Thursday, October 31, 2013

BollyBest: Music Video of the Week #5

In honor of Halloween, here's a classic Bollywood take on the Halloween tropes. Can skeletons and mummies dance?

But of course.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BollyWeekly (Week of October 28th)

Here's the ONLY excitement you need for this week:


Friday, October 25, 2013

Movie Review: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

"But these are happy tears!" .... think again. 

In Hindi, "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" means "something happens." In this film, that something is crying. Lots of it. It's basically a three hour-long cryfest. The final scene is literally composed of the camera panning to all the people in a room, getting (tearful) reaction shots. I was so freaking depressed by the time the credits rolled... and the movie has a happy ending. Seriously.

The film stars Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan (SRK) as Rahul Khanna, Rani Mukerji as Tina, and Kajol as Anjali Sharma. Part of the movie takes place in the past, when the three became friends at university. The second part takes place in the film's present-day timeline, eight years later. In college (or is it high school?), the three friends end up forming the world's most depressing love triangle while wearing some bitchin' 90's clothes. Also, they play basketball a lot. Poorly.

These smiles are lies

Basically, Rahul is in love with Tina, but Anjali is in love with Rahul. Unable to take the pain of seeing Rahul and Tina together, Anjali leaves school in a really sad scene, vowing to never see them again. Of course, because this is Bollywood, that's obviously not going to happen... although this movie isn't afraid to break the conventions of normal character introductions/departures. Wait for the second half of the movie... you'll see what I mean.

In Hindi, Salman Khan means "Major character introduced after intermission"

I digress. Returning to the story... Tina realizes that she has come between Rahul and Anjali, and although she's sad about it, marries him anyway, because she actually does love him, too. They have a daughter, whom Tina insists they name Anjali. Kid Anjali (Sana Saeed) was probably my favorite part of this movie. She is spunky, sassy as hell, hilarious, and a near-diabolical schemer. Saeed and SRK have great father/daughter chemistry, and I enjoyed watching their scenes together.

No summer camp for you! Also, smiling is against house rules. 

Because this is the saddest movie of all time, of course Tina dies due to complications from childbirth. Before her death, she writes eight letters to her daughter, to be read on each of her birthdays, so that baby Anjali will be able to get to know her mother. And, you know, to get the kid invested in a decade-long love triangle. Will this incite her to play matchmaker between her father and her namesake, whom she's never met? Of course! This is Bollywood! Will Rahul and (the other) Anjali end up together? I'm going to do something I never do and tell you the answer. Yes, yes they do. And you would think that would be a happy occasion, right? Wrong. The closest this movie gets to happiness is bittersweet relief.

Wishing for the sweet release of death

This film is considered a Bollywood cult classic and is Karan Johar's directorial debut (we love his show, "Koffee with Karan," check it out on Youtube). There is certainly a lot to like here, from the hilarious 90's clothing, to the random summer camp escapades, to the matchmaker kid, to the un-credited fourth member of the love triangle (love rectangle?), SRK's hair. I thought that SRK had good chemistry with both Rani and Kajol. However, there are a few things that made this movie just... not my favorite.

My biggest problem with the film as a whole, other than the fact that it made me want to sit alone in a dark room, sobbing into a glass (bottle) of wine, is that is was trying to be too many things at once. It was like Johar smashed together the plots of Pretty In Pink, The Parent Trap, and the generic late-90's American teen movie of your choice, added some fairly-mediocre song and dance numbers, and dunked the whole thing in a bucket of tears.

Like her love for Rahul, Anjali's unibrow is also one-sided

Another thing that bothered me has to do with one particular scene in the film. If you don't want any spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. When Rahul and (adult) Anjali meet up again for the first time in many years at the summer camp, they play a game of one-on-one basketball. Apparently, Anjali is awesome at basketball, and beat Rahul in a game the last time they played. Cue the weirdness. What was (I think?) supposed to be a playful, flirty, sports-as-a-love-metaphor scene ended up being awkward and painfully uncomfortable to watch. I literally cringed watching Rahul be continuously disrespectful to Anjali, verbally taunting her (above and beyond a flirty level of banter) and getting the whole camp to proclaim that Rahul is better at basketball and that Anjali is a cheating loser. Rahul ends up winning the game, and Anjali doesn't even score a single point. (P.S... what is it with Bollywood's obsession with basketball? It shows up ALL the time). The scene was quite awful to watch, actually... and worse because it is never brought up again. In fact, the love narrative actually speeds up immediately following it. It made no sense to me. My poor heart can only take so much!

Pretty sure this was the next scene. Seriously.

The last thing thing that disappointed me, especially with a film as well-produced and famous as KKHH, was the quality of the subtitles. They were pretty laughable. My husband watched the film with me, and was constantly confused and irritated by them. He has not watched as much Bollywood as I have, but he has watched several BW films, and this is the first time he has ever mentioned that the subtitles were so bad that he couldn't understand what was going on. LOL.

All in all, I can't in good conscience give Kuch Kuch Hota Hai a glowingly positive review. While I really appreciated watching Bollywood attempt to tackle the 90's teen movie genre, I don't think it really captured the spirit of those films. Although the clothing and the setting worked, the film as a whole was too bogged down with trying to do too much.

In conclusion, something's happening... but it's not this film.


Dance Numbers: 1/5
Costar Chemistry: Rahul/Kid Anjali 4/5, Rahul/Adult Anjali 3/5
Entertainment Value: 1.5/5
SFX/Production Value: 3/5
Subtitle Accuracy: 2/5

Overall: 2/5 Hair gel-tinged Tears. Would not recommend.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

BollyBest: Video of the Week #4

I haven't actually seen this film yet, but with music like this, it has to be good! Here's Rani with Prithviraj Sukumaran in Aiyyaa.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BollyWeekly (Week of October 21st)

Here's the excitement for this week:

Happy 83rd Birthday to Bollywood legend, Shammi Kapoor! This article has a nice write up about his career in film, as well as quite a few videos. Check it out.

"The Big Bang Theory"'s Kunal Nayyar is interested in doing a Bollywood film in the future. Not sure if this completely counts as "Hollywood Gone Bollywood," since Nayyar is Indian, but we'll take it. As far as we're concerned, any Western exposure to Bollywood is a good thing :)

In a reverse of our last article, Indian actress Sridevi (English Vinglish, Khuda Gawah) seems to be finding a Hollywood acting career more appealing than being a Bollywood star. Guess we'll have to wait and see. We love Sridevi and wish her all the success in the world, whether in Los Angeles or Mumbai.

Where have all the good villains gone? This article discusses the lack of good bad guys in modern Bollywood.  We give the author props for mentioning Aamir Khan's upcoming role in Dhoom 3. We think he will be great. We are big Aamir fans, although not as big of fans of the guy as his daughter. Awwww.

Speaking of the Dhoom franchise, a video game version set in the Dhoom universe will be released in tandem with the premiere of the Dhoom 3 movie. Judging by the wording of the article, it seems like this game will be for mobile phones. Wonder if we can get it in America?

Oh no! Actor Akshaye Khanna has become the victim of a Ponzi Scheme after being duped into sinking a large amount of money in a fraudulent investment project. We hope that this gets resolved quickly, and that those responsible get their just desserts.

Until next week!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Movie Review: Zanjeer (1973)

"Yesterday, someone called me a beauty/ he complimented my hair/ he praised my eyes, too./ I threatened him with my knife, and he quickly called me 'sister.'" --Mala

One of these days, I'll review a film that doesn't have Amitabh in it. Today is not that day.

It's no secret that I have a thing for classic Bollywood in general, and Amitabh Bachchan in particular. This movie popped up often enough in my research into both topics that I felt like it was a must-see. After watching the film, I can see why it makes all those "best of" lists, as well as why it's the movie most popularly credited for turning Big B into a star. This is the film that cemented Amitabh's reputation as the "angry young man" of Indian cinema, and was also responsible for shifting the focus of Bollywood from pure romance stories to a grittier, more action-oriented aesthetic. Simply put, without this cult classic, there would be no Dhoom or Krrish.

The opening scene in Zanjeer occurs twenty years before the rest of the film. In this scene, the main character, Inspector Vijay Khanna (played henceforth by Amitabh Bachchan) is a little boy. He witnesses the horrific murder of both his parents at the hands of a man wearing a bracelet with a white horse charm on it. As a result of that traumatizing experience, Vijay has recurring nightmares of a white stallion. These nightmares continue into adulthood and clearly still impact Vijay's well being. This experience shapes Vijay into a tough, resilient man with a very rigid sense of honor and morality.

Complete with the requisite neigh-and-rear that every movie horse does.
As an adult, Vijay is a well-respected and honest police officer in a town full of corruption and violence. He is single-minded in his quest to eradicate crime, but he is kind, too. I don't want to give too much away (plus, summaries are boring), but through his work as a police officer, he comes in contact with Sher Khan (Pran) and the lovely, spirited Mala (Jaya Badhuri... now Jaya Bachchan), the other two principle characters in the film.

Sher Khan is really fun character. He is a criminal, and owns several lucrative, but highly illegal gambling dens. He also really loves to wear vests and has an incredible mustache. Because of the whole gambling den ownership thing, Vijay arrests him, and they have a tense moment in the interrogation room which leads to Sher Khan challenging Vijay to a fight. Since this is Bollywood, of course he accepts. Many elaborately-choreographed fake punches are exchanged, with the appropriate sound effects. Vijay fights admirably and wins Sher Khan's respect. As a result, Sher Khan decides to immediately quit the criminal life and become an auto mechanic. He also ends up basically becoming Vijay's best friend.

Yeah... as a general rule, suspended disbelief is your best friend when watching Bollywood. Shhh.... just accept it now.

Pran as Sher Khan
As the film carries on, it becomes clear that one man is behind most of the crime in town. Teja (Ajit Khan) is a delightfully terrifying villain. He is cold-blooded, cunning, and ruthless, a perfect foil for the honest Vijay. When Teja's gang causes a major accident that kills multiple people, they bribe Mala, a knife-sharpener who takes no crap from anyone, to stay quiet about what she's seen. Mala has a totally awesome song at around this point in the film, "Chakku Chhuriyan Tej Karalo," in which she basically confirms what a badass she is. The quote at the top of this review is from that song; you can watch the video here, but it unfortunately does not have subtitles :(.  I have a feeling that I will be using my Hindi quite a bit to translate song lyrics, once I get a bit more advanced!

Jaya Badhuri as Mala
Anyways, I digress. Mala gets in a fight with a customer who pretty much calls her a whore. Of course, she totally kicks his ass, and has to be pulled off him by the police. This is the first time that Vijay and Mala meet.  Vijay ends up taking pity on Mala and sending her to live with his adopted brother and his wife. They see each other quite often and gradually they begin to fall in love. I actually really appreciated how "slow burn" the romance was in this film; the majority of Bollywood films love to use the "love at first sight" approach, so it was cool to see a relationship develop differently. And obviously the two actors had some real life chemistry going on as well... seeing as they got married that same year.

As the film progresses, we find out that Teja controls far more of the town than was thought initially. His influence is spread so wide that he is able to frame Vijay for a crime bad enough to send him to prison for six months. When he gets out, he has one thing on his mind, and that is revenge. He has spent that six months thinking of nothing but Teja and how he is going to make him pay. Mala has spent that six months pining for Vijay, learning the skills to be a good wife, and planning their future life together (as expressed in "Banake Kyun Bigada Re"). You can see how that might create some conflict between them.

Will Teja get his just desserts? Does that mysterious stranger have anything important to contribute to the plot? Will Vijay ever find out who killed his parents? Will he and Mala work out their problems, get married, and move to their dream house with the perfect curtains? I don't want to spoil everything for you, so you'll have to watch it yourself. You can buy it on Amazon here.

Amitabh Bachchan as Inspector Vijay Khanna

Overall, the song and dance numbers were okay. I am all right with that, because they are not the main focus or appeal of the movie. "Yari Hai Imaan Mera" is a cute song about friendship, sung to Vijay by Sher Khan. I liked that one second best.

The main criticism I have about my Zanjeer experience is the quality of the DVD itself.  It seems cheaply made, and I did not like the several minutes of commercials at the beginning that I had to sit through before getting to the actual movie menu. The subtitles, at least, were easy to turn on and reasonably well written. I appreciated the use of subtitles in the songs, because many DVDs, particularly of older movies, don't have them. For non-Hindi speakers, they are nice to have.

Vijay and Sher Khan in "Yari Hai Imaan Mera"
 In Hindi and Urdu, the word "zanjeer" (ज़ंजीर) means "shackles," or "chains." This theme presents itself in various ways throughout the film. All of the main characters experience it.  For example, Vijay is, at different times, "shackled" to his tragic past, his strong sense of morality, his desire for revenge, and (obvious spoiler) his growing love for Mala. Then, he is quite literally "shackled" and imprisoned. So, I give the film an A+ for effective use of metaphor. Really, I give it an A+ in most everything else, too. I loved this movie.

Zanjeer is more grounded than most of the Bollywood films I've seen, even from the same era. I connected with the characters and their struggles in ways I don't usually when watching films of this genre, and I found the themes to be universally relatable.  After all, we're all shackled by something, aren't we?


Dance Numbers: 3/5
Costar Chemistry: Aladin/Jasmine 2/5, Aladin/Genius 5/5
Entertainment Value: 3.5/5
SFX/Production Value: 4/5
Subtitle Accuracy: 3.5/5

Overall: 4/5 Disco Balls. Would recommend. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BollyWeekly (Week of October 14th)

Here's the excitement for this week:

We apologize for being a few days late on this post. Hope you'll forgive us! :)

Sometimes, when conducting research, you come across something even better than the original thing you were searching for. The website "Faking News" is a prime example of this. Basically, Faking News is the Indian version of the American satire website, The Onion. And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds. The site is full of really funny articles (even to a Western audience, although I'm sure some of the jokes went over my head), ranging in topic from politics and history, to romance and celebrity gossip. The best part about Faking News is their unabashed, Perez Hilton-esque hatred of Sharukh Khan. With articles like this one, what's not to love? (Unless you love SRK, I suppose). My absolute favorite article that I found was this one. Here's a quote, if you are wondering if you want to waste time reading the whole thing:
“We would also ship a complimentary packet of dozen King Candles each to Aamir and Salman,” Momtaz informed, “Now they can see the six-pack abs of Shahrukh melt away in minutes. In fact, they can enjoy the whole Shahrukh being put on fire and disappearing even as they enjoy a candle light dinner!”
Spoiler alert: the answer is yes. You definitely want to read this article. Check out Faking News for a real taste of Indian-style satire. You won't regret it. In fact, you might waste a whole hour looking around and giggling. Ask me how I know.

Here are some photos of the ever-gorgeous Rani Mukerji, celebrating Durga Puja. Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu goddess Durga. Check out the Wikipedia article here if you want to learn more about it.

Is Salman Khan the new 'Godfather of Bollywood?' He certainly has played a big part in launching some very high-profile careers in the past decade, including Katrina Kaif. Weigh in here.

Here is the latest in Krrish 3 news.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, arguably one of the most famous Bollywood films of the 1990's. Check out India Times' countdown of reasons it is still loved here. There is video! :P

Check out this great list of Bollywood's Top 10 "Good Bad Boys"... Bollywood stars who made it big playing villainous roles.

Until next week!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

BollyBest: Video of the Week #2

This week's music video comes from Band Baaja Baaraat. One of my favorite songs with awesome visuals and a tech groove, enjoy Dum Dum!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

BollyWeekly (Week of October 7)

Here's the excitement for this week:

Ranbir Kapoor in "Besharam"

Travel writer Harriet O'Brien goes on a studio tour of Bollywood, detailed in this interesting article that talks about the genre's rich history in India.

Not only does the upcoming Ram-Leela (from Sanjay Leela Bhansali) feature the stunning Deepika Padukone and the charming Ranveer Singh, it's alive with color, incredible cinematography, and it's throwing down the gauntlet. Bollywood Life asks: who does the Garba better, Deepikia or Aish? Deepika is relatively new on the scene, but Aish has been absent a while.  Here are the videos for comparison.




There were many famous faces present at the opening of a new real estate project in Mumbai this week. Check out the photos here.

This new film looks like a must see. (Pssst.... guess what BollyWest is doing on Wednesday!??!!?)

Is the Bollywood charm catching? American actor Jon Huertes says, "I would love to do a Bollywood movie" when talking to BollySpice. Best known for his role as Detective Javier Esposito on Castle, Huertes pursues acting and music and even proposes a Bollywood-themed Castle episode. As a fan of the show, I'm all in. 

Anil Kapoor as Jai Singh Rathore in "24"

This article about the new Bollywood television series based off of the American series "24" is too good not to share. The show stars Anil Kapoor as the main character, Jai Singh Rathore. Interestingly enough, Kapoor played a character during the American version's last season. This show is getting a lot of hype, even though it is just getting started. It will be interesting to see its effect on Bollywood television industry, as its format differs greatly from the majority of popular TV in India. Here's another interesting article. This link will take you to a BBC video about the show.

Until next week!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Movie Review: Aladin (2009)

“Life is a disco, and we are all dancers.” --Genius

From the moment that this film came to my attention on Amazon, I knew I had to have it. The story of Aladdin is just begging for a Bollywood makeover… I’m just surprised that it hasn’t been done sooner.

The movie stars Riteish Dushmukh as the buffoonish Aladin Chatterjee, a college-aged wuss from the fictional town of Khwaish in India. Orphaned as a child under mysterious circumstances, Aladin has been bullied all his life because of his name... forced to rub (presumably fake) genie lamps, taunted, and beaten up when no genie appears.  For some reason, the same gang of boys that have harassed Aladin since childhood, led by Rob Lowe’s Indian doppelganger, Kasim (Sahil Khan), still find this same joke funny, even though they are practically adults. Kasim and his gang are incredibly cruel to Aladin, who is a twitchy, paranoid, insecure wreck as a result.

Riteish Dushmukh as Aladin
Inevitably, because this is Bollywood, Aladin falls in love at first sight with the beautiful American foreign exchange student, Jasmine (Jacqueline Fernandez). Also inevitably, he is too cowardly to make a move. Of course, Kasim relentlessly taunts Aladin about this, and Aladin does absolutely nothing to fight back.

Needless to say, at the beginning of the film, Aladin doesn’t have a whole lot going for him.  Enter Genius (Amitabh Bachchan), the sassiest and smoothest-dancing genie the world has ever seen.

Now, I love me some Amitabh, so I am probably biased, but he stole the show. He brought some interesting emotional depth to a character that could easily have become just another caricature in a film meant more for empty-headed enjoyment than philosophical thinking. The film’s take on genie mythology was interesting, however. Definitely different and more intense/violent than Disney’s Aladdin!  

Amitabh Bachchan as Genius
I enjoyed the dynamic between Aladin and Genius the most out of any characters in the film. Amitabh and Riteish had very good comic timing together and seemed to be having fun. I didn’t buy the chemistry between Aladin and Jasmine as much… but that could be because I found Aladin so annoying for the majority of the film so I wasn’t rooting for them.  

The A and B plots come together through the creepy, top-hatted Ringmaster, played by Sanjay Dutt and his marvellous goatee.  The Ringmaster has has issues with both Aladin and Genius… and will stop at nothing to get what he most desires. His group of circus perfomers/mutants/assassins are truly terrifying at times.

The dance numbers were a tad disappointing. The one highlight was “Genie Rap,” a song from early on in the film where Genius is trying to convince Aladin to make his first wish.   Imagine Big B rapping about “shorties, blunts and 40’s” ... yes, it’s as hilarious as it sounds. Another entertaining song is "O Re Saawariya" ... mostly because of how horrified and awkward Aladin is during the number.

The subtitles let me down a bit here… some of the translations were a bit... conspicuously "off." Part of me wonders if they translated “blunts” as “blondes” on purpose. LOL.

Jacqueline Fernandez as Jasmine
The SFX are where this film really shines. The computer effects were really cool and done as well as any Hollywood production. I particularly loved the scene where Genius runs across a bunch of knives flying through the air. Stunts and martial arts played a prominent role in most of the action scenes, and those were pretty well done as well, albeit pretty hokey. Let’s just say that somebody on the production team must have a thing for classic kung-fu movies.

I watched this movie with my husband, and although we both enjoyed it, we felt that it was a bit slow getting started. However, as is typical of many Bollywood films, once it gets rolling, it’s a nonstop action and exposition festival. If you are confused about certain important plot points in the beginning of the film, keep watching...I promise that all will be explained by the end :P

Will Aladin get the girl? Will Genius be able to thwart the comically villainous Ringmaster and be able to retire in peace? I don’t want to spoil anything major… so if you’re in the mood for a fun, light-hearted Bollywood movie that focuses more on adventure and fantasy than the love story, check this one out. It’s on Amazon for under $10.


Dance Numbers: 3/5
Costar Chemistry: Aladin/Jasmine 2/5, Aladin/Genius 5/5
Entertainment Value: 3.5/5
SFX/Production Value:  4/5
Subtitle Accuracy: 3.5/5

Overall: 3.5/5 Disco Balls. Would recommend.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

BollyBest: Video of the Week #1

There are so many things to love about Bollywood, but the hands-down best part has to be the songs. They come in many styles, but generally share an enthusiasm for all parts of life and an infusion of vibrant color that is distinctly Eastern and wonderful.

Today's entry is the high energy dance number featuring Shahid Kapoor and the unforgettable Rani Mukjeri from the film "Dil Bole Hadippa". Without further ado, I give you "Discowale Khisko"!

What's your favorite song?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

BollyWelcome: What to Watch

If you've been tracking with this series, then you've already been introduced to Bollywood cinema in four easy steps. If you missed out, here's a link to part one.

What to Watch

Once you know you want to watch Bollywood movies, you have to find some that you like. Just like any other art forms, some parts will appeal to you and others will not. How do you find what you like when you're searching for movies in a different language?

From "Cocktail" 
Either you learn Hindi (Ellie's all over it) or you find another way. I started out the hard way--I just googled for top ten lists and perused brief write ups, then tried to decide whether the movie would appeal to me based on a paragraph or two.

Let's just say it's very hit and miss. Mostly miss. As your taste develops, you will find some elements of Bollywood more gripping than others. I really love the East/West interactions of modern Bollywood. I like to see the traditional culture dealing with the outside influences. It makes me sad to see Bollywood grow Westernized at times--I love to see my films embrace their traditional ethic and be blatantly non-Western.

As such, I tend to spend more time with modern Bollywood with the slick production values and more complex storylines.

Ellie is all about classic Bollywood. Aside from the magnetism of Big B (we love you Amitabh!!), it is a completely distinct vibe. The costumes are more traditional, the stories are a bit scattered, and the energy is just as high and fun as the modern stuff, though the music tends to be more traditional.

How to Find It

Once you know what "it" is for you, there is a very simple way to find it. Really. You don't even have to learn Hindi (yet). 



Search for something you like. 

Watch music videos. Look at the recommended videos. Watch those. Find the songs you like, then purchase the whole movie. No more relying on reviews of strangers with a different set of interests and values!! It's amazing. Depending on where your interests lie, you can subscribe to different channels. A favorite of mine is YRF Songs. There are plenty of others. 

Where to Buy It

Does this even need a caption?
Again, there's a really easy answer here. Check out Amazon! Not only do they have great prices on new and used DVDs and Blue-Rays, there is free Super Saver shipping on orders over $25. If you're a Prime member, it's free all the time, but I'm not. Regardless. Toss 3 or 4 in your cart and they'll be at your door in a few days.

It's a bit of a risk, especially as you're starting out, so I try to pay less than $10/DVD. As I get more comfortable with my choices and learn what actors, directors, and (most importantly) song writers I like, I'm willing to spend more.

There are other options--Eros Now runs an instant video service with an assortment of titles available for $7.99 a month. There is a 14 day free trial available. I haven't gone this route yet, but I'll be strongly considering it this winter when it's cold and miserable.

Netflix also has a lively online selection. I may be the only person in the US who doesn't currently subscribe, but the library looks fun.

We'll talk about cool local options and how to watch current releases soon!

**Also** In doing research, I ran across the soon-to-be-released "Ram-Leela" ERMERGERD!!!!!!!!!! I cannot even say how excited I am for this movie. Watch the trailer here!! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013