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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Befikre – Aditya Chopra gives us a scrumptious light Paris pastry of a romantic film

When you have made the romance Hindi movie that is held up as the gold standard, and is STILL playing in a theater 21 years after it’s release, that’s a lot of pressure.  Aditya Chopra is an excellent producer, but has gone years between directorial projects.  Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is the film that started me on my love of Indian Cinema, and I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi second — and I was a goner.  It’s hard not to have super high expectations of an Aditya Chopra film.  All three previous films that Chopra has personally directed had superstar Shahrukh Khan as the lead, an actor that he was instrumental in making a superstar with DDLJ.  It was so monumental an announcement that Aditya was casting a new (for him) actor, that Ranveer Singh made a video announcing it and described how he cried walking out of Aditya’s office when he heard the news.

The first teaser trailer of Befikre is in fact the opening credits of the film, showing couples of all shapes, sizes, colors and orientation kissing all over Paris.  Is this Aditya’s shot across the bow to the censor board?  I certainly know I’ve never seen another Hindi film with so much kissing in it, much less gay kisses.

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Our first glimpse of Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shrya (Vaani Kapoor) is when a TV is thrown out a window.  It’s the breakup to start, and that is Aditya’s way of telling us this isn’t going to be like every boy and girl meet cute film.  It has a Western and an Indian flavor to it.  He pays homage to DDLJ in a few ways, with a song, and a field of yellow (could be mustard) flowers in the distance in a country scene.  I also see touches of some of my favorite romantic Hollywood films.  There’s a little When Harry Met Sally.  The flashbacks forward and backward over and over was very much like 500 Days Of Summer.  Aditya has taken elements from lots of Hollywood romances, but he makes this film his own, as he is the master.

ranveer-singh-befikre-vaani-kapoor-from-still_a422a78a-abaa-11e6-b4b4-3ed39deda4e7Dharam is new to Paris, and he’s a stand up comic flown in from Dehli to headline a friend’s club.  Have we ever had a stand up comic as an Indian romantic hero before?  That also felt very modern to me.  Shyra meets him at a bar, and their dynamic from the beginning starts with a dare.  “If you do X, then I’ll go out with you.”  ‘Desperate Dharam’ as Shyra calls him, is up for any dare, if it means he can spend more time with this fascinating wild creature.  When he takes her dares, Shyra gets that little spark in her eye – here’s someone who gets me and will go on my kind of adventures.  But she warns him from the first that she won’t be tied down and she doesn’t want him to fall in love with her.  We’ve seen all that from the trailer.  We’ve seen live in relationships in Hindi films, too, but this relationship definitely feels more modern, and Aditya’s gorgeous setting of Paris helps with that.

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Shyra has grown up in Paris with parents from India and she views herself as French, but cooks Paratha when she needs comfort food.  Her parents are stunned when she announces, “I’m not asking for your permission.” that she will be moving in with Dharam.  He tries to make nice with them, by touching their feet.  “Why did you do that?” she asks.  “I just wanted them to know you weren’t moving in with a jerk.”  The mom I recognized as one of the aunties from Dil Dhadakne Do.

Ranveer has his manic energy, and shows more skin than our herione.  Not only is there the red underwear scene from the trailer, but he shows off his bare butt, too.  I really, really liked Vaani Kapoor.  I didn’t remember her really from her first film, Shuddh Desi Romance — I think she was the jilted bride.  She is tough and quirky and independent and Shyra. The dancing they do together is fantastic.  I don’t know that they had that timeless chemistry or heat that Kajol and SRK did, but then again, that was an extraordinary jodi.

In one of my favorite dialogues, Dharam apologizes for calling Shyra a slut in their breakup argument, “It was me who wasn’t experienced.  I’m sorry for saying that.” What happens after Dharam and Shyra breakup becomes interesting, as they are best friends after some time blows over.  This is where many Hollywood romances would start, as they have to cram the whole story into 90 minutes.  She starts dating someone else, but he is not an a**hole, or a jerk.  In fact, he’s almost too perfect, and too grown up.

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This is the part of the movie that felt very much like the new guy was Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama.  He is a real choice, but maybe not the right choice.   And maybe not the choice for Shyra that feels like “home”.  He’s not a horrible stereotype like Simran’s fiance in DDLJ.

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The third wheel actor was new to me,  Armaan Ralhan, grandson of a director, so in the filmi family.  He was nice and not just a boring drip of a banker, plus he was more than accepting of her best friendship with Dharam.  He was great.

Things all come to a head in a rather slapstick, almost farcical silly Four Weddings and a Funeral climax way.  It’s not the emotional angst and drama of the climax of DDLJ.

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But you know what?  Sometimes, a French macarons is just what you want.  Lighter than air, oh so sweet, but sophisticated, too, and out of the ordinary.

Also — There’s a cute epilogue scene after the final credits song so stick around for that.

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Still LOVE this song the best.  So catchy!

 

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag – There’s nothing like a good cry

screen-shot-2012-02-02-at-10-53-07-pm-1Laaga Chunari Mein Daag [My Veil is Stained] is an old fashioned type of melodrama, and I ate it up with a spoon.  I hadn’t had a good cry watching a movie in quite awhile, and there’s nothing I love more than Ranishek.  There’s something about their jodi that I just adore.  I don’t know if it’s how tiny she is, and how tall he is, and how he looms over her protectively.  Abhishek Bachchan is just swoony paired with Rani Mukerji, and especially so in this film.

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This film also passes the Bechdel test spectacularly.  Rani plays the older of two sisters who grow up in Benares on the banks of the Ganges.  They live in a big ramshackle old house with a father who is too ill to work (Anupam Kher) and a mother who’s struggling to keep the family afloat financially (Jaya Bachchan).  Konkona Sen Sharma is Chutki and is still in school, whil Rani Mukerji as Badki realizes she needs to find work to take the pressure off her mother.

screen-shot-2012-02-02-at-3-56-49-pm Rani goes to Mumbai, and since she had not finished school and cannot speak English, she has trouble finding, and keeping any job.  When her father is hospitalized and she calls home, Jaya in exasperation quarrels with her on the phone and tells her she can’t come home.  In desperate straits, she becomes a high class escort with the name Natasha.

Okay, this part was a bit far-fetched as while she is duped into losing her virginity, she somehow easily becomes a high-fashion wearing high class escort with the help of a friend.  She sends money home to her family to pay for her father’s medicine as well as to put her sister through college.

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She is the mistress of an executive who makes her an “event planner” or some made up position and travels to Zurich with him on a conference.  That’s where she meets Rohan, an attorney, and they have a magical day together.

Away from her normal life as a courtesan, she can imagine that she’s just a girl on a date, but reality calls her back.

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Her sister surprises her by just showing up at her apartment as she has a new job in Mumbai after completing her MBA.  Konkona has her own romantic storyline with the creative director at her office played by Kunal Kapoor.  (I do love Kunal and Konkona together.  They were great in Aaja Nachle, too.)  Rani has done everything she can to hide her true profession, but her sister’s wedding brings everything to a head.  Jaya, her mother doesn’t want her to come home as people will talk.

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What I loved was that when Rani’s sister learns the truth, she realizes the sacrifices she made on the family’s behalf.  She doesn’t judge Rani at all, and insists she come home for the wedding.  And that’s when Rani finally gets her happy ending with Abhishek.  It’s so wonderful, because she’s so afraid what he would think if he knew, but he knew all along and loved her anyway.  The tears started when Rani’s sister accepted her, and just poured down my cheeks in the final scenes.

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There’s also a fantastic cameo in the film by Hema Malini who plays a famous courtesan in Benares.

Yes, it’s a big melodrama, but it’s a Yash Raj Aditya Chopra produced melodrama so I loved it.  And Ranishek.  You just can’t beat swoony Ranishek.

Four stars out of five.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – 10 Year anniversary appreciation

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I actually like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, although I know it is not most people’s favorite Karan Johar movie.  It’s certainly not my favorite Shahrukh Khan film, but it does have some great moments for me.  Today is the 10 year anniversary of KANK’s release date.

While it is about mature adults, and not young lovers,  the subject of adultery is not one that everyone wants to watch in a film.  I do love the music, too.  I really like seeing how Karan played homage to Silsila especially in this song sequence.  He copies the exact poses of Rekha and Amitabh.

But what I really take from KANK, is the gay subtext.  It may have also been about Rani Mukherjee’s real life relationship with Aditya Chopra.  But I think when Karan explores the sexual incompatibility of Rani and Abishek’s character’s marriage, and how Rani feels things with Shahrukh that she has never felt before — ding, ding, ding — we’re supposed to read into that a gay subtext.

Here’s an example when Shahrukh and Rani play act how he should greet his  wife while they are in a department store.  The first few times I watched this scene, I was focused on Shahrukh’s reaction, but look at Rani’s face at about the 1:17 minute mark.  She realizes she’s feeling desire for Shahrukh that her character has never felt with Abishek.  She wasn’t expecting to feel it, and she stops immediately, but she can’t stop thinking about it from this moment on.

I don’t believe that adultery is right, but I also don’t think people should stay in marriages where they are miserable.  And that’s the real message that Karan is trying to tell us, whether the couples are gay or straight.

The whole soundtrack of this movie is fantastic.  Margaret at Don’t Call It Bollywood posted today about how the song Mitwa  deconstructs the typical fantasy song.