Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

  • Sooooooo beautiful. This is the most visually gorgeous Bollywood film I've seen yet. The building, the landscapes, the clothing, the lit-up floor, the dancing, the flowers....
  • Which might be why the post-intermission seems so jarring and dull, when they go to "Italy" (really Hungary, I am pleased to learn, because that location certainly didn't look like any of the Italian cities I've visited). Is it supposed to seem like that? Maybe it's to enforce the contrast between the breezy, brilliant, swirling love we assume Nandini and Sameer have, and the more solid, stable, serving love that Nandini and Vanraj have.
  • I'm growing increasingly fond of the stock fesity female character. It appeals to the Jane Austen fan in me, I think.
  • The author of Bollywood Boy talks about how Salman Khan loves to show off his upper body. I counted at least four shirtless scenes in this movie, one of which being unbelievably superfluous: when the women of the house challenge the men to name one thing men can do that women can't, the men gather in a huddle then yell "This!" while ripping off their shirts. Whatever.
  • Shirtlessness aside, I still do not get what the big deal about Salman Khan is. Is it not possible to really understand an actor's skills if you don't understand what he's saying? Maybe that's it. (But I get why Aamir Khan is considered a substantial actor, and I get why Shah Rukh Khan is beloved, even if I fall to his charms only against my better judgement.)
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    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    "sometimes seems the offspring of John Stamos and Jerry Lewis"

    In the really interesting review of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, author Charles Taylor describes Shah Rukh Khan as above and I cannot resist passing along the idea becuase it's so, so accurate to me. I am watching the movie in bits and pieces but so far I haven't warmed entirely to it, I think because we haven't yet seen much of the non-manic, non-arrogant side of the hero.

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    my Hinglish ain't up to snuff: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, again, with subtitles

    Thanks to eBay I now own and am re-watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which I saw a few months ago on a tape without subtitles. It is so much better when you really know what's going on. I hadn't gotten before the whole conflict between the heroine and her fiancee whom she doesn't really love. Or that the hero early on expresses a theory of what love is that sets up the rest of the movie. It's also better now knowing more about these actors - and therefore why it's so funny that the unloved fiancee is played by a mega hunk, they kind of person whom the thought of not loving, not swooning over, is unheard of. It would be kind of like having Colin Farrel play someone that the woman doesn't really care for and having him express his insecurity because he senses this - especially when the the man she does love is not conventionally handsome, but has some kind of everyman goofiness crossed with a swagger that you respond to despite your better judgment - imagine Tom Hanks possessed by Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls.

    The whole thing is delightfully saccharin. There's even a Sound of Music-esque scene of romantic leads in a gazebo during the rain. It is utterly charming and absurd. The weird balance of no kissing with drenched clothes, perfectly suggestive dance moves, and multiple characters calling each other "sexy." There is sweeping music just when you want it, rain just when you want it, obstacles just when you want them, meaningful stares just when you want them - and of course a big shiny bow at the end.

    Saturday, May 21, 2005

    Chale chalo! Lagaan

    Finally got to watch Lagaan. Not quite as Oscar-worthy as I was expecting but still I liked it v much. A little bit of everything: romance and unrequited love, period piece, political and social commentary of both cultures, religion, underdog sports story, wacky villagers, etc. Who could ask for anything more? I think "Mitwa" is my favorite Bollywood song-and-dance combo yet. That thing Aamir Khan does with his hands behind his head is way sexier than the Hrithik move.

    One caveat and one complaint. First, if you don't understand cricket, which I don't, there will be a good chunk towards the end that you can just fast forward over. I felt a little guilty fast fowarding over something that was Oscar-nominated, but not enough not to do it. I stopped to watch whenever I noticed they had stopped playing. Second, that English bad guy was the most cartoonish person I have seen in a real actor in a long time. Nothing redeeming about him, nothing crafted about him, nothing interesting about him. No motivations other than being a horror. He wasn't out for world domination or to revenge a perceived injustice or anything - just a meanie. And as Dana would say, it's a wonder they had any sets left for filming since that guy chewed all the scenery in sight. Bad writing + bad acting = nightmare. All the other people and plots were perfectly entertaining and sometimes even inspiring in the sticking-it-to-the-man kind of way.

    Oh, and one more complaint: we knew the English girl wasn't gonna get the boy, but did she have to have such an awful love song? Yak. I read this was sung, quite nicely, I might add, despite being a bad song, by the woman who so very effectively played the bride in Monsoon Wedding. Double threat!

    Now "Thornbirds" is on and I am sucked in. It's near the beginning but during the bit I skipped over when I rented it once. There is nothing attractive about Luke O'Neill. He's ooky. Poor Meggie. She should've just thrown herself in front of a train or something. You gotta know when to fold 'em.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Does a clown car of actors have better luck in traffic?

    After just a few minutes into my ninth Indian movie, if you don't count Bend It Like Beckham, Monsoon Wedding, and Bride and Prejudice, once again I had to stop and go online to find out where I had seen every single one of those people before. (See previous post on this same topic.) The internet is "super wow," as I have heard in movies lately, for straightening out the plot too, since about fifteen people have come on screen in five minutes.

    Maybe this phenomenon is true of US or British films too and I just don't notice it because the actors are so much a part of the background to me, because I've known them for so long. After all, everything seems interesting and exciting and has a lot of impact to me as I feed this new addiction, so maybe I'm just hyper aware. On the other hand, some of these actors have been in literally hundreds of movies, not just as background folks but as main characters.

    Hum Saath-Saath Hain is okay. No biggie. Werid to see Salmaan Khan being moody and quiet.

    When I do the mynah bird dance move, I look like an idiot, but when Aish does it, everyone's all, "Wow, she's so intriguing and flirtatious."

    Kandukondain Kandukondain is a joyful, thoughtful, beautiful adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Whole-heartedly loved everything about it. I might have to get the CD - especially for "Song to the Mynah Bird" and "Hide and Seek." And the colors were thrilling! Crazy dancing in the countryside with a slew of peasants wearing outrageous face paint and hats! Aishwarya makes a great Marianne, so spunky and sassy and ready to love. Bollywood Boy includes several stills from this movie, but they were un-captioned, so I was surprised and delighted to see scenes that were familiar.

    Maybe I'm going crazy, but I think there was a dance sequence that contained a winking reference to the Hrithik wiggle, as well, I'm sure, as a slew of other cheesey standard moves.

    What does it say about me that I like an English story the most of any of the Bollywood I've watched? Lagaan is on for tonight, though, so that might change.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    What the...? Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!

    I am about 35 minutes into this movie and had to pause for a mo to write. This movie is simply absurd and, at this point, not in that gooofy, gaudy, gleeful way I have been craving. It's just weird. I am in such shock that I had to pause the movie and look it up. If I hadn't just beeen reading informed opinions and a list of facts about this movie, I would never have believed the following:
  • Salman Khan is a big-time hunka-hunka/bad boy - here he just bugs his eyes out and mugs ferociously, looking like my little seven-year-old friend when he's had too much ice cream. His outfit in the opening scene included a visor with the word "BOY" emblazoned across it. Enh?
  • the movie won best film, best director, and best screenplay at the 1994 Filmfare Awards.
  • that it is much praised for its depiction of traditional values, importance of family, etc. Although I have learned these things are important, I would not have figured they were excepetionally well-depicted here.
  • it was a "super-duper" hit and has influenced countless films that followed.
  • it was made in 1994, not 1964 or 1974 - the colors are off, there is that fuzzy, orange-tinted 70s glow in some parts, there are thin black lines running up and down the screen all the time, the sets look incredibly fake-o, and there are sound effects that sound like they belong with a disco or outer space plot - making it feel dated well beyond its actual age. (Much of this is probably the fault of whoever transferred it to DVD.) It looks like a really long Mentos ad.

    Additional strange thing: there is a credit line for "thrilling moments." Isn't that a lot to claim before a single scene has rolled across the screen?

    But the more I think about it, the more glad I am to be watching it, because it makes me realize how little I understand about Indian popular cinema, how I should always watch open-mindedly.

    I must also remember:
  • to give snaps to the industry's stars' lip-syncing ability. For the amount they do and for my own singing snottiness, I can't believe I haven't noticed any problems.
  • we all looked like idiots in 1994.
  • that I thought Salman Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was understandably swoon-able when compared to the other male lead (Shahrukh Khan, whom I did not duly appreciate at the time). He has definitely aged very well. And it seems to me he can dance, even in an era that did not have Hrithik's hips in its arsenal.
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    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Note to self: Sid is fictional. Dil Chahta Hai

    So good! But in a different way. I don't think I've ever seen a movie in which three men get to be friends, to be affectionate with each other, especially when they're in their early twenties. Very sweet. The song at the beginning about being young and free and the world being theirs, in which everybody jumps around and throws their hands in the air like they just don't care, genuinely made me happy.

    Also, I recognized a song playing in the background of a restaurant scene, "Eena Meena Dika," even though it was a different version than the one I have in my iTunes. Hurarh, knowledge!

    And, most importantly: move over Hrithik and Shah Rukh - Akshaye Khanna and Aamir Khan... numma. And they can act!

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Wiggle it just a little bit... oh, all right, a lot: Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai

    My Bollywood education continues. KNPH, Hrithik Roshan's debut, is discussed throughout Bollywood Boy, and now I feel up to speed. There is a major plot point that, perhas due to bad subtitling, was not clear and remains unanswered, but everything wrapped up happily enough that I don't mind too much. Overall v enjoyable and quite in keeping with the general Bollywood formula, although with some action thrown in. Best action sequence: in a warehouse where his beloved is being held captive by gunmen who want to kill him too, Hrithik leaps off a balcony, lunges for a chain dangling from the ceiling, and swings on it, Tarzaan-style, across the room, and kicks the captors in the head, knocking them down and scattering their guns on the floor - then on the return swing he swoops her up to safety.

    I also really liked the little exchange between the two leads when - wacky misunderstanding alert! - her father tells her that her birthday present is waiting for her outside, and she thinks that the present is Hrithik, when in fact it is the car he has delivered to her house (which she somehow doesn't notice, I guess because she is too dazzled by his beauty?), and she proceeds to answer her father's questions about how she likes the present, isn't it pretty, does she want to try it out, etc. Somehow the actors handled this subtly enough to be really funny. In particular, he managed to express in his face and gestures 1) slight deference to the woman who is clearly his social better, 2) happiness at seeing her again (they had a previous flirty encounter on the street, as he rode his bicycle to work and was smitten with her through her car window), 3) general flirtiness, 4) mock frustration at being mistaken for the present, and 5) the teensiest bit of arrogance, knowing that indeed he is quite handsome and that she should be interested in him, even though he is a car salesman and she is a Big Businessman's daughter, because, after all, he can dance like the dickens and love conquers all.

    Perhaps due to a childhood love of The Sound of Music, I love how these movies like to focus on people spinning around, arms outstretched, on some piece of beautiful scenery, be it a Himalayan hillside or ocean-going yacht or tropical shore, rejoicing and exalting love, fate, wet clothes, great choreography, whatever. We should all do that more often.

    The dance move was easy to identify based on the description in the book. It is indeed v sexy, if you go in for enormous-biscep-ed men wearing mesh tops and leather pants,
    Hrithik Roshan in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai
    which I definitely do not. He was much better looking in the chinos and button-down shirt. Preppy, please. has a really funny article about Hrithik in this movie and it comments specifically on the dancing.

    The more of these I watch, the more I realize that what I love most is their whole-heartedness and their willingness to be happy on a grand scale that encompasses everyone, not just the romantic pair but their families, the landscape, an entire town. The happiness may be driven by True Love That Conquers All, Even Class Difference and Death and Sappy Face-Making, but it radiates over everything in its path.

    Wednesday, May 04, 2005

    Bollywood Boy

    by Justine Hardy

    Lots of the reviews online are negative, saying the author is largely uninformed and wrongly imposes her values and whiteness on this chunk of Indian culture, but I'm loving the book anyway. It's really funny. The author, who is an English journalist who works in India, spends a year or so trying to track down a new golden boy in Indian film. Her quest is peppered with conversations with ordinary people about the film industry, stars, movie morals, etc. What I like about it is that these are the types of questions I would discuss with my friends and other random people - if only I could find someone as under the spell of Bollywood as I am. (Note: obviously there are people in my town who are really into Indian film. I just don't know them. Yet.)

    Also, I was tickled pink to discover that the "boy" in question is Hrithik Roshan, who was the male lead in the first Bollywood movie I watched. All I can say is, watching that movie with uninitiated eyes, I would never have guessed that this guy is the biggest thing since sliced bread. Apparently his acting and dancing are cosmically wonderful (he's the Indian Michael Jackson!) and he's really, really hot. Isn't it great that, even in an increasingly globalized culture, half a billion women swoon on one side of the planet, and on the other I merely shrug and giggle, dumbfounded but delighted? It makes me wonder how the Hugh Grant dancing scene in Love Actually went over in India? Totally sub-par, based on the filmi dance sequences I've seen. He didn't even have any backup dancers. I love that we are all different - and that a few of the differences are easy to discover with at quick trip to my local video store.

    According to Ms. Hardy he has a dance move that causes teenagers to collapse on the floor, overcome with excitement. Like Elvis? Now for a my own quest to find some film clips online....