Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya – Or the one where Salman is shirtless with a guitar

pyaar-kiya-toI watched Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (If you loved someone, don’t be afraid) written and directed by Sohail Khan (brother of Salman Khan) over the last two days.  I bought it super cheap in one of my DVD orders from India and it had no subs, but Youtube to the rescue.
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Going in, I knew nothing about the film other than it was a love story with Kajol and Salman Khan coming out the same year as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  I didn’t know that Dharmendra has a key role as Kajol’s uncle.  Kajol is an orphan raised by her brother Vishal (Arbaaz Khan) and her uncle.  Vishal is extremely overprotective of her, driving away suitors by beating them up.  Kajol finally convinces her brother to let her attend college, and that’s where she meets Salman Khan, a rather goof off student.  Salman starts the movie shirtless!  This is his intro scene for the movie — the famous “O O Jaane Jaana” song.
pyaar-kiya-to-darna-kya-1998-3Wastrel Salman first wins over Kajol, and then has to win over her family, especially her skeptical brother Vishal.  Salman is particularly ridiculous in many scenes playing his role for broad comedy, and I was wondering if he let the Vishal brother of Kajol character upstage him so much because it was his actual brother. I literally had no idea Arbaaz Khan was Salman Khan’s brother AND that he was the producer of Dabangg.  He is such a looker in Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya!  I think this is one of his first movies, and he did a great job.
 It was interesting that Arbaaz got a whole seduction song with the Ujala character.  (Kajol’s friend Ujala is the one doing the seducing.)  He’s a secondary character that in most movies would not get his own song.  Especially these days Salman is so, well, SALMAN that he overshadows everyone else.  In this earlier movie, he wasn’t quite so much larger than life, if you get what I mean.
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I don’t know that Kajol and Salman had any smolder whatsoever, but they were sweet and cute together.  The first half didn’t grab me, but the second half songs are great, and the finale scene with Dharmendra, Salman and Arbaaz fighting together to rescue Kajol is really something to see.
One other minor note.  The director made Kajol dance in what looked to be the most awkward type sandals for dancing, unless they had a strap on the back I couldn’t see.  Like slip on wedges or something.
Lots of shirtless or nearly so Salman and great songs so worth the watch!
I also don’t remember seeing another movie yet in my watching history, at least, where Dharmendra is playing this uncle fatherly type of role.  That was interesting, too.
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Shivaay – Awesome Action in this attempted mashup of Taken and Bajrangi Bhaijaan

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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.

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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. raatein_shivaay_ajay_abigail

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.

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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.

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And wield wicked weapons like those rock climbing hooks!

Three and a half stars out of five for the great action.

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Paheli – My Kind of Ghost Story

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Paheli, Shahrukh Khan’s 2005 movie about a ghost or spirit is one of my all time favorite Shahrukh Khan movies, even if it is not one of his blockbusters.  It’s not a scary Halloween movie (like maybe Darr, which is more creepy than scary), but it does have a ghost!  Paheli means riddle.

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Fantasy film seem to be unusual in Hindi cinema, and in this film Shahrukh Khan plays both a number counting merchant husband, and a bhoot, or a ghost or spirit (sort of a genie, really) who takes his place.  Rani Mukerji is the bride who captivates the Ghost, with Amitabh as a wise shepherd in a cameo.  It’s a fable that is also about women’s empowerment, and the scene where SRK tells Rani he’s a ghost is one of my all-time favorites.  She laughs at first, because it sounds ridiculous!  But her real husband barely noticed her, and wouldn’t sleep with her on their wedding night, but this ghost is obsessed with her every since he saw her at the well he haunted.

He could have lied and just taken her in the guise of her husband, but he loves her enough to give her the choice.  Swoon!

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Rani and SRK have always had great chemistry, but man do they smolder in Paheli.  Yowza.

The costumes are just stunning, and the music in the film is just fantastic:

 

Amitabh Bachchan has a fun cameo as the wise shepherd who must solve the riddle of the two husbands.  Juhi Chawla, who co-produced the film, plays Rani’s sister-in-law whose husband (Sunil Shetty) had disappeared.  Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak play puppet narrators and of course Anupam Kher is the father.

tumblr_n1rdaglgnt1qmz4s4o1_1280I love Shahrukh in double roles and these two roles he makes completely separate people.  The husband is comedic and obtuse, and the ghost playful and sultry.

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Plus, I love the idea of a ticklish ghost!  Paheli has been overlooked but I love it.  And I love its message of female empowerment and choice.

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – Karan Made Me Cry! Modern Relationships Can Be Complicated (Spoiler Free)

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I realized that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is actually the first film directed by Karan Johar that I have seen on the big screen.  Sure, I’ve seen Johar/Dharma productions, like Kapoor and Sons, on the big screen in the two plus years that I’ve been watching Indian cinema, but this is the first totally Karan Johar film.

I went to the first day, first show, at my local theater and they were NOT prepared for the Diwali crowds.  The theater was pretty full, and there was a long line at the ticket window.  Interestingly, I was not the only non-Desi there.  There were two women who were fans of Aish from Bride & Prejudice, but didn’t even know what the title of the film meant or who SRK is.  (!!!)

This will be as spoiler free a review as I can make it.  We know the film is about unrequited love.  If you think about it, many of Karan Johar’s films are about unrequited love, be it from a lover or a parent.

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Anushka and Ranbir meet when they are both fighting with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  They kiss and Ranbir sweetly hugs her, and Anushka pulls away.  “What kind of kiss was that?  Save those kinds of hugs for your family!”  There is no sexual chemistry from her side, but they are soul mates in every other way.  They both love old 80’s films, quote dialogue to each other and sing old song lyrics to each other.  I caught some of the filmi references (like them doing the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai finger to the noise bit), but there were many I didn’t catch.  (Can’t wait for Margaret to do a full summary on Don’t Call It Bollywood where she can instruct me on all the ones I missed!)

We knew about the Shahrukh Khan cameo as Aish’s ex, but there are some other fun ones.  Alia Bhatt and Lisa Haydon!  Fawad Khan’s role has been cut down so much that it’s not much more than an extended cameo.

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I wish the songs in the film had had subtitles, because I felt like I was missing meanings from the lyrics now that I was seeing them in the film itself.  Anushka is his friend, his best best best friend, but we can see that Ranbir wants more.  He declares himself after she returns to her former love, but it’s too late.

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Then he has the passionate relationship with Aish, and I loved her as this mature seductress!  She and Ranbir had great chemistry, and the cameo with SRK was a delight.  Shahrukh and Aish just give off that old lovers vibe and it was perfection for this film.

There is a twist in the final 15 minutes or so of the film that I mentally said to myself, “Oh, Karan, really, you’re going there?”  But damn it.  Karan made me cry!  It was predictable, but he played my emotions like a violin and the tears were running down my face.

The music as we know, is just sublime in this film.  The title track and the way Ranbir perform it is so amazing.   Really his performance through the film is excellent.  But I was most impressed with Anushka.  She just gets better and better with each film.

Anushka criticizes Ranbir’s singing in the film (he wants to be a singer) and says he can’t really sing with emotion until he’s experienced heartbreak.  And that, I think, is ultimately the message of the film.  Great art, be it film, music or poetry, comes from heartbreak and pain.

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Mr. India – MovieMavenGal Khush Hua

I attended an academic conference on Popular Culture last weekend as a friend was giving a talk on SRK and Fan.  One paper presented was on the Indian Superhero and Mr. India, which until last night I had never seen.  Tanushree Ghosh of University of Nebraska focused on the reverse of gender stereotypes in the 1987 cult classic Mr. India.

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Anil Kapoor is Arun Verma and his hat and beat up coat obviously are an allusion to Raj Kapoor’s tramp character from Shree 420.

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Arun is a down on his luck violin player, who has taken in several orphan children, since he lost his parents at an early age himself.  But what Ghosh points out is how Anil Kapoor’s character is introduced to us.  His very first image on screen is of him cooking breakfast for the children in his kitchen, normally a female space.   He then proceeds to wake up all the children and get them ready for school.  His early scenes don’t show him at work, but doing the household shopping, and other more typically female occupations on film.  He is both mother and father to these children.

 

 

In contrast, SriDevi’s character is introduced in her workplace as a reporter.  She rents a room from Arun because he lies to her that there are no children.  She is the character who can’t stand children.  Her softening to the antics of the adorable children is normally the plot track of the male hero.

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Our villain is Amrish Puri as the iconic Mogambo.  His famous catchphrase is Mogambo Khush Hua (Mogambo is pleased).  Mogambo is like a Bond villain on steroids.  He’s an evil general out to take over the world, and of course India.  He’s searching for a secret formula that makes a person invisible.  Turns out Arun’s father invented it and was killed for it.

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Ghosh discusses all the humiliations that Arun goes through in the first half of the picture, the affronts to his masculinity as head of the household.  He can’t pay the rent or feed his family.  It’s only when SriDevi realizes the children are starving that she brings in food for them.  At his lowest point, his father’s colleague reveals his father’s secret legacy – a watch that makes one invisible.

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The scene where he practices making himself invisible with one of the children in tow, is one of the most joyful superhero origin stories I’ve ever seen — right up there with Spiderman flying down New York streets over the traffic on his webs.

Sridevi as intrepid Lois Lane type reporter impersonates a night club singer to find out the villains’ evil plan.  The song sequences in this film are really delightful, but this one Hawa Hawai shows off her comedic chops.  I had no idea she could be so funny.  The song sequence takes an unwelcome turn into blackface backup dancers, though.

Arun comes to the rescue invisibly, and calls himself Mr. India.  He’s just a common man out to right wrongs.  Of course SriDevi falls in love with Mr. India even though she can’t see him!  There’s both a humorous title song where she proclaims her love for Mr. India to Arun, not knowing he is our hero, and then a very sensuous number where she meets Mr. India and he invisibly kisses her.

One of my favorite sequences had SriDevi dressing up as Charlie Chaplin to win money at the villain’s casino with Mr. India’s invisible help.  She is so funny in this movie!

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Ghosh pointed out in her paper how this common man Indian superhero contrasts to the Westernized Ra.One with his blue eyes.  Mr. India rights wrongs like punishing people who adulterate the food supply of regular people!

This film, with all the kids who both get kidnapped and participate fully in the fight to escape made me feel like it was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang crossed with Goldfinger (in a good way).   I can totally understand why this was a blockbuster hit, and a cult classic.   It’s just silly good fun.

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And Amrish Puri is the ultimate campy villain as Mogambo.  MovieMavenGal Khush Hua!

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Just read that even with the flop of Mrizya, Boney Kapoor (producer of Mr. India) is talking about Mr. India 2 with Harsh, and Anil Kapoor playing his father.

 

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag – There’s nothing like a good cry

screen-shot-2012-02-02-at-10-53-07-pm-1Laaga Chunari Mein Daag [My Veil is Stained] is an old fashioned type of melodrama, and I ate it up with a spoon.  I hadn’t had a good cry watching a movie in quite awhile, and there’s nothing I love more than Ranishek.  There’s something about their jodi that I just adore.  I don’t know if it’s how tiny she is, and how tall he is, and how he looms over her protectively.  Abhishek Bachchan is just swoony paired with Rani Mukerji, and especially so in this film.

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This film also passes the Bechdel test spectacularly.  Rani plays the older of two sisters who grow up in Benares on the banks of the Ganges.  They live in a big ramshackle old house with a father who is too ill to work (Anupam Kher) and a mother who’s struggling to keep the family afloat financially (Jaya Bachchan).  Konkona Sen Sharma is Chutki and is still in school, whil Rani Mukerji as Badki realizes she needs to find work to take the pressure off her mother.

screen-shot-2012-02-02-at-3-56-49-pm Rani goes to Mumbai, and since she had not finished school and cannot speak English, she has trouble finding, and keeping any job.  When her father is hospitalized and she calls home, Jaya in exasperation quarrels with her on the phone and tells her she can’t come home.  In desperate straits, she becomes a high class escort with the name Natasha.

Okay, this part was a bit far-fetched as while she is duped into losing her virginity, she somehow easily becomes a high-fashion wearing high class escort with the help of a friend.  She sends money home to her family to pay for her father’s medicine as well as to put her sister through college.

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She is the mistress of an executive who makes her an “event planner” or some made up position and travels to Zurich with him on a conference.  That’s where she meets Rohan, an attorney, and they have a magical day together.

Away from her normal life as a courtesan, she can imagine that she’s just a girl on a date, but reality calls her back.

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Her sister surprises her by just showing up at her apartment as she has a new job in Mumbai after completing her MBA.  Konkona has her own romantic storyline with the creative director at her office played by Kunal Kapoor.  (I do love Kunal and Konkona together.  They were great in Aaja Nachle, too.)  Rani has done everything she can to hide her true profession, but her sister’s wedding brings everything to a head.  Jaya, her mother doesn’t want her to come home as people will talk.

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What I loved was that when Rani’s sister learns the truth, she realizes the sacrifices she made on the family’s behalf.  She doesn’t judge Rani at all, and insists she come home for the wedding.  And that’s when Rani finally gets her happy ending with Abhishek.  It’s so wonderful, because she’s so afraid what he would think if he knew, but he knew all along and loved her anyway.  The tears started when Rani’s sister accepted her, and just poured down my cheeks in the final scenes.

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There’s also a fantastic cameo in the film by Hema Malini who plays a famous courtesan in Benares.

Yes, it’s a big melodrama, but it’s a Yash Raj Aditya Chopra produced melodrama so I loved it.  And Ranishek.  You just can’t beat swoony Ranishek.

Four stars out of five.

Aiyyaa – How can a movie be so sublime and so awful all at the same time

I love Rani Mukherji so Aiyyaa was on my watchlist, but it moved right up to the top after I saw this video:

I have only seen a few Prithviraj films, and my impression was of a very good serious actor in Ennu Ninte Moideen, Classmates and Mumbai Police or even Aurangzeb.  But I hadn’t seen him like this:

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Holy moly.  (Is it getting hot in here?)

Aiyyaa means Oh, My!  Aiyyaa was a comeback film for Rani, but was Prithviraj’s Bollywood Debut.  (He made Aurangzeb around the same time.)  The film was produced by Anurag Kashyap and was directed by Sachin Kundalkar.

Rani is Menaskshi, a young woman who loves zany Bollywood films, the more over the top the better.  The songs in Aiyyaa are her fantasies.  She imagines herself at the beginning as Madhuri, Juhi and Sridevi.  Her parents want to arrange her marriage, but first she gets a job at the local art college.

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She is struck speechless by the appearance of art student Surya, and is entranced by his smell.  (The director Sachin Kundalkar, had done a previous Marathi film about the senses.)  She asks around to learn more about her crush Surya.  He always has red eyes so the rumor is that he’s on drugs or spends all his nights drinking.  He barely ever speaks to Rani, and is very mysterious and standoffish.  She finds him sleeping in doorways and hallways.  She knows he speaks Tamil to the chaiwallah boy, who she bribes to teach her to speak Tamil.  “How do I say I like dark skin people, not fair skin?”  The chaiwallah recommends she watch the Tamil Midnight Masala TV channel.

Rani dreams she’s in a Southern Masala film, and we get this insane number that made me just laugh in delight:

As Prithviraj said in an interview — it’s Bollywood’s crazy view of Southern films.  What I absolutely love about this song sequence is that I’ve never before seen Prithviraj so silly, and you can just see him going for it with gusto.

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He just has this crazy grin through the whole song.  They rhyme humping and thumping, and he bobs his head following her waist gyrations.  Prithviraj’s having his own fun spoofing regional song sequences.  Having seen several South Indian films, I felt like I was in on the joke.

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Rani’s eccentric family have placed a matrimonial ad and she grits her teeth through meetings with several suitors.  One very nice average guy she reluctantly agrees to see again.  He’s kind and sweet, but he just doesn’t float her boat like Surya – who seemingly doesn’t even know she exists.  While shopping for wedding saris, she has the lustful Aga Bai fantasy song from the top of the review.

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I wouldn’t have minded if Surya had just been a fantasy and she ended up with the nice average Maadhav (Subodh Bhave).  On the day of her engagement, she escapes the house and follows Surya.  Finally she discovers the source of his intoxicating scent, and they connect.  The romance is just so swoon worthy.  It’s sublime.

But unfortunately, Prithviraj, Subodh and Rani aren’t the only people in the film.  Rani’s family is at first amusingly eccentric.  In the first half, it’s not so bad, but her brother character especially in the second half just goes off into crazyland.  The very worst character is her co-worker Maina, who has big buck teeth and comes to work with vodka in a bear shaped water bottle.  She’s not only un-funny, she’s just blatantly offensive.  The writer-director was going for zany, and he veered too far on the wacky spectrum.  You know it’s bad when Johnny Lever would have brought subtlety to this film. If this film instead had had the comedic tone of something like Dum Laga Ke Haisha it would have been perfect.   It was just so uneven lurching between the extreme awful comedy and then the swooniness of the romance.

I loved the romance bits of this film so much I have rewatched it already, but I fast-forwarded through all the family scenes and the Maina bits.  Rani in her fantasies in Aiyyaa reminded me a bit of Amelie, that magical realism French film:

 

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So dear reader, I have trouble whole-heartedly recommending this film.  The film has a great message about cross-cultural romance and even with a male director is interested in the female gaze and point of view.  If you’re a big fan of Rani like I am, you’ll agree that she was fantastic as Meenakshi.  If you love Prithviraj as I am beginning to, you’ll love seeing him be almost Mr. Darcy like, and also having zany fun being a sex symbol.  If you can stand to watch not so great films for the transcendent good parts, just do yourself a favor and keep your finger on the fast-forward button.

Three stars out of five.  Aiyyaa is available on ErosNow, which is where I watched it.

 

Mohenjo Daro – a somewhat enjoyable hot mess

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Nearly two years is a long time to wait between Hrithik Roshan movies.  My neighbor and I didn’t care what the reviews said, or the mocking of her husband.  We were bound and determined to spend two and half hours with Hrithik.

My neighbor had no idea who the director was, but expectations naturally run high when Ashutosh Gowariker, whose works include Lagaan, Jodhaa Akbar and Swades returns to the helm after a six year absence.

And therein lies the rub.  The reviews have been harsh, because we expect so much, both from Gowariker and Hrithik.  This film was a swing for the rafters and a big miss.  The trepidation started with the trailer.  That fight with the crocodile looked fake, and the story didn’t seem very compelling.

Annnd, my fears were born out.  I think it was good that I had read a few reviews, and watched Anupama Chopra’s disappointed savaging.  I went last night knowing it would be a hot mess, and just went along for the ride.

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Hrithik’s costumes I liked, but the headresses of Pooja Hegde were absolutely ridiculous and distracting.  It’s classic poor farmer comes to the city and falls in love with the beautiful girl from the rich side of town – with a bit of Aladdin thrown in (I kept humming “Riff Raff, Street rat“)

Pooja as the high priest’s daughter is pretty enough but she doesn’t have much sparkle to her.  I kept thinking how much personality a Deepika or a Priyanka would have brought to this role.  Pooja is fine, but she’s not enough to carry this film, when there’s so many other issues with it.

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At the very end they show this famous dancing girl artifact from Mohenjo Daro tumbling in the water, and just look at the attitude of that young girl.  This is the girl I wish the movie had been about.  I want to know about her story – she has so much personality and moxie frozen in metal.

Hrithik gives over 100% in any role he takes on.  His dancing is graceful in Mohenjo Daro even if it’s absolutely ridiculous that he would be disguised by a bit of red eye makeup and a horn on his head.  His dance with Pooja in Tu Hai was my favorite of the film.  The rest of A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack didn’t send me, but I love this song.

 

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Hrithik’s very good in the action sequences, especially in this athletic battle against two cannibals.  (What is it with Indian movies and the dreaded cannibal warriors?)  Hrithik’s intensity is often expressed in just shaking with rage.  Literally shaking.  It gets to be a bit much, to be honest.

The main flaw in the film is not Hrithik over doing it, or Pooja under doing her performance.  It’s the story.  It’s just not enough somehow.  The script needed more work.

Kabir Bedi is a reliable villain, even if he’s getting a bit long in the tooth to be thrown around.  Arunoday Singh plays his son, Moonja, who’s betrothed to the young priestess.  Poor Arunoday just has that kind of face that looks like a slightly stupid villain, like he did in Main Tera Hero.

The very last part of the film is a big pretty unbelievable action sequence rescuing the city inhabitants from a dam breaking.  My neighbor informed me that excavations have shown that Mohenjo Daro was destroyed by water.  Maybe the film would have had more excitement to it if it had been more of a disaster movie than a pseudo political drama of an ancient city.

Mohenjo Daro is a bit of a hot mess, but it had some enjoyable moments.  It’s just not very good, and with Ashutosh Gowariker‘s pedigree, that’s really very disappointing.  And after Baahubali, the special effects in this Indian epic don’t measure up.

Two and a half stars out of five.

Student of the Year – A look back ahead of the Dream Team concert

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I woke up to this @KaranJohar tweet this morning:

And my reaction was just like this one I saw on Tumblr:

“student of the year 2!!!”

“…starring tiger shroff”

I have yet to see a Tiger Shroff movie (and I hear I’m not missing much).  But he is a good dancer:

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I looked back at my original Student of the Year review, and it’s quite the time capsule.  I wasn’t into Indian cinema when it came out in 2012.  I saw it in November of 2014, and it was my first introduction to Alia Bhatt, Siddarth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan.  (Whatever happened to that Fault In Our Stars remake?)

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It was curiosity about Varun Dhawan, who has been cast as a lead in the Bollywood remake of Fault in Our Stars (with Deepika), that led me to check out this Karan Johar film. SOTY is set at a junior college where the gay dean (Rishi Kapoor) has an annual contest for, you guessed it, the Student of the Year to win a scholarship to an international college. And this contest is not just academic, there is a triathlon, a scavenger hunt AND a dance contest. The film begins with the group of former students gathering at the hospital bedside of the dying dean, and then flashes back 10 years in the past.

Evidently, it was quite notable that Karan Johar debuted several young actors and actresses in this film, rather than matching one unknown with an established actor/actress. Of the students, only the college vamp is played by a familiar face, Sana Saeed albeit when she was a child actress in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as little Anjuli.

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This film reminds me of John Hughes films of the 80’s with the rich kids pitted against the scholarship kids from the Indian equivalent to the wrong side of the tracks. Or Gossip Girl or The O.C., etc. Karan Johar is just SO good at setting up melodramatic love triangles. Varun is the rich kid and Sidharth Molhotra the scholarship kid, and Alia Bhatt plays the rich girl that they both love. I had not seen any films with these three young new actors, and while all are good, Sidharth Molhotra’s performance is the standout. (Seems like all the Indian awards agreed, nominating him for best male debut.) Very Ben MacKenzie (a la O.C.) silently pining over the rich girl while trying to act all tough.

 

Also notable was a supporting role by Kayoze Irani who gets a big “Go to Hell Dean” speech near the end, who it turns out is Boman Irani’s son. Huh, fancy that, a child of a Bollywood star getting a role in a KJo film. 😉 Boman, Kajol and Farah Khan all have cameo appearances.

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Fairly predicable plot with the Bollywood emphasis more on the bromance of the two male leads than on the romance of Sidharth and Alia’s characters.  Karan Johar is masterful at taking you on that emotional journey, and I tip my hat to him.  Very entertaining and enjoyable.

I gave the film three and a half stars back then, out of five.

What’s fascinating to me is how I wasn’t that impressed with Varun and Alia, and they have gone on to mature so much more over the subsequent years in film.  Alia blew me away in Highway and in Udta Punjab.  Varun just was off the chain in Badlapur and fantastic in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Main Tera Hero.  We got a hint of Varun’s great dancing in SOTY, but he was so good in ABCD2, and worth watching even if the plot wasn’t.  Siddarth tried to do more dramatic work, in Brothers, and Kapoor and Sons, but he just doesn’t seem to have the chops of the other two.  But that’s okay – he’s carved out a niche as the strong silent type in romantic movies like Hasee Toh Phasee and the upcoming Baar Baar Dekho.

Thank you Karan, for giving us all three young new stars.  And for this.  Always for this:

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AND for SOTY’s fantastic soundtrack!  Can’t wait to see these three stars and the rest of the Dream Team this Friday perform live in Chicago!

Wake Up Sid – Slacker Ranbir Coming of Age

wake-up-sid-12hI liked Wake Up Sid more than I thought I would.  To be honest, the story is a bit too close to home, as my son has graduated college and is trying to find his way in the world.

Ranbir Kapoor is Sid.  He’s a rich Bombay kid who flunks his college finals.  Anupam Kher is his father (who else!) and tells him he has to go to work in the family plumbing fixture business.  When he walks out, Sid and his father have a huge fight and he is kicked out of his family home, his credit cards canceled.

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Sid can’t think of anywhere to go than to the apartment of his new friend Aisha ((Konkona Sen Sharma).  I think Aisha was supposed to be 27 and Ranbir much younger as he was supposed to be a college graduate (maybe 23?).  Anyway, it’s unusual to have the woman be older in any Bollywood relationship so brownie points for that.  Aisha is new to Bombay and starting a new job and an independent life.

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Sid learns all the real life skills that he has had no clue about in his sheltered life, like laundry, fixing up an apartment and cooking an egg.  Sid has a passion for photography and ends up getting a job at the magazine where Aisha works.

It sounds trite, but the script is actually pretty clever.  This is the debut feature film of director Ayan Mukerji who also wrote the story of the film.  He won the Filmfare best debut director deservedly.  Wake Up Sid was quite the success, and his second feature is the mega-hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.  His films both have characters and situations that while filmi, still feel grounded in reality, aa specific young urban reality.   (I’m a little leery that his next project is reported to be a superhero film, also starring his muse Ranbir Kapoor, Dragon.)

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The romance evolves organically.  They’re just friends at first and sleep on separate pallets in the same room.  Aisha tries not to fall in love, because Sid is at first such a mess and so purposeless.  But this is charming Ranbir after all, she has no chance.  Once he reconciles with his parents upon getting his first magazine job paycheck, he moves out, and that’s what makes both of them realize how their feelings have changed.

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Fortunately, the film doesn’t just focus on Sid and his travails.  Aisha gets her own storyline with an almost romance with her sophisticated jazz-loving boss.  It was nice, frankly, to see Konkona Sen Sharma get a juicy big part like this in a romantic film.

My feelings about this film are just tinged by the fact that I’m living this right now with my own son.  So it’s not exactly escapist fare for this mom.  Sid only took about a month to wake up.  Sometimes the process is longer.

Still, I think the director is fantastic, and I look forward to all his future projects, even if he makes Ranbir a superhero (gulp!)

Four stars out of five.