Archives for posts with tag: bollywood

I didn’t realize that this movie came out five whole years ago, and I’m a little shocked about it. Why? Because the romantic pairing a) gets drunk, b) makes out, and c) has sex, all onscreen, and no one gets pregnant or a hideous disease or is ostracized or anything. (For perspective, in 2004’s Phir Milenge, the heroine has sex–and gets HIV. In 2005’s Salaam Namaste, the whole marketing campaign was about how crazy it was that Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta kissed onscreen, and then their characters move in together and of course she gets pregnant and there is angst. 2007’s Jab We Met ends, surprisingly, with an actual make-out. In 2010, Chance Pe Dance has a romantic relationship progress to the stage where “I love you” is said, but the dude still has to sleep in his car because it is unimaginable that he might, say, sleep on the girl’s couch or something. Bollywood movies of the last couple of years are relaxing on the make-outs, but instant nudity is still legitimately shocking. Also this might be literally the first time I’ve seen a respectable woman get drunk in a Bollywood movie, and, as you can see, my sample size is pretty large.)

So, besides that what is there? Well, Bittoo (Ranveer Singh) and Shruti (Anushka Sharma) meet-cute when he sort of crashes a wedding she’s planning, for the food. Soon they start a wedding-planning business which is wildly successful until they sleep together and it gets weird. You know, like it does, with people. Along the way you get to see that it is apparently expected of a wedding planner in India that he has in his back pocket a dance and light show worthy of Shah Rukh Khan.

I dunno, this movie is pretty great. Everyone in it mostly acts like a real person, with real person foibles. Bittoo is kind of a jackass for a while, but in a way that young men actually often are, not in an imaginary insane Bollywood way. People change gradually and plausibly, which is also a surprisingly normal thing (for rom-coms generally, not just in Bollywood). The movie only has one plot, and it holds together. The songs aren’t memorable, but they aren’t annoying either. Everyone can dance on the beat. Solidly above average across the board, really, and also it’s nice to see a rom-com in which a girl is good at her job but not consequently an insane person.

Director: Maneesh Sharma
Rating: PG-13 ish?
Length: 139 minutes
Score: 4/5

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Wow.  Wow, this movie is bad. And for no reason! You’ve got Priyanka Chopra, Shahid Kapoor, and a fairly promising love-across-time premise!

Unfortunately, you also have catastrophic screen-writing, the conviction that assy dudes are secretly adorable, and some seriously dodgy stubble on Mr. Kapoor from 1910.

Right, so: the couple exists (different names, different jobs, whatever) in 1910 in a garrisoned village in what is now Pakistan, in the 60s in Mumbai, and nowish in England. They meet by chance, they fall in love, and then something occurs to break them up (in two out of three options, it’s that Mr. Kapoor is a jackwagon; in the other it’s that he gets arrested for sticking it to the British–because he wants to impress a girl, so…yeah).

It’s not unusual for Bollywood movies to be tonally discordant, but this one is especially jarring, partly because it’s not long enough (I know, right?) to give each story due time. The 60s segment is basically a screwball comedy, complete with goofy sound effects. It is the most charming. The 1910s segment also has a few of those sound effects and everything is a hilarious sexy joke, but also Ms. Chopra’s character is politically active and then suddenly Mr. Kapoor goes to jail and religion is a thing (which, yes, I understand as pertinent issues, but…you haven’t seen how dumb this movie is). The 2012 segment doesn’t even try at all to do anything except Shakespeare gags? So, okay, sure.

Nothing is done with much conviction (except Ms. Chopra’s weeping, which was largely convincing and also picturesque), up to and including the dance sequences. Since the story makes no sense and the pacing is generally bad and Mr. Kapoor is unappealing in all three roles….  This director also made Hum Tum, in which Saif Ali Khan was a little bratty, but there’s a pretty big gulf between “a little bratty” and “simply the worst,” which is where Mr. Kapoor pretty much lands.

Director: Kunal Kohli
Rating: NR
Length: Only 117 minutes, but still too long!
Score: 1/5

This film came as a recommendation from a friend, so I figured I’d watch and review it, and it seemed like a good antidote to all the serious WWI from earlier. This friend doesn’t like sad movies.

And Om Shanti Om is not a sad movie. Much of it, indeed, is a moderately hilarious send-up of Bollywood’s excesses, from fan insanity to ridiculous plots to disco dance numbers. Briefly (if I can): Shah Rukh Khan plays Om, who is a minor actor hoping to make it big. He falls in love with a big heroine (Deepika Padukone’s Shanti), and saves her from an on-set fire. But she is secretly married to a producer (Arjun Rampal’s Mukesh) and in the interests of his (the producer’s) career, he sets her on fire and Om is killed trying to save her. The rest of the movie is his reincarnation and attempts at revenge.

In all of this you sort of wish that the montage was an art known in Bollywood and that Shah Rukh Khan was less amused by disco outfits, but since this film is wholly self-aware it’s funny rather than irritating. The most self-aware moment of the film, a send-up awards ceremony, had me in stitches. Everyone in Bollywood showed up good-naturedly as himself; Abhishek Bachchan particularly was pleasingly self-deprecating.

Stray observations:

  • Om is nominated for two awards in the awards show; they are identically perfect Shah Rukh Khan spoofs in which he plays a sweater-wearing juvenile lead named Rahul. I laughed so hard.
  • Seriously, the disco outfits and the amazingly (and deliberately) shoe-horned disco dream dance sequence were great. The songs generally are solid–boppable and memorable, with also a over-dramatic number in masks (staging closely and amazingly ripped off Phantom‘s “Masquerade,” and not even pretending at all not to be). No one is an egregiously terrible dancer.
  • In how many Bollywood movies is fire not a significant plot point? There are three major and several minor fires in this one.
  • I don’t even like Shah Rukh Khan.

Director: Farah Khan
Rating: PG-13
Length: 162 min.
Score: 3.5/5. It’s kind of great, right? But…just because you’re self-aware doesn’t mean you’re good.

Right. So. This didn’t start well, because I got so bored and annoyed about 1.5 hours in that I had to turn it off and watch four hours of “Top Gear” instead. I had had high hopes. I’ve only ever seen stuff in which Akshaye Khanna makes special appearances because he’s such a big star, and I figured his early films might justify this. Aishwarya Rai is strikingly beautiful and I haven’t hated anything with her. (I might be lying; I might hate Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.) And Mola Ram plays Akshaye Khanna’s dad! What could go wrong?

Well, what goes wrong is that Taal is awful. Here’s the set-up. Akshaye Khanna as Manav is a rich young man, raised in London and now coming back to India to enter the firm, presumably. He has the worst mullet you’ve ever seen and falls off cliffs a lot. He is also a total stalker creep and a gatecrasher, but as usual in films this is just adorable. Aishwarya Rai as Mansi is a young woman raised in Himachal Pradesh who dances and sings and teaches yoga and for some insane reason possibly related to my spotty subtitles is not likely to marry. She has weird nightmares. This should be pretty straightforward. With the exception of the exact region in question, this looks like a classic film of the excellent “teach me how to be more Punjabi” genre, in which the young man learns important truths about himself and being Indian from a pure but sometimes slightly sassy young woman.

I wish. An hour in, they’re in love, everyone’s parents seem to be in favor, at least after Mansi’s dad yells at her about the necklace of whoredom she received from Manav. Immediately, of course, a ridiculous incident occurs in which her dad hits his dad and then Mansi gives a patented Aishwarya Rai tells rich people how it is speech. Then she decides to stay in Mumbai and become an international music star who dresses like a lunatic. This is where she meets Anil Kapoor as Vikrant (whose sunglasses are surgically attached to his skull), and Vikrant, Manav, and Mansi embark on a mind-numbingly stupid love triangle voyage. The dance sequences progress from chin kisses and rolling around in rural mud to deranged horrors in the worst leggings you’ve ever seen. They don’t even have the benefit of attractive scenery, because they’re all in a Mumbai studio or a Canadian arena.

The dénouement is even dumber than you’d think, and even more drawn out and full of silent, idiotic staring. And, like, I know, 90s Bollywood. Those are the criteria by which I am judging it, and by which it is awful.

Stray observations:

  • The line between dreams and reality is imperfectly drawn; Manav appears improbably in Mansi’s imagination, but it’s, like, the fifth most insane thing he’d done so far, so I thought it might be real.
  • Manav’s mean aunt wants Mansi to appear in bra ads, because she is evil. This scene is hilarious.
  • Not only does Manav fall off cliffs, he catches fire and is clubbed in the face. I hope they get life insurance.
  • For an instant, you see Shahid Kapoor’s face–he is a nameless and uncredited dancer. It is not worth it.

Director: Subhash Ghai
Rating: U/G
Length: 179 min., which is 179 minutes too many
Score: 1/5. It didn’t actually make me barf.

So it is my opinion that you should see this movie the next time you have four spare hours. It’s about the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great and his wife, the Rajput princess Jodhaa. And, while it suffers from the general problem of stories of true love that involve kings with harems (i.e. they are inherently ridiculous), it is nonetheless pretty terrific.

What’s so great about it? Well, it has pretty good production values, including a less fancy but also less irritating battle with war elephants than Alexander had, and also a billion amazing funny bejewelled hats. It is sweepingly gorgeous in general, and the Red Fort at Agra is stunning. The songs are pretty and not especially shoe-horned into the narrative; one of the most memorable is in fact a performance by Sufis. And Hrithik Roshan’s hair is just fantastic.

Perhaps what I most enjoy about Jodhaa Akbar is that, as with 300, everything that made you go, “Seriously? Pssh!” was in fact a recorded historical datum. Akbar throwing his vizier Adham Khan off a balcony twice because the first toss didn’t take? Recorded in the histories and in fact the subject of a print in the Victoria & Albert. Akbar unable to read his wife’s gorgeous calligraphy? It seems he never did learn to read (I know, as emperor that’s just asking to be embezzled, but oh well). Akbar’s rather overdone religious tolerance? Generally true, until he went crazy and started his own religion with himself at its head. (But that was in his old age, when the opium he used to mull his wine had gotten to him. Cf. Alexander, not the movie.) Akbar also (unfortunately not in the film) played polo at night with a ball that was on fire.

It’s a beautiful movie, and it makes sense, and my guess is you don’t know that much about Akbar the Great. This isn’t much of an introduction to the larger historical framework, but if it makes you curious, I’m all for it.

Notes and asides:

  • People are helpfully color-coded; the rebel Sharifuddin and his entire army wear evil black when Akbar wears gold.
  • In case the subtitles ever let you down, the soundtrack will always, always help you to know what’s going on, especially if it is extremely dramatic.
  • Aishwarya Rai sleeps in costumes that are Amidala levels of uncomfortable; the upside is that Hrithik Roshan has epic, epic bedhead.
  • If you liked the Wallace Collection, you’ll love this movie.

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Rating: Irrelevant. Some elephant battles.
Length: 213 min., but you don’t really mind
Score: 4/5. What it lacks in dialogue it makes up in compelling visuals and stories. And Hrithik Roshan’s hair.

I’ve been out of the blogging game for a while, and I didn’t really miss it. But I watch so many movies, and I’m pretty sure that all of my real friends are not particularly interested in all of them (I’ll set up an about page to give you a vibe), so to save some relationships, I thought I’d try this format.

And this is because of the film Mausam, about which I have about a billion feelings.

I have these feelings because Mausam is trying to be too many movies at once, and it does none of them especially well. In fact, here’s a list of movies it could have been, one at a time, and probably been sort of cute and watchable (or, frankly, serious but still watchable).

1. Sikh boy falls in love with Muslim girl, and the usual complications ensue.
2. Sikh boy falls in love with Muslim girl, and neither of them is especially great at tracking people down; the usual complications also ensue.
3. War in Kashmir tears lovers apart.
4. Life in the air force may injure you even if it is generally glamorous what with all the Ray-Bans.
5. September 11 was bad and made some people in the United States be even more awful about Islam.
6. Sectarian violence, even Kashmir apart, is a problem in India.
7. Edinburgh is gorgeous and makes you act goofy.
8. The Punjab also is gorgeous and makes you wear bright colors and dance and ride bicycles (many films have been predicated on this, and they work very well).
9. Anupam Kher, for some reason, is your uncle.

That is not even everything that is going on the movie–there’s a village girl that’s also in love with the hero and makes trouble for no reason, and I thought Anupam Kher might be in some kind of serious political trouble, but either I misread the situation or that just never paid off. And I know what you’re saying: it’s Bollywood, and this is how things work. I get that. I get that you just have to accept that everyone in Britain travels in carriages and goes to formal balls all the time, and that you may have to watch the hero run across Switzerland (in this case playing itself, unusually). I get that families are large and nebulous, and that people travel insane distances at the drop of a hat, and that being laughed at for having once been covered in mud is just the biggest turn-on. I get that you’ll get to an hour from the end and wonder what else could possibly happen, and never expect that it’s that the bride gets set on fire (not the case here, by the way, that’s Vivah). I get that Anupam Kher is somebody’s dad.

I am used to these things, and yet Mausam had way too much going on, and also went insanely off the rails in the second half. Maybe one of the 23432847239487324 complications would have made an actual plot, and maybe also a coherent social or political point. You really can stop at “please don’t murder innocent people with Molotov cocktails and swords.” You don’t have to add a ferris wheel with a child that needs to be rescued. Oh, and a horse. Hell, you could stop at “everyone please find a working phone.”

So why did I watch it? Because I thought it would be Bollywood Top Gun. You show me Shahid Kapoor in aviators and I am there. Seriously, this was my immediate reaction on coming across this movie on IMDb, talking to a sympathetic friend on gchat:

there
is a movie
in which Shahid Kapoor
is
A FIGHTER PILOT

And that’s also why I kept watching. Sonam Kapoor is sort of blah, Anupam Kher is wasted completely, the writing is frankly laughable, the songs are deeply unmemorable, and, while the backdrops are gorgeous (the Punjab, Edinburgh, Switzerland), there is really only one reason to watch this movie: Shahid Kapoor is just stupid hot in it.

With basically any other movie, that would be just a shallow and pointless thing to say. We all know that Mr. Kapoor is handsome, and that that’s kind of the point of him. But Hrithik Roshan isn’t good-looking enough to make Kites bearable, and the one-two punch of Christian Bale and Johnny Depp doesn’t save Public Enemies. (Public Enemies is probably better than MausamKites is not.)

When I say “stupid hot,” I mean it. The only person on this production who performed at 100% on his job was the person responsible for whatever Mr. Kapoor was wearing and how he was doing his hair. I will give you two moments that bear this out. First, there is a throwaway, 20-second-long scene in which Harry (Mr. Kapoor’s character) spouts gibberish at an RAF officer just so that we can see him in a British, olive drab, tough-guy flight-suit, because all the time he spends in the boring navy blue of the Indian Air Force is apparently insufficient. Literally nothing happens in this scene. It’s just for the flight-suit. Second, at some point Harry comes through Edinburgh Waverley station, and you see him come up an escalator. He is wearing a dark coat and a scarf and I laughed out loud on my plane ride when this happened because you are clearly just supposed to be blown away by how good he looks. You are, but I still laugh at the cynicism, even while appreciating the effort.

Also, he makes the mustache work. And the beard. Have a google image search. I’ll wait. I mean, holy crap.

So here’s the run-down; the format may change as this blog goes on.

Title: Mausam 
Year: 2011
Director: Pankaj Kapur
Stars: Shahid Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, and also the treat of Vaibhav Talwar
Rating: Dunno; I’d peg it at PG-13 for the unnecessary corpses
Length: 161 min. (too long)
Score: 2/5. It should really be 1/5, but, stupid hot. Movie generally too scattershot, and sometimes nonsensical. Worth watching on a plane or if you really, really like Shahid Kapoor. Maybe have a cocktail first.