Saturday, June 30, 2007

How do you say "Where can Sunehri, like, buy some more gum?" in Portuguese? Dhoom 2

Alternate title: by far the least of the movies starting with "D" released in fall 2006.

My favorite part of this movie is from about 7:40 to 8:10 in, during the title song, when Hrithik is dancing under the rafters and in front of the round window.

In my opinion, the best bits of this song, when he's by himself doing his rubber-limbed tap-dance-y moves, are almost as good as Lakshya's "Main Aise Kyon Hoon" and I watched them over and over. After that, I think my favorite moment was Uday's Baywatch-esque reverie.

And how sad is that? This could have been so much fun, and it just wasn't. (As with the first Dhoom, I'm willing to give it some points for "good to watch with a bunch of other people in the theater," which I didn't get to do.) What went wrong? For starters, four of the six main characters are stupid and annoying beyond a level I could forgive. We've got the opportunity for a cool girl baddie, but no, Sunehri chomps gun, uses "like" too much (though so do I), and swings from dishrag to empty, egotistical hellcat. Equally disappointing is Shonali, a female officer who doesn't demonstrate any abilities in her police work and is then written out of the movie, both for no apparent reason. Vapid Monali seems to exist just to be a partner for hapless Ali, who bungles his police jobs (did anyone else notice that he didn't handcuff Sunehri on the cliff at the end?), although at least both are good-natured. I understand that Ali is supposed to be comic relief, but Jai already has all the foil he needs in Aryan, whose little twinkles and bounces play nicely off of Jai's scowls.

And speaking of that, it's hard to maintain much interest in the beleaguered, boring Jai. He's dutiful, but I don't think we get a sense of what drives him or why he has no joi de vivre. I realize that the real hero of the movie is Aryan, and I've got no problem with the thief being the star of a caper movie. I'm even down with the idea of a whole string of Dhooms, with the common thread being Jai but the real stars being the villains - sounds like fun. But there needs to be something intriguing or empathetic about such a major character. And it's a real waste of an actor like Abhishek, who I think drips with talent, but has to make do with fussing at Uday, more scowling, and having a ridiculous entrance.

He's not really asked to do anything here and is left just to brood in an isolated, uncommunicative way. Snore.

Why are these characters written like this? Is it so hard to give people a little more variety? It's not like consistency has to be a big priority. I enjoyed the plot well enough, but whenever Ali or Sunehri spoke, I just wanted to hit mute. There were two other major things that bothered me. The first was the scene between Aryan and Sunehri with the Russian roulette, because there is little I find more disturbing than the combination of romantic/physical attraction with violence. I appreciate that it took something dramatic to get Sunehri to decide whose side she was on, but did it have to be Aryan threatening to kill both himself and her? Creepy.

The other is the nagging worry I'm left with about how the writer dealt with female characters. Let's do an inventory. We have Jai's wife Sweety, who disappears from the film fairly early on, after which he gallivants with an old friend who has admitted to carrying a torch for him. I'm trying to think of another example of a movie in which a loyal police officer's wife is shown pregnant and then we never even find out if the baby was actually born. Unless the subtitles missed something, we don't even hear Jai mention his child. I thought her disappearance was really weird, especially given the potential to show the standard happy-family scenes. We got none of the cutesy shikdum from the first movie. Doesn't this seem to indirectly reinforce Sweety's worries about husband losing interest in her? Then we've got the do-nothing Shonali, who has tracked Aryan for two years but can't figure out the key to his movements that takes Jai all of a few seconds. She's also portrayed as less patient than Jai, wanting to kill the thief rather than catch him. She doesn't get to be at the right place to catch Aryan either time, and the person she does manage to corner isn't who she thinks and gets away anyway. Then she's laid up in bed for an injury we didn't see her get (I don't think so, anyway - when I saw her in the hospital, I had to go back to figure out how she got there), and that's it. She gets no chance to redeem herself. I don't really know why she's in the movie, frankly. To give Jai a temptation to resist? Or just to be hopeless, not successful at her job or at love? Monali the dim beach bimbo is no treat either, contributing very little to the story.

I'm not at all sure what to make of Sunehri. Maybe the writer was aiming for complex and deceptive, but to me she came off as inconsistent. She does submit her career to her heart, but, then again, so does Aryan. I'll call her a wash, woman-wise, but the other three female characters really bug the part of me that tries to keep an eye on how women are portrayed in Bollywood.*

I was surprised by the ending - it had more emotional oomph than I was expecting. On the cliff, I liked that Jai refused to engage with Aryan's psycho-babble, and I liked that later in the cafe Jai points out that the idea of loving someone enough to kill them is not the way to go. On the other hand, Sunehri doesn't talk during most of the final exchange, so I was left wondering if she was really okay with the idea of no more thieving. But love got to win out - the couple got to stay together and the gruff sourpuss got to show he has a heart - and as usual the cheeseball part of me is delighted.

A quick run-down on the other elements.... I don't tend to pay much attention to stunts, and I don't know anything about how they're done or what the current standards and trends are, but I was entertained by the helicopters, ropes, roller blades, and bikes here. Aryan's disguises are fun, but otherwise the costumes were unremarkable...oh, except for the parade of bandanas! What was with that? Hrithik's massive dance talents were underused, and I had fun aping Aishwarya's "Crazy Kiya Re" lawnmower-type moves. The music was passable - the title song was the strongest, with its cool car horns and stick-in-your-head whistling - but the background score's constant musical references to both Dhoom soundtracks got tiresome. Really, though, none of this added up to anything solid for me. There were moments of fun, and Hrithik makes Aryan fun to watch, but no one else really has much to do, and that was a big disappointment.

Aside: when I told t-hype I was watching this, she asked me what I thought of the museum scenes. So I'll tell you. And if you would rather avoid several sentences of me being snarky, you should stop reading now. Museums are a good setting for heist plots, and over the years I've loosened up a little bit on how I expect filmmakers to portray them. I've got some problems with the fictional Mumbai Art Museum, though, mainly because I've been spending a lot of time in the last year thinking about museums in India and how they seem to function, etc. I love that we have a gallery with at least seven armed security guards but no visitors. That's hilarious.

Aryan's little gizmo would have been even more impressive if he'd had to navigate it through a pack of schoolchildren. I also thought it was funny that his controller made noise - not so good for stealth. I have to say, if the set designers had made this place look like any of the dozen or so Indian museums I visited, stealing something would not have been such a feat - I actually saw guards asleep in some of them, visitors were touching artifacts left and right, and many displays looked as though no one had paid any attention to the artifacts for decades - nor have required gadgetry and disguises. (Oh, there's my answer.) Just send a pack of kids up to distract the guard, then take the thing off its base and pocket it, and fill in the space it left with a handful of dust. Of course, I've never seen a museum with the guard and visitor situation depicted above - it's a movie, after all. And even museums with way more resources than those in India get robbed, both in movies and in real life.

While I loved Aryan's disguise (I knew Hrithik was the embodiment of a Greek god!**)

I wondered why he didn't make himself the same scale as the other figures in the frieze - he's too short - especially because later in the movie, in the museum in Rio, he and Sunehri are such masters of height-adjustment that they can disguise themselves as children. How are we supposed to think that they did that? If they were walking on their knees, why didn't Jai feel her stomp on him as she went by - she was about an inch from his legs and surely would have stepped on his feet? Oh well. I just kept telling myself "it's only a movie...and a pretty dumb one at that."

* On the subject of gender portrayals, the two male stars are supposed to be good cooks! That was fun. I don't do seafood, but Hrithik can make me that little shot of espresso any time.

** My ancient art history is poor. Does anyone know if that's a copy of a real piece?

Wait wait wait. So Abhishek isn't going to show up on my doorstep in the middle of the night in the pouring rain just to hold my hand?

Scroll down just a smidge for a very funny list of things about which Bollywood gave this very funny writer unrealistic expectations. Hollywood romantic comedies were dangerous enough (John Cusack has never showed up either, and he even spends time in Illinois)...I can only imagine how growing up with movie rainstorms, trains, and dances could make real life even more disappointing.*

* I'm sort of kidding and sort of not. I do think you need to have your grown-up wits about you in order to shuffle some of these filmi things back into the way your own world actually works. Tempting as mysterious strangers or evening monsoon walks or pouring your heart out as the train pulls slowly out of the station might be, such things don't usually pan out as well or as simply as in the movies. But it's equally important to not be so jaded that you never even engage with strangers or walks or trains. If push comes to shove, I'd recommend open-hearted. (Unless he's been stalking you, which is creepy and illegal, not romantic.)

After all, all of those people I link to were mysterious strangers at one point or another, and now look at what great friends we've become. Ah, Bollywood - bringing people together.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now that's what I call Shashilicious!

"It Takes All Kinds to Make 70s Bollywood Leading Men" By Nina Patel on EGO Magazine. Yes, yes, a zillion times yes. She nailed it. That is exactly what I'm looking for in a FPMBF. Official regime change may soon be underway....

Aside: I've only seen Feroz Khan in recent pictures. He's got quite the pretty/pouty/threatening thing going on there. And great hair.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I love the pre-1990s!

Desicritics has a serial feature on beloved older (pre-1990) films called "Take Two." Part two is now up (and also includes a link to part one). My contributions so far are Parvarish and Sharmeelee, which I have already written about here, but the "Take Two" articles are much shorter and tighter (like Shashi's hair and Vinod's pants, respectively) and have a different focus (more "why I love this" than "I watched this and here's what I thought"), so they're not complete recycles, if you're tempted to hop over and read them. Other authors include BLB-linkees Aspi and Sakshi, so you definitely should hop over and read them. Good times!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

National Film Development Corporation films premiering online

...and if you're nice, I'll let you watch them for free.

Okay, you can watch at least five of them for free anyway. Follow this link to and sign up, at which point you'll get the standard three free rentals for all new account plus a bonus five. (If you already have an account, you'll still get five more free rentals just for participating in this special promotion of Indian films.)

If you're new to NFDC films, like I am, here are the NFDC website and some information about Jaman's collection of NFDC movies. And because I don't know diddly about this arm of Indian cinema other than Ray, let me just copy and paste from the press release so that you get the right information:

Jaman and India’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Sign Partnership to Premiere 30 Films Online

Definitive works of Indian Cinema from Notable Directors including Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal and Mrinal Sen to premiere on

San Mateo, California, May 31, 2007 –, the leading online community for world cinema announced a 30 film distribution deal with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). The NFDC is India’s foremost film institution, known for producing some of the most notable films in Indian cinema.

Under the agreement, the films of India’s most internationally acclaimed directors will be available for download for the first time ever. Jaman will deliver these feature-length films in hi-def, directly to viewers around the world. The collection includes 3 films from Satyajit Ray, regarded as one of the most important filmmakers in the history of cinema....

The long-term Jaman and NFDC deal will kick off with 30 worldwide premieres, including the following titles:

    • Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron - Kundan Shah, director
    • Agantuk - Satyajit Ray, director
    • Mammo - Shyam Benegal, director
    • Main Zinda Hoon - Sudhir Mishra, director
    • Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro - Saeed Mirza, director
    • Antareen - Mrinal Sen, director
    • Mirch Masala - Ketan Mehta, director
    • Arimpara - Murali Nair, director
    • Yugant - Aparna Sen, director
    • Party - Govind Nihalani, director
    • Tahadar Katha - Buddhadev Dasgupta, director
    • Tok Jhal Misti - Basu Chatterjee, director
....About NFDC
The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) is the Indian government’s primary agency dedicated to promoting excellence in Cinema. Over the years the NFDC has provided a wide range of services essential to the growth of Indian cinema. The NFDC (and its predecessor the Film Finance Corporation) has funded / produced over 300 films. These widely acclaimed films have won many national and international awards.
So far I've only watched Massey Saheb, about an Indian clerk during the British Raj, which I chose because when I was in grad school in Toronto I lived in a place called Massey College, endowed by the tractor/actor/government uppity-up family, and it had a delightfully Anglophile culture to it, and I wondered if the name of the character in the movie was making a reference to that family (though why it would be I have no idea - perhaps a branch of the Canadian Masseys was in India). I look forward to seeing more.

Or, you know, just hang out with me and bash Kudrat (press play to see the awesome engagement party song).


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Everybody loves a third wheel!

You all know Akshay Mahajan. "Darling Akshay," as he is known 'round these parts. Trivial Matters. He takes lovely photos and is turning into quite the photojournalist. Anyway, he and two friends are participating in a charity event in which they drive a rickshaw from Kolkata to Manali and the team - Teesra Paiiya - needs your help.

Go here to read about their plans (you can even listen to an interview Akshay did with Kamla Bhatt) and if you can dig up a few coins from between the sofa cushions I'm sure they'd appreciate it. And it's a totally sound investment. They've had driving lessons and everything.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Now with twice the amnesia! Do Anjaane

Despite the flippant post title here, I really did find this movie very engaging and interesting. My thoughts are over at Desicritics.

Does anyone know who this guy is? He looks so familiar.

Also, Amitabh stays in the Oberoi Grand in Kolkata, which is where I got to meet Arshad Warsi. Here's a photo of Rekha running out of the door,

and while I don't think this is the exact entrance we stood in while he was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes, I was still pretty geeked to see the hotel in a movie.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just because it's repellent in real life doesn't mean it isn't a dang fine song.

I've been listening to "Ganpat" from Shootout at Lokhandwala pretty much nonstop for a week. From what I read in the reviews of the soundtrack, the lyrics are borderline vulgar, but I don't care. I love the lazing saunter of the instrumentation, the rattling percussion, and the devil-may-care, swaggering vocals. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know how the song fits in, but it sounds like a bunch of drunk guys sitting around hooting and bragging.

For the folks who have seen it, does baby-face Oberoi pull off a thug? His white-man's overbite in the video is none too impressive.