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!

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!

 

Happy Birthday SRK – My Favorite Shahrukh Khan Movies

unnamedShahrukh Khan was my entree into Indian Cinema.  And it’s all because of Netflix.  Netflix streaming’s algorithm recommended Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to me because I love romantic movies.  Then I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and I was a goner.  I think my story is similar to many other non-Desi fans of Indian Cinema — Shahrukh Khan is our gateway to this wonderful world of film.  And the internet and Netflix makes it so easy now to really dive into an obsession.

How big a fan of Shahrukh Khan am I?  This is my phone’s lock screen background:

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I’ve seen 50 of Shahrukh Khan’s 70 plus movies.  Picking my favorite Shahrukh Khan films after the top two is like picking my favorite children.  SRK brings something special even in the worst of films.

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The only Shahrukh Khan film I really can’t stand and won’t watch again is King Uncle, and really that’s a Jackie Shroff Annie remake and SRK is barely in it.

But enough of the worst, on to my favorite Shahrukh Khan films:

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10.  Swades

My love of this movie about an NRI who returns home to India is particularly for this song sequence.  In Yeh Tara Woh Tara, when the projector won’t work in the village, SRK leads the children in a song about the stars.  And we get that classic arms outstretched pose projected on the sheet used for the screen.  Just a magical moment of a song.

 

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9.  Chak De India

I love that SRK did this film about a girl’s field hockey team.  Just a masterful performance and a great message.  He’s let his female co-stars have top billing in his films, and here he lets a whole team of them take center stage.

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8. Don

I recently watched the original Don with Amitabh Bachchan, and I am now even more impressed with how Farhan Akhtar kept the spirit of the original, while updating it and giving it a new twist.  Plus he has the cool seventies music from the original updated and incorporated in this fantastic film.  I love Shahrukh Khan in double roles, just love seeing him create two different personas in the same film, from Baazigar to Fan.  This is one of the best, and so delicious to see him in a dark sexy villain role.

7.  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai can be silly, but Karan Johar can just get me right in the gut with his love story triangles (or quadrangles).  This gazebo scene is just so sexy.  That SRKajol magic!  We get SRK/Rani plus a sweet Salman Khan as a bonus.

6. Om Shanti Ohm

I love Farah Khan and her collaborations with Shahrukh.  Main Hoon Na barely missed the cut for this list, but I have to give it up to OSO.  Farah has given us an homage to classic Bollywood film, launched the debut of Deepika Pudakone, and the song sequences are just amazing.  Farah was a choreographer first, and the great music is paramount in this film.  I will love her forever for making SRK the item guy in the sexy Dard-e-Disco.  We won’t talk about how many times I’ve seen the Dard-e-Disco song video.

I saw Om Shanti Ohm early on in my watching of Hindi films, and I don’t know if I recognized anyone except Kajol the first time I watched Deewangi Deewangi.  This song is my yardstick of how far I’ve come in watching Hindi films.  Farah Khan loves allusions to other Hindi films in her movies, and cameos and this is the king of cameo songs.  I didn’t know Dharmendra or why Shahrukh made that hair gesture with the thin guy I now know is Zayed Khan.  These days, I’m so advanced I know the guy playing Shahrukh’s father in the second half is a big Pakistani soap star (And I’ve watched him play Fawad Khan’s father in Zindagi Gulzar Hai)!  OSO is just that much funnier and you just appreciate it so much more knowing filmi background.  I laughed so hard at the Filmfare scene on a subsequent watch with Abhishek being nominated for Dhoom 4 and SRK being nominated for two identical looking romances in the Swiss Alps with sweaters.

5.  My Name Is Khan

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This may have been the first movie I saw with SRK where he wasn’t playing a version of the SRK persona, but was really acting a character.  Shahrukh plays a man with Asperger’s and his relationship  with Kajol in the first half of the film is just wondrous.  The second half of the film is like looking at my  country through a fun house mirror.  The flood scene somewhere in the South where SRK is taken in by an African American family is a little weird, but it’s still a very moving film with a powerful message.

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4. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

KKKG feels like the ultimate Bollywood film.  It’s got just about everybody in it!  I’ve shown this movie as a first Hindi movie to friends because it introduces you to all the major players.  I’ve posted just the reunion scene of SRK with Jaya who plays his mother, and without subtitles, I’ve had people demand to know where they could see this film because of the emotion they saw.  This song,  Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, may be my ultimate SRK and Kajol dance and fall in love number ever.  It is just so, so swoony.  Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, indeed.  And the outfit Shahrukh is wearing is so, so gorgeous.

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3. Veer-Zaara

Veer-Zaara is Yash Chopra at his peak.  Lush scenery, beautiful songs, and an interfaith romance that just makes me tear up each and every time I watch it.  My favorite song sequence of Shahrukh’s ever is Main Yahan Hoon from Veer-Zaara.  Oh, my gosh.  The way Priety is trying to forget Shahrukh as her father forces her to become engaged to Manoj, and yet, she sees Shahrukh everywhere.  He haunts her.  And then goes in for her collarbone in the rain and I swoon.  Every. Single. Time.

 

2. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Match Made in Heaven) was the second Shahrukh Khan I ever saw, and I watched it right after DDLJ.   This is how new I was to my love of SRK.  I actually paused the movie and looked it up, because I could not believe Raj and Suri were the same actor.  I loved the comedic Raj, but quiet nerdy steadfast Suri stole my heart.  Such a great film.  Aditya Chopra is the master.  I watch this film over and over..  It is my comfort and my solace.  Watching this film cemented my love of Shahrukh Khan forever.

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  1. DDLJ  (Could there be any other?)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Bravehearted Wins the Bride) is the one that started it all.  The first half can be a little silly, reminding me sometimes of a prank filled John Hughes film.  But, oh, man, the second half hits you.  I can’t even really express what watching DDLJ did to me the first time (and every time).  It touched my heart and gave me something I didn’t even know I was missing.  Hollywood rarely makes Rom-Coms anymore, much less musicals.  This film opened my world and gave me the gift that is Indian cinema.  Since I watched DDLJ in the summer of 2014, I’ve watched over 300 Indian films.  Thanks, Shahrukh for making me fall in love!  And Happy Birthday!

 

Song of the Day – Palat Tero Hero Idhar Hai

 

Happy Birthday Varun!

Margaret on Don’tCallItBollywood has done a great post on why Varun could be the next Shahrukh.  I completely agree.

He proved he has the drama chops with Badlapur, and he’s a great dancer.  But what I love most about him is that he has that same zany lovable rogue persona that SRK did in his early films.  Humpty Sharma was an updated Raj from DDLJ (the character even cries watching the movie!) and this, my favorite number from the delightful film Main Tera Hero is called even Palat after my all time favorite scene in DDLJ!

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!