Sunday, December 26, 2010

Southie, southie - some random musings.

I was somewhat inspired by a little exchange I had with Nicki on Twitter to talk about why I like South-Indian movies, but then, as I sat down to actually write this damn entry, I thought to myself, that's probably not a good question. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you'll know why some people have a taste for Southie films. Or perhaps, you don't, and you're still puzzled and wondering why a non-Indian person might even contemplate watching Indian films in Tamil, Telugu (sad to say my Malayalam film count remains at the pitiful 1).

But I feel awkward approaching the subject because when it comes down to it, I've seen very few Tamil & Telugu films. I think my overall count is still below 50, perhaps even below 40, and considering how many Hindi films I've seen, that's not really a number to draw any conclusions from. The bottom line, without going as far as to say this or that generalization about these films, is that I enjoy them and they've got actors in them who I enjoy watching.

So if "why do I like South Indian films" is the wrong question, what's the right one? Perhaps it's "well, why haven't you watched more of these South Indian films, if you like them so much?". But that'd just lead me to a long, exhausting rant about lack of availability - no online rental services in Finland, shipping from online stores typically costs a lot, I often don't have the patience or the knowledge to do online piracy with obscure titles, plus finding subtitles can be a pain. So that's also not a very good question.

It also comes down to interest if I'll be totally frank with you - when my Bollywood interest/obsession was in its infancy, I didn't want to watch that many films because I didn't know that many titles, or actors or directors. I had no idea whether this or that or other film was something that'd interest me. With Southie films I'm largely still in those initial stages of enjoyment. I like films, I know some actors, but I've not yet hit a stage where the obsession is sprawling into multiple directions because I want to see more of him and her, and that director, and these two did a movie together again, yay, I must see it, etc. So when I don't know the players that well, when I only have those couple of favourites, it's hard to expand.

I suppose another good question to ponder is, what makes these films so different from Hindi films, which have managed to gain a global audience and an awareness for the label "Bollywood", even as the brand name so often misrepresents the varied film industry as a whole. I think that is mostly just about perception. I'm with the man in the above screencap, who often speaks out on the topic of how Southie films are perceived to be of lesser quality in the North. There's really not that much difference. Certainly, there are differences - in story-telling and interpretations and hero stereotypes and heroine's roles and target audiences. But in terms of good films, bad films, star-studded films, item numbers, catchy songs and talent, I think film industries in India suffer often from the same problems and have the same successes.

I wouldn't go as far as to say suggesting this is radical but it is interesting how the differences are often exaggerated and underlined, either to prop up the regional cinemas' uniqueness and quality when compared to the Hindi films, often perceived to be produced to the NRI-audience, or to underline the superiority of the Hindi-language cinema and its status as The Film Industry in India. I try to take a balanced, non-fanatic view on this. There are differences, but not enough to think regional cinema comes from a different country. Perhaps the problem only comes in when you start ranking the industries (not in terms of personal preference but a perceived objective quality) and Hindi films are too secure in their superiority over the regional cinemas. I think both could learn from the other, but in different things.

Well, that's nice, you might think. Prattle on some more, why don't you? You haven't really answered anything in this post! But ah, my dear readers, such is my philosophical nature. For your benefit, I shall answer one question I am sure you're all tossing and turning at night, wondering about:

Why is Vikram so incredibly good-looking?

I answer: because the world would be a very cruel and unfortunate place, were he not.

I hope this satisfies your thirst for knowledge.

[Screencaps from, in order: Nanda, Muthu, Konchem Ishtam Konchem Kashtam, Saamy, Dhool.]

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.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Festival filmi - Lucky by Chance & Raavan.

Helsinki International Film Festival, which typically takes place in late September, is the only time I get to see Bollywood films in a Finnish theater. It's always a special occasion and therefore it matters a lot which films get shown, as the last thing I want is for the highlight of my Bollywood year to be a crappy film I had no intention of ever seeing, or have seen already and absolutely hated. Last year, they went for Shahrukh's Billu (incredibly unfortunate way of spelling the name, as it sounds like a slang word for female genitalia to most Finnish ears!), which I quite liked (review here) and Jodhaa-Akbar. The year before that, Chak De India.

So their picks have been quite good in recent years and this year they definitely hit the jackpot - two films I hadn't seen and especially in the case of Raavan, REALLY wanted to see.

Now the first film, Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut Luck By Chance was a fun watch among the festival audience, who typically aren't all Hindi film afficianados. My friend's boyfriend commented afterwards that he thought the film fell nicely between the two types of cinema often to be considered polar opposites - Bollywood and Hollywood. I agreed with him; there was the trademark sentimentality to mark this was Indian, where feelings are allowed to be shown, but there was also that groundedness and low-key acting that is familiar to people who mostly consume Hollywood films.

On the other hand, the story wraps and tangles itself around the inside workings of Mumbai's film industry. Virtually everybody making films in the city features in the movie, so much so writing a list of people who aren't in the film feels like less of an imposing task. The cameos are fun to spot but most praise should go the familiar faces we see in actual roles; Rishi Kapoor as the producer, Juhi Chawla as his wife, and Dimple Kapadia as the former starlet.

The main plot tells the love story of two strugglers, outsiders trying to make it in Hindi films; Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) and Sona (Konkona Sen Sharma). Konkona, as ever, is an utter delight but I found myself being not that impressed with Farhan's performance. While I loved him in Rock On, in here it just shows too much that he hasn't done acting a lot, and while Vikram starts out as an intriguing character, he ends up rather a puzzlingly empty one. I don't know what he's feeling because Farhan isn't projecting anything into the character. He's just there, looking wooden.

So that's my biggest complaint about the otherwise good movie. It doesn't make my favourites list, but I am so very glad I finally saw it, and that I also got to hear viewpoints from two people who hadn't seen a whole ton of Bollywood. And of course, Baawre remains an awesome audiovisual experience, one of my favourites.

Raavan is such a difficult film to talk about. I was set out to love it; Aishwarya acts well in Mani Ratnam's films, as does Abhishek, and Vikram of course I know to be stellar in nearly everything he does. ARR soundtrack, excellent cinematography to expect, intriguing epic basis for the story in Ramayana and we're pretty good to go, surely? Well, not so much.

Aishwarya's Ragini is good; she doesn't submit to her status, even when she becomes a plaything between two men and their power struggle. She's strong, she's fearless yet vulnerable, she's just a very intriguing, good take on the Sita character. Abhishek's Beera is interesting, as well, but I can't really get a hold of this character. I prefer Abhishek's performances in Yuva and Guru, where the characterization is strong enough to fit the excellent performance. In here, the character feels a little under-written. He has a background, he's got motivations, he's got his quirks, but there doesn't seem to anything that ties all of these together and would make the performance really incredible.

Vikram as Dev is more straight-forward and therefore better, to the point where I struggle whether the fault in why I don't feel the same about Beera, the main character of the film, lies in acting ability or script or what. The plot comes off as a tad uneven - it's slow-moving, then it's fast, then it wastes time on songs with very little connection to anything (and aren't all that). I was interested in where Aishwarya's character would end up so I wasn't exactly bored, but there was just something about the film that makes it all seem like a bit of a mess assembled from really good components. The cinematography, for example, is amazing, and the mood of the film is occasionally really good.

I might've just had extremely high expectations - god knows that's happened before. But I came out of the film a little unsure, and my friend was pretty underwhelmed, too. I've seen 20 minutes of the Tamil version on youtube (the rest was blocked) and will probably see how I feel about Vikram's take on the character Abhishek played here.

My most positive feeling walking out of the theater was this: I cannot believe I've finally seen Vikram on the big screen, something I never imagined I'd get to do. Let's hope it won't be the last time.

(Once again, sorry for radio silence. Other interests have completely taken over my free time, and uni's pretty demanding this year as well.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mini-reviews, part saat (7).

[Previous mini-reviews here.]

Born out of a realization that August is soon over and I've barely posted, must correct quick quick quicccck.

61. Dil Chahta Hai (2001) - Surprise surprise, friggin' love this movie. It's fun, it hasn't got old for me so far, filled with actors whose work I enjoy to say the least, solid writing. There's a reason why DCH, a story of three friends, their loves and losses, is heralded as influential and ground-breaking. Previously discussed here.

62. Bluffmaster! (2005) - Wow, hard to believe this film is five years old by now. It may be half-based on a Hollywood film but it is nonetheless a great contemporary Hindi comedy and features solid performances by all leads (Abhi, Riteish, Boman - okay, given, I'm not the biggest fan of Priyanka here). If you haven't seen it already, by all means do, because it's not as talked about anymore and I don't want people to miss out on it.

63. Mission Kashmir (2000) - It puzzles me how this is one of the few films released on Region 2 DVD.. I mean, it has some good bits (Preity-Hrithik love story, some songs) but overall it is kind of a tragic wasted opportunity. The melodrama here just didn't gel for me. As this and Eklavya are the only VVC directed films I've seen, I'm afraid I don't really believe in him as a director. He's better off producing.

64. Black (2005) - I try not to be too vocal about my dislike of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he's just one of those directors where your mileage may vary and my mileage wants nothing to do with his mileage. But I got into Bollywood actively in '05 and this film was all the range back then so I felt I had to see it. Yes, Rani gives a good performance. Yes, Amitabh is effective. And that's about it, for me. I can be into films like this ..just wasn't into this one.

65. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) - This is the only Guru Dutt movie I've really liked but yet don't own. It's a gorgeous piece of film making, deserving of its reputation but I guess the hopelessness of the storyline made sure I didn't think I'd want to rewatch. This was years ago, though, now I am beginning to reconsider. Guru Dutt posesses a strange magnetism on-screen, even when his characters do dubious things, you root for them. It's quite a wonder.

66. Veer-Zaara (2004) - First time I saw this Preity-Shahrukh starrer? I loved it to death and found it beautiful and glorious. Second time? It was fun but maybe a tad dull. Third time? Made me wonder why the hell I was watching it the third time, all the flaws were more apparent to me than ever before. I am not sure what turned it from an epic love story I enjoyed to a dull film me and my friend ended up cracking jokes during but whatever, so that happened. I'd still recommend it to newbies desiring a dreamy, over-idealistic love epic ... but that's about it.

67. Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) - Despite the annoying Ayngaran Video logo plastered on the copy I watched, this Mani Ratnam Tamil film was quite an enjoyable cinematic ride. Especially the adult leads, Maddy (with glasses!) and Simran, were a treat. To be quite frank I've forgotten if I had any other complaints than the fact the child actor was annoying.. but I still wouldn't steer people away from this movie. It's a good 'un.

68. Teesri Manzil (1966) - So this is like a massive classic and people love this and people love Shammi Kapoor and it's facts like that make me really apologetic about how underwhelmed I was by this movie. It's a pretty good 60's film noir/detective mystery type of film but I just wasn't too fond of it, or of Shammi. Mujhse maaf karo, Memsaab!

69. Chak De! India (2007) - It's a feminist sports film with an awesomely script that portrays a great variety of interesting female characters. What's not to love? Plus it's just a solidly directed film that doesn't get old on rewatches. Oh and there's some dude with a beard, but who cares. Hockey, yay! I've discussed the film before here & about its feminist character portrayal here.

70. Hum Tum (2004) - Oh it's just this film with two ultimate favourites (a label that Rani holds strongly onto but Saif is sadly slipping from..) by a favourite director that I've seen closer to ten times by now. And it's my favourite film genre (romantic comedy) and its flaws I can easily forgive (the animation, what the heck!). So yeah. Is it a favourite? You bet your bottom rupiya it is. Previously discussed here.

See you in September, I promise I'll be better.

Subramaniapuram - the other side of the fence.

We all know rowdies, those street-dwellers with metallic weapons who do the bidding of some evil honcho, be it a corrupt politician or a criminal mastermind of another sort. Rowdies aren't henchmen, because they're never glamorous enough to don suits and smoke cigarettes; you don't find rowdies in 70's Hindi masala, you find them getting their asses kicked in Tamil masala, by the all-powerful hero, who has to fight his way through the ranks of rowdies to get to the Big Bad, the Final Boss.

Subramaniapuram could be interpreted as the story of these rowdies, in a world (or, in the real world) where there is no hero to conquer them, where the story is centered around them and only them. It's also an excellent dramatic film that sucks you into its world and doesn't let go, even as the credits are rolling.

The title of the movie is the name of the part of Madurai the film is set in. The story takes place in the 1980's, with what I assume are accurate fashion and set designs, having never been to 1980's Madurai. Our four main characters are friends and do the bidding of one former politician. They start out fairly innocent, and we see innocent affection as well - one of the continuing strands is the love connection between the politician's daughter and one of the guys.

Much is said with just looks between them, flirty and youthful and hopeful -- but is there much hope for them?

The plot is tricky to describe, since there is much going on while not much is actually going on. Things just kind of spiral out of control, and the guys end up in a loop of violence, escalating with each turn. Even if I could describe events as they unfold (and I honestly couldn't, not without a rewatch - one I can assure you will take place), I wouldn't want to, because the movie is best watched going in fairly ignorant.

The newcomers are all capable actors and I hope they've gotten more good roles after this one. The film is just one of those that excels on virtually every level; acting, cinematography, editing, story.

If there were any flaws, they'll appear to me probably in repeat watches to come, but for now the film stands as an utterly recommendable experience. Whether you want to look at it like I did, as a sort of parallel story of hero-centric flicks, or whether as just a film about how a group of friends end up blood-soaked..'s certainly worth a watch.

(A side-note: while I love a good Tamil masala potboiler, I have a soft spot for Tamil industry's more artistic/realistic ventures such as this one. I also loved Kaadhal which I also recommend and of course, am a fan of Bala, who is a director like no other in India. I came across the term New Tamil Cinema to describe these very new, very fresh film makers who have a knack for making films like Subramaniapuram and Kaadhal - realistic, solid story-telling without the usual masala flourishes. If anybody has recommendations for more films like this, throw them in my direction.. Even though Tamil DVD's are quite pricy, I've bought both Kaadhal and this one blind and haven't been disappointed by either so..)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Latest from a smart, funny individual!

...I'm just kidding, this is really another one in what is becoming a series on the depraved mind of Uday Chopra. No picture for this post because if the option is posting a picture of Uday Chopra or not posting a picture at all, I'm going for the latter.

So what is Uday up to in his corner of the Twitterverse? Well, either he is being superbly clever and witty and radically new, or then he is in some serious need of professional, psychological help. You decide. Look, I'll just come out and say it: HE'S INVENTED A SECOND PERSONALITY FOR HIMSELF.

You read that right. He's striving to be schizophrenic. This over-privileged s.o.b, I swear to Pran my head is about to explode.

Okay, I must admit in all seriousness I am not sure if he's doing that. But he is posting quotes by himself under an anagram of his own name - Daya Prochu. That's sane, right? I mean, we all do that, right? ....yeah.

Not only is Daya Prochu a representation of Uday himself, he is Uday's dark side.

"Virtues separate us...its our vices that bring us more reason to be bad!" - Daya Prochu

"Hope and Faith are always there for those who want them...for the rest, there's Vodka" - Daya Prochu

"I'm just your regular, average, everyday Devil Worshiper" - Daya Prochu

...this is actually, genuinely rather frightening. Who does this? Why would anybody do this, in all seriousness? And yes, of course it could well be a joke but's not funny in the least. It's lame, not to mention completely freaky.

"The only time it's ok to show someone you care, is when you don't really" - Daya Prochu

Really freaky.

Of course, then there's the typical tweets where he speaks binary (uhh..) and rambles at length about God shared a secret with him which allowed him to give up on Hope and I'm not even going to pretend to understand.

Still, he is thinking about quitting acting, a decision that actually makes me sympathetic towards him.

But Daya Prochu? I mean, what the ---

Uday, I think I'm done with taking the occasional dive into your Twitter and emerging slimy but victorious by the power of snark because I do genuinely think you might need to talk to somebody. That somebody isn't the internet. Adieu.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dhadkan - monitor your heartbeat and contact your doctor.

I am not sure who told me or where I read that Dhadkan was quite a lovely romantic movie. It's not. It's the kind of clich├ęd, semi-tired (although in an amusing way) melodramatic film that we don't really see much of nowadays because I think after the early 00's most of Hindi film industry decided that after the likes of Lagaan and whatnot, they could probably do better than this. And they did! Well, some of them did.

To be fair to whoever planted the idea in my head that Dhadkan might be worth my time, it's not totally without merit. Melodrama, even less-than-average quality melodrama, is after all pretty entertaining. The tropes are all here - poor and rich, evil in-laws, crying maa.. But perhaps because of the tropes, the film ends up being pretty forgettable.

It's a story of Anjali (Shilpa Shetty), a daughter of a rich man, who makes the devastating mistake of falling in love with a poor man named Dev (Suniel Shetty). Actually, no, her only mistake is falling in love with an incredibly creepy man, nevermind the fact he's poor.

It's hard to pin down what makes Dev such a creepy, strange guy. He's a typical crazy-in-love Bollywood hero, extremely devoted to his love, nothing can break it, he'll die without the love of his life and all this nonsense but what really makes him strange and unbalanced is his over-the-top reactions to everything. Suniel barely has time to act from all the shouting he does.

Look, nobody's ever said Bollywood heroes can't be emotional - by all means they should be. But not emotionally unstable or completely unhinged, like Dev comes off as.

So needless to say, this love match doesn't quite work out as when Dev goes to Anjali's house to ask for her hand, he ends up shouting at her father and obsessing about his sandals (to paraphrase the dialogue, "YES MY SHOES HAVE HOLES, I AM POOR BUT I WILL MARRY YOUR DAUGHTER ANYWAY BECAUSE I LOVE HER NOW AND FOREVER."). Anjali is brokenhearted but tells Dev she will marry who her father asks her to. Dev shouts at her that this is not the last she'll see of him. Oh, goody.

So Anjali is forced to marry the rich, handsome and courteous Ram (Akshay Kumar). What a terrible fate! To marry this ...perfect stranger who doesn't shout at her! Ugh!

Naturally she angsts a bit. But it doesn't take long for her to find him quite a lovely man to be forcefully married to - he's nice, respectful, devoted, hard-working, insert every possible positive adjective you could think of, because that's how good Ram is. Forget seeing the softer side of Khiladi, this man is practically marshmallow.

And of course, he is much better when in comparison to his awful family who hate their new daughter-in-law and even hate Ram. But he knows they hate him! But he loves them anyway! (Yes, it's that kind of a film.)

But sometime after Anjali and Ram's marriage has gone from forced to blissful, guess who's back? Dunh dunh dunnnnn!

Thankfully the film seems to recognize that Dev is hopelessly unhinged and does not portray him as Anjali's perfect man. He's just there to set the final melodrama into motion and boy, does he ever.

So that's kind of Dhadkan for you, right there. Lots of melodramatic twists, okay songs that look more 90's and 00's, a truckload of make up on Shilpa's face, and tons of Akshay looking dreamy. If you think you might be into that, well, I can't recommend this film but I can certainly let you know it exists.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The end of blogging hiatus.

Hi again, long time no talk. It's August which means holiday for me, and also means enough time to not only watch movies but blog about them as well and read other people's blogs about films and squee on Twitter. Yay! A couple of things before we continue with the usual programming...

1. How are you? I'm fine. The summer was fun but uneventful for the most part.

2. I still live in a blissful ignorance of what everybody thought of Raavan/an until I get my grabby hands on either or both DVD's. If you could assist this happy Raavan-less bubble I've created for myself, that'd be splendid. If you spoil me, I will hate you fiercely for the rest of my life. So the blog remains RAAVAN/AN SPOILER-FREE SPACE thank you very much.

3. I've also not seen Raajneeti yet, though definitely plan to.

4. Reviews will be forth-coming of the following films -- Housefull, Rocket Singh, Road Movie, Dhadkan, Mr India, Subramaniyapuram (Tamil), Veer. It should tell you how little I've watched during the summer that Housefull and Veer are the only ones I managed to watch between May and August. The others I've watched in the past couple of days.

5. To celebrate the return of full-on filmi love, let's have a schmoopy DDLJ fanvid! (By Smurphmurph.)


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer (semi)hiatus.

Hey guys, and thanks for participating in Khanna Week/Khanna-o-Rama, whoever did. Sadly, since then I've begun working at a summer job and unlike all you wonderful regular people, it seems like university + blogging is a combo I can do no problem but work + blogging is like this unclimbable stone wall when it comes to my mental and occasionally physical energy. Funny how that works.

I'll try to watch a movie during my now increasingly limited free time, and I'll try to blog as well, but obviously none of this "post every three days" madness I was going through in March and in April. Maybe I just need to learn how to do less taxing updates - instead of long write-ups, maybe post a song from a movie I love or talk about a particular scene. 

Oh yeah, I visited the UK in early May!

This picture was snapped at a store in Soho, London that sold tons of old posters. Sivaji Ganesan of olde was misplaced under "Bollywood", don't they know anything? I didn't buy it but I was mighty tempted!

And a stand of Raajneeti at a movie theater. I am not sure why but I am looking forward to seeing this film. Katrina's role looks promising, there's a fantastic character actor cast and Ranbir looks really, really good on the poster. Um, shallow, what me?

Anyway, the summer is looking lovely over here. Now if only 3 Idiots was FINALLY released on DVD (6 months, Vidhu Vinod Chopra - really? really?) and I had an endless supply of lemonade, this summer would be made. Hope it's looking great wherever you are! (If you are one of the upside-down country people and it's winter over there, my deepest and dearest apologies. May my Vinod Khanna picspams keep you warm through winter!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Closing Khanna-o-Rama with a picspam.

My favourite picture of Akshaye.

I'm going to employ virtual CPR on you because I know you just DIED.AT.THIS.CUTENESS. And why wouldn't you.

All Bollywood magazines should remake this photo shoot. Bollywood stars - EATING. I'd buy the magazine. Twice.

No idea what is happening here but I dig it. I dig it a lot.

Film poster of Gulzar's Meera (review here) which is my most favourite movies with Vinod. And gorgeous Hema, what's not to love.

Thanks for participating in Khanna Week, even if it was just by reading all of our posts! And eternal thanks to Beth for coming up with the idea of the love fest!

EEEDIT: Well, turns out Khanna Week isn't over in a week! Joy of joys! Except .. I have no more posts scheduled up. I might spin some more, I'll definitely keep following all of yours but this may or may not be the end of Khanna-o-Rama for me, for now, anyway. Still, the Khanna love never really stops on these here parts!

Jallian Wala Bagh - meh.

History lesson: Jallianwala Bagh was a square in Amritsar, which is nowadays synonymous with the bloodshed that took place there under colonial times in 1919. Hundreds of protesters (maybe even over a thousand, counts vary) were slaughtered by the British. Decades later in 1940 Udham Singh murdered Michael O'Dwyer, who was responsible for the orders to kill the protesters.

Story: Jallian Wala Bagh (1977) the historical event and paints portraits of freedom fighters around it. Some of them, like Om Shivpuri's character, are decidedly non-violent in the style of Gandhi, but others, like Vinod Khanna's character, use violence to do what they see fit. The story and dialogues are by Gulzar, which promises goodness but ...

Sigh: ...just kind of isn't. Everything feels very haphazardly put together, the characters barely connect, their relationships are fuzzy and even though some of the dialogues are full of accurate patriotic pathos, there is much, much bad acting, especially from the British cast who speak Hindi slower than a snail on sandpaper. I was especially disappointed in that the film had Shabana Azmi as a young woman who refused marriage until her country was free, (especially when she has a brilliant line about a bird starting to nest in a cage, ie. she doesn't want to begin a family in an India ruled by the Brits). For one, she has no scenes with Vinod, and they are by far the best actors in this movie. And secondly, the script totally forgets she exists for the second half of the story. What the..?!

Groan: I totally get why this subject was considered ripe for a film, but I feel like instead of nationalistic pathos they should've gone for more character development or exploring interesting themes (and as the film was written by Gulzar - though not directed by him - I know there was potential there). I don't object to the British being painted like the villains they are in this scenario, but a little ambiguity could've gone a long way when it came to the portrayal of Udham Singh - it's not like his actions were universally appreciated, even among Indian nationalists of the time.

Bright sides: But okay, there's a good moment here and there in the film, some fairly obvious back-and-forth edits balanced with some pretty effective ones. One of the two songs in the film is quite good. And it's relatively short - 120 minutes or so. But ...

Blehhhh: It just feels like nobody's heart is in it. There is much bad acting, and even Vinod seems unenthusiastic (and there's too little of him! some of his early scenes are good stuff but .. so little of it!). I feel like I'm missing some juicy behind-the-scenes gossip here. Or then the film is simply incredibly lazily made, which it certainly looks like (budget looks small, lots of shots are totally out-of-focus) - like they thought that the nationalistic message is going to make up for the lack of an inspiring story, compelling characters, good acting etc.

But: ..but maybe it is, my only problem is that I'm of the wrong nationality to get it. The massacre was understandably an awful, traumatic event - I would never make light of the fact. But I don't connect to it, because it's not "my people" getting killed. While it appeals to me on a general human level, I don't connect to it the way somebody with family from Amritsar would.

Counter-but: But then, there's a reason why this movie isn't held high among the best patriotic movies ever or whatever. I mean, I only spotted it thanks to IMDb and only bought it because it had Shabana and Vinod. Probably not a single recommendation on the internet for this one. And that typically says something. Even if I don't always agree with the taste of the general public, bad films of the past are sometimes best forgotten. And this one was probably very much forgotten until some people such as myself spent our hard-earned money on the DVD of it and had to sit through it.

Try not to repeat my mistake, yeah?

PS. Even physical manpain didn't save this one. Seriously.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three elephants in the room.

Hate to jam this post in but I feel like it has to be made; call me the Official Khanna Week Squee-stopper, if you must, but I assure you, happy posts will commence tomorrow once more - for now, let's deal with the things we might talk about but don't particularly enjoy talking about head-on.

I mean, they are in a sense the reason this Khanna fest had to be initiated - why are Khannas so unloved (or underloved or not adequately loved) by the great Bollywood worldwide consciousness (wow, does that sound spiritual? we could just call 'em fans).

Akshaye Khanna - I am not sure where I've read about this perception that Akshoo picks his roles carefully and is particularly choosy about which films he does. But I have read it and going by how little movies he makes, I could swallow it, too. But then I look at his filmography and just .. what the hell. I understand getting stuck in a rut, doing crappy film after crappy films because that's all you're offered but can that really be true for somebody who has shown considerable acting potential and is widely considered a solid actor despite, you know, all those countless bad films I choose not to name right now. I confess I know very little about the inside workings of the industry so maybe I'm missing a lot of key factors that play into this but sometimes I fear that the dude doesn't really care and kind of wants to cash in.

Rahul Khanna - Now here's a guy whose perceived pickiness with roles I could actually see as justified, as his filmography doesn't really have that many bad films. But it's so tiny! Isn't everybody on Twitter now? Doesn't everybody just want to cast him? (I do, but the only job I have available is cleaning my room. I doubt Rahul gets out of bed for the money I'm willing to offer him...)

Vinod Khanna - One word: Osho. (For the uninitiated, or the newbies, here's a little lesson in history - at the height of his career, in the early 80's Vinod Khanna joined his guru and withdrew from regular human life into a spiritual commune in North-East US of A. He returned to the industry in the late 80's.)

I spotted somebody commenting on a youtube video of some Vinod Khanna song that "he realized the futility of human existence" or something like that, and this made me realize how much a culture colours our perceptions of one man following his guru and withdraw from his regular job AND family life. I mean, Finns don't tend to withdraw from anywhere as hundreds of years of Lutheran work ethic kind of ties us to the home and work life so much so that the idea of "getting away from it all", in a spiritual way, not just for a holiday, is completely alien. (Not saying this is better - just how it is.)

But to somebody of India, it's not necessarily so. Now, I don't personally withdraw my own judgment completely because of this. I could, but it feels pretentious - I still have the opinion that from the point of view of a fan, who loves his 70's/early 80's films and isn't enamored with him returning to Bollywood when the films lacked inspiration and interest, and he was getting too old to be a hero anyway. And if somebody I knew left their family to pursue greater spiritual understanding, I'd consider them selfish. But I keep in mind - different context, different culture, different perceptions.

So I maintain my views as a fan. I think the man made simultanously the worst and the best decision he could've made. Leaving Bollywood in the early 80's? Abandoning a slowly sinking ship, good call. Returning to the industry in the late 80's? Sigh. No. Just no.

So there. Elephants sorted. Would be curious to hear your views on these topics. And sorry for squee-killing, just gotta be honest with myself & my readership here. I still love all three of these actors - trust me on that one.

[Elephant screencaps from the Tamil film Dhool.]

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to be awesome on Twitter like Rahul Khanna in 3 easy steps.

1. Tweet in your strongest language and treat Twitter like an English(/Hindi/etc) teacher you're desperate to impress. Or like somebody whose pants you want to get into via showing them how smart you are. Don't be afraid to get a little overboard with it - when the rest of Twitterland is busy forgetting where a, e, i, o, u keys are (or as they would say, 'r'), you'll stand out favorably.

1.5. Familiarize yourself with the concept of parody. Embrace feeling special.

Case in point: i wory der iz no1 left who cn spel. r v doomd 2 cmunic8 in dis biz-r nu lang? im nt redy 4 an x-istenc wid only ltd vowls n no capitls.

2. Find a round-about way of describing ordinary events or daily observations that arouses reader attention and imagination. Such as,

- Working out: An afternoon of certain cardio-vascular scintillation awaits me on the elliptical & in the pool.

A plebe way of tweeting this - "off 2 workout plz twitter notice how im in gud shape tnx bye."

- Being hungover at work: Struggling through meetings & wishing I was in 'The Hangover 2' so I could justify the excesses of last night as research.

A plebe way of tweeting this: "omg sooo hungoverrr @at wrk rite nw had fun last nite tho :D :D :D :D :D lol"

- Doing online banking: Impressed with my credit card company's online security. It's virtually impossible for anyone to access my account - including me.

A plebe way of tweeting this: "fuuuucckkkkk :( :( :("

3. Develop a very ordinary, relatable addiction to a mostly harmless substance. Coffee, chocolate, breath mints, any of these work. Don't go overboard with it - you want to seem relatable, not obsessed or consumed with desire for something completely strange. If your Twitter bio mentions your biggest goal in life is to get your own Ben&Jerry's flavour, trust me, nobody is going to follow you, you crazy icecream person you.

Example -
I confess my mini-bar sins to the flinty receptionist & guiltily await the inflated bill I must pay as penance. Mea maxima culpa.

And you're there! Well, almost. I mean, it helps if you a) have been in movies, b) are a globetrotter extraordinaire, tweeting from London then California, then Mumbai - a show that you lead an incredibly interesting life, and c) look like this:

So ... just don't get your hopes up. We can't all win in life.


Tweets - R_Khanna
Pictures -R_Khanna @ Twitpic
Everything else - Depraved mind of @Veraciously, whose biggest desire in life is to introduce Ben&Jerry's Veraciously Twitterliciously Peppermint!.