Monday, November 29, 2010

NIF-a-palooza!, or: Stories of Rewatching.

Dearest dears, according to a philosophy which says that every they dance! post is somebody's first, let me once again explain NIF. It quite simply means Non-Indian Film [fan/ enthusiast/ viewer/ follower] and was invented on the BollyWHAT? discussion forums when people needed a name for those friends of theirs who weren't too into the whole crazy Indian film business and in most cases didn't quite "get it", or were in the process of "getting it", ie. warming up to the films that fans of this type of cinema gobbled up like it was pie they could never have enough of. 

For the purpose of this blog, NIF mostly refers to friends I watch films with, who might've been a great number of films but aren't quite fanatic enough to buy them on their own or watch them on their own. That, or they're utter newbies, but curious enough to come over and let me pop one in the DVD player. 

This past autumn I've had a number of NIF film nights, so I thought I'd share some stories.

How Anthony Ended Up on a Skate-boarding Video

Some university friends were invited over and I presented them with many options; comedies, romantic films, straight-forward masalas - whatever they wanted, we could watch. They picked, surprisingly enough, the classic 1977 Desai-masala Amar Akbar Anthony. Well enough, though I warned them that films of this type were a little out there with the epicness of the storylines but also, well, pretty much everything. Still, this was no Dharam-Veer so I figured we were on safe grounds.

The film went down well, with all its twists and turns and action. It's no short wonder the film's such a classic. The only thing I regret is that my DVD has no subtitled songs, so I was forced to try and remember what each song was about - when nobody understands the lyrics, they miss the context of the song, which can be absolutely essential in these older films. So that was rather a shame. Of course, there is that one English song - My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves - which is utterly delightful.

At some point, a bit of which I couldn't find a screencap, Anthony shows the inside of his tux jacket to reveal the number 420. This caused amusement in one viewer who quipped, "Oh, I have to get a screencap of that!". Now this was for the reasons obvious to anybody who doesn't automatically associate the number with the Indian penal code for 'fraud'.. I did explain this to my friend, but he was still captured by this tiny little bit. 

Later, he borrowed the DVD to screencap it himself and told me it was for a skate-boarding video he and his friends were working on. So, congrats, Amitabh Bachchan.. While I'm sure the video is not in wide circulation, that's got to count towards ...something. 

How Rain Didn't Stop 4 Idiots

Organizing stuff can be a pain in the neck, so after I sent an invitation to another Bollytastic film night to a bunch of my uni friends, I had lots of preparations to make. Snacks to buy from the store, room to clean up completely, re-arrange the room for optimal film-viewing, haul all kinds of useless stuff out of the room and back into the cupboard, etc etc. So after I'd done all this, I could just back and wait for the people to arrive. Sadly, only four of them made it, in a car, and the rest gave up on the way, as the drizzle had turned into heavy rain as they began making their way over to my place.

Resigned, the small group of us settled in to watch something, and what my friends picked was 3 Idiots.  I felt like a bloody waiter at a restaurant, wanting to congratulate them for an excellent choice. Because, really. 3 Idiots is just a film that works on so many levels, I have absolutely no reservations about showing it to anybody who likes films. Of course, it has got its caveats, its tiny flaws - but they don't diminish the viewing experience. It's just great. The audience reaction was extremely positive. I just would've hoped more people had been able to show up. Better luck next time, I suppose. All izz well.. 

And I am especially happy that I own the PAL-DVD because it looks smashing, much better than a lot of the other DVD's I've got. 

Letting Salman Khan Into Your Heart, in 3 Easy Steps

1) Watch Wanted

2) Repeat step 1.

3) Repeat step 1 until you reach the expected result.

My friend Mog has a really bizarre taste in men. Or rather, fictional men, actor crushes, that sort of thing. She hasn't really been into any Indian actors, at least not in the "ooh, him! I want to see more with him!" type of sense.  It's been confusing to me, showing her all these films I really love with actors I really like and she just shrugs. 

Now, I sold Wanted to her, Babz and another friend of theirs (who has witnessed the most unfortunate Indian films so far, but that's another story) as a fun action film. While I think I was the one who enjoyed the film the most - I love it to bits, I realize more and more with each rewatch, Wanted is just amazing, and utterly a favourite by now - it worked its ballistic magic on them, as well. And Mog? She kind of loved Salman. To the point that when I left she was busy looking up "Love Me" on youtube. 

I understand the Salman love, don't get me wrong. Even older Salman has his moments, and Wanted is definitely one of them. But on the other hand ...really? You fall for this Sallu, not the fresh-faced MPK Sallu or the goofball 90's Sallu, who's still got a fresh face and eyes that look like he's slept well last night, or any of the nights last week? Well. Mog has always been something else. And if she loves Wanted, who am I to say no?

No Sleep for the Wicked, No Love for the Sakshay

Speaking of Mog, I entirely blame her apathy towards the 90's Saif-Akshay gem Main Khiladi Tu Anari for why this was my lamest reviewing of the film so far. MKTA is magical, but it requires the right sort of mood - the mood of being able to appreciate and adore cinema that isn't too good in the traditional sense but excellent entertainment if you're able to get into its cheesy charms. Mog wasn't in the mood, but Babz was, so we watched MKTA, but to no great success, as the slower parts, our commentary drifted to other topics and we basically talked until I was like "Oh this bit is great, focus!". 

Sigh. Sometimes film viewing goes like that - somebody takes an attitude towards a film and so it doesn't work for them, and that brings the mood down in the whole room. It breaks your heart when it's a favourite that a friend dislikes severely. But sometimes, that's just the way things work out. Sadly.

There were a couple of other films I rewatched with friends recently as well, but I'll end this post here for now so it doesn't get too long and dull. 'Til next time!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mini-reviews, part eight.

[Previous mini-reviews here. In short, the idea is to write miniature film reviews out of a randomized list of what I had watched at a certain point in time. Nowadays the list would be about 30 films longer but I'll continue to do these until the list is finished..]

71. Meera (1979) - This Gulzar-directed gem was quite possibly the first or the second Vinod Khanna film I ever saw, about the life of Hindu saint Mirabai, and I fell in love with it. It's a bit slow in pace so might not be everybody's cup of chai, but I love it, for the haunting atmosphere, for Hema Malini's performance, and last but not least, Vinod.

72. Sethu (1999) - Vikram's first big break in films, a tale of obsessive love, later remade in Hindi as Tere Naam (which I've not seen). It's certainly a good film and a good performance by him, but doesn't really make it to my top favourites.

73. Tashan (2008) - It's complicated between me and Tashan. Some days I think it's a criminally underrated gem, other days I think it's a flawed but fun masala rollercoaster ride. Most often I think that regardless of its bad reputation and its a little too tryhard plot, people really ought to give it a chance. Akki is awesome in it, as is Bebo. The fact there's too little Sakshay in it kills me, but it's something I've learned to get over.

74. Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007) - It probably pales in comparison to the Southie versions of the story but it's a decent Priyadarshan film anyway. A little masala, a little ghost story, excellent climax and somewhat memorable performances from Akshay and Vidya Balan.

75. Parineeta (2005) - This is one of those films I probably should have watched once and called it good. But then I rewatched it like three or four additional times and was considerably worn out. It's a good romantic role for Saif and an excellent debut by Vidya Balan, but it is still a flawed film and the flaws become more and more distracting the more I've watched it.

76. The Namesake (2006) - Tabu and Irffan together! Kal Penn being his awesome self! This film was so good when I initially saw it, pitch-perfect at every step, but the more time wore on, the less I liked it. It's a strange one, but as one of those films that people who normally don't watch Indian films see, it's worth seeing.

77. Keemat: They Are Back (1998) - An absolute Sakshay classic. I'm proud to say the cheesiest film poster on my walls is of this one, and it's an utter winner with the pleather worn by the guys and the random musical instruments shown off by the girls. The above DVD cover is no less of a winner. Keemat is .. well, it's probably an average funtime 90's cheesefest. But to me, it's something else. Namely, it's a Sakshay film where I also really like the heroines (Sonali and Raveena kick ass in this!). But you know..

78. Dillagi (1978) - It's a very sweet, low-key romantic comedy with Hema Malini and Dharmendra. I think it's most memorable for the fact Dharam plays a poetic Sanskrit teacher, and not a He-Man type of character. Never the less, I've never actually rewatched this one. Time might just golden memories..?

79. ...Yahaan (2005) - Filmed through a million blue-hue filters, this is quite a lovely film about Kashmir conflict, and the story of one soldier (Jimmy Shergill) and a local girl (Minissha Lamba in her debut role!). It's another one I really ought to rewatch... I own it so I guess I must've liked it but cannot for the life of me remember why.

80. Dhool (2003) - Absolutely stellar comedy/romance/action flick in Tamil; my first Tamil masala; my first Vikram film; one of my all-time favourites. I could watch the picturizations until cows come home. It's just so good and so much fun and Jothika is an awesome spunky sort of heroine here and Vikram just looks his best and yeah. Watch it. Watch it again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lost and found; stories of filmi love.

Hey blog! Missed me? I missed you. Well, I kind of missed you. I missed having the sudden itch to write a new entry; I missed browsing through other people's entries to see what they have been watching, enjoying, loving. I miss being in the loop of things.

What's happened as of late? Well, since I've been gone - and I swear, this is me getting back, maybe not to 7 entries per month but for crying out loud, 1 or 2 at the very least - lots of things have happened!

1. I've been rewatching films with friends and NIFs (Non-Indian-Film fans/enthusiasts/whatevers) alike. I have plenty of stories to tell about those film nights, and I shall, definitely. Like the story of 420 In a Skate-Boarding Video or How Rain Didn't Stop 5 Idiots or How My Friend Learned to Love Salman Khan. I love stories like this, so I'll continue to share them.

2. I haven't actually watched anything new since Raavan at the Helsinki International Film Festival (review here). I had tons of plans to get through my to-watch pile of DVDs and to rewatch favourites but you know, no inspiration.

3. Finland had their own version of So You Think You Can Dance and they had a Bollywood routine on it! Lucky for you, you can watch it on youtube. They dance to a song from Billu Barber! Personally I was mildly unimpressed. I like some moves but am always puzzled why what is thought of as Bollywood dance so rarely resembles what we see in films.. What films are these folks watching? Still, the performance has a good energy level throughout.

Sometimes I kind of wonder, what is it about Bollywood that makes me fade in and out of the fandom but never quite enough to totally lose grip on it. I still follow stars on Twitter - I still somewhat keep up with the news. I might still put on the Kaminey soundtrack and just let the music wash over me. I will still gaze up at my Sholay poster and lovingly call Main Khiladi Tu Anari my favourite bad film out of all other films out there.

My friend Steve asked me last night what kind of an answer I give when somebody asks me for my favourite films (as we'd just discussed how little music taste tells of a person, but how taste in films can actually reveal something crucial about your personality). I was unsure but listed some of my favourite non-Indian films anyway (from Casablanca to Hot Fuzz, from My Sassy Girl to It Happened One Night) but then when I got to Indian films I felt as if I stood on firmer ground (from Andaz Apna Apna to Pithamagan, from Dharam-Veer to Wanted). Maybe it's simply the curse of a film fan at play - the fact that it's only after you limit the era or the type of film you're supposed to name favourites of that naming favourites actually becomes easy.

But still, it is strange. Indian films are a hobby as much as they are a passion. I have opinions on them, much more so than for industries or things I don't really feel as passionate about. When Hollywood remakes this that or the other, I shrug and call it the way of the world. If some modern Hindi film director came out tomorrow and said they were planning on remaking Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, I'd scrutinize the project every step of the way.

So there you have it, some pointless thoughts on the relationship between me and Indian films -- sometimes red hot and current, sometimes light-blue and nostalgic. Does it say more about me that I like Siddharth and Vinod Khanna films than that I listen to 80's The Cure or that my favourite Korean film is a rom-com? I really couldn't tell you. But the relationship is there and it's solid, even if I am silent on these here parts. Trust me on that.

And now, to give you an idea what brought this post on.. Facebook told me I might like a show called Dance India Dance, so I watched some youtube clips of the show (it's a dancing competition, as the name would tell you) and ran into this performance by a girl doing some quite lovely Bharatanatyam dancing.

For whatever reason, the song stuck with me so I youtubed that as well..

I guess this time you can thank Juhi Chawla for bringing me back.