Friday, January 10, 2014

While This is Not My Last Post on Bollywood Talk, I Have Shifted Gears Towards Other Media

Where I live now, it is much harder to stay connected to the world of Bollywood.

While I did join Eros Now, there was just not enough Shah Rukh Khan on it for me.

Shah Rukh Khan led me on a exploration of Bollywood, India, and the world. Without him, I get lost.

I brought many of my Bollywood DVDs with me, so I can enjoy the "reruns."

I still follow Bollywood news and was sad to see that Hrithik Roshan and his wife Suzanne are having marital problems. I do wish them and their families the best.

Now, I am exploring movies on YouTube and other venues. Plus, I am a newly self-published author, so my focus has shifted.

But, the essence of most entertainment media is to tell a good story.

Here's a link to my eBook, Gina's Dream:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hair India -- a Documentary

I live in Mexico now and Bollywood movies are scarce. While I watch Erosnow, many of my favorites and some of the latest releases are not available.

When I saw Hair India, a documentary, listed on the calendar of LA68, a cafe in Merida that shows international documentaries, I was thrilled. I suspected Hair India would be a visual tour of India while the story was being told and I was right.

The modernization of an ancient tradition of shaving your head and donating your hair at a temple to repay the debt of god Vishu is at the heart of the documentary.

A family wants to bring their children to the Simachalam Temple to participate in the family’s religious tradition of donating their hair. In the past, the donated hair was burned; today, the hair is collected and processed by Indian and Italian vendors to create expensive hair extensions for those seeking the latest fashion trends in beauty.

Sangeeta, the executive editor with Hello magazine is preparing to attend several fashion events in Mumbai and wants to get hair extensions.

Temple authorities manage the hair contracts which can cost as much as $100,000USD. Hair extensions can cost as much as $4,000USD.

Indian and Italian vendors process the hair in factory-like settings.

The filmmakers juxtapose the life of those living in poverty with the modern life of Mumbai including upscale malls and a variety of fashion events. The documentary follows the route the donated hair at the temples takes as it passes through various hair factories where the hair is processed by hand and sorted into batches based on length, quality and color until it is shipped out as hair extensions to hair salons worldwide.

Hair India takes the viewers from Bengal to Bangalore to Rome where the hair extensions are created and distributed worldwide by “Great Lengths.” Many international movie stars use them. Hair extensions are so closely incorporated into the client’s natural hair it is hard to tell that extensions are being used.

Bollywood stars figure prominently in the documentary. The faces of well-known stars jump out from magazine covers, posters, wall art, TV screens, and more. Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Aamir Khan are just some of the faces glimpsed in magazine inventories, beauty shops, offices, fashion events, and more.

Hair India briefly discusses beauty trends such as the extensive use of “fairness” creams in India which highlights the preference for lighter skin tones. Sangeeta cites a survey where lighter-skinned models sold more magazine copies than dusky-skinned models. The mother in the family notes that an Indian woman’s hair is her crowning glory. Here in the Yucatan, ancient Mayans used methods to deform the shape of their heads and cross their eyes in the name of beauty. In addition, they pierced their genitalia.

The most surprising part of the documentary for me was the distance the family had to travel to make the gift of their hair. They traveled for two days; they walked and took various modes of transportation to reach the temple. They hoped their sacrifice would improve their family’s fortunes.

In essence, a multi-million dollar beauty business has evolved from a religious offering.

For a in-depth story about the production of Hair India, see the interview with Director Raffaele Brunetti on Aljazeera at:

Raffaele Brunetti, Director, Producer
Carmen Gonzales, Executive Producer
Marco Leopardi, Director, Cinematographer
Gianni Maitan, Cinematographer
Marco Pasquini, Cinematographer
Ilaria De Laurentilis, Editor
Released: 2008

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Sirf Tum

Jumping right to the story.

An educated young lady, Aarti (Priya Gill) is having trouble finding a job in Delhi. As she leaves Delhi on the train to return home, her purse is stolen. Obviously, she is devastated because the purse contained all of her necessary employment papers.

A young man, Deepak (Sanjay Kapoor), an orphan, finds her purse on the train where the thief has tossed it. He mails it to her.

They begin a correspondence and fall in love over a series of letters. All around them secondary characters do not understand how they could fall in love through letters without having met each other.

Jhankar Bachchan, the cinematographer deserves a good deal of credit for this lovely movie. The photography is slow and luxurious. It is like a travelogue featuring a swath of wide-ranging landscapes and fantastic locations...waterfalls, beautiful buildings, lakes, war memorials, mountains, and more, in Kerala, Nainital, Cochin and more. Plus, Sanjay Kapoor looks great in a tailored white shirt and black pants.

A first for me, an “I am in love” song where the two lovers dance and sing in two different locations and they have never met.

The couple have several setbacks in their attempts to meet.

When Deepak's employer sends him to resolve an issue with dock workers, they attack him. In a fight scene reminiscent of Kung Fu fights, Deepak fends off multiple attackers.

Deepak and Aarti continue to pine for each other. As Deepak wanders off in a song and dance, I got to see another first, an item number with trained elephants!!!

Deepak takes a transfer to Delhi. At the same time, Aarti has returned to Delhi for another job interview at the company where Deepak works.

Now, both Aarti and Deepak are in Delhi

A rickshaw driver, Pritam (Jackie Shroff) befriends Deepka. He is a better friend than most because he believes in Deepka’s love for Aarti.

Beedi Cigarettes
In one scene, Pritam and Deepka are talking and Pritam pulls out a pack of beedi cigarettes and the two smoke as they talk. The cigarettes intrigued me, so I looked them up (wikipedia) and got a history of the beedi cigarettes. Basically, beedi cigarettes were created by tobacco workers using leftover tobacco flakes rolled in leaves. Beedi cigarettes are more popular than regular cigarettes in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Plus, beedi cigarettes deliver more toxins than regular cigarettes.

As the movie cautions: cigarettes are injurious to your health.

At this point in the story, after meeting his new boss, Neha (Sushmita Sen), a high-powered female, the story evolves from a sort of You’ve Got Mail into a kinda of Disclosure, where Deepak’s new boss, Neha, takes a fancy to him and is aggressive about pursuing him. She openly says, “I am a very liberated woman.” She tries to entrap him, to seduce him, to charm him, to threaten him,  and finally to worship him. She is fascinated by his resolve to save himself for his love, Aarti. The idea of male virginity being prized is an interesting turnabout.

All around Deepka are people misbehaving but he remains strong.

Enter Prem (Salman Khan) (wasn’t Salman Prem in another movie?)  -- the brother-in-law has arranged a marriage for Aarti with Prem.

Aarti has turned down a job that would have taken her out of the country because she wants to meet Deepak.

While Aarti and Deepak actually met without knowing it, their exchange is not positive. But, they continue to meet again, again, and again....

As the pressure of events builds to separate the two lovers, Aarti tries to find Deepak as she travels about Delhi in a rickshaw to places where he might be and to other locations hoping someone can tell her where he is. The rickshaw driver tries to help her.

In essence, the movie is about how love can grow between two people who have never met and that love is sacred. The idea that love can be sacred is so often held up to ridicule and disbelief in a materialistic world.

This is what is at the heart of pornography -- they debase the female in an effort to kill that which is sacred.

While this movie has all the elements of a masala Bollywood movie, its tone is softer and sincere.

Director: Ahathian
Screenplay: Ahathian
Producer: Bonny Kapoor
Choreographer: Ganesh Acharya
Cast: Sanjay Kapoor, Priya Gill, Sushmita Sen, Mohnish Bahl, Jackie Schoff, Telj Sapru, Shagufta Ali, Salman Khan, Johnny Lever and more.
Date: 1999

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Passing of Roger Ebert, Movie Lover and Critic

Roger Ebert of Siskel and Ebert fame, passed away on Thursday, April 4, 2013.

Just two days before his death, Ebert had announced he was taking a "leave of presence" from his writing.

While I can only briefly speak of Ebert's impact on the art of moviemaking, personally, for me, Ebert elevated the art of movie reviewing. In some of his reviews he would weave classic literature into what may have seemed like a modern movie and make me appreciate it.

I remember waiting for the next Siskel and Ebert show because they were fearless in their joy and criticism of movies. Ultimately, a movie is a story and everyone loves a good story.

Only recently, I was lucky enough to have followed Ebert's Tweets on Twitter. His tribute to his friend and fellow critic, Gene Siskel was touching and powerful. Passion seemed to be Roger's middle name.

I appreciated the breadth of Ebert's movie reviews. Of course, anything Bollywood was important, too, and Ebert's scope of movie reviews always included international movies.

For example, in April 2012, he invited Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a Kahanni actor, to the Eberfest where Siddiqui's film, Patagis, would be shown.

A quote from the article:

"Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the actor who lately made a resounding impact as an intelligence officer in Kahaani, is going places.

One of America's most avidly read film critics Roger Ebert has personally invited Nawazuddin to attend the Eberfest, Roger Ebert's annual film festival in Illinois, Chicago. 

The unassuming actor can't believe he actually got a call from Roger Ebert. "It took me a while to realize the invitation came from THE Roger Ebert. My film Patangis the only Indian entry in Ebert's festival. In fact I think it's the only Indian film that has ever been shown at this festival. That he's aware of my work is a big compliment." "

RIP Roger Ebert

Monday, March 04, 2013


This is an Indian movie not a Bollywood movie. I say this because many Indian directors and producers want to create “western” style movies. Movies that have dynamic, economical dialogue; sharp, clean, fast-moving action scenes; and classic dramatic tension between protagonists and antagonists with few to no songs, no dances, no multi-plots, and no comedic characters. This is considered a remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Criminals have planted bombs on two London trains and a game of cat and mouse with the authorities begins as one of the trains blows up as proof of their threat.

As the Railway Superintendent played by Boman Irani works to control the situation, a retired detective returns to lead the police investigation to catch the criminals and defuse the bomb.

What you don’t know is the purpose for the crime. There appears to be an underlying reason for their actions. It can’t be just for the money.

The criminals are three Indians. As the chase ensues, you learn they are illegals. Each has a story about how their illegal status destroyed their lives and hopes for the future.

In addition, legal Indians play major roles in the pursuit of the criminals and the movie shows the stress in their lives as they fight for acceptance in their new country.

Scenes are shot on the streets, waterways, trains, hospitals, garages, alleyways, malls and sewers of London with a wide mix of Indian and British actors.

Zayed Khan, Sameera Reddy and Ajay Devgan play the criminals, Aadil, Megha, and Aakaash respectively and admirably. While I felt that all the actors were excellent, Zayed Khan’s acting crackled. When Khan was in a scene, his energy oozed across the screen.

One by one, the first two are caught after many fast and fancy chase scenes on motorcycles, skateboards, speed boats, police cars, and helicopters cinematographically shot Tony Scott-like.

While the British police are shown in full force, the fire power seemed excessive.

As the detective, Arjun, played by Anil Kapoor, closes in on the last criminal, Aakaash, and the train speeds along the rails, tempers flare, and prejudice and pride erupt. You learn that the criminals wanted the ransom money for a brother’s eye operation and to put their lives back together.

Ajay as Aakaash is a man who has lost his family because his request for citizenship was denied.

The contest of wills between Aakaash and Arjun is central to the story as both present sympathetic characters with matching intelligence and skills. Arjun’s professional experience gives him an edge. Yet, even as a legal citizen, he faces prejudice while doing his job trying to catch his fellow countrymen.

As Aakaash pleads for his life asking “Do you have any idea how many people and families have been ruined because they can not get citizenship? All I wanted was my wife, my child, my hopes, my future.

Director: Priyandarshan
Screenplay: Robin Bhatt
Producer: Sanchita Chatterjee
Cinematography: Riki Butland, S. Timu
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Zayed Khan, Sameera Reddy, Boman Irani, Kangana Ranaut, and more.
Release date: April 2012

Friday, February 15, 2013

1942: A Love Story

While this is my February/Valentine Movie, it is an innocent love story played out against the backdrop of India’s brutal struggle for independence.
The combination of Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Screenwriter Sanjay Leela Bhansali promises a story of depth and beauty.

India won its independence from Britain in 1947. This story reflects many of the struggles and abuses Indians faced during the turbulent years before independence.

The British with their Indian allies brutalized the Indian population. As the fight for independence grew, many were lynched, tortured, and killed. Ordinary citizens were forced to become protestors and freedom fighters.

Jai Hind!

I have watched this movie several times but I always have to close my eyes during the first few minutes because I can not watch Anil Kapoor be harmed.

Anil Kapoor plays Narendra Singh, the young son from a rich Indian family. Narendra or Naren as he is called is naive. While unrest grows, he remains neutral. He accompanies his father on a visit to Major Hisht, the Indian Army officer in charge of the troops in town to discuss the arrival of the British General Douglas. Mr. Singh wants the crowd of protestors dispersed.

As the soldiers begin to push back the crowd, a child breaks away to rescue a fallen Indian flag and soldiers began to beat him. Naren jumps from his car to protect the child. He covers the boy with his body. As the boy escapes, Naren glances up to catch a glimpse of a young girl in the window of a bus. He is smitten. She disappears, leaving behind one earring.

Here’s the best part: Naren awakens the next day throwing back the covers and rolls in his bed in red pajamas singing. He dances around his bedroom pondering that his love is like a poem, like a flower, like a dream. Yes, Anil Kapoor is dreamy as he dances with his pillow singing with joy. This is my favorite “I am in love” song and dance routine!

Manisha Koirala plays Rejeshwari Pathak, the young girl. She also joyfully greets the day as she goes about her tasks. The cinematography captures tremendous natural scenes of beauty.

With the gold earring in hand, Naren goes in search of the mysterious girl. He seeks the help of his chauffeur and finds the girl and her father are visiting with his chauffeur's aunt and uncle.
Naren seeks to charm the girl, so he goes to met her at the town library. Again, Anil Kapoor dances like a dream as he skips across the top of bookcases and rolls across the card index files as Rajeshwari tries to avoid him.

Being a book lover, I was in heaven. I had read that Anil Kapoor took dancing lessons in his early acting years. Those lessons paid off. Kapoor cuts a beautiful figure as he kicks up his heels and skips across the cabinets and down the library aisles teasing Rajeshwari or Rajjo as he calls her. Naren is willing to make a fool of himself to make Rajjo smile.
While Naren is wooing Rajjo, her father, Raghuvir Pathak, played by the universal actor, Anupam Kher, is meeting with fellow freedom fighters to develop a plan to kill General Douglas when he arrives in town.

Rajjo does not know about her father’s activities. He sends her to the local playhouse to help with the production of a play for the General to divert her from his activities.

Naren eagerly joins the group once he learns Rajjo is part of the production. But, Chanda, Major Hisht’s daughter is also interested in Naren.

The play is Romeo and Juliet. Naren as Romeo addresses his dialogue to Rajjo. Later that night, in her room, Rajjo realizes she has fallen in love with Naren. Then, Naren comes to visit her and like Romeo climbs to her balcony to express his undying love.

More love song and dances play out in sunny, soft, dreamy and panoramic landscape shots.

Manisha Koirla has a wonderful ability to look beautiful, mysterious, and joyful. Her “I am in love”  song and dance routine is shot against a gorgeous mountain backdrop. Her song is interrupted as soldiers march down the road.

Major Hisht has been trying to rout out the freedom fighters as he learns of a plot to kill General Douglas.

In another love song, Naren asks Rajjo to marry him. They sing and dance in the rain. I love the song and dance routines done in the rain. Rain is like an actor in Indian movies.  At times, I think the rain songs are like a prayer to the rain. While Naren pursues, Rajjo must remain demure. These are two photogenic actors, the camera loves them.

As the sun breaks through, the beautiful green forest scene is broken by an army patrol rides by. They are closing in the freedom fighters.

While Danny Denzongpa as Major Hisht, and Chandni as his daughter are secondary actors in this movie, every secondary actor plays a major part in this story.

Sadly, Naren’s father has soldiers follow Naren on his way to ask Rajjo’s father for permission to marry her. As the soldiers attempt to capture Mr. Pathak, Rajjo escapes with the gun. As she runs away, her father blows up the house and himself to avoid capture.

Enter the mysterious stranger. Jackie Shroff, who plays Mr. Pathak’s secret weapon in their fight against the British and in the plot to kill the General.

While the story has focused largely on the innocent love between Naren and Rajjo, you now see them quickly mature into sober, determined adults who choose to fight for their country.

Because of his love for Rajjo, Naren sides with the freedom fighters. Yet, they see him as the enemy.

The freedom fighters plans are thwarted time and again as the General’s arrival approaches. Naren unwitting hinders their original plan, then injects himself into the plot to protect Rajjo.

Naren is captured as the General arrives. The merciless General wants to make an example of him and orders Naren to be hung in front of the crowd of protesters from the top of the government building.

As the climax unfolds, the secondary characters from the street cleaner to the bus driver and more play a part in defeating the General’s plans.

Jai Hind!

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra and H.L. Saluja
Screenplay: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Shivkumar Subramaniam
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Manisha Koriala, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, Jackie Shroff and more.
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan
Release Date: 1994

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Watch the 1987 Hindi Superman on I09

Found this link in a tweet. See link below.

You can watch the whole movie for free. As the article notes, it's a really bad remake of Superman: The Movie. The reuse of the original Superman movie's special effects is obvious.

Because I am such a Bollywood fan, I watched this movie. It was a trip back in time to the fashions, dances and music of the late 1980s, both everyday and traditional.

The paper is: ?
The city is: Mumbai (I think)
Lois is: Gita, a childhood sweetheart of Superman
Jimmy is: Towffle
Villan is: underworld don, Verma
Superman played by Puneet Issar is: Shekkar

Michael Jackson's Beat It plays as superboy dances and spins in Michael-Jackson fashion.

Bachau -- help!!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Shirin Farhad ki toh nikal padi

Ok, ok, I loved this movie because I am of a certain age. I just loved the idea of a love story for a "mature" audience. I am aware that the movie was not a "financial" success.

That said, it was also a pleasure to see Farah Khan, the famous choreographer, onscreen. Plus, I love Boman Irani. Every time I see him on screen in a new role, he blows my mind with how he inhabits his characters. Plus, he's a sweetie.

Shirin Farhad ki toh nikal padi is a love story about two unmarried, middle-aged Parsis who never found their true love. Farhad (Boman Irani) is a women's underwear salesman much to the chagrin of his family and friends, but he is a good salesman and he loves his job. While he can sell women's undergarments, he is unable to sell himself to women. He is gentle and shy and he lives with his mother and grandmother.

Shirin is the Secretary of the Parsi Trust which like a homeowners association has rules on what can and can not be done in Parsi buildings and apartments. An illegal water tank brings the two together but also separates them.

Shirin and Farhad first meet when Shirin goes to Tem Tem, the women's undergarment shop where Farhad works, to buy a gift. A humorous exchange sparks an interest in both. But, no contact information is exchanged.

They meet again later at a Parsi matrimonial social. You see, the ethnic Parsi community is shrinking due to a low marriage and birth rate, so they are doing everything they can to unite suitable Parsi singles. Farhad attends and at his turn to introduce himself states his situation in plain terms. Eyes roll and he is crossed off everyone's list. But, Shirin is there, too, and later they share a few congenial moments.

Enter the illegal water tank and mama. This movie has many delightful characters to illustrate the joys and frustrations of community and family life. Farhad's mother, Nargis, wants Farhad to meet a girl and marry. She lovingly but excessively meddles in everyone's life. When she receives a letter from the Parsi Trust about the removal of their illegal water tank, histrionics are on full display. Farhad is sent to tell the Trust Secretary a thing or two. Instead, he meets Shirin who is the Secretary and they go out for coffee and more dates follow.

Now, both Shirin and Farhad know they have found someone special. In comes the "I am in love" song and dance scenes which are delightful and funny. I must say for me the most joyous "I am in love" song and dance scene is Anil Kapoor in 1942. Who could forget him in his red pajamas as he awakes and rolls on the bed and dances around the room quoting poetry! Well, Boman Irani almost beat out Anil Kapoor with his enthusiastic, charming "I am in love" song and dance. He rolls on the floor. He jumps and sings as if he were playing a guitar like a rock star. He rolls on his bed and dances around his room enough to shake the house.

Then there's Farah Khan's "I am in love" song and dance scene. Farah has a great sense of humor. In her song and dance scene you see bits of dances she choreograhed for other movies. When she dances in the rain like Kajol in DDLJ and then closes the number with a sneeze, it's funny.

Enter disaster. Farhad brings Shirin home for dinner. Soon, Shirin is regaling the family with a story from her work about a woman who kept harassing her office about the removal of an illegal water tank. Shirin is not at a loss for derogatory words to describe this woman. As you can imagine, mama is not happy. She is so shocked, she looks like she is choking. Shirin then adds injury to insult by pounding on mama's back to try and help her. Unable to stop Shirin, Farhad watches in shock as he sees his dreams fall apart. Later, mama says to Farhad, it's either her or me. So, Farhad must hide the fact he continues to see Shirin.

After another date, Shirin invites Farhad home for coffee. Hmmm, Farhad has no idea what to expect, so with the encouragement of a co-worker, he believes this is his moment to be a man. The results of this misunderstanding will surprise you.

Later, you learn Shirin is caring for her father who is in a coma. I did wonder about this actor who had to lay still during several scenes.

As these two continue to date, there are more romantic song and dance routines that parody famous scenes from movies where Farah Khan was the choreographer. DDLJ and KKHH are a few of the movies referenced as Shirin and Farhad do their own take on the song and dance numbers.

Of course these dreams are disrupted by family dramas, surprises, and conflicts as familial relationships strain Shirin and Farhad's growing romance often testing their loyalties.

The ending is sentimental and sweet with more wedding song and dance numbers.

I love writing Bollywood reviews because of the research I need to do, not just about Bollywood and Indian movies, but often about topics that arise in the story or from the cast and crew.

In this movie, I found the main setting, a Parsi community, interesting. In short, Parsi history dates back thousands of years. Parsis follow the Zoroastrian (or Zarathushra) religion and originally lived in the Parsa province, in ancient Iran. They fled the country after it was taken over by Arabs. Parsis resettled in many countries but over time most lost their cultural identity, but a group of Parsis in India have managed to retain their community and cultural identity even though their population is shrinking.

Here's a link to an NPR article about the Indian Parsi community

Another topic to research at another time is how does an older movie, Shirin and Farhad, relate to this one?

Also, I found Farah Khan's comments that she would never act again because being onscreen was time-consuming and hard work, harder than being a choreographer, amusing.

Director: Bela Segal
Producers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Sunil Lulia
Writers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vibhu Puri
Cinematography: Mahesh Aney
Cast: Farah Khan, Boman Irani, Kavin Dave, Kurush Deboo, Daisy Irani, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwai, Shammi and more.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quick Take

English Vinglish

I did not see Spanglish, so I have no idea if these stories are similar.

A trip to New York brings changes to a family with a clash between traditional and modern cultures.

This is a visually delightful movie with delicate musical touches. It is the story of a Hindu housewife, Shashi, who loves to cook and has started a small catering business at home making ladoos for friends and neighbors for their parties. Shashi’s world is her family.

Yet, her husband has begun to feel he has outgrown her as his business puts him in contact with international clients where he has learned English and other modern cultural aspects. Their children learn English in school and also belittle their mother for her lack of knowledge and limited English.

A niece in New York is getting married. The family decides that Shashi will go ahead to help with the preparations and they will join her later. Shashi struggles with her self-confidence. When she arrives in New York, she decides to take an English class.

The body of the movie is about Shashi taking English classes. The teacher, David, is a unique character. Her classmates are charming. Yet, one classmate challenges Shashi’s self-image.

Here’s the rub for me. Shashi hides the fact she is taking classes from her American relatives even after one of her nieces finds out and helps her hide her activities. Why?

When her family arrives, they treat her as poorly as they did at home. Shashi also hides the fact she understands English.

The climax occurs during her niece’s wedding when Shashi gives a speech to the bride and groom. She tells the couple, in English, about how relationships change over time and how each partner must seek to improve themself in order to maintain balance in the relationship.

She also claims that it is in the family where you get love and respect. Based on the story, I found her sentiments hollow. While Shashi never stopped loving her family, you wondered if they had stopped loving her.

I did not feel the climax had the emotional impact that would have wrought a change in the hearts of her husband and children. In fact, in many Bollywood movies, the emotional struggles would have been more drawn out.

The climax was too subtle. From my perspective, Shashi’s husband and children should have grown to admire and respect her more for her obvious qualities showcased against the New York City backdrop. Yet, I appreciate the attempt to capture the underlying universal tensions between a husband and wife, and a mother and her children.

As Shashi, Sridevi is beautiful and sophisticated almost Tabu-like. I love Sridevi as an actress. This movie role is a far cry from many of Sridevi’s earlier movie roles where she is zany and comedic like in Mr. India.

Cast: Sridevi, Adil Hussain, Mehdi Nebbou, Priya Anand, Cory Hibbs, Rajeev Ravindranathan, Maria Romano, Sumeet Vyas, Ruth Aguilar, Ross Nathan, Damian Thompson and more.

Director/Screenwriter: Gauri Shinde; Producers: Anita Anand, R. Balki, Ilana Rossein; Cinematographer: Laxman Utekar.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Om Shanti Om

I am back watching Bollywood on ErosNow!!

I am currently on the east coast in the states, on a visit, during “Frankenstorm”, watching Bollywood movies.

We shall see how ErosNow works in Mexico when I return.

I am so hooked on Bollywood, I can barely watch Western movies. I love the multiple storylines, the contrasting emotions, the over-the-top humor, the costumes, the song-and-dance numbers, the guest spots, and the evolving technical advances.

Om Shanti Om 

What the fish! Pagal! 
Run to the nearest DVD vendor and watch this movie. 

I like this movie. I have watched it three four five times. I will not deny that I run to Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan’s movies for escape. It is like an addiction because I forget everything but what is happening on the screen yet reality is not far away.

For this review, I will highlight my favorite parts.

The opening credits include a generous thanks to many of Bollywood’s well-known stars, directors, producers and artisans then leads into a reworking of the Kishore Kumar version of the song Om Shanti Om where Kumar sings while dancing on a revolving 45-record. The scene evolves into the current movie location and characters.

Set in the 70s, in the guise of a comedic Bollywood movie-making love fest, the underlying story in Om Shanti Om is about the tragedy of wife-burning.

Shah Rukh Khan’s character, Om Prakash Makhija (and Om Kapoor); Shrevas Talpade who plays his brother, Pappu Master; and Kirron Kher who plays their mother, Bela, are junior artistes on a massive film production featuring Dreamy Girl, Shantipriva (and Sandy) played by Deepika Padukone.

Om wants to be a hero. The canteen scene where Om and his brother discuss Om’s name change is a kick. While they dwell on fame with a last name of Kapoor, a junior artiste walks by. They ask his name, laugh and tell him he needs to change it. He suggests shortening it to Govinda and walks away. Even the canteen scene highlights an historical movie fact when Om obliquely alludes to how SRK’s father once ran a canteen to serve the cast and crew on movie sets and how some big stars still owe him money even after he quit that business.

Om loves Shanti from afar. There are several scenes where Om talks to his love, Shanti, by addressing her picture on a huge billboard surrounded by other billboards featuring well-known movies like Sholay, director Farah Khan’s favorite.

It is a riot to see song-and-dance numbers from various movies from Mughal-E-Azam to a Maduri Dixit number reworked into the premiere. So many famous Bollywood stars are referenced or portrayed by others, it’s hard to keep track. In fact, one actor who was represented in the film took insult to his impersonation.

A key scene where Shanti and Om interact is a re-creation of the famous fire scene in Mother India. In Om Shanti Om, prior to any imminent danger, it’s all slapstick and fun.

Om Santi Om features a plethora of funny scenes where you see behind-the-scenes tricks in fight sequences and more. Hilarious costumes abound. Shah Rukh Khan enjoys being silly and he makes the most of it in this movie.

It is fun to see many production crew members on screen as directors and more. Also, it is interesting to see the use of special effects where past scenes are incorporated into scenes later in the movie like where Shanti makes a plea to her husband and Om observes from a distant window.

The turning point in the movie is where Mukesh Mehra (Arun Rampal) shows off a beautiful movie set to Shanti describing it as the place where they will be married before he burns the set with Shanti trapped inside. Om tries to save her but he is killed as well.

The fire scenes are impressive. I have no idea how they did it without endangering the actors. I realize the actors may not have been in danger but I still worried.

Rajesh Kapoor (Javed Sheikh) and his wife play a pivotal role in the plot turn. Thirty years after the set of Om Shanti Om burned down, they are celebrating their son’s, Om Kapoor, 30th birthday and Om begins to remember a past life. As he explores his dreams, fears, and visions, they lead him to the burnt movie set of Om Shanti Om and Shanti’s story.

The humor is still there in the scene setups with Om Kapoor as the star. I admire SRK’s self-deprecating humor, like when he mimics his signature wave of his hand through his hair. Making fun of himself keeps SRK grounded and reminds me, too, that family, friends, and faith are what are important in life not fame or adoration.

Rapidly changing scenes on the film’s various movie sets reference more famous Bollywood movies with comic gags, set pieces, and guest shots like the farcical over-the-top take-off on the Filmfare awards ceremonies featuring multiple guest shots with Abhisheck Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Rishi Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Rakesh Roshan, Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar, Diya Mirza, and more.

As Om takes the Filmfare award, he experiences the vision of a drunk Om Prakash Makhija in an alleyway and gives Makhija’s wistful award speech, “If you want something with all your heart, the entire universe will conspire to help you get it….I feel like the king of the world…to happy endings! Finally … if it is not happy then it’s not the end, the film is not over yet.”

The song Om Shanti Om is featured in various renditions. In the vigorous birthday song and dance rendition, it is peppered with copious Bollywood big names. It is a joy to see Kajol, Rani, Juhi, Preity and others. It is another way the movie pays tribute to those who make wonderful movies. Plus, I love men who dance like Sanjay Dutt, Zayed Khan, and more!! 

Om Kapoor is played as a self-centered Bollywood star whose visions convert him into a serious man with a mission.

The second half of the movie is more dramatic as Om Kapoor sets the stage to reveal Mehra’s crime.

Deepika Padukone plays Shanti as a graceful, delicate, vulnerable star and her reprisal in the role of Sandy is funny as Sandy is beautiful, naïve, and clumsy.

Kirron Kher’s wide range of acting abilities are seen in her role as Om Makhija’s over-dramatic mother. Then, they are demonstrated again, as his aged mother as she chases Om Kapoor’s car begging him to come home and later in her role as a demented seer.

Shrevas Talpade as Pappu Master is delightful, light-hearted and an easy foil for Om.

Udit Narayan is a playback singer whose voice I love, I could pick his voice out in the first notes of the Deewangi Deewangi and Om Shanti Om songs.

The remainder of the movie is the tale of how Om Kapoor deceives Mukesh into completing his abandoned film, Om Shanti Om, featuring more behind-the-scenes movie-making processes.

In an early scene where Om is trying to convince Mukesh to finish the film, Om Shanti Om, I feel Om makes a profound statement, “If you search hard enough you can find god.”

Om leads Mukesh back to the burnt movie set where mysterious things happen leading to revealing moments from his past.

Again, Director Farah Khan makes the closing credits fun to watch. Now, Gauri Khan, one of the movie’s producers and SRK’s wife, has been captured in pixels walking the red carpet. She is beautiful and slim. All I can think of was ‘I need to exercise—a lot!’

As Om said in his Filmfare award acceptance speech: “To happy endings, if not, it’s not the end, my friends, the film is not over yet.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Julia/Julie --Quick Take

I have been devouring DVDs while I study, letting them run in the background. Occasionally, a movie will catch my eye or ear and I will watch it.

I had watched Julia/Julie before. It is a lovely movie. A great biographical story about Julia and Paul Child and their life in France where Julia falls in love with French Cooking. This love led to her collaboration with two other French cooks in the development and publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia Child's name was been widely known for over 40 years, yet I had never read her cookbook since I am not a cook. So, I loved Julie Powell's project to cook 365 of the recipes in Child's cookbook. I have watched the movie many times with and without the Director's commentary.

I am intimidated by Beef Bourguignon but I was intrigued by poached eggs, so I tried it and succeeded! It is a nicely cooked soft boiled egg or maybe-over easy. The only problem is that it is not as easy to eat as it appeared in Julia/Julie. I made a mess of it.

Tony Scott

Two of my favorite movies are Deja Vu and Spy Game. Both movies were directed by Tony Scott. As a nuevo film student, I study his films to understand how movies are made.

On Sunday, August 19, 2012, Tony Scott took his own life. He jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.

What bothers me most about his death is that from the reports I have read, he did not appear to have any   issues, health, financial or otherwise that would have driven him to this act of despair.

I like answers. I want to know why he choose to take his own life. Having a wife and children did not give him succor to overcome whatever was bothering him.

When I went grocery shopping this Monday, I was overcome by a desire for chocolate and wine. I did not understand why.

When I came home, I had a few glasses of wine and a few bites of chocolate. While both were good, they did not satisfy me.

Later, I realized that it was Tony Scott's death that was bothering me.

The last review I wrote was negative and it was a movie produced by Scott Free, Ridley and Tony Scott's production company.

I will forever regret that review and will never write another negative review. Some people do take negative reviews and criticisms to heart. Some have killed themselves because of them.

While I doubt Tony Scott ever read my review, I still feel bad.

Our birth into this world is often joyful, our death is not.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Ok, I am going to western movies here in Mexico. No Bollywood here. Not much Bollywood on Netflix. I could sign up for ErosNow and maybe I will.

Sadly, this will be a critical review. My level of disappointment is probably in proportion to my respect for the director, Ridley Scott.

Promethus was a major disappointment. I like Ridley Scott a lot. I have seen many of his movies like Bladerunner, Aliens, and Thelma and Louise. Maybe it is because of my age, I saw Aliens years ago and it was scary. This is Aliens 2.0 and it is not scary or even a good movie. Maybe the 30 and younger crowd will like it in 3D.

Here's the basic storyline. It is about the year 2089, a rich old man decides to pursue an archaeological theory that aliens seeded humans on earth. Somehow this theory warped into these aliens must be "gods." Anyway, he thinks if he finds the planet most likely inhabited by these aliens, he will find the fountain of youth or the wisdom of god.

You have a ten person crew, with a robot, David, who awaken when the ship reaches its destination.

The movie revolves around archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and her partner Charlie. Charlie is unprofessional and childlike. Meredith, the leader of the expedition is clueless. Several engineers think they are going to get rich quick and go off on their own. A lone security guy pops up now and then. Janek, the ship's captain and his two co-pilots, Chance and Ravel, reminded me of Hans Solo and his motley crew.

Anyway, a group goes down to the planet to explore the only visible artifact, a Mayan-like tomb. They have no safety checks other than 'don't remove your helmet.' They enter the foreboding maze of tunnels. They see hieroglyphics and David, the robot, can read them. To cut to the chase, they unknowingly release a live organism and bring it back to the ship where they use no decontamination procedures.

David, who went exploring on his own, found an alien in stasis and awakens him. The old geezer gets his chance to meet "god." But, it doesn't turn out like anyone thought. The rest of the story is about how the organism develops and threatens the crew.

I can't even begin to explain how off-putting it was to see such an elaborate set that represented sophisticated technology run by lugheads, incompetents, and greedy, ignorant idiots. Tell me how the human race was able to develop such technology and still send idiots into space. It boggles the mind.

One scene was an anomaly, the ship's captain, Janek, and his co-pilots crash their spaceship into the alien ship to save humanity. This is the first and only "noble" act in the movie.

Anyway, after various scenes of blood and guts and alien organisms, the crew is decimated all except for Elizabeth Shaw and David. In the end, they commander an extra alien spaceship that is conveniently available, and go out exploring looking for "god."

To my mind, the scriptwriter broke, at least, two rules of storytelling, one -- your audience must care about what happens to some if not all the characters. Two -- believability -- do you really think that a gazillionaire would build a sophisticated a space ship and staff it with lugheads? Or is this how private enterprise wastes money and resources? No character exhibits professionalism, teamwork, or even intellect. Each character has such individual agendas, it's a wonder they made it as far as they did. Even the robot, David, seemed off. I finally found a word for him, immature. So, right from the get go, you know the end of the movie.

My companion, who I would consider an average moviegoer, felt the same as I did, where's the tension? The only concern we had was the popcorn had too much salt.

Plus, my companion kept whispering, "Oh, it's so dull, there is no color, where is the color?"

Do you really think that if aliens propagated humans on earth that they would be such brutish, inelegant lugheads?

Oh, and the mission to find "god" was laughable. When the old geezer who started all of this, who wanted immortality, stood and faced the alien, the alien just smacked him. How's that for a godlike answer? It cracked me up.

The science in this movie is so inaccurate even I recognized it. Plus, I loved the way Elizabeth Shaw was able to program so many computer systems she had never seen before, like the surgery cubicle, in just a few keystrokes. I found it humorous. Also, the religious references were offensive.

Hard to comment on the acting, since, for me, I found none of the characters interesting or sympathetic. Actually, I did like Janek, the ship's captain. Idris Elba played the part well with warmth, humor, and humanity. But, it was such a small part, his character did not affect the overall boorish tone of the movie.

Ultimately, the problem with this movie is Scott took too many ideas from the original Aliens and used them in this movie. In Aliens, the ship was a cargo ship and the crew was a bunch of odd characters. But, even they exhibited more professionalism and teamwork than did the scientists in Promethus. In Promethus, the ship was on an exploratory mission with scientists on board yet, Scott treated it like a cargo ship full of misfits. Scott tried to alter how the alien organism functioned but is was still the same body invasive concept as in Aliens, nothing new. Surely, in the world of science fiction there are other stories of aliens or invasive organisms that could have been used. This is like a remake of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The one good thing I can say about this movie is, it is the first "horror" film where I laughed. I wasn't scared for a second.

Now, I don't like doing negative reviews because they exhibit simplistic analysis and even jealousy or envy, maybe. While I am not jealous or envious of Mr. Scott, I do wish Hollywood would spend that kind of money on my screenplay. Gosh, I don't even need 100+ million, 50 million would do just fine. Hey, Hollywood, call me, I have great science fiction story about a human who falls in love with an alien. She is telepathic and more. But, I don't want to give it all away, contact me.

Bollywood is not immune to this "blindness" which is what I call the process that produces an expensive bad movie. Somebody somewhere did not listen to their instincts but may have been swayed by other reasons to produce this movie.