January 26, 2011

Bollywood, the Indian North East, thoughts

If you watch Bollywood (which is why you would be even reading this), you know that the Indian movie Industry is composed of Bollywood ( movies made in Mumbai, usually in Hindi), Sandalwood (movies made in Karnataka, primarily in Kannada, Konakani, or Tullu), Tollywood (movies made in West Bengal, in Bengali), Kollywood (movies usually made in Tamil Nadu, primarily in Tamil). There is of course Bhojpuri cinema (from Uttar Pradesh), Malyalam, Telegu and Punjabi cinema too, all of which are significant regional film industries.

This makes it sound as if movies are being made all over the country, which is true, but I think what is important to note is that the work that receives the most exposure tends to be from Bollywood and Kollywood. Bollwood and Kollywood actors appear in each other's cinema from time to time, and sometimes there are permanent crossovers (Naghma to Kollywood and Bhojpuri films from Bolloywood, Khushbu to Kollywood from Bollywood).

So what's wrong with this picture? Nothing, except that I don't see much representation in Bollywood from the North Eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland and Mizoram. Of these states, Assam does have a substantial film industry, which shows up sporadically for the national awards, but that's about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Assam

In terms of popular (Bollywood/Kollywood) cinema, I came up with this is the list of popular artists hailing from the North East:
  • Kelly Dorji
  • Danny Denzongpa
  • Udita Goswami
  • SD Burman
  • Bhupen Hazarika
  • Meiyang Chang
  • Helen
Danny Sikkim represented! He strategically used his looks to make good- His "different" appearance has been most successful in Bollywood while playing the bad guy or supporting roles. When he has played hero he has failed (though the movies have been bad too; 1977's Abhi to Jee Lein (Lets Live for Now) comes to mind); the most success he has had playing "good" is as the lead actor's friend or benefactor (199s's Khuda Gawah). His Frozen (2007) is one of the most beautiful movies in recent times, and has gathered a handful of awards in Internal festivals. With all his talent, he has never been accepted as a lead.

Udita Meghalaya represented! She doesn't look very North Eastern to begin with, and I wonder if this fact made her Bollywood debut easier to the casting directors. She is a bad actor, so I really don't care if she does many movies.

SD Burman Tripura represented! He is so inspirational- the 2nd son of the king of Tripura, he withdrew from all matters of state so that he could concentrate on his music. with that kind of focus, it is no wonder that he did make good.

Bhupen Hazarika Assam represented! He is one of the reasons for this article. despite his stellar music, his innings in Bollywood have been short - which may largely due to the incestuous ways of the film industry. An outsider, no matter how nationally lauded he may be, tends to get the short end of the stick unless he makes influential friends. Mr Hazarika has relatively low visibility in cinematic music, nationally and internationally. Maybe he doesn't care- he has enough of an audience for his non-cinematic albums. But all artists appreciate appreciation.

Kelly Dorji is Bhutanese by origin. Ramp model and super cute, and seems to be working on a career centered primarily in Kollywood.

Meiyang Chang is Chinese by extraction, but satisfies our "different" appearance criteria, and is the second reason for this post. He is super cute, and yet, I don't see him being cast in a lead role, while lots of rubbish actors keep getting casted on a daily basis. PLUS, he is a blogger too http://buddhasoliloques.blogspot.com

Helen: She is French-Burmese, and such a talent, that years after she has officially stopped acting and dancing, she STILL is called back often. Cant say enough about her, so will just stop.

I get so frustrated. . I couldn't think of any others; feel free to let me know who I am missing. I do know that I am missing all the supporting actors who play random roles- especially the ones playing Nepalese cooks/guards/ what-not. I was looking for popular artists, and it seems to me the North East is very ill represented on a national level.
There has to be more talent out there than this. This cannot be it. And this dearth isn't just in artists from that part of the world- it is also the characters in films: The last time we had character from the mountains/North East in a "hit" film was Aamir in Three Idiots, and he didn't look it.

One of the reasons offered up to explain the dearth of North Eastern actors in mainstream cinema is that they look different. There- I wrote it. Its whispered about, no one talks about it, and the idea is refuted by giving examples of Danny, Udita and Helen. BUT they look beautiful, I protest-; besides, Bollywood has never really stopped "different" looking people- SRK was called different when he started, and look where he is now. Nope, not buying that one.

I cannot believe that there are so few talented folks in the North East either, which, believe it or not, I have read about online- utter rubbish. What may be a plausible culprit is the state of unrest in that part of the country- but then, there is unrest all over. That cannot stop talent. Or can it?

Opinions, people?

January 13, 2011

4 short reviews

While I do watch a lot of movies, as all bloggers realize, posting a full on review for each one isn't feasible- there are way too many movie you just cant get into! I do like to document them at least, so here they are, the unfortunates, listed from my best to worst:
Title: Ek Paheli (A Riddle)/Hindi
Year: 1971
Cast: Firoz Khan, Tanuja, Sanjeev Kumar
Firoz comes back to India from the UK when his dad passes away, and decides to settle in Goa, where the family's property is. He does up his house, and one of his purchases is a vintage piano. And he meets an enigmatic young woman, Tanuja. Tanuja intrigues him, to the extent that he falls in love with her, but she continues to speak in riddles and only meets him in out-of-the way churchyards and such. Suddenly, people he is associated with begin to die out, and the local police, headed by Sanjeev, become suspicious. Feroz is hell-bent on proving himself innocent and loving Tanuja, but there are some things that we cannot control...

  • Feroz, and a very young and charming Sanjeev.
  • Tanuja is badly used, and just doesnt live up to her potential.
  • I just cant deal with the way this ends. Firoz deserves better.
Title: Varsham/ Telegu
Year: 2004
Cast: Prabhas, Trisha, Prakash Raj, Gopichand.

The story is the same, with barely a variant on what we have seen a million times before: Prabhas and Trisha are in love. Her greedy dad Prakash Raj separates them. When Gopichand kidnaps her, then Prabhas goes after her with his friends to get her back and win her love. What will happen???? Is that even a question?

  • Prabhas (Thanks for the ID Dustdevil Liz!) is extremely charismatic. I was a little smitten.
  • Trisha, Prakash and Gopi are all really good, playing their parts perfectly.
  • Great cinematography that makes the regular scenes look good, and the good scenes look great. But a viewer cannot live on cinematography alone...
The story


Title: Madrasapattinam (Madras Town)/ Tamil
Year: 2010
Cast: Arya, Amy Jackson, Alex O'Neil

This was a huge hit, so I'm guessing I'll be getting lots of people who disagree with me on this one. Its a period movie, set in the per-independence era, where British Amy comes to India and falls in love with Arya. Amy is the daughter of the governor while Arya is a local peasant, so this doesnt go down at all well with the ruling Brits. The lovers flee, but are caught and torn apart. Amy is packed back to the UK while Arya is left in India. And then she comes back, much, much later.
  • Great cinematography, and an attention to detail to period architecture and costumes that should be used as a teaching guide to film-makers attempting the genre.
  • Arya, Amy, Alex all do really well, and are perfect naturals. The lady playing the older Amy has a brief but well-acted role.
  • Bits of script from Lagaan, The Titanic, Kisna and Mangal Pandey were simply lifted and added to the film. Which was ABSOLUTELY NOT needed. Put me off, and made the movie "enh" for me.

Hilarious Rubbish

Title: Help

Year: 2010

Cast: Bolly Deol, Shreyas Talpade, Mugdha Godse

Before you begin throwing things at me for watching this, know that I did it for Shreyas. I like the guy; he does well at almost everything- almost, because Shryas couldn't save this- nobody could.
Bobby and Mugdha go back to her home in Mauritius for a bit, since her dad is sick and needs care. Mugdha has a sad past- her twin sister drowned when they were five, followed by her mom going to a mental asylum and killing herself there. So clearly, Mugdha isn't happy to be home in the midst of all thsoe memories. Then weird things begin to happen, her best friend dies, and professor Shreyas (!) shows up to help out. What follows is a mishmash of scenes from Ringu, Mirrors and Unborn, punctuated by the loving, hamming pair and a misplaced Shreyas.


January 12, 2011

Insaniyat (1955)

  • Title: Insaniyat (Humanity)
    Year: 1955
    Cast: Zippy, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Bina Rai, Jayant, P. Jairaj, Vijaylaxmi, Shobhna Samarth.

    I've been unfair to this movie. First, it lay around on my DVD shelf for about two years- I'd periodically pick it up, see Dilip Kumar on it (I'm just about OK with him; not a crazy fan), then keep it back, even though Dev and Bina were calling my name. So two years passed before I realized that it was the ONLY Dilip-Dev starrer ever! I had to watch. And loved it for completely different reasons.

    Insaaniyat is a remake of the Tamil film Palletoori Pilla (1950) and was produced by Gemini studios, with direction by SS Vasan and music by C. Ramachandra. It isn't C. Ramachandra's best, but the score isn't bad at all.

    The movie opens by horsemen riding to a small village, and it looks like they are robbers...

..apparently not so- they are in fact the king's soldiers! Zangoora (I think that's a lovely name :)) is a evil king, and has his men regularly raid the villages. For once, one of the villagers, Bina is completely pissed with this behavior, and she gives a good piece of her mind...

..to a mustachioed Dev, who looks completely ashamed of his facial hair (as he should; it docent suit him at all). He is also completely converted out of his past follies by Bina's scolding.... Dev is so changed by Bina's words that he heads right back to Zangooraa (Jayant), who is dressed in weird-Roman-style skirts, cowboy boots and jodhpurs- go figure. Rather than call him out on his sartorial sense, Dev attempts to persuade Zangoora to change his ways, and when Zangoora scoffs, Dev simply leaves behind his helmet and insignia, and takes off. Once this is done, we finally meet up with the REAL star of the movie, the probable reason why this run-of-the-mill caper was a "super"hit- Zippy the chimpanzee. Zippy is in jail (?!)....
...where he meets up and befriends Agha... Zippy is downright adorable and has a parallel story line of his own, riding over Agha's parallel comic love story. More on this later, since our other hero is being introduced in a scene clearly reflecting cruelty to animals. Dilip plays a villager (from that one and only village where Bina lives), and we first meet him when he is having his pet ram fight another. I don't approve.
The intro over, Dev soon shows up at the village, with the agenda of freeing the villagers from Zangoora. Bina doesn't believe his sincerity, but then propitiously, Dev saves her from a wild bull, with some assistance from Dilip...

Since this is the magic world of cinema, Dev gets hurt while doing so, which act auto-magically makes Bina fall in love with him :S So of course everyone gets sympathetic with Dev and takes care of him...Dilip is sweet on Bina, so he also feels a burst of friendliness for Dev (what with Dev saving Bina's life, etc.). Dilip stands up for Dev when the latter campaigns for the village to get with him on fighting against Zangoora. And so it begins! Dev teaches the villagers to fight,..even sings them songs of encouragement in the interim.....AND even has them convert the village into a fort!!! All done while singing blithely...And so time passes (as it will), and now that the village is strengthened, Dilip's mom (Shobhna) reminds him of his wedding plans with Bina......too bad, 'cos Bina is seeing Dev already! Dilip is broken hearted, but breaks his engagement with Bina to get her with Dev...
...and even fixes it with his mom and her dad.

Less than an hour into the movie and here we are, already witnessing a wedding!

Minor hitch here though- Zangoora who has apparently been on an overseas campaign while Dev was out inciting the villagers, is finally back, and attacks the village mid-wedding. I have to say the battle is shot very well, considering there are no special effects being used here.

And Zippy gets into action, cutting the enemy's lassoes and saving the fort! Of course the Village wins, drives back Zangoora and everything is perfect- for the next few years in fact. Dev and Bina even have a baby, and Dilip plays nanny :)
Zippy too has had other job opportunities. After playing soldier, he has now turned teacher to the village kids...... and even a musician in his spare time, among other things (yes really!).

Since all is going well, and Zangoora hasn't bothered them in a while, the villagers decide to celebrate with a festival. Dev, who hasn't had enough with the mustachios, embarrasses himself further by playing horses with Bina :)Of curse, Zangoora has been planning for this very thing, and attacks them right in the middle of the festival. I have to admit I think Dev and Dilip look amazing here: Another battle happenes, and the villagers drive back Zangoora and his army again, but this time Dis captured by the enemy. Look how he sneers at them- love him!
And he appears, wrapped in chains, and bravely defies Zangoora.
Bina, true to form, weeps in anguish when Dilip tells her of Dev's capture. She lets random accusations fly ... ... so of curse, Dilip, Agha and Zippy get together and go to Zangoora's castle to rescue Dev. The only person with any real action here is Zippy, who passes messages to Agha's girl, who is Zangoora's maid...
Zippy even steals Zangoora's keys right from under his nose...
..all while getting drunk on Zangoora's wine.
'Cos he is that cool!
Zippy also steals some uniforms for Dilip,
.. so that he can get to Dev and sneak him out, while he himself.. gets to Zangoora...
...even plotting with the queen (Vijayluxmi), who is sick of Zangoora's evil.
Meanwhile, Dev has swiftly made his way back to Bina. Unfortunately, Bina's been a tad careless with the baby, who has gone and lost itself...
... and is with Zangoora's men in his castle! Eagle-eye Dilip recognizes the baby and swoops upon it...
..while Dev is already at the castle doors with the Villagers' army. This is amazing, cos he has made it from the castle to the village and back in a remarkably short time. I'm guessing helicopters, in the least, had to have been employed.
Meanwhile, Dilip and the baby are captured and presented to Zangoora...
...and while Zangoora tries to threaten Dev with dropping the baby off the castle walls, its Zippy to the rescue!
Yep, Zippy actually grabs the baby from Zangoora and takes off..

...giving it to Dilip rather safely (the kid was WAILing throughout! add cruelty towards kids to the list!)... Dev takes on Zangoora...
... getting off his panther-claw hand. Hopefully, no panthers were harmed in the making of said glove, since it appears quite fake. This is the only time we get to admire it though, since chances are it and Jayant were both largely edited out to accomodate Zippy's doings.
Dilip meanwhile runs to the village, but not before getting stabbed to the heart by Jairaj, Zangoora's second-in-command.
...and so it ends, with a bromance moment...

Random comments:

  1. Zippy is clearly the star here, and I'm sure the producers recognized that after the movie was done, since lots of random scenes of Zippy are edited in, and clearly, lots of scenes of Jayant, Dilip and Dev have been edited out.
  2. Neither Dilip or Dev would have been happy with the movie represented them. Its probably why neither acted with the other again.
  3. I'm strongly opposed to the use of animals in movies, since they are usually maltreated. However, Zippy is really brilliant here, and I do hope he was truly treated like the star he was. I cant say the same about other animals used in this movie- rams, bull, etc.- they were definitely mistreated, and that's to be condoned.
  4. Bina is very beautiful and spunky here- I can totally see how smitten Prem Nath must have been with her- I find their marriage very romantic.
  5. Almost the entire film was shot on stage, which was probably the norm. However, the few outdoor shots are very well done, especially in the battle scenes- lots of potential there.

And in the end ... Watch it, on a quiet evening when there is little else to do. Zippy is worth every moment.

Epilogue I did a mad burst of research on Zippy, and here are a few references; I have to say he had a life well-lived!: