Tiger Zinda Hai – Trailer reaction and first song!

I’m so looking forward to Salman Khan’s big Christmas release where he reteams with Katrina Kaif in the sequel Tiger Zinda Hai.  This uses the same real life story as the Malayalam film Take Off (which i still need to see.)

 

This first song from the film is perfect for Salman, and Katrina gets to show off her moves.  The video was filmed on a Greek Island that is just stunningly gorgeous!  I’ve ben to Santorini, and the islands are really that jaw droppingly beautiful in person.

 

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Sarkar 3 Review – Amit Sadh and Amitabh were great but film not my favorite

I went to see Sarkar 3 without seeing the first two films in the series beforehand.  Margaret of Don’tCallItBollywood clued me in to the backstory from the previous films, which are heavily influenced by The Godfather films.  I went to Sarkar 3 because I wanted to see Amit Sadh in this kind of role.  I loved him in Sultan, and he was fantastic in Running Shaadi earlier this year.   Here’s the video review I did for Bollyfools:

 

 

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Running Shaadi -Fantastic Rom Com with some fresh faces

http-%2f%2fo-aolcdn-com%2fhss%2fstorage%2fmidas%2fbafcd286fb08688cd59882f7f9020aba%2f204779235%2fscreenshot2017-01-06at6-19-49pmMargaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood let me know that I HAD to go see Running Shaadi which I don’t remember hearing anything about before.  I went in barely glancing at the poster, and not even seeing a trailer.  I haven’t yet seen Pink, so this was my first Hindi film with Taapsee Pannu.  (Just looking her up, I forgot she was in the wonderful Telugu film Mr. Perfect with Prabhas, as that movie is all Kajal to me.)  But you can’t imagine my delight that the lead male actor in Running Shaadi is Amit Sadh.

When I saw Sultan last summer, I was really taken with Amit Sadh, who plays the MMA promoter who convinces Salman to come out of retirement.  I remember thinking to myself, Who is that?  I want to see a movie with him as the lead!  Wish granted!  Evidently, he was also in Sonakshi’s Akira, which I will be seeking out directly, and I had forgotten he was in Kai Po Che.

Running Shaadi reminded me in some ways of Vicky Donor, in that it’s an under the radar movie that deals with some serious topics in an amusing and ultimately very sweet way.

running-shaadi-com3_I was completely blown away by what happens in the very first 5 minutes or so of the movie.  I have never seen a rom com start this way, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Just know that the film begins with Amit working for Taapsee’s father in the family sari shop.  Taapsee is in pigtails and her high school uniform and goes to Amit with an impossible situation.  He is the only one she trusts to get her out of this jam.

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Taapsee gives Amit a sweet kiss on the cheek afterwards, and you can just see how dumbstruck he is.  They start dating at that point, but once she goes to college, he feels a gulf coming between them as she gains new sophisticated friends.  He constantly thinks that he is not worthy of her, as he is an orphan that her father took a chance on and gave a job long ago.  It’s a familiar filmi trope, poor orphan boy in love with the rich girl, but I love where this movie takes it.

They break up and he impulsively calls his uncle and finally agrees to the arranged marriage his uncle has wanted with a young Bihari girl.  He quits his job and has an idea to start a business helping couples run away and marry the person they want, when their families are against it.  He and his pal, played by debut actor Arsh Bajwa, start RunningShaadi.com (the .com was censored out constantly!) and they have to ask Taapsee for help as she has a credit card to secure the domain name.

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They help out all sorts of couples, inter-religious, intercaste and even a same-sex couple.  There is a wonderful undercurrent social message to this whole film, that of course love marriage is best, and the young people should be able to marry whoever they want.  The schemes to help the couples get quite elaborate and amusing, but their “disguises” are pretty ridiculous.

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Taapsee comes to Amit asking for his help for her own running shaadi.  Amit asks who, and rejects that she’s joking when she immediately answers with you.  Then she tells him she wants to marry her college classmate Shunty, and he demands that they meet.  He goes through with the plan, and while they drive all night to the rendezvous point, Amit can’t help but look longingly at the sleeping Taapsee.  She then reveals that it was all an elaborate ruse to force him to marry her.  Zing!  I loved this twist that she just takes her fate in her own hands, and forces the issue.

Her family chases after them, and the three of them are on the run.  Taapsee gets injured and Amit is driven almost mad that he might lose her.  He is so caring with her while she heals that I was ready to swoon.  She goes out to buy condoms, and my jaw was about on the floor that that scene was in the movie.  Fist bump up in the air for that touch!

But oh noes!  Her family finds them again, and they must escape to Amit’s uncle’s, and that leads to dealing with the fact that Amit is still set to have his arranged marriage.

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They figure out quickly that his intended bride doesn’t want to marry him either, and there’s an elaborate plot to give Amit his own Running Shaadi.  When Amit and Taapsee  finally are able to show each other how they feel, it was perfectly sweet, sexy and meaningful.

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I absolutely adored this Rom Com.  It was one of the best Hindi romantic comedies I have seen in years.  I loved that it tackled some meaningful issues, and has a strong female lead who goes after who and what she wants.  Taapsee wasn’t the best actress ever, but Amit Sadh was just wonderful in this.  I cannot wait to see more films from him.  This is a debut directorial film for former cinematographer Amit Roy.  He also wrote the script which I thought was simply fantastic.  Running Shaadi may exit quickly from theaters, but if you don’t catch it there, it’s definitely one to seek out on Netflix or ErosNow.  Hindi movies with fresh actors can struggle to make a splash, but I will guess this film will gather fans over time.  There was just almost no marketing for it, and the songs weren’t anything special to give it that pre-release push either.  The film was only two hours and has just a couple of montage songs, and that was the only thing I had wished for — that it had more and better music numbers.  I will definitely be buying this film on DVD to watch again and again.

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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.

Krrish 3 – Super Interesting With the Current Kangana/Hrithik News

I watched Krrish 3 for the first time, and it it was super interesting with all the recent news about Kangana and Hrithik and the affair they may or may not have had.  At this point you can’t help but examine every scene with Hrithik and Kangana through that prism.

I don’t have a lot to say about Krrish 3.  I enjoyed Krrish and Koi… Mil Gaya was, well, kind of bizarre.

Krrish 3 is really a decent super hero movie.  The CGI was good.  Yes, there is liberal borrowing from Hollywood films like X-Men and Spiderman.  Hmmm.  A villain with a frog tongue, a villain with a rhino horn.  Gee, where have I seen that?  A villain who can change into any other person she touches.  Hmmm.

I am no Vivek Oberoi fan by any means, but I was actually impressed with him in Krrish 3.  His Kaal is sort of a Magneto villain crossed with Professor Xavier in a wheelchair.  He was quite good as a worthy antogonist for Krrish, and I liked that it being an Indian movie, we had family themes with his character.

Absolutely hated his costume, though.  It looked like a kid made it and slapped some tin foil on a football helmet.  Not cool enough.

It’s standard superhero fare, but for Indian cinema, that’s still saying quite something.  Definitely one that kids could enjoy.  Solid three stars out of five.

And, the extra bonus is that we get a great dance number with Priyanka and Hrithik!  Believe me, Batman vs. Superman could have used a nice song and dance to lighten the mood a bit.  (Zach Snyder, take note!

 

 

 

 

Super Interesting Making of Gaurav from Fan – SRK has Brad Pitt’s cheeks!

YRF released this behind the scenes Making of Gaurav video for the movie Fan.  I had so many questions after watching the film a second time, and really looking at how different Gaurav is from Shahrukh.  Besides the big cheeks, the eyebrows are different, and he just looked slimmer and smaller over all.

(Gifs from KKKG Tumblr)

This 14 minute video answered a lot — it was prosthetics and lots of VFX on top.  This is the same special effects makeup artist who worked with Brad Pitt on Benjamin Button.  So he looked up in his work shop and saw a mold of Brad Pitt’s face, and decided to use those unique cheekbones to make Gaurav’s look.  Fascinating!

 

Fan Review – Some of Shahrukh’s best acting in years

When I first saw the trailer for Fan, I was frankly creeped out by the look of the character Gaurav (the Fan).  Through the use of prosthetics and major CGI, the filmmakers have made Shahrukh look just similar enough, and just different enough that it’s eerie.  The eyebrows are straightened out of their normal “S” shape.  The cheeks are too wide and the teeth different, and mostly, he looks so young!

But once you watch the film, it’s great, because Shahrukh Khan the actor has been able to create two distinct characters in this film.  Aryan Khanna is for the most part the real SRK, a little more arrogant and less warm maybe.  And Gaurav is the young obsessed fan from Delhi.  The prosthetics and CGI let you see them as two different people immediately.

I was fortunate to see Fan before I really read any reviews or saw anything about the plot.  Of course, I had my suspicions that this would be a darker psychological  thriller, and it most definitely is.  I was traveling for a conference in Las Vegas on Friday, and asked at an Indian restaurant which of the total two theaters in town showing Fan would be a safer neighborhood to take an Uber.  Totally worth it to see it the first night!  I knew a bit what I was getting into, that there would be no songs, but I think the audience I was seeing it with really didn’t know.  As the end credits started, the guys behind me said out loud, “What, no song?”  The tone and moment that the film ends with, I’m glad that we didn’t have that peppy Fan Anthem song over the credits.  It would have been jarring.  (Like the credit song was for Badlapur!)

I don’t want to spoiler the movie at all.  I’m just going to tell you that you should really see this film.  It is a return to Shahrukh the actor, which I had been hoping for!  This is acting of a level with Darr, with Swades, or Chak De!  Yes, it really is that good.  It’s up with all the great performances.  I’ve already seen the film twice and I plan on seeing it again in a few days with a friend.  For a Shahrukh Khan fan, there is so much to delight in references to real past movies of SRK’s.  Real old interview footage, footage from his SLAM! Tour in the US in big stadiums –  they even filmed at his home Mannat on his birthday to capture the craziness.

You can guess from the trailer that it’s about a super star, and an obsessed fan, and things are going to get crazy.  I’m giving it four and a half stars out of five, because I loved it that much, but there were a few logical leaps in the second half.  I’m not sure the logic of the thriller completely worked, but I just loved watching it unfold before my eyes anyway.  The action set pieces are really good, and Dubrovnic is gorgeous!!  (That’s the rooftop chase from the trailer.)

I’ve seen people say this is a copy of the Robert DeNiro/Wesley Snipes film The Fan, and it really isn’t.  Yes, you have an obsessed fan in both thrillers, but that’s where the similarity really ends.

None of the other actors in the movie are big names.  There’s another rival “star” in the film named Sid Kapoor that I think is supposed to be a take on Hrithik.  I recognized the character actors playing Gaurav’s parents, but really the movie is Shahrukh vs. Shahrukh.  I also admire Shahrukh for poking a little fun at his own stardom.  There’s a scene where Aryan is performing for a wedding for a huge fee, and even him punching the star Sid Kapoor at a party could be reference to real dustups that Shahrukh has had in his own life.  Aryan is an aging star, who has declining box office for his films, and Gaurav at first won’t stand for any rival to take his God, HIS star’s place.

What is fantastic in this double character study is that your sympathies go from one character to the other and back and forth again.  There are shades of gray to both characters, and I loved that.  This was writer/director Manesh Sharma’s dream project for years.  Yash Raj had him prove himself with a few other films first, and he started with Band Baaja Baaraat, and what a debut that was!  He had to wait fot the timing to be right for Shahrukh to be involved — really I don’t know if I can think of any other Bollywood actor more perfect for this dual role.  It’s a triumph for Shahrukh, Manesh Sharma and the VFX team.

I’m so excited for Raees now!

 

 

Why I Love Indian Cinema

A few weeks ago, I answered a question on Quora, “Does anyone besides Indians watch Indian movies?”  This post is adapted from the answer I gave.  At first I gave a brief answer, but then people commented and wanted to know WHY?  Why would a non-Indian love Indian films?  Many commenters were at first incredulous, but then thanked me for showing them an outsider’s view of their cinema.   As of this writing, the answer has garnered over 170,000 views, and made me a Most Viewed Writer about Bollywood on Quora.  (Which still blows my mind.)

Netflix in the US has over 80 Hindi films at anyone time.  Because of the kind of films I enjoy, Netflix recommended I watch Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge about 2 years ago.  Since I fell in love with Bollywood, I’ve seen over 200 Indian films.  I’m lucky that in my area new release films play in a few local theaters.  I was able to see Kapoor and Sons just last night and I absolutely loved it.

I’m not the only non-Desi in America to love Bollywood movies, but I wouldn’t say it’s very common.

My father’s church has a monthly movie night, and he asked me to show a Bollywood movie last week.  I chose Dil Se, and showed it to 15 people, including my parents, who had never before seen a Bollywood film.  They all loved it!

Editing to add my answer from the comments below, WHY I love Indian films:

I also love old Hollywood musicals like Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly films.  Hollywood does not make them anymore.  I love the singing and the dancing in Indian cinema, but also the earnest love stories are not the kind of films that Hollywood makes either.  Rom Coms are becoming rarer and rarer in American films which tend to be more cynical.  The emotions in Bollywood films are something that is rare to see in Hollywood or English films.  People joke about how much Shahrukh Khan cries in his films, but I really respond to the emotions shown in Indian cinema.  Also, the colors on screen!  Bhansali’s film Ram-Leela is an example of this.

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I listen to Bollywood music all the time, as well.

Indian films just give me things I cannot get from Hollywood or other Western cinema.  Plus Shahrukh Khan.  I’ve watched 47 of his films alone (which doesn’t count the countless times I’ve watched DDLJ.)  🙂

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I do love South Indian films as well, and I have seen a little over 30 South Indian films.  I fell in love with Prabhas after watching Baahubali last year (four times in the theater!).  I now own many of his Telugu films on DVD.

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Recently, I’ve been watching quite a few Malayalam films, especially recent ones with Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan.  I have watched fewer Tamil films, but I asked my neighbor to bring me back some DVD’s from her recent trip to Chennai, and have been working through the dozen films she brought me.  Last week, I watched Raja Rani, and liked it.

For those interested, I keep track of all the Bolllywood films I’ve watched on Letterboxd.com, and here’s my list of Regional films I’ve seen, up to 32 now after watching the Malayalam film Classmates last night.

I asked for commenters to recommend their favorite Indian films — and oh boy, did they.  I’ve created a Letterboxd list now of all the films recommended there in the comments that I have not already seen.  Now up to 372 (!!) films in several Indian languages:  Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, etc.  The question now is will I live long enough to watch even half of them!

My first Bollywood film ever was Lagaan, back almost 15 years ago when it was nominated for the Foreign language Oscar.  That was back when you could only rent Netflix movies via DVD in the mail.  I then watched Dil Chahta Hai, because that also had Aamir Khan.  But it was not so easy back then for a non-Hindi speaker to find out about other Bollywood films.  The internet has helped so much, and Netflix’s recommendation engine is the reason I fell in love with Bollywood 2 years ago.  DDLJ was recommended to me, then I was able to watch Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi right after that.  I texted my Indian next door neighbor for other suggestions, and she loves Hrithik Roshan and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was also streaming on Netflix and I was off to the races with my new obsession.

I have been mentored by two other non-Desi lovers of Bollywood who then suggested many other films for me to try, and in some cases pushed the DVD’s into my hand saying, “YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS!”

Kathy Gibson of AccessBollywood.net  and Margaret of DontCallItBollywood

Shout out also to the gang at Bollywhat forum!

Kapoor and Sons (since 1921) Film Review

Sometimes there are movies you have been anticipating for months and you do a little prayer before it starts that it lives up to your hopes for it. This is a movie that not only exceeded my every expectation – it blew me away it was so excellent.  I’ve seen the movie twice now.

I don’t want to spoiler this movie, because I really enjoyed going into it guessing what might happen in this intense family drama, but not knowing. I laughed, I cried, I gasped in shock at more than one point. This film puts you through the emotional wringer. I really cried at more than one moment in the film.

This is an incredible ensemble of actors. Rishi Kapoor was a hoot as a fun loving 90 year old grandfather whose sudden heart attack brings home the two brothers, played by Siddarth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. There are tensions and secrets that burst out over the family coming together again. The trailer plays up the romantic angle with Alia Bhatt’s character, but that’s just a small part of the drama.

I do love Siddarth, but he is the lesser actor of this stellar cast. The stand out, by far, is Fawad Khan. This Pakistani actor had his Bollywood debut in Khoobsurat in 2014, and I’ll admit it, I caught Fawad Fever. I watched his entire Pakistani soap Humsafar (on Watch Bollywood Movies Online – Eros Now), and this guy can ACT. He’s also incredibly generous with the actors sharing the screen with him. What a choice of a sophomore Bollywood role. It has felt like it’s been forever since Khoobsurat came out, but this film was so worth the wait. When the movie was over I wanted to watch it all over again!