Monday, November 30, 2009

Introducing ... Indian Film Advent Calendar!

I got an idea last night.

Tomorrow it's December already and since I went through a bit of a blogging slump around April-May-June-July this year, I thought I'd make up for it by making December my most blog-active month of the year. Since most of my readership - if stats are believed - comes from the US and India, two places that don't have this tradition of advent calendars, let me explain.

Though I'm not Christian myself, the holiday of Christmas (or joulu as we say Finland) is still celebrated in Finland as it's a Christian country. Since it's obviously commercialized and has definite pagan roots, I don't really see it as a religious holiday, though. Even the Finnish word for it, I believe, is of pre-Christian origin. Finns, unlike some Christian corners of the world, celebrate this holiday on Christmas Eve (24th of December).

An advent calendar is a way to count down the days to the Christmas Eve. It's a calendar of 24 slots, and each morning you open the slot corresponding to the day (so 1st slot on Dec 1st, 2nd on the 2nd etc) until Christmas Eve morning, when you open the biggest slot. In paper calendars, the slot reveals a picture of some sort. On chocolate calendars, you get a little chocolate. You can naturally make your own as well. Wikipedia tells more of this tradition.

Nowadays, we also get "joulukalenteri" (Finnish word for advent calendar) on TV as a 24-part children's TV programming (a few years back there was also a hilarious more adult-orientated TV advent calendar) and online, different websites having their own calendars published every day. Newspapers also have little column space devoted for this. There's really any number of ways you can do this and even though they're considered something geared towards children, I don't see why one should be so grown up as to not follow it.

So what's the idea of an Indian Film Advent Calendar for this blog? Simply, 24 posts, one per day, starting tomorrow. They can be reviews, screencaps, pictures, youtube clips, rambles.. I'll try not to limit myself; the objective is just to post daily. Because of the subject matter, and because I'm not a very Christmassy person, there is nothing about the posts to celebrate Christmas per se. The format is inspired by this tradition; the content won't be. Since I'm not Christian, there won't be promotion of that religion, either, obviously.

Since I'm going all Filmi Girl on your blogfeeds in terms of activity, I'll try to keep the posts short and simple, so you'll actually have the mental power to click on them on a near-daily basis. No exhaustive analysis, unless in total jest, don't worry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How I found Bollywood.

A story I might've linked to but never posted on this blog: how I got into Bollywood in the first place. The story was written for BollyWHAT.com's series of discovery stories and originally posted here. Written by me and edited BollyWHAT?! founder Meredith.

This story took place in October/November 2003. It marks the discovery of Indian films for me, but not the beginning of a more active obsession; the first year after this, I didn't watch all that many movies, less than ten in fact. It obviously describes the feelings I had as an utter newbie, not how I see Indian films nowadays (or even how I see K3G nowadays!).

---

NEVER SKIP CLASS - OR, A FATEFUL BRUSH WITH K3G


It all started in music class - the only compulsory music course we had in high school. It was a Friday morning in autumn; the mornings were dark and getting colder. I remember thinking about staying at home, to skip the morning class. Music class was pretty pointless, since there was no exam; missing a lesson would hardly harm me.

But skipping lessons is bad and so I dragged myself to school. Our lessons were held in the school hall, where there was musical equipment, a video projector and a screen. Our teacher told us that since we'd been learning about Indian music, and Indian classical music at that, today she'd show us "Indian film music", which was basically Indian popular music. The lights went off and she started the film, using the video projector and the screen.

What appeared in front of our eyes was a scene from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham: a woman and man speaking about family values. The quality of the film wasn't the best; it seemed to have been taped from some TV network because there were these odd commercials at one corner of the screen. They bugged me for the first 10 minutes, then I focused on the story.

To be honest, it made no sense. First they show this guy, who's really good at cricket and then he visits some grannies and then there's this other guy, who comes home and meets his family, makes fun of his fat brother, the usual. I heard snickering around me. This girl I was sitting next to was really amused at people dancing. I guess I was pretty amused at that point, too. During the scene where Kajol dances after finding out India has won the cricket match, she whispered in my ear, "What pills have these people taken?" I don't think I'll ever forget that, because it describes so well what people who see Bollywood for the first time and don't fall in love with it, think.


I'm not sure if other people have certain scenes that were turning points for their Bollywood obsession - something that kicked it off, that made them think, "I want to see more of this." For me, however, it must've been all the Kajol/SRK scenes in the first hour of K3G. They could create these unforgettable scenes that were hilarious, cute, romantic, hot, anything really. It was like nothing I'd seen in any romantic film ever. The character interaction just stunned me. I didn't even care when the narrative became suddenly and completely illogical - abruptly transitioning to Egypt for a song, with Kajol's sari colour changing nearly every time I blinked.

Our class ended in 75 minutes, so I had no idea what the cricket player had to do with the plot, but I knew I had to get more of it, see the end of the film. I raved about this clip to all my friends during lunch. By the same time next week, I had seen all of K3G. I hadn't liked the ending so much, the disco scenes and everything were kind of boring to me, but by that time I had already found BollyWHAT.com and read the site's list of recommendations. So by then I wanted to see Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (and the list goes on and on). Since this is Bollywood, I've still got loads of films to see - loads of crucial, classic films and plenty of new ones to look forward to.

It's funny, to think though, if I'd just stayed in bed that morning...

--

One of my eventual goals is to give the music teacher a Bollywood DVD as a thanks and to make sure future students won't have to watch as crappy a copy as our class did! Any tips on what films you think would a) showcase Indian popular filmi music really well and b) hook future fans?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wanted - celebrating cross-regional talent exchange.


I wasn't overly impressed with Aamir's Ghajini but I suppose I have to thank it for allowing Hindi industry to see that the action entertainers the Tamil and Telugu industries churn out and have been for a very long time are worth taking a look at. The action direction, the cinematography and often the stories and acting can be all-around top-notch. Overlooking these films is a mistake, and remaking them can be a venture that benefits everybody; the viewers, the producers and the stars.

Wanted definitely belongs to the successful bunch of Southie-to-Bolly remakes, and isn't to be grouped with those haphazardly directed Priyadarshan remakes that barely anybody remembers or cares to remember they are even remakes in the first place. I suspect Wanted benefited a lot from transporting some of South's talent along with the script. Prabhudeva (or Prabhudheva as the name is spelled in the credits) lends his talent to the direction and the choreography (of course!). Prakash Raj plays a villain like only he could. The cinematographer Nirav Shah has worked in most industries but the fights are shot like this is a gritty Tamil action masala, not Dhoom 2.

I'm beyond happy with this exchange of talent. If you must remake, why look outside India for good stories? And while, admittedly, a lot of these remakes can turn out much lamer than the original, this is one example where I think they got it right. Of course, I've seen neither Pokiri or Pokkiri, the Telugu original or the Tamil remake, but the feel of the film is pitch-perfect and reminds me of all my Southie favourites of this genre.

I'm definitely with Shweta, theBollywoodFan, Ramsu and Nicki (no review yet, Nicki?) on this: Wanted is a gem.

Radhe (Salman Khan, in absolute top form ..if only he was this good all the time!) is an unapologetic goonda. If he gets paid, he kills and he sides with the gangster who pays him more, forming no lasting alliances. He is absolutely unstoppable. In Mumbai, you have two gangsters, each fighting to gain a bigger share of the power pie, a police commissioner desperate to stop them and from this jumble of a plot, we get two head villains; Prakash Raj playing Ganibhai, a gangster arranging things comfortably from abroad and Mahesh Manjrekar playing a grossly corrupt cop, sleazily courting the heroine Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia).

The story is surprisingly good - I say surprisingly because I was only expecting a mildly okay one to excuse all the gory kills Salman delivers in this movie. It keeps you hooked to the movie, and is paced very nicely. I have to mention the small but significant presence of Vinod Khanna in this film, one of the reasons I had to see it. The concentration of "People Veracious Really Likes" in this movie is pretty damn high. More of films like this, please! (Mani Ratnam is clearly listening, as he's making the Hindi Raavana - Abhishek and Vikram, yes!)

Another reason why the film stole my heart during the first thirty minutes or so is the mix of comedy and romance. While the "comedy track" (a staple on Southie films of this kind) in Wanted was kind of lacking, the interesting romance was infused with comedy at first and it's an absolute riot. Not to spoil anything, but Radhe's constant hallucinations and the cute elevator scene made me crack up constantly. As Jhanvi begins to realize just what kind of a man she's gotten involved with, we see her struggle with it, as one realistically would. I like the uncertainty in the romantic storyline, and Salman and Ayesha shared lovely chemistry.

Prakash Raj is, as expected, awesome. His Ganibhai is cool and clever, but not clever enough to never be completely outwitted, and not cool enough not to be rattled. He's a sleaze, but knows the game he's playing. There's a brilliant self-aware moment in the film where he tells Radhe, "You look like a romantic hero." and Radhe coolly replies, "You look like a villain in a b-grade Hindi film."

But let it be known to the Hindi-film-watching masses; Prakash Raj is a grade A villain, all around. This movie can serve as evidence.

Salman Khan doesn't really act as much as he is and does. The way he channels this role is great, though. Radhe has both the cool romantic hero that has a sense of humor about himself and the merciless killing machine inside of him. Most of the time I forget why I like Salman as an actor, and then films as good as this one, carried so nicely by his broad shoulders, remind me why.

If I had one complaint about the film, it would be that as lovely as the picturizations are, supremely choreographed and just plain fun to watch, the songs aren't all that. I don't find myself humming them, or wanting to listen to them again. They are memorable only because of the visuals; Jalwa with its ace guest appearances and some of the others thanks to dancing and how good the actors look.

I would definitely place Wanted among my favourites of the year, but not recommend it for those people who despise violence and plenty of inventive, gory deaths. For Southie fans such a disclaimer would not be necessary, but for Hindi film fans more used to lighter violence or no violence whatsoever, I feel like giving a warning is only fair.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why another (Finnish) white girl watches Bollywood...

Katrina Kaif - whitest girl in Bollywood?

This post is basically a response and thoughts inspired by this brilliant post by Filmi Girl titled "Why a white girl watched Bollywood movies". Instead of simply answering the question by listing things she likes about Hindi cinema, FG takes it deeper and further and I love that - basically picking apart our status as foreign viewers to a cinema that draws from a cultural background we don't belong to, while also acknowledging Bollywood's current status of worldwide popularity.

Exoticism

Like Filmi Girl, I have to admit to early exoticism. When I first 'discovered' Hindi films (like Columbus 'discovered' the Americas - generally I am not this careful with implications of language but in this post, the topic requires it), they were many things to me but mostly they were "something different". They were colours and romance and melodrama, and told stories of a culture I'd never really looked into that deeply. But I like to think I got over that.

There are problems with exoticism, especially in the way it ties to Orientalism. I'm not too familiar with Orientalism but what I do know if it is that it's a Western-constructed view of the "Orient" as a place of mystique and spirituality as opposed to the "Western" rationality and secularity, of course setting aside the rational, scientific and non-spiritual pasts and realities of cultures that the West regards as the Orient (I believe Amartya Sen wrote about this in The Argumentative Indian). You see this kind of thing among some Western Bollywood fans, and I always want to believe it's a passing phase; this idea that Indian people are so much more spiritual and their exotic amazing religion(s) are so much better than our own drab sects of Christianity. I won't deny the importance of religion to an Indian Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Jain - but it's not like people from the so-called "West" don't carry crosses, say "oh god!" or say prayers at church. So how come doing a puja, wearing a turban or saying "inshallah" make people more spiritual?

I also really dislike elevating Indian culture to a weird, high status and alongside such beliefs, making a personal hierarchy of cultures in your head, usually placing your own at the bottom, disregarded as "boring". There's nothing wrong with respecting and being fascinated by another culture - many people make careers out of engaging in different cultures, translating cultural symbols or living and working in a culture that's not their own - but to see it as better than anything? It doesn't feel right. Your culture is what in part made you who you are. Your surroundings, your first language, your religion (or lack thereof), all of these things matter. I just feel sad for people who want to be Japanese because they enjoy Japanese culture, or desire to be South Asian because they love Bollywood. Nobody needs to feel proud of their own country in nationalistic fervor or think their culture is perfect, but at least recognize what made you who you are, instead of abandoning it in order to become a 'wannabe' of another culture.

Othering and Objectifying

Tough topic. I used to worry a lot, back when I was really Bollywood-crazed, whether I was fetishizing Indian people. Nowadays, the worry seems a little silly to me. I think a part of fetishizing a portion of people, like a certain race or ethnicity, is to not see the individuals in that group as individuals. To a guy who fetishizes (East-)Asian girls, every Asian girl is just that .. Asian. His ideas about what she might be like are not fueled by desire to get to know her personality or thoughts, but simple, often racist stereotypes about Asian women. I don't recognize this line of thinking in myself. In my experience, I am attracted to some people, and not to others. The only difference from pre-Bollywood me and current-me and our tastes in men is exposure - I couldn't name 3 hottest Indian guys in 2003 because I quite frankly hadn't been exposed to many ..or any for that matter.

I could write an essay on the increasing level of objectification of both males and females in pop culture all over the globe but I don't have the brainpower or the time right now. Let's just say I'm not fully embracing it, but sometimes I just sit back and go, "Yes, X looked great in this movie. And I loved it for that."

Cultural appropriation

I think my approach to this is a little different from Filmi Girl's, simply because she's from a culture whose symbols and language has become a global phenomenon. I on the other hand, am from a small country with a culture that's not too well-known internationally. You know, you go to any semi-industrialized country and ask them if they know where Coca-Cola is from, they'll probably know. You do the same for even the most global Finnish brand names and they might blink and then say "Japan?". So I understand culture as a sort of personal commodity, something one feels protective over. You don't want people to misunderstand or misrepresent your culture, steal something you feel is a part of it and claim it as as their own. You don't want people to watch a movie you've loved since childhood and go "This is weird!" or mock it.

(By the way, I'm not saying Americans can't feel this over their own culture, but in some ways, the way their popular culture is marketed worldwide and their movies watched, it's a very different business.)

I think the key word is respect. I don't include a disclaimer to each of my posts about how I claim ignorance on knowing Indian culture and how it is completely possible that being a member of the culture would radically change both my view and my understanding of a movie - but that's a part of why I usually emphasize how personal my views are on any topic. Even if I use terms like "worst movie ever", the subtext is "worst movie that I've seen so far, in my personal opinion" - I'm not stating a fact there. I never want to claim expertise over somebody else's culture because I'd never want anybody who isn't Finnish (or hasn't lived in Finland for a really long time, and gotten to know the land and its language and people) to claim expertise over my culture.

Filmi Girl has a good point that Bollywood has hardly been a purely regional cinema, which is a fair point. On the other hand, it has to be noted how large a part these films play in Indian people's own identity sometimes, whether they live in India or are NRI, even whether they watch the films or are just living in the culture that watches those films. I recall reading a story of somebody who grew up in 1970's Bombay, and remembers quoting Sholay with his friends .. without having actually ever seen the movie. You can take Bollywood out of India, but you can't take India out of Bollywood.

I'm lucky enough not to have gotten hatemail from people who feel like I'm enroaching on their cultural turf in some way. More often people of South Asian descent are just curious; how did you get into Indian movies, do you know so-and-so actor/film? Or then they're weirded out ("But those films are crap!") or happy, or nonchalant.

So why does a white girl watch Bollywood? Hopefully not because it's exotic and Other, not because she wants to become Hindu or Indian, or learned "Namaste" from a yoga class but because it's interesting, and it's what she likes. And as she consumes this now increasingly global form of entertainment, she remains respectful of the culture it stemmed from, willing to admit ignorant mistakes she might make, and most importantly, interested to learn more.

And hopefully she will stop writing posts where she refers to herself in the third person, because voi hyvรค Jumala ("oh good God!" in Finnish), that's just a show of bad writing acumen.

PS. University swallowed up my life. Post on Kanthasamy ...later!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Squee-filled first reactions on Kanthasamy.

squee
1. as noun: A noise primarily made by an over-excited fangirl, however it has spread rapidly and is now widely spread among the web community. ("Squee, I love Harry Potter!")
2. as a verb: To elicit aforementioned noises and to generally fangirl something. ("I need somebody to squee over this new trailer with.")

It's winter in Finland right now, which means picturesque views and brightness all over, but sadly it also means cold, dark mornings and slippery roads you have to careful to walk on. I had an exam today and walked home via the post office, picking up this order from Ayngaran, feeling kind of annoyed with winter already. I decided I'd watch Kanthasamy (or Kandasamy or Kanthasaamy or whatever spelling you prefer) for a post-exam pick me up, but I wasn't exactly confident whether it'd do the trick. In my heart of hearts I knew I was kind of hoping for an Anniyan 2, masalatastic big budget Vikram-starrer that would be insane, socially conscious, masalatastic with awesome music and all the works. But I was worried - it's not like anything really compares to Anniyan, which I've previously heralded as the most entertaining film ever and my friends liked it as well.

So I was purposefully lowering my expectations to meet the cold, icy ground below me. And to my great surprise, Kanthasamy actually delivers, more than I expected but also more than I could've thought to ask.

But because my brain is too fried right now from sheer love for the film, and because I don't have the time to screencap this monstrously long film (3 hours 17 minutes, yikes!), I'll just do bullet-points which I will attempt to keep as spoiler-free as possible.

1. Vikram looks amazing in this film. How blue are his eyes? Were those contacts? Am I bad fan for not knowing? Who the hell cares?

2. Shriya did great, playing a heroine that's not the typical coy, conservative Tamil heroine and gets quite a lot of time on screen, looks as gorgeous as ever, and I loved the way they kept the chemistry and dynamic between hers and Vikram's character interesting throughout the movie. It's very sexually charged, but doesn't feel sleazy because she's the sexually assertive character here -- rare fare in an Indian film! I enjoyed it a ton.

3. The songs. Oh lord. Excuse Me Mr Kanthasamy is my new favourite Tamil picturization, Vikram picturization etc etc etc. Amazingly shot, so much fun, awesomely catchy. Lovelovelove!

4. Actually the whole picture is beautifully shot but sometimes I did suspect the cinematographer being on drugs of some sort. The sheer editing pace is kind of nuts. Sometimes I love it, other times I just want the damn camera to settle down! And the filters and the effects. Well, whatever. It's a gorgeous movie, we'll leave it at that.

5. The plot. Er. Talk about complex. I mean, I understood everything but sometimes I stopped to enjoy Vi-- the scenery and was a tad confused. The forthcoming rewatches will tie the puzzle together, though, I assume. Let's just say there are a lot of players and how they all tie together is not as plain as you might think. The socially conscious message is as heavy-handed as you'd expect and as crowd-educating, too, but I liked it. Don't know much about the issue, so can't pick it apart from an economical/political standpoint, but, you know, it's there.

6. I liked how the climax was not at all what I expected. Liked it a ton, in fact.

7. The get-ups. Oh god. I died from laughter. And generally really really really liked the feathered rooster-like avatar I saw from the posters and initially thought I'd hate. Vikram is a genius when he acts like a bird. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.

8. There's a couple of really epic fight scenes but generally the movie never descends into an adrenaline-packed gorefest. The plot is actually awesomely structured, because it keeps you on your seat - if not on the edge of it, then at least wanting to know what happens next. For a movie whose type most of us are familiar with, it manages to be predictable and yet have some moments of suspense. I have to give props, Susi Ganesan has done a tremendous job here.

9. I loved Vikram's performance so much I almost want to quote a non-me source for praise because while I am ridiculously biased, what for example Qalandari says about him in Kanthasamy, is just so spot on. If you don't mind spoilers, go read that review because his reviews are always suberbly written. But yes. I guess the fact I liked the bird costume tells you everything you need to know; a large part of why this film works is because Vikram's in it. He makes you buy into it, even when it gets goofy.

9.5. Did I mention how hot he is in this movie?

10. It's impossible not to compare this movie to Anniyan, so I'll get it out of the way. First, I love and adore both. Second, Anniyan is funnier. It's infused with Vivek's amazing comedy, whereas Kanthasamy only has Vadivelu's amusing but unbrilliant comedy track. Anniyan is also goofier, more extravagant, more unintentionally funny. Kanthasamy has those laughs as well, but it doesn't have Remo, and it is just a pinch less ridiculous. It has its own comedy, especially with the romantic track, and the comedy there is spicy - not exactly clever, but certainly funny enough for a ton of giggles. And the ending doesn't make one laugh as it does with Anniyan; it solicits a mere peaceful smile, just like it should.

11. Oh I'm sorry, did you think this would be a short post? My first reactions are lengthy, it would seem.

12. The depiction of Mexico (yes, they friggin' go to Mexico! Vikram speaks Spanish!) is kind of half-awesome, half-weird. I'm not sure if Mexico really has that western saloon cowboy hats type of scene, but the film doesn't go for any super-offensive stereotypes and actually shows regular people, regular scenery (and interesting scenery, not just luxurious sights of this and that tourist attraction like Indian films sometimes do), which is kind of lovely. I'm mostly in love with these scenes because of the plot at that point is really awesome.

13. I'm so glad I watched this film on Friday the 13th. Screencaps and proper review later this weekend, I assume, should I have time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I really don't need any more Indian DVDs..

No really, I don't. I have piles of unwatched/unfinished films laying all around me in this apartment and I really ought to not buy any new ones. I just counted them and came up with 14. Oh god. One of these weekends I need to just sit my butt down and finish all the ones I began and never finished.

But I also bought some new ones this week. This post is pretty much just therapy; the first stage is admitting you have a problem.

I'm Veracious and I definitely have a problem.

And while, in the understanding company of the readership of this blog, this may not seem like a problem, and while I'm certainly lucky enough not to make an absolutely constant habit of buying Indian DVD's (it's sporadic, rather than regularly scheduled), this is still a problem.

Hoarding is a problem. And this week I've done some Southie hoarding. The above picture is from the latest Vikram starrer Kanthasamy which promises to be a standard masala, where every spice thrown into the mix is psychedelic. I'm as afraid as I am excited.

But this is Vikram, can you really blame me? (You probably should.)

And then the news came down the wire that my second favourite Tamil person of the male sort, Siddharth, just had his most recent Telugu flick come out on DVD.

Oy, I hate you. I love you.

I just don't know anymore. But my wallet does, as it hides deeper into my bag.

Sigh. I threw some extra DVD's onto the Tamil order so by the time both orders get here, I'll have 17 unwatched films in my possession. Always good to have something to watch, I suppose, but it is pretty ridiculous. I mean, what if I never run out? What if I go to my death, still having a backlog of 20-something Indian DVD's waiting for me? (Or microchips or whatever we'll be watching movies on by then!)

These are the things I fear.

So.. what are your DVD-buying weakspots? "Miniscule percentage off" offers? Nehaflix's 5 dollar DVD sales? CD sales? Just being on a website and having a credit card? Collector's syndrome ("well, I own all the other Siddhu Telugu movies, might as well also own this one..")? Share, share! Tell me I'm not alone.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

With friends like these...

Disclaimer: This is a blog post in which I take a fairly simple movie and pick it apart to see why exactly I didn't like it as much as I wanted to or as others have. I know in doing so, I have to take a comedy film seriously. I don't care that I'm doing so. When a film entertains, it's not necessary to analyze why it does so. When it doesn't, it's not so easy to pinpoint why, and one has to dig in deeper. Everything I express here are my own personal views, and I'm in no way suggesting everybody who enjoyed it watched a different movie. Please don't read it if you don't think you'd enjoy reading such a post. And please, I beg of you, don't post a comment along the lines of "this is just a silly comedy, why are you taking it so seriously?". Oh and it's a rant and there will be SPOILERS.

I rewatched Dostana a few weeks back and have been itching to write about it ever since. I don't particularly enjoy facing uncomfortable truths about movies I really enjoyed on the first watch, but I feel like I have to. Essentially it's what Ajnabi stated in her review, the closer you look, the more problems there are.

Because while the film still has its charms (Abhishek occasionally, fantastic soundtrack/picturizations) and its funny moments, it just rubbed me the wrong way on the rewatch. And that really, really sucks.

At the core, Dostana is the least genuine story of friendship in Bollywood perhaps ever. The screenwriter depicts it as the friendship of the century, but that's simply not the case. It's a story of two douchebags who want to bone a really hot girl, so they get close to her by continuing to build on a lie, and essentially mess up her life to selfishly win her for themselves, making her a prize to be won in a challenge between the two of them. When she finds out, she's understandably upset and eventually they win her back by sacrificing their masculinity by doing something that's maybe a bit gay. She accepts them as 'friends' again. End of movie.

None of this is what friendship is about. Friendship is about honesty - being able to express your thoughts and feelings openly to somebody. Friendship is about trust - trust that somebody is there for you when you need them, trust that they won't tell everybody what you told them behind your back. The movie seems to think it'll convince the audience that if you just say it's friendship enough, people will believe it really is friendship. I know Bollywood isn't a big fan of "show, not tell"-methods of storytelling, but in this particular case, that's not how things work. If I can't believe in something, it really doesn't matter how explicitly it's stated on-screen.

Another problem I have with Dostana is that for a "naughty" comedy, it mostly ends up feeling sleazy. It's not explicitly sleazy, it's not one of the B-films or C-films with graituitous french-kissing, lots of skin and verging on softcore (not that I've seen those films but I've run into clips of them on youtube). But it's sleazy enough to feel sleazy, to make one feel uncomfortable. One of my friends watched the movie with me during this rewatch, and she had this take on it, "It's like how Indians see Western people." As in, skimpily clad, sexually promiscuous, laying the innuendo on thick. I'm not sure if I agree with her interpretation, but it's one way to look at it, I guess. And look, I'm far from being a prude of some sort. I'm all for innuendo and sexuality explored in Indian films of all types. But style is important - make it funny and don't make it gross. I can think of some examples of this from American sitcoms but for an Indian example, Pyaar Ke Side Effects comes to mind.

I suppose I could write more about the manipulation on the second half but I think everybody's in agreement that was the movie's true lowest point. And I won't touch on gay stereotypes since as discussed recently on Filmi Girl's blog regarding Bollywood blackface and other examples, popular cinema thrives on stereotypes, some more offensive than others. Needless to say, both things bugged me, on top of the "friendship" and the sleaze.

Some of you will obviously be in strong disagreement, and that's fine. I'm not sure if I can argue my points more elaborately since I've sort of run out of steam while writing this rant, but if you have something to say besides "stop taking it so seriously!", by all means, say it.