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Showing posts from October, 2012

Ek Hasina Do Diwane

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It's a weird sensation to realize that Om Prakash makes more sense than anyone else in a film. It's also a weird sensation to realize that you're watching something very close to Abhinetri, which, in my opinion, is not a movie that needed to be re-imagined, certainly not just a few years later.

Thankfully this one stars Jeetendra instead of Shashi as Amar, its insufferable hero, a hypocritical holier-than-thou cultural-purity mama's boy. Amar tries to help his friend Prakash (Vinod Khanna) woo  Neeta (Babita), the very modern, educated, and half-English young woman playing opposite him in the Ramlila. Perhaps because she knows how to read 70s film costumes,
Neeta realizes Prakash is a bad seed and promptly falls for Amar, nicely demonstrated by her dramatics-inspired hallucination. 
Despite the objections of her father, the Major (Om Prakash) and the attempted interference of Prakash, Neeta and Amar get married. It's all cute for a song or two, but Neeta is appalle…

remembering Yash Chopra

A week ago I was asked to write a piece on Yash Chopra for Rediff, and it has just been posted! The title is a little misleading; while I do think he made some gorgeous films, thinking through his career to write this piece made me realize just how brilliant he is at the dark sides of the human experience: despair, longing, isolation, fear.

I also realized that my problems with Yash Chopra films are almost always the stories, not what he does with them. That's why I so intensely dislike Silsila, for example; even though it's perfectly pretty to look, its basic premise repels me so much that I cannot get on board. And it's also one reason Darr impresses me: the story is disturbing but they way he pulled it together...amazing.

I have written up ten of Yash Chopra's films on this site. A few of these were written quite early in my Bolly watching and may not reflect how I would feel if I rewatched the films.
Dharmputra 1961
Waqt 1961
Deewaar 1975
Kabhi Kabhie19796

Devi

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[Note: isn't that corporate logo in all the screen shots a drag? Do not buy the Reliance Home Video editions of Ray films.]

Oh how I love the ferocity of Devi, its strength within storytelling that is clear and calm. Even after making my way through roughly half of Satyajit Ray's filmography (as director), I'm still amazed by Devi. The critique of religion in Mahapurush, the political commentary in Hirak Rajar Deshe, the portrait of fading relevance in Jalsaghar—somehow none of these prepared me for the amount and deployment of skill in this film.
The condemnation of religion and, I think, faith is perfectly clear, yet this seems a story that hates the sin but still loves the sinner, as it were. Extreme things happen but the people act, in their own ways, with reason and with great effort. When landlord Kalikinkar (Chhabi Biswas, whom I last saw in a similar role embodying sad, outdated values in Jalsaghar) has a dream that reveals his daughter-in-law Doyamoyee (Sharmila …

Barnali

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This is a darling little film I stumbled across while digging through youtube for Soumitra Chatterjee films with subtitles, and what a find it is: gentle, sad, and incredibly dear, with quiet but rich performances from Soumitra and Sharmila Tagore.

I had no idea what to expect of it going in because I haven't been able to find a single opinion about it online in English (though I did see something labeled "review" in Bengali on a torrent site). Maybe because the film is so straightforward and simple people haven't felt there's much to say about it. I also know nothing about what would have been hoped or expected of its director (Ajoy Kar), music director (Kalipada Sen), writer, etc. when it was made almost fifty years ago. Maybe some of you can tell me whether the film was overlooked when it was released.

The lead actors, of course, are a different matter. Barnali feels like the story Apu and Aparna from Apur Sansar deserve to have had had if only their lives ha…

You are a rejected person! Jimmy

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It's hard to know what to say about such a colossal failure. There is absolutely nothing done right or well in this film. If Rahul Dev is your most recognizable cast member, if the hero is backed by tracks of a baby crying, if Shakti Kapoor is playing a good-guy police officer, if the best thing about your project is the excessive Michael Jackson tribute, if your title song is called "Why not [hero's name]?", leaving the door wide open for us to point out the zillion reasons why not, THEN YOU ARE DEFINITELY DOING IT WRONG. According to imdb, neither the director, producers, nor writer has any credits to their name since this film came out. 
Was this all a joke—a massive, industry-wide joke, perhaps masterminded by Mithun for all the nasty things people have said about some of his films over the decades? I find myself almost a little concerned for Mimoh. Why would you do this? WHY? It made you look an absolute fool. 
Here are a few of the best Mimohments from the fil…

slightly-less-mini reviews from the Chicago South Asian Film Festival: features, part 2

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My choices for worst and the best of the feature films, both of which had their world premieres at this festival.

Shobhna's 7 Nights
 (2012, dir. Sudipto Chattopadyaya)

Full disclosure: I was not primed to like this film. On the previous day, I had been been offered the opportunity to interview its star, Raveena Tandon, a few hours before the screening. Due to scheduling problems—or perhaps just the whims of the star, I have no idea—Raveena did not show up for her press times, and, to my knowledge, only arrived a few minutes before the scheduled start of her film. I was already in line to get into the cinema when festival staff told me I could interview her right that moment, but since I wanted to, you know, actually see the film and didn't have anything incredibly important or intelligent to ask her anyway, as I'd only had a day to prepare (and a day filled with festival screenings at that), I declined. They also said I could interview her after the film, but I was staying…

How to Bollywood-ize Your Office: midwest museum edition

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The other day, Mike at Pedro (the Ape Bomb) wrote a fun post on the Bollywood artifacts and decor in his office. I loved getting to know about the space Mike spends his days in and, more importantly, how he has made it his own and taken his love of movies and his fantastic aesthetic sense to work. 
Want to peek at mine?
Many of you know that I work in a museum of world cultures at a university; what you may not know is that, like Mike, I have really, really wonderful colleagues who value making work a fun and meaningful environment, so my office has been allowed to ramble wherever my heart and eyes take me. Several other people have workspaces as, er, exuberant and personalized as mine, including my boss. I've been in this particular space the whole time I've worked at the museum (12+ years!), so the layers have really begun to accrete. I am a zillion times less tidy than Mike.
On to the filmi artifacts, all of which are gifts, which is absolutely perfect because one of the t…