December 29, 2009

2009- A retrospective

2009 turned out to be a great year for Bollywood- a surprising number of very entertaining movies came out. Here are the ones that stood out for me, for the better and for the worse.

Movies that delivered (for me at least- some of these may not work for u at all):

  • Dev D- koi shak?
  • 13B- certainly one of slickest of the genre to come out of Bollywood.
  • Kaminey: Shashid finally won me over. And I was convinced that Fashion wasn't a one-time fluke, and Priyanka can actually act.
  • Wanted- Another controversial choice I know- you hate it or love it. I love it.
  • Three Idiots- Its Amir Khan- again, koi shak?
  • Firaaq- Stressful. Reminiscent of "Yun Hota to Kya Hota (2006)." But still very good.
    • Hollywood representatiion:
    • Wolverine- Hugh Jackman. Ryan Reynolds, Liev. 'Nuff said.
    • Star Trek- See explanation for "Wanted," above.

    Movies that stopped just a decimal away from delivering (for me at least- you love/hate some of these):

    • Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani- Entertaining. Funny. But not so much.
    • London Dreams- Despite everything, in the end it proved less that the sum of its parts.
    • Chandni Chowk to China- Fun stuff, but- but- but- they killed the disco dancer!
    • Kurbaan- Despite the disparity of subjects, same comment as "London Dreams" above.
    • What's your Rashee?- Priyanka Chopra blew me away- while Harman, shoddy direction and shoddier editing made me want to barf. The movie is based on a play by Madhu Rai, that has already been made into a brilliant TV show "Mr Yogi," about a decade ago.
    • Luck by Chance- Great acting, great script, great movie. And yet, not convinced by the cast's message (and I felt there was one).
    • Delhi 6- Just because we love Abhishek, Waheeda ji and the brilliant supporting cast, we CANNOT swallow the cop-out ending.
    • Hollywood representatiion:
    • Sherlock Holmes- I'm not convinced if Holmes and Watson need to be superheroes. Plus Downey isn't the Holmes I've read about 2 million times.
    • 2012- An Indian figures out when the world blows, and then goes under with the rest of the nation? Yikes.

    Movies that did not deliver for anybody (I'm fairly certain):

    • 8x 10 Tasveer- Yarghs
    • Victory- Yarghs

    December 28, 2009

    Santa bought me something for christmas....

    Santa officially lives at http://shellsbollyworld.blogspot.com/, who sent me fuzzy, huggable Abhay for Christmas....


    And also, a much forgotten Steve, our favorite mailman-turned-comic...


    But this was the best gift of all- a fab video that had me smiling like a fool every time Dharam ji and Abhay came on... omg seriously amazing!


    video

    Thank you secret Santa! blog on!

    December 20, 2009

    More movies I've been watching

    In between moving back to my house (long story), dealing with contractors (longer story) and managing a mixed bag of non-anticipated catastrophes (so many stories), yes, I have been watching Bollywood.

    Title:Ram Rajya (Ram's Rule)
    Year: 1943
    Cast:Shobhna Samarth, Prem Adib

    This is the 1st mythological being covered on this blog! And while I usually laugh at the tackiness of mythological productions, this was truly worth watching and writing about.

    The movie picks up after Ram (Prem Adib, NOT Chandrakant- IMDB credits BOTH actors with the character's portrayal) and Sita (Shobhna- glowing, and extremely beautiful) return to Ayodhya, and are pregnant. The scriptwriter, Kanu Desai, makes subtle adjustments to Valmiki (the ascetic and poet)'s Ramayana, and introduces empathy to Ram's darkest hour. Per the film, Ram asks Sita to leave only owing to public pressure, after a informal vote by the general populace, and in the end, when he again meets Sita after Luv and Kuch are grown up, doesn't hesitate in begging her to come back. Sita being swallowed by the earth is portrayed to be her own wish. Yeah right.

    Along with all the debate that the script has potential to spark, watching it before the release of Ravan next year, offers much food for thought. In the very least, the woman's portrayal as the ever-sufferer gets grating, no matter how lightly one watches the film. While Prem's and the other actors' portrayals are theatrical and typical of the times; Shobhna is very natural, carries the movie, and makes the movie a must-watch. Some very decent music, and I did not fast forward through the movie once, which fact speaks volumes.Vijay Bhatt's direction is definitely progressive (despite the potential cowardice of the script), and I particularly enjoyed the opening credits.

    Verdict- One of the few well-made mythologicals ever. Watch.
    _____________________________________________

    Title: Badrinath Yatra (The pilgrimage to Badrinath)
    Year: 1967
    Cast: Nirupa Roy, Abhi Bhattacharya

    The 2nd mythological to be covered on this blog- and believe me, I watched both in the same fortnight (what's up with that???) However, Badrinath Yatra does not compare to Ram Rajya. It is describe as a crime movie/thriller at IMDB, which is hilarious; this is social cinema of the most ponderous sort.

    The movie opens with Devdutt (Abhi) going to jail for some random crime. His mom bails him out with her pilgrimage money, and is therefore unable to make her own visit to Badrinath. Devdutt isnt perturbed- he visits a prostitute, Chandravati, and ignores his family and his pregnant wife, Sheila (Nirupa Roy). On Chandra's insistence, he blinds his mother (!), throws out his parents and brother, lives in with Chandravati and has Sheila work as a maid in his house. Will everything every work out??? Will Devdutt repent??? Could this story get any crazier???? The movie has to be seen to be believed.

    Verdict- Horrifically hilarious. Watch- for a few jaw-dropping moments and much laughter.
    _____________________________________________

    Title: Bin Badal Barsaat (Rain without clouds/an unusual occurrence)
    Year: 1963
    Cast: Biswajeet, Asha Parekh, Nishi, Mehmood

    This is a post of many firsts... Biswajeet too has never been covered here. This has primarily been because I really do not like the man, but I love thrillers, and he has appeared in more than his fair share, so our paths cross often.

    Biswajeet is the local landlord in a small town, who (Biswajeet, not the small town) falls in love with the local doctor's daughter, feisty Asha Parekh. And they are due to be engaged, when Biswajeet discovers Nishi, literally a blast from the past. Nishi is the local gypsy girl. Apparently Biswajeet's grandpa loved and ditched Nishi's ancestor. Ergo, Nishi must marry Biswajeet in this lifetime. But Biswajeet refuses, and goes and marries Asha, and Nishi promises to avenge herself and kill Asha/Biswajeet/both.
    [sigh] Of course things dont work out quite that way- its a Bolly movie. Asha's brightness cant save the movie, whose promised thrills come off extremely lame.

    Verdict- terrible. Some decent songs though.
    _____________________________________________

    Title: Pyaar ki Pyaas (the thirst for love)
    Year: 1961
    Cast: Honey Irani, Nishi, Shreekant, Manmohan Krishna, David Abraham, Manorama

    I was a bit scared before putting in the movie- it could very well turn out to be a B-movie of the worst kind- the thirst for love??? would it mean soft porn?! :O

    My fears were quietened when I saw Manmohan Krishna and David Abraham in the credits- with those two around, sleaze couldn't even touch the frames.

    It turned out to be a sweet a sweet, though highly melodramatic watch. Honey Irani (who'd grow up to become a very accomplished writer, marry Javed Akhtar and give birth to Farhan and Zoya) stars as the orphan child who is adopted by Nishi (again!) and Shreekant, a childless couple. They are very happy with her, as is Nishi's dad, David and the orphanage warden Manmohan. However, Nishi's mom Manorama isnt pleased, and does her best to put down the child as often as she can. Things go from great to terrible really fast once Nishi has her own baby; while Shreekant still loves and supports Honey, Nishi basely ignores her, and Honey finally runs away from home. Did Honey ever find her way home? Did Nishi realize she loved Honey after all?? Did Manorama see the light??? Well- yes and no.

    Verdict- If you don't see this, you aint missing much. Besides, I already did the job for you :D

    October 31, 2009

    London Dreams

    What a fun visit to the theatre with The Bollywood Fan ! This movie is funnier than it intends to be, and very entertaining, despite all its flaws (and there are many).

    Title: London Dreams
    Year: 2009

    Cast: Salman Khan, Asin, Ajay Devgan, Om Puri


    2 Children go to school together in Bhatinda, Punjab. One wants to be a music superstar. So much so, that he wishes his dad, who forbids him from practicing, would just stop- and lo- the dad dies! Such is the power of dreams!

    And lo- the child is whisked away to London by his uncle, Om Puri, where he runs off (the child, not Om Puri- sheesh), so that he can beg on the streets and get admitted to a conservatory with the money- which is astounding- never knew there was so much cash in the begging business- career switch, anyone?

    before we know it, the child has grown, and finally leaves the conservatory when he turns into what looks like 40-something Ajay Devgan. Why he waits so long before he decides to leave school, I don't understand.

    But he does, so that at least is commendable. Off he walk, straight into Trafalgar Square. The begging biz must have done him good over the years, because he sets up amazing sound systems out of a tiny box, and gives an impromptu U2-Where the Streets Have No Name style concert- all the goris, goras, desis of all ages bop away to glory upon hearing his sound, while he recruits band members on the spot- Rannvijay and Aditya to play guitar, and Asin to dance around.

    Which would be fine, but elsewhere, his childhood friend has grown into 40-something-but-looks-like-30-something Salman in Bhatinda, who is looking amazing, singing amazing songs and romancing hot women.

    The rest of it is about Ajay getting Salman to London to join his band, and then being eaten up by jealousy when Salman proves better than him. That's it.

    And it isn't bad- not in the least. As flippant as I sound (and feel), the movie is completely entertaining, and once again after Wanted, Salman proves that he is back in his groove, doing a very good job of it. For the boys, there is always Asin to look at- but as much as Ajay is a good actor, he really is too old to play a rock star- my 18 year-old sister wears the same belt he sports in the posters, and looks better.

    Verdict: Watch it, sure- there really isn't anything better in theaters.

    October 28, 2009

    Movies I've been watching

    Despite extremely busy times at work and home, of course I've been shopping for and watching movies. Here are some; a mixed back of good, bad and ugly.

    Title: Kambakht Ishq
    Year: 2009
    Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor

    Calling it tripe would be disrespecting the food product. Akshay is a stuntman and Kareena a doctor/model in LA (why give my city a bad name? why???). They meet, pull ugly faces at each other, and annoy us and themselves thoroughly. In the end, they drive off on the PCH. Worse rubbish can be conceived, I'm certain, but this is among the worst of Bollywood ever.

    Verdict: Bad, bad stuff. Stay far away.

    ********************

    Title: Chupke Chupke
    Year: 1975
    Cast: Dharamendra, Sharmila, Amitabh, Jaya, Om Prakash, Asrani

    Surprised you must be. Exclaim you might, "Shweta, you haven't seen this pehle???"
    Let me reassure you, this was only the nth time of my rewatching this movie. It is an old and extreme favorite. Dhramendra and Amitabh are professors; Dharam marries Sharmila, but decides to pose as a servant in her brother-in-law (Om Prakash)'s house, in lieu of an elaborate prank that lasts through the major portion of the movie. Mayhem ensues, during which Amitabh, in on of his best roles ever (I believe), pretends to be a professor of botany (rather than literature, which his character indeed teaches) and woos Jaya. Both Amitabh and Dharam realize their full comic potential, and truly play their characters, not themselves, which is what makes this movie. If you still haven't seen this, don't wait a second longer.

    Verdict: Good- among the best.

    ********************

    Title: Anari
    Year: 1975
    Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila, Moushmi, Kabir Bedi

    Seen before, and documented in these hallowed net pages here. But this time, watched and thereby enriched with Beth. Shashi at his beautiful best, with lots of crazy fashions and angst. The movie suffers from editing, continuity and over moralising issues, but the fashions, Kabir and Shash make up for it- almost.

    Verdict: Mostly bad- can be fast forwarded through.

    ********************

    Title: Kajal
    Year: 1965
    Cast: Meena Kumari, Raj Kumar, Dharamendra, Padmini, Mehmood


    I'd like to say good things about it. Because I like Dharam, and I like Meena. Nevertheless, the movie is a pain to sit through, and you can easily guess why: Dharam is handsome and heck, and the local landlord. Meena's dad worked as their accountant, and since her parents died, Dharam's mom has bought up Meena and her brother as her own. Soon, Meena's bro drowns to his death and Meena's eternal tears begin to flow, and Dharam offers her his brotherly support, whereby she moves int his house. He meanwhile has been romancing a cow-like Padmini, and marries her. Padmini is jealous of Meena, and entertains us with classical dance on her own wedding anniversary. Dharam marries off Meena to Raj Kumar, who turns out to be the true heir AND a ass and drunk. Meena almost dies, Raj comes around, and everyone lives in happy tears every after.

    Verdict: Very exhausting- bad.

    ********************

    Title: Bharosa
    Year: 1963
    Cast: Guru Dutt, Asha Parekh, Om Prakash, Mehmood

    Want to see Guru Dutt dancing (he was classically trained dancer) ? For that alone, and (personally) nothing else, Bharosa is worth a watch. He and Asha share little chemistry, and he barely gets enough screen time in this ponderous venture. A wealthy merchant goes off on a journey, leaving his child and his property with his servant- the servant usurps the property, and makes the child his servant. The child of course grows up into Guru Dutt, and how he meets up with his father and regains his property forms the rest of the movie. Ho-hum stuff, but love of the man kept me glued to the screen for the duration. Keep in mind that this was one if his last movies- his mental state may have much to do with the quality of the product.

    Verdict: Strictly for Guru Dutt lovers, who can overlook its shortcomings.

    Update 10/31/2009

    Here are GD's dancing songs in Bharosa, by popular demand. Enjoy!





    September 30, 2009

    Abhay gossip

    The Abhay News flash will hereby become more infrequent, reduced to occasions when our Abhay love is uncontainable and must spill over. Now that AD is accepted to have "arrived" there is sufficient gossip floating about him here, there and everywhere, without our special contribution :)

    Meanwhile, Road Movie is doing all the festivals' rounds, moving from Toronto and Venice to Tokyo and Doha. This is definitely the year's most anticipated movie for me- the question remains whether it will be released this year or next. Since there is little news about dates, I am beginning to believe it will indeed be 2010, as rumored. If you believe otherwise, please enlighten me!

    September 28, 2009

    Wanted

    Title: Wanted
    Year: 2009
    Cast: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Vinod Khanna, Mahesh Manjrekar, Prakash Raj

    So we all know I love Salman, right u'all? and if you haven't caught on, I've a penchant for cinematic violence (and all the video/online games over the years). So when TheBollywoodFan suggested Wanted or What's your Rashee (bet he wasn't serious about that one!), it was a no brainer. The movie was as fun as meeting and chatting it up with TBF!

    For the detailed review, see TBF's take on it at his blog.

    What did I think of it? See Pros and Cons below- ou will note that I can make a case for either side of the arguement (not that there is any).
    Pros:
    1. Salman, finally being all he can be. Indestructible. Superhuman. Perfect. Worshippable.
    2. Salman again- except in some songs where his Veer (2010?) long-ish hair shows up, he's styled perfectly, and looks 10 yrs younger. Yummy.
    3. Salman yet again- the last shot with a golden, glowing torso- omg. Pardon me while I drool idiotically.
    4. Ayesha, looking really quite perfect, and acting decently as well.
    5. Mahesh Manjrekar and Prakash Raj- both being amazing and eminently dislikeable.
    6. Violence, unadulterated, nothing held back violence- surprisingly cathartic in its intensity. As beautifully choreographed as the dances- Prabhudeva has done brilliantly with his Bollywood directorial debut (thanks for the nitpicking Veracious!). And yet, the violence is almost animated, so there is minimal (if any) trauma.
    7. The beginning credits with blood spatters- fun!
    8. The cinematography and editing- fast paced, beautiful, caressing- its precisely what a brain dead action flick needs.
    9. The songs are forgettable, except for Jalwa, which is worthwhile for Govinda, Anil, Prabhu and Salman jamming it.
    Cons:
    1. The lead actor is so indestructible that he never even gets a scratch?? In a hard core action flick?!
    2. Ayesha is a good actor- we do all remember Dor(2006)- knowing that, I am getting a bit tired of her cutesy roles with limited character arcs.
      Seeing Prakaash Raj die hurts my heart. I love him a lot. Even when he plays villain like he did here.
    3. Seeing Vinod Khanna die is UNACCEPTABLE! you cant kill VK in a movie. Iz wrong. Evil. Painful [tears, wailing, sobbing uncontrollably]
    4. The story is supremely one dimensional- if it wasn't for the editing and cool shots, it'd be a snooze.

    I could watch this again. While I wait for the DVD, I'll go play some more Mafia Wars.

    September 14, 2009

    Road Movie- website

    In case you are interested, here is the website

    The movie is supposed to get limited release in the US, but no info available yet on the dates.

    Photos (from the website) to keep us going....
    Happy Abhay



    Distrustful Abhay & Satish


    His ride, 'cos thats the way he rolls

    Appears to be the primary promotional pic- very pretty

    September 4, 2009

    Road Movie- cant wait

    What better excuse to get out of my self-imposed exile than tons of Abhay Deol- related news?

    I am incredibly excited, almost gauchely so re: "Road Movie"- there is so much news and gossip flowing here, there and everywhere- the only thing I am certain of is content: Abhay travels through Rajasthan making a movie/documentary/research for the making of movie/documentary, and the folks and situations he meets define his product and his decisions. Fabulous! Cant Wait!

    Meanwhile, he is working hard (doesn't he look it?) at Ayesha in Delhi, which he talks about here.


    We shall meet again, in blogland or in jannat......

    July 21, 2009

    Time out, etc.

    Hey all- this has to have been the longest break from the blog ever- 2 whole months!
    There were reasons too- professional changes, plus I am working on certain exams. Since the 2nd of said exams are this weekend, a new post with any meaning will only happen after that. Since my 3rd is coming up in the end of august, I cannot promise a huge frequency of posts either, but I do mean to post something meaningful. In the meantime, the Bolly Chandeliers post is updated to include new contributions from you- take a look!

    May 25, 2009

    Bollywood Comedy- I: The early years

    Early Indian movies came out of dramatic theaters that had transformed themselves into movie houses. Therefore it was natural that the directors attempted to balance the navras (9 rasas, or the 9 primary emotions) that they had practiced in theater in each film, of which one was hasyva ras (comedy). The vidushak (comic) has accordingly been an integral part of Indian cinema since those beginnings.

    Through the 40s, the vidushak tended to play extended cameos- he could be a joker in a king's court, a juggler on the street, a fumbling servant, a greedy merchant. The comedy was incidental in movies which tended to proclaim social messages, and the leads were themselves usually too tragedy struck to have many flippant thoughts aside from initial flirtations. The 50s however bought change, and 1951 comes across as a year which would influence the turn of the coming decade. In Sansaar (1951), there is little scope for laughter, where the heroine, tortured by in-laws, seeks to piece her family together again, with the entire mess eventually ending happily ever after. The romance and comic elements are provided by her simpleton brother-in-law, Surendra. In one scene, his village buffoon struggles with the pedestal fan in his potential father-in-law's office, with antics suspiciously reminiscent of Chaplin. Indeed, Chaplin would influence other leading men to rethink their comic prowess- among them, Master Bhagwan and Raj Kapoor.


    The same year Master Bhagwan played the unlikely hero in Albela. The movie was a huge hit, and Bhagwan played both the vidushak and the lead- with his comic timing with Geeta Baali and her manager perfect. Playing a poor man out to become a popular singing star, Bhagwan particularly shines in the scene he visits Geeta's house- he is mistaken for a cook and fumbles with utensils in full Chaplin mode.


    Another movie came out that year that ushered in the idea of the unhappy vidushak with a dark side- Raj Kapoor made and starred in Awara, where he capers and cavorts to fool Nargis (but not the audience, who is in on the joke) one moment, and in another is convicted on an attempt to his father's life. He had already tried physical comedy with the 1950 dud Dastaan, but with the success of Awaara, he could afford to experiment with humor in Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956) and Anari (1959) in that decade. I do believe that some portion of his genious lay in the fact that he successfully recognized the potential sadness behind a vidushak- more than a decade later, he would later fully exploit this knowledge in his most famous disaster, Mera Naam Joker (1970).


    The most important comedic event of the brilliant year of '51 was the "discovery" of an actor who would define the path Bollywood comedy would take for generations to come- Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi, a conductor in Bombay's BEST buses, found a foothold in the industry in the noir thriller Baazi. This was not a comedic role however- he played one of the thugs working for arch villain KN saigal, but he would soon begin to pick up comic roles, and rename himself Johnny Walker- immortalizing oil massages (!) in song in Pyaasa, and even starring in a movie named after him (both in 1957).

    There was another actor struggling in Bollywood at the same time- Mahmood, who got his break in the glorious Do Bigha Zameen (1953). He was accompanied in the movie by another struggling future comedian, a very young Jagdeep. Like Johnny, Mahmood too would not find his comedic chops until much later- I'd argue the 60s, with Dil Tera Deewana (1962). Jagdeep played a small time hero until the 60s came around as well.


    The 50s also introduced us to the female lead who could also make us laugh- in 1953's Teen Batti Chaar Rasta, Sandhya in black face played a "ugly" girl with a golden voice who works as a servant during the day and is a radio star in the evening, all with definite comedic flair. She couldn't be too funny of course- she was the leading lady, and had to unite the household she worked in where 3 of four brothers had married women from different Indian states, speaking different languages (yes, it was a comment on national integration, how did you guess?), all while foiling the villain, and teaching the hero that beauty is more than skin deep. Other leading ladies would soon follow in Sandhya's steps- Madhubala (Mr. and Mrs. 55, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi), Shayama (Aar Paar), Nutan (Anaari) would all embrace humor that decade, tempering it with girlish chirpiness in the initial half of the movie, and abandoning it completely as soon as they were wooed and introduced to the hero's folks.


    Raj Kapur had established that the romantic, angsty hero could also be funny- and it is fair to assume that his success convinced others as well: Guru Dutt's shone in roles with comic flair occurred in this decade, with Aar Paar (1954) and Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955, of course). In the first, he plays a vagabond/auto body shop worker/driver who shares incredible comic timing with his leading lady, Shayama (in pants!). In the second, though ably supported by Johnny Walker (playing the "friend"- another beginning of a great Bollywood tradition), Guru Dutt displays greater comic turn, with Madhubala and Lalita Pawaar both bringing in humor to this movie which unfortunately belittled women's rights. The movie also featured Uma Devi (Tun Tun) in a considerably long running role as Lily, Johnny's prospective mother in law. She had already begun her innings with 1950s, Babul, but her talents, I believe, were finally properly made public with Guru Dutt's directorial genius.


    And can we talk about comedy in the 50s without Kishore Kumar? Before the genius of Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), he had already established himself as the ultimate comic lead with Naukri (1954). A singer and actor all in one, Kishore ruled the 50s with comedies like New Delhi (1956), Mem Sahib (1956), Dilli Ka Thug (1958) and Shararat (1959). It was brilliant that Kishore could fill even the songs in his movies with the humor from his character- you could feel the joy in his voice, in his eyes, in his wild hair standing on end in a style that infected the nation. Situational slapstick remained the order of the day- the nation was still young and recovering from the independence struggle, and perhaps needed humor to be clearly defined- the mere act of laughter was perhaps still very new. We were learning to smile- subtleties could be learned later.

    Bollywood of that decade cannot be mentioned without bringing up film noir. Whereas in the West film noir tended to exhibit dry humor at best, in Bollywood, it opened a new chapter for the comedian. True, the hero could do comedy as well- but not all heros could do so (Raj Kumar and Pradeep Kumar easily come to mind), and therefore the vidushak would survive with an identity of his own. He could now be part of the villain's gang, a worker in the club that the villain or hero frequented, a police informer, or an assistant of a detective- but most importantly, he could be a friend of the hero, who would himself exhibit a comic turn until the time the script demanded a turn for the more serious. This "funny friend of the hero" phenomenon would take on a life of its own, and gaining popularity in the 60s, would last well into the current era (Circuit from Munnabhai anyone?)- but those decades deserve posts of their very own.



    May 1, 2009

    X-Men Origins: Wolverine

    Title: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
    Year: 2009
    Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Will i Am, Lynn Collins, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney.

    No, we haven't stepped into another dimension: Every summer, this blog gets the summer movie bug (this is NOT a cheap pun on swine flu, no), and then we sort of spill-over from Bollywood land. The same phenomenon also occurs when Harry Potter/Action/certain Hong-Kong movies warp our Bollywoodian mindset :)

    I wasn't into X-men growing up- it was always Spidey, Superman, Batman and Captain America's group for me. However, with the X-Men series I was completely won over, and well- Hugh Jackman is rather impossible not to love, is he?

    Since the movie has just come out, this review will have no spoilers- you need to get out there and see it. The movie tells us the relationship between Wolverine (Hugh) and Sabertooth (Liev)....


    ... while introducing us to the origins of some of the other mutants, including Gambit (Taylor), Kayla Silverfox (Lynn), Deadpool (Ryan), Wraith (Will i am), Bolt and Blob.


    .. and we also know why Wolverine turned out the way he did, poor ol' hunky sod...


    .. but for me, it meant a strong empathy for the character of Deadpool, as portrayed by Ryan. I haven't ever enjoyed Mr. Scarlett Johansson: don't enjoy rom-coms, and don't care much for the boyish charm he projects in them. And yet, he brings a vulnerability to the character that had me rooting for a sequel focusing on him.


    Despite all thelove I feel for it, the movie has its share of highs and its lows, and is certainly not without flaws.

    The highs:
    1. The opening credits are extremely effective and piece together a chunk of the story- beautifully done. They cover history, including that of Wolverine, and are shot beautifully. I'd watch the movie again just for these credits, and once you see it, you just might agree.
    2. The cast looks like they are really having a good time- they work well together, and you do get a sense of the good-humored camaraderie between them, especially that between Hugh and Liev.
    3. We are offered an opportunity to see the making of some of the traditionally bad guys- and that could be explored more that it was here. I am rooting hard for a sequel, as mentioned before.
    4. Hugh Jackman, Liev, Taylor, Daniel and Ryan have never looked so smoking. Or have been shot so well.
    5. The action sequences manage to be fresh despite the thunderstorm of Superhero movies last summer- that in itself is an accomplishment. The fight sequence between Agent Zero (Daniel) and Wolverine was completely satisfying.
    The lows:
    1. The director's efforts to tie together EVERYTHING that is mysterious about Wolverine in the X-men series get almost tiring. Every little detail is pushed to be part of the story, and I am not sure if that was entirely necessary.
    2. Gambit, Bolt and Wraith are grossly underutilized, which is lamentable. Maybe in other sequels....
    3. An old man and woman die while helping Wolverine- which is SUCH a superhero-movie cliche :S
    Conclusion: Watch it already! Summer's here.

    Just seen: Wolverine

    Its 2am, and I'm just back from the opening midnight screening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
    Was it worth the wait? Entirely.
    Think you've seen enough superhero summer movies? Think again.
    Has the summer begun? Yup, this is it!

    The review will follow later, but while you KNOW Hugh Jackson is smoking, Ryan Reynolds is a total surprise package. [heart]

    April 27, 2009

    Bandini

    [Aside: The current header is courtesy of the lovely Beth- thank you thank you!]

    One cannot begin to speak of Bandini without first paying homage to its music. The soundtrack is one of SD Burman's finest, and accentuates the brilliant movie that may be safely called Bimal Roy's last hurrah.

    Title: Bandini
    Year: 1963
    Cast: Nutan, Dharamendra, Ashok Kumar, Iftekhar

    I approached this movie with skeptisicm- a movie so heavily lauded despite all these years past- overlauded perhaps due to the years past? But boy was I convinced otherwise.

    The movie opens with female prisoners (female prisoner= bandini), entering a prison in pre-independence India, being met by the jailer, Chutti Babu, played lechorously by Iftekhar.


    Inside the prison, we meet the head jailer and the prison doctor: Devendra (Dharam! smoking hot, at his beautifulest best!)- one of the older female prisoners has been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), and they are seeking another female inmate to volunteer as her nurse. This is a job with considerable risk- even through the 70s, TB was rampant and meant possible death.


    The one prisoner to volunteer is Kalyani (Nutan), who seems to be hell bent upon taking the hardest of tasks- she is desperately seeking atonement for the crime which has landed her in prison. Kalyani works hard to cure the ailing woman, and impresses the handsome Devendra considerably.


    Meanwhile we meet the first in a brilliant soundtrack, "O panchi pyare." A young imprisoned girl sings as she toils, addressing the free birds perching in the yard, comparing her own disbarrment to the bird's ability to fly. The song is a song of happiness, contrasted by the bleakness of the priso, and accompanied by some beautiful visuals.


    Meanwhile, Iftekhar is smitten by Kalyani and flirts shamelessly, which she stoicly ignores.


    While Kalyani tends to the TB-stricken woman, her troubles rise with the unwanted attentions of Iftekhar, the rumors of her affair with Devendra and the attraction she does sense from Devendra. In the midst of all this, there is a prison uprising, soon bought into control, and the first time we hear the guard's call "sab theek hai," (all's well)- when nothing really is quite well, in the country and within the prison.


    The crisis passes, and Dr. Devenra proposes to Kalyani. She refuses, saying she is unworthy, and will not listen to reason- how can she resist that beautiful face?


    Kalyani wont listen despite all the attempts of fellow-inmate Bela Bose (in a rare, beautiful role). Devendra resigns and leaves town.


    Back home, Devendra looks appropriately sexy in his safari jacket, as he meets his mom.


    Meanwhile, the kindly jailer coaxes Kalyani to cough up her story.


    And out it comes: Kalyani was a village girl living somewhere in Bengal with her father (Raja Paranjpe playing a post master) and nephew. Kalyani meets a freedom fighter Bikash (Ashok Kumar), being house-imprisoned in her village, and falls deliriously in love with him, though he is clueless. She sings "O jogi tu aaya jabse," (She calls him a saint (jogi) since he is a self-less freedom-fighter, and sings of how she feel in love with him at first sight).


    And he does propose and her father agrees to the wedding, but before that Bikash needs to go away to prison....


    Months pass, and Bikash shows no sign of returning. At last, to Mukesh's "O Jaanewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana" (you, who are leaving, come back home one day), Kalyani leaves home to go to town and seek Bikash out. She ends up in a nursing home, working as a servant, and attending primarily to one particular peevish patient. Kalyani's dad makes his way to town to find her, but dies in a car crash before he can make it. The same day, she realizes that her patient is Bikash's wife.


    Devastated, unstable and furious, Kalyani poisons Bikash's wife in the night, and then unable to bear the guilt of her crime, gives herself up to the police in the morning.


    And that's her story. The jailer, deeply sympathetic, secures judicial pardon for her and even convinces Devendra (remember him?)'s mom to accept Kalyani as her daughter in law. Kalyani is free now, and being accompanied by a female warden to Devendra's house.


    The train station and the shipyard share a common waiting-house. And who should Kalyani meet there but Bikash, sick with TB himself now (good thing she knows how it nurse it, right?) Further, she is informed by Bikash's friend that Bikash only married the other woman since she was a policeman's daughter, and he could ferret secrets for the freedom movement via her.


    And as the last, and one of my favorite songs plays, "mere sajan hain us paar" (my lover is on the other side of the shore, and I am here- o boatman), sung by SD Burman himself. Kalyani must decide now- does she go to the waiting Devendra, or follow Bikash?


    I have to admit, the movie made me angry initially. Nothing seems to workout for our protoganist, and there is despair in almost every shot. The impending sense of tragedy looms strong even in the happiest of songs, and it appears as of Kalyani is wilfully embracing sadness.
    And yet, the reasoning behind Kalyani's choices isn't too hard to understand- SPOILER ALERT: Her independent spirit is unbreakable- rather than choose Devendra's loving kindness, she prefers to master her own destiny and Bikash's by choosing the latter and fighting for his life END OF SPOILER. That at least is understandable- she chose to fall in love with Bikash whom she hero-worshiped. Driven to crime, she chose to atone for it. Her choices are her own and she stands by them, and the movie conveys that brilliantly.

    In Seema (1955), Nutan had captured the ignorance and trauma of the character beautifully, and her Kalyani seems to be an extension of that character, just more matured. The fact that she married in 1959 and gave birth to Mohinish in 1963- her personal growth is apparent on screen for us to see; both movies got her Filmfare best actor awards.


    Pros:
    1- Its a incredibly compelling movie- every time Nutan's character goes through a hardship, you desperately want things to work out for her, all the while knowing they wont.
    2- All the actors work beautifully to highlight Nutan- the movie is tailor made for her. And yet, they fulfill themselves as well: Dhamram, Bela and Ashok are all they could be and very effective- specially Bela, who seldom got such an acting opportunity.
    3- The cinematography is brilliant. Color had come to India, but not all directors could afford it. And Kamal Bose, the cinematography doesnt let us miss color for an instant- shadows and light are optimized, as are the outdoor scenes. Angle shots make the drab prison intriguing, and even bring interest to the stagy sets. The shots may remind you of Khamoshi, which he would do a few years later.
    4- Bimal Roy (1909-1966) clearly died too early, at a mere 57. He gave us Parineeta, Beegha Zameen, Devdas, Yahudi, Madhumati, Sujata, Naukri- no doubt he could have given us so much more. Like Guru Dutt, a life lost too early.
    5- Bandini is an important movie, for the fact that it is one of few Bollywood movies that have focused on the life in a women's prison, and attempted to bring a consciousness of rehabilitation for inmates who had done their time. Their acceptance and integration into society is at least discussed, if not fully conveyed.
    6- Can enough be said about its music, its lyrics and songs? Bandini is also important for the fact that it marked almost a 6-year stand off between SD Burman and Lata, where she sings both the love songs, "O Jogi" and "More gora rang lai le,"- and continued to sing for him for years to come. As mentioned, he himself sings the brilliant "Mere Sajan," something he was known to do when he was convinced that he could find no one else to convey a song to his exact specifics. The lyrics for "O Jaane Waale" were by Shailendra, known for his sad songs of separation (his mom died when he was a child- he could never recover from the pain). However, during filming, Bimal Roy and Shalendra argued, leading the then assistant director Gulzar to come up with the rest of the lyrics- his first attempt, and a brilliant one.

    Cons:
    1- Dharam's love for Nutan is portrayed so delicately and adorably- I wish it had been developed more, and I wish he had more to do than this extended cameo.
    2- Nutan is a brilliant actor, but she has a natural elegance that makes her scenes as a village girl hard to believe. Her inherent poise seeps through the rusticity. Despite that, her portrayal of a inmate is par excellence, her pain and misery are palpable.
    3- Seriously- !!!!!SPOILER ALERT: Why would a woman choose Ashok over Dharam, blind as she she may be in love?????????? END OF SPOILER!!!!!

    Notes:
    1- This was Gulzar's third and last work as assistant director, before he took off on his own.
    2- Dharam is called "Devendra"- the same name as Abhay in "Dev D." Coincidence?
    3- Bleak as it is, Bandini gives us hope- to persist and follow our dreams, impossible as they may seem. I need that just now.


    April 26, 2009

    Feorz Khan (1939-2009)

    Nothing is right in the world any more: Feroz Khan has passed away.


    Let's pray that his family finds solace and his soul rests easy.


    My depression just escalated here.

    April 19, 2009

    Abhay's doppelganger- or vice versa!

    Watching old episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent now that I have nothing to do, and felt that Abhay bears a slight resemblance to Vincent D' Onofrio- or maybe its just me.



    UPDATE (later the same evening): If you think the 2 bear resemblance to each other, say "yes" in the comment box- if not, say "no- if you cant decide, say "eh" :D
    then I can do us a bar chart :D

    UPDATE II: Its official! 99% of viewers, twitters and folks I spoke with agree- Abhay may resemble Vincent 20 years from now!