Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bollywood Books!

I was thinking the other day, my son would go 'uh oh'!. Maybe all you out there would appreciate a couple of books that help me decide what movies to watch, or not watch.!!

Well, one of the first books I got that gave me an idea of which movies to choose and why--if they were big hits, pathbreakers--was a slim little book "The Essential Guide to Bollywood" by Subhash K. Jha. This little book gives a timeline of movies, the big actors, directors, playback singers. It not only has historical information about the movie industry, it gives great little reviews that tell you why a movie he mentions is worth the watching, what to look for, and many other great bits of information. I am not sure if this was the very first Bollywood book I ever purchased, but I have found it very useful--I often thumb thru it and find new information at each successive reading.

One of the other important books I use to choose movies, not only because I respect as a scholar of films as well as history, is "100 Bollywood Films" by Rachel Dwyer. She lists movies alphabetically, gives historical information as well and gives her opinion. I love the fact that she lists "Dil Chata Hai" as her guilty pleasure movie and then proceeds to give all sorts of information as to why this movie is so very different. I do believe I got this book after I read her book on the social implications of Hindi films "All you want is money, all you need is love: Sex and romance in modern India". This book seems bit of stretch from film study, but it discusses how film has influenced many parts of modern Indian society--but more on this and other scholarly books on Hindi film on a later posting!!

My newest acquisition, a book I have lusted after for some time, but was able to purchase for Rs 150 from an Indian bookdealer!! (that is about $3 and with shipping from India with a bunch of other books, was not too bad!) This book, by Penguin India has the best cover--which is not why I bought it, the cover that is shown on Amazon is pretty mundane, is a lovely photo of a stall that has paintings of Bollywood movie posters for sale--this nifty street art is very popular in India and has been studied by scholars as a way to look at how art and religion and culture is desciminated to the masses(oops sorry, starting to sound like a class). Back to the book--it is simply called "Bollywood" by Ashok Banker who is a well respected movie critic. His chatty style does remind you of reviews, but his scholarship and insight is wonderful. He groups the movies in catagories--chapter headings give all away! "Silent Screamers, Singing in the Train,The Sound of Masti, The Poetry of Pain" . I could give them all away--but that would keep you from wanting to read about them!!

From these books, reviews on various Bollywood websites, Times of India reviews and lots of other places, I then decide what to rent-what to find in a theater near me--what to own. What to own usually involves Shahrukh Khan!!! But that is an entirely other blog entry!!

When I give reviews of movies here, these are some of the resources I rely on--as well as Wikipedia entries on their Bollywood film list--from these places I get information and translation of titles etc. When I want translations of lyrics to the songs--for I have become as obsessive about the music as the Indian movie going public, I rely on the website Bollywhat? for that information.
When I do a posting on websites, I will go into more detail, but let it be said--this site was one of the first I found and have grown to respect. I have finally stopped 'lurking' on the outskirts of this sites forum, and have begun to comment and ask questions as the "Bollyenabler"! In this format, I may request translation of lyrics from native speakers, information on cultural references and just dream about the next Shahrukh Khan movie!

Well, this post has gotten way too long--so, I will contemplate a post about websites for my next entry-until that time, Namaste and 'come fall in love' with Bollywood!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge-The Braveheart will take the bride

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge—{The Braveheart will take the Bride}(1994)—Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher, directed by Aditya Chopra. I had to post this today--today marks the 700th week that DDLJ(as it is know to the Bollywood crowd) has played a matinee at the Maranthi theater in Mumbai. Not only is it the longest running film in Bollywood (and I suspect Hollywood), it won major awards at its release.
This is the movie that took Bollywood from the craptastic 80’s into the big production ‘90’s! This was Shahrukh Khan’s first big romantic lead flick (he had done really bad guys up till now) and he is paired with Kajol for the movie that tops it all. SRK did not really want to do a romantic lead (a so called 'chocolate box hero'), and it took his buddy Aditya Chopra a lot of convincing to make him do this movie. This movie was Aditya Chopra’s directorial debut—and sets standards for romantic movies from this point on. This is a typical star crossed lover story that was popular at the time. What made this movie different, was that both of these characters were NRI (non resident Indians-Chopra realised that this was a great market to aim for). Raj and Simran both grew up in London--Simran's father is a very strict traditional Indian father. Raj's single, very wealthy father, has a 'buddy' relationship with his son. When Raj flunks out of college, his father suggests a cross European trip for him to decide what he wants to do with his life. Simran, however, has been promised from a young age, to a young man in her father's home village-she begs her dad to let her take a cross European trip with her friends before she heads to a country she does not know to marry an unknown man.
Well, as you can see, the pair meet--at first they do not hit it off, and a series of crazy incidents, makes Simran come to loath the freewheeling Raj. Well, the stars are with(or some may say against) them and they fall in love. Raj finds out that Simran is engaged, but that is not an impediment-he follows her to India!
Unlike many other movies prior to this, Raj does not wish to run off with his lady love-even when Simran's mother hands them her wedding gold and tells them to, Raj wishes to take his bride away with permission and consent. Raj sets out to woo the family —he begins with the women of the family. He ingratiates himself to the grooms family as well--well after much singing, dancing and fighting-Raj--the brave heart--takes his bride! This is such a wonderful movie that many tried to copy it, but not have come close.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dus Kahaniyaan

Just finished this flick from Netflix. A very different Hindi film Dus Kahaniyaan (7 Stories). This is seven very different tales. They all are tales of betrayal and loss--yet in some loss there is finding. Most are directed by Sanjay Gupta, others by Megnah Gulzar-all use a similar realistic, documentary style.
The first tale--High on the Highway-deals with a couple that she refuses to committ--they party one night begin their walk home--both high. He begins to hallucinate that she is abducted and hurt-goes home and kills himself. Most of these stories have actors that are not 'big names', but the tale, Lovedale with Anupam Kher as the young woman's father who asks his daughter as she about to marry, if she really is in love. She says no, and he sends her to find her love-with a tale of a missed love he had. She shows him an earring that a woman on the train had given her-it is one of a pair he had given his love! She returns to the town, Lovedale, finds the man she loves. He sees both earrings, asks her about it, she tells him of the woman, his mother who has been dead 10 years.
All of these stories have this kind of surprize ending-the story of the rival hoods who bonded as boys over their first killing, who fight off killers and each other in the end.

This group of stories is a wonderful, different take on life-it would have been just as effective by an American director or an English director. They are powerful and moving

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Billu Barber

Another recent Bollywood flick that I had the opportunity tosee in the theater is Billu (it had been originally titled Billu Barber—but protests from the barber’s union caused SRK’s production company to cut out the Barber). This movie stars Irrfan Khan, Lara Dutta, Shahrukh Khan, Om Puri, Rajpal Yadav, Asrani—with guest shots by Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Priyanka Chopra. It was directed by Priyadarshah, with the music by Pritam. It was released February 13th, 2009. It is basically the story of a simple village barber, Bilas Rao Pardesi (known as Billu, played by Irrfan Khan) and his family. The village of Budbuda (a fictional village in Uddar Pradesh). Billu is very poor, hardly able to keep the electricity in his home or pay his kids’ school fees. SRK plays the superstar Saahir Khan (a slightly over the top version of SRK himself!)—and when his production company comes to Billu’s village to film, the village is turned upside down. Somehow, the news that Billu and Saahir were childhood friends gets around, and the village begins to feel that Billu can get all sorts of favors from his famous friend for the village. At first, Billu keeps denying that he knew Saahir, but soon the village is so overcome with the idea of one of their own being a friend of Saahir, that Billu goes along for the ride. Well the security around Saahir will not let anyone from the town get near him, and the local school invites Saahir to an anniversary of the school. Saahir is finally worn down by all the requests and goes—when he begins to give a speech to the school kids about his dear childhood friend whom gave him money to head to Mumbai to take up his dream of acting—Billu is finally recognized as the true friend he is. The climactic scene is when Saahir comes to Billu’s very modest house to meet his old friend, Saahir asks why he never got it touch with him when Billu was suffering—Billu, being modest, says that he did not want to seem a friend that desired benefits. This is a funny, snide, and chiding look at the politics behind the film industry in India!! There are many enjoyable moments—when the guesthouse owner flubs his one line in the film over and over—we were nearly rolling in the aisles!! Go; enjoy a good family film that will join my collection soon!! The music is wonderful, the songs are catchy and will stay with you; I especially love Marjaani!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

One film I have seen recently Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (A couple made by God) {2008}—starring Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma in Aditya Chopra’s 3rd directorial work is fabulous!! Thse wonderful music is by the writing team of Salim-Sulaiman is at the same time heartwarming and heartfelt, and you will be humming these tunes for days!! This is wonderful, heartfelt story of a May-December romance will be the new ‘hero’ for Shahrukh Khan!! Khan, a mousy public employee of Punjab Power, is invited to the wedding of his favorite teacher’s only daughter. Khan sees Taani, and immediately falls in love with her—and since is to be wed, you can see his lonely heart break!! Well, tragedy befalls the groom’s family, and the shock causes his teacher to have a fatal heart attack, but not before getting Soori to promise to marry his daughter. Well, the shocked Taani marries Soori, and they return to Amritsar to begin a loveless routine. The joy and laughter that Soori fell for is gone from Taani—and this hurts him, but he has no idea how to make her happy. Well, a big city dance troop comes to town and offers lessons as well as a contest for the best dancing ‘jodi’ (couple). Taani asks permission of her husband, and he quietly agrees—seeing a way to maybe make her happy. Well, Soori enlists the help of his buddy Bobby and becomes an alternate persona “Raj”—who is funny, outspoken, quick witted (the total opposite of Soori!). Raj speaks in 'filmi' language! He uses tag lines from many of SRK's movies and is hysterical! Taani is happy, and Soori is besotted!! As the relationship between Raj and Taani progress, Soori is worried that she really loves the other ‘man’—and Raj then asks Taani to run away with him if she is not happy!! Well, true love finally prevails—and Taani and Soori realize how much they really love each other!! And I won’t give too much more of the story away!! I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen and it was WONDERFUL!!!! There are very few dance numbers, one of the best is the 'dream' sequence when Soori and Taani are at the movies. Taani dreams bits of old flicks, with Raj as the male lead (and all the women are SRK heroines!). The song lyrics are all film titles from the period being represented!! This is an awesome piece of film making. This will soon be the DDLJ of this generation--and SRK's new avatar--the ideal man, too bad more men can't be like Soori!
Here is an update--this film(as of April 16th, 2009) is out on DVD-it's extras include interviews that Shahrukh did of Anushka--as well as wonderful questions she asked him! I saw these interviews on YouTube, and my Hinglish is not that good--so I do hope that these have been subtitled, as I hope that the end credit commentary about the postcards has subtitles as well--this film is now on its way to me, and I will let you all know!

Slow start

Sorry there has been no real posts about movies and such, but it has been crazy! I have been reading a neat little book (from my favorite bookseller in India!)--Bollywood by Ashok Banker. Banker is columnist in India--I do think I have read his reviews on various sites-and he talks about 50 films that he feels are very influential in Hindi film. Geez, this book makes me realize that I have lots more films to see--especially films from the 40's and 50's!! That will be my quest--I guess I should compare his lists to Rachel Dwyer's top 100 films, I suspect many are on both lists! Chalo for now!