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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stuck in the Commercial Zone

Strange week really. I have not watched any real cinema but have simply numbed the mind with a few Bollywood movies. Amazingly, I didn't dislike all the flicks as much as I had anticipated and even managed to find some positives in all the features.

Namastey London (2007, Director Vipul Amrutlal Shah): Rating 6/10

The highlight of the film has to be gorgeous cinematography of the Indian locales & the scenes involving the search for an Indian husband -- Mr. Singh (Rishi Kapoor) tries to find a suitable Indian husband for her Brit-Indian daughter, Jasmeet or Jazz (Katrina Kaif). So in that quest, they go from city to city meeting the most eccentric Indian males. But the strange character found in Delhi has to be the best -- since the boy watches Indian soap operas, he repeats everything three times just like they do in any Indian soap. Funniest moment of the film!

The movie does contain moments of true pleasure but overall the story is still recycled material of Indian vs second generation Western cultural identity issues -- the story's origin can be traced to a variety of older Bollywood films such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and Pardes (1997). Frustratingly, the aspect of good Indian values is repeated over and over in Namastey London just like in other jingoistic Bollywood films of the past decade. On a positive side, Katrina is a breath of fresh air throughout the film. Also, the opening credits contain some tender shots of a London and some of its multi-cultural inhabitants.

Just Married (2007, Director Meghna Gulzar): Rating 6/10

The movie tackles the complicated issues of marriage & relationships. After their hastily arranged marriage, Abhay (Fardeen Khan) & Ritika (Esha Deol) head off to Ooty for their honeymoon. Still strangers to each other, Abhay and Ritika encounter other couples in different stages of their relationship. No matter how happy or unhappy the various couples are, they each offer a glimpse into the various relationships that exist (unmarried lovers, childhood friends, love marriage, etc). Overall, a mature handling of some issues regarding marriages, but the inclusion of too many needless songs and a contrived ending ruins the movie's flow.

Salaam-E-Ishq(2007, Director Nikhil Advani): Rating 5.5/10

Six love stories! 3 hour 26 min running time! I miss the good old days when Bollywood tackled only one love story or a love triangle. Even though Aditya Chopra released his torturous 4 love story Mohabbatein in 2000, the concept of multiple love stories didn't catch on in Bollywood. Until now that is. In the last few months, a handful of films have tackled multiple marriages or love stories. The sad truth is that Bollywood directors can't handle one love story, so 6 relationships is too much for them.

Each of the love stories in Salaam-E-Ishq have their interesting moments but the problem is that the movie is too long to be engaging. Some scenes display a mature understanding of relationships (the scene where Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor's characters discuss spousal infidelity) but the rest of the movie is dripping with emotional melodrama. The music & songs are very good but most of the videos are poorly choreographed and in some cases, the wrong song is chosen for the occasion (the bachelor party at the start of the movie called for a more upbeat number rather than a cheap imitation of Kajra re). The movie borrows scenes & techniques freely from various Bollywood, Hollywood and Asian films. And in the case of Akshay Khanna, his character has shades of his Dil Chahta Hai character (especially in some of the dialogue delivery).

Nishabd (2007, Director Ram Gopal Varma): Rating 7/10

Vijay (Amitabh) is a 60 year old man who falls for his daughter's 18 year friend, Jiah (Jiah Khan). The aspect of an older man falling for a young girl brings Lolita to mind but the film has nothing to do with that. The acting is good and the visuals are well framed and beautifully shot. The background score is perfectly tuned to capture all the tense emotions that are taking place. But the film still feels like a compromise. Vijay is shown totally intoxicated with Jiah and is clearly under her spell. Yet, at different points, he offers explanations for his feelings, as if to justify himself to the audience. But when it comes to gangster films, Ram Gopal Varma does not ever water down his characters or show any remorse. Still not as bad as I had expected but not as bold as some people are calling the film.

2 comments:

The Great Swifty said...

Ah, Salaam-E-Ishq. I had the pleasure of catching it during my trip in India on February. I was initially horrified when I realized there weren't any subtitles, but was able to SORTA understand everything that was going on, and enjoyed the musical segments.

John Abraham's tale was much too angsty, to the point where it was kinda funny (was it intentional? hmmm). I do like the ones with the middle-aged husband, taxi driver and the commitment-phobia playboy (as in, I got to enjoy their segments despite not knowing what they were really saying)

Sachin G. said...

Well you are very brave for sitting through a 3.5 hour film without subtitles :) But you have to watch a Bollywood film in an Indian theatre. Depending on the city and theatre, the audience adds an extra flavour to the experience. I don't believe even theatres in the major cities (Delhi, Mumbai) have subtitled Bolly films. But since Bollywood movies have a lot of English words here and there, one can sort of make things out.

John's tale was supposed to show the tragic angle of love, where one endures despite the obvious misery. Yet, it tried to lighten the atmosphere a bit in the end so it ended up being funny. And I am sure that was the intention. This film strove to make everything happy.

The middle-aged husband was played by Anil Kapoor, a very good actor. He had one of the best dialogues in the film where the actress kamini(Priyanka Chopra) asks him the last name of the girl that he has feelings for. When he could not answer her last name, Kamini mentions the hollowness of his feelings. This was the scene in the middle of the night in a bar where the two of them sat by the window.

The taxi driver is played by Govinda, a very versatile colorful actor. He is more known for brain dead comedic roles but he has been absent from the films for a while. It was refreshing to see him after a long absence.

Akshaye Khanna plays the can't commit guy. I am sure you could gather some of his plots to get his fiancee (the lovely Ayesha Takia) to break up with him. He video tapes himself where he tells her that she should run away from a crazy guy like him and she eventually comes across that segment during the finale of a song (the title song I believe).