Monday, February 21, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf and Me

Pardon the decibels, but VISHAL BHARDWAJ ROCKS MY WORLD!!!

Sorry, really felt like shouting that. Now that that's out of the way, some very random thoughts on 7 Khoon Maaf, because I am incapable of writing a proper review given my current state of extreme gushiness towards Vishal Bhardwaj, the (only?) director who has yet to disappoint me. (Ha! Spellcheck doesn't know the word gushiness, how shocking!)

As soon as the movie starts we see Priyanka with a gun to her head, and then we hear a gunshot and the camera lingers for what feels like an eternity on the blood splashed all over the wall. I knew I was going to like this film from this first scene. I knew I was hopelessly in love with it somewhere between the second and the third scene. And by the time the first husband gets offed, I knew I was not going to be able to review it. And that's all right because I'm sure we'll have no shortage of good reviews and thoughtful blogs about it. So instead of that, I'd like to share how I felt about the movie every step of the way.

... about Vishal
It's no secret that I love all his movies (and only one is missing from my collection, but Makdee, you will be mine, just you wait!), so my expectations were sky high, even though I should know better by now and not set myself up for disappointment. Still, even for my stratospheric enthusiasm, this film delivered. I blame it all on Vishal, and pretty sure I jokingly asked if I could marry him a few times during the film.

Luckily he's a little too old and a little too married for me...

Vishal Bhardwaj is like a cattle owner. Nothing offensive meant by that, in fact it's a compliment. It's hard to put into words just why I love Vishal to the extent that I do, but high up on that list is the way he trademarks every image in a movie, particularly when he insists on the unnatural length of a shot - it's what I call "thoughtful shots" because they give you some space to reflect upon what just happened or what is coming up. There's a distinct Vishal way of filming a scene and it doesn't take many movies for your subconscious to learn to recognize it. He's not subtle about it either. Oh no, it's obnoxious and almost territorial, but at the same time endearing because it's a constant reminder and a promise he makes every time to me, the viewer, that "this is a VB film and you will not be disappointed". There's a scene early in the movie where the deaf-mute servant is chasing young Arun to give him a whipping and during that chase I found myself sighing: "Oh, Vishal..."

Whenever another "oh Vishal..." would pass my lips, and yes, there were quite a few more, picture the tone a mother would use when her 7 year old comes home and she has to scold him for not paying attention in class because he was reading another book under the desk. It's a mixture of badly hidden pride, a bit of giggly complicity, a touch of bother that he got caught, just enough sternness to make it believable but without trying to hide its playfulness, all wrapped in a sense of ownership, as if she had any kind of contribution to her kid's proficiency.

What? I can't help it, I take Vishal's movies very personally!

... about Susanna
What a delightfully enigmatic character Susanna. A woman who is so desperate to find love that she will change everything about herself every time she finds the promise of happiness. A woman whose beauty can make men stutter, but it cannot make them respect her. A woman who will do anything for love... haha, but she won't do that!

I hardly ever manage to see the character in a movie with one of my favourite actors. A lot of people say that's the mark of great acting. Maybe. Not for me. I am thrilled whenever I can glimpse the thought process behind an actor's interpretation of the character, so if Susanna is softly laughing and smiling like an old lady in the last part of the film, I will not think: "ah, Susanna has aged". I will think "Priyanka, these lttle details are part of why I love your acting so much!". So not surprisingly, the tango she dances in the beginning of the film had me in all kinds of awe at Priyanka's beauty and charm. The first scene with the child Arun had me giggling to myself at her expressions, she hit all the right notes, and that was only the beginning of the film. Priyanka owns this movie and I was having a blast watching her own it.

And yet... somewhere in the middle of Darrling, the lavish ode to the Russian song Kalinka, I found myself really wishing the movie would stop right there, and that Susanna could just be happy. There was so much delight, such boundless joy, such indulgence in that moment that I wanted it to last forever. Not for me, but for Susanna. Watching her so happy filled me with euphoria.

It was not to last, and I knew it, but my reason was powerless in front of Susanna's optimism and zest for life. I suppose that's what they mean by the character completely overtaking the actor.

Still, most of the time I was not cheering for Susanna, but for Priyanka, for finally giving me the movie that I can proudly show to anyone when I feel the need to gush about her, which happens often. Perhaps on the next watchings I will invest more in the character, now that I know what the story is, but the first time around I couldn't allow myself to let Priyanka's acting be overshadowed by anything, even by her character.

... about the husbands
What an apt progression were the husbands, and it's commendable that they appear in just the right order. It starts off bad, moves on to worse, then to unbearable, to then grow softer, just in the nick of time. I don't think I could have handled anything more hard-hitting than the third one. And Susanna's growing impatience with them is a sign that even she couldn't handle anything more.

Neil Nitin Mukesh. The first husband is a controlling, cruel, insecure jerk. I spent a lot of time in the beginning of his chapter laughing at what Neil Nitin Mukesh does to his face (and what he did to his body!) in order to appear as despicable as he does. His moustache is hilarious, but it's the grimace on his lips and the unnatural manipulation of his cheek bones that make him absolutely repugnant. I was happy to see him go!

John Abraham. Ah, again, it starts off with so many giggles. His Axl Rose get-up had me on the floor, and Vishal makes a delightful backhanded point about the copyright issues that plague the Bollywood film industry. All while delivering a song that I never found interesting on the soundtrack, but was completely won over by after the picturization. This one goes downhill fast and it was predictable enough for me to be able to close my eyes through some of the more difficult shots.

No really, he's hilarious!

Little did I know that I should have saved some of that dread for the third and worst husband. Irrfan Khan. I am glad I watched this in the theatre because I am sure to skip this chapter on the DVD from now on whenever I watch it. Unbearable doesn't even begin to describe him, and feeling nauseated was only the beginning of how organically my mind rejected this character. Out of all of them, the one who was most worthy of a slow painful death. The less I say about him the better, and as usual Irrfan delivers a chilling performance.

Aleksandr Dyachenko. The fourth husband. His filmi lines, his marriage proposal, his secret identity, he was, I would say, the most fun. I was a little afraid of how the Russian culture would be handled, not that I have any loyalty to it, but I always cringe when a culture I know a thing or two about gets completely misrepresented in Hindi films. Luckily, while cliche, it never crossed the line into eye rolling territory, which is acceptable enough for me. Vronsky happens to be the only husband to not directly sin against Susanna, but what difference does it make, she had already lost her patience by the time he came into the picture (pun intended). He lightened up the mood after husband number 3, and thankfully redirected the film towards dark comedy, and not a moment too soon! Thank you for the giggles! And na zdrovia!

Anu Kapoor. Husband number five. This one had me in stitches from the first time he appeared. His sheepishness and his constant stammering made me almost feel sorry for his quick demise. But unfortunately for him I was far too busy laughing at how the camera handled his departure.

Naseeruddin Shah. After this whole rainbow of emotions, I knew I could not deal with another bad husband. So for most of Naseer's husbandry, I was praying silently: please don't turn him into another beast, please don't turn this into another Sarfarosh, I could not bear it. Luckily, I did get my wish. Well, sort of, but enough to make me sigh in relief, despite the tension in the last moments of his chapter.

Number 7? Is there a number 7? Now that would be ruining the movie, so that one will have to stay unanswered, but I will say that I found the twist immensely satisfying.

... about Arun
I wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home. I did. Despite the ridiculous wig in the beginning, despite his hamming through some of the scenes with the police, I was floored every time he would witness another one of Susanna's weddings. And the chemistry between Vivaan and Priyanka is definitely something to talk about. On second thought, not something to talk about, rather something to take in and relish in. Two scenes stand out for them: the scene where she wants to convince him to go to Russia - bursting with tension and bottled up emotions; and their last scene together - a perfect balance between peace and hysteria, just what was needed leading up to the resolution. I don't know what reviews Vivaan Shah got for this performance, but he definitely got my attention for future outings.

... in the end
It's a hard movie to summarize, so I won't try, but if you're not on your way to the theatre by now, I will not be responsible for regrets later that you didn't see it. It's not for the weak of heart, and there is nothing fluffy about it, but somewhere between the horrifying tragedy and the subtle comedy, there's a story about survival, about endurance, about absolution, about disappointment, about optimism, and, hidden deep under the layers, about a woman's heart. And Vishal Bharadwaj's wicked, wicked sense of humour.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Not-Very-Namak Look at Shahid's Filmography

Since the crazy one elbowed her way into getting her post up first, Namak was gracious enough to allow for a delay in what the real post was meant to be: a quick run through Shahid's films (the less said about Taal, the better, though he was very cute and young and scrawny in his 2 seconds of screen time there, but this was not considered as part of his filmography).

Now is probably a good time to mention that even when being cynical, Namak is far from immune to Shahid's charm, so take my recommendations with a big hearty serving of salt (no pun intended).

The ADHD years

Shahid was really hyper in the beginning of his career. Luckily, that went well with most of the young lovable characters he was playing, but I can't say I wasn't grateful when he started to tone it down.

Ishq Vishk - high school love story with a couple of morally questionable plot drivers. He's paired with Amrita Rao and there's something to be said about an actor who can make me sit through a high school love story. Especially when the hero is somewhat morally dubious. And when he looks 18. By the way, Shahid was rejected after auditioning for this one because he looked too young. I find that hilarious. You mean younger than this??

Awww... cutie!

Fida - Shahid trying to be mean. In a love triangle with Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Evilness did not become him back then. But the movie has a couple of interesting scenes, and a couple of decent songs. Worth watching if only for the last scene with Kareena. And for Kareena doing a much better job at being evil.

Dil Maange More - my guilty pleasure. I can't explain it, but despite the innanity of the 3 heroine love story (featuring Tulip Joshi, Soha Ali Khan and Ayesha Takia), I have such a blast watching this. Maybe because that's when Shahid started having fun with his roles and he is just a ball of energy and spunk here! And who can resist him when he does this:

Plus DMM has one of my favourite songs ever with Shahid. It's like Elvis Presley on crack! How can one not love it!

Deewane Huye Pagal - this surprised me by not being as bad as I thought it would be. Shahid with braces? Hilarious! Rimi Sen and Akshay Kumar also star. One of those plots where everyone is after the girl, trying to con the others. I've seen worse. I have definitely seen worse (Jaan-e-Mann anyone?). Plus it has this song that only Paresh Rawal could yawn through:

Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi! - The hero is struggling to take care of his ridiculously numerous family while daydreaming about the heroine (Amrita Rao again), but he dies and goes to Lord Yama. Reminded me of 90s masala films, and I'm not very big on that but hey, it's got Shahid. Granted in one of his silliest performances, but still cute as button. As is Amrita, so another one worth skimming through while procrastinating to go make dinner, if one is a fan that is.

Shikhar - Presumably some moralizing story about how the city corrupts the young pure minds. Whatever. Not convincing as a lecture, but it does have Ajay Devgan and Shahid going shopping and looking good in their suits. Bipasha Basu is also looking fine, and Amrita Rao, well, she's Amrita Rao. Can you tell I was mostly just watching this one to gawk at the actors?

36 China Town - A bit of a mystery, a bit of a thriller, a bit of a love story, a bit of a comedy. It's on my "decent" list especially since it features Shahid opposite Kareena Kapoor, plus Akshaye Khanna in a wonderfully campy performance and a cameo from Priyanka Chopra. And before we forget, this song alone is worth the price of the DVD, youtube simply does not do it justice:

Chup Chup Ke - Ah, Priyadarshan, how I hate thee! The typical Priyadarshan ridiculousness in a village where the hero is running away from creditors (doesn't this guy just love his shots of dozens of villagers running after someone?) and the heroine is deaf, mute and gorgeous (Kareena Kapoor again). I love the songs, love the pastel colour scheme of the film, and love Shahid posing as a deaf-mute. And that's about all I loved. Better than nothing, so it fares much better than other films from the same director.

Fool'n'Final - I'm not sure what this movie wanted to accomplish. It's a caper of sorts, and it has all the elements for a fun flick, but it's like they made a list of the boxes that needed to be checked and then gave it to a class of 10 year olds to come up with the story AND to do the editing. One out of only two Shahid movies where I will say loud and clear: avoid, yaar! Do watch the songs though, Yeh Dooriyan and Tere Layee are worth it.

The quiet years
A quieter Shahid, with hardly any skin showing and what do you know, that's when success finally came for him.

Vivah - Everyone loves Vivah, young and old. So predictably, I didn't like it much. Boring boring boring movie about an arranged marriage and quite unsuccessful in getting me to buy the plot. That said, Amrita Rao and Shahid do have some melting chemistry, so I did sit through it once. It made him a superstar, so for that I am grateful.

Jab We Met - Everyone's favourite love story. What? Not everyone's? Who is it, I will fight them! Well, at any rate, it's by far my favourite love story in Indian cinema, and a great movie overall. Imtiaz Ali, I've said it before, is the poet of our generation: where before everything was sappy and stale, he made love stories fresh and young once again. Shahid is completely transformed as the brooding Aditya and the film is a roller coaster of emotions and colour. Kareena matches him fabulously in histrionics.

I know I should link to the best song in the film, Nagada Nagada, but this is the song that made me fall hopelessly in love with Shahid, so Mauja Hi Mauja it is!

The mix and match years
Recently it's been a big cluster of roles and films all over the place, some brilliant, some not so much, so I will see this as a transition period. To hopefully an era of mostly great cinema, with talented directors, charming heroines (even if they're not Kareena), and most importantly: good solid stories. Cheers to that!

Kismat Konnection - My first Shahid film in the theatre. And one that was filmed right in my city to boot. I loved it and hated it at the same time: hated it because it's just not a good movie (the dubbing!! Whose head can i have for the dubbing of all the white people?), loved it for the above reasons and for Bakhuda Tumhi Ho. But it's grown on me since. I appreciate the chemistry between Shahid and Vidya Balan now and I basically know what to skip when I watch it. Also, because I was very annoyed with Shahid's SRK-like acting in most of this one, the scenes where he's not doing that come across as fabulous to me.

Kaminey - I know Dolce will have only one thing to say about Kaminey: Charlieeee!!!!

Ah yes, Charlie... but really, Charlie or no Charlie, it's a damn good movie, and by far Shahid's best performance. Or should I say Fhahid? One of the twins he plays is paired with Priyanka Chopra and that works brilliantly, whether or not they were also together in real life, and the other twin is paired with... ok, I won't go into the mad chemistry he had with Chandan Roysanyal because those are murky waters. Nonetheless, a fabulous caper film, the first time we see Shahid being truly badass, and a parade of funky goondas like we hardly ever get to see in Indian cinema. One of my favourite Indian films.

Dil Bole Hadippa! - A giant ball of glittery fluff! Rani Mukherji, Shahid, item numbers, lots of dancing, lots of colour, cricket, Punjab, did I mention lots of colours? I can't help but smile when I think of DBH, it simply makes me happy. As far as Shahid is concerned, it's not a ground breaking performance, but boy oh boy is he yummy to watch! And anyway, it's all about Rani, and the colours, and the dancing, and Punjab...

Chance Pe Dance - How I had longed, how many months did I pray to see Shahid in a movie where he dances! And how excited I was for Chance Pe Dance, a film about an aspiring actor/dancer making it big! And how inspired I was when I went to see it saying the same thing I said when I went to Burlesque: I'm just going for the dancing and for Christina's voice. Except it was Shahid's performance instead of X-tina's voice. Great performance by Shahid, very thin plot. Spectacular dancing, though as always, I would have loved even more of it. It had all the elements to be a good movie. Except for a good script. Oh well, next time.

My other favourite number: Just Do It.

Paathshaala - the other movie where I have to say loud and clear: AVOID! Nothing, not even Nana Patekar's heart-melting smile saves this one. Meant to be an expose of how schools make money and how the media exploits their lack of means, but really, there is no plot. Nana Patekar is the only actor performing, and even that, only in the last 20 minutes of the film. Avoid, just trust me.

Badmaash Company - I blogged about Badmaash Company since it came out recently, so the full review is here, but in a nutshell, very Western feel con movie, lots of style, little heart. Still Shahid, Anoushka Sharma and Vir Das put in some good performances, so it's worth a watch. Just not very Bollywood, but otherwise not a bad film. Worth seeing if only for the steaming jodi he makes with Anushka.

Milenge Milenge - apparently a remake of Serendipity? I wouldn't know, Hindi rom-coms are enough for me, they give me more than my monthly intake of sugar, so I don't watch many Hollywood ones. At any rate, Kareena Kapoor is in it, and she is bubbly and in full form (literally). And Shahid makes one fine girl! I think it's the lips... This one was filmed even before 36 China Town, and it shows. Not a particularly good movie. In the same league as Kismat Konnection, that too without Toronto. Still, Shahid and Kareena, reason enough for me to enjoy it. Just not sure about anyone else!

And now... crossing fingers and toes for Mausam this summer, hopefully stepping into that era of great cinema I was talking about before...

Note: I don't remember the source of all my pictures, but it's safe to say that for the most part they have been collected from, the best resource around the net for Shahid pics.

10 Things I Hate about You, Shasha

Oh wow, could I have come up with a cheesier title? Well, anyway, that was the film that started one of my very few Hollywood crushes, so I stand by it. But I'm not here to talk about Heath Ledger today, I'm here to wish Shahid Kapoor a very happy 30th birthday! Yes, I know I'm a bit early, but considering the time it will take me to write this letter, to put it in a bottle, the travel time across oceans and seas, getting stuck in customs and having to bribe its way out, by the time it reaches Mumbai it will already be Happy Belated Birthday. So there... I'm already late!

On your 30th birthday, Shahid, since I know you take criticism so well, I want to share with you everything that makes me shake my head in amazement for being your faithful fan for the past few years, despite everything that you have been doing to sabotage your career.

1) I hate your mad chemistry with the camera, because it makes me sit through the cheesiest scenes without rolling my eyes out of my head, in fact, without blinking an eye! And really, you've done quite a few of them lately, despite my warnings that the romantic hero is not where it's at for your career at this point in time. Still, I am one of the very lonely Dil Bole Hadippa fans in this world, all because every time I watch it I am so distracted by your charisma, that I forget to think about the plot. (What plot? Good question!)

2) While we're at it, I really hate your fascination with aviator sunglasses because they hide two of the most expressive eyes in the industry.

3) Right, where was I? Oh yes, hate! I hate the fact that people compare you to SRK, and that Aziz Mirza made you play the role in Kismat Konnection in a very shrukie way that does not suit you.

While we're talking about KiKo, I resent the fact that it was filmed in Toronto back when I never even knew about your existence, not that I would have stalked you, because I'm a lady, but just because I probably would have walked into Abercrombie and Fitch for the first 300 times in my life... to "look around".

That's downtown T.O., yo!

4) I hate that Mausam is taking so long and I can't include it in this post. Bas.

5) I hate you for making brilliant movies like Jab We Met and Kaminey and showing the world just how talented you are, to then get lost again in the treacherous arms of average flicks.

Though in all fairness, I did like what you did with your role in Badmaash Company. And I am one of the few people who totally get why your dancing in Chance pe Dance was mindblowing and why you're so proud of it. Maybe in the future, if you try to not make it look so easy, others will also see how hard you have to work for each second of liquid perfection you deliver when you dance. But that doesn't get you off the hook for choosing average scripts and even more average directors to work with.

6) Which brings me to: I hate Paathshaala. With the burning power of a thousand suns I hate it! It sticks out like a sore thumb in your entire acting career, and where I am always a tireless defender of your performances even in the worst films (yes, even in Dil Maange More, my guilty pleasure), the photoshoot that was Paathshaala can't even qualify as acting. Whatever personal reasons you had for doing the film, there is simply no excuse for bad performance, especially this far into one's career.   

That said, I forgive you for Milenge Milenge because you didn't know any better. And because you and Kareena are still one of my favourite jodis to watch.

7) I hate the fact that you never button up your shirt, no really, I hate it, I'm not kidding. It's not like the world doesn't know you have a sexy body...

...ahem... yes, as I was saying, we know. So honestly, there's no need to show cleavage all the time. Especially with dress shirts, or, in your case, with undress shirts.

Just not cool, yaar, not cool.

By the way, did I ever mention how much I love the copious quantities of the word "yaar" in your speech? Because I really do love it. On top of already loving the way you talk in general, that accent, ayye haye! Oh damn, I was supposed to be hating. Sorry, got carried away there for a sec. Ok, back to hating.

8) I hate that you don't dance enough in most of your movies. Because there is no doubt in my mind that you are the best dancer Bollywood has ever had (yup, Hrithik, I said it!), so it breaks my heart to see so much talent wasted. Couldn't Nagada Nagada have had more dance steps and less cool poses? Couldn't there have been some dance steps in Badmaash Company? To add insult to injury, some of your best dancing was in one of the most hateful films I have ever laid eyes on: Fool'n'Final. Why, why did you make me watch it? I get it, you want to be taken seriously. But it's Bollywood, yaar, being a good dancer is an advantage, not a distraction! Sigh... ok, it's a distraction all right, but in the best way possible!

9) Finally, I hate that you're on twitter. I stopped reading your tweets when I realized a lot of them were just fillers, and don't plan to read them again. Hopefully this fad where everyone feels obligated to be on twitter will go away soon, because some people are just not meant for hourly updates of what they're doing with their lives. And that's ok. It's not a bad thing to have nothing to share with the world one day. And there's no need for filler tweets just to feel like you've done your job. Your job is to make wonderful movies for us, and you do quite well with that. This fan is more than happy with that.

10) But most of all. I hate the fact that I keep going back to the theatres for your movies, good or bad, and that I am more charmed every time. There are so many good actors out there right now, and so many of them are making some pretty smart choices. And yet nothing gets me as jittery and at the same time as happy as the release of one of your movies. So please, please, from now on, make it more good movies than average ones, if for nothing else, for the sake of my dignity as a fangirl.

Yours, hamesha hamesha ke liye,


PS: Don't worry guys, Namak is coming up in another post to actually talk about Shahid's films.

Pictures from

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hilarious What If's

I get a kick out of imagining what would happen if someone walked into a Bollywood song, but it was happening in real life. Picture this:

1) You're alone in Mumbai, you're a tourist, and your wallet gets stolen at 2 am. What do you do? Personally I'd find the closest Police station to go and report it. That's because I'm not really on Facebook, if I was I would probably post it there first. But anyway, so I'm in front of that police station, I walk in... to find this:

Humka Peeni Hai - Dabangg

Uh... the police officers are all drunk and dancing using rifles as props... Is this the right place? After the first few seconds of amazement, what would you do? Would you join in the dance? Would you pull out your camera (that miraculously didn't get stolen along with your wallet)? Would you walk out? Would you try to get someone's attention to solve your problem? Would you write an article the next day for Bombay Times lamenting the sad state of affairs in today's urban India? If you're anything like me, you'd probably continue to stand until the end of the song tapping your foot to the music and shaking your head in amazement, really wanting to join in the dance but much too shy to. Yeah... my reactions are usually pretty boring, so maybe we'll do the next scenarios without them...

2) Here's another one...
You're in the rented car, traveling to the countryside, patiently waiting in the scorching sun for the train to pass already so you can be on your way. And this comes along:

Chaiyya Chaiyya - Dil Se

WTF: A bunch of people jumping up and down on a train?? Oh wait, there's a hot chick too, and some dude that can't dance, oh he must be the star! It's going slowly enough: should you jump on? Do you get out of the car and start dancing outside until the train goes? Do you call your mother and tell her to get you on the first plane back from this crazy country? Do you snap a picture of Mallaika pulling a Marilyn Monroe and then try to sell it to the newspapers? Do you start running after the train hoping to catch SRK and get an autograph? So many options, such little time, the train is already gone. But if you wait long enough you might see this one passing by:

Aa Ante - Arya

Well, lucky you, these ones even get off the train, and the guy can dance! Good thing you waited!

3) You're in the middle of your wedding cocktail party, have been up since 6 in the morning and running around all day, you're now trying to make sure everyone is well taken care of, that everyone has a drink, that no one is feeling left out, basically doing what everyone does on their wedding day: stressing. And to add to your mild case of hysteria, your event planning company is nowhere to be found. Then all of a sudden:

Ainvayi Ainvayi - Band Baaja Baaraat

What? You're just about losing your mind trying to take care of everyone at the party and they're... dancing??? Ok, granted, they can sing and dance, that's great, but do you fire them? Or do you give them a bonus after the event is done? Do you pull up your skirts to jump in and bust a move? Or do you chase after those two good-for-nothings with the cake knife?

4) You just started your new job with this big company and are very excited to make a good impression. So you're sitting at your desk trying to get through all the paperwork they've given you, while stealing glances at your co-workers to see what they're wearing, what kind of conversations they're having, what their group dynamics are, etc. And just when you're starting to feel a little more comfortable and are about to walk over to the neighbour's desk to start a conversation, this starts:

Mr. Perfect - Arya 2

Is this a joke? Is there a hidden camera? Would it look bad if you got up and joined their ranks? Or do you chicken out and go for a washroom break hoping it will be over by the time you come back?

5) You're so late for school today, damn it, took too long to find all the accessories again! Sure the teachers are used to you being late every day, but today there's a test too. Damn it! This could not get any worse! You finally get in front of the highschool... and are met with this scenery:

Deewana Hain Dekho - Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham

Now this is a tough one: on the one hand there's the test you're late for. But on the other hand there are all these people on crack, dancing in front of your school... How many tests will you have to pass in your life, and how many more times will you have the opportunity to witness this type of mass hypnosis? What to choose??

6) You're in a theatre... with the boyfriend. Well, not yet the boyfriend, it's only your second date, but he's cute and he makes you laugh. You're both sitting down and looking forward to giggling about the film, at the intentionally and unintentionally funny parts. Then, just as the movie is getting interesting, these people in front of you start dancing in the song:

Woh Ladki Hai Kahan - Dil Chahta Hai

Uh-oh, they're getting up... Do you whistle them to sit down? Do you start laughing at them instead of the film? After all the film you can see again, but such ridiculousness is once in a lifetime! But drats, everyone else is cheering them on... Uh... No way, no way you're also getting up and flapping your arms about like a chicken! And yet... everyone's doing it... well, might as well!

I know there are many many other songs that would make for a great real life WTF moment, I'm just not thinking of them right now, in fact I'm probably forgetting the best ones! But when I do remember them... I will probably be on the subway, and I'll burst into laughter, and people will stare... Bah... they just don't know how to have fun!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Band Baaja Baaraat and other fluff

It seems that whenever I write about Bollywood around here, it ends up being about serious, artsy films. Which makes sense since they are pretty much my favourite genre. But Bollywood is also all about crowd-pleasing, and lest I give the impression I am that hard to please (even though I am), perhaps it's time to talk about one of the fluff-balls too, for a change, and postpone my review of Traffic Signal for another less snowy day.

First of all, thank you Jyothi, Swati and everyone else who was on my case about watching Band Baaja Baarat! I had high expectations for it, and surprisingly it didn't fail me.

Bollywood seems to make only one perfect ball of glittery fluff every year, at least for my tastes. In 2007 it was Salaam-e-Ishq. In 2008 it was Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. 2009 gave me Dil Bole Hadippa. And now Band Baaja Baarat in 2010. Hm... most of them Yash Raj Films. Honourable mention to Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, but since it doesn't tick all the boxes, I'll leave it out for now. Why am I not including other rom-coms like Jab We Met Wake Up Sid and Love Aaj Kal? Because for me there is a huge difference between a good rom-com and a ball of fluff, even though I truly appreciate both. A ball of fluff will give me great colours, fun songs, good looking people in the lead, one (or several) very improbable love stories, and not much else. But the "not much else" is completely irrelevant because a successful ball of fluff will make me grin happily from ear to ear for no good reason at all. Will I think about the characters or analyse the situations to catch the more subtle meanings of the events? Nope. Will I rave about the eloquence or sharpness of the script? Nope. Am I meant to? Nope. Good, then everyone is happy!

So what does it take to create the perfect glittery ball of fluff? By the way, someone elbow me when you get tired of this expression, because I have plenty of other metaphors I can use, though I am trying really hard to stay away from words like cotton-candy, bubble-gum and other pink objects typically used to describe this type of film.

But back to the original question: What does it take? Surprisingly, all it takes is some basic science!

Newton's Prism

First of all it takes at least two good looking actors who look great in traditional clothes. Not just traditional clothes, like in Jab We Met, but in the kind of clothes that would make the rainbow hide in shame! The more colourful the better. No respectable fluff ball will ever roll without its unique gang of fashion designers and set designers that can mix hot pink, bright yellow, shaadi red, satin baby blue and every other shade of the spectrum in its brightest form and still make it look good. Proof:

Obviously the more "Yash Raj Films" we have in the mix, the brighter the colours become. Yash Raj is like Newton's prism: whatever comes in is dull and colourless, and out it comes as a rainbow!

Auditory Cortex Stimulents

I find all the studies about what makes a song catchy fascinating, and this type of research seems to be in its infancy, but Bollywood nails it so well that they must have gotten a head start in it. A good beat, plenty of repetition, easy lyrics to sing along to, and there you have it! Every fluff ball movie has at least one song that will outlast all your braincells: Saiyyan Re, Salaam-e-Ishq, Haule Haule, Dil Bole Hadippa, Diskowale Kisko, and now Ainvayi Ainvayi:


Well, not really puppies per se, but moments that feel like you're looking a picture of cute puppies playing with each other. I think I read a study at one point about why women are more inclined to be attracted to soft squishy stuff, but I promptly forgot it. I do know for sure that there is a science to that too, and these kinds of movies speak to exactly the same areas of the brain as white kittens, big eyed stuffed animals and, I guess for some people, human babies. We're not supposed to think about the selfishness of one character or about how plausible the future of another one is, and how could we when they stare at us with those sweet smiles, beautiful eyes and their hearts glued to the screen! A proper fluff-ball has to activate our hearts and deactivate our brains as efficiently as a picture of cute puppies, or else, it will not work. Because once we get down to actually thinking about the situations and the characters... but no, I won't do it. Why ruin some perfectly satisfying films for myself!

Come on, use your brain, I dare you!

But really what it all comes down to : Fluff!! Loads and loads, truckloads full of fluff!

What do I call fluff? Well pretty much everything that doesn't add anything to the story but distracts you in such a way that you would never want to do without it: busy sets, bubbly friends, payal sounds, crowds of people, improbable but funny situations, in short a party-like atmosphere. You know which parties I'm talking about: the ones where you spend all night chatting and the next day you only remember having had a great time, but none of the actual conversations. Or does that only happen to me? At any rate, Band Baaja Baarat, Dil Bole Hadippa and the like are exactly like one of these parties to me: no lasting substance but a great feeling at the end, and for sure I could not do without them in my life!

A good story too, you say? Nah... a decently told classic story is more than enough. Not like I'll be talking about the plot when I try to sell the movie to my friends, it is after all... another love story: hate each other, love each other, too proud to do something, too in love to do something else, tears, smiles, flirt, fights... a love story, enough said.

Still smiling when I think about Band Baaja Baarat, by the way!...
Now who will get this title song out of my head, please? I've been singing it all day, I think my neighbours are considering selling their place or at least selling their ear drums!