Friday, November 23, 2007

the flavor is all in the small details: Jhoom Barabar Jhoom

So says Alvira to Rikki, in response to his complaint that she "get[s] stuck in these small details" when telling her story, and as soon as it was out of Preity's mouth I realized how true that was of significant portions this movie. Without the little things, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom would have been a sweet story about risking safety for love. The movie developed slowly, and by the time we got midway through Alvira's story, I caught myself trying to decide whether either lead was likable - one a shiftless liar, one a shrewish snot - and thinking that if it weren't for the funny or interesting asides and small touches, I might have to start fast-forwarding.

Apart from the songs, of course, all of which are fantastic to watch (even when they're a little bit dumb, like "Ticket to Hollywood"). I got a little tired of the repeats of the title theme with Amitabh (Bulla Man, is that what Rikki calls him?) in the train station, but during the end credits, when the whole soundtrack was woven together, all repetition was forgiven.

Anyway. The little things. Things like watching all the interestingly-dressed backup dancers in the streets of Paris, Rikki teaching his French chef chum to swear in Hindi, Alvira pausing her narrative as she walks through Steve's office to turn to us and tell us her worries directly. Oh, and my favorite: Alvira jumping around with delight when Steve first calls her, then falling over, hitting her head on some of his flowers, and actually huritng her foot - and then we cut to Rikki laughing and laughing, pointing at her saying "You lied!" and her admitting it, grinning.


But when they got up from the café table - leaving the setting that made their lies seem necessary, abandoning their stories and opening themselves up - ah, how cute they and the movie became. I didn't mind their scheming after that because they were so adorable and they finished their charades pretty quickly.

The other thing I really liked about this movie is how, at least according to the subtitles, there was acknowledgment that young adults can have relationships, kiss, and have sex - and they can even have fun talking about those things! - and not be bad, tacky, or immoral people. Everything sounded fresh to me - but I'm getting that from the subtitles, and I'd be interested to know if that flavor in the Hindi. And how much does that relate to them living in London, I wonder? It was almost as though some classy high school students wrote it - most of the time they handled sex with a "let's not make a big deal of this" touch (did you notice how all four leads get to kiss not only their real-life love but their fake-pretend partners too?), they also couldn't resist having a tacky-looking prostitute who swears or having a girl dream up her Prince Charming and then melt into his arms when she finds herself in a filmi savior scenario. And think about the older generation of relatives: they basically weren't there. No overbearing fathers or weeping mothers. There's hardly a mention of family, except for mama's-boy Satvinder, and then it's a joke. The plot may be standardly filmi, but it felt both light and relatively relatable in some of its outward features. Obviously I don't have many problems with filminess, and I don't think realism (what's the right word here...relatability? "Closer to my world than Hindi films tend to be"? You know what I mean) is something every movie needs to have or that its presence is automatically a virtue. But whatever you call the tone of this movie, it worked for me. We got imaginary sequences, great songs, fun costumes and sets, and a sweet romance, but with no tiresome bits like contortions to set up obstacles just to overcome them a few scenes later. It's not the best thing I've ever seen Abhishek or Preity do, but to me it felt like a successful experiment at a spin on the typical style: a lean, mean Bolly machine. (Okay, it's not mean. It's cute and affectionate. But those don't rhyme.)

I should also add that had I known when I watched that this was by the director of Bunty aur Babli, another of my very most favorites, I would have been seriously disappointed. First of all, Preity is no Rani, and neither Alvira nor Rikki is anywhere near as interesting, compelling, or lovable as Vimmi or Rakesh. As with Om Shanti Om, it's not that the subsequent effort was so bad but that the earlier one were so good. Oh goody, now I'm even less excited about Jodhaa Akbar.

As usual, I saw some other things I want to share but can't work into the flow of the rest of what I wanted to say, so here's the house special: a Beth Loves Bollywood List of Stuff Beth Noticed - now with commentary!

  • "Late but still too soon, isn't it?" This wonderful line - as the Birmingham train arrives, drawing Alvira and Rikki out of their magical first meeting into the real world - so captured for me the feeling of not wanting time with someone to end. It can be so hard to say "I am not ready to leave," but we can feel it so strongly. Sigh.
  • I adored how the passers by at Waterloo Station danced with Amitabh. They looked like they were having such fun. There's a great little moment when, in one of his "Oh Rabba!" lines, a guy in a suit joins in the hand gestures (you see him here on the right in the periwinkle tie)

    and then Amitabh notices and looks surprised and annoyed that someone is stealing his dramatic thunder.
  • There are nods to and awareness of movies throughout, I'm sure I didn't catch them all (particularly the music that plays in the background in Southall whenever Rikki and Huffy are plotting): the across-the-street neighbor looking at Preity through a telescope
    echoes Jaan-e-Mann, Rikki does a "Kajra Re" dance move
    while mugging for the camera in "Ticket to Hollywood," and Huffy sits outside a theater playing Don (you can see its poster behind his head) and another Indian film in a language I can't recognize.
  • The heavy-handed Sholay reference is belabored. Why are they in a motorcycle with a sidecar? Why are they wearing bobby (not the Deol kind) helmets? Ditto Rikki saying "Our Bachchan" when listening off Indians in Madame Tussaud's. Har har. That would have worked better if our Bachchan hadn't been lumbering around in eyeliner with a two-necked guitar. But I digress.
  • Stop the presses. A gay man in a Hindi film who is not a ridiculous flaming stereotype.
    He's just a person! He happens to like men, but that's all there is to it. Finally. To be honest, I think this is one of the facets that really made the movie feel different from other meet cute/wacky scheme romances.
  • And speaking of gay best friends, here's Ameet Chana from Bend It Like Beckham. Yay!
  • "Bol Na Halke Halke"'s imagined sequence of Alvira and Rikki meeting and falling in love in India was adorable and beautiful and made me squeak "Cute! Cuuuuute!"
  • A real museum!

    Yeah yeah, they don't go in or anything, but still. And check out the backup dancers: I see a butcher in an apron (somewhere else in the song there's a guy with a cleaver) and a guy wearing a pink beret and scarf. Okay, what we avoid in gay stereotyping we make up for in French....
  • Haters may disagree, but I lurve Abhishek's hair like this.
    It's kinda stupid, but he rocks it.

16 comments:

a ppcc representative said...

Gasp! That's not just any theatre, that's the Himalaya Palace in Southall. Oooh, God, how I love Southall. And it's only been in the last few days that I've realized it's pop cultural importance to the Desi world; see, for example, the upcoming movie, Goal.

Yeah Southall.

Beth said...

The second half of the movie takes place in Southall and appears to have lots of local landmarks (I'm an untrained eye, though). There's even a montage of building exteriors that seem to scream "This is a South Asian community, mostly Sikh, in London!"

Silent Melody said...

Hey Beth this is Melody from India and a BIG Bollywood fan. I discovered your site thru the Bollywood fugly site and I just loved your site. I am just amazed by the fact that there are non Indians out there who love Bollywood as much as I do. Love you guys!!

And I am very glad that you like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. I just loved this movie but most of the people did not and the movie was a big flop. I just loved the movie and have already watched it twice.

And about the Bike with the sidecar scene, I thot it was funny. They had the sidecar becoz their Dad's (Amitabh and Dharmendra) had a sidecar in the original song. I thot it was a good touch!!

FreXper said...

did this movie release recently? It came and disappeared within a week in India and Singapore. Such a big letdown for such star studded cast

KR

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Beth said...

Melody - thank you so much for your kind comments! Yeah, there are a ton of us out here - a bit scattered, but we're here. I liked JBJ more than I thought I would - as you say, I'd heard it had flopped, so my expectations weren't very high (except for the songs). I caught the Sholay reference, but to me it came out of nowhere. Still, I can understand how it would be impossible to resist the chance to do it :) But I thought it was funnier in Bunty aur Babli.

FreXper - you sound a bit like spam, but as for the movie coming out, I just rented it - it was out in the US when it was out in India, but I didn't get a chance to see it in the theater.

Si said...

At least one more movie reference--at the beginning of Bol na halke halke (the subtitles for which, btw, sucked), all those red shirts are referencing Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie.

JV said...

beth i agree a 100% with what you said. i believe its a trend towards more meticulous planning and "item-placement" in movies.

Beth P. said...

Hey Beth and friends! this is another Beth who also loves Bollywood! I'm going to India in December and have to do a report...haha it sounds like i'm back in elementry school...ANYWAYS i'm actually a sophomore in college.
Ok now my report is going to be on film and celebrities in India because frankly i love it, but if anyone would like to give me more information or input it would be greatly appreciated! :)

oh and Beth when I came upon this site through a google search all it said was Beth Loves Bollywood! and I just started laughing...i do! haha

Beth said...

Hi Beth P - "Beth P" was a nickname I got in high school from my favorite teacher - clearly we need to stick together. :) As for your research, I'm happy to try to help you out - but specific questions are best. There are a ton of very bad, very poorly written, and plagiarized websites about Bollywood, so be careful where you look. The forum at bollywhat.com should be pretty safe (but has its crackpots); indiafm and rediff should be helpful too. I like and trust all the sites I link to. Email me if you want some book titles.

Good luck, and have a great trip! I had a wonderful time in India (and got lots of good filmi pictures too).

div said...

the film poster in JBJ was tht of Stalin-of Telugu super...err...mega star Chiranjeevi- can never forget my first dose of telugu films n Chiru fanatics :) i think the film bombed badly at the BO...

memsaab said...

I liked Jhoom Barabar Jhoom too! Thought it was v.v. cute and entertaining. I don't need it to be deep or thoughtful :-) In fact sometimes, I need it to not be deep or thoughtful!

But I do hate Abhishek's hairband.

rhilex said...

Oh my lordy-- a gay guy without stereotypes in Hindi films?! Ajnabi recommended it for some Preity viewing (haven't seen much of her. Or Abhi, now that I think of it), and now I really have to see this! I'm fed up with gay stereotypes. Yes, some gay men I've met are the living, breathing, human stereotype. Others are different-- just like heterosexual people! Yeesh.

Beth said...

I'd agree that this is good Preity. For that, I also recommend Dil Se (probably my favorite of hers and one smash of a debut performance!), Dil Chahta Hai, Koi Mil Gaya, and Salaam Namaste. Actually, I always like her, though she's made some total dreck (Chori Chori Chupke Chupke).

rhilex said...

Correction-- I haven't seen much of Preity that I like. Onscreen, that is. Offscreen, she seems completely awesome!! Which is why I'm trying to connect with her in films.

I have actually seen all of those you recommended, and you can add Kal Ho Na Ho, Veer-Zaara, and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to the list. But I only liked her in Dil Chahta Hai and Koi Mil Gaya-- really disliked her in the others, but I think a large portion of that has to do with my dislike of the movies themselves, and her roles.

As for Dil Se, I can't remember much of Preity in it, but I didn't like the film at all-- it remains one of my least-favourites. And I am convinced I'm the only who on this planet who thinks so. :p

Beth said...

Interesting! It can be really hard to separate out performances from characters or the wider context of the movie. (Which makes me wonder where I could find good articles in cinema studies about how one does that, whether one should try, etc....)

I do like Dil Se a lot, but I've seen it a few times. Wonder if it pops up in the bollywhat thread about "films everyone likes but you"? :)

Ellie said...

This is one of the all-time favorites in my house. I think at present we are on our seventh, possibly eighth, watching of it-- we get gloomy, and one of us remembers: Oh hey, we own this! It is pure and total candy-floss, but that's OK. It turns out that's basically what we like-- Message Movies (rhilex: I didn't like Dil Se either, though I loved Preity in it) don't really do it for us. It helps that we watched this as an antidote to something really bad (I forget what) and the minute AB came on with his costume and his double-necked guitar we were so filled with joy and wonder that such bizarre things could BE, that we would have forgiven the movie pretty much anything.