Saturday, November 29, 2008

A dog named Remo; stories of rewatching.

I have these friends who, bless their hearts, are very easy to talk into watching Indian movies. Maybe it's that using my DVD collection is cheaper than going out to rent a movie (and might include arguments over which film to go for), maybe it's that watching something is better than watching nothing, or maybe, just maybe, the wonderous world of Indian films is little-by-little creeping into their hearts.

So I've made them sit through the likes of DDLJ, Sholay, Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Tum with varying results, but I guess it's a triumph in itself that they are always keen to see more. They still confuse actors with one another, and have a decidedly "Western" perspective on some things (getting hung up on continuity errors is not something a seasoned Hindi film fan does!), but at least they're willing to see more, and I'm more than willing to provide more.

In the past two weeks, we've watched three films together and all of them are well worth talking about.

First up it was Anniyan, which I intuitively selected to introduce the crazy world of Tamil mainstream films to my friends. And say what you say about the shortcomings of this epic masala film, directed by S. Shankar, it simply never fails to deliver and even though it is completely and utterly over-the-top in every way, the core story, the characters and especially Vikram's acting seemed to make this nutty movie approachable to even complete beginners. They were aww'ing at Ambi, the by-the-book lawyer, and his total failure to capture the heart of his beloved, Nandini.

I once called Anniyan the most entertaining movie ever, and I stand by that to this day. The action scenes, the comedy, the social message - even when it all becomes a rather illogical mess, it doesn't get boring. My friends did start to get a little bored as the end was approaching - when the song "Andakaka" arrived, they wondered out loud about Shankar's style of loud visuals. "Why?" was a question on one of my friends' lips. I shrugged. "Because it looks good." I suppose it's the sort of perspective they still haven't quite embraced.

The real winner of the evening, however, was Remo, one of the characters Vikram plays in the movie, a rocking super-model, so hip and modern and ultra-cool it hurts. I like to think of him as mocking the "Western" life-style worship, though at the same time a very loving parody. Whatever he is, he's absolutely hilarious and after the initial shock my friends couldn't help but love him. So over-the-top and ridiculous and yet somehow, absolutely amazing.

This picture says it all.

After the movie, my friends sent me a message that the next male pet they get, will be named Remo. Whether they ever keep this promise or not, I'm more than glad I introduced them to this film.

A bit later my friend saw the gorgeous Mughal-e-Azam poster in my room and since I wanted to rewatch the film, I suggested we watch it together. It's been a while since I saw this classic, even though the DVD is the first Hindi one I ever bought. I believe I'd actually only seen it once up until that point. I warned my friend it would be a lengthy historical love story (set in the Mughal era for those three of you who weren't aware), not quite as cheery as the films I usually show her, but we ended up watching it regardless.

Sometimes the flaws of DVD's can truly ruin a film experience. I never realized the subtitles on my DVD lag. Severely. And so as if it wasn't already difficult enough to keep up with the going-on's in a film largely centered around people arguing in hyper-poetic language, we had the lacking subtitles to deal with. It's probably because of this I never warmed up to the characters on this watch - I felt very distant from them as did my friend, and our concentration was slipping dangerously. The movie bore on, scene by scene (arguing in highly poetic Urdu), song by song (singing in highly poetic Urdu about how miserable everything is), I found myself asking my friend whether we should skip some scenes. She insisted we not fast-forward a single minute, and I relented, as boring and futile as the watching seemed like.

Don't get me wrong. I love the visuals of this film. I adore the songs. When we finally see the sets in colour, their glory takes my breath away. The battle scenes are good for their time. But it was simply hopeless to get into the story when you had to wait 20 seconds for the subtitles to appear. It got to the point where, if I understood a sentence or even a bit of a sentence, I would translate out loud for my friend as we waited for the correct subtitles to come on.

As it stands, we got to the end and I walked home, thinking about the MeA poster on my wall. I do like the film, still. Just wish I had a better copy of it so I could sit down with it and see if I'd get into it with subs that do not lag. The Mystery of Dilip Kumar for me personally is still unsolved; in other words, I've not yet understood why he is considered such an enormous acting talent of his age. But perhaps one day I shall find out..

Realizing I better keep the films masala from now on, I brought over my Amar Akbar Anthony DVD the next time I visited my friends. The story of three brothers separating and re-uniting in harmony of three faiths and three professions seemed like a nice way to reflect the friendship of the three of us, and even though the wonderous masala recipe from the 1970's didn't quite fully win over my friends (the variety of characters and plot twists left them a bit confused at times!), at the end of the film, they enjoyed it a lot!

This is Pran, or as we called him during our viewing, "Daddy'O".

Amitabh Bachchan as Anthony was another star of the evening. His signature song was both mind-boggling and amazing according to my friends and especially during the penultimate scenes, they found him a riot.

Thankfully my own favourite, Vinod Khanna as Amar, did not go unnoticed, however. My friend's verdict? "Cute."

Out of the three couples, my personal favourite is Rishi-Neetu, without a doubt, but as his storyline was the least featured in the movie, my friends might've not caught onto their cuteness that much.

I'm glad to say the fight scenes got the 'oooh's they deserved (70's masala action = insanely awesome fight moves!) and since we all began humming the last song as the movie wrapped up, I'd consider the evening a success. Masala might be a little tough on the beginners, but they handled it well.


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Your reviews of Southern Indian movies are always so engrossing- and I totally agree w/ Amar Akbar Anthony as a beginner's Bolly movie- nothing better to jump into the maddness with. Great writing Veracious :)

Hima said...

love your blog.

ajnabi said...

D'you know, I still haven't seen AAA? I think my education is sadly lacking. Pran looks like Abraham Lincoln in that picture--where's the top hat? LOL

Anonymous said...

Good post and a good blog. Interesting reviews and articles.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

hey dou knowinthe 60s and 70s pran played somany negative roles that people did not even name their child pran which means "life".funny .a couple ofyears ago pran gave cash prize to a person born in 70s who was named pran

Anonymous said...

and shankar is comin back with the most expensive movie made in india endhiran.the budgety is 140 crore.

Daddy's Girl said...

It's great that you've been able to share Bollywood with your friends... mine are so uninterested in Bollywood! Most of them can't for the life of them understand why I like Hindi movies, and they really don't care to find out! There's nothing worse than delayed subtitles... always ruins a movie for me. Dilip Kumar won me over with his comedic skills (I love him in 'Ram Aur Shyam') before I ever saw him in anything 'dignified'.

B said...

I concur Anniyan is really is as u said way over the top but there is so much happening that u just cannot get bored..I cannot imagine how ur western frens made sense of the whole thing..

S said...

I agree that Anniyan is quite entertaining although I too find a lot of the songs/ scenes over the top, the overall effect somehow worked out.....and AAA is definitely a great fun movie to watch !

veracious said...

Shweta - Anniyan in itself is a very engrossing film. :D

Anon's - Thanks! Very fascinating tidbit of info about the 'pran' kids. :)

Daddy's girl - Oh I hope your friends become at least a little bit interested in Bollywood. I should check out Ram aur Shyam if that's what won you over Dilip Kumar..

B - Surprisingly enough they liked. I guess good cinema works regardless of cultural origin.

Reviewer - I totally agree!

veracious said...


Hima - Thank you!

Ajnabi - You need to get on that one! It's a little bit on the longer side but a fun movie all the same.