Posts

Showing posts from 2013

Dhoom 3

[One sorta spoiler, and it's coming right now, so skip to the next paragraph if you're afraid.] Yougaiz, how much of a twist can it possibly be if it's an infamous trait of 1970s Bollywood? And now that I think about it, someone should organize a really good dissection of what the concept of "twist" does and can mean, where the line is between a twist and just consequence-free writing, and whether some producers cackle with glee when reviewers are forced to keep mum about huge problems with of a film for fear of having their heads torn off for giving away the twist, which is how I felt about trying to write about Talaash. [End spoiler.]

Chicago
1. I've been waiting for ages for a Hindi film to feature Chicago in any way, even just in a song, because the very brief appearance in What's Your Rashee? hardly counts, and Dhoom 3 lives up to my hopes. It looks beautiful and captures exactly what I am always captivated by in the city: substantial and soaring arc…

Aditya 369

Image
We in the fillum-watching world need a word for this intricately balanced but continually reconfigured sense of finding movies formulaic and/or predictable in some aspects yet wildly unexpected in others. Whatever it's called, Aditya 369 (which I watched in its Hindi dub, Mission 369, since no versions on youtube have subtitles) falls right into this phenomenon for me: somehow I had never heard of this 1991 Telugu sci-fi film about time travel with an Einstein-haired Tinnu Anand and a Georgian-outfitted Amrish Puri
despite regularly reading the "top ten Indian SFF films" lists whenever I encounter one at the release of a film styled as such, and in fact only learned of it in Mihir Fadnavis's piece on Krrish 3 for Firstpost, yet I am not at all surprisedit exists.

And it's great.

I am not a reliable source for details of the story of Aditya 369, but I do know that an impish child gets himself locked in a museum (A MUSEUM!!!! I would love the movie just for being …

Bengali mini-review multi-pack

Image
By way of introduction: a bunch of Bengali films I've seen lately, all in under 100 words each. (Ray's Seemabaddha should be in here too, but I need to see it again before I write anything. And of anything on this list it merits far more than 100 words.)

Chutir Phandey 1975
An experiment in whether vintage Soumitra Chatterjee in plaid offsets a lack of subtitles. It seems to be a comedy of errors (i.e. "wackadoodle shenanigans") hinging on Aparna Sen (his wife) and Utpal Dutt (his boss?)
in a hotel/conference center somewhere vaguely Himalayan. Faces are pulled (ugh) and wigs and wild patterns are worn (yay!). It might be as funny as Hrishikesh Mukherjee if one knows what's being said; even though I don't, this has no sign of being nearly as fun as the lead pair is in Baksha Badal (written by Ray).

Kony 1984
I've never seen this title in lists of sports movies, despite it having won a national award for "wholesome entertainment." The story has pe…

My Brother Nikhil and I Am

[I wrote this a month ago, immediately after seeing the films, and forgot to hit publish. Oops.]

The wonderful Onir has just visited my campus, and by some miracle his films were screened at my actual workplace as the centerpiece of a semester-long series on Indian cinema. I should have seen these films already, especially after realizing at least one friend from the German-speaking Bollywood crew was supporting the development and showings of I Am, but I can't really regret having my first viewing of them be on the big screen followed by a Q&A with the director himself.

My Brother...Nikhil (official site)
To be honest, this did not really impress me as I was watching it, I think mostly because while I recognize how unusual this film is ("might have been"? present tense might be appropriate, because I sure can't name many other films that deal with AIDS in any way) for India—and how absolutely important its presence is—being a teenager in the late 80s and early 9…

Krrish 3

in summary
Based on the songs and the trailer, I went into Krrish 3 fully expecting a fiasco. Fi-as-co. Everything promoting the film seemed sloppy, thoughtless, or just plain silly. And those are problems that do not  disappear in the context of the entire film, but they are at least evenly matched by some genuine fun. Hirthik's earnestness may be Krrish's (and the franchise's) supreme power—the man can sell anything,* even with his lines and identities split across three (or more, depending on how you count) characterizations. Kangana's enemy mutant is utterly entertaining, the SCIENCE! is spectacular, the sanctity of Indian motherhood is maintained, and a few of the in-world inventions and touches are a nice surprise (at least to someone like me who hasn't seen a ton of recent superhero films). To me Krrish 3 is far from perfect, and like many grandiose projects it has moments of ambition, or at least concept, that are not well served by the execution, but I hon…

crying: in response to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, October 18, 2013

Read about or listen to this PCHH episode.

Let's keep this simple: PCHH talked about films, songs, etc., that consistently make them cry. Trey named the scene in Sense and Sensibility in which Emma Thompson loses it, which is my number one choice too. "When somebody has done the right thing and suffered for it and finally is rewarded and there's that sort of eruption, both for the character and the audience, of sadness and joy."

So, filmi friends, what movies make you cry and why? I know I cried during Chak De India in the cinema because those girls had gone through so much and came together so well, both as individuals with their own challenges and as a functioning group of wiser people with a common purpose, plus Shahrukh with the vindication and neighbors who don't hate him anymore, but I don't think I have subsequently. No other titles are coming to mind, but I hope some do if I search my email for "snuffle" and "bawl."

Update to post …

FIASCO!: in response to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, October 11, 2013

Image
Last week's Pop Culture Happy Hour features a discussion kicked off by one of host Linda Holmes's—and my—favorite episodes of This American Life: "Fiasco!" Listen to the TAL episode here and read about and listen to the PCHH episode here.

Definitions of a fiasco, as opposed to a more simple disaster or a more drawn-out series of less-than-ideal decisions, are hard to pin down. To me, it's almost a "I know it when I see it" sort of thing. Descriptors of a fiasco that these two podcasts discuss include:
• "When fumble leads to error leads to mishap, and before you know it you have left the realm of ordinary mistake and chaos and you have moved into the more ethereal, specialized realm of fiasco." "It's an altered state...the normal rules are off." (TAL)
• "Ambition exceeds competency or reality." (PCHH)
• And because I was curious about its etymology, I looked it up in the OED: it's from the Italian phrase "to m…

antiheroes, superheroes, bad behavior, and restraint: in response to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, October 4, 2013

Read a description of the podcast here and listen to it here.

Frick. I'm already a week behind in my plan to write a brief, timely Indian cinema-themed response to whatever points of the current episode of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast catch my attention. Oh well.

The big entertainment news before this episode was recorded was the finale of Breaking Bad, which I have never watched because it sounds so mercilessly bleak (and violent). PCHH's discussion of the series as a whole included the concept that when antiheroes are the focus of a story, especially a long one like a tv series, they still need antagonists, and these often take the form of even worse villains. Like many other discussions I've enjoyed on this podcast, this seems completely obvious now that they've pointed it out, but I'd never thought about it before. No perfect examples from mainstream Hindi cinema are leaping to mind, maybe because mainstream films don't seem to like having anyo…

Anupama Chopra's 100 Films to See before You Die

[Full disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the author.]

Doesn't it seem like we all grumble about lists but then we write them anyway? I know I do. Anupama Chopra takes one of the few reasonable approaches to such a project as 100 films from what seems to be the whole world of feature films, stating that this book is is meant to be food for thought for the reader from among movies the author loves, with different titles grabbing the reader based on their mood, what films they've already seen, or what films they might be ready to learn about and try. There's the feeling of "something for everyone" in here, ranging from Kabhi Kabhie to Spinal Tap, which makes me think that  Chopra, like Roger Ebert, tends to take films on their own terms.

This leads to a likable individuality in the completed work, evident not just in what is said about each particular film but in the work overall. The effect is a bit like Chopra narrating her DVD shelves at home, which I…

in conversation with Minikhan: Shuddh Desi Romance

Beth: Can you be objective about what we saw today, given that you are the de facto patron saint of Yash Raj Films and at least two of your films' posters make appearances?
Minikhan: This isn't really an SRK, arm-fling, filmi kind of film, so I think I have only an average-viewer level of investment.
Beth: Its few moments of filminess actually feel intrusive and artificial.
Minikhan: Agree. Mostly the songs—
Beth: That whistling—oi.
Minikhan: These characters are playful enough but having them break out into side-by-side choreography and run slow-mo through tourist attractions doesn't feel authentic to them.
Beth: Sometimes songs are wonderful reminders of the joy and power of escapism, or even projection of imagination or wishes, but I didn't get that here.
Minikhan: No. I think the songs would be better just playing in the background for the characters so that we know they hear them, and we can see them reflect or react to what they hear, but somehow them mouthing the words…

another look at Jewel Thief

Image
The last few months have been full of friendly appearances at other sites and publications. The latest is an essay on Jewel Thief at issue 2 of The Indian Trumpet, specifically on why I think this film that has so many unknowns and so much suspense and mystery is a joy to watch long after you already know what happens. It is available in the lovely online version of the magazine here (flip to page 16) or as a pdf here

Mithun + long-lost brothers + martial arts + disco = Karate

Image
I've just turned in my most glamorous, sparkly, vaguely inappropriately choreographed friendly appearance yet! Go on, grab a front row seat over at fellow MOSS agent and old friend Die Danger Die Die Kill and revel in the under-loved Mithun Chakraborty gem Karate.
Many thanks to Temple over at Cinema Chaat, who first brought this film to my attention and even sent me her VCDs. And please read her catalog of the socks of Chiranjeevi.

Bengali film roundup

Image
I meant for this to be a trio of reviews on Bengali films made in the last half dozen years, but Ballygunge Court was so bad—or at least "not inspiring patience, perhaps due to factors other than the film's inherent qualities (though perhaps not)"—that I turned it off after ten minutes.

Jora Dighir Chowdhury Paribar (1966)
Despite its screenplay by Mrinal Sen based on a novel by Pramathanath Bishi and starring many major names, I have found extremely little information about this film, including confirmation of involvement by that Mrinal Sen. It's a pretty film but also a sad one, which I have come to expect from anyfilm that romantically pairs Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee. That feeling is also introduced right away with the titles scrolling over beautiful, desolate palaces, leading eventually an old man who stumbles through his abandoned-looking home.
Is he a ghost or an actual human? Hard to say, and the film implies it doesn't really matter, so ru…