Thursday, June 21, 2012

New and Old Love for Salaam-e-Ishq

I really loved Salaam-e-Ishq when I first saw it some 4 years ago. And I kept meaning to rewatch it but... life got in the way. Especially when you have to make time for 3.5 hours. So I just kept rewatching the songs (yes, I will rave again about Saiyaan Re! You didn't think I'd skip that step, did you?) and postponing the movie for another time.

Well, that time has come. I rewatched it. And my biggest conclusion from this experience is that the deeper you get into a hobby, the more quirks and pet peeves you develop. As much as I try to stay as open minded as I was when I watched my first Indian film, it seems that learning about the industries and about the culture over the years has altered my perception of certain tropes, plots and situations. And so it was that Salaam-e-Ishq won me over this time more with its technical prowess than with its stories. The best part about this rewatch was following how the tracks flow into each other, how one person picking up the phone in one story leads to another hanging up the phone in a completely different story. Truly masterful and engaging, I didn't want to miss a single frame. And that's a huge compliment for a movie that's 3.5 hours long and has so many characters to follow.

The first time I saw Salaam-e-Ishq, a movie that deftly juggles five love stories (I refuse to consider Sohail Khan trying to bang Isha Koppikkar as even a part of the story) I was in love with three of its tracks:

1) Tehzeeb and Ashu, the sweet Muslim-Hindu couple who fight to cope with Tehzeeb's memory loss after a train accident. I found Ashu's love for Tehzeeb and his hopeless battle to restore his wife's memories so touching that I didn't even mind the windblowing machine gently caressing Ashu's hair every time he was in the frame.


2) Raju and Stephanie, the Indian cab driver who falls for the white memsaab in search of her two-timing Indian boyfriend. This was the first time I found Govinda cute with his undeclared love for Stephanie and their tender chemistry made this one of my favourite couples ever.


3) Kkamini and Raoool, the filmi couple: Kkamini an item queen looking to land a part in a Karan Johar movie (why, Kkamini, whyyyyy???) and Raool a man posing as her fiance for PR purposes. I found them deliciously over the top and they gave the movie that glitz and glitter that I love so much in Bollywood.


The fourth story, Gia and Shiven, a couple about to get married solving the groom-to-be's cold feet issues, was cute and I really enjoyed Akshaye Khanna in it, but at the time I didn't find it memorable. Except for Shiven's bachelor party song. Hehe! You knew it was coming!




Last but not least, the fifth couple: Vinay, a man going through a mid-life crisis and Seema, his dutiful wife, annoyed the heck out of me, mostly because I found Vinay's punishment for cheating on his wife too light. Yes, I am cruel like that.


This time around, the only constant from the previous viewing was my disdain for the Sohail and Isha story. Nothing changed there. But let me tell you how all the other stories changed for me.

Tehzeeb and Ashu
I think Jhoota Hi Sahi ruined John Abraham for me forever. Now that I know he can act... I simply cannot tolerate sub-par acting from him anymore. It's sad really, because he does a decent job most of the time here, but poor man seemed so fake after being tear-gassed for most of the movie that I could not get into it anymore.


That said, I still found their story to have a lot of potential and I still appreciated the ending for its realism. Everything from the moment when they land in Shiven's apartment defied Bollywood conventions and that makes this couple rock even now. If only that fabulous writing could have been matched by John's acting... If only! 

Raju and Stephanie
This was the biggest disappointment for me because I never would have imagined seeing this story in a different way, but many love at first sight plots and too many goris in Bollywood later, I seem to have become very touchy to everything that uses either of the above. I know Raju was supposed to be so sweet with his dream of falling in love with a white tourist, but I simply failed to see the difference between his desire for Stephanie, and Stephanie's NRI fiance's decision to marry an Indian girl. Both were more preoccupied with the colour of the girl's skin than with who she really was. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that Raju's feelings were sincere in the end, as opposed to the NRIs, but a love story stemming out of camaraderie would have worked a lot better. As it was, Raju's obsession with meeting a gori memsaab made him seem shallow and yes, slightly creepy, despite Govinda's cuteness.


Also, after so many movies where the white girl just falls for the Indian guy because... uh... because he's Indian and people enjoy seeing such plots for whatever reason, I've come to be annoyed whenever this happens in a movie. Not to mention that it's really just a twist on the old stalking plot device: if you love her long enough and selflessly enough, she'll fall in love with you. No, Stephanie honey, no. You don't love him back after three days just because he's Indian and because he loves you more than your d00che-bag boyfriend. You might like him, you might be friends with him forever, and over time it may even grow into love, but you don't "unse pyaar karti ho". Or if you do, requesting permission to roll my eyes.



Kkamini and Rahoul
I still totally enjoyed these two characters. Though something about Salman Khan's facial expressions irritates the crap out of me. He reminds me of Cher whose high cheek bones and puckered lips are somehow mistaken for expression by whoever is still giving her acting roles. I've warmed up to Salman in his action roles only because they require minimal histrionics, but the serious scenes in a film like Salaam-e-Ishq really bring out his inability to project emotion. But all good, most of his role was calling for over the top antics, so it almost worked out for him. Besides, how cool is it to see a dude coming to propose riding a white horse? In London. Wearing aviator sunglasses. Classic!


I was once again bugged by the fact that Kkamini has to give up either love or her career, but this time around, because I feel that the industry has progressed somewhat since the times when this film was made, I can still hope that even if Karan Johar doesn't make her his heroine, other directors will. So this time around I didn't see her choice as a career-ending move anymore which made me happy. Amazing what 5 years can do to my perception of the industry, no?


Gia and Shiven
I don't think I used to like Akshaye Khanna as much as I like him now, so he really was a treat this time around. Despite the fact that his character was an idiot, he managed to make Shiven relatable, if not understandable. Yes, he's immature, shallow and disrespectful, but when he does get it, his change of heart is genuine and he does it while remaining the person that Gia fell in love with the first time around. I really enjoyed his scene at the wedding because everything he said and did was very much consistent with his goofball character. He continues to be immature and shallow, but he's now realized he wants to spend the rest of his days with Gia. Too many movies confuse falling in love (or realizing that one is in love) with a complete change of character and it's refreshing to see one that doesn't. Ullu da patha he started and ullu da patha he remains.


That said I was still confused about Gia's motivations, she really seemed keen on getting married, and I wasn't exactly sure why. Presumably the parents? Not sure... But I probably would have been freaked out about it too had I been in Shiven's shoes. Just sayin...

Vinay and Seema (and Anjali)
It's perhaps a good time to admit that I skipped through most of the scenes involving Vinay's younger love interest, including her song. That whole bit seemed heavy handed to me the first time around and I didn't think time would have made it better. But what caught my attention this time was the colour palette used with this couple. Or rather the non-colour palette, as everything is some shade or other of grey. Vinay's house, his office, his wardrobe, Seema's wardrobe, everything is blatantly lifeless, which is a stark contrast with Anjali's image: the highlights in her hair, the glitter on her diary, the excitement of her life as a dancer. Now I realize that this contrast could have been handled in a more subtle way, but I actually kind of liked the way it worked out visually and well... Salaam-e-Ishq is not a movie to take home any awards for finesse.



Also I found myself in a more forgiving mood this time. I wasn't as outraged by Seema's final decision because it did feel that Vinay had learned his lesson. And I suppose over the years I have come to appreciate that about people more than I used to. Funny how that is...


Overall Salaam-e-Ishq is still a winner in my book and I am still in awe at how effortlessly it sucked me in all over again, but I think some of that wide-eyed innocence I used to have when watching glittery Indian movies is gone for good now. Classic case of "it's not you, it's MEEEE!!", huh?


Salaam-e-Ishq (Hindi, 2007) 
Starring: Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, Akshaye Khanna, Ayesha Takia, John Abraham, Vidya Balan, Govinda, Shannon Esra, Sohail Khan, Isha Koppikar 
Directed by: Nikhil Advani 
Choreography: Bosco Caesar

8 comments:

maxqnz said...

EGrea review, most of which I agree with. I wish the Sohail/Isha bits had been cut out of the film entirely, that would have given more time for the other storylines. I am also totally on your side when it comes to The Hairy One getting off too lightly. When I rewatch it, it's *that* storyline that annoys me the way the Govinda one annoys you. So much so that I often fast forward through it, except for babuji dheere chalna which is probably the best cover of a Bollywood cover.

I think the reason I diiffer on Govinda's storyline is that unlike the classic Dil Se style stalking, I believed in his total readiness in the end to walk away and not pursue her. For me, Govinda's performance convinced me that, even if she started as the gori answer to his creepy prayers, she became someone he actually loved unselfishly. Her reaction was OTT perhaps, but then so was the speed and ease with which Seema let Vinay off, na?

I also really liked John & Vidya storyline. I preferred to Jhootha Hi Sahi because although his performance in that was fine, I have serious concerns about its cavalier disregard for the egregious nature of what he did. In this one, he played the saintly hero well, I thought, and that's not easy, given how one-dimensional it is.

Thanks for reminding me why this is a film that I should rewatch, especially after suffering through a film I disliked. Your excellent review has persuaded me that John Abraham in S-e-I can atone for John Abraham in Desi Boyz! :)

Jenny said...

Strangely I never saw the entire movie in one go, and maybe that's why i didnot like it that much then.

I loved how they ended Ashu and tezeeb story, and not going into the whole non bollywood area!

I didnot like priyanka and salman at all. I actually found all the over the top acting a bit too irritating And I am with you on the facial expressions on salman khan.

The Stephanie falling in love with Govinda, no even that didnot work out, and yes why Gia wanted to marry, no clue. Some loop holes, but they gelled the entire story well. After the movie ended, I did give in sometime, to see understand how all the charcters linked in the end. Got to watch it again someday soon!

Gaja Gamini said...

I found the movie extremely forgettable.... I watched it... and forgot I watched it. Then I wrote a review... and forgot I wrote it... :D

I thought it was a nice timepass though and especially the way the storylines were put together deserves some apraisal.

Anonymous said...

Like your before-and-after take on this film. I too found myself drawn to different things in the film when I watched many, many Hindi movies later. I have a slightly different take on Salman & Priyanka. A) I now think of Kkamini as starlet of limited talent, so for me she's giving up a pretty naive ambition more than a professional acting career. B) I see Salman as acting like he's acting, which is kinda humorous all on its own. But it's also what gives their scenes a unique rhythm & undertow. Still confusing upon 2nd viewing: why doesn't Kkamini recognize him?

Jen

Dolce and Namak said...

Hahaha! Thanks maxqnz, you should have been here when I was watching to remind me that there's also John in Desi Boyz (which I haven't even seen, mind you, I only know it by reputation), that would have probably endeared him to me much more. :)

LOL @ the hairy one and how easily he gets off, I remember I used to feel quite angry about it too. It could also be that I'm desensitized to the issue now after having seen it in other movies where it irritated me even more (Metro comes to mind).

And fair point about Raju not pursuing the romance, that's true and that does make it better. I guess I'm just really allergic to that kind of plot. :)

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Jenny, yeah, try to give it another go sometime, I think you'll be surprised at how differently you'll see things after letting it simmer for a while.

Haha! I know what you mean about the OTT-ness of the Priyanka and Salman story. I can see how it could be irritating. Guess I just had fun with it, but there's a fine line between what's tolerable and what's not. I think maybe your line is less forgiving than mine. :)

Totally in agreement on how the stories came together, I actually thought that was the coolest part of the movie. :)

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Gaja Gamini: I laughed at your reaction to the movie and to writing it up. To each their own, I suppose. :) Have you seen Life in a Metro? It's the less Bollywoodized version of the same type of movie. I actually liked that one better in terms of plot, though some of the things that bothered me about SEI bothered me about Metro as well. You might find that one more memorable. :)

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Jen, you make a good point about Kkamini's career. I guess for me it's hard to tell in BW movies when an actor is playing an actor if the character is supposed to be good at acting or not. Like it would have to be really bad acting for me to clue in that oh, her character is not really a good actress (Dhoondte Reh Jaoge comes to mind, Soha's character). Otherwise I always assume they're a good actor who's just not getting a break (like so many out there). Also, I always keep in mind that many actors who can't act have been launched in Bollywood by big directors, so it wouldn't be impossible for her to make it big. But yeah, if I were to look at it the way you do, you're right, she wasn't giving up much.

In regards to Salman, yeah, in the scenes when he was acting I found him pretty funny. It was the scenes where he was supposed to be serious where I found him lacking.

And I guess she never really knew him back then. She was the singer/entertainer, so if she didn't socialize with all the waiters, she wouldn't have remembered him. I can see that happening in a big place like a hotel. He probably just had a huge crush on her from a distance. Or they had only had some short encounters that she promptly forgot but he cherished.

Thanks for dropping by with your own takes on the film, guys! It's so much fun seeing how differently people feel about these stories.

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