Suchin Mehrotra contacted me as he was writing an article about Non-Desi promoters of Bollywood who live outside of India. It was published in The Hindu!
Chicago-based Melanie Greenberg looks to do just that through her YouTube channel, Pardesi, where she reviews the latest releases in Hindi, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam cinema.
Her love was sparked three years ago when she chanced upon Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge on Netflix. She was smitten by Shah Rukh Khan and never looked back.
Her more formal induction into the world of Indian cinema was aided by bloggers Kathy Gibson of accessbollywood.net and Margaret Redlich, who runs dontcallitbollywood.com. Apart from reviewing films, accessbollywood. net maintains an up-to-date list of the Bollywood films available on Netflix and Amazon in the U.S. while dontcallitbollywood.com devotes a page to ‘Starter Kits for Indian Film’ with posts on everything from regional films to top stars and a history of the industry.
I am SO glad these people let me know about this film. I’m not sure I would have gone to see it in the theater otherwise, and I’ve now seen it twice in one week. It’s that amazing.
This video review is spoiler free. I recorded it right after I came out of the screening.
I was gobsmacked by the film. It is unlike any other Telugu film I’ve ever seen. This is no Masala film. It is raw and real, both in the story and the dialogues. It’s a debut director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, and was made on a shoestring budget. It’s more like an indie film in many ways, and it is a sensation.
There is an intense romance between two medical students played by Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini. I have never seen a romance with a seduction by pulling the girl out of anatomy class to draw the muscles and bones on her hand.
Because they are of different castes, here family is adamantly against them. And then the film becomes very much like a modern Devdas, but it goes places I wasn’t expecting.
Arjun is a complete hot head, and it’s a cautionary tale on how because he cannot control his rage, he loses everything in his life.
The actor, Vijay Deverakonda is amazing in the role. He was willing to show himself wetting his pants during an overdose, something I can’t imagine pretty much any other Indian actor doing (well, maybe Rajkummar or Nawaz).
The film has intense romantic kissing just as a matter of course. The freakin’ poster is the kiss. A politician ripped the poster off buses, and Vijay at the press conference said, “Granpa, chill.” There’s a real attitude around the film. It’s not trying to be a film festival art film. It’s out there, and proud about it.
This is a five star film for me. It’s that good. It felt realistic in the way that Malayalam films often do. I felt like the characters were real people and I was seeing inside their lives. I love a film like Mirchi, too, but there are no machetes or goondas or Masala elements in Arjun Reddy. Arjun Reddy is intense about his calling as a doctor, about his romance and his friendships.
Rahul Ramakrishna, who plays Arjun’s best friend, was my favorite secondary character of the film. He gets some of the best comedic lines, too. He says at one point something like “People don’t understand what it’s like to be your friend. It’s like I’m pissing all over myself and only I can enjoy the warmth.” Amazing!
This is a film that is going to stay with me. I cannot recommend enough that you try to see this film in the theater with a crowd. I know I wasn’t getting all the wordplay, but people around me were laughing a lot at the dialogues.
Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw the film together my second time, and then we had an on camera spoiler filled discussion. ONLY if you’ve seen the film already, should you watch this video. Seriously, watch the film first, so you experience for yourself.
Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I met at the Chicagoland Indian movie theater lasts night to catch the new Hindi film Bareilly Ki Barfi with Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao. It is SO GOOD! Cannot recommend this film highly enough. We absolutely loved it!
Rajkummar Rao was the main reason I was interested in seeing this film, because he looked so funny in the trailer. He is just delightful as a nebbish and then transforms into a tough asshole type as part of Ayushmann’s scheme. He was a RIOT!
This film has a fantastic script based on a novel. It’s very clever how the plot unfolds, and while I laughed my ass off so much, and then it had such an emotional ending that I teared up. Kriti had agency in the end, and that made it even better.
Plus, a woman director!! Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her second feature film knocks it out of the park.
Margaret of DontCallItBollywood and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I was the one that got her to start watching Malayalam films. There’s only one theater in Chicago that plays them, and we meet in the middle there to watch them together when we can. It’s a 45 minute drive for both us — but for Dulquer, it’s worth it! I’ve started doing regular reviews on the Bollyfools Youtube channel, and this is my first joint video review with Margaret. We filmed it quickly in the lobby of the theater, so I apologize in advance for all the background noise.
CIA didn’t blow us away, but it was an enjoyable one time watch. Margaret’s more extensive review of CIA is posted here.
I went to see Sarkar 3 without seeing the first two films in the series beforehand. Margaret of Don’tCallItBollywood clued me in to the backstory from the previous films, which are heavily influenced by The Godfather films. I went to Sarkar 3 because I wanted to see Amit Sadh in this kind of role. I loved him in Sultan, and he was fantastic in Running Shaadi earlier this year. Here’s the video review I did for Bollyfools:
Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood has started a podcast, and she invited me to discuss Angamaly Diaries, which we saw together. We’ve both written reviews of the film – here’s mine, and she discusses it here and here. But we can’t stop talking about it! I hope Margaret and I can make this a regular thing. Enjoy!
I love Ajay Devgn. Unabashedly love him. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I am totally Team Ajay. One of my Desi friends expressed amazement that I like Ajay and was looking forward to Shivaay, “What? He’s so ugly!” She’s still my friend even though I now wonder both about her eyesight and her mental acuity. He has superb screen presence and can actually act, but he just has an unmistakable swagger as an action star. The Shivaay trailer just blew me away. We’ve never seen this level of stunt work and action cinematography in Indian cinema. I had heard mixed things about Shivaay once it came out, but there was no way I was going to miss this film on the big screen.
With Shivaay, it’s almost like Ajay the director is trying to combine an action thriller like Taken with the emotion and family heart of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The action sequences are fantastic, and really thrilling. They measure up to the quality of Hollywood films, and the Bulgarian scenery is just gorgeous.
I absolutely adored Ajay’s relationship with his young mute daughter. She was a terrific child actress. Did she have to be mute? — maybe that was a way to get around the plot point that she doesn’t look like her Indian father and the actress wouldn’t be able to speak good enough Hindi. As Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood points out, this is really a special father/daughter relationship on screen. It has nothing to do with a daughter leaving home for marriage, and we have an adoring single father.
Why did this film not touch me in the heart the same way Bajrangi Bhaijaan did? It has more serious peril with human trafficking by the Russian mafia, and a cute kid and all, I can’t quite put my finger on why it didn’t work for me. Shivaay was just that much darker and had few moments of lightness and fun. Ajay also didn’t have anyone supporting him of the quality of Nawaz or Kareena.
There was maybe too much time spent in this romance plot with Polish actress Erika Kaar, who does not have the acting chops of Kareena Kapoor Khan. The villains are also mostly interchangeable Eastern European bad guys. The big reveal of the ultimate bad guy mastermind was pretty predictable, and the final battle was pretty damn awesome. The title track by Badshah is great, but the rest of the music tracks also don’t have level of Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s soundtrack.
Ajay is a solid action director. I wish the script had been a bit better, and aside from the delightful child actress, the supporting players of better caliber to match Ajay’s intensity. I would still recommend catching Shivaay in the theater, because the action scenes look amazing on the big screen. Ajay’s showing the way — you can play a dad, and still have swagger and cool.
And wield wicked weapons like those rock climbing hooks!
Three and a half stars out of five for the great action.
When I saw the trailer for Happy Bhag Jayegi [Happy Will Run], I was so excited. It looked funny, and most importantly had Jimmy Shergill as the heavy, and Abhay Deol looking bemused. The reviews have not been stellar, but I’m here to tell you it’s a fun little over two hour romantic farce. And who doesn’t want to spend two hours with Abhay and Jimmy?
I really admire what Jimmy Shergill is doing with his career. He’s taking the supporting villainish (but not too villainish) character roles now in this and in movies like Tanu Weds Manu 2, as well as supporting roles in action films. Because he’s Jimmy Shergill, he’s the bad guy here, but he’s still so charming you almost feel sorry for him that his bride ran away.
Happy (Diana Penty) is a spitfire. Her father has arranged her marriage to politician Jimmy Shergill, also the head of the local goon gang. While Jimmy dances (badly!) at their engagement, Happy jumps out the bathroom window into a waiting truck. Trouble is, it wasn’t the truck her boyfriend had arranged.
She pops out of a box in the home of Abhay — son of the ex-Governor in Lahore, Pakistan. Abhay’s father is played by the always great Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh. Bollywood audiences know him as SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, but I loved him as Fawad Khan’s father in the Pakistani soap Zindagi Gulzar Hai.
Abhay just wants to play cricket, but his father has great political aspirations for him. They’d been in Amritsar on a diplomatic mission, and the truck is full of diplomatic gifts!
Happy is stuck in Lahore, without the fiance she really wants to marry, and poses a problem because she has no passport or visa? And Abhay is of course engaged as well, so how to explain a strange girl in his house?
The whole thing is a lighter than air farce. Even when Happy gets kidnapped at one point, you know she’s really in no danger, as the goons are scared of our feisty heroine. Happy’s intended Guddu (Ali Fazal) is a rather feckless musician. It’s no wonder her father had doubts about him! Abhay has to figure out a way to get Guddu into Lahore, get them married and then deport them! All while keeping Jimmy Shergill at bay.
What I liked about this movie is that the Pakistanis are all nice people. They are not the bad guys at all! I can’t for the life of me understand how this movie could be banned in Pakistan, because it’s so positive about Pakistan! The misunderstandings between the two countries are presented in a humorous way, and barriers between people broken down. The director wrote an open letter to Pakistan, and the official who banned it, because he doesn’t get it either!
The women in the movie are strong, both Happy and Abhay’s fiance Zoya (Momal Sheikh). They make the men in their lives rise to the occasion.
It was a very pleasant way to spend a little over two hours, and I laughed out loud at quite a few points. Abhay, it’s great to have you back. I’ve missed you.
Looking up Ali Fazal, I don’t remember him at all from 3 Idiots, but he’s set to play Abdul in Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Adbul opposite Judi Dench! I wasn’t super impressed with you in this trifle, but go you!
Many people recommended Jatt & Juliet on my quora post. After I saw Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab, Jatt & Juliet moved to the top of the list. I was completely taken with Diljit in Udta Punjab, and he was one of the best things about that film. In Udta Punjab, he played a very quiet policeman who was shy in romance, but who could step up with the action when needed.
Diljit’s role of Fateh Singh in Jatt & Juliet is a bit different. It’s a romantic comedy and he has a zany manic energy that reminded me very much of Varun Dhawan in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania. Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood compared Jatt & Juliet to DDLJ. It does have the hate to love similar trope in the first half of the film. But Diljit has this silly energy about him that reminded me more of Varun in Humpty — also because Pooja (Neeru Bajwa) is the rich girl that seems out of reach to Fateh.
Fateh’s goal is to marry a Canadian white girl and become a resident in Canada. He meets Pooja at the airport and the sit together on the flight where he annoys her no end with his antics and incessant patter. Pooja is flying to Vancouver to attend fashion school.
Pooja is robbed when she’s about to put down a deposit on an apartment. She hesitates to ask her parents for help because she doesn’t want them to tell her to come home. She and Fateh end up living in the same rental house. And then they end up working at competing next door restaurants. Pooja thinks Fateh is ridiculous with his talking to his biceps every morning, and he loves to tease and torment her, nicknaming her “pest”.
There is an annoying subplot in the first half where Pooja helps Fateh scam their landlady’s white step-daughter to try to get Fateh a white Canadian bride. That leads to both being kicked out of the rental house.
After the interval, they are both in dire straights and have to help each other. Their competing restaurants were once one, owned by an estranged married couple. They get the owners back together to save the restaurants from bankruptcy, and bond by working together.
This was what I loved about their romance. It wasn’t a bolt of lightning love at first sight. It was gradual. Little acts of caring. Sharing work together, and teasing each other, and the romance happening organically.
This is where the sweet Diljit I loved from Udta Punjab shone through in Jatt & Juliet.
Just like DDLJ, there’s another fiance for Pooja, and some misunderstandings on Fateh’s journey to get together with Pooja. It has a great ending.
These two actors have fantastic chemistry together, and I’m looking forward to watching Jatt & Juliet 2. Both films were mega hits in Punjabi cinema.
The negatives for me for Jatt & Juliet were some of the silly comedy side bits. Instead of a comedy uncle like in Telugu films, there was sort of a comedy cousin. Not that funny to me, but it may have also been the subtitles not portraying language play.
The other negative was that there weren’t enough songs! Diljit Dosanjh is a leading Punjabi rapper singer, and he just lights up the screen in the song sequences and dance numbers. I’m guessing it was the lower budget for a Punjabi film that limited the number of dance sequences, and maybe there are more in the sequel. This one was my favorite from a wedding in the film:
Three and a half stars out of five. I’m hearing that after Diljit’s Bollywood debut in Udta Punjab, that he is looking for more Bollywood roles. That’s great news, because he is a real talent. After seeing what he can do in this low budget dance song, I can only imagine what he would be like in a full blown Bollywood number.