I Really Liked the Romance in Sushant Rajput Singh’s Raabta

I didn’t LOVE Raabta as much as Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood did, but it was a welcome couple hours of escape for me this weekend.  We have a family member that has just been put into hospice, and this movie took me away to beautiful Budapest for a bit.  Several shirtless scenes of Sushant also helped very much, the first in the very first minute of the film.

As Margaret said, it’s Magadheera, but totally different.  If you want an action film, go see Magadheera.  But Raabta is a timepass romance with some angst.

 

Podcast with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

 

How we met through her masters thesis project, and how we both started watching Indian films!

Meri Pyaari Bindu – Video Review of a Charming Delightful film!

I loved this charming sweet film!  Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeta Chopra were both great in this best friends to lovers romance.  First time director Akshay Roy did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to see more films by him.  I loved how he gave a wink and a nod to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and even directly referenced Natalie Portman in  Garden State.

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Half Girlfriend Video Review – Infuriating film!

While there were some parts I liked, this movie made me crazy for what it might have been.  With the director Mohit Suri and the hits he’s had with Ek Villalin and Aishiqui 2 plus a book by Chehat Bhagat, you’d think this would be great, but it just didn’t work for me at ALL.  The more I thought about it, the more infuriated I got.  I happened to see the same showing as Kathy Gibson, who REALLY hated it.

 

 

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Noor – Bridget Jones type Rom Com with a serious issue shoe-horned in

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Under two hours is just not enough time for all the things this film wanted to be and do.  I have been anticipating Noor for months and months, mostly because I heard comedian Kanan Gill was going to have his debut in a Bollywood film.  If you’re not familiar with Kanan Gill, he has a hilarious Pretentious Bollywood Review Youtube channel, and is extremely amusing on Snapchat [@kanangill].

 

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Kanan Gill plays the character Saad from the book Karachi, You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz who is the childhood best friend of Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor (Ayesha in the book).  There are films that have improved upon the source novel, but Noor is not one of those films.  Karachi, You’re Killing Me at first seems like a Bridget Jones knockoff, but the unique thing about it is the city it’s set in — Karachi, Pakistan!  In the book, Ayesha is a journalist with an incompetent male boss, and she covers everything from terrorist bombings to fashion shows.  It gave you a true sense of her life in the city in all its variety — how she had to get her liquor from her bootlegger — and how she loves the city, but also yearns for an international life working for CNN.   The novel reaches a real peak near the end when she and her boss are caught in a terrorist bombing, and her calm quick thinking saves her boss.

Noor the movie has some of the same fun light tone in the first half.  Like Bridget Jones, Noor obsesses about her weight, snacks on junk food, drinks a bit too much, and feels that attractive young men are merely an “urban legend” in Mumbai.  Changing the film’s setting to Mumbai just inherently takes away what was so unique about the novel.  But I think Sonakshi does a great job still in playing Noor.  She’s a modern young woman journalist, who cringes at doing a Sunny Leone interview when she really wants to be doing SERIOUS work.

The film keeps her Three Musketeer friendships with Saad (Kanan Gill) and Zara (Shibani Dandekar).  I loved Noor’s friendship with club DJ Zara and I wish there had been a bit more of their interactions, but again, this film was really short for a Hindi film.  Noor keeps the seemingly distracted but actually very supportive relationship of Noor’s widowed father.   I liked the actor who plays Noor’s boss, Manish Chaudhary but they made him a sort of Lou Grant type.  This was one of my biggest problems with the film adaptation because in the book, the boss is a total incompetent, and Ayesha’s mentor is another woman in the news business.  Missing that strong female role just erases a lot of the feminist message of the book.  If the boss is going to be a fusion of both book characters — then make it a woman for cripes sake!

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Not only does Noor change the setting to Mumbai but the serious issue that Noor the journalist covers is now organ trafficking.  They keep the romance with the sexy photo journalist, Purab Kohli as Ayan Banerjee.  She gets betrayed in her career for the scoop she has, and that leads to Saad (Kanan) taking her away to his home in London to get her away from the danger she’s in.

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Film stylist and costumer – I love you for giving Kanan this sweater/scarf look!

Kanan plays the devoted best friend with his signature snarky humor very well.  You could see the loving looks he gives to Noor who seemingly never catches on.  One minor quibble with the film adaptation at this point in the story is that Ayesha sees that the first photo prominently displayed in Saad’s apartment is one with her – not with any of his many girlfriends.  That little realization moment is missing, but I can forgive because Kanan is so charming in these scenes.

This second half of the film gets super serious because of the organ trafficking plot with Noor’s maid’s brother.  The actress playing Noor’s maid is one of the best things about the film.  She will break your heart.

But I found the whiplash change in tone a bit too much.  I think the film would have succeeded more if it had stayed more in the lighter rom com mode.  Maybe if the film had been a more traditional 2 and half or three hour length, it could have incorporated this dramatic change in tone better.

Sonakshi did a good job as Noor, and I’m glad she’s getting these starring female centric films, but I wish she could get ones with better scripts.  Kanan Gill did very well for a debut, especially in the lighter moments. I hope this leads to more roles for him.

The director, Sunhil Sippy, is my biggest problem with Noor.  The direction was at times amateurish and horrible.  Scenes felt awkwardly filmed or dragged on much too long — like Noor’s tearful, “Mumbai, you’re killing me!” diatribe monologue that miraculously goes viral online.  I know the source material could have been a really great film, and that’s why I left the theater disappointed.  It’s not Sonakshi’s fault, or Kanan’s or Purab Kohli’s.  The fault lies squarely on the shoulder of the director.  Sonakshi and Kanan deserve a better script and film.  The last epilogue scene over the credits where Saad awkwardly proposes to Noor was adorable.  Give us more of that!

The end credit song feels just completely tacked on — wait, we need a Badshah rap and throw Diljit Dosanjh in too, for no reason at all.

I wouldn’t run out to the theater to see Noor, but it would be fine to stream when it becomes available online for the a timepass.  It tries to have a feminist message, with a modern Indian career girl at the center, so kudos for that at least.

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My Top 10 Indian Films of 2016

It’s still January, if barely, right?  This is a list of my favorite films in Indian Cinema released in 2016.  I have not seen every film released, by a long shot, but I’ve seen quite a few of the top releases in Hindi and Malayalam cinema in theaters.  I still haven’t seen Pink, although that is definitely on my list, and it’s now on Netflix streaming.

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1.  Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

Kapoor and Sons  was hands down my favorite Indian film of the year.  I just love the way the cast interacts.  It feels like you’re a voyeur in a real family and their drama.  I will admit that Sidharth is the weak link, but Alia and Fawad are so great in this.  Fawad Khan especially just blew me away.  And the soundtrack!  Kar Gayi Chull is my phone ringtone for a reason, because I never tire of hearing that hook.

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2.  Kammatti Paadam

Dulquer Salmaan had an amazing year, but Kammatti Paadam is just a masterpiece.  I’m so glad I saw this Malayalam gangster epic in a theater.  I was nearly shell shocked by the experience of seeing this Rajeev Ravi film.   Dulquer is our eyes into this world of gangsters, and dalit toughs.  He is very, very good, but the two actors, Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show.

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3. Udta Punjab

Alia Bhatt also had a great year.  I’m still thinking about how fantastic she was in Udta Punjab, a film filled with great performances.  This is the film that introduced me to Diljit Dosanjth.  And how great was Shahid Kapoor as the comic relief?  This was an entertaining film, but also one with an important message about how the drug trade affects everyone– a message the censor board tried to suppress, and thank goodness they did not prevail.  Udta Punjab is currently streaming on Netflix.

kali-malayalam-movie-wallpaper-0922-006394. Kali

Oh my goodness, Kali is such a tense thriller.  Kali means rage.  I admire the script and how the director kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not know what would happen next at any given moment. I felt that anything could happen. And I loved that about this Malayalam movie!  The first half is a personal story of a marriage with young man with anger issues.  Then the second half grips you by the throat.  Dulquer Salmaan gives another stellar performance in a great year, matched by Sai Pallavi.

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5. Dear Zindagi

I adored Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi.  We were afraid when the film was announced it was going to be a romantic relationship, but SRK is her mentor and therapist in this fantastic film.  This is my first Gauri Shinde film, and she is a wonderful director.  This was a nice crossover film that I took some Bollywood virgins to see, and they loved it.

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6. Fan

Although not a perfect film, I submit Fan may be the one of the best performances of Shahrukh Khan’s career in the double role of Guarav and Aryan.

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7. Neerja

This really felt like a year for women in Hindi cinema.  Sonam Kapoor was perfect casting for Neerja.  This film reminded me very much of United  93 – you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still on the edge of your seat watching it unfold, filled with tension.  Neerja is currently streaming on Netflix.

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8. Dangal

I love that Aamir Khan made this movie about girl empowerment.  He let the young women at the center of this true story take the lead, and he was brave enough to play a father with a paunch, no less.  Dangal was one of the biggest family films of the year.

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9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I’m still not happy with the ending of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but man it has some glorious moments.  It’s full on lush Karan Johar film making – actually my first Karan film on the big screen.  I’m reading his autobiography now, An Unsuitable Boy, and he says that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about his own unrequited love story.  It’s a very personal film.  I wish there hadn’t been all the controversy about Pakistani actors, and Fawad Khan had a bigger part.  That soundtrack!!  I listened to the title track on constant repeat.

 

sultan-trailer-647_05241607500610. Sultan

I really enjoyed Sultan, and Salman made a great pairing with Anushka Sharma.  It was another Hindi film with a message of female empowerment, even if the majority of the film was about Salman’s character.  Great soundtrack, too!

Special mention for Brahman Naman which I saw the premiere of at Sundance back in January.  I’m not sure if it’s a purely Indian produced film, but it’s a quirky and wonderful teen sex comedy. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Raees – A Great Character for SRK and a Crowd pleaser of a Film

I mostly loved Raees.  If you’ve read my last post, you know I have had a difficult month with my father having been in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  He’s better but things are still rough.  I’ve been so looking forward to this date — finally a new Shahrukh Khan film.

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Raees is a great character for Shahrukh.  He’s playing a gangster — but a bootlegger with a heart, who makes dinner for his wife.  He’s got a lot of swagger and panache to him, and we are totally on his side as he seems to only kill bad people.

I love how the film starts, with the child Raees who works as a lookout and a mule for the local bootlegger.  Even as a kid, he has lots of moxie, and you never, ever call him four-eyes.

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Raees has a great foil in the police inspector played by Nawazuddin Saddiqui.  What a dream to see these two actors going head to head.  Nawaz’s introduction scene left me in stitches.  He’s so by the book about illegal liquor in Gujarat, that his superiors don’t know what to do with him.  He won’t play the game, and keeps getting transferred around.  He’s like Wile E. Coyote against Raees the Road Runner, outsmarted at nearly every turn.

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What I absolutely loved about the film was SRK’s relationship with Mahira Khan in the film.  Their romance is already existing at the beginning of the film, and the scene we discover that is amusing.  Mahira as Raees’ wife is steadfast, and the only one who can put him back on his heels.  They have a teasing relationship that feels real and adult — not a kid romance.

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Besides the setting in the 80’s and all of Raees’ cool glasses, there is a wonderful homage scene to Amitabh and the classic gangster films of the past.  I haven’t seen Deewar (I know, I know, it’s on the list!), but I have seen another great Indian gangster film, Nayakan.  This has some of the same elements.  The gangster who becomes the champion of the people.

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In Raees, he becomes a politician at one point to get past people who are standing in his way.

Is Raees a perfect film?  No.  I think Shahrukh had to stretch more as an actor in Fan.  But Raees is a crowd pleaser.  It has the music numbers, some romance, and the cool slow-mo shooting with a shot gun while falling type scenes.

I was tired going in to the film, even though it was a 2 p.m. matinee (I had to get up at four a.m. today)  And I was in a theater that had those reclining Laz-E-Boy type seats which didn’t help – but to be honest, it felt like the film lagged a bit in the middle at points.  I don’t think it was just that I was so tired.  I don’t think the film kept the tension going consistently.

Still, Shahrukh Khan had a great character to play, and it’s just a joy seeing him play a serious role like this, especially opposite Nawaz.  This is sort of like a Godfather type film, which Nayakan is an homage to, but somehow it didn’t quite have the pathos.  The Godfather and Nayakan deal with the tragedies in multiple generations, and Raees’ child is still a toddler at the end of the film.  While Shahrukh acted well in the parts where he was supposed to be a brash young man, he is getting a bit long in the tooth to pull it off.

It’s a very enjoyable film, just not a great one for the ages.  It’s nice to be arguing that kind of point about a Shahrukh Khan film.  It’s one I’ll be seeing again in theaters, and will be fun to rewatch.

Plus, Shahrukh dancing garba is always a good thing.  😉

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OK Jaanu – Adiya Roy Kapur is adorable in this decent remake of OK Kanmani

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I’ll be honest that I’ve been dreading OK Jaanu [OK Darling] because I love OK Kanmani so very much.  I went to an A. R. Rahman concert in Chicago and I heard the song Mental Manadhil for the first time, and I was completely blown away.  Rahman played this video while he sang the song, and I just had to see this movie.

OK Kanmani is a Mani Ratnam Tamil movie about two young people who are working in Mumbai, and thrilled to find another Tamil speaker.  I didn’t know at the time that Dulquer Salmaan is actually from Kerala and known for his Malayalam films.

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So Adorable!

I’ve become like all those people in South India — the Southern original is so much better!  There is an undeniable magic to the Mani Ratnam Tamil original.  The chemistry between Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen is amazing.  And it’s one of my all time favorite A. R. Rahman soundtracks.  I listen to it all the time.  O Khadal Kanmani is the movie that started me on my journey of watching Malayalam films, because I just had to see what other films Dulquer and Nithya had done, which led me to Bangalore Days and on and on.  It all started with the Tamil OK Kanmani, which I have watched multiple times.

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So, I had trepidation about OK Jaanu.  I like Aditya Roy Kapur okay, and Shraddha Kapoor.  I saw Aashiqui 2, and they do have decent chemistry together.  Then the Humma song came out, and I got excited.  The song from this scene in the original movie is cute, but one of the weakest of the Tamil soundtrack.  This is waaay sexier.

Then, something happened a week ago.  My father became very seriously ill and he has been in ICU at the hospital for this entire past week.  It’s been incredibly stressful, but he seems to have come out of the crisis.  I’ve been exhausted and spending all my time at hospital with my parents.  When I’ve had a moment to wind down, I’ve turned to Bollywood song videos as my sort of comfort food.  And tonight, I decided I deserved a break, and went with a neighbor to OK Jaanu.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  It took me away from all my cares and worries for a few hours.

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I think this is the best movie I have seen Aditya Roy Kapoor do.  He was truly adorable.  Because I know Dulquer’s performance in the original so well, I could tell when he was even trying to match Dulquer’s mannerisms, but he made it his own.  Shraddha is no sparkling Nithya but she was good enough.   Aditya was good in Aashiqui 2 and, not horrible in Fitoor (that movie had other problems), but I like him so much better quirky and cute like this than brooding and angry.  I’m also one of the few people who liked most of Daawat-e-Ishq.  (Not Aditya’s best look, but I still love this title song!)

The plot of OK Jaanu is basically identical to the original.  Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a young video game designer who has just arrived in Mumbai, and is staying in a room of the house of his brother’s former boss (Nasureedin Shah).  Nasureedin’s wife has Althzeimer’s.  Adi meets Tara and a torrid romance begins, but they both vow they never want to marry.  He’s determined to move to the US, and she wants to study architecture in Paris.  They convince Adi’s landlord to let them live in sin together in his room.  All comes to a head when they both have to leave to follow their careers — will they choose love or their career?  It does have a fantastic message that a girl shouldn’t have to give up her career for marriage — her career is just as important.

 

Some of what made the original special is lost in the Hindi translation.  Part of what drew Adi and Tara together was that they were two Tamil speakers alone in the big city of Mumbai.  That plot point is gone. Naseeruddin Shah is of course his excellent self, but I so adored the big hulking Prakash Raj, who so often plays the big villain, being the tender devoted husband to his ailing wife in the Tamil OK Kanmani.  The sets are certainly bigger and more expensive looking.

One thing that is a welcome addition are the new songs.  Enna Sona, sung by Arjit Singh is gorgeous, and the film turns black and white during this sequence as Adi is missing Tara while she’s away on a work trip.

My neighbor thought OK Jaanu was better than the original.  But she doesn’t really speak Tamil (her husband does) and watched it without subtitles.  She said Dulquer Salmaan’s accent was so thick she couldn’t understand him.  The original will remain one of my favorite films, and if you live in the US, I urge you to watch it on Netflix.   But, the Hindi remake is quite enjoyable.  It’s partly my frame of mind with all I’ve been going through but, this movie allowed me to forget my troubles for a few hours.   Thank God for Indian Cinema and that it is there whenever I need it.  I told my husband what a comfort it is to me in times like this.  I think I’m being more generous than some other reviewers may be, so sue me.  It’s no hardship to watch Adiya being this adorable for a couple hours!

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