FM-'Tenu leke main....'.

Apart from that, despite that awful 'Rauuul...'bit by Sallu, i liked that track. Hope it was not stretchd out. And ayesha/akshaye were too good.

Personally I like Vidya. And their track was good, only problem with it was it was dark (except them, everyone was colorful and rather in better world). And again stretched out(like the whole movie). So i think it worked for a few.

I am never a fan of Govinda. But he took me to surprise overhere. Both looked lovely and have acted good too.

Only problem with the movie was its length. By the time beautiful song 'Ya rabba' comes, you feel like being pushed out of hall. Now after ur post i should get DvD. And rewatch. (FF button always helps :-) ]

ajnabi said...

See, I've seen it 5 times and I really, really like it still. (And it doesn't hurt that it's one of my husband's few Hindi faves.) But I do understand about not liking it as much on re-watch; that happened to me with KHNH. The first time I watched it I was blown away; the next time I was more aware of what each of the principles was capable of and unimpressed with the overall result, though I don't consider it a bad film.

veracious said...

memsaab - I think a lot of it is just timing, at least for me. Sometimes you watch something you actually aren't in the mood for, so it ends up annoying you or seeming unimpressive..

Shweta - I agree, I adore Saiyaan Re. Too bad those two haven't been paired in a good movie since!

Anita - I am with you on Hum Tum, the first time I saw it I thought it was good but nothing to obsess over. Then with rewatches I grew more and more fond of it and now it's one of my favourites. It really depends so much. As I said, the mood I'm in is a big factor. I don't remember feeling SEI's length the first time watching it, but this time I just couldn't bother with the storylines I wasn't a fan of at all.

lapetitediva - The Juhi-Anil track was good, though infidelity stories always annoy me on some level. I wish there'd been more of Juhi, since she was so good.

Darshit - FF button was certainly used when I rewatched it. Sad but true.

ajnabi - I also grew discontent with KHNH.. the first time I was so bowled over by the visuals on the big screen, the comedy and my new crush Saif (first film I ever saw him in), I didn't stop to think about the storyline and the resolution. Then when I did, I was annoyed and turned off.

eliza bennet said...

I didn't like this film very much when I first saw it. This however was the first time I have seen Govinda though and I liked him a lot.