Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ek Main aur Ek Tu

Ek Main Aur Ek Tu is the name of Karan Johar's next production, starring Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan. I was looking forward to the film for a while now, especially after watching the trailer of the Agneepath remake. Agneepath basically revived all my hopes of Karan Johar's production capabilities, following the debacle called, We are Family. However, yesterday EMAET's theatrical trailer came out and I've got pretty mixed feelings. Take a look:

First off, the pairing of Kareena and Imran is fresh...it's weird, but still fresh. Imran may be a horrible actor, with worse facial expressions than John had in the beginning of his career, but Kareena is kick ass. Her spunk and personality does manage to salvage Imran's shortcomings. In my mind, Kareena is a veteran actress, who may be young, but looks very peculiar with Imran, who just recently joined the industry. I'm not complaining though.
Second, the film's premise is totally stolen. Come on, it is a back-to-back copy of What Happens in Vegas. They get drunk, get married without realizing it, go to get a divorce, are forced to spend time with each other and soon form a connection. That's just what I learned from the trailer. The sad thing is that not only are the plots similar, but both movies are set in Las Vegas. Karan Johar claimed, before and after the trailer unveiling, that the movies are nothing alike, but only an idiot can believe him. I think he forgot the meaning of "alike". He spent the big bucks to get the rights of crap-o-rama, Stepmom, but forgot to get them for this movie. Even if miraculously the movie turns out to be drastically different from WHIV, the stamp of being "another Bollywood copy" is already placed on it. Even We are Family was accused of being a "shameless copy", despite being an official remake. To make matter worse, the last scene of the trailer, when Kareena spits at the window and Imran stares at her shockingly, is copied from When Harry Met Sally. Where's the originality, Kjo?
Lastly, the film is looking too "Hollywood-ish". Why does every Hindi romantic comedy have to be shot abroad? The only recent romantic film that I REALLY enjoyed was Band Baaja Baarat, shot entirely in India. Ranbir Kapoor starrer, Anjaana Anjaani, shot in America, was horrible. You do not need to have characters that are so un-Indian. After all, it is an Indian movie. I need some more desi-ness, some more culture. I get enough of American culture from Hollywood, Dharma! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

30 Day Bollywood Soundtrack Challenge Day 3

Day 3. A song that you like driving to. 

Bol Na Halke Halke
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom
The movie was not the most celebrated of it's time, but the movie's songs did manage to garner it some hype. I love this song for driving because it's both intense and soft, like the roads. It gives me some good memories of the summer the film came out too and I love to just pull down the car windows and reminisce. I never really got the music video though...
P.S. I think this is the best that Abhishek has EVER looked! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Actresses in Bollywood

Today, Hindi Cinema is one of the biggest growing sectors of the Indian economy. Experts project the industry to reach a net worth of a whooping 28 billion USD by the year 2015. Those statistics are pretty impressive, right? But where is all that growth coming from? We all know that India, along with China, is the home of the greatest economic boom in recent times, due to governmental decisions and practices. However, it is unassailable that the content of the entertainment, specifically film, has also vastly improved.

As a first-generation Indian American, I have grown up with the influence of not only Indian culture, food and language, but entertainment. The entertainment has served as a gateway back to my roots and country. We all remember the 1980s and '90s, when every movie had the NRI son, Raj or Prem, who wooed the cultured village girl, while singing in the fields to Jatin-Lalit or Anu Malik's tunes. We all loved it then (and even today), but it doesn't always translate to "quality" cinema in today's world. Don't get me wrong, I love movies like, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Maine Pyar Kiya, but too many of any one thing gets repetitive. Today, Hindi cinema is churning out movies on every topic and can feed the audience's every appetite. I love that about today's cinema. I love being able to choose from relatively risque films, like Ragini MMS or action-packed masala movies, like Dabangg, while still watching an Indian movie. I am loving almost everything about Hindi films these days, despite the unrelenting negative criticism by critics. Nevertheless, I wish today's directors and producers would re-examine...WOMAN! 

Now, let's role back to the "golden era". I don't think that any world cinema, now or ever, can compete with the Indian films of the 1950s and '60s. Raj Kapoor (look at the background folks), known for beautifully depicting his actresses on-screen, gave some of the greatest films. He produced, directed and acted in films that took on every topic: romance, society, tragedy and more. In movies, like Sangam and Shree 420, Raj illustrated the realities of relationships and life, while showing woman with real, raw emotions. In his 1964 film, Sangam, actress Vyjantimala plays a woman who marries Raj, despite being in love with his childhood friend, played by Rajendra Kumar. However, she soon realizes her commitment to Raj and fully devotes herself to their marriage. Rajendra returns as the third wheel in the marriage, much to Vyjantimala's indignation. She leaves no stone unturned in threatening Rajendra and hiding her past secrets. Her high voltage scenes from that movie give me goosebumps to this day. Vyjantimala's dialogues, feelings and thoughts overshadowed those of Raj's and Rajendra's characters, by a long shot. Raj Kapoor, also known as the "Showman", was one of the first filmmakers to actually mold female characters. However, the business of cinema is unassailably one of the most risky businesses. In 1970, his most ambitious project, Mera Naam Joker, miserably failed at the box office. His financial state to fell to such a point, that he not only mortgaged his famous RK studios, but even, his wife's jewelery. That year, the "Showman" decided to slightly change his film style and made one of my favorite films, Bobby, which launched not only his son, Rishi Kapoor, but also, Dimple Kapadia, the heroine whose character the film was named after. The name of the film was not the only difference from his past movies, but more importantly the clothing of the young, juvenile teen, Bobby. She dressed provocatively in short dresses and shirts above her midriff, while her dance numbers were equally seductive (watch clip below). Nonetheless, she had feelings and a personality, which the title of the film only cements. 

Today, there are a few films with strong female characters, yet in quantity and quality, they have only half of the depth that older films had. Directors like Anees Bazmee, Rohit Shetty and even Farah Khan, cast woman more as commodities than real people. An ideal example was of Farah Khan's recent film, Tees Maar Khan, which was heavily publicized for starring two of India's biggest stars, Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar. For weeks, Katrina's "sexy and sensuous" item number, named "Sheila Ki Jawani" played on Indian television and radios, non-stop. In the song, Katrina danced in skimpy clothing around men, while taunting "I know you want it, but you're never gonna get it". Item numbers are no new phenomenon in the Indian film industry and "Sheila Ki Jawani" went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year. However, Katrina's highly publicized song and name barely translated to substance in the film. Overall, Katrina had at most five lines. She would randomly pop out in front of the camera and say something like "ooohhh my make up", while nonsensically smiling and pulling down her dress in classic Marilyn Monroe style. This is one of India's "biggest actresses", who is paid to do one thing, called acting. So, why is she not doing that and solely inserted to say meaningless phrases and dance in a sexually provocative manner. Nonetheless, there is the rare No one Killed Jessica, which portrays two strong, fierce women who fight against corrupt individuals. The problem is that there are not enough of these female-centric movies.

This leads me to my last thought. Not only has the depiction of woman changed from the past, but the woman themselves have too. Currently, the top actresses of India are Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif.  Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor are undoubtedly talented actresses. Kareena proved her talent back in 2007 with Jab We Met, while Priyanka Chopra proved herself with Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion. Meanwhile, Katrina has still yet to prove anything. Katrina Kaif is NOT a good actress. Yes, she is beautiful and cute, but since when are physical characteristics more important than the actual skill of acting? The worst part is, her less than limited proficiency for the Hindi language, which more and more actresses are having these days. After more than half a decade in the industry, Katrina has learned to speak better than before but it is still not great, let alone good. The problem: Katrina is only the beginning of the trend. Recently, in Rockstar, a new female actress, named Nargis Fakhri was launched. Her acting was not wonderful, but I don't think it was horrible either. However, for an A-lister film, directed by Imtiaz Ali and starring Ranbir Kapoor, the acting was way below the mark. For me, the acting was not even the weakest link of her performance, but her inability to speak Hindi. Being a non-Indian and having no connection to Bollywood, whatsoever, her voice had to be dubbed. I wrote a review on the film a couple of weeks ago, but just recently nailed what threw me off from the film -her fake voice. Having someone else dub for an actress depletes much of the emotional connect because as a viewer, you can tell that the voice cannot fit the character. But the question is...why let such a situation even arise? There are probably tons of other girls, who actually know the language, who could do the part just as well. There are probably tons of other girls, who actually know what Bollywood is. The situation with "bad" actresses is horrid. There was a time, even in the 90s, that actresses were cast because of their talent, rather than looks. Earlier this week, an Indian-American porn star named Sunny Leone also came to India, to take part in the popular reality show Bigg Boss. She is a porn star and who really cares, she can do what she wants. Afterall, Bigg Boss is so popular because of controversial contestants, like her (by Indian standards). What surprised me was how she got an offer to be in the popular Murder series, within a week of coming to India. Is that fair? At least models, like Fakhri and Kaif, have something in common with the profession of acting. What will someone like Sunny Leone know about acting, all she has done is have SEX! 

I love Bollywood and always will. It has progressed so much and still is. I think the connect that I feel for Indian cinema can NEVER be reproduced by another film industry. However, the depth of female characters and the choice of the actresses portraying them desperately needs to regress. The question is why...why has this change come about? I have some thoughts about that too...but I'll save that for another day!

30 Day Bollywood Soundtrack Challenge Day 2

Day 2. A song that makes you sad

Tere Naam (Sad Title Song)
Tere Naam
I am absolutely crazy about the "happy" title song of this movie. It is the essence of romance. However, this sad version of Tere Naam is just as good. The song is REALLY short but the lyrics, rhythm and Udit Narayan's flawless voice makes it a winner. Rather than "sad", I would say it makes me feel melancholic. In my opinion, it's just deep, raw, morose anguish...something I wish that the music video had done justice to. 

P.S. Salman, you are so gorgeous. Why can't your acting be too?

Friday, November 18, 2011

30 Day Bollywood Challenge Day 1

Yes, I am starting the 30 Day Bollywood Challenge. I've seen some great posts by some fellow bloggers on their favorite songs, so I'm here to join in the fun. 

Day 1.  A song that makes you happy. 

Sona Kitna Sona Hai
Hero No. 1
Who doesn't get happy listening to this song?! It’s got all the elements of a perfect filmi number…Boy mad at Girl. Boy ignores Girl. Girl sings and dances for Boy. Girl wins Boy over and Boy sings to Girl. However, Govinda is evidently far from being a “boy”. I’ve already decided that I want to dance to this song for my wedding one day. Yes, I want a slow, romantic number…but it never hurts to rip out with some filminess too. However, I will be deleting the playground dance. We can all save that for another day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Song of the Week

Haawa Haawa
This song makes me want to just get up and dance. After watching it on the big screen, I like it even more. The song may seem a bit "weird" the first time, but after a couple of listens, it'll grow on you. That "weirdness" is the USP of A.R. Rehman, in my opinion. The first time you listen to his song, you think "gosh, this song sucks" and then, before you know it, you just cannot stop pressing the replay button! Irshad Kamil's lyrics are funky too. Despite speaking fluent Hindi, I had no idea what Mohit Chahaun was singing, until I read the subtitles at the movie theater... but now I love them. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My thoughts on Rockstar

Imtiaz Ali is a genius. I have been a huge fan of his since I saw Socha Na Tha, years ago. His Jab We Met stumped that film, and then Love Aaj Kal stumped them all. So obviously, I was ready for a cult classic with Rockstar but I was disappointed. It could not out-do Love Aaj Kal...I wish it could have.

As you probably know, Rockstar is the musical journey of Janardhan Jakhar, who transforms into a "rockstar" named Jordan. Jordan's story is intertwined with a deep love story with Heer Kaul, a Kashmiri beauty who inadvertently drives his journey to stardom and destruction. The premise of the story is really good, but Imtiaz did not do proper justice with the script. There were no lines that stood out or resonated with me. I still remember Love Aaj Kal's ending speech about how there are no immortal love stories, but there is true love, which is why couples need to stay together. The story of Rockstar could have been so much more, if there were deep lines, like those in Imtiaz's prior films. Nonetheless, Imtiaz beautifully orchestrated the romance, and the emotions of Jordan and Heer. They had the most tumultuous relationship, which cannot merely be described in a couple of words. Imtiaz is one of the very few directors who can create a relationship on screen like that. In Rockstar, no two characters are black or white. There were shortcomings in both of them, Heer always pushes Jordan away, but he is also too immature controlling at times (when she tries to leave him in Prague). Their relationship can be dissected, observed, discussed and more-a pure example of great direction.

However, the movie didn't come together in unison like it should have. The scenes were meaningful, but they were scattered. Scenes would end randomly and start erratically. Basically, the editing sucked. If I was a director, I would never hire Aarti Bajaj, after seeing Rockstar. One second, Heer and Jordan are on a motorcycle driving down the road and the next second the scene is all serious. There were many unnecessary happenings too. For example, after Heer is married and moves to Prague with her husband, Jordan comes to meet her. They start a short affair and, at one point, after a concert, Ranbir runs out to the back and passionately kisses Heer. Then, he runs back on to the stage and bows to the audience. I understand that the goal was to highlight Jordan's unsuppressed longing for Heer, but it was so random and taints the purity of the film. This takes me to my next point. There was too much sexuality. I was thankful that my father decided to catch Ra. One, instead of Rockstar, because there were at least ten make out scenes. I can understand two or three, but Imtiaz just took it all to the next level. Even in Hollywood films, there are not as many kissing scenes. Otherwise, Imtiaz kept the Hindi film soul alive.

The look of the films was magnificent. The crowd and concert scenes were awesome. Ranbir Kapoor's acting was better than all the three Khans put together and his styling by Akki Narula was fabulous. Through time, not only were his clothes different but his hair, persona and even eyes changed. Ranbir has proven he is a Kapoor. Akki's clothes were innovative and new. I hope Ranbir's clothing style becomes a hit among the masses! Despite lots of animosity by critics, Nargis's acting was good. She was nowhere near Kareena Kapoor or Vidya Balan's ability, but she did justice to her character. However, her voice-over sucked. The girl who dubbed for her had the most annoying voice ever. And A.R. Rehman was perfect. I have never been a great fan of his, but the background scores, songs and instrumentals aided every scene. At the climax, after Jordan plays "Naadan Parindey" on stage, he imagines Heer walk onto the stage to him, while "Tum Ko" plays in the background. I can say that I lost my breathe during that scene. It was pure love. A.R. Rehman made one the most beautiful songs I have heard in a long time. However, the beauty of Nargis, talent of Mr. Handsome aka Ranbir Kapoor and the genius of Imtiaz Ali cannot be ignored either.

Overall, the film is good. The romance, emotions, feelings and characters are palpable. Rockstar is a film that anyone with a heart will take home. I think it will take me a full week to get it out of my head. But the film didn't come together the way it should have. The screenplay could have used some fixing and the editing needed a LOT of fixing. However, as I said in an earlier post, I just wanted to "shed a couple of tears and feel my heart pumping a bit faster than it should in some scenes", which I got.