Mangal Pandey: The Rising

My movie stash is slowly growing smaller, leaving only movies that I purchased a long time ago, before I knew what or who I liked, films I've started but for some reason shut off or films I know nothing about. So when Monday movie night came around I didn't know what to bring. We ended up watching Mangal Pandey - The Rising, and why I waited so long to see this is beyond me. Very few movies captivate me right from the first frames, but I knew immediately that I was going to like this one even if I didn't really know anything about it except the fact that it took ages for Aamir to grow his hair and moustache.

Admittedly, I don't know that much about India's fight for Independence. High school was a loooong time ago, and we didn't even have "history class" so much as general social studies, so I wonder if I even learned about India when I was younger (and if I did, I don't remember anything!). At any rate, I find it fascinating when a director can take an historical event and turn it into a riveting piece of film, and in the mean time if I can learn a little bit, that's a bonus - even if there is a great deal of creative license involved, which there most certainly always is when dealing with historical legends and folklore.

With that being said, I think what Ketan Mehta has attempted to give us is a look into the start of Indian revolt against British rule, and he has succeeded, for the most part, in balancing form and content beautifully. It is a gorgeous film, drenched in color and beauty. From it's ability to convey a sense of the time period (the costuming is fantastic as are the amazing sets) to the emotional journey and character transformation that Pandey progresses trough Mehta has triumphed, breathing splendor into every frame.

Like all the great epics, Mangal Pandey takes a huge, sweeping story and puts a human drama in the foreground. Mehta includes an interesting cross section of narrations that neither sheds a completely negative light on the British nor a completely positive one on the Indians, including a British soldier preventing a forced sati (which was so brutal I almost couldn't believe it), a local Indian making deals with British officials and profiting over the sale of smuggled opium, Indian ran brothels for British soldiers only and Indian soldiers treated as second class citizens with brutal punishments for minor slips handed out by self-important British officers. But whenever it gets too grim to watch, Mehta surprises us with a song and lets us gather our thoughts for a moment.

Credit has to go to Aamir Khan, who I think is the most prolific actor of his generation. One needs to believe in his country, in his work and in himself to have put forth so many politically charged and controversial films. Nevertheless, he plays Mangal Pandey passionately with a complete conviction that you literally feel his shame, his fury, his intensity to such a degree that you almost forget that you are watching Aamir at all. My only critique is that, despite the picture being about Mangal Pandey, it isn't his character that is given the best dialogues or situations (with the exception of an outstanding but short lived climax), but Toby Stephens instead.

Stephens, as Captain William Gordon, gives an emotionally charged performance as the British soldier conflicted with being loyal to his government and doing what's morally right. You believe right away that Gordon and Mangal are more than comrades in arms and their chemistry together is the high mark of the film's dramatic impact. Not only does Stephens match Aamir step-for-step as the kind and sensible Gordon, but you can tell he's worked hard on his character as well as his Hindi, which came off about as natural as you could expect. It certainly helps that his is probably the best written character in the film.

The film also features the effervescent Rani Mukherji and Amisha Patel in short roles as the love interests of our two main soldiers. They don't have a whole lot to do with the story except to let us see a more intimate, human side to Pandey and Gordon I suppose. There is also a handful of other small roles that are smaller pieces of the whole, but don't really stand out too much, though I must send a small shout out to the insanely busty Kirron Kher for an interesting cameo as the bordello house mother.

With A.R. Rahman helming the musical wheel and Javed Akhtar operating the lyrical pen, one would expect nothing short of mellifluous genius, but do they deliver? You bet! Right away you get a feeling for the film with Mangal Mangal as it's played through the opening sequences, with two other versions played throughout the film in a very effective storytelling technique. A dancing girl's song, a holi celebration, a tantalizing item number are among the uptempo numbers. Great stuff!!!

Overall, I am so glad to have seen this epic movie, despite it's historical inaccuracies. Plus it's the only Hindi movie that's ever gotten me hot and bothered!

Hey, did you know it's Thursday?

I think I may have to give up ever seeing another movie in the theatre again! Either that or I need to make a phone call to our theatre to find out why they are STILL not playing any Bollywood movies. So, I will have to suffice with trailers and YouTube.

Circut and Munna, I can't wait to see you guys bumble your way through America!

I've never heard of this one, or anyone in it, but it's about dance and that's good enough for me!

Just found this song from Wake Up, Sid, which was one of the movies I thought I might like to see this fall. I don't see anything wrong with having a little good clean fun!

Also, this is neither a trailer nor is it new, but I was thrilled to find the original version and picturization of Kishmore Kumar's Om Shanti Om from the original 80's version of Karz. This is my absolute favorite "car dance" song!

For those Sallu fans

While I was searching for pics for my last post, I came across these ones of Salman Khan that I thought were amazing. After the bashing he took I thought I'd post something pro-Sallu for a change.

I don't think I've ever seen him look so chic and put together before. Great shoot, Salman.

Then and now: a pictoral

After a very small debate with bollyviewer a little while ago on whether or not Shah Rukh ever had a baby face, I was inspired to do a post on some of Bollywood's current leading men, then and now. Are our heroes aging gracefully or have they past their prime?

I never thought of Aamir as a heartthrob until I saw Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, but even before the last notes of Papa Kehte Hain finished I could definitely see that he had an irresistible charm. Like his work, he continues to get better with age!

I'm not sure when this was taken, but he looks damn hot! *gratuitous Aamir shot*

I've seen very few of Akshay's movies, which is ridiculous seeing as how his roster is miles long, but I can still see why he is considered one of Bollywood's most notorious playboys. Though, I have to admit, I like the softer version of Akki from earlier years to his look now.

No longer just a pretty boy, Hrithik's look has changed over the years. With each new role we've seen him emerge from squeaky clean boy to ruggedly sexy (and super buff) man.

A victim of the terrible mullet craze, there' still no denying that Saif had the looks of a heartbreaker early in his career. With almost 50 movies to his credit, his look has matured as much as his acting. Though, with Saif, I prefer the clean shaven look, the facial hair does lend him a bit of masculinity to that otherwise smooth baby face!

I have never pretended to be a fan of Salman, and of today's actors, I think he's the one who has maintained his look rather than evolve (although, searching for pics I did happen upon some really fantastic shots of him in a rather current photo shoot that I feel compelled to post separately). I also think that he looks the oldest out of the Khans.

And, of course, I save the very best for last....

Okay, I know I am completely biased, but I absolutely still think that Shah Rukh had a bit of a babyface back in the day. I also think that he is one of the actors who has, without a doubt, gotten better with age (though he is looking a little too thin these days for sure). People may be starting to call him uncle, but to me he'll always just be a man - and a very handsome one at that!

Guru / Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai / Kisse Pyaar Karoon

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to review the couple of movies I've been able to take in, so I'm just going to post some quick thoughts about them.


I saw this preview a while ago without really knowing what it was about but immediately thought it looked like a really good movie, and even though I snatched it up immediately during my last big movie shop, it sat and sat. I wonder why it took me so long to watch it, as it is truly a modern day masterpiece. Mani Ratnam's portrayal of young, ambitious entrepreneur Gurukant K. Desai is a tremendously inspiring film. With a fairly simple story, and narration and characterization that is about as near perfect as I've seen to date, it is truly a compelling cinematic achievement. Ratnam's treatment of the aggressively industrious Desai and his road from pauper to prince is subtle yet powerful.

Abhishek is nothing short of brilliant as the story's protagonist. Burdened with a complex role that demands an enormous range of the actor, Abhishek comes up with a finely nuanced performance, the very best of his career so far. Aishwarya truly holds her own (and proves to be much more than just a pretty face and body) as Guru's steadfast wife. She registers a strong impact through a restrained display of emotions complementing Abhishek perfectly. Without her, Guru is stripped of a few layers of his character.

Mithun Chakravorty's role is perfect as the newspaper owner who serves as both a father figure to Gurukant and also his strongest opposition. The presentation of this complex relationship is a giant strength to the movie. Madhavan and Vidya Balan add a romantic subplot that's not fully developed but still adds a little more emotional content to the film.

With the addition of A.R. Rahman (what can I say about his music that I haven't already professed to in the past), plus outstanding art direction and cinematography, Guru is a perfect truly original period piece and fully deserved all the accolades it was bestowed.

Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai

A friend, who is not at all into Bollywood but wanted to watch something so we'd have more common ground, phoned to tell me that she had just seen Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and was going to attempt here second film, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.
Needless to say, I couldn't let her watch it alone, so I can now confess that I've watched an entire movie on You Tube!

I wasn't sure what to make of this one at first. Sure it has Hrithik, in what was his first adult role and launching pad into the industry (thank goodness for nepotism!), but I think Rakesh made this film banking of the appeal of it's actors rather than solid story telling. That isn't to say I didn't like it. While you shouldn't expect neither a deep art film nor an edge of the seat thriller, it is a feel good movie with romance, some comedy and a little action with a more compelling second half.

Hrithik plays double roles, effortlessly changing his persona from shy and unassuming to the confident charmer. One can assume that, as his first lead role, this was a challenge for him, but he comes off as pretty natural. Amisha Patel's performance, while a good-enough debut performance, didn't leave much of an impression on me. Actually, that's not true. I remember thinking in the first half how ridiculous she was, but that may have to be chalked up to dialogues rather than her acting (though she does manage to do her fair share of histrionics for sure). As a romantic couple, the pair do not quite live up to the passion the posters promise. Anupam Kher, who will always be my favorite filmi dad, went against type as the ultimately evil mastermind.

The music, while hummable, was way too repetitive for me (though watching them amidst the stunning locations did help). Ek Pal Ka Jeena was one of the first filmi songs I heard and liked, so it was nice to see it in it's context (the song doesn't have anything to do with the story - it does have some good dancing in it though).

Overall, a light frothy filmi milkshake!

Kisse Pyaar Karoon

I haven't seen enough comedies to determine whether a movie is genuinely funny by Indian standards, so bad that it is good, or just plain bad. I've had this one for some time and never really got around to watching it, but after seeing Arshad Warsi in Lage Raho Munna Bhai (which I would put into the genuinely funny category), I thought, "Right on!" and stuck it on.

Ajay Chandhok directs this mish-mash mess of a film. The story line, a copy of 'Saving Silverman' which I saw eons ago but do not really remember, is both ridiculous and underdeveloped. Three girls, three guys and the bad gun running villain whose ultimate evil plan is to ship real guns in toy gun boxes by taking over a toy store through marriage. While it did have some funny moments, for the most part I thought the direction was terrible, the acting was worse and while the music was okay, the choreography was atrocious (but fun to laugh at!). While the first half goes about with the building up of the plot and with few twists, the second half gets repetitive and boring.

Watch at your own risk.

In the news....

Shah Rukh has been in the news a lot lately, from the condition of his shoulder to the preparations of MNIK, and, as irony would have it, even Shah Rukh isn't above the immigration authorities. He was recently detained in a Newark airport on Saturday while on his way to Chicago for Independence Day celebrations. While some were outraged, others simply stated that they weren't surprised. It makes me wonder how long the U.S. government, immigration officials and the like will hold onto this fear of the Muslim community? I hope it's not forever.

Also, it was also recently reported that Shah Rukh and Katrina may finally star in a project together and that it will hit the floor in 2010. I have no idea how on earth Shah Rukh is suppose to do Farah's New Year's Eve, Farhan's Don 2, Anubhav's Ra.1 and this new movie with Kat, all of which I'm sure I read were suppose to start filming in 2010. After such a long draught we'll actually get an SRK flood of films. I suppose I can be okay with that!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Kismat Konnection

If you are looking for a movie with great chemistry or deep and profound social messages watch something else! However, if you simply are craving something a little frothier, devoid of the usual masala trappings, then Kismat delivers as a light entertainer. Aziz Mirza's take on fate, and love vs. ambition is not a new one. In fact it is quite reminiscent of Just My Luck - though why one would want to remake any Lindsay Lohan movie is beyond me! He may have had better luck with this film if it had stayed true to it's original intent rather than branching out into several subplots that only take away from the main story. While there is probably some out there that would debate the whole fate point of view, I don't know really if I believe in destiny or not, so I'm going to leave Mizra his ideology and chalk it up to creative license.

My first instinct was to call this "How to successfully imitate Shah Rukh Khan in 5 easy steps". Shahid Kapoor quickly and easily steps into the chocolate boy role as Raj Malhotra: college wonderboy, unlucky in the real world. He manages, quite easily, to pull off the performance, though his dialogue delivery and body language are almost identical to Shah Rukh's, to the point that he could be easily mistaken as a perfect duplicate. His transformation from desperately ambitious to conscience-stricken was believable. What wasn't believable was how Raj was able to own such a comfortable luxuriously furnished house in Toronto - especially in today's market. Not bad for a struggling architect!

So serious and intense.

Favor's fortune begins to smile on our unlucky lad

A smile that could melt hearts!

This is the second movie I've seen with Vidya Balan - the first being Lage Raho Munna Bhai. In LRMB she seemed quite young for Sanjay Dutt; in Kismat, she seems too old for Raj (which probably why I didn't feel the connection between them in any manner other than friendship). Somewhere out there must be a movie where she finds someone right in the middle and where she isn't in charge of the elderly. Whether it's 2nd Innings House or the senior citizen's community centre, she can't seem to break away from the geriatric angle. While the community centre itself plays a bit of a role in the story, at the very least Mirza could have made it a youth center. That being said, I think Vidya is beautiful and does a fine job in her role.
I simply do not get all the criticism with Vidya's physique - we need to seriously
get away from this "size 0 = beautiful" stuff!

Priya, you naughty girl

Vidya trying to look youthful

Shahid and Vidya try their best to create a love connection between Raj and Priya, but the pair just seem to get stuck on the friendship train rather than onto that path of love. However, they do give it a valiant effort.

Oh, Raj, you're so funny.

Can't you tell, Raj only has eyes for you?

The supporting cast are simply just there, with the exception of a small role by Juhi Chawla as the new-age gypsy fortune teller (much to my delight!). Boman Irani plays a strange cameo as the "waving" stranger who ends up being much more important than we initially think.

I wonder if Juhi would read my fortune

I wish I had a waving friend turned corporate big wig of my very own!

I had a REALLY hard time with the "Canadian" characters in this film - that is, the extras, the absurd blonde background dancers/singers in Kahin na Laage (and why is it that all non-Indian women in Hindi films are always blonde anyway - we brunettes do exist you know!), the cheating boyfriend's love interest. Whenever you watch an Indian film set in a foreign location you have to expect that the "locals" will probably speak Hindi quite fluently most of the time or at least with an Indian accent, but I have no idea what to make of the extras in this movie. Some of them sounded British perhaps, which is odd because I don't think we have an abundance of Brits living in the GTO, but better than the alternative (which I describe as simply weird, with no discernible geographical dialect). Whatever is was, it certainly wasn't Canadian.

As if one shot of the futile blonde bevy weren't enough...

here's another...

and another...

and the creme de la creme, the British (?) blonde homewrecker. Why anyone would cheat on Priya with that is beyond me

Kismat's music is brought to us by the ever talented Pritam. While I don't think it's his best work, the songs are pretty good. Aai Paapi (Tu Hai Meri Soniye) and Move Your Body Now contribute to the urban feel, though the songs don't really do anything to move the story along. Though they do give us a chance to see Shahid in some very shiny silver pants! What movie would be complete without the great engagement party song? Soniye Ve (Dhak Dhak Dhak) gets your feet tapping, but I didn't care for Sunidhi Chauhan's lines nor Vidya's horrific dress. What I really couldn't get over, in addition to my SRK references above, was the similarities between Bakhuda Tumhi Ho and KANK's Mitwa, making the song's picturization probably the best case of plagiarism I've seen to date.

On a final note, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to Mirza for filming in the Toronto/Niagra Falls areas in CANADA!!! How completely unexpected and delightful to see my country being featured in a Bollywood production - even if I had to sit through my sister saying countless times, "I've been there!" Also, I wouldn't be the "true Khancult adherent" as ajnabi calls me if I didn't recognize the wonderful narration done by none other than Shah Rukh Khan himself at the beginning of the film. Ironic, na?