bollywood – redemption that does not redeem itself

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Somewhere within the second half of Rockstar
there was the remainder of a brilliant movie. I wish I could have watched it.

 – Inspired by Rumi

As the first half of ‘Rockstar’ ended, I could not help but hope that I was going finish watching a really good movie.  It’s been a really bad year, movie-wise (whether it’s a bad year on other fronts remains to be seen). For example, I have about 2 billion sarcastic questions/comments I noted down during Ra-One, but I’ve not posted any of them. Why? Coz the experience of watching Ra-One was more frustrating than watching RGV Ki Aag.

Says a lot, I think.

I guess the next question is why write about ‘Rockstar’? You’ll see.

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a robotic hypnotic supersonic superstar

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Many things “define” a Rajni movie. A “Superstar” movie.

The emphatic “punch” dialogue. The style. The mannerisms. The entrance. The knowing smirk that his every action will be adored by millions.

None of these things can truly be said to exist in ‘Endhiran’.

A question that most often gets asked to me by non-Southie friends is: “Why is Rajnikanth such a beloved megastar in the South?” To expand: Why do people worship him so? More crucially, their questions seem to want to target “Why are his movies such insane blockbusters?” Are the movies really that brilliant? Or is it fanboyism to a different level? “What is it that he has done to warrant such worship?” No matter what I try to explain to them, I always leave with the impression they think that South Indians are an easily carried away group of people.

The answer to at least a few of those questions lies in ‘Endhiran’.

‘Sivaji’ was the superstar his mannerist best. The flick, the chewing gum (instead of the cigarette), the dialogue, the style. It had it all.

On the flip side, ‘Endhiran’ manages to reach a level where the director asks you to decide about what construes life. And possibly even think about the duality of free will. Continue reading

my problem with hindi movies today

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There have been any number of reviews about the latest from the Bollywood stable (My Name is Khan) – ranging from vitriolic to sarcastic/mocking to adulatory.

I could write reams, spew abuse galore, and point out in how many different ways the movie gets it wrong… but I won’t. That’s too easy. Plus, people have already done a pretty good job of that. Quite simply, MNIK suffers from the problem that Hindi cinema has been suffering from for a long time. No, not the fact that SRK is in it, or that KJo is directing it… it simply takes itself too seriously.

You can make movies that are obviously escapist, sheer fantasy – and I’m willing to accept it. For example (just off the top of my head), Krrish and Om Shanti Om get this formula close to right. Then you have the movies that are more realistic (and ergo, more intelligent) – for e.g. Luck By Chance, Dev D. Then of course, the “off-beat” – Kaminey, Rocket Singh – they take advantage of it being “cinema”, but don’t push the envelope to the extent that you cannot accept what is going on. Penultimately, the completely unwatchable – Yuvvraaj, Love Story 2050. Finally, the awesome – Gunda. Obviously, you can choose to segregate movies differently, but this kind of classification can work for most movies in most languages.

Why all this background? Movies that belong to one class, but slowly devolve into a second class end up being neither here nor there. And lead to vitriol galore.

I went into 3 Idiots expecting an intelligent comedy. Within about 5 minutes, I settled back into “escapist comedy” mode. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s sheer fun (note here that I think that people who thought 3 Idiots was “silly” were committing the other cardinal mistake: they were taking the movie too seriously). Ishqiya lived up to my expectations of intelligence. Chance Pe Dance lived up to my expectations to being nearly unwatchable. MNIK starts with merely wanting to be intelligent, then flip-flops between fantasy and unwatchable… resulting in something you eventually await the end of.

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d’oh joe!

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Admittedly, one should not expect Schindler’s List from G.I.Joe: Rise of the Cobra. Is it too much to ask for just a modicum of sense though?

  • Apparently, we can extract neural impulses from a recently deceased person and then convert them to images. We can then analyze them for how long they have “decayed” (whatever that is supposed to mean) and hence figure out how old they are. Based on commonly known heights of people, the length of their shadow in this extracted image and the aforementioned approximated time.. it is a relatively minor matter to apply spherical trigonometry to figure out where on the planet the image in the “memory” is from.
    No, seriously. They actually say all that.

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ajab 90s ki ghazab comeback

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humor, or something like it

I am part of the generation that grew up on pure Hindi cinema – none of this new-age ‘finding yourself’ crap. It is the generation that venerates every immortal dialogue from Andaz Apna Apna. ‘Ai la, Juhi Chawla!’ ‘Chai baatne se pyaar badhta hai’. ‘Sawal ek, jawab do’. ‘Teja mai hun, mark idhar hai!’. ‘Mai hun Crime-master Gogo!’: I could go on and on and on about this one movie. We watched SRK ham it up with everything being yelled with a bloody mouth or a stammer, movies in the form of wedding videos, Govinda as the comedy king (which he will always remain), Sunny Deol as the angriest of the angry that can be (in Santoshi’s movies most of all), Salman barely having half the body he has today and roughly the same amount of acting talent, Sridevi and Madhuri as smart yet sassy heroines with a naive Karisma (who didn’t know how to put on make-up) on the side, Jatin-Lalit and Nadeem-Shravan music. It currently seems as though Bollywood is hearkening back to the heyday of the 80s and 90s. Whether it be the insane action that is ‘Wanted‘, the ridiculous family values espoused by WYR,  Govinda-style travesties of ‘Do Knot Disturb’ or even the awesome inanity of a comedy that is Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani… it could even be that India itself is going through some kind of renaissance. Especially given the current make-up and performance of the Indian cricket team – again very 90s-ish.

Here we are. 2009. Santoshi has finally made the spiritual successor to AAA: ‘Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani’. Which tips a hat to every single loser-hero-romantic comedy to come out in the last 20 years. ‘Ek din mera bhi naam paper mei aayega’ (Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa). ‘Ye mera nikamma beta.. kya..’ (AAA). Tony Breganza (Baaton Baaton Mein). Jenny (Amar Akbar Anthony, the original AAA). The happy go lucky loser and his gang of awesome friends (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander). A small town that joins in for music and dance (Way too many to name). Hell, they have Raaburt from AAA and ‘Yello yello’ playing at one point in the movie! Could Santoshi make it any more clearer? This is AAA for all those kids who know not the true genius of AAA.

APKGK mostly works. Santoshi has all the inane bits nicely worked out, even if they fall short in a couple of places. But he manages to bring it back on track every time and deliver another insane set piece to make up for it. To me, the stand-out scene was the father-meeting-son in climax (as every good Hindi movie should conclude) and mouthing utterly senti dialogues: ‘Agar tum yeh sab ek ladki ke liye… toh phir mei bhi tum par..etc etc – only to be asked to repeat them because..wait for it.. the son thinks they are awesome ‘dialogues’. And the dad obliges! It was something that would have fit perfectly in the AAA universe.

Ranbir Kapoor ensures scintillating moments galore and proves that ‘Wake Up Sid!’ was no flash in the pan – this kid has talent, knows how to use it, and channels energy and ability all the way back to his grandfather. Kareena may have come into the industry sooner than him, but she could take major points from this kid. Katrina is.. well.. Katrina. Used perfectly for once. She illuminates the screen, is not made to talk too much, and generally manages to distract from any shortcomings in the scenes she is in. For e.g. a scene in which Ranbir tries his best to be emotional about how much he loves Katrina but can’t admit it (or something).. but I wasn’t paying attention to whether he was convincing or not. Sheer eye candy in the form of Katrina occupies half the screen – ’nuff said 😛 The supporting cast is spot on – mom/dad/idiotic friends/even more idiotic villain.. etc etc. There are faults you can find – as always – but at the end of the day, you’re enjoying events more than griping about them. And I didn’t feel I must murder the director (which last happened for Blue – which is not reviewable. Or watchable).

Need I really say more? Go. Enjoy. Live a little of that adolescence that remains golden tinted and unforgettable.

whats your problem, mr. gowarikar?

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You used to be able to make interesting entertaining movies. Lets refresh. It won’t take too long. You’ve only made 7 movies. And managed to hit the slippery slope pretty well. But we’ll get to that. At least, unlike Kunaal Kohliiiii, every single one of your movies doesn’t make me want to kill you. Its all changed now though. We’ll get to that too.

The curse of falling in love with your own overtly long movie has been rearing its head since ‘Swades’. A classic signature that the story was not thought through – a last half-hour added on almost as an afterthought (heh!) to make the story go full circle. Of course, ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. By my count a sweet 100 minutes could have been trimmed to make the movie more about Jodha & Akbar, and less about Hrithik getting to replay fight scenes from Troy. And now. ‘Whats Your Raashee?’ 2 minutes shorter than ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. 200 times more painful.

It plays out with the worst of movie-dom. Bad, stupid characters. Bad, stupid motivations. Bad, stupid reasoning to bring 12 zodiac signs into the why your movie?picture (literally!). Bad, stupid timeline. Bad, stupid narrative dialogue, which doesn’t even rhyme (unlike the greatest movie of all time). Bad, stupid jokes which serve to irritate me to no end. Bad, stupid writing making things happen co-incidentally all the time (even Gunda followed logic). Bad, stupid and pointless finale which basically negates the underlying idea of the movie. For e.g. the guy meets with 12 raashees so that he can figure on his ideal one – and finally doesn’t even choose her himself. That was the best you could come up with? Continue reading

movie-shoovie etcetera

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The ‘etcetera’ above is simply to assure myself that I’m not JUST writing about movies. Here’s the non-movie part of this review: The missus is in a foul mood for various reasons (most of them to do with me)… waitaminnit.. am I actually setting an apology up on this blog?

No. I’m not absolutely useless. Yet anyway.

I am continuing my vein of trying to talk about my missus more, and it sorta serves as an addendum to the last post.

When my teachers learnt of my engagement, a very interesting tangent from wanting to meet her was about what a good boy I had been in school (I think it had something to do with her finding out what kind of a terror I was in school). In short, I was apparently the model student in school, which bore repeating more than a few times. Always so well-behaved, never missing a day of classes, so polite. Such a pleasure to have.
Now, why is this relevant?
I’m guessing she’ll figure that out.

😀

Now for the former part of the title.

Post ‘Fargo’ (today) and ‘No Country for Old Men’ (a while ago), I’ve come to realize when the Coen brothers make a non-black-comedy movie, it goes completely over my head. Like, really really over my head. I stand at 6 feet-something; the level of the movie probably starts at roughly 20,000 feet. On the other hand: ‘The Big Lebowski’, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’, ‘Burn After Reading’, ‘Raising Arizona’ (vague memories of the last anyway) – each one amazingly enjoyable, the dialogues immensely quotable, and I’m all ROTFLMAO (now I wish I had the Y! smiley which could actually do that). I have to be more careful about which ones I watch. There are only so many open-ended, vaguely drifting movies that I can watch – all of which exist in the IMDB 250 and for some reason are ALL insanely “critically acclaimed”. What exactly are “critics” seeing in these movies that I can’t even fathom? And I know I enjoy weird critically acclaimed movies to some extent (e.g. Raging Bull, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver)

‘Love Aaj Kal’. Ah well. Given that it is the director of ‘Socha Na Tha’ and ‘Jab We Met’.. the movie is not excruciating. Unlike ‘Luck’.. but more on that later. Back to LAK. Which sounds a lot like ‘Luck’. Hm. That movie is getting to me. The #1 moral of LAK is that breaking up with Deepika is the best thing that can happen to you: you get to make out/talk to her more, while at the same time getting it on with a variety of other women. The #1 conclusion of LAK is that Deepika has literally a-two-expression repertoire: smiling and not. The #1 irritation about LAK is Saif’s old-new act of a 40 year old pretending to be a metro-sexually active 30 year old. The #1 highlight of LAK is the last scene, which cut cruelly short while raising the question: why exactly is Rishi Kapoor so morose throughout the damn film? The #1 frustration of LAK is that the entire movie would have been so much better unmade had Saif just asked Rishi to mind his business and stop frustrating him about a plastic-faced bimbette. Who had probably been penciled in for both love stories, until the director came to an important realization. His movie would never be made if he were to commit suicide over the frustration of watching Deepika do nothing and call it acting for the entirety of the whole damn movie, rather than just half of it.

Lets move on to Prabhuji’s latest: ‘Luck’. GB said it all in his review. I must point out that the director had the right idea in ensuring his hero and heroine were right at the point of impact of the explosion during the climax. Might have helped had they both died, and ensured that (1) the director never makes such movies (unlucky and all that), (2) the two never make movies again (being dead and all that). And then of course, the process of elimination is simplistic. Stage 1: 6 desi+9 non-desi, eliminate 6 non-desi. Stage 2: Eliminate 2 non-desi. Stage 3: Eliminate 1 non-desi. Stage 4: Eliminate viewer (who has likely killed himself when the genius strategy of selection of Hindi speakers hits home).

And yes, I’m working on that weekly post. Seriously. Really seriously.