October 28, 2008

TZP Oscars'09 bulletin

It appears that Aamir is going slow with the TZP Oscar publicity- either that, or he is not saying and continuing to dazzle visiting princesses :) In the meantime, TZP is still making the festival rounds, in India and abroad.

Meanwhile, as we know, nominations for the 81st Oscars will be announced on 22 January, 2009. Predictions are flying rampant and the key dates schedule per the Alternative Film Guide is as below:

  • Monday, December 1, 2008: Official Screen Credits forms due
  • Friday, December 26, 2008: Nominations ballots mailed
  • Monday, January 12, 2009: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. US Pacific Time
  • Thursday, January 22, 2009: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. US Pacific Time , Samuel Goldwyn Theater
  • Wednesday, January 28, 2009: Final ballots mailed
  • Monday, February 2, 2009: Nominees Luncheon
  • Saturday, February 7, 2009: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation
  • Tuesday, February 17, 2009: Final polls close 5 p.m. US Pacific Time
  • Sunday, February 22, 2009: 81st Annual Academy Awards presentation

Also see the final list of foreign films submitted here.

Update 10/29/08: Aamir arrives in the USA tonight to begin the TZP lobbying!

October 26, 2008

Halloween triumvirates continue

Thank goodness Halloween is almost here- I had more or less resolved to only cover related movies, and its becoming a bit hard. Most of these movies are hilarious, but pretty brain dead and I feel exhausted after watching one!

Title: Karishma Kali Kaa (The Miracle of Kali)
Year: 1990
Cast: Amrita Singh, Shatrughan Sinha, Raza Murad, Ranjeet.

Amrita is a poor village girl, who regularly helps out at the local Kali temple. One night, she is handling the goddess' jewellery when four men (including Raza Murad and Ranjeet, those sad sods) rob the temple, rape her and kill the priest.

To add insult to injury, Amrita is blamed for the murder and robbery, and is thrown in jail. She escapes, and earns heavenly powers (yes, really!!!) via worship and even manages to fall in love with Shatrughan, a police inspector. Things happen (as they will), and Shtrughan throws her back in jail for her supposed crimes- what will she do now???

What happens next is a visitation by Kali herself to the damsel in distress- Amrita is granted heavenly weaponry (including a chakra, sword and other miscellanea) and also the power to disappear in and out of her jail cell (just like Star Trek!). Needless to say, all she needs to do now is kill off the bad guys. In the end, Kali herself appears to the general populace after some major sacrificial dancing by Amrita, to provide a character certificate of Amrita's goodness- so that Shatrughan may marry her :S

The movie transcends all lesser concerns like pros/cons- it cannot be improved- it just is. Technically, it is a religious movie, and does not truly fall into the allowable Halloween-friendly genres, but the utterly hilariously unbelievable plot, and the insane ending make it qualify. I may sound blasphemous to some, but you truly have to see this movie to believe it- I watched spell-bound, unable to take my eyes off the screen- there are other mad Bollywood movies out there, but this was the strangest faux-mythological-religious movie I have ever dared watch.


Title: Kabristan (Graveyard)
Year: 1985
Cast: Who cares?

In the early 80s, the Ramsay Brothers had managed to make a success of their horror movies. On their heels came a slew of copycats who saw this as a way of making a quick buck- throw in some out-of-work actors with some funky music and add some soft porn and a ghost in a bad mask- the movie would sell in small theaters in the country's interiors. These guys were definitely not national award contenders!

Kabristan was one of the movies made by these pretenders- the plot is drivel: A man and woman have an affair- they are married- but to other people! When the woman's husband turns up ad theaters to get violent, the man and woman kill and bury him.

Of course the dead man comes back- ready to kill not only his wife and her lover, but also the lover's extended family :)

This was a huge step down for Hemant Birje, who had started his career with the huge hit "Tarzan." Unfortunately for him, he could really never live up to his first movie, and made his way into C-movies like this one, where he is one of the brothers of the man whose family is attacked by the dead man.

Title: Samri/Purana Mandir-2 (Samri, or The Old Temple- Part 2)
Year: 1985
Cast: Rajan Sippy, Arti Gupta, Gulshan Grover, Jagdeep, Puneet Issar, Asha Sachdev, Prem Chopra.

After the surprisingly well-received Purana Mandir the Ramsay Brothers made a sequel, throwing in all the insanity of the original, with trademark Ramsay campy, soft-porn style.

Samri is a Satan-worshipper in a small town- as the local rich man, no one can oppose him till one day when he realizes that old age is finally catching up with him.

He decides to invite his family back home- including his niece Anju (Arti), her boy friend (Rajan Sippy), his step-brother Prem Chopra, his girl friend and his friend. When the others realise that Samri is leaving his entire estate to Anju, they kill Samri and plot to grab his wealth for themselves. But he comes back.....

Rajan Sippy did plenty of C-grade movies, and even tried his hand at production, but failed miserably. Thankfully for him, he cut his losses after about a decade of floundering, moved to the UAE and established a successful restaurant, "The Moghul Room" in Cairo, Egypt, where he later employed Kalpana Iyer (who played "Niki"- Sam's girlfriend and David (Om Puri)'s daughter in Disco Dancer).

Enough of fake blood, skulls and bad make-up! [oh so tired- brain overload]

October 22, 2008

Red Rose

Title: Red Rose
Year: 1980
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Poonam Dhillon, Satyen Kapoor, Mayur, Aruna Irani, Shammi, Padmini Kapila, Om Shivpuri.

Hearing about this from both Nikki and Trupti, I was intrigued: A scary movie with Rajesh??? This was the first time ever I was motivated to see a RK movie.
So I saw it.
Was I satisfied? No.
Am I glad I watched it? Yes.
Why? Because no movie shall be left behind, here in Apni East India Company. I shall document and nurture this little monster that I bet even its director must not love.

Rajesh is a rich man in Bombay, and a tad debauched (how do we know that? He sleeps apparently naked, with a bra in his bed- eugh- the movie has barely started and I am already not digging the implied sleaze).

He disapproves of the modern, flirtacious woman, but dates them anyway...

He has some really odd servants, including Om Shivpuri, the gardener, who gives him a red rose every day as RK leaves for work.

He has a butler/cook type servant who seems to spend too much time watching his master bathe (!!!)
He has a dad, Satyen, who lives in seclusion in the out-house.

Then one day, Rajesh meets shy, virginal Poonam, (she works in a store called Fabina, which I found actually still exists for reals, in Mulund, Bombay).

... and after much courting,

... marries her.

But Rajesh has secrets Poonam doesn't know of- and since she now lives with him, the skeletons in his closet literally begin to fly out- is she prepared to face her husband's secrets?
(and yes, those are bras and a v fake skeleton :D)

1- The fact that Rajesh took the decision to star in this movie is applaud-able- he had never attempted something like this. Plus the Director, Bharathi Raja, was popular in Southern Cinema but relatively unknown in the North, and even though Rajesh's own star was falling, it was a huge risk for him to take.
2- Super campy glee- give up and enjoy the madness while you check out RK's leather newsboy cap and Aruna's really cool peasant dress (I want it!)

1- A horrible screenplay, shoddy direction and horrible pacing and editing- maybe because the crew wasn't familiar in the language it was working in? There were enough holes in the screenplay for a ship to sink into- so I wont elaborate.
2- I cannot fathom the music- its the worst stuff RD Burman- whom I love- has ever done. Maybe he was distracted, since he married Asha Bhosle that same year.

How it could be better:
And yes, this movie could have been so much better than it turned out to be, if only the dialogues, screenplay and direction had been handled better. One cant really blame the actors if they weren't given appropriate tools to work with. They had a good story, good actors and a good musician- yet dropped the ball.

All in all, don't watch, unless you must see (as I did) the one time Rajesh went truly against his grain.

October 21, 2008

Happy B'day Shammi!

Happy 77th Birthday Mr. Shammi Kapoor!

TOI had a pretty decent article on him here.
Also found some of his family pix- arent they adorable?

October 10, 2008

Bolly-horror celebrations continue..3 more

For this set of reviews, I chose Bollywood horror that I consider by far the best- though you may have your own favorites which I may have missed. Interestingly, all three feature mainstream actors, who lend a certain credibility to these projects. Unfortunately, these are few and far between. What scares you?

The scaried Bolly movie ever!
Title: Kaun
Year: 1999
Cast: Urmila, Manoj Bajpai, Sushant Singh.

Essentially a slasher movie, from our last discussion on this blog, this seems to be everyone's favorite scary movie. And it is hard indeed not to love.

Urmila is home one quiet, rainy day- and hears on TV that a crazed killer is on the loose. Her house is a bit away from the others, which creeps her out. She shuts all the doors and windows, and settles in to play with the cat.

But Manoj wants in! He is looking for someone who is probably a previous owner, and has come a fair distance. Stranded in the rain, he is reluctantly taken in by Urmila. But then there is another knock- it is Sushant- he is a policeman (or is he?), and is looking for a thief, who could in fact be the murderer on the loose. So what happens next?

With a cast of only three, no distracting songs (but very effective background music), and no special effects, Urmila, Manoj and Sushant created a horror classic- if you haven't watched it yet, what are you waiting for???

1- The brilliant cast.
2- The lack of special effects- the script had no distractions from itself whatsoever, which fact not many directors seem to understand.

1- In the end, we are told via voice over that the mystery was resolved when the smell of the disintegrating bodies reached the neighbors- which makes little sense- the neighbors were far away enough to not hear gun shots and screams, or see people moving around- but those darned human bloodhounds sure could smell!

How this could be better:
Just eliminate the voice over in the end.

Almost the scariest Bolly movie
Title: Gehrayee
Year: 1980
Cast: Padmini Kolhapure, Anant Nag, Shriram Lagoo, Indrani Mukherjee.

This is probably one of the earliest "genteel" horror movies I have seen- certainly the stars add all the gravitas possible.

Shriram Lagoo is a rich man, married to Indrani, with elder son Anant and a young and adorable daughter Padmini, who was really good here.

They move to a new house, and Padmini begins to act weird- the father (as all fathers must) believes it is a psychological issue, while the mother believes it is supernatural. Meanwhile, the elder brother is trying to figure out a way to bridge the gap between this difference of opinion and find a solution. Soon, Padmini is possessed, and begins to blurt out secrets about her father that he has never shared with his family....

It is creepy!

1- Padmini, very young, adorable and perfect for the part.
2- A brilliant supporting cast- Shriram especially does really really well. (telling you more would be too much of a spoiler :))
3- Amrish Puri plays an evil priest, and is properly scarier than the ghost itself :)

1- Drags in parts- could be edited better.

How this could be better:

Edit the movie, improve production values.

#3: if only the ghost looked less like a melted candle...[sigh]

Title: Raat
Year: 1992
Cast: Revathy, Anant Nag, Akash Khurana,Rohini Hattangdi, Om Puri, Tej Sapru.

Akash and Rohini move into a house with their daughter Revathy and little Bunty, their dead older daughter's child.

Soon Revathy is possessed by the house's resident spirit, and begins killing off people randomly. There is also a ghostly cat in the mix, in case we are missing wildlife.

Akash calls in the doctor- played by Anant Nag (I do love this man)- who cant figure out what is going wrong. Meanwhile Revathy's remarkably fugly boyfriend (who I love anyways) joins hands with Rohini to figure out the paranormal angle. They call in Om Puri, a priest (who looks anything but) for a final showdown in the basement :)

1- Revathy, who I can watch raptly brushing her teeth if nothing else :)
2- Rohini, who I miss so much- she is coming back in the new "Karzzzz" - which may turn out to be scarier than Raat :)
3- Neat atmosphere.

1- Nothing really happens- the ghost finally appears in the very end, with bad make up and makes me wonder why Om Puri bothered with this.
2- So many missed opportunities- they create great atmosphere, but a lot of the "wow" moments are just let to fizzle out without follow up :/

How this could be better:
1- Better fashions for the entire cast, most of all for poor Revathy and Deepak.
2- A better make-up person, and longer screen-time for the ghost.

October 8, 2008

Bolly Horror Movies- 3 reviews

Why did I watch Bollwood horror, which is usually terrible, terrible cinema?

1- Want a movie experience where you TRULY make no effort to think whatsoever?
Nothing like a Bollywood horror movie for campy, brainless, time-pass.
2- The last one in this set of three that I watched was particularly horrible- but the way I see it- if I don't document these movies, no one probably ever will bother- let no movie be left behind!
3- Last, but not the least, watching Bolly horror is a great way to mark time for Halloween :)

The Good
Title: Phoonk
Year: 2008
Cast: Ahsaas Channa, Ashwini Kalsekar, Zakir Hussein.

A uber rich builder lives happily in Mumbai with his wife, mother and 2 little kids- a daughter and son. He finds that his contractor friend and his wife Ashwini have been cheating him in business, and in a super OTT scene, throws them out of his business, life and home for good.

Turns out Ashwini and her husband practice black magic- and begin to make things happen that lead to the builder's daughter, Ahsaas, being possessed by a spirit. The builder is an atheist, but slowly begins to give up on modern medicine and calls in a soothsayer, Zakir, to intervene.

1- Ahsaas is a very very good actor- really. She really kept the movie together- you may remember her as SRK's "son" in KANK.
2- Decent effects- you wont get really scared, but at least they get the atmosphere correct.
3- The supporting cast was definitely into it- the guy playing Ahsaas' dad was a bit OTT, but you could chalk it up to a parent's hysteria when they find their child beyond help.

1- The songs should have been edited out- extremely ordinary, and did not add to the narrative.
2- A very precipitating climax, and uneven editing. It could have been stretched and maybe more stuff/scenes added to make it more exciting. On the other hand, a lot of other scenes seemed too long.
3- Unoriginal story.

How it could have been better:
1- Edit the first half to make it tighter- we really do not need any of the songs included here.
2- Expand on the action in the climax- make Zakir's confrontation with Ashwini stronger, and expand on how it ends.

The Bad
Title: Khamosh- Khauff ki raat
Year: 2005
Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Juhi Chawla, Rajiv Singh, Shawar Ali, Kelly Dorji.

Its one of those proverbial dark and stormy nights :)
A family of three, a prostitute (Shilpa), a movie star (Rakhi Sawant), her secretary (Rajiv Singh), a policeman (Shawar) and his prisoner (Kelley) end up stranded in a sad little hotel due to heavy rains.

And one by one, they begin to die... who is the killer?

1- The plot is far more intriguing than Phoonk.

1- The movie loses out because it overdoes everything: EVERYONE overacts. The plot, instead of being treated in a straightforward fashion, has sub-stories tacked on to it until you just don't care any more.
2- The cast has terrible and boring dialogues, and no one quite knows what to do with them.
3- Pointless songs spring at you when least expected.
4- There is a second story with Juhi that supposedly forms the premise for the main action, but is executed really, really badly.
5- Highly unsatisfactory end- while your questions aren't really answered, you still breathe a sigh of relief- thank goodness it ended!

How it could have been better:
1- Concentrate on the plot- and forget the table dressing.

The Ugly
Title: Khandala House
Year: 2008
Cast: Anil Dhawan, Rita Bhaduri, Paintal, Nafeali Khan, Meghna Patel.

Yup, this is one from the Ramsay stables. Not listed by IMDB, this is basically a mix of soft porn and campy horror, best seen with your finger at the ready on your remote's fast forward button.

Nafeali is the daughter of a very rich man, and when her father falls ill, calls some local witchdoctor to cure him :S The dad is cured, but the witchdoctor seduces Nafeali, who becomes a witch herself, and decides to kill everyone she beds, to gain everlasting life (groan- yes I know- watching the movie was like having a bad toothache).

Respectable, old time actors like Anil, Rita and Paintal probably worked in this atrocity to make a quick buck, so they must be forgiven for their bad choices. Anil is Nafeali's uncle, who kills her to stop her murderous ways- but she comes back from the dead to kill him off, soon enough.

Rita Bhaduri and Paintal are part of the team of archaeologists who "discover" the coffin Nafeali was buried in, the first time she died. as soon as she comes back to life, they get killed off, and are saved from further humiliation.

And yes, there was a hero and a heroine- the archaeologist and the ancient rune reader from the digging team- they were very ugly, chubby and completely useless, but they survived in the end and lived happily ever after- :S

Pros: None- which may be a pro as well.

Cons: The whole thing.

How it could have been better:
The movie should never have been made :D

October 6, 2008

TZP News

I haven't updated about the TZP-Oscar news since there haven't been significant developments specific to the Oscars from that quarter. However, more awards are lining up for Taare Zameen Par, the latest being the Asia Pacific Screen awards in Australia, and the Third Eye Asian Film Festival in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, there are real changes inspired from the movie coming together in India. In Gujarat, students from a university are taking initiative to help dyslexic slum kids. Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has ordered a census of affected students in Municipal and Government schools, in order to help the Government realise the size of the issue and how to address it. It is a beginning, and one may hope it will bring results.

October 4, 2008

The Burning Train review, disaster movies and miscellaneous bliss

The Burning Train (1980) from BR Chopra's production house is a brilliant disaster movie from Bollywood, but it isn’t the only one- Kala Patthar (1979) from the Yash Chopra stables preceded it by a year. When compared to each other, and I have found that many more have seen Kala Patthar than they have The Burning Train, I feel the latter is far stronger owing to the sheer vastness of canvas it embraces. While the special effects were hardly superior, the expanse of the cast, the cohesion of the plot and equitably distributed, sincere, and perfect performances put The Burning Train ahead of its rival for me.

But I am getting ahead of the discussion here.

Title: The Burning Train
Year: 1980
Cast: Dharmendra, Hema, Danny, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Pravin, Mac Mohan, Ifthekar, Om Shivpuri, Sudha Shivpuri (uncredited), Anand Balraj (uncredited), Navin Nischal, Jeetendra. Neetu Singh Kapoor, Rajendra Nath, Nasir Hussain, Jankidas, Satyendra Kapoor, Indrani Mukherjee, Keshto Mukherjee, Mukri, Paintal, Gufi Paintal, Madan Puri, Shammi, Yunus Parvez, Ranjeet, Sujit Kumar, Asha Sachdev, Simi Garewal.

The cast list, long as it is, is only partial; I have tried to include all characters that stood out for me. Despite the number of people, it is nothing short of astounding that the script metes out strong and well etched parts for each person- everyone has a part to play, and they deliver!

The movie starts off in Delhi, where Dharam and Vinod are just begining in their careers- Dharam is a business man, while Vinod is an engineer with the Indian railways, obsessed with making India's fastest and most luxurious train.

They meet Hema and Pravin, love happens, and the couples sing songs on their tandems.

Pravin and Vinod marry, much to the dismay of Pravin's suitor Danny (SO adorable, with a really mad face and a funky white streak in his hair).

However, Dharam loses his business, money and Hema (who has a secret of her own, and leaves him).

Years pass, and Vinod at least is doing well at work- his train is ready, and his team at work (Boss- Iftekhar, Colleague: Vinod Mehra, Sub: Mac Mohan) are geared for its launch.

Too bad the wifey isn’t pleased- Pravin is done with being ignored, and is at the brink of suing for divorce. In fact, she sends their son on the train to Bombay, the day it is being launched.

EVERYbody except the 2 Vinods and Pravin are on this train....

The passenger to keep our eye on is Danny, who is REALLY mad that not only did Vinod marry Pravin, but also topped him on the train project- apparently Danny's design was dumped for Vinod's.

Therefore, Danny decides to sabotage the train. He gets on as a passenger, strategically places some bombs, and takes off mid journey, at a railway station.

Unfortunately for him, another passenger who disembarks with him is Dharam.

Dharam had left the train because Hema was on it as well, with Navin Nischal, whom Dharam assumes is her husband/lover.

At the bar, drunk Danny reveals his blast-off plans to Dharam, who is good and mad and kicks his ass.

Then, in a brilliant chase, Dharam gets back on a train, which is supposedly now going at a speed of 100km/hr- don’t ask me how, just watch, and clap in glee, as I did.

Back on the train, Dharam is joined by Jeetendra, Neetu, Navin and the rest of the passengers, as they literally race- against time and the fire that has been started by a negligent porter on the train.

Who will survive? And How will it all end? Does the train stop or explode??? Can Vinod get his kid back and his marriage together?? Will Dharam and Hema survive the train????? :)

You have to WATCH!!!

Having watched this at least a dozen times in my life, and having planned to watch it again soon, there are many reasons why I love this movie:
1- Its a Disaster Movie! - which genre I love, from the Towering Inferno through Deep Impact through The Day After Tomorrow (yes, even that). Too bad Bollywood never made enough of these.
2- Vinod and Pravin! A hotter pair is hard to imagine, and they are stellar here, though Hema and Dharam, and Jeetendra and Neetu look really adorable as well.
3- As opposed to most movies with huge ensemble casts, this one is spot-on with its screenplay, where no character goes ignored for long- credit is due to Kamleshwar (screenwriter) and the editors' team. No actor is shortchanged, which is more than can be said of many a movie.
4- RD Burman's songs are all brilliant, and bring up the movie's oomph quotient.
5- The first half of the movie is almost entirely shot in Delhi- Cannaught place, Rail Museum, Lodhi Gardens, Buddha Park, Chanakya Puri- the Malaysian embassy is used as Dharam's house :) Never has my Delhi-love been so satisfied!
6- The movie has IT- the stars' energies, that something that makes this an edge of the seat thriller- some curve balls are thrown at the viewer that are unexpected, which makes the experience totally brilliant. I will admit that the climax is a bit of a let down, especially with the long shots of a toy model train (gasp!), but acceptance is key here, and I have tons of acceptance for this movie :D

I can keep on going with more and more reasons to watch the movie- but in the end, it is up to you, the viewer to decide for yourself. When it came out, it was instantly panned by the critics, but critics- what do they know?