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mini-review marathon: the new-ish Hindi films, part 2

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Shanghai
If  you asked after the first half hour of Shanghai whether I thought it lived up to the very high bar Dibarkar Banerjee has set for himself with his previous three films, I'd most likely have said no. But now that I've seen the entire film, I am as impressed with his body of work as ever. I say that even though Shanghai is not as much "Beth's typically preferred kind of movie" as his previous films, which I find much less consistently dark and depressing—though the horrible moments of Love Sex aur Dhokha are among the most despairing I've seen in Indian cinema—and I missed Dibakar's loose and silly side. Of course, that would have been wildly out of place in this story, save a few flashes of tension- or desperation-derived absurdity scattered throughout the muck and shadows.
I'm having trouble separating out the threads of Shanghai into an organized discussion. They are so brilliantly composed and interrelated, both in the story and in the por…

mini-review marathon: the new-ish Hindi films

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It's one of those spells of spending more time seeing films than thinking and writing about them. To address the imbalance, there will be a series of short reviews on the last dozen or so things I've seen that didn't get written about elsewhere, grouped into the user-friendly, subjective, and highly unscientific  categories of new-ish Hindi films, prime vintage Hindi films (that's late 60s through early 80s, if you're new around here), and old-ish Bengali films (Soumitra and Uttam at or near their peaks).

Today's features: Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, Talaash, Barfi!, Cocktail, and Aiyyaa. The last of these is not, in fact, "mini."

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl
I enjoyed this while watching it, but a month later I hardly remember it. For a movie with multiple major female characters and a hero who doesn't get as much screen time as heroes generally do, I maybe unfairly wanted more GIRL POWER! from this movie. Filmi Geek discusses the niggling "Oh but wait,…

Dabangg 2

When I was a Brownie scout, we played a game called "Strut Miss Lizzie." People pair off and form two lines facing one another, with the pair at the top of the lines strutting—preening, hopping, grooving, moving in whatever ridiculous way she chooses—through the aisle made by the rest of the participants, and then when she finishes her partner imitates her. As each pair takes their turn, the rest of the players clap and sing a repetitive yet catchy little ditty that goes "Strut Miss Lizzie, strut Miss Lizzie, strut Miss Lizzie, all the day long. Here comes another one, just like the other one, here comes another one, all the way home."

You see where I'm going with this?

Dabangg 2 is no more and no less than a copy that is not as crackling or creative as the original. I love the first Dabangg (writeup here), much to my surprise, but somehow this one just did not have the same strut despite trying very hard to have exactly the same strut (summarized with perfect …

Heroine: Are You F*cking Kidding Me with This Sh*t?

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What angers me most about Heroine, like Fashion before it, is that Madhur Bhandarkar expects us to buy into the idea of these almost manically ambitious women who will sacrifice all aspects of their well-being for success in their career yet they behave as though they know absolutely nothing about their chosen industries. If you pay any attention even to stereotypes about the Bombay film industry at all, you already know far more about it via gossip blogs and Filmfare interviews than the lead of this film seems to. I just cannot believe that someone who's been in enough films to be getting non-newcomer awards, as Mahi does, or to have spent some time as a top heroine, which Mahi is implied to be, would be surprised by the situations she finds herself in. "Journalists" are only interested in the gossip about you, not in your actual work? NO. The "edgy," "arty," award-winning Bengali filmmaker's project doesn't get released? GASP. Your hero co-…

Khudito Pashan

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Fair warning: even if this movie is recommended for a wider audience than just Soumitra Chatterjee enthusiasts (aka sonpapdis*), this blog post might not be.

Trolling the internet for Soumitra Chatterjee films, as fangirls are wont to do, Indie Quill found Khudito Pashan, adapted from Tagore's short story, and we leapt upon it immediately. We were in love with it from the get-go as a disembodied, echoing voice shouts "Run away! Run away! It's all a lie!"** Seriously, that's the first thing that happens after the censor certificate. BRILLIANT! If that weren't enough, in the first few minutes it also gives gives up an angsty Soumitra in a suit jacket and trousers, an abandoned Mughal palace,
horses, ghosts,
guns, whooshing wind, flickering lanterns, and an overall sense of doom. "I feel like I already know the contents of this house," says Soumitra (I have no idea what his character's name actually is because everyone else just calls him huzoor a…

Mustache Madness Quiz 2012 ANSWERS!

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If you missed it, the quiz is here.

1. Of course, it's the 1979 Gol Maal, source of what might be the most famous mustache in Hindi cinema.
2. Noorie. I hoped Farooq's pouty lower lip would be a big clue.

3. Chunaoti

4. Charas. Note Tom Alter in on the act at the bottom left.

5. Deshdrohi. The day after I posted this, the auteur behind this horrendous film, Kamal R. Khan (top left), apparently tweeted spoilers of Talaash. As if the internet didn't hate him already.


Mustache Madness Quiz 2012!

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In honor of Movember and the #MouchoPrema Indian Cinema Mustache Appreciation Week, I present you a special mustache-only filmi quiz! Can you identify each of the 5 films below based only on their mustaches?

The collages do not depict all the mustaches in any of the films, and many of the mustaches are fake, either for the film in general or within the film as part of characters' disguises.

They are presented in order from least challenging to most challenging. I apologize for the terrible image quality of #5, but when you find out what it is, you'll understan why it's like that.

Submit your answers by email to me at bethlovesbollywood at gmail dot com. Please do not leave them in the comments of this post—that might accidentally spoil the fun for someone reading after you. The answers, including the collages showing the entire screen shots from which each mustache is taken, will be unveiled the morning of December 1 (IST).

Now...mush!

#1

#2

#3

 #4

#5

Sassy Ray Gay Friend noses through Charulata's notebook

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(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see the real Sassy Gay Friend on the Second City Network!)

SPOILERS!

Meet the bored and lonely titular heroine of Satyajit Ray's Charulata.
Charulata husband's Bhupati is a newspaper editor with Big Issues on his mind and no time to pay attention to her. Her life is turned upside down when Bhupati's little brother Amal comes to visit.
Amal is too much a tall drink of literary-minded Rabindrasangeet to go unnoticed, but he's also too much a baby to know how to deal with Charulata's feelings cleanly. Perhaps if this were a Hindi film, the two men would stand on the edge of a perilous cliff fighting over which one of them should get the brotherly honor of giving her up, but since this is Ray, Charulata has some agency in the matter and everyone discusses politics while awkwardly shuffling around their mansion for a few weeks. 
This fate could have been avoided if she'd had a Sassy Gay Friend.

Calcutta. 1879. Charula…

Jagir (with a brief introductory note about Shakha Proshakha) (Have you got whiplash yet? I sure do.)

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Through masala-appropriate coincidence, I happened to watch what is maybe one of the last great gasps of 1970s style masala, Jagir, right on the heels of an unspeakably awful film from late in the career of Satyajit Ray. Shashi ki kasam—Soumitra ki kasam, even—I did not intend to couple a boring, depressing, shouty, badly acted, and irritating arty film with cracktastic Decline and Fall Masala, but that's how the DVDs fell.

Out of fairness to Ray, I want to be clear that I hated Shakha Proshakha almost from the instant I started watching it, and it being assigned the label "avoid yaar" has nothing to do with the wonders that followed it. This was my reaction to the film throughout.
What's wrong with Shakha Proshakha? EVERYTHING. If Soumitra Chatterjee is unwatchable, you know a film is in deep, deep trouble. This is the only time in my admittedly brief but intense affair with his work that I've seen Soumitra even come close to overdoing anything (oh okay, maybe …