We LOVED Bareilly Ki Barfi – joint review with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood

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Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I met at the Chicagoland Indian movie theater lasts night to catch the new Hindi film Bareilly Ki Barfi with Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao.  It is SO GOOD!  Cannot recommend this film highly enough.  We absolutely loved it!

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Rajkummar Rao was the main reason I was interested in seeing this film, because he looked so funny in the trailer.  He is just delightful as a nebbish and then transforms into a tough asshole type as part of Ayushmann’s scheme.  He was a RIOT!

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This film has a fantastic script based on a novel.  It’s very clever how the plot unfolds, and while I laughed my ass off so much, and then it had such an emotional ending that I teared up.  Kriti had agency in the end, and that made it even better.

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Plus,  a woman director!!  Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her second feature film knocks it out of the park.

Check out Margaret’s Spoiler Free review here.

 

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Movie Review – Dhanush’s VIP 2 with Kajol!

 

A month or so ago, I saw the teaser for the Tamil film VIP 2 with Dhanush and I was super excited that he was doing a film with Kajol.  This is her first return to Tamil films in 20 years, and it was great to see a woman in the kind of antagonist role that usually goes to a man in Indian cinema, like Sonu Sood et al.

Commenters on Youtube urged me to see the first film VIP before going to the sequel, and I’m so glad I did.

 

VIP 2, unlike many Indian sequels, does indeed carry on the story of the unemployed graduate played by Dhanush.  Pretty much all the main characters and actors from the first film are back, Dhanush still living with his father and brother, and his now wife played by Amala Paul.  I was a little annoyed that the film kind of made Amala’s character into a harpy, but the marital discord has real underpinnings in Dhanush’s characters drinking (an issue in the first film as well), and Amala’s unhappiness at giving up her job to tru live up to Dhanush’s sainted mother’s housekeeping.  At least the film showed that she regained happiness when she goes back to work when the family is in financial crisis — the title says after all that he’s an unemployed graduate!

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Something happens near the end of the film which I won’t spoil that was the perfect way to bring Dhanush and Kajol’s characters together, and to make them resolve their differences.  It was very specific to the place of the film.  Dhanush himself wrote the script and dialogues, and his sister-in-law Soundarya (daughter of Rajnikanth) directed the film.

There are a couple of great dance numbers in the first half of the film, one very modern, and the other a more traditional style.

You can see and enjoy this film without seeing the first, but I’m glad I had seen VIP first because there are many references to the first film.

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Pardesi – Launching my new YouTube Channel!

 

I have just launched my new YouTube Channel Pardesi with Kartik of Bollyfools.  He first interviewed me right after that very first IMAX showing of Baahubali 2, and we struck up a frienship.  After I did Indian Cinema reviews for the Bollyfools Youtube channel for the last few months, we’ve decided to strike out on our own with this new Pardesi Channel.  We decided on Pardesi because I’m a foreigner reviewing Indian Cinema, and Kartik is an ex-pat in America.

I’ll be doing movie reviews for the most part in the four main Indian Cinema:  Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  I’m going to try trailer reactions and song reactions.  In fact I just did one for the first song Boom Boom from Mahesh Babu’s Spyder.  I had to take the Picture in Picture and audio out from the song because I got dinged right away.  I think I look ridiculous bobbing my head to silence but I have to know — why is there the word Hogwarts in a Spyder song??!!  It’s so strange!

 

I hope if you follow me here, you’ll subscribe to my new Youtube Channel Pardesi.

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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Ninnu Kori – Wonderful Chemistry between Nani and Niveda Thomas

I went to see this Telugu film, Ninnu Kori (Wanting You) with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood, going in knowing nothing.  Margaret had heard it was a good Rom Com, so I took a chance.  It was a delightful Telugu Rom Com with great chemistry between the leads Nani and Niveda Thomas.  Go here to read Margaret’s review.

 

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It was driving me crazy where I had seen Nani before — and at the interval I asked Margaret, and she reminded me Nani was the the hero in Eega!

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The first half is fantastic and I loved the meet cute between Nani and Niveda.  Nani’s dancing is also terrific.  Character actor Murli Sharma who normally plays cops, is Niveda’s stern father, and it was great to see him in a comedy role like this.  The initial conflict in Niveda and Nani’s relationship is quite believable.

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The love triangle with Aadhi is where I started to have issues.  Maybe it’s just my American sensibilities, but the first half was SO great, that the resolution of the film was a let down.  I felt like the screen writers were forced to tell a more traditional story ending, and they didn’t sell it to me as Niveda’s HEA.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Nani and Niveda on screen together, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more films from both of them.

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The Big Sick – My favorite Rom Com in years

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Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani appear in The Big Sick by Michael Showalter, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nicole Rivelli.

I have been anticipating The Big Sick‘s theatrical release since it started a bidding war at Sundance in January.  There was a slow roll out of the film, first just NY and LA and then adding a few cities each weekend until finally it came to my Chicago Suburb.  It made it to 5th in the US box office last weekend.  I saw it on a Wednesday matinee and it was nearly sold out!  On a Wed at 1:30!  (Granted it was Senior discount day, but still!)

I was worried the film wouldn’t live up to my hightened expectations — the trailer is so amusing, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I loved it!

I wasn’t familiar with Kumail Nanjiani really, as I’ve only watched a few episodes of his HBO series Silicon Valley.  He just is so charming and sweet in this film.  He immigrated to the US from Pakistan when he was 18, and has a tight knit family.  His father requested that Anupam Kher play him in the film, and they finally found a cousin of Anupam’s to reach him in India.  When Anupam first called Kumail after he read the script, Kumail hung up on him because he thought it was a prank!

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Zenobia Shroff, who I think has a few Bollywood credits, plays Kumail’s mother in the film.  Kumail wants to pursue a career as a stand up comic, but his family just wants him to take the LSAT and agree to an arranged marriage.  His mother has girl after girl “just drop by” when Kumail is home for dinner with his family.

Kumail meets Emily at one of his stand up shows.  She yells “Whoo Hoo” when he asks if anyone in the crowd is from Pakistan.  Then he gently tells her she should never heckle even if it’s a positive thing.  “Even if I yell out that you’re great in bed?” They have so much chemistry in the film.  It’s adorable.

maxresdefault (27)When Emily finds the cigar box full of pictures of Pakistani women his mother has been trying to set him up with, they have a huge argument and break up.  Shortly afterwards Emily becomes seriously ill and is put into a medically induced coma in ICU.  Kumail has to notify her parents, and it’s very awkward when they are all in the waiting room together at the hospital.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents, and they have a loving, but bickering relationship.  It felt very real to me.  Emily has told her parents about the breakup, so they don’t see any reason for Kumail to stay — but he has to.

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Kumail has kept his relationship with Emily a secret from his family, because a cousin who married a non-Muslim white woman has been completely cut out of the family.  He is torn by his love of Emily and his devotion to his family.

Even though I knew things would work out, I cried in this film.  I also laughed out loud, and laughed a lot.  It is so funny.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter were given license to improvise some of their lines, and they are gems.  Judd Apatow is a producer on the film and helped Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon write the real life story of their rocky courtship into a workable script.

I heartily recommend you listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Kumail and Emily on Fresh Air.  It’s fascinating hearing the process they went through to make this film with Apatow, and also more background on their families and relationship.

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This film is about a real life conflict and a traumatic time in the lives of Kumail and Emily.  I won’t spoil how it all works out, but it was glorious to watch it unfold.  I highly, highly recommend that everyone see this film.  It lives up to the hype, believe me.  Just a delightful script, and great performances all around.

I’ve been reading about how we’re finally getting to see and hear Muslim-American stories.  There was Hassan Minhaj’s fantastic comedy special Homecoming King and of course Aziz Ansari’s Master of None series also on Netflix.  But this is the big time — a film on the big screen.  This film was made before we were in the midst of the Trump presidency, but seems even more topical now.

 

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I watched both of Allu Arjun’s films Arya and Arya 2 to get ready for DJ

Several commenters on my reaction to the trailer of Allu Arjun’s new film DJ told me I should watch Arya 2 and Arya.

I’m super excitecd for DJ now after seeing Arya (2004) and Arya 2 (2009) over the last 2 days.  Only Arya 2 is the MUST see movie, but you should watch the
opening dance number of Arya, to get a sense what a great dancer Allu Arjun is.  Arya was his breakout film, and the debut blockbuster for director Sukumar — the guy who directed 1: Nenokkadine!
Like most Indian “sequels”  Arya 1 and Arya 2 are not continuations of the same story thread, but variations on the same theme.
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Arya 1 has Arjun playing Arya, and he’s in a love triangle with Geeta and Ajay and the setting is college.  Ajay is your typical college tough stalker.  He decides Geeta will be his and threatens suicide to make her date him..  Ugh.  Arya loves Geeta but expects nothing in return.  He even helps to get Ajay and Geeta togehter, etc. when her father wants her to marry someone else.  Geeta is played by a former model, and she has only one basic expression the entire film — looking miserable.  She has the charisma of a wet dishrag.  Ajay is your basic evil boyfriend.   Arya (Allu Arjun) carries the entire movie by sheer force of his cheerfulness, charm and excellent dance numbers
Seriously, Allu Arjun is THE best Telugu dancer I have seen yet.  He dedicates Arya 2 to Michael Jackson, and he can MOVE.  This dancing ability leads to great action sequences, because he’s really acrobatic in his kicks and so on.
I thought I had to watch Arya 1 to get Arya 2, but it’s not necessary as Arya 2 is a stand alone film, and not a continuation of the first film’s story.  It’s amusing enough, and was a blockbuster hit at the time, but not nearly as enjoyable as the second film.  The heroine is just so passive you want to scream, and the plot fairly regressive — except for Arya‘s selfless love.
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It just made me appreciate Arya 2 all the more.  To see how Allu Arjun had grown as a dancer and actor and the director!  .  I’m really glad I waited until now to watch Arya 2, because it is just that much more funny to me now!
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Arya 2 is brilliant, because it is a total riff and send up of all the usual Telugu movie tropes.  And it makes fun of them all, while referencing Darr and even has a white dog at a wedding JUST like the one in HAHK!  But what the director does with the dog in the scene just had me in stitches.  The whole movie is very entertaining, if a tad long.
First off, we start with Arya and Ajay as fellow child orphans and there is something off about Arya.  He demands to be Ajay’s friend, and is a psycho possessive kind of friend.  The whole movie is taking that brotherly Dost bond to the far reaches of the extreme.
They fall in love with Geeta at the exact same moment — and she’s played by Kajal who I LOVE, so she’s a spitfire and not a dishrag.  They actually flip a coin for her, again riffing on sexist Telugu tropes over and over again, and mocking them.
There’s the forced wedding, the battling families, and on and on.  And throughout Arya is mostly completely off his rocker, and yet still mostly likeable!  It’s a great performance.  And so great of the director to make the main character with negative shadings — he has his blown up Darr sized picture wall of Geeta in his room and all.
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The whole set up is in a way similar to the first movie — Arya has a struggle between his love of Geeta and this time his possessive love of his friend Ajay.  He wants them to be happy, and works to make it possible for them to be together — while occasionally slapping his own face to remind himself, “Have to give Geeta back to Ajay, Have to give Geeta back to Ajay…)  Also, Ajay is not a cardboard villain type.  You go back and forth in and out of sympathy with his shades of gray third wheel character.  Kajal is sometimes a spoiled brat — and has a penchant for throwing down cell phones and breaking them, which I found to be a very funny running gag.
Don’t expect an emotional rollercoaster with crying and pathos.  Expect to laugh and laugh — and be delighted by the clever action scenes, and the allusions to so many other films.
That comedy uncle guy, Brahmanandam is in it as the HR manager of Ajay’s tech firm where they all work, and he has a toned down performance — and was really good!  I actually liked him in this one!
This Arya 2 number is just jaw dropping AMAZEBALLS!!   Allu Arjun’s dancing is off the chain!
I’d still say that Prabhas is my number one in Telugu films, and Mahesh second.  Alllu Arjun has the best dance skills by far, and real comedic chops, though.

Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam Video Review – Naga Chaitanya’s new family drama film with Rakul Preet Singh

Rarandoi Veduka Chudham (Come, Let’s Watch the Spectacle) is an enjoyable family drama starring Naga Chaitanya and Rakul Preet Singh.  This I believe is their first film together, and the first time I’ve seen Rakul in a film.

This film is put out by Naga Chaitanya’s family banner, and he did well in the film, but frankly, I enjoyed his 2016 films Premam and Sahasam Swasaga Saagipo much more.  The first half of this film is slow, but it’s saved by the last hour or so of the film when the conflict comes to a head.

I also enjoyed seeing Jagapathi Babu again as Naga’s father.  He was Mahesh Babu’s father in Srimanthadu.

 

 

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Meri Pyaari Bindu – Video Review of a Charming Delightful film!

I loved this charming sweet film!  Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeta Chopra were both great in this best friends to lovers romance.  First time director Akshay Roy did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to see more films by him.  I loved how he gave a wink and a nod to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and even directly referenced Natalie Portman in  Garden State.

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Half Girlfriend Video Review – Infuriating film!

While there were some parts I liked, this movie made me crazy for what it might have been.  With the director Mohit Suri and the hits he’s had with Ek Villalin and Aishiqui 2 plus a book by Chehat Bhagat, you’d think this would be great, but it just didn’t work for me at ALL.  The more I thought about it, the more infuriated I got.  I happened to see the same showing as Kathy Gibson, who REALLY hated it.

 

 

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