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!

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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!

 

Some of My Favorite Indian Cinema Rom Coms

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order, although number one is my top favorite.

  1. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi — Can’t even count how many times I’ve watched this one.

2.  Jab We Met

3.  Band Baaja Baaraat

4. Dil Chahta Hai

5. Hasee Toh Phasee

6.  Dum Laga Ke Haisha

7.  Khoobsurat — Fawad Khan Fever!

8.  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

9.  Tanu Weds Manu

10. Queen

11. Bunty Aur Babli

12. Dostana

13.  Bang Bang

14.  Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

15. Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

16. Main Tera Hero

Does DDLJ count?  🙂

And if you’re willing to go outside Hindi cinema, I have a few South Indian films that are great rom coms:

OK Kanmani – 2015 Tamil Mani Ratnam film (currently on US Netflix streaming)

Bangalore Days (Malayalam) – Multi-starrer about three cousins and their romantic adventures

Ohm Shanti Oshaana (Malayalam) – A fantastic female centric coming of age romantic story.

And a Telugu film-   Mr. Perfect, a rom com with Prabhas of Baahubali fame:

(This post is adapted from a Quora answer.)

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!