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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.