Aashiqui 2 -The Hindi remake of A Star Is Born

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NOW I get it.  When Aditya Roy Kapoor did his solo numbers at the Dream Team concert in Chicago, the girls in the crowd went crazy, especially when he covered one of the dancers with his jacket.

And it was because he was lip syncing the two big songs from Aashiqui 2 [Love]Sunn Raha Hai Na Tua and Tum Hi Ho.

I’ve been suffering with what I think is a bad sinus infection for days and haven’t felt up to watching anything with subtitles as I couldn’t even concentrate.  Margaret at Don’t Call It Bollywood mentioned that she’s going to write a review of Aashiqui 2 soon, and I realized that I should really watch it before OK Jaanu comes out next weekend.  I rented it last night from Amazon streaming, but I’m a little worried something may have been cut in their copy as the run time was only 2 hours 6 minutes.

I have not seen the classic 1954 Judy Garland A Star is Born, but I have the Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version from the ’70’s.  Aashiqui 2’s plot is completely A Star Is Born.  Successful male takes talented woman under his wing, and then her career eclipses his as he declines into alcoholism.

While Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor had decent romantic chemistry in Aashiqui 2 and acted, well, okay… there are so many flaws in this film.  I could totally believe that Aditya was a rock star.  With Arjit Singh singing those songs, he had the swagger to pull it off.  Shraddha’s character is this young naive ingenue, scraping by singing in a bar in Goa when Aditya stumbles in to hear her sing his song, Sunn Raha Hai Na Tua.  The problem is her singing voice in the film is not a powerhouse raw talent.  It’s tinny and thin sounding.  She looks up to Lata as her inspiration, but her singing did not blow me away AT ALL.  That is the whole point of A Star Is Born — this talent that is just so amazing, that the male lead has to share it with the world.

When I was growing up, you could not escape Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen from the 1976 film.  Kris Kristofferson was well cast, because while he is a talent, he’s not the legendary BARBRA.

So, from the get go, I’m not buying Shraddha as this big talent, but the romance plot in the first half is nice and it is refreshing to have a male Indian lead doing everything to support a woman’s career.  But oh that demon alcohol.

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You can tell Aditya is a real alcoholic because he drinks straight from big bottles!  The addiction storyline here is treated so ridiculously.  Shraddha remains a naive ingenue to the end, convinced that she can solve his addiction just by taking him away to the mountains and giving him a nice shave outside to get him clean.

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Your boyfriend, who never even mentions marriage and is fine living with you and ultimately off your earnings, goes into drunken rages and pushes you to the ground, and you can just hug him even tighter and it will all be okay?  Blech.  I wanted to shake some sense into Shraddha in this movie.  This is not 1954!  Surely, her character could have had a little more spine in this day and age or even some character development.  And sorry for the spoilers, but gee, alcoholism can’t be solved by love alone.  And it’s noble to kill yourself rather than go to rehab or accept your father’s help because even though you didn’t marry the poor girl, she’s ready to give up her career for you?   If you’re going to copy the entire plot of A Star Is Born, then I guess you have to end it that way, but it could have been portrayed as more dark and desperate rather than noble and misguided.

 

The music is central to a film like this, and this film has a couple of amazing blockbusters.  You can’t help but love this soundtrack.

350827-aashiqui-2So, in all, glad I finally watched this first pairing of Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor.  But I think they look like they have even better romantic chemistry in the trailers of OK Jaanu.  I hate to see OK Kanmani remade (because it is perfection) but hopefully they won’t screw it up too much.  Aashiqui 2 won’t be a film I want to rewatch, but I will definitely be downloading the songs.

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And now there’s going to be a new Hollywood version of A Star Is Born with a release date in September of 2018 starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.  Cooper will not only act in the film, it will be his directorial debut.  Lady Gaga is the kind of powerhouse talent perfect for the role. Bradley’s acting is Oscar caliber, but I hope his directorial skills will be up to the task.

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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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Traffic (2011) Film Review – the start of Malayalam New Wave Cinema

Rajesh Pillai‘s Malayam film Traffic (2011) is a hyperlink movie.  We get small glimpses into the lives of several characters, and learn over the course of the film how they are all connected to each other.  DontCallitBollywood has a great discussion of what hyperlink movies are, and analysis of this film.  Because of her writeup, I decided to check out this movie, that was also recommended many times on the Quora post.

Traffic was also evidently a seminal movie in the New Wave Cinema or Next Generation movement in Malayalam cinema because of its urban setting, vs. the traditional rural village, and young fresh faces outside of the star system.

Traffic most reminds me of the hyperlink Hollywood film Crash, which also touched on serious urban themes and issues.

 

Traffic, as you can imagine, starts with a traffic accident, and then backs up the narrative a bit to fill us in on the characters involved.  We have a young man who is starting his first day on the job as a journalist off to interview a big movie star.  A young woman being followed by some rowdies on motorbikes.  The victim of the crash goes into a coma, and the doctors bring up a young thirteen year old girl, who desperately needs a heart transplant.  And that’s the hook of the film.  Getting that heart on a two hour drive through various towns and urban populated areas.

We flashback and learn about a police officer who has been disgraced by a bribe.  He volunteers to drive the heart to try to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and neighbors.  There’s the police commander who thinks it just can’t be done, and then coordinates all the road closures necessary from a command center.  And most importantly we learn about a movie star on the day of his premiere — it turns out to be his daughter who is very ill.  The young journalist  is set to interview this star, and he has a romance with a young divorced woman.

It’s quite unusual to see a young divorcee in Indian films, and that is one of the key plot points that signifies this film as New Wave.  The filmmakers set out to make a quite different film.

I loved the glimpses into the life of the Malayalam movie star.  We see flashbacks of him being too busy for his family, and my favorite scene of the whole movie is when he is being interviewed on the radio while his daughter and wife roll their eyes at his answers.  The daughter hands the interviewer a paper with some questions — “What is the name of my daughter’s favorite teacher?  Who is her best friend?”  And so on because she knows that will trip him up.

The second half of the movie is mostly taken up with the action of  driving that police car at 100 kph or whatever it was to get the heart to the girl on time.  And the action scenes were great.  There’s a big twist right at the interval that had me gasp out loud.  It really shocked me what one character did when he heard some awful news.  And what he’s going to do next sets up much of the tension and conflict.

As Margaret points out in her take on Traffic, this is a movie about detours and second chances for many of the characters.  It has a very interesting script, unlike most Indian films, and the action towards the end is very well done.

But my problem with the film is that since there are so many characters, I couldn’t really connect emotionally with any of them.  And I really thought afterwards about why this film seemed to have such a strong reaction in Kerala, but I didn’t feel the same way about it.  And part of it may be that just about every actor in the film I have never seen before.  Only the young journalist, I had seen in Ohm Shanti Oshana.

Hyperlink movies in Hollywood like the silly He’s Just Not That Into You or Valentine’s Day have a bevy of stars and some new actors thrown in.

 

When you have Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper in a movie, you know these actors.  There’s a shorthand to their characters, and an instant rapport with the audience.

And I didn’t have that with the actors in the Malayalam Traffic that maybe the Mayali audience did.  So, I give it three and a half stars out of five.  I admire the film, but I didn’t love it.  Rajesh Pillai also directed the Malayalam film Mili, which I also admired for being so female centric, but didn’t love.  Bangalore Days and the Malayalam films that came after Traffic owe a debt to Traffic, but Bangalore Days is the superior film.  Fewer characters, and you get emotionally drawn in to their stories much more.

Interestingly, when I was looking up links for this version of Traffic, I discovered that the same director made a Hindi version of Traffic that is going to be released May 6th!  And here, we have Jimmy Shergill as the police commander and Manoj Bajpayee as the police officer who volunteers to make the drive to redeem himself.  See, I’m instantly in!  Because these actors I already have a relationship with from many, many movies.  The film has the exact same plot, but with action “enhancements” which I’m very curious about.  Same director, Rajesh Pillai, who tragically died earlier this year, so this is his last film.  Instead of driving to Chennai, as in the real life case the movie is based on, the drive is from Pune to Mumbai.