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2018

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Thank you to Asim and Amrita for having me on the always excellent Khandaan Podcast to talk about Zero, the trailers of Manikarnika (this could be historical wackadoodle fun but probably won't be?) and The Legend of Maula Jatt (it's hard to think of an actor less evocative of Sultan Rahi than Fawad Khan?), and our year-end choices. The episode is up now!

We discuss Zero in depth, but if you want my quick take: days after seeing it, I still don't know what to make of it. I honestly don't think it's disastrous or without merit, but I don't get it, either. I'm not confident I can even guess what the makers are trying to do: show that physically atypical people and alcoholics can be just as awful as anyone else? As Amrita says on the podcast, Zero takes big swings, but it misses. On paper, this is a 1970s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink masala plot—space! baby! chimp! movie star! a bunch more movie stars! almost wedding! another almost wedding! narrator! big s…

Dilruba

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First of all, has the artist of this poster actually seen Dev Anand's hair? Wither the mighty poof?
Spoiler alert: I'm going to tell you the best parts of this film right away. The first appears about a quarter of the way through, when we see the home of Diwan (Gogia Pashan), who not only has a ventriloquist dummy, Chandu, sitting at his desk like he owns the place but also keeps another doll in cupboard.  The doll is a memento of his long-lost (or, as Memsaab says, long-misplaced) daughter, but he is only momentarily senti about it and moves on to doing ventriloquism and magic tricks.  Chandu elegantly warns his master about the dangers of smoking and drinking, which is a nice change from the shouty pre-film lessons and on-screen reminders of today. Despite the use of a big mustache and often turning Gogia Pasha's face from the camera to help the ventriloquism effect, we can often see his mouth moving. But Chandu only has two scenes, and I'd take a puppet over Johnny…

Sanju

WHAT A FRUSTRATING AND HYPOCRITICAL FILM. I have never seen a film with more disregard for the audience's intelligence. Race 3 doesn't expect or want us to believe it, but I think Raju Hirani, and maybe Sanjay Dutt himself, wants us to accept Sanju's version of history. How insulting.

A 3-hour biopic that only barely shows its subject as responsible for anything he does—especially when his life situation is one of being a privileged recipient of nepotism of celebrity, artistic, and political systems and clout—is absurd. Its blame of "the media" for Sanjay's problems is ignorant and childish, though in keeping with its pretense of the nature of its protagonist. BABA PLEASE. Add some nuance, some specificity.

Criticizing tabloid sensationalism is absolutely fine and probably a good idea. Publications that hound celebrities in their private spaces and non-work-related goings-on and revel in the cycle of building people up and tearing them down are definitely a …

Aakhri Adaalat

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Sometimes Netflix adds a film and you think "Okay sure, why not," especially when you have domestic travel with no in-flight entertainment coming up. And even more especially when it contains favorite Vinod Khanna, even in from a non-favorite era (1988). What was it like at the time to see his return to films? Did news of the Rajneeshee horrors in Oregon reach India at the time? (My parents, who were about 40 when that happened and read the newspaper and listened to NPR every day, had no memory of it at all.) Did the Hindi film industry seem sane in comparison?

Aakhri Adaalat opens with bad guys getting away with doing bad things. The specifics don't really matter, although you will not find your efforts wasted if you happen to remember them. They're part of a ruthless, multi-interest gang led by Gulshan Grover and Paresh Rawal, who are operating in peak 80s slimeball mode.
Inspector Amar (Vinod), who is much more entertaining than his 70s namesake though just as mor…

Goonjan: the 1990s Bengali remake of Pillow Talk you never knew you wanted

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Every time I rewatch Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall (1959)—which is at least once a year, because despite its sexism I adore it—I bemoan the loss of there never having been a Hindi remake in the early or mid-60s. Many of the double entendres would be have to be toned way down, and there might need to be some excuse made for a young single woman living on her own in the big city, but think of the fun stars of that era would have had with the double role and sass and hijinks! Think of the Yash Chopra-esque pastel fantasy world and easy excuse for lavish and outrageous sets! Think of the songs! Think how great Asha Parekh or Mumtaz would have been in that, with Dharmendra as the other lead and Shammi Kapoor as Tony Randall's deadpan, bitter friend* and Lalita Pawar in Thelma Ritter's sharply observant, free-speaking, heavy-drinking maid...or Sharmila Tagore, Dharmendra, Pran,  and Nadira.

Swap in and out whoever you want, but one thing is for sure: in …

Sridevi

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My inner 5-year-old is devastated, and I didn't even grow up with her. I don't really know enough to talk about Sridevi's gargantuan careers and stardoms—remarkable plurals—nor about the era in Hindi cinema in which she was the most famous, but some heartbreaks are not silent. I have so much of her filmography left to see, and I'm thrilled by that. When Sal mentioned she has a film as an alien princess (Chandramukhi), I felt no surprise that such a wonder exists. She is a firework, a cupcake, a spring, a serpent, a bomb. She contains multitudes unlike anyone else I've seen.

There's something uncomfortable to me in the outpouring of statements of love when measured against the actual content of some of her filmography. We say we love her, but look at what the industry offered her and how fans partook of her. It feels so hypocritical. Look at the absolute crap her talents were met with—and with what we were happy, or at least willing, to consume and thus create …