There's Nothing Like a Good Hero

With so many talented, handsome and accomplished actors out there, it's a task to narrow a list down to a measly 5 (or 6 in this case), but I thought I'd try. Here are the pics for my fave top 5 leading men.

Tied for #5 - Abhishek Bachchan & Farhan Aktar
There's something about Baby B that I find so irresistible. He's been the shining star in almost every movie I've seen him in - whether he's romancing the girl, trying to win a dance off, conning someone out of their money or pretending to be a gay man, he has a certain charm - kind of like the underdog you want to see come out on top. For me, he gets better and better with each role!

Like the Midas of Bollywood, it seems that everything Farhan touches turns to gold. He's a brilliant director (Don - the Chase Begins is among my faves), is incredibly charming and funny on his tv show Oye, It's Friday, has tried his hand at acting, churning out a couple of critically accepted roles and is one of the very few actors who has actually done his own singing (and done it well, I might add). He also has a smile that could melt hearts! Can't wait for Don 2!

4. Saif Ali Khan
Saif reminds me of a lost puppy dog - albeit a pup with a pedigree. He has a boyish, almost Peter Pan like charm that translates through in his films - at least in the majority of the ones I've seen. Characters like DCH's Sameer, Salaam Namaste's Nikhil Arora, KHNH's Rohit Patel, Hum Tum's Karan Kapoor - all are a superb combination of comedy and sensitivity that are incredibly endearing. I defy anyone to not end up rooting for him to make it in the end.

3. Hrithik Roshan
More than just a pretty face with an Adonis-like stature, Hrithik is one of those actors that I didn't really get at first. Like Abhishek, Hirthik's appeal has grown for me with each movie. Yes, he can weild a sword like nobody's business, and the dancing, well it speaks for itself, but the boy can actually act. Koi...Mil Gaya was probably one of the sweetest films I've seen to date, and I was worried when I saw what Hrithik was trying to pull off, but he did it, with aplomb. Despite recent actions and comments, he still lands firmly into my top 5.

2. Aamir Khan - I'm starting to wonder if Bollywood leading men are an acquired taste. I only say this because it's seems that, so far, all of my top 5 have grown on me only over time. Aamir is no exception. Taare Zameen Par was the first film I saw him in, and while he was good, the movie itself is what stood out to me more. While I could credit him immediately for his immense talent as an actor, it wasn't until I'd seen a few more of his films that I started recognizing his appeal. Aamir is sexy without trying (with the exception of Ghajini, though I prefer the Sanjay without the 8 pack), and the intense nature of his character just adds to his smoldering layers.

1. Shah Rukh Khan - If this comes as a surprise to you, then welcome to my blog. To be completely and totally cliché, he had me at hello (insert groan here). That smile, those dimples, that nose (I have a thing for big noses!). When people ask me why I love Shah Rukh, several things come to mind. He is eloquent, intelligent, has enough charm to fill the Ganges and enough sex appeal to fill the Indian Ocean, but above all, it's his character that impresses me most. In an industry where relationships last as long as the life cycle of a gnat, he exhibits a sense of loyalty not maintained by many - a loyalty that helped him get where he is today despite not having any family ties to the business when he started. There's nothing like a self-starter. Plus, to me, he just emanates masculinity at every turn. I could go on and on, but that's another post.

And, there you have it.
Until next time, namaste!

Fakirs anyone?

This weekend the family and I took in our annual Centerfest - a weekend street festival that usually features magicians, comedy acts, jugglers, and the like from all over the world. This year I was pleasantly surprised to see "Jardu - The Magic of India" was among the line up. The boys and I got to go to a sneak preview, thanks to my Mom, last Thursday, and I knew that there was no way I was going to miss the real performance.

Andrew Elliott is the real name of Sydney born and raised fakir and magician "Jardu". He was both funny and irresistibly charming and he won me over immediately. When he picked me to be a part of the act, albeit a small part, I was thrilled! While we didn't get to see the real snake, it was still a fantastic performance. The one thing that I learned this weekend though is that I need to carry my camera with me AT ALL TIMES! How disappointing to not get even one personal picture with him!

Centerfest also boasts all sorts of shopping, and other street fair booths like face painting, etc. I visited a lovely Indian jewelry stand and purchased a really pretty blue beaded ornamental hand bracelet and indulged in a henna tattoo. It was, overall, a terrific way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

And, on another note, my laptop is on it's way to wherever the laptop hospital is, so my activity is going to be drastically reduced for the next two weeks.

So, until then, phir milenge.

My spiral into Bollywood bliss

It's been one year since the first time I saw a Bollywood film. My sister had received a couple of movies in the mail from a dear friend in the UK and asked if I wanted to come over to watch one. Always up for a movie or a night out I agreed. Before she put it on, I remember her telling me that it was something called a Bollywood film, something I really had never heard about before, and if I didn't like it we could shut it off. The movie was Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.

I had seen subtitled movies before, so the idea of watching something foreign wasn't a new one to me, and I have always been a fan of musicals. As the movie progressed I laughed at how cheesy the whole "sexy Sam" thing was, my feet started tapping the instant Rock N Roll Soniye started, I loved how the songs were a fusion of traditional sounding music and contemporary dance, and I was intrigued that another country would make a movie that mixed such a large portion of English with their language. There was a line during one of the songs where the character Dev sings, "This is a season of despair", to which I blurted out, "That's my least favorite season!", and we howled with laughter for minutes on end. Though not a movie that I would recommend to a beginner, there was nothing I didn't enjoy about my first Bollywood experience - I even really enjoyed the movie itself (though I believe that I'm probably nearly alone on that one).

Why haven't I mentioned Shah Rukh Khan, you're wondering? Don't get me wrong, he didn't go unnoticed in KANK - his was the character I empathised with most in the film, but it wasn't really until a couple of days later when my sis asked me if I wanted to watch another movie called Kal Ho Naa Ho to which I replied with an enthusiastic "You Bet!". Not since Jordan Knight of New Kids fame (don't laugh too hard here) have I fallen for a celebrity the way I've fallen for Shah Rukh Khan. I think my parents thought one day I would outgrow this celebrity crush thing - I fear I am way too immature to completely grow up!

Anyway, with KANK and KHNH under my belt, I was hooked. Completely, thoroughly, utterly hooked. If Indian cinema was to be my bread, then Indian filmi music would be my butter. I have always loved music, even was a music major in college, but the passion slowly evaporated as real life took over. Then, all of a sudden, I was back in love. I've never experienced music as rich and diverse as filmi music. From bansuri's, santoors and sitars to the Bhangra beat of the dhol, I love the inclusion of traditional music in film. There's the rich full sound we get from full orchestration and strings in songs like Tujhe Dekha To Ye Jana Sanam. Then there's the heart pulsing, feet pounding Westernized dance tunes, that I dare anyone to try and sit still through. It is honestly all I listen to, and with such an unparalleled mixed bag of music, what else do you need?

So that's my story, 3 sarees, countless curry recipies and 60 movies later, and it doesn't end there. I will keep discovering more about this fascinating country, it's film, it's culture, it's language, and hopefully, one day it will all culminate into a real life experience.

I'd love to hear your story. How did India find you?


*may contain spoilers*

Evocative, heart wrenching and brutally honest. If I had to describe Fashion in three words, that's what initially comes to mind. Madhur Bhandarkar's foray into the world of fashion delves deep beyond the runways and glossy magazine covers to take a somewhat realistic, and somewhat trite, look at the lives of "the beautiful people" focusing more on the dirty underbelly of the industry than anything else.

The movie follows three fashion models, in all their glory and despair, at different stages in their careers. The movie's central character is Meghna Mathur, the dewy fresh and slightly naive small town girl moves to Mumbai with dreams of super stardom and a ferocious drive to succeed. Meghna is definitely Priyanka's meatiest role to date and I think she delivers with gusto! She acts, at first, like a fish out of water, completely innocent in this world of decadence. How refreshing to see someone stand by their convictions, though that thought doesn't last for long as we witness Meghna's accelerated rise to stardom and her convincing transformation to runway vamp. She has some truly stellar moments in the movie, like the one where she lets a little secret slip in front of Abhijit Sarin's wife. Classic meow!

Eager and new in town!

Who paid the hospital bills? Oh, it was your husband!

Hitting rock bottom

Priyanka looking a lot like Angelina Jolie...

...and strangely a little like Katherine Heigl

While Meghna's is the more dominant role, she shares the screen with Kangna Ranaut and newcomer Mugdha Godse. Kangna was born to play Shonali, the fine-boned, wild-maned impetuous reigning queen of the ramp, while Mugdha plays Janet, the worldly long-time model who's never quite gotten her big break. Shonali's character, though riddled with every cliche in the modelling handbook (drug problem, abusive boyfriend, wardrobe malfunction), was still deeply intriguing. Based on the real life story of model Gitanjali Nagpal, Kangna's depiction, her expressions and delivery were all brilliant and I truly felt her despair and she brought out her character's flaws and frailties. On the other hand, I didn't connect with Mugdha's character at all. I suppose Janet's role in the movie was to try and be the voice of reason for Meghna, but she just fell flat for me. I think the movie would not have suffered had her character perhaps just been there at the beginning to help introduce Meghna to the world of modelling.

Shonali tries to give Meghna experienced advice

Holding up under pressure...

...and succumbing to humiliation

Despite Madhur Bhandarkar's insistence that Fashion is the result of diligent research, the film is riddled with stereotypes, most which can be seen in the supporting cast. Besides our relentlessly vapid, booze chugging, cigarette smoking models, the majority of the gay characters flounce and lisp (I actually found Ashwin Mushran quite annoying - even with all of his good intentions), with the exception of Rahul Aurora, the only gay character not "out" (whose decision to stay in the closet indefinitely and live his life a lie was heart breaking in itself). A more diverse look at these two lifestyles may have been more credible. However, I did quite enjoy Arjan Bajwa as our lone male model and Meghna's initial love interest. Handsome and sensible, Manav does his best to keep his girlfriend grounded, though their parting in inevitable. Kitu Gidwani as the magazine editor of Panache is controlled and fun to watch, as is Arbaaz Khan, the fashion czar who makes and breaks careers based on what happens in the bedroom. Who didn't see his and Meghna's "hook-up" coming from a mile away?

Who is this fine young man?

Oh, he's a model! Yummy!

I wouldn't classify this one as a standard hindi film in terms of music, as there is no item song and no big dance numbers, both of which would have been completely out of place. Composed by Salim-Sulaiman (with lyrics by Sandeep Nath and Irfan Siddique), the movie has only 5 original tracks, including the theme song, and a handful of remixes. While the majority of the songs have a feel that keeps up with the contemporary urban mood of the movie, others are almost hypnotizing. From electric guitar and western rap in Fashion Ka Jalwa to santoor and strings in Theme Of Fashion, the film's background score, it is an eclectic combination of music for sure, but it's Mar Jawaan, which is haunting and beautiful all at once and sums up the tone of the movie leaving a lasting impression on you long after the credits have rolled.

Meghna gets some bad news

But the show must go on!

As one who self-admittedly doesn't know a lot about the fashion world, I think you have to take Bhandarkar's depiction with a grain of salt. In and amongst the backstabbing, the casting couch, the drugs and alcohol, I'm sure there is more to this glamorous industry like beauty, hard work, triumph and even some genius. That being said, while Fashion is definitely a sombre movie going experience, I found it fascinating - kind of like watching a train wreck - but at the end of it all, we are given a little slice of redemption, and that's the best kind.

Celebrations?, calamity and call centres!

A quick personal note: Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. Initially I had hoped that this weekend would have brought with it a nice weekend getaway, but fate apparently didn't like that idea and we will have to celebrate with a quick hospital visit instead, as mera pati will be in the hospital until Tuesday. Oh well, it will certainly give me lots of time to watch movies over the weekend!

And, it just gets worse! Working at home avails me a lot of time to spend on what is quickly becoming an addiction, as long as I can use my laptop. This morning, I noticed that, *GASP* one of the hinges was broken, and after a lengthy phone call to Dell(which I will get into later), I will be sending it away for service. That means that my computer time will be severely restricted! So, before Tuesday arrives, I will try and finish watching Fashion and get my review up. After Tuesday I will try to cope with my withdrawl symptoms.

Also, after my one hour phone call with Dell, I have realized that I am completely hopeless. You never really know where you are phoning when you call a 1-800 phone number, especially for something like computer tech support, but when a lady named Preity answered my call and then transferred me to my customer support representative, Vivek, who spoke in his wonderful Indian accent, I was pretty sure I was connected to India. Now, I don't know too many people who care who's on the other end of the line or where the call centre is, but I was so happy to talk to Vivek, just because I was actually talking to someone who was right in India! And, leave it to me to make a complete fool of myself! When he said his name was Vivek, I said, "As in Oberoi?", to which he replied laughing slightly, "No." Later, when we were nearing the end of our little tête-à-tête and he asked me if I had any other questions, I couldn't help myself and asked if he was actually in India. He said yes, and then I, in all my embarrassing and awkward glory, gushed about how much I loved his country. I'm sure he thought I was completely insane. 34 going on 15.

And, because I am spending the majority of my anniversary alone, I think I'll turn to my Bollywood hubby to give me solace!

Happy Friday everyone!

What's on your ipod?

I'm in love with iTunes.

Last Christmas the one and only thing I wanted was an mp3 player. How else was I going to get my fill of Hindi film music? I tried shopping at the local Best Buy and music stores, but all I could find was The Rough Guide to Bollywood, and though the music was fantastic, I needed more. I was thrilled when I opened my iPod. Since then, I have almost completely stopped listening to Western music (though I still need my fix of East Coast favorites Great Big Sea and Lady Gaga now and then).

I have been pleasantly surprised the amount of music that's available through the Canadian iStore (though I have never been able to get the music from Dostana, which kind of ticks me off). I've even been able to download a few compilation cd's with 50+ songs for $12 - what a bargain. My only complaint is that there is very little Hindi music videos and absolutely nothing in the foreign film category. I wonder if it's different in the States.

One of the things I love about my iPod is that, not only does it track how many times I listen to each song, but it immediately created a "Top 25" playlist which changes and updates with my listening habits.

Here's my top 5:

5. Main Agaar Kahoon
4. Kal Ho Naa Ho
3. Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai
2. Haule Haule
1. Khaike Paan Banaras Wala

While these may not be my current fav's, there is something about them that I can't seem to get enough of. I've listened to Khaike Paan Banaras Wala 137 times. It would have to register as my all time favorite Bollywood song, plus I think that it is amazing how Shah Rukh and Udit's voices blend so perfectly in this song - you would never know that it was not the same person. As for the others, while each of them has it's own appeal for me, they are also part of a select few that I know the words and can sing along to, so that probably has something to do with their ranking.

So, my question to you. What's your top 5 songs on your iPod and why?

Happy listening!

Happy Tunes Today

I haven't had much time this week to watch anything, as my husband was diagnosed with Alberta's only case of meningitis (lucky him) and I've been in and out of the hospital. And, while the sun has finally peeked out from behind those rain clouds, my spirits are still a little down, so what better way than to post a couple song picturizations that cheer me up.

Sometimes when I get a new movie, I check out the songs first. After watching this one I thought Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani was going to be fun and light. I was surprised, but I love this song - it's insanely catchy - and the picturization is hilarious - I love Juhi's bit too.

Ah, I'm so glad those two crazy kids kissed and made up!

I haven't seen this one yet (it's amongst my pile waiting to be viewed). I love the song though, even my 4 year old asks for it, and Sanjay's attempts at dancing!

Happy Wednesday everyone!


If you seen any of his other films, you know immediately that Ashutosh Gowariker makes a superior product. His movies are the epitome of story telling at it's very best, and this one is no exception. Stripped down, Swades is different from most of Bollywood's main stream masala flicks. It is a Hindi movie which has no villains, but still illustrates vividly the miseries of life, which has no feuding families but still manages to bring out the realities of love, marriage, and adjustments. There are no corrupt politicians but rather the village panchayat, with real issues and real ego, but still clearly human. There are no events for shock value yet the storyline is still incredibly gripping. Swades does not tackle issues that are new in Hindi film, but it does it in a way that sends a clear message - change can only happen if and when we want it to, and this is true whether you live in India, Canada, USA or any other country in the world.

I watched an interview some time ago where Shah Rukh was very openly asked if he was an actor or a star. This movie proves to any naysayers out there just how talented this man is as a very fine ACTOR. As Mohan Bhargav, he is sincere, refined, powerful, yet we still get to see the charm and flirtatious nature that is his trademark. His delivery is completely honest - from his breakdown on the rent collection trip to Koda which ended in buying and drinking water at the small train station (which I think is the most intense and yet underplayed performance I have seen in a while) to how earnestly he commits himself to proving that the power to change things lies in each person individually and collectively as they work together to build the community's new electricity generator. I imagine that Mohan is probably the closest we have ever gotten to see the real Shah Rukh Khan, with all his brilliance and affection for denim. Also, I will never listen to Foreigner again without hearing his truly *ahem* distinctive singing in the background!

Gayatri Joshi is simply stunning in her only role to date. As Geeta, she is strong, idealistic and yet, intensely feminine. While she believes in the value of culture and tradition, she also recognizes her worth, which is plainly evident when she refuses a proposal over the continuation of her teaching. When she ties Mohan's dhoti looking into his eyes unhesitatingly, there's a subtle message hidden speaking odes about female empowerment.

The rest of the supporting cast is stellar. I've never seen a film, with the exception of Lagaan, where the community and it's inhabitants play such a large role. Kishori Balal gives her all into Kaveri Amma and makes her a truly affectionate character. Dayashankar Pandey (Mela Ram) and Rajesh Vivek (Nivaran) are fantastic and are genius in their comic relief roles (incidentally, both were also parts of a larger whole in Lagaan). The Village panchayat, the wrestling, the post office, the Ramlila - these slices of life in Charanpur were amazing and were brought to life by their inhabitants.

The music of Swades is inspired and grounded and has an entirely different feel than I'm used to in a Bollywood film. Of the movie's 7 songs, Yeh Tara Woh Tara, Yun Hi Chala Chal and Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera rank as my favorites. Yeh Tara Woh Tara has Udit Narayan singing about the strengths of being united, and is wonderfully picturized on one of the best scenes in the film in which Mohan tries to shrink the gap caused by the village's social caste system. The addition of the children singing and Shah Rukh's "tamed down" dance moves add to the rural feel. Yun Hi Chala Chal is a song that would seem totally out of place if you were just listening to the soundtrack. However, it is cleverly placed and fits into the context of the film just fine. It is rhythm driven, completely original and lots of fun. And, saving the best for last is Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera sung by AR himself in probably the most beautifully patriotic song I have ever heard. There isn't anything I don't love about this one including the beautifully subdued vocals and melody. Definitely one of his best overall.

Dekho Na emerges as the movies lone love duet, song by Udit and Alka (this lady is popping up everywhere for me lately!). Even though I wouldn't say this one is an amazing masterpiece, I wanted to bring it up to illustrate one point. I am a huge sucker for a love story and I had to mention how eloquently Gowariker handles the romantic liaison between Mohan and Geeta giving it a restrained treatment without ever overpowering the larger more dominant themes in the script.

And so, in the end, we all win. And isn't that how it should be?

Paging Dr. Khan

First there was the Padmashri, the prestigious French Officer dans l'Ordre des Aris et des Lettres, the Malaysian datukship, now Shah Rukh adds another feather to his cap - an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contribution in arts and culture from Bedfordshire University given to him yesterday at a ceremony held at Indian-owned Washington Hotel in London’s Mayfair.

In his acceptance speech, Shah Rukh says that he is inspired by the doctorate to work for the education of poor children in India.

"It makes me think seriously about what I do and what I have done over the past 20 years in my career. The feeling I get is that I should utilise this recognition to further the cause of those underprivileged children who do not get the opportunity to educate themselves. I promise to dedicate a large proportion of my time to do whatever is (in) my capacity to further the cause of education amongst these kids as a way of expressing my thankfulness and gratitude for this honour — starting with my kids who are highly uneducated."

That's our boy!

And because I love them, here's my favorite Shah Rukh/Saif commercials:


What happens in a relationship when the dust that is infatuation settles? That's the question that director Shaad Ali poses in his directorial debut, and, while I can say that it doesn't quite have the same sense of style that his later movies possess, he does attempt to give us a story that is grounded in reality. Ali's intent was to show us a slightly different take on what happens in relationships after shaadi, and I suppose he succeeds at some level.

We are introduced to two fresh faced collegiates, Aditya (Vivek Oberoi) and Suhani (Rani Mukherji). The two have a chance meeting on a train and, through a series of flashbacks, thus begins their story. Aditya is instantly smitten, following her this way, that way, almost in stalker-like proportions. Finally Suhani tells him that they can not be together - she's not interested in being in love, after all, she's a modern girl whose studies to be a doctor are much more important. Aditya is distraught. What will he do without the love of his life? Even Suhani's didi, Dina, wonders why the couple have broken up. Huh? Wait, I'm confused, were they even dating? Well, apparently their feelings ran much more deeper than I realized, because before we know it the two have secretly wed, much to the disapproval of both families once this privileged information is made known.

So, married life as adults takes over. With a roof successfully over their head, the two begin to realize that maybe this whole marriage thing isn't as full of sunshine and rainbows as they thought it would be. Let the bickering begin. Suhani even keeps a calendar, Xing off every day that they fight - is there some reason for keeping track? Maybe she planned on using all those giant X's to bargain for something later on - a giant piece of jewelry perhaps? I think I'll start my own calendar today! At any rate, if the only issues that Ali attempted to tackle were the little day to day things, I may have lost faith in his purpose. At least we see the start something else, like infidelity, creep into the picture, even if it's not fully explored. Now that's the stuff that really tests a marriage.

Throughout all of this we go back and forth from the couple's trials and tribulations to present day, where Aditya is searching for a missing Suhani. I have to admit, the little addition of suspense is really what kept me interested in this film. While I found the transitions between the past and present kind of irritating, I was extremely surprised when the two stories joined, culminating in one shocker of a climax. Also, to my utter surprise and delight, enter Shah Rukh Khan in a wonderful, albeit nearly pointless, cameo. I don't care if his presence did nothing to move the story along, it sure made my night! (Oh, and Tabu was there too.)

Besides, Shah Rukh, there were others in this film - believe it or not. Rani - sweet, cute, feisty Rani - what can I say. She delivers a solid performance as the smart, proud and beautiful Suhani. At least in this film, as opposed to something like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, she's given some real substance, and you truly end up rooting for her in the end.

This was my first Vivek Oberoi film. While I wouldn't say I was swept off my feet, he was quite convincing as Aditya, the young, brash, immature, but essentially good-hearted, upper-middle class boy. Even though Aditya is callow, even silly at times, you see his passion; despite his posturing, you glimpse his insecurities and vulnerability. Behind his shaggy 'do, Oberoi pays adequate homage to his character.

When I saw the words AR Rahman light up the screen during opening credits I was so excited to hear what musical treats we were in store for me this time around. I have to say, although I've heard nothing but good things about the soundtrack, it failed to leave a lasting impression on me. Of the albums songs, Aye Udi Udi and Chori Pe Chori are probably the catchiest, but I remember them more for the picturizations rather than the music. In Aye Udi Udi we see a newly married couple during the honeymoon stage complete with a healthy (and racy!) fantasy life -though I didn't quite understand the need for the weird backward filmed hair flips and such. During Chori Pe Chori we get to see the mature side of said newly married husband as he brazenly flirts with Shamita Shetty in an effort to get back at his wife for leaving the toothpaste cap off.

So, hats off to Shaad Ali for his attempt at taking a more contemporary look at marriage, though I think had he explored venues such as the sacrifices that are required to make a marriage work, rather than just the little surface issues, he would have ended up with a much more compelling film.

another dreary day...

It has been a dreary week. Grey skies are overpowering my usual sunny disposition and really all I want to do is sleep. I've had enough rain, tornado warnings and funnel clouds to last the rest of the summer, so today I thought, in an attempt to bring me out of my stupor, why not post a few of my favorite Bollywood moments.

I love film and tv awards shows. I usually can't wait for the Oscars, the Emmy's, the Golden Globes, and while I watch to see who walks away with a trophy, my favorite parts are the ones in between. I think the success of the show rests on the shoulders of the hosts, and, while we've seen some terrible jobs (ie. David Letterman - ouch!), there's also been some very memorable ones. India's film fraternity has the Filmfare awards and 2008 provided the platform for my favorite Bollywood Bromance jodi to strut their stuff. Shah Rukh and Saif were hilariously crude and outrageous in their hosting duties and I, for one, loved every minute of it.

and who could forget...

I love Karan Johar. His movies rank high on my list and so does his show Koffee with Karan. Some funny moments and "offtakes"....

And with that I would like to end off with some heartfelt well wishes to Mr. Bachchan, as he's had to head back to the hospital for some tests after experiencing stomach pain the other day. Get well soon.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

*may contain spoilers*

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been redeemed in my eyes. After the monotonous fare that was presented to me in the form of Saawarya, I was delighted to watch a film that not only stirred my senses but my emotions as well with characters I could truly connect with. Star crossed lovers and love triangles have been the meat and bones of Bollywood for a good many years, and we get served both in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. It is a story true to the Bollywood romance formula, but where some may end up being merely carbon copies of each other, this one deviates from the norm.

While the root of this film is simple, the characters are not necessarily so. Aishwarya Rai gives a brilliantly expressive performance in a role I've seen numerous times, most recently done by Kajol in Hote Hote Pyaar Ho Gaya, but where Kajol failed in her sincerity, Aishwarya rules. At first you see her as the insurgent, but dutiful daughter who's resolve slowly melts away as infatuation sets in. Her secret courtship with Sameer is cute and entertaining, and, in an example of art imitating life, we can see these two actually falling in love. All's well until we see the eventual course of Nadini's fate change with the introduction of Vanraj's proposal. Aish does well in switching from enamored girl to apathetic wife, and emotes so effectively that you can see very clearly the moment she falls in love again.

I have said it before and I'll probably continue to say it, but I am not a huge fan of Salman Khan. However, I was pleasantly surprised with him in this film. His role as the Indian/Italian man who talks to his dead father and falls in love with the teacher's daughter was playfully adolescent. Here is a lad that lives for the moment in every respect, and while there's something to be said for being carefree, at some point you need to face responsibility. For this reason, I had a hard time stomaching the thought that this was the man Nandini was choosing. That being said, Salman carries off the humor and light moments of his role quite well - even including a preposterous amount of shirtless scenes. Oh, Sallu, what would we ever do without your infamous torso!

The only other movie I have seen Ajay Devgan in was the low brow Golmaal Returns, in which he failed to leave much of an impression on me. In this film he shines gloriously as Vanraj, a man who loves so selflessly that his only desire is to see the happiness of his intended, even if it means losing her in the end. From their first meeting during Nimbooda to the discovery that Nandini loves another man to the scene on the bridge when she leaves to meet Sameer (where, incidentally, my heart shattered into a million tiny little pieces), Ajay displays a mature sensitivity in this role that is bound to turn anyone into an instant fan. If I had to pick one thing that stood out in this film above anything else, for me it was Ajay. Vanraj has surely stolen a little bit of my heart!

As if the performances weren't already enough reason to watch, Bhansali, true to form, has left absolutely no stones unturned in regards to the movie's production value. Technically, the film is outstanding. Anil Mehta brings out the best of traditional Gujarati/Rajasthani architecture in his cinematography. The sets are extravagant and the whole production looks luscious and expensive with its grandiose sets and costumes.

Introduce Ismail Darbar. In his first attempt at musical direction, Darbar hits it out of the park with an amazing soundtrack and score, and how could it not with the likes of Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy and a plethora of other extremely talented playback singers at his disposal. The brilliance of the music is further exaggerated by wonderful choreography and perhaps one of the best integration of songs into the narrative of a movie that I've seen in a while.

My favorite picturizations:

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is 100% Bollywood, offering the very best in every possible category of what Hindi film making has to give. Bansali, my faith has been restored!