Sanju Trailer Reaction – It’s Amazing!

I just watched the teaser trailer for Sanju, and my mouth is hanging open in amazement.

Rajkumar Hirani is the same director who made Munna Bhai MBBS and also blockbusters like PK and 3 Idiots.  This trailer is simply genius, and I love how Ranbir breaks the fourth wall and talks right to the audience.

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I am blown away by the makeup and how Ranbir carries himself just like Sanjay.  We have 2 months to wait, until June 29th.

Here’s the trailer so you can see for yourself just how well Ranbir Kapoor pulls it off:

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Dhanush is Excellent in VIP

In anticipation of Dhahush’s upcoming VIP 2, I took the first VIP movie with me on my recent vacation to watch.  Dhanush is such a good actor!   The title VIP is shortened from Velaiilla Pattadhari (English: Unemployed Graduate)

 

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I am really impressed with Dhanush.  I had previously only seen his Hindi film Raanjhanaa with Sonam Kapoor.  He was very good in that, but his role was kind of stalkerish.

11In VIP, Dhanush plays a young man who has a civil engineering degree, and has been looking for the right job for 4 long years.  His father is frustrated with him.  Dhanush’s younger brother has a good job.  He applies and applies and can’t catch a break.  He belongs to a Facebook group of other unemployed young graduates.  I had no idea this was such an issue in India.

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There’s an adorable romance with Amala Paul who moves in to the house next door.  She sees a lot to admire in this unemployed young man, and can’t help but be witness to all his struggles next door, and family drama.  They have great chemistry together.

Dhanush is fantastic in the couple of action scenes, and a really good dancer.  I also really loved this montage love song:

 

After a family tragedy, a coincidence leads to him getting a break, and getting a construction project.  The second half of the film deals with his struggles with an arrogant young rich developer.  He calls on his extended network of other unemployed graduates to help him out, and it was very moving.

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I’m really excited to see VIP 2 now.  I don’t know if it will be a continuation of the story, or another retelling of a similar unemployed graduate tale.  The key is that it has Kajol! Not sure if she will be his boss or nemesis or what.

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My Top 10 Indian Films of 2016

It’s still January, if barely, right?  This is a list of my favorite films in Indian Cinema released in 2016.  I have not seen every film released, by a long shot, but I’ve seen quite a few of the top releases in Hindi and Malayalam cinema in theaters.  I still haven’t seen Pink, although that is definitely on my list, and it’s now on Netflix streaming.

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1.  Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

Kapoor and Sons  was hands down my favorite Indian film of the year.  I just love the way the cast interacts.  It feels like you’re a voyeur in a real family and their drama.  I will admit that Sidharth is the weak link, but Alia and Fawad are so great in this.  Fawad Khan especially just blew me away.  And the soundtrack!  Kar Gayi Chull is my phone ringtone for a reason, because I never tire of hearing that hook.

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2.  Kammatti Paadam

Dulquer Salmaan had an amazing year, but Kammatti Paadam is just a masterpiece.  I’m so glad I saw this Malayalam gangster epic in a theater.  I was nearly shell shocked by the experience of seeing this Rajeev Ravi film.   Dulquer is our eyes into this world of gangsters, and dalit toughs.  He is very, very good, but the two actors, Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show.

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3. Udta Punjab

Alia Bhatt also had a great year.  I’m still thinking about how fantastic she was in Udta Punjab, a film filled with great performances.  This is the film that introduced me to Diljit Dosanjth.  And how great was Shahid Kapoor as the comic relief?  This was an entertaining film, but also one with an important message about how the drug trade affects everyone– a message the censor board tried to suppress, and thank goodness they did not prevail.  Udta Punjab is currently streaming on Netflix.

kali-malayalam-movie-wallpaper-0922-006394. Kali

Oh my goodness, Kali is such a tense thriller.  Kali means rage.  I admire the script and how the director kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not know what would happen next at any given moment. I felt that anything could happen. And I loved that about this Malayalam movie!  The first half is a personal story of a marriage with young man with anger issues.  Then the second half grips you by the throat.  Dulquer Salmaan gives another stellar performance in a great year, matched by Sai Pallavi.

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5. Dear Zindagi

I adored Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi.  We were afraid when the film was announced it was going to be a romantic relationship, but SRK is her mentor and therapist in this fantastic film.  This is my first Gauri Shinde film, and she is a wonderful director.  This was a nice crossover film that I took some Bollywood virgins to see, and they loved it.

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6. Fan

Although not a perfect film, I submit Fan may be the one of the best performances of Shahrukh Khan’s career in the double role of Guarav and Aryan.

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7. Neerja

This really felt like a year for women in Hindi cinema.  Sonam Kapoor was perfect casting for Neerja.  This film reminded me very much of United  93 – you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still on the edge of your seat watching it unfold, filled with tension.  Neerja is currently streaming on Netflix.

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8. Dangal

I love that Aamir Khan made this movie about girl empowerment.  He let the young women at the center of this true story take the lead, and he was brave enough to play a father with a paunch, no less.  Dangal was one of the biggest family films of the year.

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9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I’m still not happy with the ending of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but man it has some glorious moments.  It’s full on lush Karan Johar film making – actually my first Karan film on the big screen.  I’m reading his autobiography now, An Unsuitable Boy, and he says that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about his own unrequited love story.  It’s a very personal film.  I wish there hadn’t been all the controversy about Pakistani actors, and Fawad Khan had a bigger part.  That soundtrack!!  I listened to the title track on constant repeat.

 

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I really enjoyed Sultan, and Salman made a great pairing with Anushka Sharma.  It was another Hindi film with a message of female empowerment, even if the majority of the film was about Salman’s character.  Great soundtrack, too!

Special mention for Brahman Naman which I saw the premiere of at Sundance back in January.  I’m not sure if it’s a purely Indian produced film, but it’s a quirky and wonderful teen sex comedy. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Pakistani soaps Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai now on Netflix!

I finished up watching The Crown (so good!) and all of a sudden there were new recommended for me shows on Netflix.  Usually, Netflix turns over new content at the beginning of the month, but this time, it was mid-month.  My jaw dropped.

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The Pakistani soaps Humsafar (Soulmates) and Zindagi Gulzar Hai (Life is a Rose Garden) are now streaming in glorious HD with subs on Netflix!  Netflix gave me an early holiday gift!  To say I was excited would be an understatement.

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I was literally jumping up and down in my family room.

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Why was I so excited?  I fell, and fell hard for Pakistani actor Fawad Khan when he debuted in the Bollywood/Disney film Khoobsurat with Sonam Kapoor in 2014.

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At that time, I wanted to see more of his work, and there was nothing else on film, but he had done two soaps in Pakistan that were sensations in both that country and India.  ErosNow.com put all the episodes of Humsafar to stream on their site with subs and I was totally hooked.

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These soaps are not like American soaps that are open ended.  These productions are just one season or about 25 episodes long.  They have a complete story arc.

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Humsafar also stars Pakistani actress Mahira Khan who will debut in the Bollywood film Raees opposite Shahrukh Khan next month.  (Bonus!  There’s another Mahira Khan soap on Netflix, Saqday Tumharay).

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In Humsafar, Mahira is the poor cousin of Fawad.  Her mother is dying of cancer and asks Fawad’s father to arrange their marriage so she knows her daughter will be taken care of.  It’s rich boy/poor girl with a love triangle and a scheming mother-in-law.  To me, it was absolutely fascinating to get a glimpse of life in Pakistan and Fawad is amazing.

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Zindagi Gulzar Hai is even better but was much more of a challenge to find with subtitles, and there were a few episodes I never could find with subs, but I watched anyway because I was hooked right from the first episode.  I am thrilled to be able to watch this with subs, and in high def since I was scrounging on Youtube and Pakistani sites to find the episodes in questionable quality.  Again, we have the poor girl (Sanam Saeed as Khasaf) and the rich boy (Fawad Khan as Zaroon) dynamic but both characters are flawed and complex.  It’s also hate-to-love which is just about my favorite romance trope.

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Zaroon and Khasaf meet in college, and Zaroon is frosted that this arrogant girl bests him in the class rankings.  Khasaf thinks Zaroon is a shallow playboy, and Zaroon thinks Khasaf is a too traditional stick in the mud.  It’s just delicious to see their feelings change over time.  Your heart aches for Khasaf who has so many struggles in her life, but she’s also so prickly a character.  I loved what a spitfire she is.  Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh, who was SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, plays Fawad Khan’s father.

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The proposal scene (which I can’t find with subs) is just the ultimate.  Khasaf can’t believe the guy who hated her through college now wants to marry her, but is convinced he’s changed when he catches hot chai in his hands when it’s about to spill on her.

 

But it doesn’t just end there — there’s more to the story as they adjust to each other in their marriage and have to accommodate for Khasaf’s career in the civil service.  The reason Khasaf scoffs at marriage and men is because of her complex relationship with her father who married a second wife to get a son, and abandoned his first wife and daughters.  I just loved getting to see these actors portray complex characters who grow and change over time.  Highly, highly recommend both soaps.  I’m going to enjoy watching those episodes I couldn’t find previously with subs, and trying Mahira’s other soap.  I love how Netflix is getting content from all over the world!

Check out this post on BrownGirl to get a sense of what a sensation both Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai were in Pakistan and India when they first aired.

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Another new addition to the Netflix line up is the excellent Israeli film Sand Storm.  It was the winner at Sundance for World Cinema last January.  It’s set in the Bedouin community in Israel. Sand Storm is a family drama where the father in the family marries a second wife, and his headstrong daughter has a secret affair with a boy from another tribe she’s met at college.  Such a great film!  The Q and A was fascinating with the Israeli director Elite Dexer.  She said that most audiences see the film as an intense drama, but when she showed it to the Bedouin community where she was allowed to film it, they laughed and viewed it as a comedy, especially the put upon husband dealing with two strong willed wives.

 

Check out AccessBollywood for an up to date list of Indian content on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Mirzya – I’m in love with the soundtrack but there wasn’t sizzling chemistry in this love story

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The soundtrack of Mirzya is simply amazing. Shankar, Ehsaan, and Loy have written some of my all-time favorite soundtracks, but Mirzya seems like it is a whole other level. This soundtrack is A. R. Rahman level fusion of folk sounds and electronic dance beats.  I downloaded the whole thing — I don’t often buy a whole soundtrack — and I’ve been listening to all 15 tracks constantly.  I had heard very mixed things about Mirzya the film, but I wanted to see it just to see the song sequences.  They were amazing.  The film itself was not always stellar, but it was worth it just for the glorious music.

I saw the very last showing of Mirzya at my local theater, all by myself.  This movie sure came and went lightning fast.  I enjoyed myself, and I will be buying the DVD when it comes out just to rewatch the song sequences.

I listened to The Bollywood Project girls’ podcast review of the film, and they recommended reading about the legend of Mirzya and Sahiban before watching the film.  I don’t know that it’s completely necessary, but it helped me recognize the mural on the wall showing Mirzya and Sahiban under their tree at the beginning of the film.  There’s also plenty of references to Romeo and Juliet just to drive the tragic love story point home.

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Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directed the fantastic film Rang De Basanti, and he uses a similar dual track storyline in Mirzya. Harshvardhan Kapoor is (Monish/Adil) and also the mythical Mirzya.  Saiyami Kher is both Soochi in modern day, and the legendary Sahiban.  Both actors made their debut in Mirzya and it shows, unfortunately.  Harsh is, of course, Anil Kapoor’s son and Sonam Kapoor’s brother, and I’ve read that Harsh took no salary for the film.  This is a tragic epic romance and while both Harsh and Saiyami are pretty to look at, they just didn’t have the sizzling chemistry needed.

 

Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra uses a sort of Greek chorus of folk dancers for the songs, and they have more sensuality and sizzle than the two leads, especially in the Chakora song barn love scene.

The modern day story shows young Soochi and Monish as childhood best friends, separated after something tragic happens.  Both child actors were fantastic, and the little boy had more screen charisma than adult Harsh!  Possibly my favorite song on the soundtrack is the pounding Hota Hai, and I was a little taken aback as the song in the film shows their separation as children and what happens to young Monish.

 

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Soochi’s devoted single father is played by Art Malik.  I don’t think he’s done many Bollywood films, but it was so great for me to hear his voice again.  Oh, my gosh, did I have such a crush on Art Malik back in his Jewel in the Crown days.  (Oh, Hari Kumar!)  It’s rather ironic that he’s playing the disapproving dad keeping star-crossed lovers apart when he is perhaps best known for the tragic interracial romance in Jewel in the Crown!  He had one scenery chewing drunk scene in Mirzya that was way over the top, but otherwise, great to see him on film.  Malik (Pakistani born, and raised in England) has a mix of Hindi and quite a bit of English dialogues in the film, and teaches his daughter Soochi English using Romeo and Juliet lines — in case we hadn’t gotten the point.

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Soochi and Monish (now Adil) reunite as adults as she’s about to marry an actual prince (!!) and he is the literal stable boy.   (The prince Karan was played by debut actor Anuj Choudhry, who was quite good.)   Soochi and Monish did not have the kind of chemistry needed for us to believe Soochi would leave her prince for the stable hand.  I thought we should see both of them just burning holes in each others clothes with smoldering glances before the big barn love scene, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

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I wanted to fall in love with their princess and the pauper epic romance, but it just didn’t work all the time.  She was supposed to be this firebrand, and Harsh played his scenes quite passively.  Another better actor would have acted humbly while showing us an undercurrent of passion towards Soochi and resentment and rage towards the prince.  But Harsh doesn’t have the skills yet to do that.  I suspect Harsh will improve with time, as his sister has.

This is a petty point, but Harsh is quite slight of build and small of stature, and his baggy stable clothes made him look quite tiny next to Karan the prince.

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Bottom line, the film was worth seeing just for the incredible song sequences alone, and there were a lot of them.  The cinematography was also gorgeous, and Mehra shows us some beautiful scenery in Ladakh and Rajasthan.   These two newcomer lead actors, though, just didn’t have the spark and sizzle needed for the epic tale of Mirzya and Sahiban.

I think Harsh could grow and I’d like to see him in something where he actually has more lines to speak.  He can be relaunched in something else.  What genre, I have no idea, but hopefully with a better beard or shaved so we can see his pretty face.  Being a star kid gives you a chance at being a film star, but you have to have the goods to sustain a career.  This great article about Dulquer Salmaan forging his own path in the shadow of superstar father Mammooty shows that you have to have the talent to make it big after you get that first break!

Read Margaret’s great spoiler free review of Mirzya here.

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