Archive for the ‘Bollywood’ Category

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Silsila

July 27, 2010

Posted by Kanga.

Bollywood Review #4

Silsila, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Rekha, and Shashi Kapoor, 1981.

This begins as the story of two brothers who have grown up as the best of friends. Shekhar (Shashi) is a fighter pilot. Amit (Amitabh) is a playwright and poet. Shekhar is engaged to Shobha (Jaya) and Amit is just falling in love with Chandni (Rekha). These brothers have done everything together (even a shower scene with a “pick up the soap” joke) and when Amit calls to tell Shekhar of his love for Chandni, they agree that they must have a joint wedding. Unfortunately, Shekhar puts down the phone and heads for his fighter plane, never to return. He is shot down and killed in action, leaving both Amit and Shobha grieving. Amit discovers that Shobha is pregnant with his beloved brother’s child and will be shamed when this becomes public. He does a gallant thing and marries her instead of Chandni. He writes Chandni a “dear jane” letter, although not explaining why he is deserting her.

Tragedy and difficult to believe coincidence changes the direction of this tale. Amit & Shobha are in a car accident, she miscarries AND her doctor is none other than Dr. Anand, the new husband of Chandni whom she married after being dumped by Amit. Chandni’s husband is devoted to her, but knows that this devotion is not returned by her. He even complains that she doesn’t fight with him.

Due to this coincidental crossing of their paths Chandni & Amit are “reunited” and Amit can’t let it go. He continues to meet with Chandni in clandestine trysts always having to duck people who recognize them. Their spouses aren’t stupid and soon catch on to what is happening, but try their best to preserve their marriages.

Amit decides to take the plunge and break up their marriages and go away with Chandni. This does not work out as well as he thought it would as they begin to have second thoughts due to society’s dim view of their infidelity. Then tragedy strikes, yet again. Chandi’s husband is in a plane crash. They rush to the site to find out what has happened to him. Shobha is there, too, and attempts to stop Amit from running into the fire to find Dr. Anand by admitting that she is once again pregnant. What will she do if she loses him. Amit rescues Dr. Anand and returns to Shobha declaring his devotion to her. The movie ends with the declaration that “Love is faith and faith is forever.”

I have to say this is the first movie where I haven’t liked Amitabh’s character. He does a very honorable thing and then completely negates it by being a selfish jackass. Once he’s caught by Shobha and others, he gets all whiny and carries on about how this is not his fault. It is one thing to make bad choices and do stupid things and a whole ‘nother level of bad to refuse to take responsibility for those choices and actions. When Chandni says she can’t continue being torn between her husband and lover, Amit says “I’m sick and tired of your fears and your apprehensions!” Wow, how much more selfish can he get? He has a really heinous speech when he breaks up with Shobha where he tells her that for him their relationship is bondage, to which she replies that she has fallen in love with him. Ouch! Shobha is the definition of longsuffering.

Amitabh’s acting is impecable which is probably why I dislike Amit so much. Shobha should have slapped him upside the head.

More info at the Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083081/

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Paheli

July 9, 2010

Bollywood Movie Review #3

Paheli, starring Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee (and a cameo by Amitabh Bachchan), 2005.

Paheli (which means Puzzle) is based on a Rajasthani folktale. I don’t know the folktale, so will not be able to address how the movie is faithful or divergent from it. This is a  visually stunning movie with wonderful settings and costumes – beautiful saris and amazing turbans.

We begin with Lachchi, a young girl from a fairly wealthy family who is preparing for her marriage to a promising young man, Kishan. The groom and his family arrive to convey Lachchi to her new home some miles away. On the trip, they stop at a well to rest and eat briefly. This well, however, is haunted by many ghosts. One of these ghosts sees Lachchi and falls in love with her.

As the journey continues it becomes evident that the bridegroom is not very interested in his marriage or bride. He is pouring over the accounts for the wedding expenses, because they don’t add up and he must resolve the discrepancy. Once they arrive in the bridal chamber, his preoccupation with the accounts continues and, much to Lachchi’s dismay, it comes out that Kishan will be leaving in the morning to travel to another city to run his father’s trading business there and will return after 5 years! No point in “igniting passions” (and not much point in having gotten married either). Lachchi is to stay behind, serve his parents and wait for his return.

As planned, Kishan leaves the next morning on his “five year mission.” He travels back by the same well where they had stopped the day before. The ghost who fell for Lachchi sees him and recognizes him. Why is the bridegroom abandoning his bride so soon?! The ghost decides to take advantage of this foolishness, takes human form identical to Kishan and returns home to Lachchi. The family is surprised to see him back so soon. Ghost Kishan convinces the father to accept his return with a story of how he met a sage who granted him a boon saying that every morning when he wakes he will find 5 gold coins. What matters to the father is wealth, so he accepts this explanation and allows Ghost Kishan to stay.

Lachchi is very happy to see her new husband returned so soon and hopes for a proper wedding night. To his credit, Ghost Kishan is up front with her and tells her the truth that he is not her husband, but a ghost who loves her so deeply that he has gone to this extreme to be with her. He gives her the option to accept him or send him away. She opts to keep the ghost lover rather than have no husband at all.

So, years pass as Ghost Kishan and Lachchi live happily together and the real Kishan toils away in a faraway city, completely unaware.

As time wears on – the real Kishan begins to long for his home and new bride. Meanwhile, Lachchi is having Ghost Kishan’s baby. The plot thickens and comes to a climax. Real Kishan returns home just as Lachchi goes into labor. The family spends a lot of time pondering the puzzle of TWO Kishans. Finally, they decide to travel to the King to have it resolved. On the way, they encounter a shepherd (Bachchan) who offers to solve their problem. He offers three tests to determine who is the true husband (and who is the true lover) of Lachchi. The Real Kishan is revealed and the Ghost Kishan is “trapped” in a water skin. All return home.

Lachchi is now faced with yet another “wedding night” this time with the Real Kishan. To her credit, she is up front with him and tells him that she knew all along that it was not him, but a ghost impersonator. She admits how deeply she loved the ghost and that she doubts that she can ever love Real Kishan. At which point, Kishan discloses that he is the ghost (not trapped at all) who has now taken over the body of the real Kishan, so they can live happily ever after together.

I’ve watched this twice. After the first viewing, I watched the “making of” special feature and was surprised to find that they thought this was a story about the empowerment of a woman. My western mindset said “Huh?!?” So, I had to watch it again. From a western point of view, this is a woman who can be talked into anything, who is blown about on the winds of external forces. From the eastern point of view, however, it is different. I think the key is in that scene where Ghost Kishan tells her the truth and gives her the option to decide. She disregards societal rules that would have dictated that she refuse this lover and remain faithful to her dud of a husband, no matter what.

There are a couple of puppets who seem to be connected with the ghost (his parents, perhaps) who appear occasionally to explain things. One of their dialogues points out that the bride is subject to the desires of the husband, the husband is subject to the desires of the father, and the father is subject to the desire for wealth. Lachchi breaks this chain by asserting her desire to be genuinely loved.

Another clue to her “empowerment” is the fact that she is truthful with the final incarnation of Kishan instead of taking refuge in the assumption that she was fooled by the ghost.

So, a western feminist has to look very hard to see a positive message for women. If we were to write it, she would have taken one good look at her dud of a husband, said “no thank you,” gone back home and gotten a career or at least waited until someone better came along.

(Indian movies seem to be obsessed with romance. It’s all about the falling in love. They are very poetic and free with “your eyes are like limpid pools” type talk. However, not even kissing is portrayed in the movies. The leads will start to lean in for a kiss and another character will interrupt or there will be a carefully placed umbrella to hide the kiss. It strikes me as strange that a culture with a long tradition of arranged marriages would be so entranced by romance. Maybe that makes all the sense in the world.)

The movie’s official page – http://www.redchillies.com/paheli/index.asp

Info at Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paheli

Info at Internet Movie Database – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451850/

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Baghban

July 7, 2010

Bollywood Movie Review #2

Posted by Kanga.

Baghban, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Salman Khan, 2003.

For me, this was a big tear jerker. Amitabh and Hema were wonderful as Raj and Pooja Malhotra, an older couple very much in love. They have four biological sons, three daughters-in-law, two grand children and one adopted son. Their children love to come and visit during holidays and enjoy the luxury of asking Daddy for money when they need it.

Raj is approaching retirement and his children are unaware that he has spent his retirement savings on funding their wants and needs. Raj’s retirement plan is to be taken care of by his wonderful children in return for having given them a good start in life. This is a shock to the selfish children who then decide to agree with a stipulation – their parents must stay with different sons. They assume that their parents who have not been separated for forty years will refuse this and opt to stay together in their own house (where they belong). However, their parents agree to the separation, spoiling the plan. They pack their bags, say a tearful goodbye and go their separate ways with each of the two oldest sons. The next six months are spent showing us just how awful and selfish these sons and daughters-in-law are.

<<Remember, I include spoilers, so if you don’t want to know how it all turns out, stop reading now.>>

After the six months, the parents pack up and get on trains to travel to the respective homes of the other two biological sons. However, Raj has a plan. Their trains will pass through the same train station within 5 minutes of each other. Raj instructs his wife to get off at this station and they will meet. There are all kinds of coincidences – this happens to be their wedding anniversary and the town where they spent their honeymoon. It also happens to be the town where their adopted son and his new wife have settled. The adopted son has been looking for them finding their lifelong home locked up and empty, not knowing where they had gone. He takes them home and shows them the respect and love they have not received from their biological children.

Raj, however, thinks that they must return to their old house. He is not quite ready to be dependent, just yet. Upon returning home, Raj discovers that friends have taken the book he wrote while separated from his wife and submitted it to a publisher. Raj becomes an award winning author and receives substantial royalties.

NOW, his biological children perk up and try to figure out how to get back in Daddy’s good graces and get a piece of the inheritance pie. This does not work out for them, however, because Raj is not the forgiving type. He is content in the love of his wonderful wife, his adopted son and his grandchildren, who unlike their parents, valued and loved Raj and Pooja.

So, why did I like this movie so much? It’s obviously meant to teach us a lesson and could have been very heavy handed and burdensome. In fact, some of the over the top behavior of the sons and their wives was extreme. Even the adopted son is a bit gushy in his praise and adoration of his parents. The riches here are in the relationship of Raj and Pooja.

Bachchan and Malini

They are not just used to each other or living together out of habit. They genuinely love each other. The first part of the movie establishes this well, then it is reinforced by the scenes of them speaking on the phone or writing letters to each other, of Raj waiting eagerly for the sound of the mail delivery. There is a wonderful scene where Raj sneaks out of the house to use a pay phone to call Pooja and he sings her a song that just breaks your heart.

Yeah, this is a movie about not being bad children, but I think it is really about being a great husband and wife.

(If Amitabh looked at me like that, I’d fall. Hema Malini – in the words of DaddyBird “stunning.” Salman Khan, however, did not find and excuse to take of his shirt.)

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Don

July 5, 2010

Bollywood Movie Review #1

Posted by Kanga.

Don, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Pran, 1978.

I’m starting with this movie, not because it’s the best or because it’s the first one I watched (which it isn’t), but because it is the freshest in my memory having watched it last night and because it is one of the few I managed to watch in one sitting without falling asleep in the middle. This tendency to fall asleep is not a failing of the movies, but a combination of my need for naps, the drain of having to read subtitles, and the fact that most of the movies are 2.5-3 hours in length.

I don’t pretend to be an officianado on Bollywood films, but there are a few patterns I’m picking up on. The movies often have main characters who are criminals, sometimes sympathetic because they were unfortunate orphans. Even more likely is the story of brothers separated at a young age – one becomes a cop, the other a criminal.

<<Word of warning: I will be “spoiling the ending” in my reviews. I am assuming that you are unlikely to ever watch these films and even if you did, knowing the plot twists is unlikely to spoil the enjoyment of watching the films. The real fun is in the performances, songs, dance, and corny stunts.>>

Don doesn’t have estranged brothers, but the don is a criminal and Amitabh does get to play dual roles – the suave, cold hearted don and Vijay, the homeless, betel leaf chewing street performer. When we first meet the don he is coldly shooting a police informant in his office. When we first meet Vijay he is dancing in the street singing a song about Bombay, all the time chewing betel leaves. (Betel is a mild stimulant.)

The police want to catch the don, the uncatchable criminal. However, when he dies in the back seat of the chief policeman’s car, instead of highly publicizing the capture, the policeman covers up the death. Why? you say? Because he wants to catch the bigger fish (and because we are only about an hour into the movie). The policeman remembers an encounter with a man, who filed a police report about abandoned children, who just happened to be the don’s doppleganger. He convinces Vijay, the doppleganger to infiltrate the don’s gang by impersonating him. The plot is far more complex than this with a girl who wants to avenge her brother’s death at the hand of the don who later falls in love with Vijay disguised as the don, and the involvement of the  father of the abandoned children in the don’s gang, AND the death of the policeman who is the only one who knows Vijay’s true identity and can clear him when captured. I could go on, but the details would tire us both. (The movie is 2 hrs 40 mins long.)

The best part of this movie is Amitabh Bachchan’s performance as both the don and Vijay. The contrast of the characters is quite entertaining and speaks of his acting talent.

man smoking and playing cards

Above is the don, below is Vijay.

man dancing with pink scarf on his head

Also of note is the final fight scene where Vijay, Roma (his karate chopping, gun shooting girlfriend), and the crippled Trapeze artist take on the whole criminal gang in a graveyard.

Well worth the price of admission.