NPR had a Radio Expeditions story on this morning about Vrindavan, where Krishna once took human form. When the reporter asked about what heaven looked like, the respondent said it was a place where every word is a song, every step is a dance, and every utterance is of love. Sounds a lot like a Bollywood wedding scene, doesn't it?
Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Parineeta manages somehow to be both incredibly over-the-top dramatic in a Devdas-y way (not my original thought, by the way) but also all tied up in a shiny bow at the end. I like ending shiny bows very, very much, but I do not care for the level of drama of Devdas and similar stories. I have a really hard time, despite trying, not saying, "If you don't love her, then just don't marry her. If you do love some other person, just go marry her. Done and done!" I like some romantic tensions and a hurdle or two to a relationship, but clearly no one will turn to me to conjure up Bollywood-worthy screenplays. The shiny bow here also came on quite suddenly, even for Bollywood, so it felt a little superficial. Although, now that I think about it harder, I guess the components of the bow were there all along and just depended on information being revealed to enable them to do their job. It's like Khushi's Karan said: if people would just talk about their emotions, these things wouldn't happen.
But that's all fine, because I got a big shiny bow and was left feeling relatively satisfied, if surprised. This is my first experience with Sanjay Dutt and I thought he was fine, although it seems to me his voice doesn't really match his size and apperearance (not his fault, obviously), so that was a bit jarring, and I never again want to see him pretend to play the saxophone.
Aside to whomever made the DVD I have: this was crap. The subtitles were always white, meaning that they were quite often hard to read. The song sequences were incredibliy pixelated and lurched all around, really destroying the effect of camera sweeps, Saif's piano pounding, and Rekha's booty-shaking.
Aside to whomever is responsible for Rekha's number: I wish I had seen this more clearly, because it just had to have been fun. But aforementioned problems meant I didn't really get a sense of it. What a pity. That song is stuck in my head though, so well done.
Aside to props person: as a person who loves to make stuff, I was tickled to see a love scene that made use of a granny-square afghan. You have turned the world of bad craft-store yarn projects and unappreciated hand-made holiday gifts on its head. Ugly yet steamy. Bravo! Bravo indeed!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
The Godfather is a powerful and compelling movie because of the characters' internal conflicts and pain. That said, I'm not a fan of violence or revenge or above/under-the-law "justice." While it's quite possible that the subtitles didn't convey the full force of the dialogue, I had very little sense of what was driving this story. Who is Sarkar and why? What are the nuances of his philosophy? And why does he have such abysmal security outside his house? "Hello, friendly crowds! I'm certainly glad you want to greet and wave to me, the most powerful gangster in Mumbai! It's a good thing I am a wide-open target right here, with nothing but my garden between you and me! I certainly should not build a carport or underground garage."
But the main problem with this movie for me was that it just didn't have enough oomph. The thing I love the very most about Bollywood is that stories and motivations are whole-hearted, but Sarkar really lacked this kind of commitment to being a real homage to or retelling of The Godfather - or for that matter, to being another, different story. For example, contrast the heartbreak moment of The Godfather when Michael closes the door on Kay with Shankar quite easily letting go of what's-her-name who doesn't like his dad only to fall equally easily into the arms of the other what's-her-name who does (strong female characters being a big lack in this film). There was no emotion in this at all. I don't think it was Abhishek's fault, either. There wasn't anything for him to express.
Also, no singing and no dancing, not even in the minor "movie within a movie" plot.
So all in all, a movie that has none of the things I look to Bollywood for. But I still enjoyed going, being in a big classroom auditorium with other people who wanted to see it, other people who laughed when I did, and I can't wait for the next showing (this was put on by the Indian Student Association).
What is with the "Govinda" chant? From my post-movie research, I have learned that this god can revive dead cows and cowherds. I must need to dig deeper because I don't get how that fits with the movie. If Shankar had actually been dead, that would make sense. But he wasn't. He was running through stagnant water and hiding in taxis. Or is it a plea to revive the slumbering don within him? Hmmm. Anyway, that was some spooky music, although it was used too much for my liking.
Aside to all camera staff and camera-related decision-makers: really nifty camera angles and set-up of shots. You stole the show.
Aside to writers: Sonny and Fredo are two different people.
Second aside to writers: excellent sleep-with-the-fishes scene. That made me catch my breath, thinking how awful it would be.
Third aside to writers: excellent use of Hindu pantheon. I'm pretty new at identifying deities, but even I caught Vishnu, Durga, and, of course, Govinda Govinda Govindaaaaaaaaaaa.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
A friend (who reminds me a lot of Hrithik, despite not being 6' or overly muscley) asked me what I like about Bollywood. My attempt to explain went nowhere fast. I failed. I feel bad about this, not because he'll judge me, for he knows my silliest secrets anyway, but becasue I suspect I'll have an even harder time trying to get him to watch any. The urge to convert startles me. I've never felt like this before.
On the flip side, said friend had brought Arsenic and Old Lace for tonight's viewing, so he obviously enjoys mugging, broad plots, and wacky misunderstandings. And I can now say to SRK that while I still think he overdoes the facial expressions from time to time, it's nothing Cary Grant hasn't done at least once.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 11:29 PM
Sunday, October 16, 2005
It took several starts for me to get through this - I kept re-watching the beginning, where they bump along on top of the bus and enjoy the countryside - not because it's bad, but because I kept getting interrupted, then having to re-start to make sure I remembered what was going on. But once I got going, it was great. I had expected this to be much more politically cheesy than it was, and I was happy that most of the "why can't we all get along" sentiment was contained in just-freed Veer's courtroom speech. The love story, too, was not quite as grand as I had thought, which was just fine by me.
The best moments of this movie are the light-hearted or simple ones: Zaara dancing around her beautiful house, Veer's aunt brushing Zaara's hair, Bauji sneaking his bottle of rum, Veer throwing nuts into Zaara's mouth as she clutches the little platform on the ski-lift across the river.
This is by far my favorite Amitabh Bachchan performance. His character had substance, but at no point did he or the director trade on the actor's status or persona. Plus he looked like he was really enjoying himself in the role, and I think in the other things I've seen him in he's either scowling too much or just tossing the whole thing away, as though it's a flat role quite beneath him. And even if that's understandable (I'm thinking the stern but inspiring general in Lakshya, for example), we all know that there are no small parts, only small players. So thanks, Amitabh, for demonstrating why you're a star.
Again, this probably says something about me that I shouldn't publicize, but I had to pause and find something to use as a fan after watching Veer haunt Zaara in "Main Yahaan Hoon" (which has an additional layer of humor, now that I've seen Main Hoon Na). That was really, really sexy - the continually shrinking space between them, the quite personal scale of where he appeared, the small daily routines that he joined. That Zaara's got quite an imagination. I wonder if she'd let me borrow it.
I found Khushi for a song at an international grocery store that was selling off its rental collection and bought it because I recognized the actors and could tell, from the pictures on the cover, that it was going to be a silly romantic comedy, which is the kind of movie I tend to re-watch the most often and therefore can justify owning. But if I had read about it first, it's likely I would never have even watched it, because all the reviews I have read are lukewarm at best, mostly just awful. I could understand the negativity if the reviewers had only seen the afore-mentioned blackface song picturization (which I think actually has "Latinoface," for lack of a better term, in it too), but this movie is fluffy and delightful in the ways I look to Bollywood to provide.
There are three elements of this movie I would like to comment on. The first is the main characters, of which there are really only two. Kareena Kapoor plays Khushi, your typical free-spirited and feisty heroine, but with a level of irritatingness I've not seen since Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. Her introductory song, where she sings about how beautiful and wacky, yet actually quite shy, she is, is jarring and almost queasy, with the camera bouncing up and down as she manically pulls face after face and makes lots of kissy noises. Are those dubbed in after? Can you imagine sitting in a sound booth and making kissy noises in synch with yourself on a screen? What a way to spend an afternoon. "Sorry, Karisma, I'll have to meet you for chai later, I have to dub some kissing noises." Khushi is bright and smart but tends to talk without thinking first (it's okay, girl, I can relate).
Her foil is Karan, played with a combination of swagger and temper with puppy-dog eyes and I'm-actually-a-bit-scared-of-women by Fardeen Khan. Fardeen is cute, there's no denying it, and I think he dances well, although as though he has learned his moves in a step aerobics class. Unlike Kareena, he is not more annoying than his character demands. His action sequences are more believable than others I've seen, but I don't know if that's because of their setting in the movie (doubtful, as they seen chucked in just to give him a chance to fight off baddies) or their choreography or his ability. Anyway, what struck me about this pairing is that they seemed suitably matched in terms of maturity level, both of the characters and of the actors.
Anyone else want to just lump them together and call them Fareena? How about Kardeen?
I must also mention that Amrish Puri puts in a good turn as Khushi's father, who loves his daughter immensely although isn't always in tune with her view of what is best for her, and Kareena does a great job at going toe-to-toe with one of Bollywood's sternest father actors.
The second thing to discuss is the plot. Here we encounter a big potential problem, as I had a really hard time believing that anyone could possibly fall in love with Khushi because she is so grating - argumentative, clueless, and arrogant. We're not talking about the verbal fireworks of Katherine Hepburn, or even the endearing bumbling of Meg Ryan. We're talking just plain annoying. Karan, while not irritating, does not really present us with much to find lovable either. But this being Bollywood, I'll accept what I do not understand and just move on. Plus, Amitabh Bachchan told us in the introductory narrative that it was fated they would fall in love, so that's that. What Amitabh says, goes.
Anyway, the two are drawn together in the name of helping wrangle a romance between their two friends, Vicki and Priya. Karan and Khushi are clearly smitten with each other after several rounds of wacky fights, but they can't say it to each other. They even perform in the college's "cultural event," which is managed by tenth-year senior Johny Lever, who also does Ricky Martin and Asha Bhonsle impressions (Johny Lever in drag - what have we done to deserve this?). One of the biggest compliments I will give this movie is that the college Karan and Khushi attend is a far classier joint than St. Xavier's in KKHH or any other I've seen. Their college dance stage is quite snazzy, with lots of brushed metal and oversize posters of...well, I couldn't quite make that out, I think one was J Lo. None of the kids here feel the need to express their enthusiasm for the performance with hand-painted banners - which, while decidedly more sophisticated, is a real disappointment, because I do loves me some college kids' hand-painted enthusiastic banners at dance occasions.
But then they get in a fight because she accuses him of staring at her waist. Here we have another problematic plot element. I don't want to blame the victim, but if you wear midriff-baring clothing, whether a sari or some skanky western thing, you cannot be too outraged if people look at your midriff. Staring is bad, always, and the male gaze has latent issues of power differential, etc., but you're going to have to get off your righteous indignation horse and put on different clothes. Or stop studying in the wind. They argue, stop talking, go home for the summer, but at the new term put aside their differences to continue to help their friends' romance, and then, well, you know.
The third thing worth noting, I think, is a collection of some of the small details of set, plot, dialogue, etc., now presented in no particular order.
All in all, very enjoyable and no sillier than most others. Solid performances from the three stars, although I will forever argue with directors that they must do whatever it takes to keep Kareena under control, even if her character is supposed to be egotistical and wound-up. There's annoying, and then there's Kareena when she's going full force. Just rein it in a bit. Her considerable talent shines when she shows restraint.
Oh, and to close, an exceptionally good piece of dialogue: "If one knew what's on everyone's mind, there wouldn't be any problems at all. We have these problems because we don't know." My thoughts exactly.
More on this tomorrow, but for now, even though it is very late, I must tell the world: I am watching a Bollywood film (Khushi) that has actors in BLACKFACE. Unbelievable. And I thought No Entry's World Trade Center jokes were in bad taste. Did whoever made that decision have any idea what they were doing? Is this funny in India and other countries were Bollywood is big? Is using bad stage makeup and Halloween clown wigs to make actors look like another race ever funny? It's hard to imagine any circumstances under which this would be acceptable. Not to get all Debbie Downer, but my goodness.
The rest of Khushi is a hoot, though. I can't wait to tell you how it all turns out.
Friday, October 14, 2005
As we speak, Boardman's Art Theatre is showing Salaam Namaste. As we speak, I am far, far away from downtown Champaign - atypical behavior for a Friday night.
Think happy DCH thoughts, which can be viewed the very second I get home tomorrow.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 9:56 PM
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
In a remarkable display of the first sensible thing I've witnessed from this company in...oh, ten years or so, the local outlet of a big national movie rental chain actually had three Indian films. I snapped up Lagaan for my parents' introduction to Bollywood. They thoroughly enjoyed it, and let me tell you, they're a tough crowd for movies, particularly when it comes to period pieces. There ain't a lot of history they don't have at least a cursory knowledge of, but I think my warning of "this is fictional!" helped, and they had lots of questions about whether the instruments, buildings, etc. were realistic. Even in regular movies, they dismiss a lot of plots, characters, and settings as "silly" and seldom get into the spirit of whatever the story is. Except British mysteries on PBS, which they love. Hmmm.
I think Lagaan was a good introduction not just because it's such a good masala and has strong performances (except Captain Russel, who is way overdone), but becasue it's nearly impossible to resist the tide of hope in the movie. My mom in particular enjoys trouncing the English whenever possible, and my dad likes sports, so I figured that was a good bet. I was also pleased with how much they liked the music, which on my second viewing I would have to say is the strongest suit of this movie.
Followed very closely by that inexplicably wildly sexy dance move Aamir does, with his hands clasped behind his head, sort of skipping in a sideways line. I think it's in "Mitwa," which even withouth its picturization is one of my top favorite Bollywood songs.
Did everyone else already know that Amitabh Bachchan does the voiceover in this movie? As soon as we put in the DVD, I thought, hang on, I know that voice! I was even more surprised that, after confirming it was indeed him, that I hadn't read about it somewhere.
Aside to big national movie rental chain: Australian movies are interfiled with American ones under "drama," "comedy," etc., but French, Indian, and Mexican are "international"? I didn't notice where you had put British movies. You prove your irksomeness once more. Long live That's Rentertainment and all its kind.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 11:01 PM
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Can't stop thinking about this movie. Not sure what that implies about me - probably that am more of a sap than would like to admit (or than find useful acknowledging/acting on in the non-movie-watching parts of life). Have found it wildly unhelpful in life to walk around with romantic-comedy-like concepts of love, sex, relationships, the male part of the species, etc. Most of the time have little use for such devices, as have found them painful and self-doubt-inducing, so genearlly pay little attention to them.
So then why is it that this charming little movie has swooped out of nowhere and knocked me off of my position? Am I in the mood for this mood? Is there a reason I'm finding it so heartwarming, so well phrased, so delightful - and the most realistic, in terms of how people interact and treat one another, of the Bollywood I've seen so far?
I don't need this.
But it's so charming I can't help but love it.
See, and now I'm giving myself the eye-roll and dismissive, scoffing-type noise. Hopeless.
Aside to self: Sid is fictional. (See also entry of May 9.)
I've always hoped my intials could stnad for something interesting - you know, like when you're in some meeting and they insist upon doing an icebreaker, and you have to introduce yourself by saying "I'm Karen and I like karate" or "I'm Jim and I just when to Japan." I've never had anything interesting to say for "B" and "W." But aha! Now I do!
Have just bought Behind the Scenes of Hindi Cinema: A Visual Journey through the Heart of Bollywood and Indian Cinema: The Bollywood Saga. Undoubtedly they will arrive while I am out of town next week - when I will also be missing Salaam Namaste in the theater as well, but in manner of good daughter, the trip to visit my wonderful parents must go as scheduled.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 10:54 AM
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Under the pressures of a cold. Will just say this for now: has catapulted its way over all the SRK have seen into my top three favorites (others being, in no particular order, Dil Chahta Hai and Kandoukondain Kandoukondain [just because cannot spell it does not mean do not love it]). Is the most delightful movie have seen, in any language, in looooooooong time. Has captured the very essence of what is good about When Harry Met Sally, added some (but not enough) dancing and tunes, just the right amount of steaminess, a completely compelling and believeable pairing of Rani and Saif - et voilà! Magic.
Is v g partly because personally support and try to adhere to most of its philosophies, such as
Hug every moment. Get life's feel.and
Many relationships fall apart because people can't express themselves...they can't talk their hearts out. If you've got something to tell someone...just go ahead and say it. Don't wait...it might be too late.Have carried out several relationships with this theory and, while not, it turns out, a g operating principle for most of the relationships in question, is how I really feel and what I really think is the right thing to do and way to be, so doing it felt true even if it didn't have the effect hoped for. And if he couldn't handle it, well, that just means he wasn't right for me, doesn't it? Love double sense of "talk their hearts out" - talking long and meaningfully, but also showing the other person what's inside. Really do love that and think is, at least for me, the right way to go about life.
Also found (cartoon) Hum's line "You girls are all so confused. Silly girls" quite evocative of how I feel most of the time, especially about Hums in real life.
This movie made me love love again. Most inconvenient, as Bollywood love - song-teleporting-to-Switzerland love - is so hard to come by and so hard to predict. And after Bollywood, cannot fathom settling for anything less.
Trivia fact: Hum Tum was released on my 30th birthday. Quelle coincidence merveilleuse, n'est-ce pas?
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
While searching the web for something like this
to remind me of the sheer shirt, Google's first return was a series of photos of what appears to be a family in an apartment doing the Hrithik Wiggle*! The adorable wee tots were the highlight. One of the reaons my heart melted when I saw this was that the author of Bollywood Boy describes a few instances of everyday people trying the HW, and when I read that book I hadn't seen the movie yet, so I didn't truly understand how fantastic it is that people at home try this. To me it looks really hard, like you could seriously hurt yourself.
Even though the clothes may be awful, the moves are undeniably hypnotizing - so everyone should go read Bollywood 501's profile of Farah Khan, the woman behind the moves. This is really interesting and the stills are great. Clearly I must get my hands on a copy of Dil Se.
* I suppose, properly, it should be called the Hrithik Frantic Thrusting, but I just can't quite bring myself to call it that. A bit too much of an air of skank. "Wiggle" is funnier.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 9:25 PM
Monday, October 03, 2005
Everybody in the cafeteria, listen up. Thanks to a recent round of emails, my curiosity in the following question has been piqued:
Which do you find more mystefyingly loud/bizarre/heinous/just plain ugly in Bollywood men's costumes, as a general rule?
a) shirts - shiny, tight, or sheer, there is a plethora of so-bad-it's-good choices
b) pants - pleather, sailor-flared, or freakishly bleached, there's no end of ways to make your bottom half go south
c) hats and other headwear - random (think stetson), emblazoned with words, or feather-bedecked, it's a strange world when the wedding turban seems normal by comparison
Note: an item of apparel can be included for consideration whether Salman has it on or off - it's the appearance of it that counts, not its actual function in the film.
Pretty please post your thoughts. And visual evidence, if so inspired.
And, like, how superwow would a Bollywood version of Heathers be? I think I've just found my true calling. Dibs! Think about it: they're at a school, so there can be a college-wide musical event with signs and banners. They can play cricket instead of croquet (hey, that's weird, do you think those two words are related?). There could even be a song and dance every time someone dies! "I love my dead, too-worthless-to-be-employed-in-an-office-where-people-sit-around-but-don't-really-do-anything son!" Surely all the young stars worth their dramatic chops will be excited to play such tongue-in-cheeck parts! Suneil Shetty as J. D. Sushmita Sen as the ringleader Heather. Aishwarya Rai as Veronica. Anupam Kher as Veronica's dad and Reema Lagoo as her mom. Rani Mukherjee as the Shannen Doherty Heather. I can see it now....
This movie seems to get lukewarm reviews, especially in comparison to its director's prior hit Hungama. I don't know why. I thought this was really funny. Less manic - which given the number of people in this is saying quite a lot - but better. Whatever the director did to get Kareena to calm down was miraculous -I thought she was quite successful in depicting someone trying to sort herself through a confusing, emotional situation without reverting to screeching, hissy-fits, drama queening, etc. Akshaye seemed more unhinged, which worked for his character. It's not like his family had provided him with a good model of anger management. Two people responding to a strange situation in their own ways but still coming together. The slapstick worked for me too, even the cow disguise and flinging the groom across the house on a garland of marigolds. And "Rafta Rafta" was delightful, if wildly un-subtle - I'm sure "eeeeyoo, this boy has cooties! oh wait, he's looking at me, so I best quickly switch to demure and flirty!" is hard to pull off delicately.
And Jackie Shroff produces what is surely the finest "No you didn't!/never again" finger-waggling in cinema history. You could feel the weight of that "NO" through the screen.
Best throwaway moment: Jai imitating Anjali's gaggle of giggling friends.
Apart from the violence, which I never like, the only downside of this was how long it took them to explain the conflict that was the root of all the tension in the movie. At first I thought maybe I had missed something due to subtitling - why didn't I understand why these families were so mad at each other? But then Suneil explained it all - apparently Anjali was as in the dark as I was - and everything gelled. Or at least it did relatively, using the logic of movie plots. And since Anjali didn't know, I'm wondering if Jai didn't know either. Knowledge is half the battle, kids.
"A for effot" award: Arshad Warsi as Jai's sidekick/instigator Lucky. Sometimes he seemed to be trying, rather than succeeding, but other times he really nailed it. Poor guy - I'm sure he didn't choose to fall out of trees. His arguments to get Jai riled up into whatever course of action were great.
If you needed it, this movie provides excellent support to my theory about the symbolism of basketball/basketballs in Bollywood, first posed here. There are basketballs and people playing basketball all over this movie. I especially like those that are lying about randomly when Kareena is prancing around in Akshaye's shirt and tie. Basketball as fake-pretend sexual tension. Note: after re-watching a bit of KKHH while having my morning coffee today (a v bad behavior to indulge in on a work day, by the way), I'm noticing how many basketballs are in that too. Even Rahul gazing at a basketball as though it were Anjali. Interesting.
Aside to sound designer: in the restaurant scene when Jai shows up to give Anjali a flower, truly excellent use of Celine Dion and that pseudo-"Bolero" cell phone ring as background irritants adding to the general feeling of awkwardness and tension. The person in the office next to mine has that cell phone ring, leaves her phone on a lot, and is rarely in her office when it goes off for four or five rounds, driving me completely pagali. Ellen DeGeneres even makes fun of it in one of her stand-up shows. That's how annoying it is.
Aside to costume designer: boxer briefs?!? What is wrong with you? Boxers. Please.
Aside to Akshaye: I miss you already. Please make more movies! I'm not asking for six a year, but if you start adopting Aamir's pace, I'll cry.
Second aside to Akshaye: as you continue in filmmaking, I hope you don't stick to this "I'm really mad, so I'm going to yell" style of emoting. That was just for this character, right? (Although wait, you did it in Taal sometimes too. Hmmm.) The world does not need another actor from the Al Pacino School of Talking Normally Then Suddenly Yelling to Emphasize the Dramatic, Frightening End of the Sentence.
Posted by Beth Watkins at 12:52 PM