Monday, July 11, 2011

a maxi-collection of mini-reviews

Everything I've seen since April that didn't inspire full individual posts! [Note from Editor Self: way to sell it.]

Dum Maro Dum
This might be a perfectly fine film but the circumstances in which I saw it conspired against my full appreciation of it. Fairy Filmi Ending and I saw this in the cinema; however, due to a miscommunication between the theater and the newspaper, the showtime was listed incorrectly and we arrived 25 minutes in. "Oh what the heck," we shrugged, going in anyway. We had the theater to ourselves, which led to what could politely be called "talking" and more evocatively described as "full-on conversation, mostly about the film, punctuated by dramatic reenactments and at least one near accident." What I actually remember:
  • Abhishek's rap is ill-conceived and foolishly placed in the film (it should run under the end credits, no?),
  • police violence in the name of intimidation of suspects is wrong and just as gross as some of the perpetrators' misdeeds,
  • I felt a little bad for Bipasha's character that she was willing to sell her safety and soul for a job as a flight attendant but was impressed that at least she didn't delude herself that her bad situation wasn't a result of her own choices, and
  • Deepika as an item girl? OMFG NO.
Pokiri
Indie Quill has put me on a strict Mahesh Babu indoctrination program—MAHESHMATIZATION 2011!—that she supervises through international watchalongs. Athadu did not make much of an impression except for the cognitive dissonance of the baby-faced Shirtful Wonder being so violent and that allllllll-grown-up Sonu Sood was not in it enough. I enjoyed Pokiri as much as I am constitutionally likely to enjoy so much violence.
  • I'm the kind of viewer who doesn't always realize the obvious, so its twist was very pleasing and effective to me,
  • love that "Deva Devuda,"
  • the film makes me even more curious about Wanted than I already was after my surprising fondness for Dabangg, as well as able to watch it a bit more intelligently, and
  • I have an increased appreciation for the adorably deranged fangirl heroine of Ashta Chamma.
We watched Takiri Donga as well, joined by Temple (whose love of Chiranjeevi you should enjoy on a recent episode of Masala Zindabad), and, while I fear for my life for saying so out loud, it's one of the most inexplicably awful movies I have seen in quite some time. The dubbing for Bipasha Basu and Lisa Ray didn't help, nor did the unexplained locations in the southwestern US (at which point we decided the movie was set in Cowboystan), nor did Mahesh's unimpressive backup dancers transported via time machine from the country line dancing phase that swept America in 1993, complete with what they were wearing.
Ken Burns is right: Amercia's national parks are our greatest national treasure!

Our discussion of the film included the following remarks:

  • "Is that Rahul Dev's REAL NOSE or a comedy nose?"
  • "What I want to know is why all the women in this movie are missing half their clothes." "There is a complex formula for fabric tonnage, and since the men have most of it, the women have to balance it out?" "It's like Dharam Veer where Jeetendra got all the fabric."
  • "Are we about to see poison sucking?"
  • "I can't believe they're having her do that 'keep on rolling' move. That should not be in the vocabulary of a professional choreographer." "It is when dealing with a resolute non-dancer and you need to get her boobs into shot." (See if you agree here.)
  • "That's why he's called Maxi Layer Mahesh." "Is he bringing the sexy elbow back? It's like The Age of Innocence when a character sees someone's wrist."
  • "That sheriff's star says 'TEXAS,' I swear!"
  • "The only man to run away from Bipasha Basu in strapless black pleather."
  • "FARK! That's HUGE and it GLOWS!"
Maybe I couldn't appreciate this because I was still under the sway of the more visually pleasing and romp-tastic Mosagallaku Mosagaadu? I've got nothing against Mahesh Babu, but I've also got nothing in particular for any of his movies I've seen so far.
Arya 2
While on the topic of post-2000 Telugu films: I barely made it through this one, excellent songs notwithstanding. I hated every character in it, even at the end, as well as the repeated treatment of the heroine as property to be handed from one violent and/or immoral man to another. And I had to scoop my brain off the floor somewhere around the hour mark after it became clear that the heroine's complaints of the hero's sexual harassment were going to be dismissed by all the other characters as her hallucinations. Yes, let's tell women that "eve teasing" is all in their heads and pat the perpetrators on the back for being Mr. Perfects—heck, even if we'd bother to notice what he's doing, we'd still all be okay with it because everyone knows that stalking=love. NO. (At least he eventually apologizes, though no one else in the film hears it so there's no redress of the accusations that she's making things up.) The second half was better, but by that point I didn't really care.

However, there were a few things I liked. Despite her lousy treatment, the heroine was not nearly as teenager-y as I have found some of her peers. She even seemed to be dressed appropriately for her age and her job (no pigtails or and cropped t-shirts at the office) and had a professional life of her own until the men around her (boss, several love interests, and father) acted up. In fact, most of the actors were a bit calmer and less cartoon-y than I was expecting, and Allu Arjun in particular was pretty entertaining.

Best part? The goldfish! What a noble fishy, communicating with its person the only way it could! Behold the tiny, shiny new contender for Die Danger Die Die Kill's next Animalympics!

Band Baaja Baaraat
While it was not, as I had been led to believe, the Messiah of the New Romantic Comedy and was therefore more familiar and predictable than I was expecting, it was certainly charming and fresh in ways that counted while still providing the fuzzy lurve of what most of us like about romcoms. And with a patron saint watching over proceedings, you knew everything would turn out okay.

In addition to the colors and busy-ness of the world these characters live in, perfectly mirroring their exuberant lives, and being very well acted and written, and, oh, having great songs, the film's greatest strength was how it nailed the emotional reality of not knowing how to navigate the landscape you find yourself in. These characters are young, but they're not juvenile—they're just human. I mean, ooooof, we all know this feeling, right? That horrible, horrible distance when you expected something so much cozier?

Look how he protects himself while she is still open and vulnerable

even though she's going to need something to save her from being flattened by his inability to relate to her.

And this!

And this!

Poor guy. No wonder he doesn't understand what love feels like. Also, as Shabana Azmi pointed out in a panel discussion during the IIFAs last month, it is fantastic that this young woman has not only a job but a plan.

Mohabbat Isko Kahete Hain
A dreary and ridiculous Nanda/Shashi Kapoor film that kills the cute concept of childhood sweethearts by backing over it repeatedly with a semi of unnecessary and tragic misunderstandings. Shashi's character's name is Vijay, and I don't know what clearer indication there could be of things being topsy-turvey and otherwise NOT RIGHT. ***spoiler alert, but you shouldn't see this movie anyway so don't worry about it*** In fact, things are so not right in this film that Shashi dies. The only films I can think of in which Shashi dies are by Shyam Benegal and Merchant/Ivory, so it's not an element I expect in his mainstream catalog.

***end spoiler alert***
There's some enjoyable-ish Kapoor drunking,

Shashi looks really handsome most of the time,

and Helen tries to cheer Shashi up by singing an entire song in praise of him.

But really, don't bother.

Ashanti
You may have heard the NAHIIIIIIIN that rattled across North America in June as it became painfully evident that my Shemaroo DVD of this fun triple-heroine adventure started lurching and freezing and skipping. Ashanti suffers from a curious inversion of the typical Curse of the Second Half: it actually improves immensely as it continues past the set-up of Rajesh Khanna's tragi-angry middle-aged man to the addition of Shabana Azmi, Parveen Babi, and Zeenat Aman to his vengeance team. While the film does not deliver as much as I would like on its hint of Charlie's Angels, it has some wonderful silly and ass-kicking moments by the women, nicely accessorized by Mithun's hilarious drunk tapoori shtick and even some spirited one-legged fighting by Rajesh. This movie also settles, at least until the next film I watch, the ongoing debate I have in my head about whether Parveen Babi or Zeenat Aman is more awesome (Parveen!).

7 Khoon Maaf
This one shot up from the bottom of my netflix queue, where it had been languishing in my wariness of Priyanka Chopra, after I was reminded at the IIFAs how impressive Vishal Bharadwaj is overall. And you know what? I was so grateful I watched it. I haven't read the Ruskin Bond story on which this movie is based, and my only issues with 7 Khoon Maaf are story-related, so I'll have to settle for just wondering whether there's a reasonable explanation out there for why Susanna and her protectors make the decisions they do. I would also have liked some discussion, or at least question-raising, about how such a devout Catholic seems to grapple with very little spiritual turmoil over multiple murders but never considers solutions like divorce or annulment. Perhaps it's a fable and we're supposed to revel in the rub between professed values and actual actions...or an allegory about the leaden futility of earthly pleasures and conveniences?

Even with that rather glaring omission, as usual I loved seeing a story that focuses on a woman making her own decisions, even terrible ones. I felt sorry for Susanna—all she wanted was love from a man who would treat her (and the people in her life) nicely, which, honestly, is not that much to ask—and I almost admired her determination to get what she wanted. Priyanka was shockingly good,

"You have got to be kidding."
giving Susanna resilience, optimism in the face of some horrible life experiences, and a strange kind of wisdom. She learned when to cut her losses and was increasingly savvy about what was coming with each successive relationship. It's a weird, dark, droll film, and its stark contrast in tone with the murky ethical realities of its plot totally worked for me.

Plus now we've all learned the valuable lesson that anyone who credits "Mera paas maa hai" to Amitabh Bachchan, as the Russian spy does, is not to be trusted.

17 comments:

ErinGee said...

The "near accident" that involved me ripping my arm of while filmi-jump-dancing?
Yes. That was awesome. All of it.
You. Me. Rapping Baby B.
Goa.

Jess said...

I agree about 7 Khoon Maaf. There were problems with the story, but the characters, the performances, and the look of the film were wonderful. And I think the film would have been 10x better if not told from the boy's perspective, it made the ending kind of weird.

Everything in BBB from the characters to the story to the costumes etc were very well thought out. It maybe wasn't groundbreaking but it was really fresh and fun. Everything clicked.

I enjoyed seeing self-empowered female characters in both movies. The more of those the better :)

maxqnz said...

Nice summary of BBB, for a change. I like that fun, sweet film a lot, but it seems that because it's not another JWM-quality film, it gets trashed widely. Thanks!

Mansi said...

Dum Maro Dum makes for a fairly decent watch... I actually saw this one on my honeyyymoon (not a great choice, i know ;) in Mauritius.
The theatre owner was an Indian... the hall unbelievably ran full...

BBB is one of my favorites.... Certainly not another JWM as maxqnz said, but better than any other film in 2010...
http://eatpraylovemovies.blogspot.com/2010/12/one-up-for-band-baaja-baraat-2010.html

yet to see the other films you mentioned in your post...

Cheers!
www.eatpraylovemovies.blogspot.com

Temple said...

I take Arya 2 as a massive pisstake of the filmi hero, and a parody of lots of heroic behaviours. Dark comedy, but to me, hilarious! And - The ambulances chasing the bus? GOLD! I am shocked and disappointed that while you gave due credit to the fish, you neglected the fluffy white dog that almost started a faction war.
Hmmm my verification word is dridevi...

Pessimisissimo said...

Beth, highly entertaining reviews, as always.

I too liked BBB, but I thought the final reconciliation scene was really disappointing. Of course we know it's inevitable, but Bittoo/Ranvir's speech was all about why he wanted to get back together with Shruti, not why she should get back together with him. I would hope a woman who had such ample evidence of how clueless and out of touch with his own emotions Bittoo is would want to hear something about how he's changed and grown, not just about how much fun he has when he's around her. Still, the appealing stars, catchy tunes, and reality-based emotional dilemmas made BBB pretty enjoyable up until that misstep.

And speaking of missteps, maybe it's just me, but I thought that most of the moves in the clips from Takiri Donga didn't belong in the vocabulary of a professional choreographer...

shrooty said...

I agree about the recent Mahesh babu movies. I think all of his "mass" movies have been flops recently after Pokiri. I enjoy his older family movie "Murari" and haven't really liked anything after that haha.

And Aarya 2 was just wierd. It has absolutely no connection (who knows what the point of the name was) to the first film which was actually pretty good.

Aparna said...

Pessimisimissimo:
What sets BBB apart and makes it refreshing is that last speech by Bittu: His way of realizing that he wants her forever in his life because nothing without her makes it worthwhile any more, or 'mauj' any more. Which is, life is good only when spent with Shruti.
I guess we all understand love in our own way, and a lot of times things fall apart because we expect the other person to behave in a way we want them, and do not understand their reactions. However, in this case Shruti accepts Bittu's reaction because she understands him and his expressions and his emotions. "How he has grown" is evident in the way he comes out and says it all...from being someone who just joined the 'binness' to escape his father, to someone who is now ambitious about expanding the business and also, now wants his partner to be with him forever, he has come a long way.
Why I loved BBB is because though it is a love story, there is not much 'love means this and that' strewn about in it.

Aparna said...

Beth, very entertaining posts with loads of questions and scope for analysis. Keep 'em coming!

Ria said...

About 7 khoon maaf:
The story was written originally from the little boy's perspective, hence the weirdness of being seen from an adult's view point. Ruskin Bond wrote many stories where he centered the narrative around how a very adult situation is perceived by children. I too found the story lacked some background narrative to justify the decisions they made, but to me that's kind of how real life goes. Anyway, that was the only movie I have seen out of the bunch you reviewed here.

Pessimisissimo said...

Aparna, your perspective on Bittoo's final speech is fascinating, and forces me to reconsider my disappointment. I think I still feel that his approach to Shruti is too self-centered (which is a major part of what created their problems in the first place). But now I think I have to give BBB a rewatch. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

eliza bennet said...

While not as good as JWM, BBB is certainly entertaining. I just wish they wouldn't blatantly rip off one of the best known scenes in When Harry Met Sally. I should have gotten used to that by now but BBB didn't need that sort of boost.



7 Khoon Maaf to me is such a waste of a film. Vishal Bhardwaj is my current fave Indian director and it made me feel bad that he made such a dud of a film (the unexpected sparks of goodness in it were additions to my sorrow). I couldn't finish it.

The main problem for me in it is Priyanka Chopra. I admire the woman's hardwork and especially respect how she takes what she does seriously. Obviously it is not enough for her to sail by her good looks, she wants to honestly perform (and while on the subject of good looks, I loved the way Mr.Bhardwaj showed her natural skin colour). Alas the acting talent is not something one achieves by hard work. She doesn't have it and it is painful to watch her. Now this film would not be any better with another lead actor but she definitely couldn't handle the role.

Aparna said...

Pessimisissimo: Thanks. It was early morning when I read the comment, and was preparing for a meeting, so I might have come out a little more passionately for BBB than I normally would!
From your blog (which I loved, and I am glad that I discovered it), I feel that you might have watched BBB based on subtitles, and if so, Bittu's ending speech might have lost a bit in translation.

Pessimisissimo said...

Aparna, many thanks for your kind words. You're absolutely right. I am reliant on subtitles, and I know that they often abbreviate or misrepresent the original dialogue. That's something I definitely need to take into account, especially if I'm making judgments about the script.

And I second your appreciation of Beth's writing about films. Thanks again, Beth!

maxqnz said...

" I feel that you might have watched BBB based on subtitles, and if so, Bittu's ending speech might have lost a bit in translation."

I strongly second this. My Hindi is not good enough to watch a movie first time through without subs. That is I can keep up without them, if I have to, but it's tiring and I prefer not to. But with movies I like, I enjoy rewatching them without subs to focus more on the dialogue, and see how my appreciation for the film gets enhances. BBB has been one of those films for me. Each time I rewatch it without subs I get a little more from the dialogue, and Bittoo's final 'confession' is a scene I watch over and over again.

Suresh S said...

Zeenat! Parveen creeped me out as a kid, I swear she seemed to me even then always on the edge of a breakdown. When it happened I couldn't have been less surprised.

Lime(tte) said...

Ah... a lot of words about movies... so glad to be back.
The only film I've seen here is "7 Khoon Maaf", and I think we can agree about it. Priyanka finally shows her hidden talent.
And I'm still DYING to watch BBB...