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Won’t be coming from me!

The only good part of Paa? Vidya Balan finally dressed/made up appropriately. Not since her debut film has she looked this good, finally in clothes that fit and make up that actually suits her. Woman needs to hold on to this stylist!

I never for one moment felt for Auro. I have a deep interest in progeria, medically and humanistically. I feel for these children afflicted with this terrible condition, and watching what I can only describe as a horrible parody of progeria-afflicted children was torturing. Never for one moment did I believe in the 6 ft tall ridiculously made up character, and the voice and the insane dialogues seriously irritated the hell out of me. What kind of 12 year old says “unnecessary sacrifices” to his mother so cheekily? The character could have used a nice tight slap. I know very well why Balki could not cast a kid to play the role…that would interfere with his plans of Bachchan puja…but I wish someone would give him a tight slap too. (These points better covered here)

The movie inadvertently produced plenty of mirth, mostly because I was watching it with my family (and we were all in a good mood). A particular scene we watched and rewatched and then rewatched again, till our sides were splitting. This is part of the “emotional” ending (which wins over Kal Ho Naa Ho for inane dragginess and awful emoting) when the little girl finally gives Auro the sorry chart and apologizes. The flashback shown at that point…wow. If there was a yt clip I’d save it to watch in a loop on my bad days. The kid literally prances down an empty hallways, “la-la-la-ing,” on her first day of school, and a 6 ft tall Bachchan suddenly appears at the corridor, and she goes screaming down. I can’t do it justice, you have to watch it on a bootlegged version! Balki’s finest work! Truth be told, I felt for the little girl, because any Bachchan appearing from behind any corridor, especially without makeup, would scare the bejeezus out of me.

And my yearly awards start off with Creepiest Song of the Year, awarded to Paa, for the freaking weirdest, creepiest, hilarious, and at the same time spine-chilling song of the year, played in the very last scene. “Meri Maa Ab Teri Hai Mere Paa…”

All you need for a nightmare!

I’ll say one last thing: maybe 5 years ago I would have watched this movie in a less harsh light, maybe I’d have given it more of a chance to impress me, maybe I’d look for things that were good. But when the standard of cinema in India is improving, slowly but surely, then this just won’t do. Why drag it back down?

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I’ve survived my first semester of med school. Hallelujah.

After a torturous last month, we finally were handed a wimpy two week break, but at that point I would have literally taken anything. One week has already rushed by: how depressing. In this next week I need to get back on the horse or the fall will be really painful and dangerous!

Before coming to terms with that reality, however, I took an evening with the parents to go catch 3 Idiots in the theatre. My hopes were high, but still pretty realistic. I came out of the theatre wanting to run back in for a second show.

My dad said it best…after a long, long time we watched a movie that was thoroughly engaging, hilarious (but clean), touching and kept you guessing. Not to mention visually beautiful, with terrific dialogues (and delivery) and music that really fit it. My dad, mind you, has not LOVED a movie since probably the Hrishikesh Mukherjee period. Its difficult to make him laugh, but he was literally laughing the entire first half. Which, for me, is another reason to love this movie 🙂

3 Idiots is filmy, very filmy. At the same time, its philosophy is real, and everything in the movie clearly works hard to touch you in the audience, and affect you with its simple lessons even while you’re sitting there guffawing along the jokes. That takes me back to the movies I used to love as a child, movies like Golmaal. You have the good, well-meaning boy who has to resort to hilarious tricks to fight the system which is bent on an old-fashioned, robotic method, complete with a mean despot with a mustache. He gets found out, but he succeeds in changing the environment and somehow warming that despot’s cold heart. In essence, the story isn’t that new, but its been dressed up for the times, and it draws on the lives of youth going through the education factories today. The result is something refreshing, and wonderful, and heart warming. Hirani and Abhijit Joshi (screenplay) work wonders in transforming the predictable into something unexpected. Sometimes its the witty dialogue, sometimes the presentation (eg: Raju Rastogi’s family), sometimes its the way the greatly talented actors work with what they’ve been given, sometimes its the way things unfold. Not a single moment passed by when I wasn’t wholly engaged and engrossed by the movie.

I’m glad that the movie is only VERY VERY loosely based on Bhagat’s book, and the creative licenses taken by the makers do good for it. There’s no mistaking that the story overall is fantastical. But at the same time, the world its set in is all too familiar for any kid who has spent any time in the Indian education system (or, perhaps in any system of brutal competition…say, med school?). Every kid from 2 to 110 in the theatres can relate to the world these idiots are in, and if you were educated in India the nostalgia might be enough to make you the loudest one in the hall. You empathize with the idiots from the start, and the actors do a tremendous job in making you a part of their struggle and their story. From the moment Farhan Qureshi walks through the doors of the intimidating university, you’re there, and that kind of involvement does wonders for the experience of watching this movie.

3 Idiots is a platform to talk about the problems of earning a robotic education in a brutally competitive environment, a stage to loudly declare and illustrate that a system based on mindless, rote memorization which suppresses creativity, individuality, self-learning and motivation is toxic. We’ve heard those statements before…its an echo from every rebel movie you ever saw, and the idiots are another set of new-age rebels. But in Hirani and Joshi’s talented hands, you don’t get endless monologues and didactic speeches, and with Aamir Khan and Boman Irani you don’t get painfully over-dramatic and endlessly long standoffs. You get simple, condensed, straight bits of philosophy which make their impact and stay with you long after the movie has ended. You get appropriate drama that stays light. The movie isn’t afraid to discuss the pressure on the average youth today, or the student suicides that result from the exhausting environment, yet it doesn’t give you a self-righteous lecture about it. Hirani maintains this quality from his Munnabhai movies, and for me at least, that is one of the most endearing aspects of a Hirani film. Its still a Bollywood movie, its still filmi, but it makes a statement, yet it doesn’t tire you in the process.

I have loved Shantanu Moitra from the time I got hooked on Shubha Mudgal’s Ab Ke Sawan, but I have to admit I wasn’t too crazy about the music till I saw it in the movie. It fits perfectly, and I now own the OST (its available on ITunes, fyi). Swanand Kirkire is one of my favorite lyricists who is heard from too little, and he does a fab job, keeping it light where it needs to be and deep where it needs to be. Its a sensible, suitable soundtrack, and it fits the setting completely. When its mixed with the fantastic photography…whoa, what an effect! Behti Hawa Sa Tha is a great example…the hills of Shimla look simply astounding! And my desire to travel to Ladakh intensified about a zillion times, making me more envious of this prolific traveler (he’d probably judge better if the shots were true to life, but they looked amazing to me). Shaan is at a personal best in this same song, and I thought he was a great choice for this song, and so was Suraj Jagan for Give me some Sunshine. Sonu Nigam is good, but he didn’t really blow me away as he can, except maybe in Jaane Nahin (which probably has more to do with the sequence itself).

Aamir Khan is changing Indian cinema with every film he does, and he’s doing that while looking freakishly young. I couldn’t fathom how he’d play half his age, but he does it, and I bought it. Dude has to be on something. I’m hugely biased towards R. Madhavan, so I can only say good things for him. Sharman Joshi I always knew was talented, but I think this is the first time I sat up and noticed him carefully. All three had amazing chemistry as friends, and they embraced their characters with such enthusiasm that you felt like embracing them all. You can’t leave the theatre without a tinge of envy that you weren’t in their gang. I endured Kareena and she didn’t disturb the flow (for which I’m thankful), but girlfriend looked older than Aamir. Omi, who played Chatur, I’ve seen for the first time, and he had the power to steal the scene in many scenes. My mom loved him! I’m impressed by the accent he maintained throughout. Boman Irani is no doubt an artist, and I think this role will be my favorite for him. His lisp and the way he carried himself was just too good. And the kid who played Millimetre was hilarious and a skinny bag of endearing spunk!

Despite all my praise, the movie is definitely not without its faults. It could have been shorter and could have been tightened, it could have easily been a little less filmi, and it could have done without some sequences completely. And I’m sure plenty more…but on the whole, it leaves you happy and satisfied, and right now I’m really choosing to look over the faults!

I write long reviews, and they become longer when I haven’t written in ages. Watching this movie was uplifting, and I came out feeling happier than I have in a long time, and aching to get back to writing. I’m easily affected by art, and this film affected me in the best way possible, and it came at just the right time. It was nice to be reminded that at the end of the day, not all of us are made for the rat race, and running the fastest won’t bring you peace. Success isn’t defined by your rank in the race but your willingness to follow your heart and work hard for your dreams. Free thinking isn’t a crime, and to think for yourself is courageous and necessary. There will always be someone taunting you and always someone trying to push you down, but they can only have that power if you give it to them. And at the end of the day, love and friendship will be the best measures of your wealth. As long as you have those two, aal izz and will be well.

All cliches? Perhaps. All things I (and perhaps we all) need to be reminded of? Definitely.

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I know there are a lot of negative reviews on Delhi 6 already, so I’ll try not to just add on those. Most of what those reviews say are fairly true. At the same time, my taste in movies tends to be very different from the mainstream and I look for different things, so I don’t really trust these reviews. Let me tell you instead what worked and didn’t work for me in Delhi 6.

*I loved the character development. That has received much criticism…the first half does seem extremely draggy because of how long it takes to develop each character. I also don’t like the pace at which this was done, but I do like the characters and the fact that Mehra made the effort to give us a peek into each of their lives. And the city comes to life with that. I’ve lived in Delhi, but never been to these alleys and walled parts of the city, so it was like a whole new world to me. It was especially interesting to me the way they developed the connections between the religious groups prior to the insanity.

*I hated the way Mehra uses Rahman’s music. I mean, seriously, WTH. You have an amazing soundtrack but Mehra messes it up big time. The background score stops randomly. The songs come at the strangest time and stop suddenly. They come at inappropriate times (except maybe the Ramleela and Arziyan). The songs could have really added to the story and if used well could have made a huge impact. But , just like Rang De Basanti, I felt like the songs were grossly misused. And he just puts pieces of music wherever he feels. A scene that should be serious suddenly gets a funny tune to it (and I get it, he wanted the music to seem sarcastic, but why don’t you let the audience decide if its ironic/stupid or not? We don’t need music to tell us ‘hey, the proceedings in this scene are kind of ridiculous in a subtle way, so make sure you get it’), and a good scene with the right music flowing through it will suddenly change its mind. He could have also made much better use of the natural sounds of Delhi.

*The cinematography I can find no fault with, really. It was gorgeous. It really captured Old Delhi. It captured its alleys and the close houses and just the hustle and the bustle of daily life. Loved it.

*Now to the story. I actually think the script was great. It was innovative and really creative. I felt the same with RDB…I didn’t like RDB because of its eventual message (freedom fighters against the British and youth protesting against their own government: NOT THE SAME THING. The solution shown to fight the power: DRAMATIC AND USELESS!). But the story was very neat because of the way it intertwined real events and real people with fiction and added twists and turns to the whole mix to fit Bollywood.

That said, I think Mehra made some mistakes. First, he went really, really slow in the first half. Secondly, he could have really made use of some plot twists in an excellent way, but he never did. For example, the fact that Roshan is a product of two religions…I would have liked to see how that was able to happen with his religious grandma and how that impacted him, but let alone that this wasn’t even used well till much later in the movie (and then, too, in a bad way). Or the untouchable storyline…its like Mehra introduced it, dangled it, and then took it back in a rush. Thirdly, he gets so abstract that its a real impediment to the pace of the stroy. I mean, I know this sequence wasn’t important, but the Dil Gira Dafatan scene is really a great example of how Mehra took his abstractness too far and unnecessarily, and it just harmed the movie.

*Characters. I’ve already said the small characters were really unique in themselves and I appreciated that. But the main actors: um…big mistake? Abhishek Bachchan is not a bad actor, I respect him and I’ve really appreciated certain roles he’s been in. But dude, he did not fit the bill. He was too cool, too suave, too relaxed to fit in. I don’t have an issue with his attempts to pull of being American (which he was fine with, with his past, he may as well be!), but just the fact that he seemed terribly miscast as Roshan, from a to z. RDB was a success because each of the actors had an intensity…even Aamir despite his established screen presence managed to have a rawness/freshness to him. Abhishek was very Abhishek. He seemed to work up his intensity as Roshan to a point…and then suddenly, he caught himself, as if a voice inside him said, okay dude, that’s enough, lets back off. The ‘parvachan’  part is a great example: it just didn’t work because Abhishek couldn’t make it work. On the other hand, a similar kind of didactic message by Atul Kulkarni in the end: WOW. That was immensely powerful. Abhishek couldn’t convey the pain, confusion, anxiety, anger that his character should be feeling at any point. A great contrast is the very powerful scene with Deepak Dobriyal (Mandu) in the second half, where Deepak does such an amazing job in conveying Mandu’s emotions and angst…and Abhishek fails. Part of that blame goes to the the script and the direction. Mehra only let Roshan’s character go so far, and then reigned him back in. That wasn’t fair. You get a sense that this is a guy who grew up abroad but is trying to balance his traditional values with his upbringing, and he has this strong sense of justice and what’s sensible and what’s not. But then, right when that was put to the test, he backed off. Right when he was about to say “this achoot business is nonsense,” he just huffed and walked away. Right when he was should have said “let’s stop this religious nonsense” he played billiards. Even when he eventually does find his balls, it just seems off. I feel like the script writer’s Roshan and the Roshan we saw were completely different…

Sonam Kapoor didn’t really get much meat except looking pretty and spunky, which she did fine. I don’t really have much to say for her, which also means that she didn’t really leave an impact. Divya Dutta left a stronger impact, but then the woman is naturally a finer actress anyway. I wish she was cast more…

*Another problem with the direction is the choppiness. I felt the same way with RDB. This is like several times worse. Scenes are separate entities glued together with Fevicol. They jump and only rarely flow into each other. Thus, some scenes are awesome and you’re totally into it, and then you get this crappy, poorly acted/directed scene and its all huh again. I thought the Ramleela interspersion was a great idea: POORLY used. I mean, he could have done so much with that, and it was really brilliant, but I almost feel like he felt exhausted after just coming up with the idea and just let it be fit in willy nilly.

*The dialogue’s okay, and some does stay with me so I guess those must be good 😉 The main scenes were lacking in strong dialogue, and I found myself thinking back to some great films that deal with a similar issue with such amazing acting/lines (Nana Patekar: yeh dekh uska khoon, yeh dekh mera khoon, rang ek hai ke nahin? bol?)

*The ending: I won’t give a spoiler, but I’ll just say, it didn’t bother me that much. Its been generally disliked, but since the story was already so zany I guess at that point I just wanted them to wrap it up, and I didn’t care how. It was pretty Bollywood-ish though, after all the abstractness Mehra tried to throw around. And um, not okay how you just tried to squeeze Big B in. That bit was GRATING. Slash that out and the movie redeems itself 10%. Part of that is my dislike of Amitabh speaking.

*I didn’t know much about the Monkey Man when it happened, and I’d read up on it when trying to decipher Hey Kala Bandar (side note: who else thinks its hilarious that Abhishek actually resembles this creature? I don’t mean it in a bad way, but you have to admit it! Was that purposeful? ;)) I thought the use of this recent, very famous news item was really neat. I liked how Mehra took this real life item, and then took other issues that are very real and true in present day India, and fit everything in. Really, that was impressive, and hats off to Prasoon and Mehra. To bring in issues of religion, caste, superstition, and middle class structure/beliefs all in one story…wow, what an undertaking, and it was too difficult to be done well. Everything was brought up, and it made me think, and then it wasn’t followed through well enough, leaving me wanting more. It was unsatisfactory.

And two more points. Firstly, I appreciated that the movie made a very real point about India that while things have changed for the better in many areas, in other areas they’ve really remained stuck in a time capsule. And, at fault to a large degree are the people, who are holding on to idiotic superstitions, who are stupid to swallow any thing the media and the politicians tell them, and who are generally apathetic but rush blindly to pick up their bats and axes as soon as there’s a good ol’ riot in the makin! At the same time, it also captured the qualities that make India beautiful…the sense of family in the community, the culture, the nuances of daily life, the sights, the smells, the relationships, all of which Indians abroad always miss and ache for. For me, the fact that Waheeda wanted to stay and die in her home land and in her house makes perfect sense. Theoretically, it should also make sense to me why Abhishek would fall in love with this place…except, I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy his argument (or lack thereof), and especially when he said “its the people who make it work” at some point in the movie (hasn’t someone said this before? somewhere?), I was extremely irritated. Um, the same people who are rioting and just [SPOILER] tore down a friendly neighborhood sweet shop that they had frequented for decades over a completely farcical/nonsensical issue [/SPOILER]? I could have bought this with better dialogue, acting, and argument, but as it stands it just made me all annoyed. Especially because I view this movie as someone living abroad who has similar experiences when I return home, and I feel the same anger/frustration and also time, the same nostalgia/happiness/the same pull. Fighting for sanity and justice should be a reason to stay back, not ‘because, like, generally, these people are pretty cool, and like, they make it work.’ And the romantic thread/reason, also sucks because it was SO NOT working.

Secondly, I appreciate that Mehra makes an effort to make me really think, and he pushes the envelope in trying to expose for all to see the farce that is being played out at various levels in the country. The political games and the cunning, shrewd and selfish politicians behind them, the naive, superstitious and downright idiotic public and the simple ways in which of them can be swayed, the sad truth that for all our growth, we still sell our daughters and purify our bodies if they touch an untouchable.  He really does do that, and for that Mehra deserves his accolades. But maybe its because its too many things in one show, or that he hasn’t really figured out how to string everything together, or he hasn’t been able to get the actors to give their best, or perhaps he’s a little arrogant and thinks it’ll be easier to pull it off than it is…but it doesn’t stir up any emotions in me as the audience. I mean, with RDB, maybe it did do that with some people, but I felt more stirred up and passionate and had my eyes wide open after Ratnam’s  Yuva. He doesn’t make me feel empowered, or involves me in the movie to a degree that makes me want to just start shaking things up and learning more and changing the world because of what I’ve seen/felt. Is that too much to ask from a movie? Maybe, but its an important art form, and good art should move you. Movies like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Bombay, Zakhm…have all moved me and have actually affected my perception of the world. Mehra brings up issues that should do that, but somehow his finished work doesn’t manage to actually do that. As an example, Zakhm also does the job of exposing politicians for feeding on public furor, on incensing the public for their own gain and revealing how we all fall for it…and in the movie Ashutosh Rana and Ajay Devgan and everyone else do an amazing job of carrying that through, and the story and the direction flows so well that you really buy it and feel wronged along with the characters. That’s what I wanted from Delhi 6.

Whoa what a long review. I must feel like writing after all that movie watchin’! Despite the negative elements, I still recommend it: its not a heavy movie, in case anyone fears that, and its definitely watchable if only for the storyline behind it all.

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I loved the Oscars. I love the new structure…with previous winners congratulating each nominee and announcing the winner. I think that’s such a nice touch and it clearly means a lot to everyone nominated. I’m a devout Oscar-watcher but it was getting really tiring last year so it was good to mix it up. Hugh Jackman was great, but I’d have liked more funny bits. Some things I didn’t love this year was the shorter original songs (and wtf with the mix with John Legend and Rahman?) and also the absence of clips. Overall, this was the first year where I really agreed with almost all the wins. I though Lance Black’s speech was beautiful and the highlight, next to Sean Penn’s. Loved Rahman’s grace and eloquence, and everyone knows that Pookutty’s speech was great too. I jumped up and down when Rahman won! For me, SM is far from his best work, but just to see him recognized on an international stage and something that clearly means a lot to him was great. I was glad that the whole team came up on stage for the Best Picture win: the kids looked adorable! Overall, it was definitely India night and I felt proud. I don’t care what people will say about SM: you can have all kinds of arguments against it, but you can’t deny that this movie has made waves unparalleled to anything else on an international scale. Its very impressive, and you must laud them for at least the swear, toil and dedication it took to make this movie.

And as for “its a foreign movie, so why is India celebrating so much?” and all the arguments being made by certain bitchy, envious populations : that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Firstly, isn’t the fact that one of the best music directors in India and the world is being recognized very important and worth celebrating? Or the deserving Pookutty? Or the lyricist Gulzar? You know why people are whining? Because the people who’ve dominated the industry are not associated with it. Big B is completely comfortable in roles centering around the underworld (because, of course, that isn’t the underbelly at all is it? Underworld must be a misnomer!), but suddenly a movie comes out which has Anil Kapoor reprising him on Kaun Banega Crorepati and its creating international waves and he’s not associated with it? Well, something has to be freaking wrong with it! Mukesh Bhatt isn’t giving the music for a movie that has the spirit of Bollywood? Oh no! It can’t be good! We can’t celebrate an Oscar for that now can we?! Disgusting. Secondly, dude, this country for once is celebrating instead of rioting against a movie which involves a Muslim boy falling in love and eventually getting a Hindu girl. That alone is a whole new cause for celebration. Even if its a shallow reason, people aren’t burning down theatres and screaming murder, and to me that’s a miracle. And, lastly, um, why bitch at a celebration at all? In times like the ones we live in, does it matter why you’re happy as long as you’re happy? Just quit whining already.

I thought it might be fun to make a post highlighting my favorite Rahman songs through the 16 years that I have followed him loyally. I haven’t had time yet but hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to sift through my giant Rahman library and make some difficult choices 🙂

On a completely different note, here’s a great reason to love a whole different celebrity who is thankfully the true King of Bollywood and who supported SM (or at least didn’t go around criticizing anything about it, and presented at Golden Globes), and who despite having a lot and being proud of it (some say arrogant, I say self-assured) never forgets who he owes it all to. The great Shah Rukh Khan. The reason I’m driven to post this video: this man just flew in into Mumbai Int’l Airport to the usual crowds. He’s due for major surgery in a few hours and hasn’t seen his family yet. He’s probably in great pain from his numerous problems and especially the shoulder injury he’s getting surgery for. Lest you forget, he is the biggest star in the country with a devoted (understatement), humongous (understatement) fan following. And the dude stands their answering dumb questions from reporters, genially and with good humor and patience, for a several minutes till he finally gently says he should get going for his surgery. And he asks for blessings and prayers and thanks them all, and even says that he takes his bodily breakdown as a payment for all the love he recieves for his work. I mean, how awesome is that. Few celebrities bother to stand for the paparazzi even for a few pictures, and he makes an effort to actually NOT be rude and give them time, and give eloquent answers. I remember him saying once that he doesn’t mind the media because they’re doing their job just like he does his, and the media makes him or breaks him, just like his fans. Clearly, he meant that.

http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/broadband/video/Special-Features/au2L9R78/3/SRK-On-Top.html

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