Saturday, September 30, 2006

you oughta be on stage: Praan Jaye Paar Shaan Na Jaye

(Apologies if I spelled that wrong. I feel like every time I look at a website that mentions this movie, it's spelled differently. I know I said that the wily H would be my downfall in Hindi, but it might just be the "A" vs "AA" question. Another reason to just go ahead and learn Devanagari. Anyway.)

Oooh goody! It's time for "Bloggers Meet Director" on Bollywoodbloggers! Here is everyone else who is playing along:
Babasko
michael
Totally Basmatic
maria giovanna
mirie
oli
maria
kaddele

During almost every moment of this movie, I kept thinking "I feel like I'm watching a play." (Hey English or drama majors, is there a literary term for this phenomenon? I don't think "stagey" really captures what I mean.) I think this is the first time I've had this feeling while watching Hindi films, and PJPSNJ (can't decide between "A" and "AA"? Avoid yaar!) is unlike anything else I've watched. More on that in a sec. Some of the things that lead to this wait-am-I-suddenly-in-an-all-Indian-community-theater feeling are good or fun - for example, the narrator (I love Vijay Raaz and was so excited to see him here) speaking directly to the audience, or lots of coming-and-going in the central public space of the chawl. But some of them veer towards over-the-top - which I guess is why the term "stagey" came to mind a few sentences ago - and of course now that I'm writing this I can't remember any of those.

I really loved the setting of this movie because it let us get to know a community of people, and I'd have to say that for the average Hindi film, the characters were relatively nuanced and given some room to develop, which is sort of amazing, given how many there were. I found very few of them cartoonish, which is rare. And more importantly, I really cared for them. I really wanted them to save their home.

And of course I enjoyed all the filmy convention jokes and references to - like when the ticket scalper is raving about the big movie and he says something about it doing something to him, "kuch kuch hota hai," and a guy passes by singing KKHH's "Koi Mil Gaya." I have no idea if lots of movies do this, but they made me giggle the whole way through, even if the characters themselves drew attention to them. Genearlly I think that kind of in-joke is better done subtley, letting the viewer just catch it on their own, but I'll take what I can get.

Minor snark: it's so annoying to have us pretend we think Diya Mirza is unattractive just because she has glasses on. And only the outsider can see how pretty she really is, and all he does is make her wear revealing clothes and take off her glasses. Hollywood does this too, and it's stupid. It was stupid when Marcia Brady did it to her friend, and it's stupid now. And I was shocked that she ended up with the boy she had always loved who would never give her a second look when she was "ugly." What kind of message is that? Very disappointing - and not at all in keeping with other elements of the story that felt relatively pro-women-as-people-of-substance. (Favorite bits from this category include the father who throws out his daughter's ass of a husband and the women who stick up for the prostitute and point out to the hypocritical men whose fault prostitution really is.)

Aside to screenwriter(s): one of my Indian friends told me he thought this title is a play on a famous line from the Ramayana. If so, I'd love to know if there were allusions to the Ramayana other than the title (and I would have to say, based on my basic knowledge of the story, there's nothing particularly Sita-like about Laxmi's stunt.)

Aside to marketing people: please explain the picture on the cover of this movie.

(thanks nehaflix for the image - and for stocking the movie too of course)
I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but 1) we never see Raveena Tandon with short hair or a jean jacket, 2) the guy with the gun is not nearly as prominent in the movie as he is in the picture, and 3) Sushmita only has that razor for a teensy bit (and I know she's the winking reference to needing star power, but still - I would at least have used a more flattering picture, like maybe her dancing at the end). I feel misled and confused. Not that it really matters, I guess, but I just don't understand why this is the picture when there are so many other scenes that could have been used that are so much more evocative of the feel and story of the movie. Also, is anyone else reminded of the font of Rang De Basanti?

10 comments:

Sharon said...

I read somewhere that one of the original titles of this movie was "Praan Jaye Par Chawl Na Jaye" - which sounds funnier to me. Wonder why they changed it?

And yes, the whole, she-wears-glasses-so-she's-ugly shtick is SO old. That said, are you watching Ugly Betty? So soapy it's almost filmi. :D

michael said...

must beth send a watch next time to make her get the right moment :)

about that ramayana thing, sanjay will tell us about that, i suppose. its one thing about that movie: so many hints and quotes to discover. don't know how many i have not seen. if you make this things obvious to everybody, its to clear, to easy, to loud. do you make it in a silent way with small hints, none will find it. and in a movie industry i am not grown up with its much more difficult. but its also fun and a good idea for looking a movie a second time. how much quotes will be in the movie?

babasko said...

did´nt i tell you saturday? LOL. whatever. I totally am with you on the dvd cover..so wrong. I cant recall when, but I had that already on other hindi dvd´s too. :-)
what I dont see (and you´re not the only one who has the same feeling) is the stage part. even though there are some narrating techniques that come from theatre, I somehow did not get that feel. And I have no idea why, because there are other movie examples (like everybody says i´m fine) that do make me feel as if I´m watching a play. I think I dont have a problem with people talking directly into the camera, whereas the confined space in "EBSIF" was more of a stage for me...

whatever. very cool review :-)

Beth said...

Sharon - I haven't watched it yet - I think it's on opposite something I'm already taping (no tivo for me - I don't even have cable) because I'm out of the house at that time. But I want to watch it - looks funny. Did you know there has already been an Indian version of that? I've heard several stories of the show's origin, but one is that it's a Venezuelan original, then remade in India, then remade in Mexico, and now in the US (another version skips the Venezuela bit). Would love to see the Indian one.

Now I think I'm losing my mind and in fact you are who told me that.... Oh dear.

Michael - I know, I know, I'm very bad. But I have a friend from out of town visiting this weekend and I didn't know if I'd be able to get to post mine today! At least I futzed with the date stamp to look right! :)

Babasko - I love it when the narrator addresses the audience. That's so fun. Can't wait to read your review!
And shall we fly to India to stop this wedding or what?!? Or does both of you being married make the EMA part even more enticing?

Sharon said...

on ugly betty - the original is columbina (yo soy betty la fea) and the indian version (jassi jaisi koi nahin) was supposed to be quite good for a while. Dunno if it's out on dvd or whatever yet.

but still, go watch the new one. :D

babasko said...

on ugly betty - german tv had it too "Verliebt in Berlin" a huge hit

V N said...

I am the only one it seems who is yet to see jhaji's film!
:(

ads said...

I haven't watched Ugly Betty yet, but I think if you have a high speed internet connection, you can watch it for free at abc.com (or so my friend just told me today).

Also, I haven't had much time to comment lately, but as usual, your reviews are hilarious. (I especially liked your channeling of the Indian president.)

sanjay jha said...

nameste beth,
sorry for late reply due to the festive season here...
thank you for reviewing my film.
first thing first,'stagey'is a very innovative word,we can stick to this...lol.
may be my drama experience and theatre background casts a shadow on my work,and i agree as this experience was very handy in exploring a new form to narrate this story as a part of my creative decision.
yes its true the film when started was called 'praan jaye par chawl na jaye',-meaning we can stake our lives but not our homes- [tenement/chawl],
changed to the present title 'PJPSNJ'meaning we can stake our lives but not our dignity ['chawl' was changed to 'shaan'],
this change was meant in view to address the film to larger part as producers felt 'chawl'is very local bombay culture,personally i beleived that the title should be what the film is,but in bollywood such pressure comes from producers,and thankfully i had a smooth sail in shootings.changing the publicity design was producers another decision,and i stand by you in asking this question to the marketing team.special photo shoot was done for this surprising look of the film,may be it was for the distributors.
film has nothing to do with 'the ramayana',except the title of the film is based on a distantly similar popular phrase from 'the ramayana'.
and in the end i agree with you on 'rang de basanti',but they never acknowledged me...lol.
cheers,
jhaji.

PS-hope to get a link on your blog site.

melina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.