Freida Pinto who? My choices for Bond Girls

With Freida Pinto rumored to star in the next James Bond film (has this been confirmed yet?), I got to thinking, even though she seems to still be cashing in on her 15 minutes of fame born by Slumdog Millionaire's success, there are much much better Indian actresses that could not only handle 007 in the bedroom, but also in the field. Here's my thoughts on who would make some kick ass Bond ladies.

#5 Riya Sen - Okay, admittedly I haven't actually seen any of Riya's movies, but one of the components to being a bond girl is the hotness factor, and Riya Sen totally fits that qualification in my books. I see her as a Wai Lin kind of character (Tomorrow Never Dies), smart, quick and a love interest. Also, if Denise Richards can play a bond girl, almost anyone can, don't you think?

#4 Aishwarya Rai Bachchan - I can take or leave Aishwarya if I'm being totally honest, but I loved her character in Dhoom 2. She was gorgeous, of course, but she was also a chick with attitude, fearless and cunning, doing whatever it took to get what she wanted in the end. All that and a soft side. I totally see her doing a Vesper Lynd kind of role (Casino Royale) - double agent that falls for the man she's suppose to hate. Perfection.

#3 Kangana Ranaut - Kangs is what I would term a "serious" actress, or at least anything I've seen her in would qualify her as one. She's the type that really gets into her role, almost losing herself I think, and often plays tragic heroines. I can totally see her playing something like Live and Let Die's Solitaire, the virgin psychic who is employed, and abused, by Dr. Kananga (seriously, that's him name. Fate, na?).

#2 Kareena Kapoor - I haven't always liked Kareena. Often I've found her characters spoiled, self centered, but she has definitely grown on me as an actress and I think she would be the perfect candidate to play a role like Elektra King (The World is Not Enough). She can be soft and sweet one moment, completely ego maniacal the next, and you never know what her motivations are until she reveals them. I can totally see her playing the tortured and scared kidnap victim, succumbing (so it seems) to Bond's love and then playing everyone for the fool. Now that I think of it, can someone please just write this screenplay now!

#1 Bipasha Basu
Bips definitely has the yowza factor and I consider her to be probably the most sexiest female actress today. She manipulated her way through Race (well, almost), was fierce as the super ambitious model in Bachna Ae Haseeno, and knows how to wield a gun and looks good doing it in Dhoom 2. Not only could she hold her own to the infamous ladies man, but I think she'd probably end up turning the tables on him. She could easily slip into a role like Xenia Zirgavna Onatopp from Goldeneye. James, Don't even try to start something with her. She's got a workout vid and can probably kick your ass!

Who do you think could slip into the shoes of a Bond babe?

Hum Tum Aur Ghost

Even though it seems like it was already forever ago, my first movie watchalong experience was a lot of fun! Lead up to see Arshad Warsi's first production was high in my little world, and when the time came to watch, my expectation levels were elevated much higher than they probably should have been, but I absolutely enjoyed every second of it (well, almost every second).

Hum Tum Aur Ghost is the story of fashion photographer Armaan Suri (Arshad), a man who hears voices, can't sleep and relies on alcohol to get through his days (perfect for filmigirl's drinking game!). Though he has the love of girlfriend Gehna (Dia Mirza), his is a secret that he fails to share with her. Who wants to tell the people they love that they think they're crazy anyway? That's what therapists are for. However, soon Armaan meets Kapoor (Boman Irani), the self-appointed ghost who let's Armaan in on the joke that it's ghosts that he's seeing, and he's been selected to help each of them find their own peace. What follows is a journey of one man who finds himself by helping others in the process.

Yes, exactly what I imagine a day's end is like!

Directed by Kabeer Kaushik, who also worked on the Arshad starrer Sehar (which I've yet to see or even find for that matter), HTAG has done a great job of successfully meshing drama, romance and comedy throughout. This isn't the typical boy meets girl film. Aarman and Ghena are a couple when the story begins, and it's refreshing to see a couple realistically navigate through the murky waters that is a romantic relationship. There are some really comical moments too, like a few of the outlandish requests some of the ghosts make to Aarman, or when Kapoor inhabits Aarman's body. Lastly we get loads of drama, in the form of Aarman's 'missions', relationship angst and an amazing (albeit slightly overdone) climactic ending.

I feel like all I'm doing lately is praising Arshad Warsi on this blog, but I guess that's what happens when you discover something new that you love. As Aarman, Arshad brilliantly and seamlessly switches between tortured, yet funny drunk and concerned, empathetic man on a mission. The sheer delight of watching him play the lead rather than the supremely self-assured sidekick is what makes this film, and the fact that he gets to exhibits all of it in a romantic drama is bonus for me. We get to see him do some fantastic dancing, cleverly play off of Boman and shed a tear or two despite being such a man's man! I loved every second of it.

I found it hard to believe that this movie was a box office flop. Through the entire thing I thought it was a cute and charming movie that was best illustrated by the actor's skill and chemistry with each other. I have never seen Dia Mirza in anything before, though I knew who she was. First off let me say that I think she is absolutely a stunning woman, not in a sexpot kind of way mind you, but very innocently beautiful, and she definitely makes use of one of her assets, her large expressive eyes. As Ghena, she played the concerned and affected girlfriend very well, and the comfort she felt with Arshad was very evident. There's a lot of jodis who simply fizzle on screen, but this is not one of them. Now I know a lot has been said off-screen about these two, but you can't deny that these two have fantastic chemistry.

And what of our supporting actors? Well Boman is always a favorite of mine. He almost always gives a performance that is exaggerated, but in HTAG he is unusually restrained. Sandhya Mridul plays Mimi, Aarman's friend and assistant. I discovered that I'd seen Sandhya before in Saathiya, but I can't for the life of me remember her at all. I will now though. She was fantastic, and whether it was the acting, the script or the directing, she played her role with style, void of all the usual stereotypical trappings we usually see.

So by now, everyone must know I'm a huge S-E-L fan, and I think they did a great job with the music for HTAG. I remember Arshad saying that there was only one situational song in the film, and when it happened to be Banware Se Pooche Banwariya I was so excited. Fast paced, racy, youthful, energetic, [insert more synonyms here], it is instantly catchy and gets me dancing every time, plus, as I said earlier, it allows me to see Arshad show off his dancing skills. Interestingly enough, Maria Goretti, Arshad's wife, was even involved in the song, forming a part of the chorus group. Dekho Raste Mein is a wonderfully romantic song, landing itself in the film during a montage with both KK and Shreya Ghoshal lending their vocal talents; and Kal Tum The Yahan serves as the backdrop of the couple's relationship angst and is beautifully sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Caralisa Monteiro. Overall, a fantastic album and the film's setting really enhances it more.

Like FilmiGirl, I don't really know why this movie flopped so bad. Critics said the story was weak, I didn't see it. It is funny, moving, stylish and beautifully shot (seriously - there are stunning STUNNING visuals!), and for me a home run.

Top 5 Thursday - Guilty Pleasures

Okay, so guilty pleasures. Everyone's got them. Things they love, but are afraid to admit for fear of supreme embarrassment and/or intense mocking . Well, this week's Top 5 assignment was to think of your top 5 guilty pleasures, in any category. Here's a list of mine: let the ridicule begin!

5. A twofer for you. Okay, so this one is not Bollywood related, but ever since I happened to see the totally fun High School Musical (gp#1), and yes I do believe that this is what high school should always be like!, I've had a crush on Zac Efron (#2). So 19 years to my 32 at the time, but what's a girl to do? Have you seen him? Totally adorable.

4. Ta Ra Rum Pum. I thought this movie was really very good when I watched it. I remember watching it early into my filmi adventures, a double header night with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (which I also really liked, btw). I thought the race car premise was fresh and an interesting departure from what I had seen thus far. Then I realized that almost everyone who'd seen it thought it was dreadful. Even so, I willingly own a copy and the tunes frequent my ipod often.

*note* as I'm writing this I'm reading Suzy's review at her blog, and the subsequent comments and I am truly ashamed that I like this film.

3. Another non-Bolly related item, but still international is my love affair with ABBA. No, not the Abba of the Bowman Irani type, but the original 1970's Swedish pop band. I think ABBA is something you either love or hate, and I have adored them as long as I can remember. I LOVED Mamma Mia, the musical movie event (even rehearsed the dance they do to Super Troopers for a party I was attending with my best friend), I own the PS2 singstar karaoke game, and I've scoured, yes scoured, the internet and costume shops trying to find knee high silver platform boots. For me, Abba has stood the test of time and I will probably be a Dancing Queen for a long time to come.

p.s I was Meryl!

2. My affinity for Dick shows. Now get your mind out of the gutter - I mean Private Detectives! Remington Steele and Magnum were early loves and I used to want to be Laura Holt. Oh the dresses, the adventure, the quirky situations. Aaaah. Nowadays, I can't get enough of totally funny and cute James Roday, who plays Shawn Spencer on the USA Network's Psych (which is not available any longer in Canada. Boo!!!!). They even did a Bollywood themed ep once! I think I even did some investigating of my own when I was younger as to how to become a P.I. Of course that didn't pan out, but my pyaar continues!

1. Uday Chopra - the piece de resistance I think on my cupcake of shame. Yes, poor Uday has been the topic of many a joke, especially in twitterverse, but I admit, I actually like the guy. I think he's kind of sweet, if a little thick, and even willingly bought Pyaar Impossible (thought I haven't watched yet). Nepotism aside, he is the true definition of an underdog, at least in films. And, just to clarify, this doesn't mean I want to lick ghee off his chest (Christy!), but my feelings for Uday are strictly the platonic "I hope he does well in life" kind of feelings. So there!

So that's my guilty pleasures. I dare you to share yours!

Kabul Express

I don't know how many times I've said I don't watch war movies, so why am I compelled to keep putting them on the dvd player? Well, I suppose it doesn't hurt when Arshad's in it, that's for sure, but it also doesn't hurt when you have someone like Kabir Khan helming the wheel. Known mostly for his documentaries, Khan crafted Kabul Express from his own experiences in Afghanistan. He gives us a thought-provoking movie that still manages to make us laugh at the same time. As a mainstream film, Kabul Express does stretch the boundaries of what's usually considered 'traditional' Bollywood fare. There are no songs (at least not during the duration of the story), no dances, no picture post-card Swiss landscape complete with flowing saree and turtleneck sweaters, and the film is relatively short coming in at just over 100 minutes. However, with Aditya Chopra and Rash Raj Productions providing the cash, the quality of this film is top notch, and it shows in every single frame.

Kabul Express is a road movie, of sorts. It follows journalist Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and cameraman Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) who have come to Afghanistan to film their own footage on the condition of the country. Circumstances land them in a position where they unwillingly become transport for a Taliban passenger (Salman Shahid). Their journey thereon – along with an Afghani driver (Hanif Hum Ghum) and an American photojournalist (Linda Arsenio) – is as much metaphorical as it is literal, for it’s as much about them getting from Point A to Point B as reaching a new understanding about one another.

With Yash Raj backing this film, you know you're going to get at least one leading Bollywood hero. That hero comes in the form of long haired John Abraham. I can admit that John's entrance into Dostana made me sit up and take notice, but he's one of those actors that I don't get that excited over generally. I imagine he was cast in Kabul Express because they needed a name to sell the film to the masses. While he did have one moment or two in the movie, there's not much substance to John's performance. The same could be said for Linda Arsenio. I find it immensely interesting that, as an American born and raised actress, 99% of her film roles have been in the Indian film industry, Tamil and Telugu mostly. That being said, I found her to be unconvincing in her role as a photojournalist. Something about her line delivery felt very rehearsed and unnatural to me.

On the flip side though, we have Hanif Hum Ghum, whose animosity towards the Taliban came across very convincingly. Though Khyber was not a character that I liked, I thought the part was acted well. In my recent review of Ishqiya, I failed to mention Salman Shahid's performance, which was a highlight to so many. However, in this movie, his portrayal of Imran Khan Afridi was complex and incredibly convincing. He has probably what is the most human moments in the film, the exchange between him and his daughter being one of those moments. Beautifully acted Salmanji!

Could be that I have boarded the "We Love Arshad" train, but (and I say this with completely unbiased honesty) Jai is brilliantly essayed by Arshad Warsi and is the soul of Kabul Express. If Salman Shahid gets the most human moments in the film, Arshad get the most memorable ones. In a film that has the potential to be a completely sombre experience, he gets the opportunity to shine, delivering witty one-liners and comical conflicts with that unique Warsi style. His character has more dissension with the others, and because of it he experiences the most growth. Jai and Imran's exchanges over the cigarettes and cricketeers is hilariously endearing.

This is one movie that really showcases the stunning beauty of a place that one doesn't necessarily think beauty exists. The cinematography by Anshuman Mahaley is really breathtaking, whether we're seeing flowing sand dunes or building ruins. Simply just gorgeous. Like I said earlier, there are no songs in the movie, however, if you check out the special features you will across a very strange music video created long after filming ended. Also, there is a very interesting featurette that gives some amazing insight as to what filming was like for the cast and crew. Not only were bullets flying overhead as they shot, but there were actual threats looming over the heads of several cast and crew that required immediate intervention. Either you have people that are crazy or insanely passionate about what they are filming!

It is a delicate feat to take something like the middle East post 9/11, what one would consider a very serious political topic, and very craftily treat with humor. Kabir Khan successfully gives us a movie that reminds us that behind all the preconceived notions that may exist out there, people are really simply just human. Go and watch it!

Beauty and Brains... these gals have it all

As I continue to watch films, meet new faces and new stories, opinions change, but there are a few ladies who I will always remain constant in my list of favorites. Whether it's their talent, their beauty or their attitude, here's a list of my favorite film actresses.

#5 Konkona Sen Sharma
Though I haven't seen very many of Koko's movies, of those movies I have seen, she's left a huge impression on me. Her beauty is atypical, and most of her appeal comes from within I think. I have a huge list of movies on cue with her (Omkara, Life...In a Metro, Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, Traffic Signal, Mr & Mrs Iyer for starters), and am very much looking forward to seeing much much more from her. Whether doing parallel or commercial cinema, I think she's going to be around for a long time giving us the very best!

#4 Vidya Balan
Everyone gives Vidya such flack for being too old for some roles, not old enough for others, and even I thought she was older than she actually is (4 years MY junior in fact), but one thing's for sure, she is definitely proving to everyone that, regardless of age, the girl can ACT! Feminine, bold, smart and true to herself, Vidya exhibits the very best of what being female is all about. Her roles in Ishqiya and Paa (which I've yet to see), have really made her stand out recently, though she's been in the spotlight for some time now (and not just for her fashion sense!). I can't wait to see what she does with her career post all the recent accolades.

#3 Preity Zinta
Preity was my first. Along with the rest of the Temptations team, Preity entered my heart early with KANK and KHNH, which is probably why she'll remain in my top list for a long time to come. Coming across always as spunky and independant, Preity stands on her merits, even if it means standing up for the little guy. Revisit the reasons why I think she it outstanding here.

#2 Kajol

I consider Kajol one of the first ladies of modern Hindi film. Like Preity, she was one of the first actresses I met and fell in love with, and even to this day, she continues to surprise and impress me. No matter how you feel about the film, her portrayal of Mandira in My Name is Khan was extremely moving and emotional to me. With baby #2 on the way, I certainly hope she continues to balance the roles of wife, mother and actress.

#1 Juhi Chalwa

There's just something about Juhi that makes you want to love her. Her beauty is uncompromised, with a smile that could melt anyone's heart. She has perfectly transformed herself from the cute girl next door image we got to see in her earlier films, to a woman of substance now, who not only still finds time to act, but balances a career as a business woman as well. I don't think I've seen a single film of hers so far that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed (and that includes her kooky fortune teller role in Kismat Konnection), but some of my favorites are Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Duplicate, Yes Boss, Andaz Apna Apna. I can't wait to discover more gems!

So, that's my list. There are so many talented actresses out there that I couldn't include them all (though Rani Mukherjee would have been included if I'd done my top 6). Who are your favorites?