Showing posts from 2015

between the heart and the world: Tamasha

[Vaguely spoiler-y.]

Imtiaz Ali does not create straightforward love stories, and at least from Jab We Met forward he seems just as interested in self-knowledge, identity, and personhood as in romance. Tamasha embraces this immediately from the opening framing of the story as a staged production, with the lead actors introduced in costumes that almost obscure them and dialogue that only very slowly reveals their names. When Tara (Deepika Paukone) and Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) meet, she is utterly dependent on him, but he makes it clear that he wants no information that will actually tie her to him and instead invites her to spend time together through false personas that they revel in.

It's fitting that Ved insists on not learning anything about Tara for the first third or so of the film, because the character turns out to be somewhat mute and disconnected except for her reactions to Ved. She appears successful at her job but we don't hear much about it (especially from her); we se…

watching the restored Apu Trilogy in the cinema

Watching the the restored Apu Trilogy is simultaneously heart-wrenching and soul-restoring. Like many of Ray's works, they are devoid of villainy and sensationalism and instead give full scope to the textures of everyday life and the human experience, which are times are small and fine and at others expansive. There is nothing to avenge and no one to hate or even be disappointed in. There is just life, and you can either be in it or not, and Apu, repeatedly, chooses to live. In addition to that extremely poignant and important thread is the very fact that this restoration exists—that some group of people chose to work on this, chose to devote resources to it, chose to give it back to the world. Humans are demonstrably the worst force to ever act upon this planet, but when we do well, there seems to be at least a shred of hope for us as a species.
The films' sadnesses are somehow both crushing (especially at the end of Aparajito, because he is almost an adult, almost demonstra…

Helen preserve us—this blog is now ten years old!

In honor of all the films, friends, and fun—the best decade of my life, actually—here are my ten favorite songs set in villain lairs. 
1. "Yamma Yamma" from Shaan (1980)
Amitabh, Shashi, Helen, Parveen, and Bindya Goswami in "disguise" as "gypies" dance in Shakaal's underwater lair around a flaming brazier amid a ton of backing dancers/acrobats/flags. If I had to name the most famous song in a lair, it's this one, partly because of the high-caliber stars; if I had to name a best lair song, "Yamma Yamma" might also win.
• Huge and spectacular set (flames, rock walls, gold throne, mural of tigers, oddly placed library near the throne).
• So much is happening!
• Classic villain (Kulbhushan Kharbanda as faux Bloefeld in faux military type clothes).
• Classic plot: the musical number is a ruse by our heroes to distract the villain while a colleague continues the mission elsewhere (there are shots of Shatrugan Sinha stalking around other par…

Khoobsurat (2014)

No one is more surprised than I am that I like this film so much. I am on record repeatedly as loathing Sonam Kapoor as an actor and Manic Pixie Dream Girls in general; I'm no fan of the House of Mouse; I merely like (not love) the original but would never have chosen Sonam to do a Rekha role; I don't find Mr. Darcy/Grumpy Pants type characters automatically attractive; and I don't even have Fawad Fever. But here we are. Maybe I'm just in the mood for some dil-squish, but Khoobsurat's romance is delightful and resonant and believable despite trading in major tropes. As friend Vishal says, it earns all its filmy moments. It helps very much that the characters are actual adults: they're responding to innate desire and affection rather than unsettling passion or any non-self-determined need for a romantic partner, which cuts down the drama considerably. They are sad without each other, but nobody does anything self-destructive when they separate.
How unbelievably…


In yet another attempt to be safety buddies during movies we fear are too violent to watch on our own, last week Filmi Geek and I watched Badlapur. Just like Gangs of Wasseypur, neither of us expected the movie to be our cup of tea, but nevertheless we found other interesting things in it as it went along. I'm not too surprised about, given how much I like the director's other films and all of the leads. The performances may be what I take away from Badlapur (and casting too, for that matter, especially the contrasting-in-every-way Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Varun Dhawan); I would not change a thing about how this script was enacted and visualized.

Carla: As you know, this is a genre I normally don't expect to like much. I decided to watch Badlapur, though, because I found this year's other revenge drama, NH10, startlingly affecting. Going outside of my comfort zone for NH10 was rewarding in a way I hadn't expected. So that, combined with the great praise Badlapur ha…

getting through Gangs of Wasseypur three years late

Carla of Filmi Geek and I watch-along-ed both parts of Gangs of Wasseypur earlier this week and then had a chat. She put a lot of other thoughts at the beginning of her post, whereas I have mostly grown weary of these movies—not out of dislike but more out of "I get it already" and "this is just generally not my bag, though I do think the films are pretty well made for what I understand them to be"—and don't have much else to say. Oh, except that I love love love the soundtracks to these films and think Sneha Khanwalkar is an absolute genius. It's so rare that I think a film's songs work as well and matter as much on their own as they do in situ, but hers always do.

If I had to summarize Gangs of Wasseypur in one sentence, I'd say that it demands more attention than it rewards. What do you think, Beth?

I think that would probably be my averaged-out assessment – there were parts I found boring and parts that were great, parts that were…

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

most adorable, expressive, squooshy-cheeked, heart-tugging moppet since Stanley Ka Dabba

+ a female with plenty of agency despite being very young, a foreigner, unspeaking, and an in-context minority
+ "holy fool" type* (un-, even anti-conventional, charitable, simple, humble) gently enacted by Salman Khan

+ "Chicken Song"

+ girls getting to be interested in sports

 + no egregious beating up of people by the hero

+ emotionally (not logically) (duh) pleasing conclusion of the human trafficking element

+ mention, however brief, that dividing humankind by religion and caste is silly

+ illustration of challenges resulting from strictly, literally following a moral code

+ soldiers, officials, and everyday folks who do what is right

+ Nawazuddin Siddiqui doing anything**, especially rapid-fire line delivery

+ spin on the road trip formula

+ fuzzy lammies

+ Delhi food
-  like Baahubali, no need for a woman to go on a quest too, even though she is, yo…

Baahubali: The Beginning

Baahubali is an incredible, awesome film...except when it isn't.

Its CGI work is varyingly glorious, adequate, and really bad. Its props are lush and evocative except for all the armor that looks like bargain bin plastic. It is racist: shoe-polish black-skinned evil army uses a click language and rough-hewn wooden shields (the good guys have metal) while putting innocent villagers in front of its soldiers and is described in the legend that precedes its onslaught as barbaric rapists and thieves. It is sexist: its rebel warrior heroine becomes useless when the hero shows up. He physically brands her as his own property; gives her a forced, almost rape-y makeover that removes her armor and lots of other protective, sensible layers of clothing, exposing her in every possible way, while adding cosmetics and untying her hair; and distracts her from her self-stated life's work by pointing out to her that she is conventionally pretty, a value that is also stated as antithetical to he…

mini reviews for June 2015

Chhalia 1960 [Spoilers.]
Oof. If more of Manmohan Desai's early films are like this one, I'm never going to make it through his whole filmography. Chhalia focuses on one little Ram-Sita-y family, using them as a metaphor for Partition and its aftermath (which are the setting for the story): Nutan is the faithful, fertile, and wronged motherland, Rehman is the proud but misinformed father/patriarch in a suit who abandons her, their sad-eyed moppet is the ultimate innocent victim,
and Raj Kapoor is the scrappy common (Hanu)man who restores proper order.

Pran also serves as a refuge for Nutan in one wave of the story (and Raj in the other). For reasons not clear to me (I think a few scenes are missing from this print) they hate each other and have a big fight, which is hilarious because how are we supposed to think Pran would not win instantly?
That's all well and good—except for Raj Kapoor, who is creepy beyond belief in this role—but to get to that satisfying ending you ha…