Thursday, November 24, 2011

A shot of Shahrukh!--Ra.One

Well, he finally did it! SRK made the movie for his son Aryan--a Super hero film! The Indian press has not been horribly kind to this movie-for it is very different from most traditional films, yet it is very traditional! I an not a huge fan of action, scifi, gaming movies--but hey, it was SRK!
All that I had read about this movie--the bringing in of FX experts from the US to teach Red Chillies staff how to do the effects, the fact that SRK wanted to do all the stunts(hey, he is very injury prone it seems), and the fact that one of my not so fav actresses was going to be his co-star(Kareena Kapoor, hey she redeemed herself in this one, seems when she is paired with SRK, she CAN act)--I had to go see it!

Well, the weekend it opened(Diwali in India, Halloween here in the US) was the weekend I had planned to go to the cinema in Shrewsbury to see it--a couple of my friends had planned to come as well. Well, Mother Nature intervened--Saturday they predicted a heavy wet snow fall for Saturday nite into Sunday--I was still hopeful that it would be able to be cleared out for the Sunday afternoon show. My big concern was, should I see it in 2D or 3D?? Whenever I have seen some film that is supposed to be 3D(IMAX for one), I have gotten the worst migraine ever. The theatre was only doing one 2D show, the bulk of them were going to be 3D--I figured I would decide when I got there.

Well, the snow and wind began--the trees still were fully leafed out-then they began to fall!! We got nearly a foot of heavy, wet snow--lost power at about 8:30 Saturday nite--I was still hopeful that it would be back by the afternoon. Well, this was a historic storm, it turned into a full-blown Nor'easter, most of Western Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut and Vermont were buried in snow, downed limbs, trees and electric poles!! Sunday afternoon--we are looking around, the landlord comes with his backhoe and his son with his chain saw--they cut a path to the main road a mile in--they came back saying there was so much debris not only on our street, but the main road! Man--little did I know this would be the first full day of 8 days without power! Without power, heat, running water(we have a well) and regular hygiene!

I kept hoping that Ra.One would still be at the theatre once the electricity was back. I won't bore you with the boring search for batteries, hot showers, and water to flush the toilet(think snow melt from the roof)-you never saw anyone so happy to see power back on Sunday--which included having to bathe 2 cats that thought by sleeping in the cold ash in the fireplace would keep them warm!

I kept checking the film listings at the theatre--and sure enough--the film was still playing nearly 3 weeks in!! Gotta go--both my friends were not sure if they would come, one had major tree removal from her property, the other was stressed from work and not sure either. Well, come heck or high water, I was going to go--but--but--it was only in 3D--oh well, I would chance it.....
Well---I am glad that the choice had been made for me--this was fabulous--and one of my first modern 3D experiences. I am wondering, however--if the entire film, including end credits was in 3D--why wasn't the beginning credits in 3D?? The disclaimers about not doing these stunts, the dedications, and the first few scenes seemed out of focus--was this on purpose--or what?

Well, this fast paced film was great--very different from any other Bollywood I have seen, or any other SRK film--but it still had dil! Even though the video game had a villain that was more powerful and 'sexier'--it was still the core values of Bollywood films that brought the hero to the forefront-- dil , family and good. Sure, a lot of the references were very traditional--but if you didn't know that Ra.One(Raavan) was the embodiment of evil and G.One(Jeevan) is the embodiment of good--who shall ultimately win, you still get a great film, great stunts, great ideas!

I wasn't too sure how I would like this movie--but I loved it--and now am looking forward to the Christmas release of Don 2.
I had been pretty stressed, as had been my friend who came with me, but this pure escapist fun and SRK to boot(and Arjun Rampal wasn't bad as the villain)--was just the tonic I needed--I keep forgetting that Bollywood can usually get me out of a funk or a bad mood--humm 4 day weekend, lots of football that I don't watch--I see lots of Bollywood in the future!

Challo--come along and enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mangal Pandey--the Rising

I suppose you are wondering what movie I am talking about-since when folks talk about the 2005 Aamir Khan movie Mangal Pandey:The Rising the photo most often show is the where Aamir is dressed as a sepoy (a native soldier in India under the command of the East India Company). I like this Holi photo better, it mirrors the joy of the the desire for freedom.

This story is a dramatization of the 1857 Sepoy Uprising in India--and had this succeeded-India might have had its freedom 90 years earlier than 1947. In 1857, India was not under the control of the Queen of England, but the East India Company--the Company did its best to extract as much income out of India's peoples as it could. The company forced Indian farmers to grow opium and sell it at fixed prices to the Company which in turn sold it at high profit to China in exchange for Tea, silk and spices.

The major tripping point of the uprising was the introduction of the rifled Enfield Musket--which had a cartridge containing powder and shot that needed to be bitten off by the soldier and then loaded into the barrel of the rifle. Up until this time, the Indian Sepoys used the 'Brown Bess' musket that had separate powder and shot that was loaded into the barrel--the ease of the cartridge and the greater accuracy of the Enfield was the reason behind the change. But, the cartridge was the instigator of this rebellion--rumor spread that the cartridge was coated with the fat of cows and pigs. The Sepoys consisted of Muslim and Hindu men to which each one found the fat of either animal abhorrent--the Muslims felt pig impure and the Hindu saw the cow as sacred.

The man behind this uprising, Mangal Pandey--was a devout Hindu who refused to submit to this humiliation. Pandey felt that by putting the fat of a cow into his mouth, he would be impure and his community would shun him. Pandey had the ability to muster the support of the many troops in India--and a rebellion was begun. It is not to say that this Aamir Khan movie is true to the tale of the uprising-it twists the story to make it more patriotic and adds a bit of romance- but it still gives the viewer a feel for the suppression that India suffered under the East India Company. After the rebellion was quashed, India then came under the rule of the English monarchy--it is not to say that this rule was any less suppressive, but this is for others to debate.

I found that watching this movie after seeing the new, and last Harry Potter film to be appropriate--both are about rebellion, and both show the fights people can fight when they are so moved. Watching this movie makes me wish to delve further into this historic episode--and thus into the history of India. Aamir Khan does well with this role--and brings the spirit of Mangal Pandey to life; let us not forget these players of history that tried to bring equality to their peoples.

Mangal Pandey-@1827-1857

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rocket Singh, Salesman of the Year

Rocket Singh--an honest man in a dishonest world of sales. How does someone who is sweet, honest and hardworking make it in a cutthroat world?? He doesn't change himself, he changes the corporate culture! When Haspreet Singh goes to work for a large computer company, AYS, little does he realize that he must change how he thinks, acts, and believes. On his first sales call, the company owner demands a bribe for his services--when HP thinks this unethical, he leaves and then puts a letter into the company suggestion box.
Upon his return to the office, he is berated and called stupid, slow and a loser. He is now the office scape-goat, but that doesn't stop him. He begins to see how badly the company he works for treats their customers and he sets out to make it right.

This sweet little movie is following the trend of 'message' movies in Bollywood. No song or dance, no seltzer in your pants(sorry could not resist), just a message on how those that do well unto others can make it in the real world. If Bollywood makes more movies like this--their popularity in the west will surely grow. Take a movie with a message, add good acting, a well thought out script and you will have a winner. And this movie is a winner!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Salaam-e-Ishq or Salman-e-Ick

Well, my friend Erin loaned me a bunch of flicks she wanted me to see--and Salaam-e-Ishq was among them. I am not at all a fan of Salman Khan, but I like a lot of the others in this film--Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, John Abraham, and Priyanka Chopra(most times anyhow). So--I began to watch this on a day off after a bunch of running around--I am not sure if it was the movie, or if I was tired, but I kept dozing off! The moment Salman came on screen--I felt kinda repulsed, he is still baring his chest, posturing and doing the same things he did in movies years ago; hasn't he grown in skill?
I kept at it--the stories seemed a bit disjointed, I did not like the cutting from one tale to another--it wasn't all that smooth. I have seen it done better in a film called Dus Kahaniyaan.
I would suggest if you want to watch a movie about couples and how they deal with problems-I would look this one up.

The only saving grace(other than the fact that Salman is in many of the dance numbers) is the music. The is done by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy--and is fabulous. Even Salman's dancing hasn't changed much! In one dance, I would swear he did the same steps that he did in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam--even Salman's dancing hasn't improved over the years. Salman would do well to watch other films by the other Khan's--Aamir, Saif and of course SRK. Over the years they have all done very different types of films--Aamir has even signed to do the anti-hero in Dhoom 3--while Salman has spent his career being the 'chocolate box hero'--the slimy gigolo/lover/Lothario . Wake up Salman--you are not twenty any longer-you may still be buff and rugged looking--but you need to take acting lessons or start working behind the camera--do you want to be know as the Keanu Reeves of Bollywood?
Ok, I must admit I can't tolerate him, but I am trying to look at his acting- lack thereof. Salman also has the reputation of being Bollywood's badboy--well, Salman--this is getting old, wake up and smell the coffee and do something with substance and passion.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reading Bollywood--still

This image is what I conjure in my head when I think of Bollywood--or at least the type of Bollywood most folks know. This famous dance from the movie Dil Se by director Mani Ratnam is famous for many reasons--first off this train dance scene that was done on a moving train, and for the introduction of ARRahman to the Bollywood movie industry and then to the world.
This image is also one that I have tried to grab for many years--it also graces the cover of a book by Nasreen Munni Kabir. This book was published a number of years ago to accompany a BBC look at the Bollywood movie industry--it was written about the time many Bollywood movie directors/producers/actors had discovered that England was a great place to film movies--as well as with its diaspora population, a fertile ground for its movies. I had seen this book mentioned in many of the other books I had read, referred to by more authors than I could count--but it was forever elusive--it fetched over $100 at most used book sources--oftentimes it was running well over $200!!--a bit rich for my blood. Until the day I saw it listed, with shipping from England, for less than $20US!!! Well---even though my budget was tight, I knew I needed to grab it!! And am I ever glad I did.

Ms. Kabir's breezy and informative style has caused me to want to do yet more reading/re-reading of the many books I have on Bollywood---including some of those that I have, but were a bit dense to read--her references and interviews with stars and directors and other behind the scene folks has given me much insight. I have one minor complaint--as a historian, I love my footnotes, endnotes , and bibliography. Ms. Kabir will often quote pretty well know books and cite them within the context of her text--but I still want my stuff in easy access. Just ask my kid--when I get a new book that is non-fiction--the first thing I look at is the bibliography, then the notes then--I begin to read!

This is one great book for general reference and information--it will also give you many more movies you will want to see!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dhobi Ghat--(Mumbai Diaries)

Dhobi Ghat--a well known place in Mumbai. The Dhobis--washers--work in the open washing the clothes of their customers in Mumbai--hotels, hospitals, and others. There are over 700 ghats(washing stations)--I think I read somewhere that it was build during the mid-, late 19th century for the English military officers. The ghats are rented, and these folks launder, with out electricity, everything from undergarments to saris.

Why am I giving you a history of the Dhobi Ghat, and not a review of Kiran Rao's new movie?
Well, knowing about the Ghat is helpful for the movie--as well as much of the story revolve around Munna--the dhobi that ties all the main characters together.

Kiran Rao--who is married to Aamir Khan(though the New York Times review called him Mr. Kiran Rao!)--directed this, her first movie. I am sure having as powerful a husband as Aamir, made her job a bit easier--though I have seen/read an interview with her that she did not originally want her husband in the film. Well, even though he is the biggest star in the film, I feel he is not the biggest character--he pulls together 3 very different people.

Munna-the dhobi--also ties many of the characters together as well--he is the invisible person in Mumbai as well as the movie. Munna is one of the many millions of 'serving' people in this huge city--they bring laundry, lunch, cooking gas, milk, and many other necessities of of modern life to those living in Mumbai. I have also been reading Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehtu. This tale of a man returning to Mumbai with his wife and family from New York City, somehow mirrors this movie by Kiran Rao--you see the underbelly of Mumbai; the dirty streets, the trash dumps, the slums, the dhobi, the falling down buildings built so close to each other that you can peer into your neighbor's kitchen!

Rao brings you into the more real Mumbai--she films not the sparkly studios, but the streets--the beach, the festivals (she filmed the Ganesha Chaturthi when millions of worshipers bring large and small images of Ganesha to the ocean to be cast into the sea-my dream is to one day be in Mumbai for this festival).

This movie may not be for everyone--but it is a very wonderful look at the city that weaves dreams for millions of people all over the world. As I sat their in the theatre with my friend, we marveled at the wonder of Mumbai--but also commented on how dirty it was.

I had hoped that the video diary that Arun had found would have brought us to finding the maker of these tapes--these tapes, filled first with hope, and then with despair--made me weep for the new bride whose dreams were soon dashed.

I encourage you to see this movie--it is a very different film, the background music is melancholy and brooding--but so is the movie. This film gives you a realistic, hopeful view of the Bollywood city of dreams---Mumbai.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pinjar-another tale of partition

I have had this DVD from Netflix for some time--and needed a quiet bit to watch it. I knew it would be a wrenching story-it dealt with the horrors of partition. It begins as a story of two Hindu families living in the Punjabi region of northern India--the time is 1946--and we who know what is about to happen are struck with apprehension. Puro-a lively young daughter of a well off family is betrothed to a young lawyer-Ramchand. As preparations are made, a young Muslim, Rashid, man sees Puro and immediately falls in love with her--we later learn of the horrible deed he is to do in the name of revenge.
Puro is coming from the fields with her sister, and Rashid gallops up to Puro on his horse and he snatches her from the 'arms of her family'. Puro is held by Rashid--who treats her with deference and love--not taking advantage of her (or does he). Rashid finally tells Puro why he took her-and the family legacy of hatred and fear. Puro escapes one evening and goes back to her family--yet to them she is dead, since she has been taken by a Muslim and her virtue is in question--they put her from her home, and she returns in tears to Rashid-the only one who will have her.
The life she has with Rashid is peaceful and somewhat calm--until the time of partition nears. Rashid and Puro had taken in the infant of a dead Hindu woman who was crazy--yet the officials demand that this Hindu baby be given back to his own people. Rashid shows his love for his wife, he fights for them to keep the infant--yet is forced to comply. Many times you see the love and devotion Rashid has for Puro(now named Hamida--which is tattooed on her arm).
As the Indian military tries to calm the mayhem of partition--Muslims attack and kill Hindus, and kidnap women to be used sexually. One day in the cane fields, Hamida finds a young Hindu girl who has escaped her captors--and brings her home to recover.
As a caravan of refugees from Hamida's home village pass by--Hamida asks her husband to let her help the young girl--he agrees. Hamida brings food and water to the refugees and comes upon her former betrothed--she asks him to help her with the young girl, he tells her of his sister's capture by the Muslims and also asks for her help finding them.

The story then follows Rashid and Hamida as they track down the missing sister, Lajjo, and return her to her family. Hamida has a chance to meet with her brother--as well as to see once more her former fiancee. Both her brother and her former fiancee encourage her to come with them over the border--but she finds that she feels that this now Muslim land is really her home. Her husband, hoping to repent for his earlier crime, leaves her side, thinking that she will wish to return to her family--as she looks around for him, she realizes that he is her life and that she does love him.

This movie may seem to be a bit of a 'downer', but it does show the compassion and strength that people have when times are horrible. I am drawn to the voting now taking place in the Sudan to separate the Christian and Muslim parts of that war-torn country and wonder if the horrors of war there will lead to horrors of partition?