Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mini-reviews, part 9.

Previous mini-reviews here.

81. Anniyan (2005) - Quite possibly the most entertaining film I've ever seen in any language, made anywhere in the world. Maybe closely rivalled by Wanted (Hindi)? They both have Prakash Raaj, but then, he is the very definition of Awesome. Stars Vikram, not at his hottest, but still good stuff. Endlessly rewatchable.

82. The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005)
- A surprisingly bland Aamir Khan film. It's okay as far as historical films go, but doesn't really stand repeat viewings. I do wish we got better films with the Aamir-Rani pairing, they are great together!

83. Peralagan (2004) - Surya's impressive double-role picture co-starring the delightful Jothika, who also has a double role in the film. This picture is worth watching even when it's not a huge favourite of mine, simply because it answers the question: how evil does Surya have to play for fangirls to forget he's hot? The ugly character he plays in this has so much heart. Not the best film, but worth checking out nonetheless.

84. Bumbai (1995)
- Also known as Bombay. Maniratnam's classic film about the Bombay riots. I cried so much on my first watch I haven't dared rewatch since, even though I own the Tamil-dialogue original on DVD. One of those films you watch that make you go, "Manisha Koirala, whatever happened to her? Oh yes, Bollywood's unfair bias against married women.."

85. Aaja Nachle (2007) - Madhuri's unfairly maligned comeback film about a dancer that returns to her home village to save a theater. Yes, it's cheesy and the story is standard fluff, but it's just delightful, and has good song numbers and heart and a great supporting cast. See also: Akshaye Khanna as the world's cutest villain.

86. Yeh Dillagi (1994) - I call it the Sakshay movie you don't realize actually is a Sakshay movie. Mostly because they play brothers, actual brothers, both trying to woo Kajol's character, Sabrina-style. It's watchable 90's fluff, as opposed to being too cheeseball for its own good. Kajol makes 90's fashion look good, for evidence, youtube "Hoton pe bas" from this film. Original review here.

87. Chupke Chupke (1975) - This Hrishikesh Mukherjii comedy I mostly watched for the fact it's the only film where Amitabh and Dharmendra are leads besides Sholay. It's a gentle, feel-good comedy with Sharmila Tagore and Jaya as female leads, and I really ought to rewatch, because it was delightful and cute, in that classic Mukherji manner.

88. Black Friday (2004) - This docu-drama about the Mumbai blasts of 1993 is slow-moving but engaging, and hopelessly realistic, so definitely not your standard Hindi film fare. It's good, but one of those films I am not sure I will ever rewatch. Pavan Malhotra delivers a beautiful, chilling performance as the terrorist chief. We all think about the nature of terrorism these days, this film's portrayal of both the perpetrators, the people in charge of the plans and the police chasing these people gives you a lot to think about. Original review here.

89. Dil Se.. (1998)
- Dil Se is most certainly one of those films that made me go "wow", in my early days of Indian film watching. It was a film that was different and gorgeous, with good performances (Manisha Koirala, Shahrukh Khan) that made one pause, dealing with heavy topics such as sexual abuse and terrorism. Since then I've rewatched it but I do wonder if it'd still make the favourites list. There is something vaguely disturbing about the course of romance in this film.. Regardless, it's a film I could easily recommend.

90. Namastey London (2007)
- Is this a really good romantic comedy? Perhaps not. The story of the Punjabi boy, played by Akshay Kumar, and the Londonite girl (Katrina Kaif), and their love story is well-paced and well-acted (Katrina fits the role like a glove, so even she excels, and Akshay's great in this!) but has some extremely cringeworthy moments, and a blah soundtrack. Regardless, it's one of those Rainy Day films. I can put it on and be put in a better mood instantly.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Suno Aisha.. (About Aisha and other Emmaites.)

Aisha came out around a year ago, and I finally managed to watch it. Seeing as how I cannot talk about the film in detail without going into previous modernized Emma adaptations such as Clueless, this review will have two parts: one short spoiler-free part, and one more detailed, spoiler-filled part which compares and contrasts it to the other adaptations of the story.

Part ek:

I pretty much loved Aisha, even though it was far from being flawless. In fact, while the film is overall well-made and executed the Austen story well for the most part, there are a couple of problems, especially with Aisha's characterization that I can understand may take some viewers from the Loving Camp and place them in the Meh Camp. I'm still with the Loving Camp, but I do wonder whether that'll change. Sometimes phrasing the problems in form of a movie review can make them more apparent to me as a viewer, which takes some enjoyment out of the film. Regardless, Aisha serves its purpose as a fluffy romcom with good-looking, charming leads, a well-paced storyline and I still dig the soundtrack an awful lot.

Plus it has Abhay Deol. That, in and of itself. Well. You know.

Part do (SPOILERS):

I'll state at this point that Clueless, Amy Heckerling's 90's Valley girl spin on the classic Austen novel Emma, is one of my favourite films of all time. Not that it's a master piece, but it is one of those few perfect, charming teen comedies as well as a pretty nice romcom. I watched it as a kid, loved it and have rewatched it numerous times since. On the other hand, I have a weird relationship with some of the other Emma adaptations. I can watch the miniseries that have been made and enjoy them, and while I don't love the Gwyneth Paltrow film, I suppose that's okay as well. However, to me, Clueless' Cher is the most lovable of the Emma characters. I suppose the other versions are closer to the original version in the books (which I've read but have very vague memories of).

So you could say I love the general story structure of Emma; the fact that it's a female centric story where the main character has to learn some pretty crucial lessons that she isn't always in the right, and that sometimes her class prejudice can cloud her from seeing things that are truly there. I think we all enjoy watching characters that learn things and when they do bad things, get their comeuppance. Simple enough, that.

Now, at first appearance I thought Aisha was a little less charming than Clueless, and just a tad more commercial/consumeristic. What was with that L'Oreal advertisement in the middle of my movie? Learn to be subtle, product placers of Bollywood, for goodness' sake. But the film grew on me, mostly on the backs of the side characters. Shefali (Amrita Puri) was just delightful and Abhay Deol did not disappoint in the least. There is a lot to be said for Sonam Kapoor's Aisha, too. It's easy to believe that somebody as gorgeous as Sonam, growing in wealth, could be this sort of clueless, spoiled character who always gets her way and always thinks her way is the right way for things to go. She's believable, and while the role doesn't exactly feel like a stretch (not that Sonam is like this in real life, but I'm sure she's run into the type, being the daughter of Anil Kapoor, and hanging out in the glitzy upper-class filmi circles), she does a good job.

I guess where the problems come in is the "comeuppance" part of the storyline, the point that everything has been building up to. The thought I couldn't shake after the film was over was this: does Aisha truly learn anything? We see her moping around a lot, eating ice cream (in that most terrible of female clichés), and finally seeing her friendships fall apart. We see her realize how much she loves Arjun, which is all very well, and we see that she's probably quit meddling in the affairs of others. I walked away from the movie, liking it a lot, but wondering if these lessons she's got to learn were portrayed believably in the film.

In comparsion to Clueless, I just thought that Cher had a very visible "oh, I get it now" moment and her efforts to make amends to her previous actions were portrayed in a way that really redeemed the character. And even before that, as spoiled and silly and annoying as Cher was, she also had a big heart and you could really get a sense of it as you watched her go through her consumerist, vapid existence. With Aisha, the helping of others truly feels mostly self-serving, and so she comes off as a less sympathetic character. She isn't clueless - you can see she's smart, but using her smarts in a very foolish way. Cher was smart, too, but (I think) very unaware of it, or thinking that her smarts only applied to the social world of high school. Aisha's character is not a teen, she's an adult, and though young, it sometimes feels like she should know better by now, and heed the advice of Arjun instead of stubbornly picking up her pet projects with very self-centered goals.

This all makes it sound like I hate Aisha - I most certainly don't. It's just that I can see the flaws in the characterization, perhaps where they just wanted to glam her up as much as possible, they forgot there are ways of making her more sympathetic to the viewer as well.

And as seems to be the Abhay Deol character cliché at this point, his Arjun does come off like a bit too smug at times. This didn't rid a whole lot of enjoyment of the movie for me, but it was something I picked up on, and something that could rub others the wrong way.

But despite all these points, I did genuinely enjoy the film a whole lot. I liked the fact that while Pinky comes off as quite the bitch with regards to Aisha picking up Shefali as a new project, you can later see at least partly why she's upset about this. It's not the first time Aisha's done it, and it's also that Aisha tends to not notice Pinky when something like this comes around - like her friends are simply accessories, and sometimes the newest one is her favourite. Shefali was great, and all the moments between her and Saurabh were too adorable for their own good. And the song picturizations were quite a delight (L'Oreal commercial aside). Big ups, Amit Trivedi.

So.. what did you think?