Comrade In America – First Video Review together with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

Margaret of DontCallItBollywood and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I was the one that got her to start watching Malayalam films.  There’s only one theater in Chicago that plays them, and we meet in the middle there to watch them together when we can.  It’s a 45 minute drive for both us — but for Dulquer, it’s worth it!  I’ve started doing regular reviews on the Bollyfools Youtube channel, and this is my first joint video review with Margaret.  We filmed it quickly in the lobby of the theater, so I apologize in advance for all the background noise.

CIA didn’t blow us away, but it was an enjoyable one time watch.  Margaret’s more extensive review of CIA is posted here.

 

 

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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!

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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My First Podcast! Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I discuss Angamaly Diaries!

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood has started a podcast, and she invited me to discuss Angamaly Diaries, which we saw together.  We’ve both written reviews of the film – here’s mine, and she discusses it here and here.  But we can’t stop talking about it!  I hope Margaret and I can make this a regular thing.  Enjoy!

Shivaay – Awesome Action in this attempted mashup of Taken and Bajrangi Bhaijaan

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I love Ajay Devgn.  Unabashedly love him.  In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I am totally Team Ajay.  One of my Desi friends expressed amazement that I like Ajay and was looking forward to Shivaay, “What?  He’s so ugly!” She’s still my friend even though I now wonder both about her eyesight and her mental acuity.  He has superb screen presence and can actually act, but he just has an unmistakable swagger as an action star.  The Shivaay trailer just blew me away.  We’ve never seen this level of stunt work and action cinematography in Indian cinema.  I had heard mixed things about Shivaay once it came out, but there was no way I was going to miss this film on the big screen.

With Shivaay, it’s almost like Ajay the director is trying to combine an action thriller like Taken with the emotion and family heart of Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  The action sequences are fantastic, and really thrilling.  They measure up to the quality of Hollywood films, and the Bulgarian scenery is just gorgeous.

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I absolutely adored Ajay’s relationship with his young mute daughter.  She was a terrific child actress.  Did she have to be mute? — maybe that was a way to get around the plot point that she doesn’t look like her Indian father and the actress wouldn’t be able to speak good enough Hindi.  As Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood points out, this is really a special father/daughter relationship on screen.  It has nothing to do with a daughter leaving home for marriage, and we have an adoring single father. raatein_shivaay_ajay_abigail

Why did this film not touch me in the heart the same way Bajrangi Bhaijaan did?  It has more serious peril with human trafficking by the Russian mafia, and a cute kid and all, I can’t quite put my finger on why it didn’t work for me.  Shivaay was just that much darker and had few moments of lightness and fun.  Ajay also didn’t have anyone supporting him of the quality of Nawaz or Kareena.

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There was maybe too much time spent in this romance plot with Polish actress Erika Kaar, who does not have the acting chops of Kareena Kapoor Khan.  The villains are also mostly interchangeable Eastern European bad guys.  The big reveal of the ultimate bad guy mastermind was pretty predictable, and the final battle was pretty damn awesome.  The title track by Badshah is great, but the rest of the music tracks also don’t have level of Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s soundtrack.

Ajay is a solid action director.  I wish the script had been a bit better, and aside from the delightful child actress, the supporting players of better caliber to match Ajay’s intensity.  I would still recommend catching Shivaay in the theater, because the action scenes look amazing on the big screen.  Ajay’s showing the way — you can play a dad, and still have swagger and cool.

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And wield wicked weapons like those rock climbing hooks!

Three and a half stars out of five for the great action.

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Happy Bhag Jayegi – just a nice enjoyable comedy movie

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When I saw the trailer for Happy Bhag Jayegi [Happy Will Run], I was so excited.  It looked funny, and most importantly had Jimmy Shergill as the heavy, and Abhay Deol looking bemused.  The reviews have not been stellar, but I’m here to tell you it’s a fun little over two hour romantic farce.  And who doesn’t want to spend two hours with Abhay and Jimmy?

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I really admire what Jimmy Shergill is doing with his career.  He’s taking the supporting villainish (but not too villainish) character roles now in this and in movies like Tanu Weds Manu 2, as well as supporting roles in action films.  Because he’s Jimmy Shergill, he’s the bad guy here, but he’s still so charming you almost feel sorry for him that his bride ran away.

Happy (Diana Penty) is a spitfire.  Her father has arranged her marriage to politician Jimmy Shergill, also the head of the local goon gang.  While Jimmy dances (badly!) at their engagement, Happy jumps out the bathroom window into a waiting truck.  Trouble is, it wasn’t the truck her boyfriend had arranged.

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She pops out of a box in the home of Abhay — son of the ex-Governor in Lahore, Pakistan.  Abhay’s father is played by the always great Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh.  Bollywood audiences know him  as SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, but I loved him as Fawad Khan’s father in the Pakistani soap Zindagi Gulzar Hai.

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Abhay just wants to play cricket, but his father has great political aspirations for him.  They’d been in Amritsar on a diplomatic mission, and the truck is full of diplomatic gifts!

Happy is stuck in Lahore, without the fiance she really wants to marry, and poses a problem because she has no passport or visa?  And Abhay is of course engaged as well, so how to explain a strange girl in his house?

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The whole thing is a lighter than air farce.  Even when Happy gets kidnapped at one point, you know she’s really in no danger, as the goons are scared of our feisty heroine.  Happy’s intended Guddu (Ali Fazal) is a rather feckless musician.  It’s no wonder her father had doubts about him!  Abhay has to figure out a way to get Guddu into Lahore, get them married and then deport them!  All while keeping Jimmy Shergill at bay.

What I liked about this movie is that the Pakistanis are all nice people.  They are not the bad guys at all!  I can’t for the life of me understand how this movie could be banned in Pakistan, because it’s so positive about Pakistan!  The misunderstandings between the two countries are presented in a humorous way, and barriers between people broken down.  The director wrote an open letter to Pakistan, and the official who banned it, because he doesn’t get it either!

The women in the movie are strong, both Happy and Abhay’s fiance Zoya (Momal Sheikh).  They make the men in their lives rise to the occasion.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a little over two hours, and I laughed out loud at quite a few points.  Abhay, it’s great to have you back.  I’ve missed you.

Looking up Ali Fazal, I don’t remember him at all from 3 Idiots, but he’s set to play Abdul in Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Adbul opposite Judi Dench!  I wasn’t super impressed with you in this trifle, but go you!

Three and a half out of five stars.

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw it together.  Read her spoiler free review here.

Jatt & Juliet – Diljit Dosanjh is adorable in this Punjabi Rom Com

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Many people recommended Jatt & Juliet on my quora post.  After I saw Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab, Jatt & Juliet moved to the top of the list.  I was completely taken with Diljit in Udta Punjab, and he was one of the best things about that film.  In Udta Punjab, he played a very quiet policeman who was shy in romance, but who could step up with the action when needed.

Diljit’s role of Fateh Singh in Jatt & Juliet is a bit different.  It’s a romantic comedy and he has a zany manic energy that reminded me very much of Varun Dhawan in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania.  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood compared Jatt & Juliet to DDLJ.  It does have the hate to love similar trope in the first half of the film.  But Diljit has this silly energy about him that reminded me more of Varun in Humpty — also because Pooja (Neeru Bajwa) is the rich girl that seems out of reach to Fateh.

Fateh’s goal is to marry a Canadian white girl and become a resident in Canada.  He meets Pooja at the airport and the sit together on the flight where he annoys her no end with his antics and incessant patter.  Pooja is flying to Vancouver to attend fashion school.

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Pooja is robbed when she’s about to put down a deposit on an apartment.  She hesitates to ask her parents for help because she doesn’t want them to tell her to come home.  She and Fateh end up living in the same rental house.  And then they end up working at competing next door restaurants.  Pooja thinks Fateh is ridiculous with his talking to his biceps every morning, and he loves to tease and torment her, nicknaming her “pest”.

There is an annoying subplot in the first half where Pooja helps Fateh scam their landlady’s white step-daughter to try to get Fateh a white Canadian bride.  That leads to both being kicked out of the rental house.

After the interval, they are both in dire straights and have to help each other.  Their competing restaurants were once one, owned by an estranged married couple.  They get the owners back together to save the restaurants from bankruptcy, and bond by working together.

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This was what I loved about their romance.  It wasn’t a bolt of lightning love at first sight.  It was gradual.  Little acts of caring.  Sharing work together, and teasing each other, and the romance happening organically.

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This is where the sweet Diljit I loved from Udta Punjab shone through in Jatt & Juliet.

Just like DDLJ, there’s another fiance for Pooja, and some misunderstandings on Fateh’s journey to get together with Pooja.  It has a great ending.

These two actors have fantastic chemistry together, and I’m looking forward to watching Jatt & Juliet 2.  Both films were mega hits in Punjabi cinema.

The negatives for me for Jatt & Juliet were some of the silly comedy side bits.  Instead of a comedy uncle like in Telugu films, there was sort of a comedy cousin.  Not that funny to me, but it may have also been the subtitles not portraying language play.

The other negative was that there weren’t enough songs!  Diljit Dosanjh is a leading Punjabi rapper singer, and he just lights up the screen in the song sequences and dance numbers.  I’m guessing it was the lower budget for a Punjabi film that limited the number of dance sequences, and maybe there are more in the sequel.  This one was my favorite from a wedding in the film:

 

Three and a half stars out of five.  I’m hearing that after Diljit’s Bollywood debut in Udta Punjab, that he is looking for more Bollywood roles.  That’s great news, because he is a real talent.  After seeing what he can do in this low budget dance song, I can only imagine what he would be like in a full blown Bollywood number.

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!