Noor – Bridget Jones type Rom Com with a serious issue shoe-horned in

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Under two hours is just not enough time for all the things this film wanted to be and do.  I have been anticipating Noor for months and months, mostly because I heard comedian Kanan Gill was going to have his debut in a Bollywood film.  If you’re not familiar with Kanan Gill, he has a hilarious Pretentious Bollywood Review Youtube channel, and is extremely amusing on Snapchat [@kanangill].

 

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Kanan Gill plays the character Saad from the book Karachi, You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz who is the childhood best friend of Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor (Ayesha in the book).  There are films that have improved upon the source novel, but Noor is not one of those films.  Karachi, You’re Killing Me at first seems like a Bridget Jones knockoff, but the unique thing about it is the city it’s set in — Karachi, Pakistan!  In the book, Ayesha is a journalist with an incompetent male boss, and she covers everything from terrorist bombings to fashion shows.  It gave you a true sense of her life in the city in all its variety — how she had to get her liquor from her bootlegger — and how she loves the city, but also yearns for an international life working for CNN.   The novel reaches a real peak near the end when she and her boss are caught in a terrorist bombing, and her calm quick thinking saves her boss.

Noor the movie has some of the same fun light tone in the first half.  Like Bridget Jones, Noor obsesses about her weight, snacks on junk food, drinks a bit too much, and feels that attractive young men are merely an “urban legend” in Mumbai.  Changing the film’s setting to Mumbai just inherently takes away what was so unique about the novel.  But I think Sonakshi does a great job still in playing Noor.  She’s a modern young woman journalist, who cringes at doing a Sunny Leone interview when she really wants to be doing SERIOUS work.

The film keeps her Three Musketeer friendships with Saad (Kanan Gill) and Zara (Shibani Dandekar).  I loved Noor’s friendship with club DJ Zara and I wish there had been a bit more of their interactions, but again, this film was really short for a Hindi film.  Noor keeps the seemingly distracted but actually very supportive relationship of Noor’s widowed father.   I liked the actor who plays Noor’s boss, Manish Chaudhary but they made him a sort of Lou Grant type.  This was one of my biggest problems with the film adaptation because in the book, the boss is a total incompetent, and Ayesha’s mentor is another woman in the news business.  Missing that strong female role just erases a lot of the feminist message of the book.  If the boss is going to be a fusion of both book characters — then make it a woman for cripes sake!

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Not only does Noor change the setting to Mumbai but the serious issue that Noor the journalist covers is now organ trafficking.  They keep the romance with the sexy photo journalist, Purab Kohli as Ayan Banerjee.  She gets betrayed in her career for the scoop she has, and that leads to Saad (Kanan) taking her away to his home in London to get her away from the danger she’s in.

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Film stylist and costumer – I love you for giving Kanan this sweater/scarf look!

Kanan plays the devoted best friend with his signature snarky humor very well.  You could see the loving looks he gives to Noor who seemingly never catches on.  One minor quibble with the film adaptation at this point in the story is that Ayesha sees that the first photo prominently displayed in Saad’s apartment is one with her – not with any of his many girlfriends.  That little realization moment is missing, but I can forgive because Kanan is so charming in these scenes.

This second half of the film gets super serious because of the organ trafficking plot with Noor’s maid’s brother.  The actress playing Noor’s maid is one of the best things about the film.  She will break your heart.

But I found the whiplash change in tone a bit too much.  I think the film would have succeeded more if it had stayed more in the lighter rom com mode.  Maybe if the film had been a more traditional 2 and half or three hour length, it could have incorporated this dramatic change in tone better.

Sonakshi did a good job as Noor, and I’m glad she’s getting these starring female centric films, but I wish she could get ones with better scripts.  Kanan Gill did very well for a debut, especially in the lighter moments. I hope this leads to more roles for him.

The director, Sunhil Sippy, is my biggest problem with Noor.  The direction was at times amateurish and horrible.  Scenes felt awkwardly filmed or dragged on much too long — like Noor’s tearful, “Mumbai, you’re killing me!” diatribe monologue that miraculously goes viral online.  I know the source material could have been a really great film, and that’s why I left the theater disappointed.  It’s not Sonakshi’s fault, or Kanan’s or Purab Kohli’s.  The fault lies squarely on the shoulder of the director.  Sonakshi and Kanan deserve a better script and film.  The last epilogue scene over the credits where Saad awkwardly proposes to Noor was adorable.  Give us more of that!

The end credit song feels just completely tacked on — wait, we need a Badshah rap and throw Diljit Dosanjh in too, for no reason at all.

I wouldn’t run out to the theater to see Noor, but it would be fine to stream when it becomes available online for the a timepass.  It tries to have a feminist message, with a modern Indian career girl at the center, so kudos for that at least.

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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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Kanan Gill is debuting in Noor with Sonakshi Sinha? That makes my day!

 

I was catching up with the The Bollywood Project podcast, and in their movie news, they mentioned that Sonakshi Sinha has started filming her next project, Noor, based on the 2014 Pakistani novel, Karachi, You’re Killing Me!

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But then they started listing the cast, and stand-up comedian Karan Gill of Youtube’s Pretentious Movie Reviews is making his Bollywood debut in Noor.

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Love love love. 😁

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What?!   Picture me doing a happy dance.

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Noor is due out this fall, and will be a comedy thriller.  Sort of Bridget Jones Diary set in Karachi, and Kanan Gill plays Sonakshi’s good friend Saad.  (Here’s hoping he ends up MORE than a good friend.)

Kanan Gill had an adorable Shaadi.com ad last year:

 

But this break is huge.  So happy for him, and excited for me!

Also, I’ve been watching his Office like web series Better Life Foundation.  Hilarious!!

 

Sonakshi is on Snapchat as @AsliSona and Kanan as @kanangill.  They both post really interesting stuff.

 

Okkadu – Now My Favorite Mahesh Babu Movie so far

Over the last two days I watched Okkadu, my third Mahesh Babu movie.  It’s on Google Play.  But in looking for a clip I just discovered the whole thing with subtitles is on Youtube.

 

I got about 20 minutes in and I realized I was watching the Southern film that Arjun Kapoor’s Hindi Tevar was based on!  Kabaddi and all.  Okkadu has a better title, because it means “The One” which has several meanings.  The girl is the one for the villain (Prakash Raj again!) and Mahesh is the one who can save her and win her heart.

Normally I don’t notice the background score very much in Indian movies, but this one started by riffing off the opening music of West Side Story.  I kid you not.  It was the Jets and the Sharks all the way complete with snapping fingers and jazzy music.  Not a direct copy of the music, but definitely inspired.  Totally inspired by, and it made me smile.  Watch the first few minutes and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

It’s fascinating to me what they kept the same, and what they changed for the Hindi version.  I was one of the few people who actually liked Tevar (because Arjun!) but Okkadu is so much better.

Okkadu was a megahit in 2003 for Mahesh.  It was remade in Tamil, and Bengali (both megahits) and then twelve years later as the Hindi Tevar — not so much a hit.

In Okkadu, the young woman Mahesh saves is played by Bhumika Chawla who the same year had almost the same sort of role with Salman in the Hindi film Tere Naam.  Swapna (Bhumika) is being forced into marriage with a goon  (Prakash Raj) who has killed her brother.  Ajay (Mahesh) sees the goon dragging Swapna towards a car as she’s crying.  He punches the goon and rescues the girl, not realizing he has just punched the crime boss of the town.

The negative to Bhumika’s role vs Sonakshi Sinha in Tevar, is that Bhumika starts the film very passive, and Sonakshi gets to reject the goon villain with some tevar of her own at first.  Bhumika as Swapna is mousy and terrified (but with good reason) and only when she’s kidnapped at the end to be forcefully wed to Prakash does she get some gumption.  She tells him, go ahead and force yourself on me but I’ll only have my one, my true husband before my eyes, Ajay (Mahesh).  (Much more effective and satisfying than the parallel scene in Tevar).

Prakash Raj as the villiain is way creepier than Manoj Bajpayee because Manoj falls in love with Sonakshi just from seeing her dance one time.  Prakash has been waiting for Bhumika to “mature” for it sounds like years so he can marry her against her will.   She has reason to be terrified from the get go.

In Okkadu, Mahesh is mid-20’s and still has that boy to man thing going on.  The film is really about him becoming a man.  In the beginning his boy gang is fighting another boy gang.  His whole life is just winning the kabaddi championship.  Tevar is the same, but the first fight (also in defense of a harrassed girl), but Arjun fights an adult man.  In Okkadu, his fight with the adult goon Prakash feels like his first step to taking on the responsibility of manhood.

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Tevar uses the Taj Mahal as the backdrop, and Arjun’s house in Agra has this whole roof top terrace with a view of the monument.  It’s similar in Okkadu, but instead the movie is in Hyderabad and Mahesh’s family rooftop terrace overlooks the Charminar mosque, but it’s much more woven into the plot.  At one point he hides Swapna inside one of the minarets, and they escape by running through the crowds coming to afternoon prayer.  (In Tevar it’s Holi.)

One thing Tevar is missing is that in Okkadu Prakash Raj (and his politician brother) have this goonda cigar smoking mother who was a RIOT.  Her intro scene:

One thing that Tevar did better was the relationship of Arjun’s character and his policeman father.  In Okkadu, the father arrests Ajay (Makesh) but it doesn’t feel like it was for his own protection as in Tevar.  I didn’t like the father of Ajay, although there were a few funny family scenes.  But I loved Arjun’s father in Tevar — you saw where Pintu (Arjun) got his tevar from.  Exasperated with him, but ultimately respecting Pintu.

There was one thing I hated about Okkadu – one scene that just infuriated me.  Mostly Mahesh was adorable and steadfast.  At one point, Swapna (Bhumika) is reluctant to get to the airport and asks to stop for a snack on the way.  Ajay turns around and she’s vanished.  He finds her and slaps her in a “What were you THINKING?” kind of way, and then she reveals she had just bought him a gift — “Knee caps” (knee pads) for his Kabaddi championship game.

Other than that one off note, I adored the movie.  I’m just going to pretend that moment didn’t happen — like I ignore the undressing scene in Baahubali.  Ajay does feel major remorse later looking at those knee caps — knee pads.  But he doesn’t grovel or apologize.

And while the action scenes are just as gravity defying, somehow they are a little less ridiculous than Arjun being stabbed and slashed by a sword and still getting up to wallop Manoj.  Gunasekhar, the writer/director of Okkadu just keeps a fantastic pace to Okkadu, and the action scenes are really well done and inventive.  It’s just filmed better and edited better than Boney Kapoor’s Tevar.  The songs feel organic to the narrative.  There is no shoe-horned item song as in Tevar.  I do like the music in Tevar and listen to Superman all the time, but the music numbers in Okkadu have better placement and flow for the most part.

The scene that is absolutely better in Okkadu is their parting at the airport, because Swapna (Bhumika) runs back and proposes to Ajay.  “I don’t want to leave.  I want YOU.”  It’s a fantastic moment.

This is just going to be one of those movies for me, one of my favorites I will rewatch.  I mean, West Side Story music!!  But mostly Mahesh is awesome.