Thursday, December 28, 2006


A Pakistani/Indian/Persian/Danish artist named Aneela has remade* the craptacular "rap" song "Informer" by the Canadian "artist" Snow. Now, as you all know, I like Indian pop culture, and I like Canada, but this does not compute. You can see the video for "Chori Chori" in the usual places or just listen on her website.

Oh, right, that's where the Bollywood connection comes up - she does"Say Na Say Na" from Bluffmaster, and she has another song that sounds just like it on her site, but I think it's got different words in parts, but what do I know - this is getting into levels of remixing and sampling that make my brain hurt.

This song was brought to my attention by my friend Jason, who does counter-terrorism for the US Navy, whose offices apparently have muzak, and their current station of choice included this. Jaosn, ever attuned to international pop culture trends, alerted me pronto. Which is only fair, considering the dreadful Chinese pop music he's subjected me to in the past.

Anyway, Aneela, thanks for Bluffmaster, but where were you going with the whole Snow thing?

* At least, I think it's a remake. Maybe it's a just "inspired by." Or it's an installment in a new international series based on "Informer," like Munna Bhai.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

only for Akshaye: Aap Ki Khatir*

* with apologies to Babasko, who thought of this sort of title first.

It's not uncommon for me to watch movies in multiple stages, but this one really pushed the limits. If I had been liveblogging, it'd have to look something like this:
  • Tuesday, 7:10 pm: movie about twenty minutes in and I can hardly keep my eyes open; realize I would rather be watching a Gilmore Girls repeat
  • Thursday, 9:27 pm: movie about thirty minutes further in and I can hardly keep my eyes open; realize I would rather be asleep and that a Kevin Sorbo-guested episode of The OC is better than this could ever be and I should just quit while I'm ahead
  • Friday, 9:30 am: a morning movie, even an "enh" one, is a good idea; I've had worse accompaniaments to a bowl of cereal
  • Friday, 4:53 pm: the lasagna is in the oven and my parents are supposed to arrive at about 6:00, so I can just finish it if I don't keep pausing to laugh at the subtitles
  • Friday, 5:30 pm: parents early
  • Friday, 8:38 pm: everyone tired; sense of loyalty to Mr. Khanna compels me to watch the final thirteen minutes and start getting screen captures
It's just not a good movie. Nothing about it is particularly interesting. The characters, with the exception of Akshaye's, veer toward the grating, especially Priyanka and Amisha's cousin (Bhumika Singh), who is supposed to be boy-crazy/man-hungry and says things like she feels ill if she goes two days without a boyfriend, the following,

and "no motivation without rotation," which I think means that the more you change boyfriends the harder you try for the next one, or something, I don't know.
There's a love story that you have to buy into in order for this movie to work, and I was never convinced by any of its leads. The plot is silly but no moreso than usual; there are a few moments in which people - either the characters or the actors - seem to be enjoying themselves, but the story and its execution are generally dull. Nothing about it is exceptionally bad, but I cannot give you a reason to watch it, even if you're a big fan of any of the leads. You can just check stills to see how silly they made forty-six-year-old Suneil Shetty look, and I'll tell you right now that Anupam Kher overdoes his bumbling father at times, as does Lillete Dubey her "I'm so glam and modern on the outside here in London but phir bhi dil hai Hindustani" mother, although she is balanced out a bit by the few speaking lines of her Monsoon Wedding costar Kamini Khanna, whom I am always happy to see.

With one exception.** I know I've said this a lot lately, but once again, bad subtitling ran amok throughout this movie. The best example was someone getting "ditched at the alter." Mostly there were jarring and repeated discrepancies between what was being said and what was written on the screen; while most of the time I suspect that didn't matter too much, I wouldn't be surprised if some interesting bits were lost in the fog. A few were probably just lazy typos, like "he" where there should have been "she" or "do" instead of "to" in an angry "do hell with your friendship!" Many times this happened during English dialogue, so the mistakes were clear: "nervous girl" was written for "nervous flyer"; "it's how I am" for "it's fashionable"; "he is the man" for "he is Aman" (this was about Akshaye, so I giggled extra); and "a don't-care-for-you attitude" for "your don't-care-a-damn attitude." Sigh. I'm sorry if my constant whining about this is getting irritating; maybe subconsciously I'm hoping that if I complain enough, someone with the power to fix the problem will do so, especially since it is surely so easy and affordable to avoid.

Deep cleansing breath.

Peace out, yo.

(There is a whole series of delightfully silly hip-hop-esque poses in the remix of the title song, which plays under the opening credits. I watched them many, many times. Love him as I do, Abhishek in Bluffmaster he ain't. In fairness I should add that right after this, which is as the song ends, his entire mode changes and he sits nicely with his hands folded and looks off towards stage left, as though he's making eye contact with a director or choreographer, waiting for their approval, and then laughs, as though he knows he's just mugged ferociously [and looks a little out of his comfort zone in the bling].)

** Okay, two. In addition to the bad subtitles, I had to fug one of Amisha's outfits, which you can read about on Bollywood Fugly if you are so inclined.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

quite possibly the only way to make insurance more interesting

This morning's fifteen-minute research project is to track down information on - and preferably footage of - Bollywood-inspired commercials for Metlife Insurance aimed at the South Asian-American (do I need another hyphen in that?) community, complete with music by Eshaan and Loy. Two of them won some sort of award. You can see at least one of them here, but this is clearly not one of the ones described in a review of the project here. So maybe there are three ads? Anyway. I'm all for them.

On another note, I heard that now that Google owns youtube, there is going to be a bit of a crackdown on the latter's hosting of copyrighted material. I've long been wondering how that was legal, since it all seemed a bit Napstery, and I never felt entirely comfortable with what youtube enables people to do with copyrighted stuff, but for me to comdemn it would be hypocritical, largely because I do use and enjoy it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

21st-century girl: Bobby

Like Seeta aur Geeta, Bobby was something I read about but thought I'd never get to see, as neither my local video store nor the Indian grocery store had it. But during a quick stop at the latter on Saturday, while looking over other shoppers' heads at the Hindi shelves, scanning for Shaadi se Pehle, which is mysteriously always out, lo and behold! Another classic and my education continues. I consider both of these finds auspicious, and I can't wait to find out what other older gems he has for me.

Anyhoo, you know a movie is going to be fantastic when you get to say "Woah, dancing on the ceiling!",

it has a young Farida Jalal with a really creepy doll,

the hero's house looks magical mystery tour through several previous centuries of furnishings and architecture (why do Bollywood's rich families always have such gigantic main rooms, especially with grand staircases? Is this an ideal house form in India? I can see how it's good for parties, dance scenes, and weddings. Maybe Hollywood has a lot of these too and I just don't notice them anymore),

his dorm room has posters of Hair and Gandhi, which could fit right in today,

love blooms in a library,

and there's a Mrs. Robinson-style seductress on the loose, who, according to my subtitles, was classy enough not to make a joke about Rishi and the what he's about to do to those candles.

Despite reading about it in a few different places, I had significantly misunderstood the basic plot of Bobby, so the whole thing was a bit of a surprise and had a more hopeful feel than what I had been expecting. I think being so removed from the context of this film - India in the 1970s, that is - means that any real significance it had went right over my head. Fortunately I watched this with a grad student from Mumbai, and he was nice enough to share his thoughts on whether the obstacles to the romance raised by the protagonists' youth, class differences, and lack of parental approval would have been resonant to audiences at the time. Bobby's insistence that she was a "21st-century girl" raised some interesting questions about what being "modern" means (or meant in 1973, anyway) and whether it can be maintained
alongside more traditional values and behaviors, in her culture or any other. I'm not sure Bobby answered all of these questions, at least not clearly (kind of like how I wasn't sure what exactly Karan Johar was trying to say about infidelity and parenting in KANK). Bobby and Raja certainly caused a lot of trouble and heartache for the people who loved them, so maybe the point was that change is painful even when it's well-intentioned. And of course the story stops before the next immediate phase of their lives begins - he would go to university and she would go back to high school - and maybe the leisure of summer let their relationship bloom (or explode, depending on your point of view) the way it did. How would it fare in the more constrained and distracting world of school or work? We'll never know. Ordinarily I don't like endings that are the least bit unfinished, but maybe it's best to just leave them like that, holding hands with their fathers on a summer day, frozen at a giddy, happy, and dramatic stage of things.

As a parting thought:

how you doin'?

Update to post (January 7, 2007): prompted by thoughtful comments from the Buddha Smiled and in Filmi Geek's post on Bobby, I wanted to add in my questions about how this movie was received when it came out. Like Filmi Geek, I watched this movie out of its place in history, so when the Delhi-ite (that's not the right term, is it, but it will do for now) who runs the shop where I rented this started to tell me about how popular it had been and the astronomical ticket prices it commanded and how people bunked school to see it ("If someone was absent, the teacher did not even need to ask his friends where he was"), I asked him if it had been at all controversial. He looked surprised by my question and said not at all. But like TBS said, that seems unlikely to me, given the young age and religious differences of the couple - and especialy their disregard for their parents. Who else has thoughts to add?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

what I learned from Munna Bhai MBBS

Update to post (December 27, 2006): First, a warm hello to everyone who came here via India FM. Second, please ignore the word "sequel" in this post and mentally replace it with "next installment of the fantastic adventures of Munna and Circuit." After I wrote this, the comments people sent me prompted me to consider more thoroughly whether Lage Raho Munna Bhai was a sequel or an installment in a serial, and now that I've thought about it further, I'll go with the latter.

To get them out of the way first, the two things that really bugged me in this movie:
1) What the hell happened to his family for the sequel? I'm so confused.

Was there an explanation for this 180 in Lage Raho Munna Bhai that I don't remember? Like a quick exchange at the beginning, with Circuit saying "Yaar, it's a real bummer your family was all killed in that fiery autorickshaw crash" and Munna says "Yeah dude, but I'm over it, now that I'm back in the mobster game." I'm almost willing to chalk this up to insuffient subtitling, but the subtitles in LRMB were superb.

2) Double standard alert! Double standard alert! Heaven forbid a fine, ethical character like Munna Bhai even think about dating a woman who dances like this

when it is common knowledge that all women like that are good for is whoring out to shy, upstanding young men so they don't die without having a sexual encounter.

I am so unbelievably sick of that crap. I almost turned off the movie here I was so worked up about the completely two-faced-ness, especially when the "dancer" is brought in to carry out, for Zaheer, the exact philosophy that fake-pretend Chinki has expressed (basically "live it up"). This movie is full of lovely sentiments and models of behavior; this sneaky slap to women really stood out to me. There are some other dubious actions, too -
the ends can justify the means

and cheat if you have to

- but those I can forgive because Munna is transitioning out of his old ways and is trying to take care of things effectively, and unfortunately these are the ways he knows how.

Alright. The rest of it was good fun, as everyone on the planet has already pointed out. Here are some of my favorite of the film's many, many good life lessons.

Thank people. Recognize everyone as an individual.

Americans are not the only ignorant tourists. But it's good to encounter ignorant tourists sometimes, because then you can trick them into doing (or buying) ridiculous things. Plus you can call them funny names based on their own culture.

Question authority, especially on behalf of those who have no voice.

Forgiveness is good. Accept apologies when they are heart-felt.

The human touch is restorative.

Be humble when you're in over your head.

Look out for the little ones.

Cherish your friends.

Accessorize! Match your phone to your bling when possible.

And, of course, when life calls for a song, hop to it!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

shut it

Okay, Mr. Eros Entertainment announcer, let me tell you something: though I happily lump myself in the category you call "hey you Bollywood freaks" - and I'll assume you don't mean that pejoratively - I've just about had it with your endless commercials. You go on and on and on, telling me things I already know, advertising movies I have either already seen, already have on my list to see, or would never in a million years watch. And you never let me FF. I'm a loyal customer who believes 100% top A-1 in your product, and still you hold me captive. What gives?

Oh, and the one name that's responsible for spreading Bollywood worldwide for the last 25 years? It's "Amitabh Bachchan." You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Seeta aur Geeta

My Bollywood history is shaky - and all my reference books are downstairs - so I just have to ask: did the whole world fall in love with Hema Malini after this movie came out?

Because it should have. She rocks.

Most things I touch are turning to "enh" today - a colleague described a graphic I designed as looking like vomit-covered baby poop, and she wasn't wrong - so I don't think a full response to this delightful film is in order. Just watch it. It's fun. And it has roller skates.

Also, the clothes are fantastic. 60s/70s in all the right ways, such as above. Nary a fug to be found.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

surprisingly lackluster: Commando

In a recent discussion about 70s Bollywood, mere dost over at Teleport City mentioned that he was looking to combine two great tastes that taste great together: Bollywood and ninjas. I've believe I've mentioned my tendencies towards the researchy, and this is the kind of query that keeps me up past my bedtime. Fortunately, it took me less than 30 seconds to find Commando and send the recommendation on its merry way. And though ninjas are not something I ever seek out, I figured that they were likely to correspond to things I do enjoy, such as spies, villain lairs, or crass, fake-pretend Japanese elements; when a little more research revealed that the star was Mithun "I am a disco dancer" Chakraborty, I gladly hopped on board.

Bad idea.

Commando could have been so much more. Somehow the people in charge of this project managed to squander the following rich resources and wound up with a mediocre, half-arsed, unengaging snooze:
  • Mithun as a nation-saving soldier who has a love interest played by Mandakini (whom I've never seen before and I am shocked to discover is somewhat of a star, because she kinda stank here) and an espionage colleague played by Kim (a.k.a. Rita from Disco Dancer)

  • a supporting cast of Amrish Puri (as primo bad guy, of course), Shakti Kapoor, Om Shivpuri (a.k.a. Mr. Oberoi from Disco Dancer), Dalip Tahil, Satish Shah, Tom Alter, and Bob Christo

    (Note Bob's hat. Remember, it's 1988. Quite on-target, actually.)
  • ninjas, led by a guy named Ninja, who is also a would-be prime ministerial assassin (see above; I like that it isn't actually an Indian who tries to shoot Indira Gandhi here)
  • silly "special effects" like pink blood, clearly model cars in chase sequences, and Himalayan backdrops that are really just hills with snowy peaks painted on top

  • a snake on a plane (quite literally - although that does also work for a metaphor for how big a flop this was for me)
  • original music by Bappi Lahiri - that is, when it isn't gigantic plagiarized chunks of Star Wars* - which actually is one of the stronger points of the movie, even when the lyrics descend into "commando, commando, commando" or "it's a dance dance party."
I can't put my finger on what went wrong. There was so much potential for giddy stupidity here, and it just didn't work. I think the major missing ingredient - one that made Disco Dancer so awesomely ridiculous - was that no one here seemed to be having any fun and nothing was done with any glee. Even when a lot of effort seemed to be put into something, it was done lifelessly. I kept wanting to pause it and yell "Once more, with feeling!" The dancing was flat, the costumes unnoteworthy, the fights a giant muddle. Maybe the whole cast and crew were on Nyquil during shooting. Mithun seems to have aged decades in the few years between this and Disco Dancer, and his generally droopy expression throughout the movie sums up the impression it made on me.

Of course, with a team like this, there were a few delightful moments, but they were in passing and never cohered into an enjoyable arc. For example:

If the only reason your parachute is attached to your body is because you're holding its straps in your fists, isn't it likely to dislocate your arms?

Despite having a wild Mithun pawing at her leg and a knife looming of her body that I, for one, wouldn't want a knife anywhere near, our heroine remains calm. More than I could do. (This little sequence is pretty strange, actually. They're escaping ninjas or some such, and she's just complained that she can't run any further. He tells her to sit and proceeds to slash her skirt up the front with the knife. My guess it's to help her run better, but no one alludes to that. Her complaint was not skirt-specific and could just be because of her shoes or just being tired. The subtitles give no explanation about any of this. Anyway.)

Not long thereafter, still on the run, hero and heroine discover the shell of a crashed plane ("This plane must have crashed a few years ago," he helpfully points out) and take shelter for the night. Somehow it's filled with hay, and even though they're soaked from the rain, they find dry kindling to start a fire, which manages not to spread anywhere in the hay-filled plane.

Was 1988 too late to be doing the shopping cart and the robot?

There's a loony sequence within a car chase in which our hero and heroine are being aided in getaway by Satish Shah (his character is named Ram Chong and lives in a village with fake-pretend Chinese people, at least I think that's who they are, but it doesn't really matter, of course), who owns a red car dedicated to Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar (who do sing in this soundtrack, of course), and the continuity and cuts between the live footage and the bits filmed with models are awful. I can accept that Satish's wacky comic-relief car has a switch marked "parachute" that deploys a parachute and enables the car to float down safely from a mid-air jump, but having a wooded road suddenly change to a rocky cliff is too much.

The one consistently amusing aspect of this movie is the subtitles. They were crazy, and I loved them. The subtitler had an unconversational, stilted feel for the English language** and, more to the point, was also more often than not a bad writer, peppering us with things that didn't need to be stated, or certainly not stated like this. Some of the madness probably comes from the actual dialogue and was just translated faithfully, but I can only blame what I can actually understand.
  • "I have to give a good new for you."
  • "I have surely to go with gun convoy today."
  • [dialogue] bad guy: "The route by which we are going are very dangerous. Our convoy will be passing through the area of terrorist."
    heroine: "You mean original terrorist!...I will go for sure. I have never seen a terrorist."
    bad guy: "But Asha, these are dangerous people."
    heroine: "So what? I am a dangerous woman."
    A rich exchange, don't you think? I'd like to start calling Teleport City "original terrorist," as a mark of Bollywood in-crowd bad-ass-iness, but I'd also like TC to remain Cheney-free, so no go.
  • "Why is this entire happening?"
  • "I think the matter is very deep and serious."
  • "...the headquarters where Asha is being captivated"
I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again until somebody gives me the job: please have one of India's millions of fluent English-speakers read the subtitles before the movie is released.

In closing: Teleport City himself has recently said that boring is the real kiss of death for a movie, and I have to agree. Even here, despite not getting any of the elements to work well, the movie took no refuge in the last resort of "so bad it's good" - it wasn't so sloppy or under-resourced that hilarity or spectacular badness ensued - it just had no fizz of any kind. I don't know how they made everything so dull, wasting potential for both good and bad. I don't know if anyone will believe me, and I can understand why: the ingredients promise a loopy good time filled with excessive jingoism, bad 80s clothes, ninja fights, dizzying disco dancing, and campy Amrish villain fun. But it doesn't work. If you want to see for yourself, drop me a note and I'll send you the DVD.

* My advice? If you're going to lift music from another movie, try one that hasn't been seen by the entire planet.
** Please know that I think Indian English/es has/have absolutely nothing to do with the strange language in the subtitles.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

hugging my earphones

Thanks to a tip-off from alert reader icy, I'm now listening to the Salaam-e-Ishq soundtrack and it is nine kinds of wonderful. I'm on the third repeat of the title song, which I love so much it makes me squish my earphones to my head so I can get the maximum amount of happy from the sound. (If anyone walking by in the hall saw me, they'd probably say I look like an over-eager backup singer in an incredibly low-budget recording studio, but never mind.)

Also in Salaam-e-Ishq's favor, my FPMBF showed up to the music launch looking slick and sane, if woefully underutilizing his ability to look fabulous in a rainbow of colors (pink, perhaps). I do wonder what has happened to his hair, though. Is he actually balding, or is this just another in a series of too-close haircuts? Kinda makes me miss the mullety days of Taal.

(thanks, IndiaGlitz)

Update to post (later that day):
Gah! Thanks again, icy, for filling me in on Akshaye's tango with the razor.

(Thanks to for the picture.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

file under "enabler"

Thanks to Trivial Matters for this gem when I asked him "What's new in Mumbai?" What's new is that DVD vending machines are rolling out in the city. (IS that Tara Sharma in the picture?) The impatient filmi junkie in me loves this, rife with peril as some conveniences can be, their availability making it all too easy to choose poorly. Imagine: one is on one's way home from the pub, bubbly-headed on giggling and rum and coke, and one somehow gets it into one's head that one wants to - needs to - see a Govinda movie right that very minute. Hours later, one wakes up on the couch, completely confused, then looks up in horror to see the tv screen alight with animal-print pants and wild bugging eyes and dopey grinning. One is filled with regret.

Maybe you can put blocks on your account: "Under no circumstances, not even for mockery or point-and-laugh, will the bearer of this card be allowed to rent Kyon Ki."

Monday, December 04, 2006


"Bollywood stars, Malaysian ministers to play football".

Does this remind anyone else of the Monty Python skit in which German and Greek philosophers have a match?

Just imagine. We'll have our boys on one side in their shiny shirts and pleather pants, all choreographed in perfect formation, flinging their arms out while they wait for the loudspeakers to blare music for them to start lip syncing, and then they just look around confusedly when they realize they're still on the soccer field and not in the Alps; the Malaysians might be too busy to notice as they debate trade agreements and tax bills.

lunchtime poll #3: all in the family

Because the recent ice storm and cold snap find me buried under a tv-on-DVD wave, with dozens of episodes of the Gilmore Girls, the OC, and DeGrassi Junior High (both old and new school) (yes, I love teen dramas, and no, I can't explain why) piling up, I don't have much to say these days, Bollywood-wise. But I miss being here, as it were, so instead of me boring you with yet further thoughts on my rewatching of 36 China Town, I'm going to take up a suggestion from alert reader Aspi, whom I like very much even though he mysteriously finds himself needing to chuckle at the thought of my FPMBF, but never mind.

Aspi proposes that we examine Bollywood parent/child pairs with regard to various factors (the first three are his ideas, and I added a few more):
  1. child who most let down parent
  2. child who did/is doing better than parent
  3. "What was Dad/Mum thinking?" (I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but you may interpret as you wish, or Aspi can post in to clarify.)
  4. child who is likely to out-do parent in an arena unrelated to on-screen performance
  5. parent who has a level of superwowness that could never be touched by a child's abilities, no matter how great the child becomes
  6. child who has a character, dialogue, picturization, or costume eerily similar to a parent's
  7. parental scene you would most like to re-cast with the child
You are encouraged to write in some of your own questions too.

Aspi adds that sticking to father/son and mother/daughter pairs only "would eliminate us from having to evaluate Saif against Sharmila, which is only fair," which is a goal I fully support, but in the interest of livelier discussion, I'm opening it up to all combinations.

Technically I'm supposed to be working right now, so quickly, while it's in my head, I'll say in response to #3 (and maybe #1): I don't know if Tanuja is to blame for the career of Tanisha, but if so, then Tanuja, please take your younger daughter off the screen immediately. I have only seen her unmemorable turn in Sarkar and in the dreadful Neal N Nikki, which should never have been made, cameo by Abhishek aside.

Oh and also, because I like them enough to justify their reapperance, #6: sentimental softie leading man bubbles from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Dil Chahta Hai:

Tee hee. Bubbles. Thanks, Bollywood!

Update to post (December 6, 2006):
Answering #7 and winning an award for the coffee coming out my nose, Vinod and Akshaye. Thanks, Cutting the Chai!