Saturday, December 31, 2005

a very Bolly new year to you and yours

Welcome, 2006: my first entire year as a Bollywood fan. Just think of the adventures - in addition to this, of course - it may hold - including two fairly realistic options for actually going to India!

I had meant spend tonight watching Andaz Apna Apna but more engaging things came up (I know, right?) - but it will be a very Bolly start to the year in the morning. Coffee. Sofa. Aamir Khan. What more could a girl want?

wacky misunderstandings + commentary on the illogical nature of English + Sharmila = goodness: Chupke Chupke

This movie is adorable. I want to shrink it down to pocket-size so I can keep it with me all the time to have it handy whenever I need a reminder that the world does have some levity and joy left in it. The last movie I felt like this about was Italian for Beginners. (Ah, Bollywood and Dogma 95 - who knew they had so much in common?)

Using an extended practical joke and identity mix-up as feature plot elements can be tricky. In my experience, most of these types of stories go one of two ways: either the viewer will think the whole thing is hilarious and go along for the ride, or the story will fall very, very flat, kerplunk, in exhaustion of trying to keep up with itself (yes, you, Hungama). Chupke Chupke did neither, I think because the wackiness was only part of the story, and it was paced so that by the point I was wondering if they could possibly do anything else with it, they ended it. I also liked that multiple people were in on it - it felt conspiratorial in an inclusive, giggling way.

The real point, to me, was watching a cute couple have fun together, and these were the best moments: Sharmila slipping Dharmendra her address, them holding hands through a curtain while she sings and he's not supposed to be either in the room or touching her, her pretending to be more excited by her husband in his pretend identity. Now that I write this out, I can see how this would sound silly, but trust me, it's endearing, owing entirely to the actors. This is my first and second viewing of Sharmila and Dharmendra, respectively, and I loved them both, especially her. I can see where Saif gets his ability to do earnest-yet-playful. It helped that not much depended on the outcome of their joke - while it was really satisfying to him to see her brother-in-law fooled, they key thing was that they were enjoying themselves.

The jokes about English were priceless - that's my kind of geeky - and now I know Hindi for "poo." I also really enjoyed seeing Amitabh be a different kind of character than I've seen before - light, silly, and not a serious thing about him - twinkly, even - and I got a sudden flash of "like father, like son" when he was bouncing around the garden pretending to be the botanist with Jaya.

The only downside of this whole thing for me was that there wasn't any dancing. The songs didn't strike me one way or the other, but I don't think anybody actually danced. It is very poor form indeed to set up a character so charming as a goofy English teacher and then not let him dance. Oh, and talk about teases - did you catch that Dharmendra and Amitabh mention their former musical glory in the college competition? I mean, we don't get a flashback or anything, but still! I'll have to add it, along with last week's Karisma-Abhishek-Akshay disaster, to my list of "almosts."

How odd that a movie from 1975 can claim the honor of "most sane outfits sported by a group of female students in a Hindi film." But it's true! Their bellbottoms and flared sleeves looked downright classy compared to the nightmares featured in more recent productions. All they needed were signs.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

ewwww, but enjoyable: Lucky: No Time for Love

40-year-old Salman Khan is paired with 18-year-old Sneha Ullal. Ew. Ew ew ew ew ew. Even if we ignore that and just address the characters, we still have a schoolgirl with a man who has to be at least 23. Not exactly ew, but not exactly in good taste.

Okay, that's out of my system. I have to admit I enjoyed Lucky - it reminded me of The Saint in a good, although extended, sort of way, and finding yourself suddenly in a baroque-y gilded room full of theatrical props, with working electricity when the rest of the city seems to be under siege by terrorists, is a delight not to be underestimated.

Can someone who did not use the FF as much as I did help me out with the following:
  • When Lucky hides out in Adi's car outside the church, they must be relatively close to her bike ride from home to school, becuase she has reached the church on foot. So if they were that close to where she lives, why is he still on his way to a checkpoint (even one that requires passports) into the area? And why, when they camp in the cemetery, are they too far from home just to walk there?
  • How does the detective find them in the aforementioned puppet room, since Adi had given up his cell phone?
  • How does the weather go from warm enough to have green fields and trees during Lucky's ill-fated bike ride to school, or warm enough weather for her and her friends to dance around the city in their little schoolgirl skirts, to being so wintry that there are drifts of snow, a huge lake is frozen solidly enough to walk on, and you can get hypothermia?
  • This was pretty clearly filmed in St. Petersburg (and imdb says so). This is not where the Indian embassy would be. Consulate, people. Con-su-late. Or do Lucky, her sister, and her mom live in St. Petersburg but everyone else is in Moscow? No, that can't be right either, becuase they're all in the basement of the "embassy" at the end.
  • The song that starts out with religious chant - that's Gregorian chant in Latin, right? And should not be used on top of footage of Eastern Orthodox religious activities, right? This will require some research, or some polling of my ethnomusicologist friend, but I don't think those would overlap.

Sneha Ullal looks eerily like Aishwarya, does she not? Woah. I kept thinking we would get a brief flash forward to her as an adult, who would be played by Aish in a cameo I hadn't read about, all settled in with Adi. But no.

And I loved the "Hey Rama Rama" song ("Lucky Lips," I guess it is actually called, which is too bad, because that's a stupid name) so much I watched it again after I finished the movie and danced along in my little plaid skirt and coordinated legwarmers.

Monday, December 26, 2005

surfer zombie spies invade the Princess Club: "Jaan Pehechaan Ho"

Much beloved for its role as "best clip of a movie watched by a character in another movie," I loved this song even more in its original full context, even though that context was pointless to the movie (Gumnaam). But whatever fancy roping it takes to set up a scene like this is all worth it. I played it twice and danced along both times. And then I settled in to watch the rest of the movie. It was enh. It wasn't really my kind of story, no matter the language or setting, and I was sleepy enough that keeping track of who was who was overwheleming. I will say the ruined church with the incredibly creepy religious statues - like a plastic manger lawn scene left to sit in nuclear fallout - was effective, as was Helen's Helenness. Very bad fake-pretend dead people, though.

Now get out of your chair, put your arms out like a mummy, shake them all about, and do the twist! Sweet!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

the girl in the video store did warn me this was bad: Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya

This is a movie I wish I had watched with someone so we could giggle together at its ridiculousness. But alas. So I decided to write this post as though you were watching the movie with me, and what follows is a list I made as the movie went on of whatever I thought (it was clear from the get-go that I was not going to be able to remember everything I wanted to point out, so I kept a list). Be warned - I did tend to make liberal and justified use of the FF, so if you've seen this, you will know I didn't watch everything.

[Ready? Go!]

"Eh Shahrukh!" Methinks this movie will be worse than Josh.

How to start a relationship off right: she lies to him in order to get a job he wants; after she gets the job, she continues the lie, telling him she can get him a job. When he finally gets a job (better than hers, please note) and finds out the truth, he calls her in the office and yells at her; after she apologizes and says she'll accept any punishment he gives her, he proposes, and she accepts. Her stares at her happily. She stares at him happily and laughs - except the violins are swooping around so much that you can only guess she is laughing based on her moving her shoulders and head forward with her smiling mouth open, the way you would if you were imitating an upper-crust fake laugh. Repeat four more times for a total of ten looks. Kya?!?

Can't trust a single girl on a ferris wheel. No way, no day.

"What does every Indian dream of? Destination Switzerland!"

Fantastic twist on my favorite Bollywood prop staple, the college dance competition sign. Here, the memory of an intercollegiate dance competition spurs people on to fireside antics that end in an affair. Just imagine the signs (and we'll have to, as there aren't any)!

Go Karisma crazy stare! Go! Burst them into flames! Oooh, divorce. That's even better. DIVORCE in big red letters! Aaaaaaaand scene!

Oh, silly woman in the clothing store, you are quite right to wonder why one actor needs so many costumes just for one song. Oh! Ha ha ha! You are making an in-joke about the industry! You are so clever!

"Bombarding on the potty" is a funny phrase.

Oh, it's Shakti Kapoor. I knew I knew him from something(s). And Kader Khan. Sweet.

"I love work!" is an excellent motivational poster. It just needs a breathtaking nature scene above the slogan.

Having a fourth-generation Kapoor work as a secretary to a movie star is also a funny in-joke about the industry. Well done!

Pooja, put down that white purse. It is hideous.

Karisma, this is likely not your fault, but your eyeliner is broader than your eyebrows. Rather the wrong proportion, what say?

Ah, Switzerland. A fuller version of another industry joke. "The dream of every Indian.... We could have gone anywhere in the world, but I believe that Switzerland is very lucky for married couples. It's just great for those in love. From what I'm told, it's a place which give you memories for a lifetime should you spend a few minutes there with your beloved." I'm all for Bollywood making fun of itself, but this isn't working. It's mired in goo.

Oh Akshay. You're dreamy. But you're no Akshaye.

This is at least the third Karisma crazy stare so far.

The manager's name is the same as your ex's? Woah! How unlikely in a country of over a billion people!

Another cool Bollywood prop staple: the picture/portrait of self as home decor, in this case an oversized poster. But he's a movie star, so that's fitting. But it's not a movie poster. It's just a head shot.

Dude. You slept with someone else (and not so that you could fulfill your grandfather's and your unable-to-have-children wife's wishes for a child of your own). You don't get to be sad about her marrying someone. Cheatah cheatah cheatah!

Marigold garlands are quite lovely. I don't have enough sun in my yard to grown any, though. Pity.

No, Abhishek, I'm pretty sure a man getting his wife married to someone else has happened before, perhaps even in a movie. It's not exactly KKHH, but don't play dumb.

Dramatic music with chord changes! What signify this sound and fury?

Four crazy stares. Mwa-ah-ah!

Signatures on paper may not break relationships, but I can see how cheating would. Why doesn't anyone get this?

The marriage so nice, they had it twice? No, that doesn't quite work.

Oh, a baby! That always brings people together in a permanent and loving way.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Shahrukh in a soup: Baadshah

"Being in a soup" is one of my favorite Bollywood subtitle expressions. Others include strange placement of the word "only," such as "Please wait here for five minutes only," which seems to mean "Please wait right here and don't leave. I'll be back in five minutes."

Which is neither here nor there. I felt like I should like Baadshah much more than I actually did. Clearly it's referring to, making fun of, and paying tribute to lots of different films and types of films, and I suspect that the more of them you know, the more you'll enjoy this movie.

Go read the review by Gorilla's Lament. He understands and likes this movie more than I do, so you might as well read about it from someone who can say funny-yet-thoughtful things about it that are actually relevant.

Before you go, though, think about this: even when Seema has short hair, Baadshah's trip to Switzerland still envisions her with long hair, and she has long hair again at the end when he is busy with he in his bed. (That's what the subtitles said! Honest!) Why is short hair so seldom in romantic scenes? This seems to be the case around the globe.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, so let me take this opportunity to shine a light on one of SRK's overlooked talents: his nonverbals. He is a whiz at whistles, sighs, sobs, hmmmms, and so on. While it's weird to think that these are probably dubbed in later - I have a hard time imagining sitting in a studio trying to synch up "wow this box is heavy" noises with myself on a screen - I am impressed that he can say so much without saying a word. A good example from this movie is when he comes out of his Switzerland reverie, fondly caressing a window pane, and a passerby looks at him oddly. He makes a "hmmm" noise that clearly means "What are you looking at?", she shrugs, he does some sort of whistle and click combo to tell her "Go on, get outta here," and, as she leaves, he looks uppity and hmms "she's got some nerve." It's great. Of course, as in all SRK talents, sometimes he overdoes it - you can tell the box is heavy by how he's carrying it.

Aside to set designers: is "Scream Club" supposed to be scary? Or funny? What up?

Aside to choreographer: thank you for having Amrish do a few steps. I shall cherish them always.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

this message brought to you by the Ministry of Really Stupid Ideas: Chori Chori Chupke Chupke

This movie features what is surely one of cinema's top ten plots driven by bad, bad ideas. Many questions are raised, such as:
  • how on earth does a Hindi film present a character married to saintly Rani Mukherji sleeping with a prostitute? A prostitute played with great glee by Preity Zinta, but still. The surrogate is a fine idea, but 1) be honest about it to everyone and 2) get the doctor's help in order to prevent years of under-the-surface seething, guilt, etc. If anyone knows how this movie was received in India, please let me know.
  • why does Preity's item number dress look like a 1991 prom reject, and why is it paired with glitter moon boots?
  • why does Salman wear a (p)leather shirt? Not jacket. Shirt. Around the collar of which is worn a tie.
  • why does no one notice that Madhu, not Priya, is at the ceremony? And isn't it interesting how the effect of having a stiff shawl over your head makes you look like a Star Wars character?
  • does chewing gum really make you look so cheap and young? I'll have to stop.
But then again, why ask why? Just enjoy. Which is precisely what I did. Especially the opening song, "No. 1 Punjaabi," whose boy-vs.-girl dance might just be my new favorite of its kind. And also, "The sparkle of your bangles keeps me up at night. I would carry you away; just give me a sign" is a great line (thanks to Bollywhat for translations).

(Note: thet plot of this movie did actually bother me in some serious ways, but I kept telling myself "It's just a movie, and there is so much you don't understand about the expectations of and pressures on women in this culture," even when Priya says she is incomplete becuase she can't be a mother. Becuase otherwise I would have had to turn it off, and if it were a movie from my own culture, with its own wacked-out concepts about the roles and worth of women, I would have.)

Increasing exposure to Salman Khan has not demystified his appeal for me. I can see how maybe he is a pretty good dancer most of the time. But that's all I can say on his behalf.

And, despite my very positive memory of seeing it on the big screen in 1990, owing entirely to holding hands with Chris Lisak, the second of my seven crushes on boys named Chris, Pretty Woman does not merit any kind of remake, tribute, or similar. It's a bad, morally bankrupt story.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


After two movies, Bollywood/Hollywood and, before I started watching Indian movies but long after having started watching Canadian ones, The Republic of Love, I am neither here nor there about Deepa Mehta. What's most interesting about Fire to me is that many, many people were either very here or very there - sometimes violently so - about it. Especially, according to her commentary, middle-aged men in India, who went wild at the possibility that the idea this movie depicted - that women dare to claim space and choices for themselves - might upset the institution of marriage.

This was an uncomfortable story for me because with each passing heartbreak and disappointment I thought "I'm so glad that's not my life" - about all the characters, not just Rhada and Sita. Everyone in this movie is trapped at some point. Despite being a sensible girl, my life has been mostly free of required responsibilities - maybe a few I've chosen, like a job and a house - and it's interesting to consider what life would be like with them, whether a push-button response to tradition, like Sita, or a vow to someone whom I no longer understand, like Rhada. The relief came in readjusting their requirements because something within compelled them - and I felt that relief with them. Maybe not a typically Bollywood-type happy ending, but one that offered release.

Not being loved when you need to might be one of the great human tragedies, especially when contrasted with our great capacity to love when we are so moved.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

the defenestration of my decorum

I rewatched Kaho Na... Pyaar Hai - only up until the wiggle, becuase I am very tired - with Abby tonight and I ashamed at how often I said out loud "He's so yummy!" What is wrong with me? I am decidedly turned off by bulgy muscles, but now that I've seen seven Hrithik movies I can confidently say the first part of this is his yummiest, what with the chinos, masses of wavy hair, and happy absence of insane clothing. This is Hrithik at his Hugh Grantiest. But once we hit Club Indiana (which has a decidedly different meaning here in the midwestern United States - and it is not a "New Zealand's best disco!" type of meaning), my affection died out - for while that character is pleasant too, he's too International Male for me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

from death to dismissal in nothing flat

Because when you have a few minutes to wait for the furnace duct estimate dude, you might as well watch some Bunty aur Babli, especially when you've just barely crawled out from under the duvet and you need a little sugar and a few steps with Aish and the Bachchans to get you going. So you watch "Kajra Re" and find yourself pausing and laughing becuase you enver noticed exactly how lofty and biting Aish's little pre-song teasing speech is.
Rare are those moments in life when desire calls. Come into my arms or come and slit my throat. Oh forget it. This give and take of hearts takes a lot of heart...and doing it so boldly for hte world to's a woman's art, you see. In this winning and losing of hearts, what are men worth?
Also, let's examine what Bunty has at the bar, shall we? One glass containing vodka, whiskey, gin, and rum. No wonder he falls off his barstool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

to every writer her book

Inspired by Accidental Fame Junkie's review of what is surely a genius film, I would like to add to the book series begun by an item featured in the film, Police Behaviour Manual for Hindi Film Climaxes. I'm not sure I'm up to a whole book on my own, but I'm bursting with ideas and would be happy to collaborate. Possibilities include:

  • Dos and Donts for Johny Lever
  • Love-Triangle Loser: How to Bow Out Gracefully
  • Handy Hints from Everybody's Favorite Mom: Reema Lagoo at Home
  • Salman Khan: The Unauthorized Biography
  • The Sari/Miniskirt Dilemma: A Guide for Independent, Familyphilic Ladki

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kajol, girl detective!: Baazigar

I like it when I rent multiple movies at one time and discover that they share some theme or other that I wasn't expecting. Baazigar and Nayak both feature brief but important usage of a typewriter, as well as way more schlocky bright-red Bollywood violence than I know what to do with. Maybe not "themes," according to an English teacher, but delightful commonalities in any event. Or at least the typewriter is. Bollywood violence I can do without.

Still, I am glad to have seen this because it seems to feature prominently in SRK's rise to stardom and I come across references to it all the time. But I can't say I liked it, actually, apart from some delighted squealing at back-up dancers' costumes (those silver and red things, and I don't know which I like more, the men's hammer pants or the women's ribbon-wrapped styrofoam halos). I think I might be jodi-chemistry-judgment deficient because I got nothing from SRK and Kajol here, although that could be because his character was psychotically unhinged.

Here are some things I noticed that if someone had been watching this with me I would have nudged them to be sure they had noticed too:
  • In the first song, Seema undergoes an interesting Bollywood science-bending transformation that I have never seen before. While her outfit is the same pre-song to song, her manicure is not. Her nails change colors when the music starts. Nifty eh? Maybe just another testament to the power SRK holds. Stronger than acetone.
  • Vicky seems to be racing his car in either wing tips or cowboy boots. I don't know much about racing but surely one needs some kind of traction on the pedals?
  • Priya running around like she's had catnip after first meeting Vicky. I think we all know that feeling, or did once, back in junior high.
  • Seema's yellow and white polka dot party dress at the birthday party - with giant shoulder flounces, tight arms and bodice, and then several more flouncy layers of skirts, reminds me exactly of what my early-1980s Pretty Changes Barbie would have worn, even though technically she didn't.
  • the interlude of Pink Panther music
  • SRK really works a rather dated and unusual look, with two layered collars, both turned up, huge sunglasses, and puffy hair. Just like Steff from Pretty in Pink in all the right ways.
  • When Vicky and Priya take over the dance floor, and the real Vicky and his friend are watching, and Vicky nudges his friend and gestures towards the dancing to get his friend to watch, even though he already was.

Aside to the filmi industry: I would like to inquire about finding a job as an English subtitle checker, so that movies don't twice say "his" when they mean "her" and thus wildly change the meaning of a sentence or come out with opening titles like this:
"All characters in this film does not resemble to any body dead or alive if so by sheer co-incidence."

I was totally going to call you but an animated snake ate my phone: Nayak

I have to admit that I watched Nayak under less than ideal circumstances, and previous commitments and life events prevented me from seeing it in even two or three installments. I think I lost my momentum after the bus-top chase scene and never really rejoined the story. In the end, my disbelief suspenders could not hold up under the ridiculousness of the story, however idealistic and democratic it was - which is pretty much what happens to Shivajirao too. I think there were just too many things going on in too many different directions in too many different styles for me to hang on. So, yeah, this movie didn't do much for me, although I am extremely grateful to have seen several of its songs (more on that in a mo), and reducing this movie to just the A. R. Rahman moments - and the one where Anil and Johny reenact a bit of Hero No.1 - would be just fine by me.

This movie also kept reminding me of something Harrison Ford would have done about ten years ago. One part Air Force One + one part Witness + one part villain from Temple of Doom. Can't you imagine him holding on behind the bus, as if it were being driven by Nazis, and then somehow getting himself on top of it? And reaching his boiling point when he finds out young women are abused ("teased," as subtitles always say in these movies, which bothers me immensely) as they try to go to school? And risking himself when he thinks a small child might be hurt by a bomb? Totally Harrison Ford.

However, I must say that the song with the pot-, sunflower-, corn-, pumpkin-, and doll-people is one of the most fun picturizations ever, bursting with color and tourism-brochure-worthy scenes of flowers and fields and giant murals made out of painted pottery. The snakes and ladders game is incredibly cool too. And next time I find myself smitten-kitten I am going to hit him with the very best "Shakalaka Baby" I can manage, even if it means hauling in my own spotlights and wind machine - although, on second thought, if it doesn't work for Sushmita, how could it possibly work for a mere mortal? ¿Que pasa en la cabeza? ¡Aye caramba!

Aside to Rani: why did you do this movie? What a throwaway part. I would have passed this to Amisha Patel.

Aside to Amisha: no offense. You just haven't impressed me particularly in the few movies of yours I've seen, which is largely because the characters didn't have much going for them, so it's not really your fault.

Aside to people in charge of coming up with the bit part characters: I love the SRK-lookalike during the "who do you want for CM?" scene. That was great. And I love the typewriter-wielding government guy even more.

Aside to choreographer: I wish you had made fuller use of the bit with Manjari messing up Shivajirao's books on the table in "Saiyyan." There is little hotter than that.