Friday, October 27, 2006

it sets your senses in a whirl: Satte Pe Satta

one: I first saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a few years ago with my friend Luci, who was raised on the movie and whose family is completely nuts about it (and I'm not saying anything here that Luci wouldn't say herself). They were gracious enough to invite me (and my dog) to Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving after my parents retired and moved out of state, and after the big meal we all sank into giant cushy chairs in the living room and watched this, with Luci, her sister, and her sister's husband reciting all the lines by heart. It was great. Somehow their enthusiasm lodged a lot of the lyrics and finer points of this great cinematic work into my head, and to this day I can easily be prompted to burst into "goin' courtin', goin' courtin'." And am slightly afraid of packs of red-haired dancers.
two: Abby, my usual Bollywood-watching companion, and for this one too, is also a long-time fan of the SBSB (hey! it works for American movies too!), so we were both thrilled when t-HYPE brought this Hindi remake to our attention.
three: I am generally a big fan of the older American movie musicals (or on stage), with their spontaneous song and cheerily cardboard sets.
four: Howard Keel, with his big, blustering presence and booming voice, makes a delightful head of household who can run his brothers but has no clue what to do around a woman.
five: A boy named Gideon and a girl named Dorcas (played by one Julie Newmar, too!). Dorcas?
six: I read somewhere four of the brothers were actually dancers from the New York City Ballet, which would explain the fights look so...pretty.
seven: The whole Sabin/Sobbin' Women thing bothers me to my very core. I'm not sure if the whole "go grab the women you like and bring them back to your house" plot is entirely tongue-in-cheek. If it is, I've missed the subtletly. If it's not, I'll enjoy my righteous indignation.

ek: Luci doesn't know what she's missing, especially with the addition of the criminal look-alike.
do: Abby and I laughed a lot. A lot.
teen: Some of what I like about the older American movie musicals is, of course, found in spades in many a Bollywood movie, much to my delight. I forget what I was watching when I had that realization, but it made me really happy.

chaar: Amitabh Bachchan, with his big, blustering presence and booming voice, makes a delightful head of household who can run his brothers but has no clue what to do around a woman. And a meancing, if eye-liner-ed, criminal too.

paanch: An evil uncle played by an almost unrecognizably haggard and puffy Amjad Khan! Whither Gabbar Singh? For everyone who was raised on Sholay, answer me this: is it funny to see Jai and Gabbar in other roles, especially being all drunkenly buddy-buddy?
chhe: Shakti Kapoor! Shakti Kapoor! In a burlap bag!
saat: The kidnapping plot is still really troubling, even thirty years later. A few days after I saw this, I read the statistic that nine out of ten murdered women in India are killed by their husbands. I know that statistic and this movie aren't terribly closely related, but they're all part of a big, swirling pack of issues that I don't know nearly enough about.

And two more random points:
Amitabh's facial expression here made me laugh uncontrollably and I rewound to see it several times.

I was startled to find that somehow Shakti Kapoor managed to look eerily like Alan Rickman

and that bothers me, because Alan Rickman is yumsicle (although a good 75% of that is in his voice, which Shakti just ain't got).

You can watch Satte Pe Satta online at

Aside: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is on and it is every bit as good as I remember.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

and if Preity says it, you know it must be true

I just heard Preity Zinta refer to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna as "kank" in an interview! This makes me very happy.

On the down side, however, I think I may be kanked with Film Cafe. This is the first time I've listened in many weeks and I'm just not interested. It's not really very deep, is it? It's gushing. Sometimes I enjoy that, but lately I guess I don't. And it's almost always "Tell us about the character you play in XYZ film" and "Tell us why everyone should go watch XYZ film." Snooze.

And: I tried several times last night to log in to post my review of Satte Pe Satta but blogger, darn its beautiful hide [get it? get it?], was misbehaving. Meanwhile I'll just tell you that everyone should read my post on Satte Pe Satta because it's a really, really good post and everyone worked really hard on it and it's a fun post with something for everyone.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why? Because it was there.

In Diwali's spirit of new beginnings, t-HYPE, Susania, and many more of us are pleased to announce Ugly, Ugly, Bollywood Fugly, a new site devoted to the very finest inflicted by Indian film costume designers at their very worst moments. Some other folks were already covering celebrities out in the wild - and well done, Twinkle Twinkle and others - but we're more interested here in what they wear on screen.

For me, it's a matter of time management: I watch a lot of Bollywood, so that I can easily write about, but what with trying to keep up with the outfits of America's own completely loony celebs, I couldn't possibly have the energy scan Indian magazines and gossip sites, and I leave that noble task in the capable hands of others.

My personal slant for the new blog, at least for the time being, is to roll out a series of fashion lessons. I always find myself thinking, "Now if there's one thing we've learned from Bollywood (and there are many), it's...." And I keep thinking I should write them all down, but of course I forget. But fashion is a nice, confined yet totally rich topic, and I hope to codify learning for us all as inspired by and gleaned from the very finest to grace the screen.

And no, I am by no stretch a fashionista and in fact wear jeans to work whenever I possibly can (which is almost all of the time). But I know fugly when I see it.

And happy Diwali, everyone!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

{horrible Karisma singing}happy birthday Big B{/horrible Karisma singing}

So do your favorite awkward dance step, put on your best flared pants/-collared shirts, quote a line, flip a coin, and have some paan. Right on, Big B. Right on.

(Or something. I'm really tired and poorly-versed in classic Amitabh movies. But I will be ready for SRK's birthday on November 2.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's just Don. That's all there is to it.

So I finally watched Don. Like for Sharon, the verdict was out on whether to watch it before or after the new one, but I figured it was time to break the recent string of terribly terrible movies with surety and style. Bow-tie-with-slacks style, preferably.

I enjoyed Don very much. And while it has its share of completely ridiculous moments* - the tightrope being the high point of disbelief, as Maja pointed out, but don't forget the flaming car at the graveyard or knowing the van with the vault would stop exactly over that utility hole cover (I didn't drive while I was there, but I reckon from what I observed that Mumbai traffic is not that predictable) - it was good fun, and who cares, right? This is canon, and even if I don't entirely understand why, I'll accept it as so.

What I do feel I can comment on is how SRK will do. (Please note I have watched none of the teasers for the new movie, so forgive me if I'm talking about things that don't exist in the new movie or whatever. I'm just basing this on the knowledge that SRK is playing that character.) I hope he pulls it off in the appropriate spirit rather than as a duplication - this is how I felt about the first Bridget Jones's Diary movie, which had a seriously messed-with plot but captured the spirit of the book quite satisfactorily. While I am not a Big B junkie, I know enough to know it's better to nod to the legend than to try to replicate him. I really liked parts of Duplicate and look forward to SRK doing character-with-in-a-character again. And surely he could do a loopy street performer really well. And you know what? I think Priyanka will stink on ice. I so believed that Zeenat Aman had fun with that role, and I can't imagine Priyanka demonstrating that kind of glee.

And yes, I would like to read Roma's blog. But it's hard to keep one when you're under cover.

And yes, I loved Roma's gaucho pants and strappy wedge sandals.

OHMYGOD. I am listening to some Bollywood web radio station and there is a really awful song on, with the lyrics "love you unconditionally, soniye" being sung by a voice that surely must be Sir Whiny McNasal. I am so tired of him. Shutupshutupshutup. I wonder if the rest of the lyrics are this stupid? OHMYGOD I just changed the channel and he's on that one too. RRRRR.

* I watched this with one of my Indian viewing companions from Lage Raho Munna Bhai, and as much as he loves movies, he too was having issues with suspension of disbelief. He would point at things and say "See? Typical Hindi film." When JJ was trying to figure out how to escape with his kids and spies the rope conveniently sitting in the corner, my friend said "Bah! That is there just so he can use it. Typical Hindi film!" This makes me think that we should award THF prizes for the moments when this kind of thing happens. Like Totally Basmatic's Dumb English Lyrics.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Aaaaakaaaaash! dot blogspot dot com

I love a challenge. I especially love a writing challenge. So when The Buddha Smiled tagged me to discuss movie characters that should have had blogs and in what ways would their blogs have changed the movie plots, I was thrilled. I had marked out today to work on my Fulbright project - they seem to think they deserve some sort of educational, useful project in exchange for the five weeks in five-star hotels, whatevs! - but that was already down the drain after sleeping in and lounging in the sun for awhile.

I'm limiting this to Bollywood movies, since that's what I'm here for.

You know who I think should blog? The side characters. The ones we're left wanting to know more about or the ones who give us the impression that they have a lot more to say than they ever get screen time for.

To do this tag properly, I need to blur reality a bit here, to feel like these characters are real people who exist beyond the scope of the movie because what good is a blog that just lasts a few days or months? You get hooked on it, and then it peters out or disappears. Phhbt to that. You have to do that kind of pretending with movies sometimes, pretend that you're just seeing a little bit of their lives, dropping in on them for awhile, and that they exist after the credits roll.

I immediately thought of my first choice for this project before I was even tagged, as soon as I first read Filmiholic's response when she was tagged: Deepa. You remember Deepa: the most enthusiastic,


and sad girl in Bollywood (or at least in Dil Chahta Hai).

I love Deepa. Hell, I am Deepa.* And I want more background. How did she meet Akash? How long has this been going on? How many times has she yelled his name across the crowded college quad? Has she suffered in silence through watching strings of his short-term flings? Did she sit behind him in a class, doodling his name on her notebook? Did she get a crush from afar, then work out ways to get to know him, befriending Sid or maybe accidentally-on-purpose having lunch at the same time as he did every week?

And don't you remember how unpleasant pre-interrupting-Shalini's-wedding Akash is? He's really not that much of a catch when not on the dance floor. He's generally a blustering, short-sighted jerk, even to his best friend. Why does she love him so? That's my real question. Why him?

And we just lose Deepa after Goa and have no idea if she's able to take heart and move on - although granted, I reckon Sid is one of most sensible and caring young men ever to cross the screen, and if anyone could talk me out of an unreasonable crush yet simultaneously build me up, it would be Sid. Does Deepa really believe him that she's intelligent and nice deserves something better? Does she find evidence of this in herself and go out and make some better friends? Does Deepa even have any friends, or does she usually present this most insane version of herself to everyone?

While I love how this movie both pokes a little fun at her and treats her gently, with real empathy, I'd love for her to have more of a voice. But that would take time away from the central stories of our male friends, so that would just be a different movie. But what if Akash, Sid, and Sameer were intercut with the writings of their respective ladkis? What would we learn about the boys, and how would our opinions of them change? Akash is probably both more and less lovable through Deepa's eyes - we'd see exactly how many times he'd slighted her, but we'd also see all that was good about him, which must be all she sees.

Tara's blog would be all arty and wry, and all her art-school friends would leave funny comments about her boy-toy, and she'd try to brush them aside while realizing that - rrrrr! - she does actually have feelings for him, and now what is she supposed to do? She can't let such a sweet young man into this hard world she has. Her life is complicated enough with the rat-bastard ex and the sadness over her daughter and the doctor visits - she doesn't want Sid to see her like this.... And Pooja would weigh Sammer vs what's-his-name, and her friends would leave comments egging her to dump that guy and go with Sameer.

So, yeah, that would be a different movie. It might give us a deeper picture of the boys, but it might also detract from the central story about their friendship with each other, and I would hate for that to happen. I really do love DCH just as it is. So maybe it isn't a question of whether Deepa should blog - and more along the lines of "What movie character's blog would you love to read?"

Although maybe we get her complete story here. After all, for some people, this

would well on the way to contentment, rosy sunset and all.

I tag Bollyhoo. Your public is restless.

Aside: other characters whose blogs I would very much enjoy reading include Percy and Ms. Chandni from Main Hoon Na ("Sanju...Sanju... Sanju...Mini!" and "Oh my god. I keep having daydreams about one of my students in see-through shirts! I just got this job, but already it's just like Xavier's all over again!", respectively); any of Arshad Warsi's sidekicks; and any of the villagers in Swades, maybe the postmaster who was so enthralled by email.

Aside to the Buddha Smiled: See? I did it! I bet you never really had any doubt.

* Affetionate and well-meaning but overly demonstrative, slow to get a clue, and just a little bit nuts.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the selection process and Jeet

Alert reader Velu has asked me a very interersting question:
How do u decide that u r gonna watch a hindi film? [That is, if it doesnt star Akshaye, of course.:D]
Much to everyone's surprise, I've only seen 9 of Akshaye's 22 movies (thanks, imdb!) - even with him in them, it's going to be completely bottom-of-the-barrel before I turn to either LOC Kargil or Deewaar. (No one has ever told me anything about these, so my opinion is largely based on trailers, and they just don't look like my kind of thing. Reviews welcome. Plus I should save the latter to watch with Babasko, obviously.)

The sad truth is, I don't have much of a system. Rather, I don't have any sort of system that I can articulate. It's like how I shelve my books or stack items on my desk at work - there is a plan, there is a reason for everything, but not that anyone who isn't me would discern. This doesn't always serve me well; sometimes I end up with things like Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya. I used to research movies a little bit, but now I just take things as they come, usually something I've encoutered while reading (Kandoukondain Kandoukondain). Sometimes it's the picture on the box, I'll be honest - that's how I got my much-beloved Mujhse Dosti Karoge!, for example. Some things I feel I should watch in order to be a better-rounded, more informed Bollywood fan who has her own opinion on the legends (Sholay, Mughal-E-Azaam, and, believe it or not, Jaani Dushman - no one said legends have to be good). Sometimes I've seen a clip and want more where that came from, whether delightful (Gumnaam) or horrifying (Disco Dancer). A star can help a movie I'm otherwise uncertain about or ignorant of make the cut (Hrithik and Preity made me try Lakshya) or stay on the shelf (Govinda has stopped me from more than I can remember). And of course, sometimes things have to be seen to be believed (Chori Chori Chupke Chupke).

My favorite method, though, is personal recommendation (Swades). No matter the outcome of the viewing, it's so lovely to have someone think about you and what they think you might like or about wanting to share something with you.

All of which leads us to Jeet, which I watched solely because I heard it had a wildly funny dance sequence in it. Behold, the Stomping of Sunny Deol!

The song is "Yaara O Yaara" and you can see the whole thing - if you dare - here.
When you're lucky, which I clearly am, one great thing will lead to another. Jeet was full of treats, like Sunny being the twelfth day of Christmas,

Karisma wearing plaid/floral pants and a white shirt with its front half tied in a knot and a black fringey thing around her waist (sorry so pixely, I tried many times to get this with no luck),

Sunny with the Hand of Rage,

Sunny looking like Kramer,

Tabu looking gorgeous (and her dance was lovely too, at least until the synthesizer kicked in, and that killed it),

Salman wearing a jacket that is so big that its arms cave in under its enormous shoulder pads [Babasko, please note I do not blame Salman for this! But even you have to admit this is ridiulcous, especially since this was made in 1996!],

and, saving the best for last, Amrish Puri with fake eyebrows and teeth - and ear hair?

To be honest, Jeet's plot is not my cup of tea, especially the whole notion of "hey girls, let's fall in love with the man who is a known criminal and is so violent and rage-driven that he breaks into your house and beats up your father!" - nor are the extended action sequences that challenge most of the laws of nature. And some people will want to be warned that this movie features Johnny Lever in drag. But who cares? The dance, oh the dance! Sometimes that's all you need.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What happens when the president is kidnapped and nobody knows?

[Note: if you haven't seen Asambhav, this probalby isn't going to make the teensiest bit of sense. You might want to skip over it. But if you have - and heaven help you - read on.]

I know. I know, and I'll tell you all about it. Because I'm the Indian President in Asambhav, Veer Pratap Singh, and this is my story. (And yes, earlier this year I was the Defense Minister in Rang De Basanti - you'll see why I wanted a different job after you read what I went through.)

You have to understand something. My role in the Indian government is largely ceremonial, so when I asked my advisors to arrange a vacation for me and my darling beti Kinjal (who just finished at Harvard's, I'm so proud!) in Switzerland, we figured we'd have no problems at all. But no sooner do we check into this hotel on an island near Locarno - I'll admit, I'd thought the Swiss would have pulled out all the stops for the Indian president, given how much movie industry business we throw their way, but this place was about on par with the Mohan International in Amritsar, although our room did come with a nice beige desktop computer and a few CDs - than the phone lines are cut, the mobile network is down, and my two guards get shot in the hallway. Next thing I know, I'm being shoved around by greasy-haired men with scary-looking guns who tell me that they do the dirty work so the people they work for - and I'm not entirely clear who that is, exactly, some larger political or terrorist organization, probably relating to Pakistan, if I had to put money on it - can keep their hands clean. And then he says am I going to help him out with that. I mean, yeah, I guess, they've got the guns. But like I said, I'm largely ceremonial, so I don't really know if I'm going to fetch the kind of ransom they want. But whatevs.

So they keep me on this island for, like, days, and I never get to change my clothes. And then this idiot shows up pretending to be a reporter, and he's got some bubble-brained chippy with him as his "photographer," but I don't think there's much going on when she clicks the shutter, if you know what I mean. Eventually I'm able to convey to Rambo through a series of meaningful looks that he needs to take a closer look around, that all of these people are not what they seem, and that he should pass the salt - which, after lots of eyebrow-furrowing, he realizes means that sometimes white granules are not what they appear and that there are some drugs involved with this mess too.

And then something really weird happened - maybe there was something in the water. I'm just sitting there, minding my own business, when all of a sudden there's a line down the center of my field of vision, and my view has been split in two. And it just kept happening, again and again and again and mostly at random, seeing lots of different views of basically the same thing all at once, and at first I had thought the bad guys had drugged me, but everyone kept complaining about it, saying it made them dizzy and confused and that they wanted to curl up and take a nap to stop the madness.

So then guess what happens! You will never guess who shows up next. I overheard one of my captorss on speaker phone with a voice that sounded really familiar. I thought it was Brigadier Shekhar Sharma - you remember him, he's Major (or is that Wing Commander?) Ram Sharma's dad - one of my country's finest army operatives, so I assumed he was coming to get me out. But no, he's in on all of this kidnapping/drugs/money scheme too, and I'm, like, "What are you doing [Boom!] in this mess?" (But just in my head, 'cause they didn't let me talk to him, obviously.) I really don't know why he was involved. He's so much better than these guys. He should be off doing something useful and worthy of his experience, like coaching deaf kids in cricket or something. He'd be really good at that.

Anyway, all these peole with guns are running around and beating people up, or dancing [Boom!] in some transportation-themed nightclub or other, and sometimes I could see the "reporter" kicking and punching some pieces of wood while looking really shiny and surrounded by flames, and frankly I have no idea what the army is up to if that's their best man. Then some of the bad guys went to this dungeon thing, and they had a big party and a belly dancer on a fountain, and sometimes the fountain had leaves in it, even though it's inside, but other times it didn't, which I thought was kinda sloppy work on the part of whoever was in charge of that fountain. And later everyone went to either a castle or an airfield, where my daughter was pretty much the only useful person around, 'cause she shot a bad guy without even flinching! Oh, and get this: India's Swiss ambassador [Boom!] [Boom!] [Boom!] was in on it too! I need to start a formal inquiry into how we appoint these people. It's not a good thing to have your political appointees double-crossing the nation, you know? Especially in a country that sees a lot of Indian traffic. Like, what would have happened if that ambassador had tried this stunt with Shahrukh and Kajol or something? Bad news. Bad.

The good thing about being largely ceremonial is that you can't be held responsible for anything like this. Plus most of your time is spent [Boom!] cutting ribbons and waving. I was just really glad to be back home in one piece, especially when I found out that the terrorists/drug lords/Pakistani militants/freelance kidnappers/international pop stars [Boom!] didn't get the ransom money, and that that one embasssy staff member, who a few yeares ago used to spout off cryptic fortunes, stopped with the couplets. That was getting old.

so much of awful movies: Jaani Dushman, Kismat, and Dhund: The Fog

Stunned. Stunned by badness.

About a year ago I promised myself that I would write something about every Bollywood movie I watched. And I think those four words will do the trick for these movies.

No, okay, I'll give them a bit more. Jaani Dushman was every bit as bad as I had been promised - by Army of Monkeys and Fireball, for example - and I laughed and laughed and laughed. I can't imagine I could say anything original about this one, so I will limit myself to one comment, which is less difficult to do than it would be if I had taken screen captures of it, which I didn't. Wouldn't you think that, by the time he heard that his character would have already been pulverized and in a coma and then he had to fight some cursed snake/shape-shifter guy underwater with a knife sticking out of him, Akshay Kumar would have put the script down, turned to the producers, and said "No. No, I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to do it. I'm Akshay Kumar and you need me more than I need you, and I'm just not going to do this"?

As you may remember, I watched this movie in exchange for making Army of Monkeys watch Disco Dancer, and I think my end of the bargain has been more than filled.

Next was Kismat. I've already forgotten most of this - completely unmemorable. I will say Bobby Deol did a much, much better job dancing here than he did in Humraaz and that finally I have seen the source of that ubiquitous picture of Priyanka in the lace-up pants.

I award these pants the prize for Worst Pants (Female) in Bollywood, and I hope some costume designer will pair them with Shahid's lace-up rope-swinging shirt.

Finally, Dhund: The Fog, which I'm told is a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer, which I haven't seen. You'll notice a real lack of "scary" movies on this website, and that's because I startle extremely easily, so easily that I jumped, shrieked, and turned to hide my face in the sofa when the bad guy rose from the dead and sneaked up on one of our heroines even though I am not so stupid as not to realize he was going to do it. This movie has the most contrived "let's wrap this up with whatever characters we already have but give no thought to any kind of sense or existing plot points" ending I have ever seen, but it did indeed tie everything up tidily. Gad.

And in closing: I watched all three of these - and one more, which I'll talk about later - in less than 48 hours. Where's my medal?