Friday, November 30, 2012

Poovellam Kettupar! Talk to the flowers, because the hand.. er.

It makes perfect sense that in this frothy little Tamil romcom-cum-family drama, the first song includes the lovely Jyothika dancing among flowers. (The title, Poovellam Kettuppar, apparently means "talk to the flowers". Presumably, to hear what they have to say.)

Whatever, I'm into it, epecially knowing that this was one of the first films she did with future-husband Surya. Exciting!

However, it turns out that crux of this tale revolves around the fathers of the protagonists, who are both composers and used to work as a duo. They went their separate ways after a furious argument and have been mortal enemies ever since. 

This is his father.

This is hers. 

Inconveniently for MouchoPrema, for which I watched this film, neither of them have a moustache! I love you, Nassar, but come on, give a girl a 'stache..

But allow our younglings to meet up anyway, unaware of their fathers' enmity towards one another. Wait, didn't Shakespeare write a story like this, once? 

You know, whenever two characters you just know are going to end up together meet on-screen, in my family, we would often comment at the TV, "Those two are going to get married!"

In this case, it would literally be true, and while by no means unique, I always enjoyed the Surya-Jothika coupling. They've had excellent chemistry in pretty much all of their joint ventures, and they seem pretty happy in real life, too. What's not to like?

This is from a scene where she spills a drink on his shirt to try and get rid of him sitting next to her, only he counters by taking his shirt off, and then putting a clean one on. Sad to say, this was one of the better comedy scenes in the movie.

As the film went on, I quickly discovered that the reason I hadn't been recommended this film despite my love for its stars, wasn't that it was crap - it's more that it's just not all that special. It's just your standard romcom with moments of cute and the occasional hilarity, but also some very grating comedy, and a pretty mediocre soundtrack to carry you through these scenes.

Though I will never, ever forget Surya listing 100 flower names.

Because he. Literally. Lists. One hundred. Flower types.

To her.

And this is ..romance, I guess? (Look, I'll just say it now: I think Surya looks weird with a moustache. At least this one.)

Our young couple naturally figure out that their fathers hate each other, and thus their options are eloping or making the fathers see the errors of their ways. For the sake of comedy, they choose the latter option.

She poses as a nurse to his mother, and he on the other hand takes a job as her father's chauffeur. Comedy hijinks a-plenty!

Again, it's not that the leads are bad - they're not - or that the film is boring. It's just in that bland, merely okay category, where I'm not sure I'd rewatch, apart from the songs, and even then only to see how young and cute the leads were in the early 2000's.

Oh, I almost forgot. There's this character, a director, who appears to be the only other significant mooche in the film. How ..disappointing. 

And that's Poovellam Kettuppaar for you. Good enough for a watch, certainly, especially if you're like me and refuse to get over Jothika's departure from Tamil films (she was my favourite heroine! why did you leaaaaave - oh yeah, you married a hot guy and didn't want to work anymore, I guess that's fair enough..) and also love Surya.

Could you remember 100 names for various flowers?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Khoon ki pukaar: kicking off MouchoPrema!

MouchoPrema (#mouchoprema on Twitter) is a themed week of blogging, started by Totally Filmi in conjunction with Beth and a bunch of others, in celebration of Movember and all things moustache. I picked a couple of films from my to-be-watched pile that seemed appropriately moustache-filled and set to watch them!

..and then I watched three of them and completely forgot about the whole thing until yesterday. But hey, better late than never, I guess?

My first film was Khoon Ki Pukaar, a rather standard dacoit/family drama from the delightful 70's, starring Vinod Khanna, Shabana Azmi, Pran, Aruna Irani, Amjad Khan and Iftekhar. Before we get to the convoluted (but not any more or less convoluted than your usual 70's masala film) plot, let us meet the 'staches.

First we have Amjad Khan as Zalim Singh, our resident bad guy, the dacoit who conveniently kicks off our plot by kidnapping the son of ...

...Pran, a doctor! You might not guess where this is going, though you probably do. The child Zalim Singh kidnaps grows up to be ...

...Vinod Khanna, here reluctantly in the embrace of Aruna Irani, who plays the only girl in their dacoit gang (and if you couldn't figure it out from the screencap, she really, really, really likes Sheru Singh, Vinod's character, here). Sheru Singh, unaware of his true parentage, grows up to be a bad guy, as Vinod Khanna characters are so often wont to do. Is there moral growth in store for us?

Wait, there's a couple of more moustaches to go through.

Shabana's character's father. Because of plot, he doesn't stick around for long.

Iftekhar, unsurprisingly as the police commissioner. 

And whoever this guy is, playing the sleazeball dacoit who wants to be with Aruna and therefore hates Vinod, and ...oh who the hell cares, check out this wildly fantastic stuffed tiger!

So, plot: Sher(u) Singh, Zalim Singh and their gang rob the wedding party, that Shanno (Shabana) attends as the bride is her friend. Her father plays hero and gets subsequently shot dead by Sher Singh, but he in return gets shot by the police as the dacoit gang flees the scene.

He escapes to the temple, where his wounds are mended by the priest (Pran), who gave up practising medicine after his son got kidnapped by Zalim Singh. What are the odds, eh? The priest tells the villagers that the man he is housing is named Amrit, even though he knows that the man is a dacoit. 

To protect his true identity, Sheru adopts the identity of Amrit. This results in him teaching Shanno how to shoot, unaware that the reason she's learning is to kill whoever killed her father .. Sher Singh, that is.

Now that is awkward. 

Meanwhile, he's also trying to think of ways to rob the priest of all the jewels hidden somewhere in the temple. Vinod does a lot of shifty eyes in these scenes, because he's such a good actor that the character he is playing, is not a good actor, and thus comes off as the most suspicious person ever. It's brilliant, really. 

Surprising absolutely no one, Shanno and Amrit fall in love, and somewhere in here, the movie tucks a cutesy romantic film inside a pretty grim revenge drama.  

Only Vinod and Shabana can achieve a pretty easy-going chemistry when you consider the fact that he's a killer and she's hell-bent on revenge, and refusing to marry until she's killed the man who killed her father. I'm a total sucker for this kind of stuff, so of course I lapped it up, weirdness and all.

And then there's Pran, who is wonderful as the priest who believes in Amrit's inner morality, even when the man himself doesn't. Only he has the natural gravitas for the type of dialogues he gives in this film, and he's great as ever.

Once again something has to be said for the way that Vinod can make me believe in the melodramatic reality of this character who has the sudden discovery that maybe going through life killing and robbing others isn't the way to go, and making good deeds like saving somebody actually also feels good. These are not subtle or grand discoveries, but the way he acts through them is simply so satisfying to watch.

It's "bad boys gone good" (much like Chor Sipahee or Parvarish, or Kucche Dhaage to some extent), and as far as unifying themes for a person's career go, it's a pretty good one.

If I had a couple of problems with the film, it's mostly to do with Aruna Irani's character, or rather, how the story portrayed her and where she ends up. But to get into details would be getting into spoilers, so I'd rather not. 

Suffice to say, Khoon Ki Pukaar is far from being a perfect masala film - but as it stands, it certainly delivers a good package: there's romance, action, a tale of lost-and-found and a bit of nice naach-gaana to boot.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Vikram for every occasion!

Vikram drunk.

Vikram caged.

Vikram about to poke your f¤%¤ng eyes out.

Vikram looking over his shoulder.

Vikram with two hands.

Vikram in pink.

Vikram angrily marrying a woman in defiance (as one every so often does).

Vikram angrily tying a scarf over his head.

Vikram entering your deepest soft-focus romantic fantasies.

The last thing a rowdy remembers before he woke up in the hospital.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ek Tha Tiger and the inescapable comparison.

It was inevitable that I would dig up my Agent Vinod review to write this one: the two films invite comparison, even though their successes and failures are entirely their own, and their genres differ as well. Still, two recent films starring real-life couples about Indian agents who fall in love with women from the other side and traipse the world as the plot progresses - so which film comes out on top?

In Agent Vinod, Vinod has a real case on his hands, so the love story takes a backseat. In Ek Tha Tiger, the love story frames the entire film, and somehow magically benefits it. There's still action, but the action only takes place within that love story, and is made more awesome for it.

It's the weirdest thing. Agent Vinod did, in some ways, attempt to reach the stars; the scale was ambitious, but certain things about the handling of the plot, the dull acting and the lack of that little something extra ultimately made it a disappointing watch despite its grand technical merits. Kabir Khan chooses a tell a fairly simplistic story, but does so well, and whatever other things he gets in the plus column (well-directed action, handsome cinematography, fun songs) only add to the film's uncomplicated fun.

I've only seen Katrina and Salman act against each other in the atrocious and objectionable Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (where the comedy revolves entirely around cheating!), so it's quite easy for them to portray a better chemistry here, seeing as how she's grown as an actress. Still, not quite enough for my taste. The thing about Salman's recent renaissance batch of films (Dabangg, Wanted etc) is that they use utilize his limited emoting skills and his unlimited Being Salman skills perfectly. Ek Tha Tiger demands some emoting, and against as limited an actress as Katrina, the chemistry just isn't as off-the-charts as one would wish for a film that focuses so much on the love story between their two characters.  It's okay - it's just not amazing.

Even so, for a cute love story wrapped in a well-executed action film mold, I'd rewatch Ek Tha Tiger without a doubt. It's filmi flare is eventually what saves it, it's just a shame that the best chemistry exemplified by the leads can be found in the song that's not bound in the narrative itself: Mashallah. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aiyyaa - the tale of one fangirl.

Here's how I'd describe Aiyyaa: it's a Rani cupcake with a Rani cake as base, a Rani heart in the centre of that cake, tons of Rani frosting and some Rani sprinkles on that frosting. 

Bottom line, if you love Rani Mukerji, there's a very good chance you'll at the very least enjoy this film once. If you happen to be a part of that magical Venn diagram of Rani fans who are heterosexual females (or gay males, or just anybody with an appreciation of the male aesthetic) who love Southie films and especially good-looking Southie actors in those films? Well, you're in for a treat.

Is the plot lacklustre and kind of lacking of pay-off for most of the film? Yes, absolutely. Do the songs totally make up for it? Oh yes.

Did my id co-write this film while I was sleeping? It's a theory.

Meenakshi is a filmi-obsessed young woman with a family full of comic goofballs and a big imagination to escape to. She finds a job at a nearby college just to get out of the house, and in that job comes across Suriya (Prithviraj), a mysterious Tamil art student and painter, who she is wildly and instantly attracted to. However, her family has put in a matrimonial ad in the paper, listing a bunch of white lies to attract suitors. While Meenakshi spends her time daydreaming and following Suriya in his steps, her family is busily arranging her marriage to anybody who will accept her. 

What is truly great about this performance is that I believe at the hands of a lesser actress, Meenakshi would've been a pretty vapid character, what with her over-dramatic filmi fantasies, and her tendency to do silly things. In Rani's portrayal, however, she becomes alive as a human being, too, determined and endlessly likable, and utterly hilarious to boot. Her little expressions just killed me with joy every time.

The film is a little odd, to say the least, what with Meenakshi essentially stalking Suriya while being able to catch his scent from anywhere at all, but somehow it's so entertaining I simply don't mind.

Prithviraj doesn't get much to work with, but what he does as the solemn, mysterious Suriya is pretty wonderful all the same, and the songs that we get to see from Meenakshi's fantasies show a more goofy side of him, too. I might've been irked by the fact that the film is brimming with gratuitous objectification of males (not only of Prithviraj, but Meenakshi's co-worker is the world's biggest John Abraham fan and not afraid to show it), was that kind of thing not rather rare in films. When it comes down to it, it's a comedy about female desire, that doesn't laugh at the desire itself, but does present a rather exaggerated version of it - hence, funny.

What the film probably does require is for the viewer to be able to drool right along with Meenakshi whenever Suriya steps into frame. Hence the Venn diagram demographic that I mentioned earlier.

The portrayal of Tamil films, or what Meenakshi thinks Tamil films are, is rather loving in my view. She's a girl attracted to the colourful and the over-the-top, so I'm not surprised that's what she thinks of Tamil cinema as well. Dreamum Wakeupum to my eyes and ears catches precisely the type of music, dancing and colours that I love about Tamil films' song numbers (though the guys don't do half as much shirtless dancing, sorry to report). I also find it amusing that whereas a lot of Tamil films forget to give their heroines much characterization, in here it's Prithviraj who has a rather flat character, while Rani gets all the focus. Her Tamil learning is also adorable and utterly sincere. There is no laughing or mocking the language or the cinema aesthetic that goes with it: it's definitely a tribute. And if there's one trope I wish more films would use, it's people learning regional languages to impress the one their heart desires. (This I also loved in Ek Duuje Ke Liye.)

Aiyyaa could've used better direction and editing, but as a flawed, Rani-flavoured treat, it certainly worked its magic on me. With good songs and rather hilarious, over-the-top comedy, it's a film I'll probably rewatch a ton.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

East Coast break.

Hiya blog, what's kicking? Not much for me, just had a brilliant two-week long holiday in East Coast US, mostly trapped in Brooklyn with my (non-filmi) friend thanks to Frankenstorm Sandy. But a little hurricane can't keep a good girl down, and I had an absolute blast even though there was rain and storm!

Sadly this did mean that going the cinema was just not an option, so I didn't get to do my usual "going to see a Bollywood film in a foreign country" routine, nor did I get to meet up with some blogger friends I would've loved to meet up with (FG, next time!). But I did manage to get up to Boston to stay with Filmi Geek aka Carla, and over at her place, I got to watch some delightful Hindi oldies.

Chor Sipahee (1979)

This fast-paced masala romp we watched in the confines of Memsaab's filmi lair, and the plot is precisely what it says on the box. Shashi Kapoor is our sipahee, a badass cop who wears leather jackets well and goes to jail and comes out even more badass. Vinod Khanna plays the chor, a rogue who's bad because that's what poor people do when they can't earn enough, or something. It's really too bad he's just not the best thief, outwitted by pretty much everybody (but mostly Shabana Azmi's character) and then some, and disowned by his sister (Parveen Babi, who wears amazing things so she is destined to be with Shashi in this film). 

But it's fine that Vinod sucks as a bad guy, because Shashi is here to fix him with the power of buddypyaari (seriously, these frenemies just have it going on). And Shashi will go to jail for him! And grow a jail beard! And then wear women's sunglasses, because that's what villains do, dammit. Wait, you're not following this? Doesn't it all seem really logical?

What a film. I will certainly need to purchase it, and rewatch it, and rewatch it, and then build a shrine to encase it in.

Half-Ticket (1962)

While at Carla's, I felt like it behooved me to watch one of her favourites, especially as the film seemed so close to a mutual favourite of ours, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. Plot-wise, I feel like Chalti is a bit tighter than Half-Ticket, but they are equally delightful and packed with amazing songs to boot. The film really is all Kishore all the time - he plays a layabout goof who escapes his father's plans to marry him off, and pretends to be a child to get a half-ticket on the train, where he meets both a crook (young Pran, always priceless) and a beauty (Madhubala). What follows is a series of goofy goofball scenes where Kishore gets to show his comic prowess and sing some incredible songs. His jodi with Madhubala is as cute as ever, and Pran's villain character also manages to tickle the chuckle bone.

The film does go off the rails every now and then, but it never ceases to entertain, so this is another future must-purchase for me. 

Muqaddar ka Sikander (1978)

A long over-due viewing of a classic! Amitabh Bachchan carries this highly melodramatic masala about an orphan boy named Sikander, whose love for his childhood friend Kamna (Rakhee) carries into adulthood, and makes him blind to the affection shown to him by Zohrabai (Rekha), a prostitute he visits to drink away his sorrows. Vinod Khanna plays the lawyer Vishal, who becomes an important friend to Sikander, one he's willing to sacrifice almost anything for..

Muqaddar ka Sikander plays a weird twist on its viewer, where the extreme melodrama seems so extreme it's a little chuckle-worthy, rather than believable at first. But slowly, you get sucked in, and by the end, it really tugs at your heartstrings. I'd attribute a fair amount of that to Amitabh's splendid performance - this is by far one of his best ones. It didn't quite make it among my favourites, mostly because I feel like I prefer my masala goofy so that it doesn't stomp on your already-heavy heart, but I could definitely tell why it was such a classic.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. There were a couple of tracks I already adored (Pyaar Zindagi Hai and the female version of O Saathi Re) and the rest were awesome as well.

Jewel Thief (1967)

Life got in the way of me finishing this film, but I began it and liked it, then was quite confused by the plot, and eventually had to stop it about 50 minutes before the end due to lack of time. I did enjoy it, but I definitely need a rewatch from the beginning, at a time when I can focus all my attention on it.

I'm merely mentioning it here so I remember to seek it out and finish watching..