Saturday, September 30, 2006

you oughta be on stage: Praan Jaye Paar Shaan Na Jaye

(Apologies if I spelled that wrong. I feel like every time I look at a website that mentions this movie, it's spelled differently. I know I said that the wily H would be my downfall in Hindi, but it might just be the "A" vs "AA" question. Another reason to just go ahead and learn Devanagari. Anyway.)

Oooh goody! It's time for "Bloggers Meet Director" on Bollywoodbloggers! Here is everyone else who is playing along:
Totally Basmatic
maria giovanna

During almost every moment of this movie, I kept thinking "I feel like I'm watching a play." (Hey English or drama majors, is there a literary term for this phenomenon? I don't think "stagey" really captures what I mean.) I think this is the first time I've had this feeling while watching Hindi films, and PJPSNJ (can't decide between "A" and "AA"? Avoid yaar!) is unlike anything else I've watched. More on that in a sec. Some of the things that lead to this wait-am-I-suddenly-in-an-all-Indian-community-theater feeling are good or fun - for example, the narrator (I love Vijay Raaz and was so excited to see him here) speaking directly to the audience, or lots of coming-and-going in the central public space of the chawl. But some of them veer towards over-the-top - which I guess is why the term "stagey" came to mind a few sentences ago - and of course now that I'm writing this I can't remember any of those.

I really loved the setting of this movie because it let us get to know a community of people, and I'd have to say that for the average Hindi film, the characters were relatively nuanced and given some room to develop, which is sort of amazing, given how many there were. I found very few of them cartoonish, which is rare. And more importantly, I really cared for them. I really wanted them to save their home.

And of course I enjoyed all the filmy convention jokes and references to - like when the ticket scalper is raving about the big movie and he says something about it doing something to him, "kuch kuch hota hai," and a guy passes by singing KKHH's "Koi Mil Gaya." I have no idea if lots of movies do this, but they made me giggle the whole way through, even if the characters themselves drew attention to them. Genearlly I think that kind of in-joke is better done subtley, letting the viewer just catch it on their own, but I'll take what I can get.

Minor snark: it's so annoying to have us pretend we think Diya Mirza is unattractive just because she has glasses on. And only the outsider can see how pretty she really is, and all he does is make her wear revealing clothes and take off her glasses. Hollywood does this too, and it's stupid. It was stupid when Marcia Brady did it to her friend, and it's stupid now. And I was shocked that she ended up with the boy she had always loved who would never give her a second look when she was "ugly." What kind of message is that? Very disappointing - and not at all in keeping with other elements of the story that felt relatively pro-women-as-people-of-substance. (Favorite bits from this category include the father who throws out his daughter's ass of a husband and the women who stick up for the prostitute and point out to the hypocritical men whose fault prostitution really is.)

Aside to screenwriter(s): one of my Indian friends told me he thought this title is a play on a famous line from the Ramayana. If so, I'd love to know if there were allusions to the Ramayana other than the title (and I would have to say, based on my basic knowledge of the story, there's nothing particularly Sita-like about Laxmi's stunt.)

Aside to marketing people: please explain the picture on the cover of this movie.

(thanks nehaflix for the image - and for stocking the movie too of course)
I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but 1) we never see Raveena Tandon with short hair or a jean jacket, 2) the guy with the gun is not nearly as prominent in the movie as he is in the picture, and 3) Sushmita only has that razor for a teensy bit (and I know she's the winking reference to needing star power, but still - I would at least have used a more flattering picture, like maybe her dancing at the end). I feel misled and confused. Not that it really matters, I guess, but I just don't understand why this is the picture when there are so many other scenes that could have been used that are so much more evocative of the feel and story of the movie. Also, is anyone else reminded of the font of Rang De Basanti?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

highlights from the first 20 minutes of Khushi

I really love this movie. It always makes me happy, and after being home sick today I thought I'd close out the day with it, but now I'm up later than I should be because I just can't stop with the screen captures.

Kareena, yeah

Fardeen dancing with cheerleaders

and Fardeen doing...whatever this is

Plus "Good Morning India," which I did indeed sing as I crossed the Hooghly Bridge. And all of this is in the first 20 minutes. Jam-packed with goodness.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

research question (seriously, it is)

One of my favorite people from the Fulbright program in India this summer is Dr. Michael Marcus, who teaches high school world history and anthropology. His project from this summer is on textiles and trade in Indian history. However, he has an increasing interest in Bollywood - and has even come up with the a bang-on description: "a strange combination of the kitsch and the socially and culturally meaningful" - and the two are beginning to overlap. (Bollywood overlaps with a lot of my life, I find, so I'm not at all surprised.)

Dr. Marcus has asked me the following question and wants readers' help.
I have had this strange fascination lately with Raj Kapoor, and on my "shemaroo" disc "showman of the millenium" (not too hyperbolic, eh?) there is a song from RK's old Barsaat called "Hawa Mein Udata Jayen," which is in the genre, I believe, of what is called a "Dupatta" or "Chunari" song. Now that means a piece of cloth imbued with lots of meaning, head covering, veil, married, unmarried, I don't know. I understand there is also the use of a song called "Chunari Chunari" in Monsoon Wedding which thanks to netflix I will be looking into soon. Anyway google searching the subject only turns up examples of the genre, no fuller description or explanation of what (I suspect) is the rich meaning lying underneath. So, could you possibly ask your readers to contribute info to me about this song type? and its appeal? its deeper meanings and how tie in to social customs, ritual and so on? are their issues of "unveiling" or removing taboos as well? Anyway, that's the idea.
Can anyone help? Even if you don't want to post a comment, if you'd be willing to email me any ideas or leads, I will happily forward them on to him. Thank you!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

now that's what I call an afternoon at the movies: Lage Raho Munna Bhai

I saw Lage Raho Munna Bhai in the theater today and it was the most fun I've had at the movies since I don't know when. The house was almost full and everyone was having a grand time, laughing and yelling crying and clapping. Abby and I were the delighted companions of four Indian fellows (and no, we don't just canvas the streets looking for desis to take to the movies - we met them properly yesterday at an office party, bonding over a shocking lack of bhangra while dancing badly to a remix of "Push It"), all of whom kindly leaned in here and there to make sure we were understanding everything.

Speaking of which, these were some of the best subtitles I've seen in a long time. Of course I don't know if they were accurate, but they seemed to line up with the audience reaciton far more often than they usually do, and I only noticed one spelling mistake ("old foggies" for "old fogies," although now that I think about it that could have been a subtle joke about the mental state of Jhanvi's friends).

On a wee serious note, the movie made me realize how little I actually know about Gandhi (can't even spell his name right half the time - the wily Hindi "H" will be my downfall yet). This summer I visited his ashram in Ahmedabad and the Mani Bhavan in Mumbai but not a lot sank in - in both cases my brain just was not in a state to really engage with any important learning, distracted by other things. My favorite parts of the message of the movie were that 1) we can honor the people who are important to us by keeping them in our hearts and 2) we all have Gandhian ideas inside us and can act on them simply by thinking about them and realizing their efficacy and relevance.

Anyway, funny, charming movie, full of strong performances (Sanjay Dutt did such a great job of portraying that dopey, hugs-you feeling of when you find yourself twitterpated and you just want to sit and stare at the sea and indulge in it), that delivers a relevant message without indulging in mawkishness or a heavy hand. Right on.

And we got to see the Don trailer not once but twice! I hadn't realized Arjun Rampal was in it. Bleh. It's coming to town the first weekend in November, so I will definitely not be out of town visiting my parents like I was last year for Salaam Namaste.

And yes, that noise you heard at about 3:00 central time was Abby and me squealing with delight when we saw Abhishek.

According to my database - I know what you're thinking: it's either 1) "What an unbelievable geek!" or 2) "I thought it was a spreadsheet?" - this is my 100th Indian film. Hurrah!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


[Is this whole joke spinning completely out of control, or is it still funny? I can't tell. I mean, I think it's funny, but maybe others are growing weary.]

Comments on the previous post have made me realize that despite being King Khan, SRK is nobody's FPMBF. Some of the usual suspects have made the cut - Hrithik, Abhishek, John Abraham - as well as some of the unusual - Sanjay, Akshaye. And here I thought SRK was supposed to have such appeal abroad!

Aside to TB: who's your number one - just for the sake of argument, because of course in the real world of FPMBF you can have all five.

Friday, September 22, 2006

dateline FPMBF

from: bethwatkins
to: babasko
re: What is this nonsense?
9:40 am
Sanjay Dutt's Lady Love Nadia Durrani

from: babasko
to: bethwatkins
re: What is this nonsense?
11:07 am
you want to know what really happend? he was piss-drunk. (yeah its all my fault, he wanted me to come down and i said, no i cant.. my sisters baby and all) and so he took out his friends and they filled him up. yeah and you know how he is when he had one bacardi-coke too much...he gets emotional. this nadia woman. well she´s a friend. nice girl actually. but no competition for me :-) so i wouldn´t read much into it.

from: bethwatkins
to: babasko
re: What is this nonsense?
11:49 am
Ohmygod, I totally understand. You give Akshaye a drink too many and he ends up dating Tara Sharma - I mean, Tara Sharma? c'mon* - for way too long.

from: babasko
to: bethwatkins
re: What is this nonsense?
11:55 am
see. our boys. you only turn your back to them for ONE minute and thats what happens.why do we keep up with that kind of behavior. oh right i remember.

Thanks to Our Bollywood for the gossip!

* Update to post (September 25, 2006): I just found out that Tara Sharma does a lot of stage work and graduated from the London School of Economics. I'm officially ashamed of myself and retract the above "I mean...c'mon" statement. I'm smart enough to know that you should never hate the sister - it's not her fault he forgets about me periodically. And at least this proves he doesn't have issues with brainy women.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

no one around here ever throws a Bollywood theme party: Page 3

About halfway through this, I turned to my watching companion, Si, and said, "Is this movie about anything?" This wasn't meant as a complaint; I felt like I was watching some sort of scripted documentary type thing, in which we just follow around a narrative focal point character and see what goes on in her life and see what she sees. Which is cool. But then it seemed to take a bit more of a message-y shape, showing more and more of the ridiculous or unfortunate or foolish in the characters. But then there was one more change, and the movie ended with me unsure whether our protagonist was going to make good on all she had learned. Which, oddly, didn't bother me, because in the circumstances she was in, I can see how it would be incredibly difficult either to take action or to stay still; I can imagine how hard it would be to make a decision and how tempting it might be just to keep on doing what you were doing. (Maybe I'm dense and anyone else would think that Madhvi had a clear path in mind, but I just didn't see it. Which made sense to me.)

I also enjoyed how a city as massive and complicated as Mumbai was so easily reducable to a small town, populated with the same people over and over. I guess that's what people do, we create communities where there are none, even if what we build isn't founded on much and even if the people in our communities are...well, shallow and silly.

There was a moment that had either really thoughtful writing or just tapped into basic human reactions: all of the dialogue surrounding the bomb blast sounded exactly, I mean almost word for word, like what I heard on the current affairs programs on tv after the blasts in Mumbai this summer.

I can't remember anything I've read about Tara Sharma - except, well, you know - but her portrayal of the increasingly hollow aspiring actor made me feel what I saw on Konkona Sensharma's face - confusion, sadness, disappointment in losing (in every sense) your friend. And of course Konkona Sensharma, Boman Irani, and Atul Kulkarni were great.

Sorry, this is an uninspired bit of writing here, as was the post on Yuva. I'm both sleepy and distracted by various things, including getting to watch Lage Raho Munna Bhai in the theater on Sunday. Oh, that's a nice tie-in, actually, because at one point in Page 3 Pearl says "Lage raho India!" which Obi Wan had just told me about. I like convergence.

proper-response thoughts on Yuva

It's really, really good. Yep. That's what I have to say about that. Everyone is really good (and while I'd rank Esha's performance as the weakest of the six main characters, she was fine). I don't mean to over-value the comparison to Rang De Basanti but I responded more to Yuva's personal and local and slightly more contextualized scale. You don't kill the minister of whatever (defense? or was he an air force uppity-up, I can't remember?); instead you run for local government and gather support by talking to people and encouraging their involvement.

And Abhishek. Damn. His snarl of rage and greed and guilt was utterly convincing. And frightening to boot.

One complaint: how come none of the female leads were political? How come so few of the people in the crowds at the politcal gatherings were female? I know we had the village woman run and win, and that was really cool. But no one else? Is that accurate? I could look up figures on the percentage of women as office-holders in India but it's past 11:00 pm.

Oh, and is it realistic that not a single car would stop, not a single person would help or call the police or document what was going on, during the huge brawl on the Hooghly Bridge?

And isn't it fun to say "Hooghly"?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

pre-proper-response thoughts on Yuva

It's really, really good.

And without having had time to put much thought into the matter yet, I'd say it's better - by which I mean more effective to me - than Rang De Basanti.

And until I have time to write up my thoughts, which might be awhile, the way this week and weekend are shaping up, here are three things in it that I noticed, none of which are important, but you know me, that's the kind of thing I notice:
1) It appears that Arjun's family has a Swatch phone. My friend Rosalie had one of these in high school - it was clear plastic, so you could see all the colorful wire bits inside. (This is very appropriate, actually, because today at lunch I saw someone with the very Swatch that my friend Jenny had in junior high - and the rush of time swooshing past me was incredible, I was right back in choir rehearsal, sitting with her and giggling and making up fortunes [by the MASH method, of course] and doodling the names of the boys we liked on our folders - artifacts can be so powerful, it's amazing.) (Do we ever grow out of doodling the name of the boy we like while we're supposed to be paying attention to something else? Or is that just me?) (Anyway.)
2) In the subtitles, at least, Vivek offers Kareena the chance to enjoy "one cup of pure, harmless, platonic coffee." Sold!
3) The professor warns Ajay and his pals that if they keep up their current activities, they'll become "rusticated." I'm pretty sure she even says it in English. This is an absolutely wonderful term that I've only ever heard (/read) in Bollywood. (I forget the other movie I've caught it in, and I think it had a college setting too - maybe Main Hoon Na?)

Update to post (September 20, 2006): After zeroin, uiuc_anon, and ggop wrote in about "rusticate," I realized how badly I want to know what this word means and why I had it sort of wrong. I had assumed it just meant "to become/make something less sophisticated" or "to countrify," as though if you carried on with your hooliganish behavior you would be no better than a pig in its slop. But no, is has Oxbridgey meaning! You'd think after my two years in an Oxbridgey college I would have encountered that - it's where I learned "chit," for example - but no. Maybe no one gets rusticated from a Canadian Oxbridgey graduate college. Anyway, I have the OED open, and the first meaning of "to rusticate" is "To go or retire into the country; to stay or sojourn in the country; to assume rural manners, to live a country life." Makes sense. The second definition is the school one, and it first appeared in 1714. (Interestingly, it also appeared in 1734 in what appears to be an American publication, so it's not solely an English-English thing.) I assume it came about from all those gentlemen's sons, who, after having gone a shandy too far, were sent back to their country houses. And its third sense is "To imbue with rural manners; to countrify," the negative implications of which are what I had first assumed. I love when I learn things from Bollywood.

This concludes today's edition of Beth's Etymology Corner. See you next week!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rahul? Way cool.

I've only seen Rahul Bose in two things, but I like him a lot, and after listening to his interview on BBC Film Cafe, I think I might have a new FPMBF contender. He sounded really, really smart, and that's really, really attractive, even in the fake-pretend world. His riff about how his role in Pyaar Ke Side Effects as a chance for him to prove his acting chops and how fun it was to give serious thespian Mallika Sherawat makeup tips was so funny, and his discussion of the necessity (or not) of romantic love in life was...I dunno, just really interesting and and resonant and well-stated. [I can't remember if compound adjectives that start with "well" get a hyphen when they follow the noun, and my Chicago Manual of Style is at work, so you'll just have to forgive me.] I was also impressed with how he responded to Raj and Pablo's banter, which I often enjoy because 1) they pretty clearly love Bollywood and their enthusiasm is joyful and infectious and 2) they often get the interviewee to giggle along with them, but here they just sounded pathetic in comparison. Please note I don't think Raj and Pablo are pathetic; I just think they weren't quite ready for Rahul. Nor was I, so I totally empathize.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

enh: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

DISCLAIMER: I am a 32-year-old, never-married, WASPy, midwestern American who has only recently begun to learn, in an organized way, anything about India, and a lot of what I have started investigating is because of movies. So I don't really think I'm at all qualified to talk about this film's portrayal/exploration of adultery and marital unhappiness - I have no personal connection to them, but more importantly I have absolutely no informed idea how these issues and their treatment by this movie resonate in India (or Indian-American culture, for that matter) or why. So I'm just not going to talk about that, other than to say that, in general, it is a sad thing to be unhappy and to feel trapped by that unhappiness, and ideally you don't get yourself into such a situation in the first place, but if you find yourself there, it is, in general, a good idea, or at least not a bad one, to try to get yourself out, as long as you take into consideration the other people affected and try to be respectful of them.

HEY, I KNOW THAT GIRL: Totally Basmatic, whom I totally saw running basmatically up and down the stairs of the train station.

QUESTION: Would this movie be getting even half of the attention it's been getting if it had been made by someone else and starred different people? I feel like I was tricked into thinking this movie was - or was supposed to be - important when it struck me as no more - or no less - full of statement or meaning or lessons than any other Bollywood movie picked at random. But now I've seen it, I can say my piece, take place in any further discussions anyone wants to have, and move on.

QUESTION: Has SRK ever played a less empathetic character, even in his villain days? Gad. By the time we see him publicly berating his son on the soccer field, I was ready to slap him myself (and was really pleased when Rhea did so at the end, though I cannot condone violence, etc.) and lost any interest in caring about him. What a colossal ass. I am uncomfortable with the concept of "deserve" when applied to people, but I think in this case I can say that he was getting what he deserved, at least in that he put incivilitiy and pettiness out into the universe and was certainly not getting any sunshine back. I don't think having your career hopes dashed means you get to be such a horrible parent, either. And that stunt he pulled at his mother's dinner was just mean-spirited.

QUESTION: Did anyone else get confused by what Karan Johar was trying to say about working women? Preity's character voiced at least one point I agree with - "no one asks why men are too busy to spend time with their children" - but if there was clear support for either case-by-case basis distribution of parental/household duties or condemnation of women having time-consuming careers, I sure didn't get it. It's always interesting when a writer has an unlikable character represent an intriguing or moving side of an argument (a good example is from Ally McBeal, when icy Nell argues in court that workplace promotions should go to the people who do the work, regardless of why other people hadn't been able to do the work, even if that means women who choose a leave of absence to have children are held back) but I just wasn't sure what KJo was up to here. If anything. He might have just been tryign to raise the question, and that's okay. But I think it's important to note that Rhea was self-centered because she was self-centered, not because she was dedicated to her job ("It's hard to meet me"). Her career aspirations had little to do with her general nature.

PARENTING: I think KJo (sorry, that's really fun to say) might have been trying to say something about parenting, because it keeps coming up, at least in passing, even though the movie didn't spend huge amounts of time looking at parent-child relationships or dynamics. There's a point made that Maya's parents are long dead; Dev's father is gone and he himself is a lousy father most of the time; Rishi's mother is gone and Maya continually tells him he's being childish and needing some kind of mothering (don't know if there was supposed to be a connection there, nor if we're supposed to agree with Maya on that [I didn't see it, actually; I just thought he was emotionally enthusiastic, and I have no problems with that]). And the family background of Rhea, the character whose parenting is most criticized, is never mentioned, making her own parents a cipher and maybe therefore she cannot be expected to know how to be a mother?

EW, EVEN THOUGH I CAN'T QUITE JUSTIFY IT: Ah, Sexy Sam. That one went just a smidge too far. Elder statesman of Hindi film as ridiculous comic relif? Sure. Cf Buny aur Babli. Humor that's magnified because Sam and Rishi are actually father and son? Sure. Letting clunky, lechy comments sail by in comparison to their accompanying giggles by completely wooden or otherwise glaringly untalented non-Indian extras (and I share TB's general dis-ease with white extras)? Sigh. He's the Big B, you gotta set him up to succeed at most any cost, even if it means you deliver some cheap laughs ("cheap is nice," after all). Mega-star in fur handcuffs? Okay, if you must (although I beg you to think about that really hard before you decide that you must, just like having homophobic lines delivered by Satish Shah). However, he got more and more likable as the movie went on, and I genuinely liked Sam's reaction to Maya's affair and his parting words of advice.

IF I HAD TO INVITE ANY OF THESE PEOPLE TO DINNER: I would choose Rishi. I didn't like any of the other people, not even the little boy. Dev and Rhea were both awful, incompatibly so, obviously; I didn't dislike Maya particularly but I couldn't quite warm to her either, because she knew full well she shouldn't marry Rishi but she went ahead and did it anyway, and at some point cowardice about decisions that so involve other people takes on selfish overtones. I think Rishi was the only one who was upset about what happened because he truly cared about the other person - which is maybe supported by his breakdown when Maya confesses and by the gesture he makes to keep her involved in his life years later, which we don't even see the co-parents do, even though they have such a compelling reason to figure out how to co-exist in any way - whereas I think everyone else was just sad that they had failed the institution of marriage (or it had failed them). And much to my surpise, I really did not care at the end whether Maya and Dev got together again or not. Overall, I don't understand why anyone would choose to make a movie with such unempathetic, uncompelling people in it. Message or no, controversial or no, please give me something to hang on to, or else you'll just lose me. I just didn't care most of the time.

A TEENY GEM: The dialogue Rishi has when questioning Maya about her affair and asks her "Did you have fun?" I thought that was a smart bit of writing, as Maya never seemed to have any fun and she certainly seemed far from happy with Dev in that hotel - she barely had any life in that scene at all, I'd have to say - and somewhere in his heart I think Rishi did want Maya to be happy, and if she had been happy with Dev, that would have helped Rishi understand a little bit. Maybe Rishi, son of id-meister Sam, put too much emphasis on fun in this particular situation, but I think that was a fair question, and it also showed his willingness to be vulnerable to the whole weight of her transgression, because if Maya did have fun, he would have had to accept the fact that she was capable of it, just not with him.

OH, FARAH: I think the fantstic Ms. Khan kinda phoned it in here. You get to have SRK do the three-quarter turn arm-fling thing a time or two in any movie, especially a Karan Johar movie, but enough is enough. How 'bout getting him to actually dance, since we all like to see him do that? Even surly Dev could have had a dream sequence in which he was happy enough to strut his stuff. This movie wasted two of Bollywood's most reliable entertainers.

WHY DID ALL OF ABHISHEK'S COSTUMES HAVE CONTRASTING-COLORED COLLARS? Seriously, why? I know the midwest lags behind fashion trends a bit, but what was going on with that? I mean, it didn't detract from his apperance one teeny tiny bit - Akshaye had better look out, AB's hot on his heels - but I just thought I would ask in case someone knew. Also, please go read what Filmiholic had to say about Abhishek in this movie becuase she sums it up perfectly and I formally, publicly second her emotion about his potential greatness, and though I'm not yet well-versed in Amitabh's movies, I think Baby B might soon surpass both his parents. (I know a bunch of people are going to get all upset at me saying that, but please re-read my original disclaimer and remember that I'm getting to know both Bachchan men at the same time and did not grow up under the legend of the senior, the role of violent, funny, and occasionally loving angry young man being filled in my world by Al Pacino - who, by the way, is equally squeamishness-inducing in his performance as an aging lech).

WHAT ELSE I LIKED ABOUT KANK: The songs were better in context than they were when I first heard the soundtrack. The flowers, as first pointed out by Filmiholic (see above). That we're told that when we feel like holding someone's hand, we should do it. That Sam calls Kamaljit "Chandigarh," a joke which I had to phone India to figure out, and now that I know what it means, I find it pretty funny. And I don't remember anything else. It's been 24 hours since I saw the movie and I really don't remember when or why I laughed when I did - except for during "Rock 'n' Roll Soniye," becuase I loves me some Bachchan family dancing in its grinning clunkiness. I also liked that that scene, stated as a 60s theme party, included Marilyn Monroe from 1955's The Seven Year Itch and 40s-looking gangsters in zoot-ish suits and fedoras, but whatever. (But it's okay to be careless with other people's culture, right?)

COMING ATTRACTIONS: We got no trailer for Dhoom 2 or Kabul Express but on the way into the theater we were handed flyers for a surprise showing next week of Lage Raho Munna Bhai! Hurrah! And when I handed my ticket to the young Indian man at the counter, he looked at me and smiled and said, "Are you Beth?" Hee. I love Bollywood.

Friday, September 15, 2006


(which is its own special subcategory of "superwow")

Has everyone seen what Kamla has done? She's posted a list of old Hindi film clips on youtube. The clothes! The sets! The eyeliner! The swirling string section! More than usual they leave me wishing I had started learning Hindi a year ago so that I would already have some idea of what's going on. Subtitles or no, though, they're quite good fun.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Won't they need an exhibit developer to properly display the "Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe" pleather parade?

The other day, a friend in Mumbai mentioned that he had just been to a new pub, the Hard Rock Cafe. Putting aside my confusion at the notion that this restaurant is still opening new branches, the most important question is: does this open the way for an Indian pop culture-themed restaurant chain in the US? Please? 'Cause I'd totally go. I'd even work for them - somebody has to choose the memorabilia, right? I'm pretty sure it's a more bankable idea than those unengaging and somehow totally lifeless Bollywood dolls.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

best opening credits ever: Rangeela

Watching Rangeela gave me a really good idea: write a post using no text other than screen captures of subtitles. But I couldn't quite make it work with this movie, so regular text it is. That said, there are a lot of moments in this movie in which the image on the screen and the subtitle seemed to have been arranged for maximum comic effect, and I'll include a few here and let you make up your own jokes. This, by the way, is the hidden benefit of having to watch Bollywood with subtitles. All you fluent-in-Hindi people - you think you're so smart - miss out on these gems. More on that in a post on Bollywoodbloggers (ich verspreche, Michael!).

Also, I want to apologize for what's turning out to be a long list of asides, made-up adjectives, and parenthetical comments - with very little actual text in between items. I can't quite collect my thoughts, but here they are anyway, uncollected.

I loved the beginning of Rangeela, going from the sounds of a Mumbai street (at least, I assume that's what that is) to a bouncing projecter reel of film luminaries

to our heroine's dream sequence "look at me, I'm so great" song.

(I also like that the poor dog seems frightened of the crazy kicking girl.) What a fitting way to set up a gentle, loving, sometimes quite funny film about being in pictures.

While Mili was so unempathetic that I couldn't bring myself to root for the triumph of Munna's love, everything else was so satisfying that it didn't really matter. Note I didn't say "everything else was so good." There's a lot in this movie that I didn't really like much, but almost everything was enjoyable, from Urmila's shockingly awful outfits (this movie brought to you by bicycle shorts!)

to Jackie's shockingly awful outfits

(you might think the speedo would have been enough, but no, the list of "please don't ever wear that again" goes on) to Aamir's stupid hat and mesh "cut banyans" (thanks for the less cringe-inducing term, Maja).

Because no matter how many strange yellow outfits they throw at us,

this is still the movie that gives us the flying couch, which is basically the reason I bought it. It will never be in my top twenty favorites, but I like this movie, even if I can't explain why. The philosophy of know when to say what you feel and know when to keep quiet - and then do those things - always appeals to me, and even though I didn't like Mili, I wanted Munna to at least try. In the fantastic song in which he tries to figure out what to do,

all I could do was yell at the screen: "Pick a balmy summer evening and take her to the Gateway of India! It works for everybody else!" You gotta try, right?

The ending, however, stank. Waaaaay too convenient. Her love for Munna came out of nowhere. Yes, they had the classic "if he pulls your hair, it means he likes you" sort of thing going on, but that needed to develop a bit more for me to believe that she actually loved him and wasn't just suffering from a case of "didn't know what I had until it wrote me a heartfelt note and skipped town."

Is Urmila always this hyper? This character constantly bounced, wriggled (even doing what looked to me like a predecessor of the Hrithik wriggle,

although with men with guns instead of hip New Zealand club kids), and, well, I guess we have to call it writhing, which seems to be the theme of the last several posts, sorry about that (unless you're into that kind of thing, in which case you're welcome). I know the character is an eager movie wannabe, but goodness. Calm down.

I really enjoyed all the dancing in this, even the sequence in which the backup dancers drum on their derrieres

(which also somehow reminds me of Thoroughly Modern Millie's tapioca-slapioca song) in an inspired moment of combining sultry with artsy with funny. I had to watch most of the songs twice, just 'cause they were fun. This is not A R Rahman's finest hour, in my opinion, with its late-night talk-show electric bass all over the place, but solidly interesting and fun.

Now. You all know how much I love seeing Aamir Khan dance - or do anything, really - and he was definitely the high point of this movie for me, even if I hadn't gotten to breathlessly watch him do the following:

Damn. As with Mili, I didn't like Munna, but I enjoyed every minute he was on screen. An effective performance as always - so reliable, our Aamir.

I don't know if I'll ever watch this again - and I probably shouldn't, even if just to send Jackie a message that it is not cool to steal Babasko's shirt - and I may even give it to the video store in case they'd like to add it to their offerings, but I'm really glad to have seen it, not just because people told me I should but becuase it was a pleasantly entertaining few hours. Mission accomplished.

Let me leave you with just one subtitle-inspired joke.

"Copy a scene from 'Thriller,' that's what!"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I'm good enough, and I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me, even though I don't understand the appeal of Hera Pheri.

Clearly, overall, I just don't get it. And that's okay, because I'm not from Maharashtra and I don't speak Hindi and sometimes I respond poorly to wackadoo movies in the languages I do understand. But that's no fun to read, so here are a few things I did get (or at least I think I did), for better or worse.

I like when people are willing to be goofy, and this movie had that in spades. Having only seen Tabu in serious roles, and Sunil in fake-pretend serious roles, I was happy to see them being silly here.

There's a song teleport to South Africa, and it's rich, theme-park exoticization of "other," I guess you'd have to call it. I know that turning people who are different from oneself into caricatures is universal, but I'm strangely comforted to see the evidence that westerners aren't the only people who do it. So get your Gunga Din on and boogie down!

You know I love this shirt, especially when you get to see all three of them in it. Even though it's just Akshay, I liked this picture because the oodles of white fabric give him a sort of angelic look, and the happy face and heavenward gesture complete it. It's like he's saying, "I know, isn't it fab?!? The big guy upstairs has a simply divine knack for costuming!"

Now that I have a little experience in the matter, I find it wildly amusing that we're supposed to believe that this room

is inside the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the tower of which is clearly shown just before we cut to this dance number. I was lucky enough to stay in four Taj hotels in India and spent many blissful hours in their lobbies and restaurants, and none of them would be caught dead with an interior like this. A fake-pretend tribal safari bar is so not Taj. The one in Delhi has a restaurant, Machan, that's wildlife themed, and it was much, much classier (and not owned by Videocon). (I seem to have gone into librarian/educator overdrive here, with all the links. Sorry about that.)

This is just funny. For those of you who haven't seen it, this is part of the same song as above ("Tun Tunak Tun"), and though the movie offers no explanation of how - or why - glow-in-the-dark hockey goalie masks fit with Indian fake-pretend African dancing, boy am I glad to live in a world in which they somehow do.

No. Just no. Stop portraying women being turned on by animals. It's gross. It was gross when Budweiser did it with Spuds McKenzie, and it's gross when a writhing woman has a writhing snake between her legs. It's also just lazy - I mean, gee, I wonder what a snake might represent? This is also the kind of thing that makes me concerned for the fate of male-female relationships (or at least mine): is this imagery attractive? alluring? or even interesting? Do men want to see their female significant others fondling (or, even more ew, being fondled by) snakes? Because if so, I'm done with the whole enterprise. Maybe I'm just feeling worn down by the club scenes in my song DVD (see yesterday's post), but normal women aren't going to live up (down) to this (should categorically refuse to try). Like me for who I am, not for...this.

(And yes, I have some issues. The larger question of how women are portrayed in media and popular culture is really interesting to me, and I think it's important, but yes, I'll readily admit I'm feeling really inadequate compared to a lot of what I've seen recently, even though most of it is laughable and not in any way me, and that just makes me mad, that I can't quite write these things off as "only a movie." I would actually be really interested to know what people think about how women are portrayed in Bollywood, but maybe that's too intellectual a post to start in the context of Hera Pheri.)

Okay, now I'm going to go watch Muriel's Wedding. It always restores my faith. Maybe I'll cast the Bollywood remake while I'm at it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

and now for something completely different: SKANKED!

I'm watching my one song DVD, Everybody on the Dance Floor, so that I can better play along with Totally Basmatic's Bollywood Songs DVD Week, and on the fifth song in I have hit my wall for shiny writhing women (or the wall of shiny writhing women, morelike). Blame it on Musafir's "Saaki."

I realize, of course, that I'm not the target market for this imagery, and maybe that's what's jarring for me, because in many ways I feel that Bollywood and I meet each other's needs almost perfectly and I respond so enthusiastically to most of what I watch. Anyway. Yuck. And it's not that I begrude Bollywood its opportunity to attract audiences with shiny women, but it's just not for me. And now "Tumse Milke Dil Ka" is on, so I'm happy again.

TB tells me she thinks that if I look hard enough I can find an Akshaye song DVD, so that's officially this week's research project.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I'm going to get disbarred because of this, I can just tell.

But the truth must be told. I'm watching Hera Pheri and I just don't get it. Neither did Abby. We turned it off at intermission. I'm going to finish it, mainly because there are some people who are going to demand to know my full and informed opinion, and I don't want to let them down. But...yeah, I don't get it. There were a few moments that made me laugh, like when Paresh knocked a roof down on himself, several pairs of Tabu's shoes,

from which Sunil wisely runs and to which Tabu shares my reaction,

and Akshay's arm-flap/limp-wrist dance in "Jab Bhi Koi Haseena"

(please note here that his suit is the same color of the mango margarita I consumed during the first half of this movie) - you'd think he would've dream-sequenced himself a better dance, because if you're going to arm-flap, you should do it like "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan," and even then it's a risk because no song will ever be as good as that, so maybe we should just retire that move completely. Maybe it's because I'm relying on subtitles that are not as frequent or as accurate as they might be (and aren't in the songs at all, so I can only imagine what's going on with the flapping and limp-wristing, which I am going to assume is not a heavy-handed gay joke, since Akshay is imagining himself Studly McStudlypants here, although there is that bit with him ogling sunbathers who turn out to be men - wackadoo alert!). On the other hand, my movie-fuelled Hidni is improving by the day.

It should also be mentioned that Abby had a bit of an Akshay Kumar epiphany, mainly that she was in mid-sentence about how she generally enjoys him, especially on stage with his martial arts props, when he came splashing through the ocean on a horse, and she lurched gears into "I luuuuuurve him." All you have to do is put a man on a horse and she is powerless. Does anyone know of any scenes of Saif on horseback?

Okay. The movie is going back into the DVD player. The critical mass of popular opinion compels me to finish, and it's not as bad as Kyon Ki, which, as the only Indian movie I've ever jettisoned, is my unrivalled yardstick for truly bad.