Paheli – My Kind of Ghost Story

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Paheli, Shahrukh Khan’s 2005 movie about a ghost or spirit is one of my all time favorite Shahrukh Khan movies, even if it is not one of his blockbusters.  It’s not a scary Halloween movie (like maybe Darr, which is more creepy than scary), but it does have a ghost!  Paheli means riddle.

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Fantasy film seem to be unusual in Hindi cinema, and in this film Shahrukh Khan plays both a number counting merchant husband, and a bhoot, or a ghost or spirit (sort of a genie, really) who takes his place.  Rani Mukerji is the bride who captivates the Ghost, with Amitabh as a wise shepherd in a cameo.  It’s a fable that is also about women’s empowerment, and the scene where SRK tells Rani he’s a ghost is one of my all-time favorites.  She laughs at first, because it sounds ridiculous!  But her real husband barely noticed her, and wouldn’t sleep with her on their wedding night, but this ghost is obsessed with her every since he saw her at the well he haunted.

He could have lied and just taken her in the guise of her husband, but he loves her enough to give her the choice.  Swoon!

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Rani and SRK have always had great chemistry, but man do they smolder in Paheli.  Yowza.

The costumes are just stunning, and the music in the film is just fantastic:

 

Amitabh Bachchan has a fun cameo as the wise shepherd who must solve the riddle of the two husbands.  Juhi Chawla, who co-produced the film, plays Rani’s sister-in-law whose husband (Sunil Shetty) had disappeared.  Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak play puppet narrators and of course Anupam Kher is the father.

tumblr_n1rdaglgnt1qmz4s4o1_1280I love Shahrukh in double roles and these two roles he makes completely separate people.  The husband is comedic and obtuse, and the ghost playful and sultry.

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Plus, I love the idea of a ticklish ghost!  Paheli has been overlooked but I love it.  And I love its message of female empowerment and choice.

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – Karan Made Me Cry! Modern Relationships Can Be Complicated (Spoiler Free)

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I realized that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is actually the first film directed by Karan Johar that I have seen on the big screen.  Sure, I’ve seen Johar/Dharma productions, like Kapoor and Sons, on the big screen in the two plus years that I’ve been watching Indian cinema, but this is the first totally Karan Johar film.

I went to the first day, first show, at my local theater and they were NOT prepared for the Diwali crowds.  The theater was pretty full, and there was a long line at the ticket window.  Interestingly, I was not the only non-Desi there.  There were two women who were fans of Aish from Bride & Prejudice, but didn’t even know what the title of the film meant or who SRK is.  (!!!)

This will be as spoiler free a review as I can make it.  We know the film is about unrequited love.  If you think about it, many of Karan Johar’s films are about unrequited love, be it from a lover or a parent.

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Anushka and Ranbir meet when they are both fighting with their boyfriend/girlfriend.  They kiss and Ranbir sweetly hugs her, and Anushka pulls away.  “What kind of kiss was that?  Save those kinds of hugs for your family!”  There is no sexual chemistry from her side, but they are soul mates in every other way.  They both love old 80’s films, quote dialogue to each other and sing old song lyrics to each other.  I caught some of the filmi references (like them doing the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai finger to the noise bit), but there were many I didn’t catch.  (Can’t wait for Margaret to do a full summary on Don’t Call It Bollywood where she can instruct me on all the ones I missed!)

We knew about the Shahrukh Khan cameo as Aish’s ex, but there are some other fun ones.  Alia Bhatt and Lisa Haydon!  Fawad Khan’s role has been cut down so much that it’s not much more than an extended cameo.

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I wish the songs in the film had had subtitles, because I felt like I was missing meanings from the lyrics now that I was seeing them in the film itself.  Anushka is his friend, his best best best friend, but we can see that Ranbir wants more.  He declares himself after she returns to her former love, but it’s too late.

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Then he has the passionate relationship with Aish, and I loved her as this mature seductress!  She and Ranbir had great chemistry, and the cameo with SRK was a delight.  Shahrukh and Aish just give off that old lovers vibe and it was perfection for this film.

There is a twist in the final 15 minutes or so of the film that I mentally said to myself, “Oh, Karan, really, you’re going there?”  But damn it.  Karan made me cry!  It was predictable, but he played my emotions like a violin and the tears were running down my face.

The music as we know, is just sublime in this film.  The title track and the way Ranbir perform it is so amazing.   Really his performance through the film is excellent.  But I was most impressed with Anushka.  She just gets better and better with each film.

Anushka criticizes Ranbir’s singing in the film (he wants to be a singer) and says he can’t really sing with emotion until he’s experienced heartbreak.  And that, I think, is ultimately the message of the film.  Great art, be it film, music or poetry, comes from heartbreak and pain.

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Premam – Naga Chaitanya shines in this Telugu Remake of the Malayalam blockbuster

Premam [Love], the Malayalam film starring Nivin Pauly was one of the first Malayalam films I ever saw, and it remains one of my all time favorites.  When I heard they were making a Telugu remake of this massive hit film, I was filled with dread.  They’ll ruin all that made it special, no one could match Nivin Pauly’s charm in the three different ages, etc.  Then I saw Naga Chaitanya in Manam and discovered he was the lead in the Telugu Premam.  Now I HAD to see it because he was so adorable in Manam.  I saw one of the last screenings at my local theater, all alone.  For the most part, Naga Chaitanya captures the magic that is Premam.  He’s great in the three parts, playing Vikram (Vicky) at 16, 20 and his late 20’s.

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First, one of the best decisions of the remake was to have two of the actresses reprise their roles.  Anupama Parameswaran returns as the wild haired teen that is the object of 16 year old Vicky’s massive young love crush.  In the Malayalam film, she is the Christian Mary, here she is Suma.  The Telugu love song sequence references that great wild hair, slightly tamed in the Telugu remake.

In this first section of the film, I nearly thought that Chaitanya was doing an impression of Nivin Pauly as a teen.  He must have really studied Nivin’s performance, because so many expressions were similar and head tilts and so on.  If you’d never seen the Nivin Pauly film, you would love this Telugu film unreservedly.  One thing from this early sequence that differs is that I think the Malayalam film was in a more rural setting which added to the feel of innocence about the adolescent love story.

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The middle section is the strongest in the Malayalam film, and the weakest in the Telugu.  And that’s not Chaitanya’s fault.  He is fantastic as the college rowdy.  Since it’s a Telugu film, and they probably had a higher budget than the Malayalam, they take the initial explosion prank in the first college scene up a notch.  It’s a huge fireball explosion of a transformer instead of a little firecracker to disrupt the festival performance of their rivals.  And then the fight is not just a simple mud fight, but a big slow mo fight sequence in a construction sight with big sprays of sand, and bricks flying and what have you.  There is also a typically Telugu cameo of star Daggubati Venkatesh as Vicky’s uncle.

The issue with this middle section is that Shruti Haasan is no Sai Palavi.  The filmmakers have basically admitted that including Shruti in the remake was for financial reasons to have a name star.  She just does not have an ounce of the charm and for lack of a better word, gravitas, of Pallavi.  The romance doesn’t seem as deep.  I remember Malar and Vicky talking marriage in the original, but it doesn’t seem to go that far in the Telugu.  Since the romance isn’t as deep, the tragedy isn’t as deeply felt either by the audience.  Chaitanya doesn’t handle that overcome with grief scene as well, but granted, it’s probably one of the best Nivin Pauly acting scenes of his career.

In the Malayalam, part of what made this college romance section so special was that the rogue Vicky falls, and falls hard for a young woman with acne, and not just a little facial acne.  His friends mock him and don’t understand what he sees in her, but we the audience see how beautiful she is through Vicky’s eyes.  Shruti Haasan with her flawless porcelain skin?  Who wouldn’t fall for your teacher when she looks like that?

They used the same melody in both films for this beautiful love song  (Malare becomes Evare), and the scenery in this Telugu version is just jaw droppingly gorgeous:

One nice addition to the Telugu remake is that Vicky wins over Sithara (Shtuti) by making her a (Marathi??) traditional sweet for a holiday.  So that when we get to the final section of the film, and Vicky has become a prominent chef with his own restaurant, you see that he has taken his love of cooking from his college romance.  In the Malayalam the final section, where Vicky finds his bride was the the shortest and an underdeveloped romance, and the fact that he owned a bakery/sweet shop seemed to come out of nowhere.  This is supposed to be the love of his life and his bride, and maybe they ran out of money or Madonna Sebastian didn’t have longer dates for filming in the Malayalam version.   I had always wanted a bit more, and the Telugu gives it to me.

We get a love song in the Telugu!  It shows their developing relationship in the film, and when she reveals that her parents have arranged an engagement, the betrayal hits that much harder for Vicky.  I think Chaitanya really came into his own in this final part of the film.  Nivin Pauly played the older Vikram as reserved and lonely.  Here, Chaitanya’s Vikram is a busy chef who doesn’t care about the marriage arrangements his sister is trying to make in a phone call.  I really liked that they beefed up this section a bit more.

The wedding scene however, doesn’t have quite the same punch.  Shruti sees that same dessert on the buffet (that Vicky had made for her) and that spurs her memory, and she just looks back a little wistfully.  Again, she’s no Sai Pallavi.

So, not spoiling it, if you’ve never seen the Malayalam original ( and you should because it’s fantastic!), but this is a worthy remake.  The plot is nearly identical, with a few nice additions.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s no hardship watching Chaitanya for a few hours!  His father Naga Nagarjuna has a nice little cameo at the end as well.

Also, one of the things that had me laughing so hard out loud happened when a certain character is tied up and being beaten up.  His tormentor yells, “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?!  Tell me!!”  LOL  Gotta love Telugu films.

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Manam – A Comfort Movie as delicious as a mug of hot chocolate

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood raved to me before she posted her review that I had to watch Manam [Us], especially when I told her the other movie I was taking on my flights was Aligarh.   I’m so glad I did.  It was so wonderful!  The perfect cozy family film – like drinking a big mug of hot chocolate.

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I didn’t realize until I looked up the movie when I got home from my trip that the actors in this film are all in the same family.  And the family company, Anapurma Studios, produced the film.  This was the final film of ANR, who died of colon cancer during post-production.  His son Nagarjuna wanted to work together on one last film, and it’s a worthy tribute to his father.  Nagarjuna’s son Chaitanya is one of the leads, and there’s a cameo with his other son Akhil == and a special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan!

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The only other film I’ve seen with Nagarjuna is King.  I liked him, but the action comedy movie wasn’t the best.  I loved him in Manam.  Manam is a reincarnation movie.  Nagarjuna loses his parents the day after his 6th birthday, and in their honor has become one of the wealthiest businessmen in India.  He happens to sit next to the reincarnation of his father on an airplane.  His father is played by Nagarjuna’s son Chaitanya (who is adorable!).

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Nagarjuna then searches out his mother, and finds her reincarnation, too, played by Samantha Ruth Prabhu.  He has an instant connection to his mother, but has to work a little harder to connect with his father.   He plots how to get his parents reunited again.  They had been about to divorce when they died, and there are unresolved issues.

 

But my favorite part of the film is when we discover that Nagarjuna has been reincarnated, too!  His son is played by Nagarjuna’s father, ANR.  The flashback scenes of the romance back in the past with Nagarjuna and Shriya Saran are just magical.  Nagarjuna is wealthy in the past, too, and chooses a poor woman to marry because he likes her picture.  He is puzzled why she wants to wait 6 months to marry and seeks her out.  He discovers that she needs 6 months to earn enough money to purchase his traditional groom gift of clothes.  She doesn’t know who he is and lets him stay and be her worker on her farm to earn the money faster.

The reveal scene at the wedding when she the curtain drops and she just leaps on him because of course she had fallen in love — the best!  Oh, my goodness, how I loved this scene:

None of the issues and problems in the film are horrible, and even though people die — they come back and work it out in the next life.

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This movie is like a big ole family group hug.  I loved every minute.  Highly recommend!

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Margaret was right.  This was the perfect feel good movie to follow the darkness in Aligarh.

When I realized Naga Chaitanya has the Nivin Pauly role in the Telugu Premam, I went out to see that film next.  Review coming soon!

 

 

Aligarh – Manoj Bajpayee is Superb in this Landmark Drama

I knew Aligarh had played the festival circuit, premiering last February at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea to a standing ovation.  It finally recently played in Chicago at the South Asian Film Festival but by then it was streaming on Eros Now.  I took advantage of ErosNow’s new offline feature, and downloaded Aligarh to play on a flight this past weekend.

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I have always loved Manoj Bajpayee in just about any movie he’s been in.  He’s typically the villain, as he was in Tevar.  This role was something completely different.  I did not know that he was playing a real person until I looked up the film after I got home.  He is Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a slightly eccentric, quiet professor of Marathi, head of the modern languages department at the University in Aligarh.

Siras was suspended from his job and kicked out of his university housing because men burst into his apartment and filmed him with a rickshaw driver.  He was let go because he was gay, but this happened in 2010, when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had been overturned a few months previously.

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Rajkummar Rao plays a young journalist who reads the wire story, and helps him connect with an activist lawyer to take on his case.  They become friends over the course of the film.

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Manoj is just exceptionally good in this film.  He shows how Siras just wanted to live his own quiet life and not bother anyone else, but he also shows the loneliness he felt.  He gets beaten down by one indignity after another, people he thought were his friends not standing by him, and yet perfect strangers coming to his aid.  The real life Siras loved to listen to old film songs, and this scene is so moving and devastating.  I wish this clip had subtitles, but the lyrics were very meaningful — Lata singing is her love acceptable…

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Siras isn’t shown to be perfect or a saint.  One of my favorite scenes is in the courtroom when his advocate is making his most forceful point, and Siras is dozing in the back of the room missing it all.

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This is a landmark film in India.  I can’t pretend that I really know anything about the state of gay rights in India, but this film reminded me of the moment in the US when Philadelphia came out and Tom Hanks won the Oscar for playing a gay man who loses his job because he has AIDS.  It was a watershed moment.

Aligarh recently played on TV in India, and it has been prominently promoted on the Eros Now site.  I hope it is widely seen, because it’s about an important subject.  There still seems to be a long way to go, with Section 377 reinstated, and headlines like this one about Manoj daring to play a gay man on film:

Manoj Bajpayee still straight after ‘Aligarh’

Despite more than a month of preparation and shooting for a role that was homosexual in the film “Aligarh”, actor Manoj Bajpayee says he is still straight.

One thing about the movie really bothered me, and I guess this headline shows why the filmmaker felt he had to include this scene.  Rajkummar Rao becomes quite close to Prof. Siras, taking a selfie with him, and hugging him when Siras gives him a translation of his book of poetry.

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It just felt so gratuitous and unnecessary that this seduction scene of Rajkummar by his female editor had to be included.  It had nothing at all to do with the story, other than, sure he hugged a gay man, but don’t worry, he’s not gay now!  Ugh.

The film is based on real events but director  Hansal Mehta keeps a tension throughout this quiet film.  The ending came as a surprise to me as I did not know the true life story of Prof. Siras.  It ends in somewhat of a mystery as it does in real life.

Highly recommend this film.  Manoj Bajpayee gives one of the best performances of his entire career.

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Love Between the Covers – a great documentary about the wonderful world of Romance novels

Laurie Kahn (A Midwife’s Tale, Tupperware) captures the wonderful world and community of Romance novels in the documentary Love Between The Covers, now streaming on Netflix in America.

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I love romance books.  I pretty much exclusively read romance, and I try to attend the RT convention each year (sponsored by Romantic Times Book Review magazine.)  Kahn captures a lot of what I love about the community surrounding romance.  There’s a special relationship that exists between the authors and their readers.  The pay it forward feeling among fellow authors also seems to be truly unique, and she shows an aspiring novelist being mentored by an experienced author.

“Susan: This is a female powered engine of commerce. And it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Celeste: An industry that would falter and crumble without romance. You know, we pay the bills. Susan: For all of fiction. For all of popular fiction. Celeste: Yeah. We’re the ones who keep the lights on.

— Susan Donovan & Celeste Bradley

The Romance genre is a billion dollar business but it gets no respect.  As the authors in the doc point out, no one makes fun of men who watch Schwarzenegger movies knowing he’ll live in the end, or criticizes the formalaic nature of mystery novels.  But romance novels are derided for always having to have the HEA, or Happy Ever After ending.

lenbarot_squareThis documentary has several of my favorite authors, and I love that Kahn included Beverly Jenkins (above in the purple), one of the pioneers of historical African-American romances.  The doc even shows one of the yearly historical trips Jenkins goes on with her readers, visiting the settings of her novels.

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when-beautyAnother author highlighted in the film is Eloisa James, one of my all time favorite authors.   She is also Mary Bly, tenured professor of Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York.  James talks about how unsupportive her parents were of her writing romance.  Her father is a renowned poet and her mother a short story author.  She led a double life — even though her novels were on the NY Times best seller list, she was told not to reveal that or she wouldn’t get tenure.  She famously revealed her secret in an op-ed in the NY Times.  And at one conference I heard her tell the tale of how she told her fellow professors at the university by dropping stacks of her books on the table at a faculty meeting! In the documentary she reads a passage from my favorite book of hers, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, which is based on the TV character House (but set in Regency era.)

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Kahn also includes one of the biggest authors in same-sex romance, Len Barot who has the pen name Radclyffe.

“I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

— Len Barot/Radclyffe

Barot was a surgeon who wrote her novels at night and on the weekends.  I haven’t really read much lesbian fiction, but I do read m/m.  Sarah Wendell of the review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books  introduced me to the great romances in m/m, and she’s included in the doc, too.

I even loved the graphics in the doc which mimic romance covers – and of course she includes a photo shoot for one!

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These are my people!  I’ve met most of the authors in film through the RT conference, except for Nora Roberts, the Queen of all Romancelandia.   Some of my favorite authors in the doc are Jill Shalvis, Nalini Singh, Eloisa James, Sherry Thomas,  and Jennifer Crusie.

So if you’re a woman who’s gotten that look when you read a romance on the subway, or just someone curious what this world is all about, I highly recommend Love Between the Covers.  

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When I showed a Bollywood film (Bang Bang) to friends who had never seen one before, my best friend said during one of the songs — “I get it now.  These movies are just like the romance books you read all the time!”  Exactly so.

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Mr. India – MovieMavenGal Khush Hua

I attended an academic conference on Popular Culture last weekend as a friend was giving a talk on SRK and Fan.  One paper presented was on the Indian Superhero and Mr. India, which until last night I had never seen.  Tanushree Ghosh of University of Nebraska focused on the reverse of gender stereotypes in the 1987 cult classic Mr. India.

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Anil Kapoor is Arun Verma and his hat and beat up coat obviously are an allusion to Raj Kapoor’s tramp character from Shree 420.

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Arun is a down on his luck violin player, who has taken in several orphan children, since he lost his parents at an early age himself.  But what Ghosh points out is how Anil Kapoor’s character is introduced to us.  His very first image on screen is of him cooking breakfast for the children in his kitchen, normally a female space.   He then proceeds to wake up all the children and get them ready for school.  His early scenes don’t show him at work, but doing the household shopping, and other more typically female occupations on film.  He is both mother and father to these children.

 

 

In contrast, SriDevi’s character is introduced in her workplace as a reporter.  She rents a room from Arun because he lies to her that there are no children.  She is the character who can’t stand children.  Her softening to the antics of the adorable children is normally the plot track of the male hero.

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Our villain is Amrish Puri as the iconic Mogambo.  His famous catchphrase is Mogambo Khush Hua (Mogambo is pleased).  Mogambo is like a Bond villain on steroids.  He’s an evil general out to take over the world, and of course India.  He’s searching for a secret formula that makes a person invisible.  Turns out Arun’s father invented it and was killed for it.

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Ghosh discusses all the humiliations that Arun goes through in the first half of the picture, the affronts to his masculinity as head of the household.  He can’t pay the rent or feed his family.  It’s only when SriDevi realizes the children are starving that she brings in food for them.  At his lowest point, his father’s colleague reveals his father’s secret legacy – a watch that makes one invisible.

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The scene where he practices making himself invisible with one of the children in tow, is one of the most joyful superhero origin stories I’ve ever seen — right up there with Spiderman flying down New York streets over the traffic on his webs.

Sridevi as intrepid Lois Lane type reporter impersonates a night club singer to find out the villains’ evil plan.  The song sequences in this film are really delightful, but this one Hawa Hawai shows off her comedic chops.  I had no idea she could be so funny.  The song sequence takes an unwelcome turn into blackface backup dancers, though.

Arun comes to the rescue invisibly, and calls himself Mr. India.  He’s just a common man out to right wrongs.  Of course SriDevi falls in love with Mr. India even though she can’t see him!  There’s both a humorous title song where she proclaims her love for Mr. India to Arun, not knowing he is our hero, and then a very sensuous number where she meets Mr. India and he invisibly kisses her.

One of my favorite sequences had SriDevi dressing up as Charlie Chaplin to win money at the villain’s casino with Mr. India’s invisible help.  She is so funny in this movie!

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Ghosh pointed out in her paper how this common man Indian superhero contrasts to the Westernized Ra.One with his blue eyes.  Mr. India rights wrongs like punishing people who adulterate the food supply of regular people!

This film, with all the kids who both get kidnapped and participate fully in the fight to escape made me feel like it was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang crossed with Goldfinger (in a good way).   I can totally understand why this was a blockbuster hit, and a cult classic.   It’s just silly good fun.

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And Amrish Puri is the ultimate campy villain as Mogambo.  MovieMavenGal Khush Hua!

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Just read that even with the flop of Mrizya, Boney Kapoor (producer of Mr. India) is talking about Mr. India 2 with Harsh, and Anil Kapoor playing his father.

 

Aloha – Kind of a Mess

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Sometimes even I am too tired to watch a movie with subtitles.  I picked Aloha on demand because it wasn’t too long, basically.  Wow, what a mess of a movie.  I knew it had gotten lots of bad press because of the whitewashing casting of Emma Stone in a character that is supposed to be a quarter Hawaiian and part Chinese , Captain Allison Ng.  Cameron Crowe has made some really fantastic films, but lately he seems to have lost his way.

My issues with the film are beyond the whitewashing, but why Cameron Crowe didn’t just make Emma Stone’s step-father Hawaiian or something, I don’t know.  She’s supposed to be a believer in Hawaiian legends and superstitions in the plot.  I guess he based the character on a real red-headed Hawaiian woman, but he should have seen the controversy coming.

aloha-2015-movie-screenshot-john-krasinski-john-woody-woodside-5But moving on from that, there were plenty of times in the movie where I could not figure out what was going on.  This is basically a rom-com dramedy and I couldn’t figure out why the main characters were acting the way they were.  There were some shining moments to the film,  especially the performances.  Crowe assembled a great ensemble cast.  Rachel McAdams is military contractor Bradley Cooper’s ex-girlfriend.  The always great Bill Murray is Cooper’s wealthy eccentric boss, and I just loved him in this.  John Krasinski is Rachel McAdam’s military pilot silent stoic husband, and I just adored his performance especially.

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I wish the film had been from the perspective of either of the central women figures in the script, because I was most interested in their stories.  But of course, this is Cameron Crowe, so it’s all about the journey and perspective of messed-up-and-at-a-life-crossroad Bradley Cooper.  He can’t move on to a romance with Emma Stone until he resolves his issues with ex-girlfriend Rachel McAdams.

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The complicated confusing plot about launching a satellite that might have weapons and all is incidental to each actor getting a little flourish of an acting moment.  While there were some scenes that were brilliant, the whole didn’t hold together.

You, dear reader, are unlikely to watch this film, so I’m spoiling the ending because it annoyed me so much.  Rachel McAdams and Cooper broke up 13 years ago when he did not show up for an important weekend vacation.  She has a 12 year old daughter and had married John Krasinski shortly after the breakup.  Yep.  Everyone does the math.  The final scene shows Bradley Cooper looking through a window at his daughter in her hula dance class.  She looks out and he beams and nods.  The young actress is great in doing what Crowe asked her to do — look surprised, then tearily happy, as she runs out to give Cooper a hug and then run back to class.  Really??  A pre-teen girl figures out that the father she’s known her entire life is not her real father, and this near stranger just nods at her and it’s all good?  Yeahhhh, I don’t think so!  She doesn’t first think, hey it’s creepy that this old friend of my mom is staring at me?  Or have any anger at her mother or him?  Of course not, because her part in this movie is just to tie up Bradley Cooper’s character’s life up with a pretty bow.

I did like the Hawaiian setting.  My in-laws used to have a house in Hawaii, and there are not enough movies set there and celebrating what’s unique about it.

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Mirzya – I’m in love with the soundtrack but there wasn’t sizzling chemistry in this love story

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The soundtrack of Mirzya is simply amazing. Shankar, Ehsaan, and Loy have written some of my all-time favorite soundtracks, but Mirzya seems like it is a whole other level. This soundtrack is A. R. Rahman level fusion of folk sounds and electronic dance beats.  I downloaded the whole thing — I don’t often buy a whole soundtrack — and I’ve been listening to all 15 tracks constantly.  I had heard very mixed things about Mirzya the film, but I wanted to see it just to see the song sequences.  They were amazing.  The film itself was not always stellar, but it was worth it just for the glorious music.

I saw the very last showing of Mirzya at my local theater, all by myself.  This movie sure came and went lightning fast.  I enjoyed myself, and I will be buying the DVD when it comes out just to rewatch the song sequences.

I listened to The Bollywood Project girls’ podcast review of the film, and they recommended reading about the legend of Mirzya and Sahiban before watching the film.  I don’t know that it’s completely necessary, but it helped me recognize the mural on the wall showing Mirzya and Sahiban under their tree at the beginning of the film.  There’s also plenty of references to Romeo and Juliet just to drive the tragic love story point home.

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Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directed the fantastic film Rang De Basanti, and he uses a similar dual track storyline in Mirzya. Harshvardhan Kapoor is (Monish/Adil) and also the mythical Mirzya.  Saiyami Kher is both Soochi in modern day, and the legendary Sahiban.  Both actors made their debut in Mirzya and it shows, unfortunately.  Harsh is, of course, Anil Kapoor’s son and Sonam Kapoor’s brother, and I’ve read that Harsh took no salary for the film.  This is a tragic epic romance and while both Harsh and Saiyami are pretty to look at, they just didn’t have the sizzling chemistry needed.

 

Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra uses a sort of Greek chorus of folk dancers for the songs, and they have more sensuality and sizzle than the two leads, especially in the Chakora song barn love scene.

The modern day story shows young Soochi and Monish as childhood best friends, separated after something tragic happens.  Both child actors were fantastic, and the little boy had more screen charisma than adult Harsh!  Possibly my favorite song on the soundtrack is the pounding Hota Hai, and I was a little taken aback as the song in the film shows their separation as children and what happens to young Monish.

 

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Soochi’s devoted single father is played by Art Malik.  I don’t think he’s done many Bollywood films, but it was so great for me to hear his voice again.  Oh, my gosh, did I have such a crush on Art Malik back in his Jewel in the Crown days.  (Oh, Hari Kumar!)  It’s rather ironic that he’s playing the disapproving dad keeping star-crossed lovers apart when he is perhaps best known for the tragic interracial romance in Jewel in the Crown!  He had one scenery chewing drunk scene in Mirzya that was way over the top, but otherwise, great to see him on film.  Malik (Pakistani born, and raised in England) has a mix of Hindi and quite a bit of English dialogues in the film, and teaches his daughter Soochi English using Romeo and Juliet lines — in case we hadn’t gotten the point.

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Soochi and Monish (now Adil) reunite as adults as she’s about to marry an actual prince (!!) and he is the literal stable boy.   (The prince Karan was played by debut actor Anuj Choudhry, who was quite good.)   Soochi and Monish did not have the kind of chemistry needed for us to believe Soochi would leave her prince for the stable hand.  I thought we should see both of them just burning holes in each others clothes with smoldering glances before the big barn love scene, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

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I wanted to fall in love with their princess and the pauper epic romance, but it just didn’t work all the time.  She was supposed to be this firebrand, and Harsh played his scenes quite passively.  Another better actor would have acted humbly while showing us an undercurrent of passion towards Soochi and resentment and rage towards the prince.  But Harsh doesn’t have the skills yet to do that.  I suspect Harsh will improve with time, as his sister has.

This is a petty point, but Harsh is quite slight of build and small of stature, and his baggy stable clothes made him look quite tiny next to Karan the prince.

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Bottom line, the film was worth seeing just for the incredible song sequences alone, and there were a lot of them.  The cinematography was also gorgeous, and Mehra shows us some beautiful scenery in Ladakh and Rajasthan.   These two newcomer lead actors, though, just didn’t have the spark and sizzle needed for the epic tale of Mirzya and Sahiban.

I think Harsh could grow and I’d like to see him in something where he actually has more lines to speak.  He can be relaunched in something else.  What genre, I have no idea, but hopefully with a better beard or shaved so we can see his pretty face.  Being a star kid gives you a chance at being a film star, but you have to have the goods to sustain a career.  This great article about Dulquer Salmaan forging his own path in the shadow of superstar father Mammooty shows that you have to have the talent to make it big after you get that first break!

Read Margaret’s great spoiler free review of Mirzya here.

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