Thursday, December 27, 2007

Namastey London - phir bhi dil hai NRI

There are a lot of reasons why Indians take their stories abroad, though as I understand it the biggest one nowadays is budget – it's just easier for a big megastar to shoot in London or Sydney, where you don't need the crowd control you'd need in basically anywhere in India. They can wrap up projects faster, release them faster, and I guess the audiences also like to see the handsome foreign locales. You don't see many complaining, and NRI films are like any Indian films – hit or miss, there are good examples and bad examples. (This I took away from an interview with the certified Dude of Indian film, Akshay Kumar, about a year ago on IBN-live.)

Namastey London, a story about a completely British born, British thinking desi girl (Katrina Kaif) and a true-and-blue Punjabi boy (Akshay Kumar), is half-and-half – an annoying example of those Indian films who start out lovely but change tone slightly after interval. However, NL is far from being the worst example of this phenomenon, and for that, it deserves to be remembered as a good example of NRI films. Katrina's Jazz, or Jasmeet, is quite a refreshing NRI girl - she's openly Westernized, but this is not exceedingly frowned upon. Even her Indian bridegroom accepts this, and falls in love with her for exactly as she is. The whole NRI phenomenon is portrayed in a way I'd even dare call realistic. One stand-out scene for me was near the beginning, where Jasmeet's parents have an argument that reveal their own past; how the mother was brought to London from India, and how she was so Indian that her husband was embarrassed of her behaviour in public - hence she brought up their daughter to be more British, so she could go out more than her mother did.

That change of tone, though? Well, in typical Indian film fashion there has to be a villain and the villain in this case - the angrezi, the gora. Jasmeet's gora boyfriend is implied a bad, bad person from the get-go, and the rest of the gora cast is not much different (apart from Upen Patel's girlfriend who doesn't have any ridiculous demands or doesn't make any racist remarks, gladly). Of course, the Indians set the silly white people straight left and right, and the posh Brits look quite foolish in their castles and whatnots, which serves this bunch right, but naturally as a non-Indian I can't help but get annoyed at this portrayal. Yes, the West does have ridiculous prejudice regarding Indians, their culture and their religion (you know, Muslim=terrorist, that whole meme) but we're not all like that and the way the whole thing is presented, well, it grates me.

Thankfully not enough to distract me from the fantastic romantic developments of the second half, but there was another painful distraction to the movie - Himesh Reshmiyya soundtrack. Where he sings, naturally, in nearly every bloody song. I nearly tore my hair out. A couple of cutesy song picturizations, but good god I never want to hear this man's voice again.

But all in all - lovely film which I don't regret watching at all. And by the way, to prove Akki really is what I said he is, The Dude of Bollywood, check out this news article. Khan kaun, this is the guy who brings Indians to theaters. I'm more than happy for him for that achievement (and I'll be seeing Bhool Bhulaiyaa eventually, but Dude or no Dude, Heyy Baby is a miss for me).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pyaar dosti hai - buddypyaari fanvideos!

Something wonderful happened last Saturday. I woke up to find that one of my dearest Bollywood buddies online had finally finished her passionate project of creating a fanvid for the Saif/Shahrukh jodi in Kal Ho Naa Ho. You know, the true jodi of that movie. Preity was there? Huh, never noticed. And neither will you, when you watch this:

I may be biased but this is a complete gem of a fanvid. The choice of song is just cheesy enough, the lyric connections are beautiful and the whole thing is angsty enough to make me actually feel like Shahrukh loves Saif. Which he does, naturally, but Specsy's fantastic editing makes it so much clearer than Karan Johar's original one. KJo, take notes!

Natural progression of thought: where's the Sakshay fanvid? Well, it exists, guys, and it's not by me.

It is naturally brilliant, even if it only uses clips from two Sakshay movies. I can put aside the fact that they play brothers in Yeh Dillagi because that shot of Akshay wiping blood from Saif's lip is simply too lovely for words. Plus the video makes me like that Zinda song.

Lastly, I found a fanvid for buddypyaari that's more about the buddy than the pyaari.

Featuring clips from Lage Raho Munnabhai, Dil Chahta Hai, Mangal Pandey, some Filmfare bit with Saif & Shahrukh (which can be downloaded from and I heartily recommend everybody does, these guys have off-the-hook chemistry) among other things. The song is French hiphop and according to my French-Canadian friend, the lyrics basically praise friendship poetically. The lyric that flashes on the screen freely translates, "The friendship that ends never begun."

Thankfully in Bollywood, it never does end.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Once more, with feeling - Aata again.

The fact is, I'm sort of obsessed with Aata right now. I occasionally have these spouts of random enthusiasm for a movie, the kind where I rewatch the songs, listen to the soundtrack non-stop, screencap, icon and generally obsess over them. The weird thing here is, I feel like this time the movie deserves my enthusiasm, but it has to be recognized that it's not the best movie, though I'm treating it as that. It's actually kind of trashy in a genuinely not-that-good manner, but I love it for all of its ridiculous aspects. (I think a lot of this obsession can be contributed to timing but that's beside the point, really.)

It's a good movie, just not a great movie. I mean, let's take romance for example. In Aata it's ridiculously filmi to the point where I'm not sure if it even makes much sense. I'm not even sure if there's that much chemistry between the two leads. Their characters aren't exactly amazingly well-written or anything, and there's enough skin show and raunchiness to last a lifetime. But I still adore it, so so much. Maybe 90% of that appeal belongs to Siddharth, maybe I'm too biased to tell the difference anymore.

Another thing about Aata is how incredibly mislead I was by the promotional stills of the movie. Hence this post. I took an insane amount of screencaps and now will post the most representative of them so people may see what Aata is really like. On the other hand I have to recognize that I never looked up all of the promotional pics but the ones I saw seemed to suggest the film as oddly action-y.

Things You Can Expect to See in AATA

1. Siddharth is in lurve.

2. Ileana is not too impressed.

3. They're soaked. Get used to seeing this. A lot of this. All the time. Quite often, for no real reason.

4. Faces really close. You'll be seeing a lot of this, too. Sometimes their faces will even touch. Oh, and they're most likely soaked when doing it.

5. Ileana spends time hanging out in Siddharth's crotch. Didn't I tell you it was kind of trashy? Also, Siddharth in pink. If you're playing the Certified Aata Drinking Game whose rules I will eventually invent, you will have to take two shots now.

6. Guns, guns, and more guns. Also, henchmen dressed in black. Leather. Guns.

7. Siddharth being amazing. Which is basically equivalent to just being himself. Let it be once again noted that this is not a film for non-fans.

8. I want to tell you these sort of scenes serve a purpose in the movie, offering a rich detailry to the core symbolism of the socio-historical manifestation .. well, the point is, they don't. And do you see me minding? Not really.

9. Though I think my biggest complaint about the promotional stills was that they failed to show how wonderfully colourful and beautiful Aata looks most of the time. Also, I think this also showcases why I love Southie picturizations. Sometimes they'll just do the ordinary "dancing on a dusty street" thing, other times they pull sometimes friggin' amazing like this. I love the composition of even the most simple shots, like this:

I think that's it for now, about Aata. Though looking through these, I'm not how representative they are of the film. It's like there are two levels to the movie - clever, fun story and raunchy crowd-pleaser song picturizations. You can't screencap the story so what you get instead is this: the cracked out colourfest songs and other cuteness. Take it for what you will and remember I'm posting about a movie I'm ridiculously in love with right now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I give it three puppies and a golden star. Aata (2007)

Aata didn't look like a good movie. Actually, let me correct that – Aata didn't look like a good Siddharth movie. See, it has to be said that Siddharth Narayan is just one of those actors who need a scale of their own when it comes to movies. His short filmography (the man only debuted in 2003!) is filled with absolute gems of film making, just all around excellent picks that shows he knows a thing or two about what makes a good script.

So, going into Aata I expected an okay Siddharth movie – the kind of Chukkallo Chandrudu, perhaps even closer to Boys (his first movie is only really worth one watch in my opinion). Nothing of the innovativeness of Bommarillu or the overall brilliantness of Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana. And in a way, what I got was certainly closer to CC than NVNN, but I still friggin' adored Aata.

Siddharth plays Srikrishna, who quite literally grows up on movies. He's illiterate but has learned every hero mannerism, every movie song and line perfectly as his dad's job is a projectioner at a film theatre. The title of the film means 'game', which Srikrishna is more than fond of, and these form the core of the plot – oh, and the love story of him and Sathya (Ileana), a girl he randomly bumps into and in true film hero manner, decides to save as, in true film manner, she is chased by the villain's (Munna) henchmen.

It's a true Siddharth show, not much for those in the audience who do not love, oh I don't know, absolutely everything about him. That's not to say the plot isn't good, but for non-fans the character he plays might be annoying, and overall, well, it might not be worth much seeing as how he's in nearly every frame. The movie is also decidedly ridiculous – if you buy into it, you're in for a great ride, but if you try to get a Bommarillu out of it, it's just not going to work. Some of the ridiculousness feels like a gentle spoof of film conventions, but some is probably just there for the crowd-pleasing masala aspects (gratuitous Ileana skin, gratuitous wet anything scenes – though as a fangirl I am of the opinion that wet Siddharth is always necessary).

The songs are wildly entertaining – and another nod to Siddharth for singing in one of them, and actually doing a good job. The ending, despite the film's otherwise conventional plot structure, is positively surprising. Aata has become my movie du jour, which basically means I have rewatching to do, screencapping to do, and more gushing to participate in once more people see this movie. If you've already joined Church of Siddharth, run to get this one. If not, then make the effort to see Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana. Go!

(At some later point I will ramble about Siddharth in length in this blog. I feel like he deserves a post or 87.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm sorry, it's just not working out between us. - Dumped movies.

I can sit here all day rambling about the various Indian movies I love, or at least enjoyed, or at least found okay, watchable. I can also rage at the films I hated, found a complete waste of time.

But the hardest to write about are the films I didn't even get to finish. Sometimes because they're bad, sometimes because they're just not my thing - the reasons vary a lot. So tonight I thought I'd just get it over with and list some of these damned films.

Andaz - The 50's Raj Kapoor-Nargis-Dilip Kumar version. I just.. couldn't make through this film at all. When Dilip, who I find severly lacking in the charm department, is the best thing about the movie to me, I know it's not a winner. Nargis plays a daddy's girl, positively annoying, and RK is more or less an asshole. I can't even remember where I stopped watching and I'm not sure whether I regret it or not.

Sarkar - You'd think I could put up with any dull movie when Abhishek looks this attractive but no, just no, I just I do not care about RGV's Godfather tribute. I do not care for RGV, period. I hate Amitabh's grim stare, too. It's not acting. So, Kay Kay's character was promising. I fastforwarded to the ending and then started hoping they wouldn't actually make Sarkar 2.

Aitraaz - You know, Kareena and Akshay were really cute in the beginning of this movie. Then I realized what the movie was really about. I don't like Priyanka's face. I can like her in certain roles but hoboy, not this one. I fastforwarded some and saw plot twists happen and decided this was a stupid film I should just stop watching altogether. Oh, and the songs were positively painful and I don't say that often.

Ta Ra Rum Pum - I knew it would be bad. I just didn't assume it would be this bad. Starting from Rani's "mera iPod!" and ending with, oh god the cheesy vapid excuse of a storyline that just completely wastes any genuine family drama or good Rani-Saif chemistry to make for cutesy animated song picturizations and whatever the hell naming your kids "Princess" and "Champ" is. My money's on "child abuse". Siddharth Anand - director and Saif fanboy number ek for those unaware - you are dead to me.

7 ½ Phere - To be frank, this looked like an okay, semi-interesting movie but every single time I tried to get past the 40 minute mark, I just physically wasn't able to sit still and watch it. I can't explain it, really can't. Juhi was lovely, Irfan Khan was lovely, there was nothing wrong with it per se but I just wasn't feeling it enough on that moment, I guess.

Bandini - This could also be one of those mood things. It's a Dharmendra film from 60's, also starring Nutan and Ashok Kumar. When did I know it wasn't for me? When I began fast-forwarding songs. I usually never ever do, even if the song sucks, I try to give it that one listen. Here, the songs seemed so disconnected, so pointless - and not in an entertaining way, either. The plot ..I couldn't get into it at all. And Dharmendra? As much as I love him, I think I prefer his 70's characters to the solemn gentlemen he played during 60's.

These just off the top of my head. There might be some more but I'm rather tired so will leave those for another session.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Take notes, Hollywood! Hum Tum & Pyaar Ke Side Effects.

I grew up on romantic comedies. I've loved them throughout my life probably because they're the most basic combination of two simple, escapist passtimes; romance and comedy.

However, it has to be said that it's not easy to make a good romantic comedy. I realized this at some point in life, when I was watching the whatever umpteenth Meg Ryan film I've seen and had to conclude it was tired, unfunny, formulaic. Because yes, there's a formula to these films (as there are to any films), but that doesn't mean the formula always works, nor does it mean the formula can't be worth watching.

Enough vagueness. I suppose when I first watched the Kunal Kohli film Hum Tum starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherji, I thought it was merely good, okay. It was quite early on in my Bollywood-watching days - I suppose I wanted more glamorous song-and-dance or something. But with rewatches, numerous rewatches, I realized what a total gem the film was despite its flaws. The When Harry Met Sally inspired storyline is a rare love story in which people grow to love each other; the immature hero has to wisen up to deserve the heroine.

I think Hum Tum became the perfect romantic comedy in my eyes because while it's masala, it's not as masala as many other Bollywood films and the emphasis is on the two; romance and comedy. At comedy it excels, and I think I laugh harder with every rewatch. With romance, it completely delivers; some scenes on the second half leave my heart genuinely aching. Now, cut the cartoon stuff and one song and you've more or less got the perfect Bollywood romcom.

But! Hum Tum has a rival...

Pyaar Ke Side Effects surprised me completely. How was it possible that I had previously not seen one of the most delightful Hindi films of the year 2006? I blamed the cast - Mallika Sherawat was not somebody I heard praised often and Rahul Bose had mostly done artsy films that weren't on top of my to-watch lists. Regardless, when I saw PKSE, I fell in love.

If Hum Tum is the romcom that gets the romance right, PKSE is the romcom that gets the comedy right - oh so very right. It borrows from Hollywood, it borrows from the romcom genre itself largely, telling the classic Hollywoodian love dilemma; the girl wants marriage, the guy doesn't. But while borrowing from Hollywood, PKSE exceeds Hollywood. It's like I said in my initial review, "Pyaar Ke Side Effects is like a Hollywood romantic comedy. Except it's funny. And it's romantic!"

Both leads do an excellent job at portraying modern Indian city youths - Rahul manages to be a lovable neurotic commitmentphobe and Mallika absolutely shines (I do hope she makes more movies like this one!). The dialogues are Hinglish all around but I don't blame anybody; it seems to fit the characters' mouths, and the comedy works great along with it. What PKSE also does great is consistency - it doesn't drag, it doesn't take a dramatic turn halfway through, it doesn't feel like a different movie on the second half.

And for all those who complain about how this isn't how Hindi cinema is supposed to be, take a walk. To me, Hindi cinema is what it is, and the only thing I can hope for is that it continues to produce great movies. Or you could think of it this way - Hollywood made a genre, and now India's making the best of it.

If Hollywood wants its romcom formula back, they have these films to top.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Say no to shy girls! - Vivah & Pithamagan.

I began watching Vivah, the 2006 Amrita Rao-Shahid Kapoor starrer in curiosity for Shahid, after I had enjoyed his performance in Jab We Met so much (a movie I heartily recommend, by the way). Emphasis on "began", since I did not manage to watch all of it, or even as much as make my way towards the halfway mark.

The reason? Quite simple. I had to surrender in the face of the conservative, very "Indian" values of Vivah. I simply couldn't stomach it. The film's story is that of an arranged marriage - a concept I'm perfectly okay with. But the saccharine sweet family scenarios and particularly the character played by Amrita just made me conclude this was not a film for me. I couldn't wrap my head around why Shahid, why anybody could agree to marry this shy, bland girl who reveals no personality after their first meeting (or I must assume - throughout the whole bloody film). Her downcast eyes, quiet behavior, how she's valued for her beauty (even though she's supposedly an educated, intelligent girl)...

All are reasons why this film makes for incredibly ungrateful feminist viewing. But hey, I'm not looking for feminist heroines in my Bollywood. I know better than to expect all heroines to have jobs and independent lives and kick ass here and there and all over the place. What I would like, however, is a girl who can, oh I don't talk, talk to the hero. Whilst looking at him. Is that so much to ask, really?

However, Vivah is just one of those films. You accept it for what it is, and it's a smooth fluffy sail, I'm sure. If you let these things get to you - as I do, I apologise - then it's not going to work at any step of the way.

After Vivah I needed an anti-dote. Curiously, I turned to one of my favourite Tamil films, Pithamagan, for a completely different reason - I just wanted to rewatch it. But as I began rewatching, it hit me - this was it! My perfect Vivah-antidote.

Pithamagan, directed by Bala, tells a story of a boy who was born and raised in the cemetary. Chitthan grows up secluded and doesn't learn human communication, apart from funeral hymns. When he finally wanders out into the real world, he naturally finds himself in a lot of trouble. The film is grim, realistic and portrays the world of criminals and outcasts. Chitthan is played by my favourite Tamil actor, the versatile and unmistakably charming Vikram, who won the National Award for his performance in the movie.

Chitthan is helped out by a jolly fraud (420) named Sakhti, played by another favourite of mine, Surya. Sakhti has a romantic storyline with a college student named Manju (played by the sweetfaced Laila), whose money he successfully cons. She does not take it lightly, however, throwing an absolute fit after losing her money and some of her belongings, and later when she runs into him on the train, she raises all kinds of hell.

Manju is my Poonam-antidote (Poonam is the character who Amrita Rao played in Vivah). She's not the perfect spunky heroine - she's actually quite over-the-top, throwing exaggerated fits when she gets angry, but in the end she is what she needs to be to match Sakhti. He's a criminal, a charming one but not really a very nice guy, and for whatever he did, she's the only person who's not letting him get away, no chance in hell. She even stands up to her father no problem. Manju is quite a firecracker, sure of herself to a flaw, but I love her for that. Whereas some Indian film heroines would get beaten down and stay down, perhaps weeping silently for their pain, Manju would scream her lungs out, then get up, chase whoever beat her down and do her best to beat him down, as well. Whether smart or not, I love her guts!

The way the romance eventually develops is not something I'm extremely fond of - I will not say more as not to spoil anybody - but it does fit into the harsh reality of the film. That Sakhti, deep down a good person, could actually not be good at all, and that Manju, who stands so proudly against whatever stands in her way, could easily be struck down by the evil that exists in the world.

Luckily Manju stays as she is despite the peculiar plot vehicle, full of life and character.

There's a lot of other things to be said about Pithamagan, too, but I'll leave that for another rewatch, and another post. The above image is from another Laila movie, Dhill, not as impressive but I just love her eyes whenever she smiles and feel the post could use a bit of cheering up (as could I, after finishing Pithamagan just now).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Obsession has a second name and it is ...Tashan!

Baba demanded I write a post on Tashan, my most anticipated Bollywood movie perhaps ever, as I seem to be the ultimate authority on all things Sakshay. The trailer and some teaser wallpapers are available at the YRF website, should you want to check out what the big deal is.

Most of you have probably already read my Sakshay "manifesto" and thus know what's what in the world of Saif-Akshay wonders.

I love them. I love them so, so, so much.

But I'm a realist. It's a YRF action film directed and written by the very person who wrote the Dhoom movies. Yes, because Dhoom films were so well-known for their clever scripts, their observant social commentary and their layered performances. I have nothing against Vijay Krishna Acharya and I'm sure he was plenty of vision as a director but those credentials don't really tell much. However, to his defence he also scripted dialogues for Mani Ratnam's Guru and the delightful (but very Hinglish) romcom Pyaar ke side effects.

So even if these things do not speak for Tashan or its success, perhaps the wildly delicious-looking little trailer does. There's the rugged, badass Akshay, the ice-cool Saif, Kareena looking ready to blow the place up and ask questions later and Anil, who's cool despite the fact animal prints never are and never will be. There is a shiny gun and an orgasmic shot of bullet shells hitting sand. All in all, the trailer makes sure we know exactly what to expect from the film; a violent, glorious 100% commercial action spectacle where logic will most likely take the back seat while the bullets fly left and right. Think Dhoom with less bikes, more Sakshay? Oh yeah, baby.

There were news of Kareena shooting a bikini song scene for this movie. Was I surprised? Not in the least.

I keep telling people this is the best movie of 2008. In fact, I've sort of been saying this since I first heard the news way back in late 2006. I may have also used the phrase "best movie ever". I may have also subliminally lead other people to using the same phrase. I hope everybody understands that this doesn't mean Tashan will be a a good movie.

The thing you should know about Sakshay is that they haven't done a single honest good movie. You have good Sakshay movies (and bad ones), but you don't have good Sakshay movies. The distinction is very important because it puts this movie to perspective. Sakshay has previously been cheesy, unintentionally amusing, vaguely homoerotic and undeniably entertaining. Sakshay has previously been 90's. Now Sakshay is put in this movie that is sleek and cool, 2000's Bollywood with all those Western movie influences, all that Hinglish. It's a very different environment, and it'll definitely give us a different kind of Sakshay chemistry, dynamic.

That's what is going to make Tashan the best movie ever. (Unless the director hates me and makes sure they don't have a single scene together.) What it is otherwise, as a movie is sort of secondary to me - more or less unimportant. The stats look good, though. The soundtrack is supposed to be rock-influenced, it's by Vishal-Shekhar and well, just look at the trailer.

I've only once previously followed a movie's release this closely and that was the Aamir-Kajol combination in Fanaa, which I ended up adoring despite flaws. I hope the obsession ends as satisfyingly this time.

Where Sanni learns a lesson about remakes. Don (1978) and Don (2007).

WARNING: Contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for both films & rude language. Not recommended reading for those not familiar with BOTH films!

My Don reviews will be intertwined as I watched them nearly back-to-back, first the original and then rushing to my showing of the remake. But first, let's talk about me and Don. I'm a Leo and he likes wild cats but did I like him back? Not to begin with, no. See, I hadn't seen the original when the remake came out. However, I was uncomfortable with the premise of remaking a 70's masala classic and I couldn't care less about the movie itself, since it didn't star anybody I was nuts about (my favourite people in the cast to begin with were Boman and Kareena, and seeing it for just them didn't seem very clever). I was all, “Sure, director of DCH but Shahrukh, what are you doing yaar? Let's leave Amitabh roles where they belong – to Amitji, thik hai?”. So when it came time to choose in Diwali 2006, I chose Jaaneman (and haven't regretted, I loved JEM!). Don could go back to Malaysia for all I cared. As for the original? Well, I'd see it eventually, I figured. I wasn't the biggest Amitabh fangirl so all his 70's movies weren't on the top of my oldies to-see list.

So then the time came when I was forced to make an unpleasant choice between going to see Don or not seeing any Bollywood films on the big screen this year (seeing KANK again? Not an option!). I chose Don, and in retrospect, I'm so bloody glad I did.

I rushed to see the original first but thanks to circumstances, I was able to watch it only on the same day as the remake. This coloured my viewing a lot, in both good and bad. See, when you ignore a movie's existence for about a year, two things happen. One, you forget all those spoilers you read back when you didn't care. Two, you accept the fact the film has been made, released, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. Whether Farhan raped this or that about the original no longer seems like an issue – what's done is done. Now, I'll gladly save my rants for rumored remakes or ones that seem like very very bad ideas. This one exists, so be it.

So when I sat down with the original 70's funfest, I had this mental soundtrack of “I'm seeing the remake and they'll be doing this and that in it” running throughout the film. In a way it made me lose focus in the original. I was mostly watching it so I could aptly compare, and while it entertained me greatly whilst watching, I didn't ever fully submerge myself into its world. A lot of things about it were fabulous – the fact that the item number had a story behind it, everything with Zeenat and kung fu moves, the hilarious 70's masala features, everything with Pran's character, suitcases that explode, Amitabh's fashion... I thought the plot was overall awesome. It had a typically twisty 70's masala plot, full of evil guys and full of surprises along the way. But even that, the plot, couldn't save me from the inevitable thought pattern - “This is so awesome, no wonder they remade it!”.

I guess a part of why this otherwise fantastic movie didn't make its way into my heart was Amitabh. Don't get me wrong, he was great in the original but much like Shahrukh, he's not a favourite and he doesn't make my heart burst with joy to watch him on-screen. He was fun and cool, but just not to the extent that I'd absolutely adore him.

My favourite scene oddly enough – and one I'm weirdly sad about not being in the remake – is the one where Roma goes to seek martial arts training. It's so hilarious in its ridiculousness but at the same time, it's a very character defining moment and I like the part the teacher played in her revenge overall. I felt like maybe Priyanka's Roma could've used this type of a silly moment. The moment when Zeenat walks out, hair short and fully martial arts trained? Pure awesome. Made of awesome.

Then onto the remake, and whoever genius thought it'd be fantastic to run an outdoor theater in Finland in September, I must congratulate you. Thank god they'd at least set up warmers and things as a roof so we didnt have to sit in the rain. Anyway, the film starts rolling and I know what to expect – sleek look, high budget, professionally choreographed martial arts (not exactly Hong Kong but hey, they're trying!). Now, the look and feel of the movie was pretty top-notch maybe apart from a couple of things. Like I don't understand why the last fight needed to be partly slow-mo, it looked somehow vapid. Not that I wasn't having a ball, but regardless.

I'm quite fond of the soundtracks of both films, but don't absolutely love either. I love the catchy Khaike Paan in both movies, and the picturizations were a blast as well (for some reason the remake one reminded me of the good old goofy!Shahrukh who I haven't seen since I last watched Duplicate – I miss goofy!Shahrukh and the song was an awesome reminder), and Main Hoon Don by Shaan (in the remake, of course) makes me swoon (the picturization makes me LOL and not much else). Yeh Mera Dil in the original form as a song, is awesome, but Helen's scary contact lense eyes and all that shaking did not really give me the ultimate seduction song feel. Mind you, neither did Kareena's performance, but she was way hotter and I liked the moments when she looks uncomfortable, showing her true feelings. Now if only Shahrukh hadn't done his dirty old man face at her, I could've really enjoyed the picturization.

In the original, I really loved the song picturization where Zeenat looked gorgeous and danced in a blue dress. I somehow saw Aaj Ki Raat as its equivalent, and while AKR was lovely, I still prefer Zeenat looking gorgeous. I'm biased but forgive me that. Unpopular opinion? Amitabh with eyeliner in the Bombay song was just creepy.

Now, to me the remake performances aren't really about replacing anybody. Though if we were going to think about replacements, I would give the honor to Arjun, who actually made me tear up in his little backstory section. He owned Pran's role and with no offence to Pran, whose antics are classic in any role he played, Arjun just did fantastic in here. Priyanka is okay but I'm not really moved by her in here. Mind you, even in the original I thought the whole Roma-Vijay romance was feeble.

Shahrukh is being Don, is being Vijay but Shahrukh is also being Shahrukh. Being because Shahrukh's one of those stars who's perhaps a bit above acting, I realized. Shahrukh does a great job being Shahrukh. It doesn't always work for me, unfortunately, but when it does, it's a joy. In here, it was sort of half and half. Half was me loving the insane act that was Shahrukh, every mannerism, every look, every part of the act. The other half was me giggling at the ridiculousness of the act that is Shahrukh Khan, rolling my eyes and thinking, “Okay, yeah, Amitabh did that better.”

Boman's character brings me to the changes they made. I was initially looking forward to Om Puri turning out this nasty guy all of the sudden but I was confused about lack of Vardhaan. When the pieces finally came together, my jaw nearly fell on the ground. I say nearly because it wasn't that surprising, I did remember there being something fishy about Boman. He did a great job, naturally. He's Boman – do we ever expect less? Nah, didn't think so. I thought a lot of the changes were quite frankly unnecessary. Like, it seemed like they were stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring it. Of course, the fight on the mountain bridge is a handsome visual compared to the all-over-the-place cheesefest cemetary fight at the end of the original, but surely they didn't make all those plot changes just to have that scene? Hmm.

Somewhere in the back of my head I recalled a spoiler about them not killing off somebody. I thought it was De Silva, and I was like “Okay, Boman lives, rock on!”. When it turns out it's actually been Don all along, saving his own skin with the mask of Vijay, I'm sorry – my mind was blown. And right there I forgave them for stirring the pot unnecessarily earlier, and I finally understood why they'd cut what was Anita's character's most crucial moment in the original – the dialogue where she's miffed about post-accident Don preferring Roma to her, and somebody tells her, “Face it, Don didn't change – his girlfriend did.”

As weird and cop-out like (space for a sequel, isn't it, you greedy bastards?) as the twist seemed, to me it sort of crowned the otherwise entertaining movie experience of BOTH films. I loved the plot of the original – it didn't really need any changes – but for the remake, that was the kicker, the thing that sort of spices the whole thing up and brings it to the new millennium. A little bit unfair to the viewer, a bit of a 'fuck you' to anybody who didn't even consider the possibility of it (I did always find it fishy that Don didn't die right away, BEFORE they got in contact with Vijay) but it's what made me leave the theater with a huge grin on my face.

I still don't think we need to catch the motherfucker in a sequel, though.

(This post was shamelessly copied from my original livejournal post - I decided I liked it so much it didn't need much editing.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

We're kind of silly, us Hindi films, aren't we? Andaz apna apna & Om shanti om.

I got a sudden urge last night to rewatch Andaz apna apna (1994), one of my absolute favourite Bollywood comedies, and one of my absolute favourite films altogether. I initially discovered the Aamir Khan-Salman Khan starrer quite early on in my Hindi film watching career. I laughed so hard my muscles cramped, and was so in love with the film I actually saw it three times during the next two days. I invited a friend over to watch it; she also loved it and we concluded this was without a doubt one of the most memorable Hindi films we would ever see.

Not surprisingly, even with this rewatch, I laughed as hard as ever. To the same jokes, same lines, but still discovering new things - as over-the-top as both Aamir and Salman's antics are, every once in a while I watch one in a scene where I normally follow the other, and the expressions, the reactions just kill me and make me fall off my seat.

The movie, in case you've managed to miss it, is a simple story of two good-for-nothing guys - our beloved Khans, of course - and their attempts to court a rich girl (played by the underappreciated comedienne, Raveena Tandon). There is a villain (Paresh Rawal), naturally, a second female lead (Karisma Kapoor) and all the other Hindi filmi usuals; henchmen, double roles, mistaken identity.. What make AAA worthy of a watch (or in my case, seven) are two things. First, its genre. AAA is 100% slapstick. It's goofy, it's silly, it's loudly comedic and unapologetic about it. Second, its self-awareness. It references not only specific movies (Sholay, Hum aapke hai kaun, Qayamat se qayamat tak, Seeta aur geeta, to name a few) but Hindi cinema in itself. It laughs, it mocks, it parodies.

In what is probably my favourite song in the film, "Dil karta hai", Aamir's character Amar chases Raveena around here and there, does the stupidest dance moves (so 90's .. so Aamir!) and is generally annoying. The great thing to me about this song is basically that it's unintentionally (intentionally?) very parodic. How many times is there a song in a Hindi film where the hero acts like an insufferable git and the heroine would be happy if a rock fell out of the sky and landed on him? Raveena's annoyed expressions are simply hilarious and Aamir's moves are an artform in their own right. And the best part? Eventually she hits him with a log of wood.

This delicious self-awareness is what AAA and the other movie I want to discuss in this post, Om shanti om (2007), have in common.

OSO is Farah Khan's crazy and colorful tribute to everything in Hindi cinema; its stars, its films, its makers and its clichés. The film begins in the 1970's, where a junior artist (ie. an extra) Om (Shahrukh Khan, who else!) admires the superstar Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone). The latter half of the film takes place in the present glitzy 00's Bollywood. I feel silly repeating any more of the plot synopsis - this film is getting talked about just about everywhere so if you've somehow managed to miss what it's about, you must be hiding your head in Bollywoodless sand.

The film, much like AAA, is very loud with its references and humor. It's also unapologetic as it pokes fun at this and that star, this and that aspect of Hindi cinema. The stars partake in the mocking themselves, particularly during the modern portion of the film, and indeed some of these moments are simply comedy gold. A lot of Om shanti om's jokes have already become the audience's own little inside jokes - references that will get repeated lovingly.

There is a lot of good in OSO, I have to say. It's very entertaining, memorable and contains a lot of amazingly brilliant scenes. But my first reaction to the movie was still less enthusiastic than that of many others. I did not get on my knees praising this film to the heavens; it was far from perfect to me, and it didn't even become my new favourite.

The main weakness of Om shanti om is in my opinion the ultimate strength of Andaz apna apna; consistency. OSO is melodramatic parody one moment, and an outrageous comedy the next. The tone changes dramatically post-interval and suddenly there's flavors of thriller, even horror thrown to the mix. It's also hyperly self-aware, much to the point where I couldn't quite get into the world of the movie. The world of the movie so clearly stated that it was just a movie, so much you could imagine somebody soon shouting "cut!" and people rushing to fix make-up or to tear down the sets. The characters were characters played by actors, that's it - so whatever they feel, I don't need to feel. The camera is turned off soon, anyway. Why seek the emotional attachment at all?

Andaz apna apna is self-aware and referential, it's filled with mockery and parody, too. But I still believe Aamir is Amar, a witty, selfish goof and I totally buy into Salman's Prem, an idiot but with a heart in the right place (some have called AAA the Bollywood 'Dumb and Dumber' - I disagree, for one because AAA was released before D&D). The story is cliché-packed to the point of ridiculous, but it is what it is. The genre is slapstick with some witticisms thrown into the dialogue here and there (this would probably be a funnier film, were I a Hindi speaker) and here's the key - it remains slapstick 'til the very end.

It's like I told somebody recently, "When a character in AAA is crying, they want to make you laugh." In OSO, this wasn't the case and when you add my complete lack of attachment to its characters, as a film, it fails to have the appeal to me that films should have. I don't want to return to the world of OSO. I want to rewatch bits of it, but as a whole, I'm not in love with it.

I have some more specific thoughts regarding both films but I best stop typing now - this is getting essay-length and I don't want to bore people reading. I'll try to make for shorter, more concise entries in the future - maybe when it's a film I don't have so much to say about, I'll even manage it. But these two films, and the whole topic of self-referential, parodic Bollywood, it makes me very rambly. For spoilery OSO thoughts, check out this LJ post of mine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Introduction, name explanation etc.

Helen & Cuckoo dancing in Chalti ka naam gaadi.

I'd been considering getting a blog that focused on Indian cinema ramblings and reviews for quite a while, having browsed blogs as in the sidebar's link collection right over there. I loved reading these places and one of my navel-gazing desires was to have a place like them of my own. The reasons were many; first of all, I realized about 80% of my Livejournal friends did not care nor know much about Bollywood, Kollywood and similar. So my related ramblings and squee were lost on them. There were also things I couldn't post on my favourite Bollywood forum, BollyWHAT? and so I felt like one all-purpose Indian cinema blog was in order. After mulling over where to put it, what to call it, what to include in it, I finally kicked myself in the butt and got ".. so they dance!" up.

Why "so they dance"?
Because the name is always the hardest part. I didn't want to call it "this or that Bollywood" because I'm a huge fan of certain Tamil movies and film stars so limiting the blog's title with the label Bollywood felt wrong. The word "filmi" would've been fine, but it'd been used in so many places I wanted something more original.

Then I considered having a word or two of some Indian language in the title but soon realized that it felt pretentiously, given the fact I didn't speak or know much about any Indian language (if you exclude the filmi-learned Hindi and the random times I've browsed that Teach Yourself Hindi book). Also, what word to use? So I thought and thought and thought some more and finally decided to just give up on the whole Indian language idea.

In the end, it's been one day since I created "so they dance" and I already regret naming the blog this. It came from this Vandals song, "And Now We Dance", but I remember it wrong and"sowedance" was already taken and looked stupid in the urlbar so I thought, "Well, technically it's not me who's dancing so it should be, 'they dance'."

The reasons I hate this name - yes, already! - are...

a) that the most logical way to shorten it is STD. I mean, seriously STD! Me and my blog, STD. I mean, I suppose I could pretend that this is some kind of ingenious metaphor for how Indian cinema is sort of like a disease, but at least you get it while making love. But honestly? That's just tacky because even if you love the person you get an STD from, you sure as hell don't love the fact you get an STD. In practise I've come to just use the title, so they dance, or typed together, sotheydance.

b) that it seems to suggest this awful, awful generalization about Indian cinema that no matter what the situation in the movie, the characters' emotional state is, they will dance. You know? "They're happy they dance!" - "Everything's going wrong they dance!" - "It rains they dance!"

This is first of all completely untrue and it's even sort of offending me because I'm one of those people who absolutely hate stupid generalizations like that about something I adore. So the fact my very own blog's title implies this sort of generalization, well, it pains me.

But you know what? As I'm updating this post in early 2010, I realize I've come to actually like the name. It flows nicely.

What now?
Now I start posting reviews and thoughts on movies I've already seen. The backlog is quite enormous.

On the other hand, one good thing about having this backlog is that I don't feel forced to write one entry on each movie. Instead I'll do something like this - group the movies I've seen as I see fit and discuss them, compare them and just generally review them like that. It's going to hopefully less time-consuming and most importantly, more fun for me.

I try to keep this blog sort of free form because while I admire people like Carla of Filmi Geek who can review each movie in a similar format, I don't think I'm one of those who can. Also I want to just be able to babble about the most random peculiar things I like about Indian cinema (there are many).

Why "Indian cinema" and not just "Bollywood"?
Even though I absolutely claim no expertise over the vast majority of India's regional cinema (after all, very few can!), I enjoy Tamil movies and an occasional Telugu movie so limiting this blog to only Hindi film reviews just feels dull.

Words I use and you should probably learn before you read aka Glossary
Some of these are my own creations, some are more general and can't be credited to me in any way.

buddypyaari - pyaari from the Hindi pyaar, meaning - of course! - love. Refers to the excellent portrayal of male friendship in Hindi movies (Southie films may also contain it), both old and new. Sometimes with homoromantic undertones, sometimes not. Some would call this a sad example of the film industry's male-centricness but I call it awesome and fully encourage any Indian film makers reading to make a movie portraying female buddypyaari. Girl power!

manpain - When the male hero of the film angsts oh-so-beautifully in a state of extreme emotional distress. Currently I'm of the opinion that Vinod Khanna rules this genre but I can accept other manpain masters, should I run into such.

kickass - Also known as dishoom-dishoom. I think film violence is entertaining at best and when it's not entertaining, well, usually I find it entertaining despite. The reason I like to call it kickass is because that's what it is.

Sakshay - Refers to the amazing on-screen combination of Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar. Sakshay is the most homohilarious (that word means exactly what you think it means) m/m couple in Hindi cinema history. Their movies are bad and dumb but undoubtedly awesome. Aside from the whole vague gay thing, Saif and Akki both have killer comedy timing and when you put the two together, all sorts of hillarity ensues, even with blindingly bad scripts. See the film "Main khiladi tu anari" for proof.

Words you will not see me use

timepass - This is a word I really try not to use at all, because I don't know what it means. No, I'm completely serious. People seem to use the word in completely contradictive ways, and pack the word with their own, varying definitions. Some will tell me, "It's a good timepass, watch it!" and others will say, "It's a timepass, nothing special." No, no, no! Give me a clear point of reference, "It's a movie worth watching if you like these stars" or "I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, to be honest" or "It was painfully boring" or "It had its moments" just ..something clear. I mean, any movie is timepass because when you watch it, time passes. There's just so much confusion about the usage.

Cast of Characters
aka people I might reference but I can't link to

- Friend who I regularly rewatch films with. She's seen around 25 films so far, and owns one Hindi film on DVD because she liked it so much (Rang De Basanti). Notoriously strange taste in men.
- Friend, Mog's sister. Also seen around 25 films, requests we watch more older films.
- Friend, seen probably around 40 films so far, all sorts. She shares my taste with most movies, though I think I am generally more forgiving of flaws than she is.
- Friend I got to know online and later personally. I used to borrow movies off her when we lived in the same city. She has a huge DVD collection with just about everything from bad Anil Kapoor films to the best Mammootty films. She got me into Vikram, Siddharth, Southie cinema in general.

I think that's it! Enjoy reading, comment and so on.