Dil Aashna Hai – Lace remake only for the biggest SRK fans

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Dil Aashna Hai (The Heart Knows the Truth) is my 50th Shahrukh Khan film.  This film is Camp with a capital “C”.  Dil Aashna Hai came out in 1992, and is one of SRK’s earliest films.  The DVD is hard to track down, and Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood let me borrow it.  I’m on a quest to watch every one of Shahrukh Khan’s films, from the sublime to the not-so-great.  Fully a quarter of all the Hindi films I’ve seen have been Shahrukh Khan movies.

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Dil Aashna Hai is a Hindi adaptation of Shirley Conran’s 1982 novel Lace, which was also a huge TV mini-series in 1984.   “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” TV Guide listed as one of the best lines in TV history.  I don’t remember much about the Phoebe Cates starring mini-series, but Lace the book was one of the first romance novels I ever read.  It was scandalous and racy, a book passed around from high school girl to high school girl, sex scenes marked and dog-eared.

The book was reissued on its 30th anniversary in 2012, and Sarah Hughes wrote in The Guardian that the book wasn’t just a bonkfest, it had a strong feminist message.   The flashbacks in the book as Lily tries to find which of three women is her real mother show the three women each pursuing their own career paths:

Along the way Conran tackles everything from teenage abortion and the iniquities of the porn industry to double standards around one-night stands. We remember the vividly described sex scenes, but in reality the book is filled with pages of argument about a woman’s right to work, the need for equal pay and the juggling of children and career.

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Major details of the original plot have been changed for the Bollywood remake, but at its core it’s still the tale of four women, and that alone is something to be celebrated.  That’s I’m sure what attracted director Hema Malini to the story.  Shahrukh Khan, no matter the size of his picture on the poster, is not the star of this film.  He’s a helpmate and support to Laila (Divya Bharti), a courtesan singer he falls in love with, who works at his father’s hotel.

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Kabir Bedi plays SRK’s evil father, who is not thrilled that SRK wants to marry a girl who grew up in a brothel!  (Side note, Kabir was pretty hot back in the day!)

When the woman Laila has known as her mother on her death bed confesses that she was not her biological mother, Laila and Shahrukh go on a quest to find her true mother.  In the book, Lily is a famous film star, and has the money and power to go on her revenge quest on her own.  Here, Shahrukh proves his love for Laila by finding the orphanage she was stolen from by the brothel pimp.

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Through flashbacks we see three young college girls played by Dimple Kapadia, Amrita Singh  and Sonu Walia fall in love and one of them becomes pregnant.  That is the same as Lace, but the blackmail of the headmaster of the college is cut from the Hindi movie.   The great thing about this movie is seeing these three actresses act together as young girls, and then mature women.   They rent a house together and enjoy all being mothers together of the young baby, but plan that the first to marry will adopt the little girl.

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The movie just doesn’t have the same bite as the original, and it’s all saccharin sweet.  The romance between Laila and Shahrukh only gets one nice love song, but not so much screen time.  While it’s great that for once the women are center stage in a Bollywood film, if you’re looking for a great SRK romantic film, this is not the movie for you.  He’s adorable, and great playing the supportive boyfriend, but there’s not much here for him.

 

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Divya Bharti overacts her way through the melodrama, brandishing the locket left with her at the orphanage in her confrontation with the three women.  It’s  all very campy, but not “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” deliciously campy.  It’s been watered down.

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Now I can say I saw one of SRK’s earliest films, but it’s certainly not going down as one of my favorites.  Margaret loves it, but I’m not as fond.  She discusses and compares it to the original mini-series in her review.

Two stars out of five.  Only for the biggest SRK fans who need to see every one of his films.

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.