Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raavan or What You See Isn't Always What You Get

I saw Raavan today. I'm not doing a full review as I honestly probably need to see the film a few more times to say anything really intelligent about it but I did want to point out what I liked about it (since enough negative has already been said). As a former English Literature major in college, there are few things I enjoy more than a piece of art (be it film, TV, music, book, etc) that has some symbolism that I can sink my teeth into. This is why I love Mani Ratnam and his films. He generally makes intelligent films full of symbolism. This is what I liked about Raavan.

1. One of the main themes of the story is perception; how we perceive situations and people based on our perspective, who we are and who they are supposed to be. What we may find is that when we get to know the truth, a true vision of a person or situation, it may be very different than we thought at first glance. This includes the way we perceive ourselves until some event teaches us that we are different than we thought we were. This theme is illustrated very smartly by visuals in the film of characters gazing at each other through tree branches, reflections on the water, photographs and mirrors.

2. Another major theme is that of cause and effect and how it perpetuates a never-ending cycle, in this case a cycle of violence. Unless one party is able to engage the higher side of their being and willingly surrender the upper hand that is. This theme works in tandem with the perception theme when it is the "demon" who accepts what looks like defeat in order to stop the cycle.

3. The film is slow and a bit confusing pre-interval but there is a reason for that that I appreciate and I thought was quite well done. You're really not sure why everything that's happening is happening or why it's all so dire or why you should care. Post-interval, however, the motivation behind Beera's actions are revealed to the heroine, Ragini and to the audience at the same time. I thought it was quite smartly done because the audience goes on the same journey as the heroine. She has, I'm sure, her perception of why these things are happening to her as do we the audience, only to find out that things are not necessarily what she or we thought they were.

4. Santosh Sivan was, as always, pure genius. The cinematography is breathtaking. You MUST see the film for that if for no other reason. Every frame is like a painting. I wish my life was as pretty and dreamy as a Santosh Sivan film *sigh*

5. I really enjoyed Abhishek's portrayal of Beera. This is a character who is a bit unhinged even schizophrenic and I thought he played it quite well. He brought a frenetic sort of energy to the role along with a sort of mad intensity and at times a childlike petulance and ignorance of why what he was doing was wrong. I thought all of it worked and successfully walked the line between making the character a real person and a figure out of mythology. (Also, he looked really good with that black tunic plastered to his body)

6. Aishwarya was strikingly beautiful and did a superb job. She captured and conveyed some very complex emotions very well. She and Abhi had fantastic chemistry together which is, as we've unfortunately seen before, not always the case with real life couples.

7. Another train used as a symbol in a Ratnam film. I really like the idea of the train as a symbol of the inevitability of events once set in motion. Once two characters meet or once a discussion begins, fate has been sealed and events will keep moving relentlessly forward until the inevitable conclusion.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie because it was lovely to look at, the performances were good and it had nice visual symbolism to chew on. It wasn't my favorite movie and was quite slow paced for all the action and drama in it but that is kind of what I've come to expect from Mani Ratnam. His films end up being the ones that I want to watch over and over again because every time I do, I find something new that I missed before. His films have a way of haunting you and growing in your psyche. I can already feel Raavan taking up more space in my brain and the urge to not just see it again but examine and dissect it has already taken root.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Raajneeti or "Out Damn Spot! No? Ok, What's the Big Deal About a Little Blood on my Hands Anyway?

SPOILERS! Sorry but there is no way to review this movie without some spoilers (though I've tried to steer clear of specific plot points) so read at our own risk.

I really enjoyed Raajneeti. Yes, it was long. Yes, it was fairly violent. Yes, it's a film about politics. It's also an engaging, absorbing tale of filial duty, the sins of one generation punishing the next, the love of power for power's sake and good old-fashioned vengeance. It is truly Shakespearean storytelling and to try to talk about it or see it through any other lens would make it seem over the top and I believe it deserves better than that. So, if you're in the mood for Machiavellian political machinations and high drama in a morality play with a resolution as murky and gray as the characters and their motivations, Raajneeti is a must-see film.

The film started out with a lot of information about the characters and their relation to each other and the same with political parties. I was a bit overwhelmed and wondered if I would be able to make sense of it all. Eventually, I realized that those things were really just distractions from the real story of people and the corrupting influence of power. You have 3 hours of political families and parties vying to win the upcoming elections and not once does anyone discuss the issues, what it is the voters want or why it is they want to win other than they believe they are entitled to win. The candidates feed the populace empty rhetoric that has nothing to do with actually governing the people and the people are easily influenced by such rhetoric, not questioning any of what happens. This is why I say Raajneeti is simply an examination of power. It's about how obtaining a little bit of power causes an insatiable thirst for more power, how having power creates a hunger to maintain that power at any cost, how power blinds those who have it to the reasons they wanted it in the first place and how it brings out the worst in them.

I find I don't really want to talk about the specific plot points of Raajneeti. I found all of it interesting and it all served to illustrate what I saw as the overall theme. What I do want to talk about are the performances and chemistry between characters.

Hallelujah! Finally, Arjun Rampal has an outstanding performance. He was truly good in this role. He was perfect as the charismatic but less calculating and more passion-driven scion of a ruling political family. He got everything about the character right from the coldness of the manipulating politician to the vulnerability of the brother, son and husband motivated by his love of his family, to bloodthirsty and slightly mad man in the throes of revenge. His chemistry with Ranbir was fantastic! He plays the protective, older brother with so much affection that you believe that, as bad as he is, if he can love his brother that much, he must not be totally irredeemable. I have always wanted Arjun to be a good actor and he has far exceeded my hopes in Raajneeti. I hope he can be consistent in the future.

Speaking of consistency....Katrina Kaif needs to try it sometime. She wasn't awful but she wasn't very good either. She had some of her trademark wooden moments when you wondered if, like a claymation figure, they were posing her, taking a shot, moving her, taking the next shot and thus animating her. She had some moments that were pretty well acted too but her problem seems to be that you can see her thinking about her acting all the time. She tries too hard and you can see the thought process as plain as day on-screen. Her character was a pivotal one which could have resulted in a very moving and powerful performance had it been given to a better actress. It's a shame it was wasted on someone not ready for it, someone who may never be ready for it.

Ranbir Kapoor was fantastic as usual. He is an actor that, I believe, has enough stand out performances under his belt now to be counted on to deliver every time. I've said it before and I will say it again, he's got the "it" factor and is Bollywood's newest generation's brightest star. He has joined the very exclusive ranks of stars who will get me to the theater no mater what, Shahrukh, Hrithik, and Ranbir. That being said, I have been eagerly awaiting him in a negative or gray role and he delivers in Raajneeti and how! I actually think it's genius casting because he has that vulnerability and aura of niceness that he brings to all of his roles so that you are all the more shocked to see what he does and becomes over the course of the film. He plays cold and calculating brilliantly and makes it sexy! His performance was fantastic and compelling. An interesting point about his character...he may seem to be one of the worst people in a film full of really bad people but his character actually has the purest motivation of all. He is ready to leave all the politics to his family and return to his studies in the U.S. until something happens that causes him to seek vengeance for the sake of a loved one. He is the character most suited to the mantle of power and yet he is the only character that I believe doesn't do what he does for power.

Ajay Devgan...another good character played by a mediocre actor. He's better than Katrina but he needs to have more than one facial expression. Is the man capable of smiling? Has anyone ever seen it? And the way he carries himself...classic "smell the fart acting." Also, whose idea was it for him to play a 27 year old character? Ridiculous! Still, his performance was passable. I just, again, think another actor could have done more with it.

Nana Patekar...wow! He was outstanding as the patriarch/puppet master/kingmaker of all the political maneuvering in the film. His character will go to any lengths to protect the family's political position and power all seemingly with a chilling lack of conscience. He smiles and plays the caring chacha while peoples' lives are bought and sold and ended to serve his whims. His chemistry with Ranbir was terrific! They have some stand out scenes together that are great fun to watch.

The other actors and actresses are fine. Again, they could have found a better American actress to play Ranbir's girlfriend but she wasn't awful in the KJo tradition of white actors. Although, if I had to hear her say "summer" instead of pronouning Samar properly one more time...I would have gladly killed her.

Manoj Bajpai as Veerendra was a little too "filmi villain" for me. It was mostly his look that was a bit ridiculous and he had a few OTT moments. I think a better actor could have won the audience's sympathy more at the end when I think we were meant to feel something for him. I was too distracted by his filmi moochie and straight from the 70s wardrobe to feel anything for him at that point.

Nikhila Trikha is the debutante actress who plays the mother of the family. She was much better in the scenes where she was a young woman opposing her father's political party than she was as the present day 50-60ish mother of Ajay, Arjun and Ranbir. She just didn't have the skill to play the emotional depth needed and her scenes that should have evoked some emotion left me feeling cold. Maybe it was because I couldn't find anything sympathetic about her character at that point in the film. Any woman who allows herself to be controlled and then allows the same thing to happen to her children and lets them be raised to be what they become gets nothing but contempt from me.

Finally, Nasserudin Shah. He has a very small role in the film but he made the most of it. He was wonderful for the few minutes he was onscreen and I wish he was in more films.

So, Raajneeti is definitely worth seeing in my opinion. Even if you don't like the story I think you'll find the performances worth your time and money. I, however, think that you'll find this case study of the human hunger and quest for power compelling in and of itself. There is a lot packed into the last half of the film and I've already heard some people say it gets too filmi but when you play as deep a game as these characters do, consequences are to be expected. What goes around comes around. This is why I call it Shakespearean in scale. It is a heightened version of life...an absolute version, if you will. After all, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

#T5T or Top Five Thursday- Movie Quotes

OK so, yes, I am trying to create a meme. Why not? One Thursday my twitter friends and I fell into a conversation about our "list". You know? The list of 5 celebs that you have a free pass with if you ever get the opportunity (made famous on Friends). We had a blast! So, I thought lists are fun to make. It's fun to think about your favorite things. Why not have a topic each week, pick our top 5 and discuss for fun? So, that's what we've been doing. We've covered guilty pleasures, Bollywood item numbers, hottie bad boys and girls from movies, etc.

So this week the topic is Top 5 movie dialogues or quotes. I am a quote whore! I just love a verbal moment in a movie so I give you my Top 5 and then some miscellaneous moments that I also love. Hope you enjoy!

#T5T Number 5: From the end of Anne of Green Gables when she and Gilbert finally get together.

Anne: I went looking for my ideals outside of myself and discovered it's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it. The dreams dearest to my heart are right here.

Gilbert: Well I hope you keep on dreaming. It'll be 3 years before I finish medical school and even then there won't be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.

Anne: I don't want sunbursts or marble halls. I just want you.

This scene starts at 9:42 of video.

If you've never seen Anne of Green Gables, you're totally missing out on a fabulous movie and the books too are wonderful. I think every girl in the world should read the Anne books. Anne and Gilbert are an iconic couple and this scene where they finally get together is the perfect end to the film.

#T5T Number 4 Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild at the end of Velvet Goldmine.

We set out to change the world...just ended up changing ourselves.
- What's wrong with that?
...Nothing...if you don't look at the world.

Sadly, I could not find a clip of this scene so I have a video clip of character Curt Wild performing during the movie. To be safe: VIDEO IS NSFW! (Ewan and Curt are so very hot!)

This quote always gets me. First, I LOVE the character Curt Wild mostly because Ewan McGregor is amazing in the role but also because he's that archetype of the vulnerable bad boy who has been wounded. Who can resist that? This quote though, I think fits my cynical side and in the context of the film is just brilliant.

#T5T Number 3 Holden to Alyssa in Chasing Amy. Fell in love with Ben Affleck during this scene. A rain scene by the way.

Holden McNeil: I love you. And not, not in a friendly way, although I think we're great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way,
although I'm sure that's what you'll call it. I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the epitome of everything I have ever looked for in
another human being. And I know that you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you would ever consider.
But I had to say it. I just, I can't take this anymore. I can't stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can't, I can't look into your eyes without
feeling that, that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can't talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. And
I know this will probably queer our friendship - no pun intended - but I had to say it, because I've never felt this way before, and I don't care. I like
who I am because of it. And if bringing this to light means we can't hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But God, I just, I couldn't allow another day to
go by without just getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot-down. And, you know, I'll
accept that. But I know...I know that some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there is a moment of hesitation, then that means you feel
something too. All I ask, please, is that you just, you just not dismiss that - and try to dwell in it for just ten seconds. Alyssa, there isn't another
soul on this fucking planet who has ever made me half the person I am when I'm with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the
next plateau. Because it is there between you and me. You can't deny that. Even if, you know, even if we never talk again after tonight, please know that
I'm forever changed because of who you are and what you've meant to me, which - while I do appreciate it - I'd never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.

Who hasn't been there? In love with a friend (gay or not) and terrified of saying something but too tortured to maintain the status quo. You just know from the writing here that Kevin Smith has been there too.

#T5T Number 2 Almost Famous: Lester Bang's famous "uncool" dialogue.

Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter.
William Miller: I can really see that now.
Lester Bangs: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it,
you got a big head start.
William Miller: I'm glad you were home.
Lester Bangs: I'm always home. I'm uncool.
William Miller: Me too!
Lester Bangs: The only true currency in this bankrupt world if what we share with someone else when we're uncool

For all of us who've ever felt uncool. It's true what he says, always trying to be cool is the enemy of sincerity.

#T5T Number 1 is from Rocky Balboa, the last Rocky film. Rocky talks to his son who feels overshadowed by his father's legacy and disenchanted with his life.

Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world and you did but somewhere along the line you changed. You stopped bein' you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good and when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame. Like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are
it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it...you, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.

Now if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that.

This scene really hit home for me at the time and still does. We all need to remember this when anyone tries to make us feel inferior or when life beats us up a bit. I think Sylvester Stallone is great in this scene.

Honorable Mention Goes to the Following:

"Live! Live! Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"
- Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell

"It can't rain all the time."
- The Crow starring Brandon Lee

"So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life."
- Office Space starring Ron Livingston

"Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."
- A Few Good Men (just one of many quotes from that movie. Possible the best dialogue movie ever)

"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!
- Braveheart

"That night, I thanked God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. I also promised that if some way I could get home again, I would find a nice peaceful town and spend the rest of my life in peace."
- Band of Brothers

Finally, I know this is supposed to be movie quotes but a post on quotes could never be complete for me without quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the smartest shows to ever grace the television.

Willow warns Riley about dating Buffy:
"And remember, if you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun."

Giles referring to Angel and Buffy in Season 1
"A vampire in love with a slayer. It's rather poetic...in a maudlin sort of way."

Spike...ah, Spike :-)
"If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock"

Spike in Season 3 telling Buffy and Angel how it is.
"You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other until it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -- blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it"

"Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir. Open it's jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us. Passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we can live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead."

Spike to Buffy in Season 7 after her friends and family have kicked her out.
"You listen to me. [Kneels in front of her] I've been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I follow my blood, which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes, a lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of: you. [Buffy looks away; he reaches toward her face] Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say, "I love you," it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy."

Giles losing at Dungeons and Dragons
"I used to be a highly respected watcher, and now I'm a wounded dwarf with the mystical strength of a doily."

Xander bemoaning his fate
"Damn it! You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats insects, and gets the funny syphilis. As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt-monkey"

Buffy reflecting on the life of a pumpkin at Halloween
"I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Grow up in the sun, happily entwined with others, and then someone comes along, cuts you open, and rips your guts out"

Willow's take on relationships after Oz breaks her heart
"Okay, say that I help. And you start a conversation. It goes great. You like Buffy, she likes you. You spend time together, feelings grow deeper, and one day, without even realizing it, you find you're in love. Time stops, and it feels like the whole world is made for you two, and you two alone. Until the day one of you leaves, and rips the still-beating heart from the other, who's now a broken, hollow, mockery of the human condition"

Spike to Buffy after she is resurrected
I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her. If I'd done that ... even if I didn't make it, you wouldn't've had to jump. I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course. But after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again, do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways ...Every night I save you.

OK, I'll leave it there for now. I could spend ages listing quotes I love. How about you guys? What are your favorite movie quotes (or Buffy quotes)? Please share them in the comments section. I'm always looking for more for my collection. Also, if you're on Twitter, why don't you join us next week? The topic for Thursday, June 3rd is Top 5 fictional characters you'd like to punch in the face. Use the #T5T hashtag in your post and use it also to read what other participants have to say.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kites, or I Don't Know What the Message is but it was Damned Entertaining

I have been waiting for this movie since I first became a Hindi film devotee a bit more than a year ago. I happened upon my first Hindi film Jodhaa Akbar when it was available for instant viewing via Netflix and I needed to test out my new Tivo wifi adapter. Hrithik Roshan immediately mesmerized me with his breathtaking beauty, screen charisma and talent.

Hrithik was my first love in Bollywood. Immediately after watching Jodhaa Akbar I googled him (what did we stalkers do before google?) and started finding out everything I could about him and watched and purchased ALL of his movies in quick succession. I quickly exhausted all of his films and so my focus shifted to waiting for Kites which was already in the works (until SRK entered my life and stole my heart... but that's another story for another day. I still love Hrithik and he is 2nd in my affections hence my continued anticipation for this film.) So today, after the release date being pushed back time and time again, I finally got to see Kites.

Normally, the kind of hype and anticipation that preceded Kites would result in me being disappointed by the final product but it turned out to be everything I expected it to be, a feast for the eyes, a real entertainer and just great fun at the movies. Anyone who expected it to be more than that...you're misguided at best and kinda dumb at worst.

From my perspective, as someone who saw a decade's worth of Hrithik's work all at once, I definitely think he made a huge leap in his confidence and comfort in his own skin and as an actor with Jodhaa Akbar, Dhoom 2 and Luck By Chance. One thing I was anticipating in Kites was seeing whether or not he had taken that further. I think the answer is that he demonstrates less potent sex appeal and mesmerizing charisma in Kites than he did in JA and Dhoom 2 but in exchange he seems to have grown as a dramatic actor. It's almost as if the compelling gazes and sexy expressions which he perfected in Dhoom 2 were put on the backburner for Kites while he mastered a more subtle style for his dramatic scenes. Now he just has to put it all together in the same film, the subtle dramatic performace with sizzling sex appeal, to really blow people away. This is not to say that there are no "Gah!" moments in Kites where he'll make you drool because there are...just not as many as in JA or Dhoom 2 (a moment on the boat comes immediately to mind and pretty much anything at the beginning of the film when his backstory is being established. Add learning to turn into a toothpick at will to life goals...you'll understand once you see the movie).

All of that being said, Hrithik gives a great performance...I just can't wait to see how he continues to evolve as an actor because I know he can be even better than he is in Kites. I guarantee you, from an American gori's perspective, if he were in a Hollywood film tomorrow, he would be an instant phenomenon in America just like he was in India after his debut. I'm not sure that "Kites the Remix", however, is the platform that will do that. The main reason being, the acting of the supporting actor who plays Tony is totally cringeworthy, enough so that it casts a serious pall over the entire film that may cause American audiences to have trouble taking the whole film seriously. Other than that, there were only two scenes that really didn't work for me and only two scenes that I noticed being lifted from or reminiscent of other films SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT>>>>>>>>>>
There is a scene between J and Natasha/Linda that takes place the night before her wedding to Tony in which they are discussing their motivation for why they are with Tony and his sister and discussing cutting their ties to each other. It didn't work for me. It was the one scene where I felt Hrithik's acting was less than convincing. The line delivery was just off for me. Others may find it charming...I just didn't.

The other scene that threw my mental brakes was one of the car chases. They have an extended scene of J and Natasha/Linda driving down an empty desert highway then the police come out of nowhere and start chasing them which is fine, it looks as though the police were laying in wait for them. That I can accept. What bugged me was how all of the sudden approximately 10 other cars suddenly appear on this previously empty highway in the middle of nowhere just so the police cars have something to smash into. It was poorly executed. The other chases, however, were great! I love a good car chase and so, apparently does Anurag Basu. The chases were fantastic and the stunts and action sequences were very well done and not at all cheesy.

The scenes that were lifted from or reminiscent of other films (this is a Rakesh Roshan production after all) were a scene where J sees Natasha/Linda through as fish tank a la Baz Luhrman's William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and a scene where Tony's father punishes a cheater in his casino which reminded me of Reservoir Dogs.

OK, so enough with the negative. On with the gushing!

Kites is a beautifully shot film. There are some scenes that are simply stunning visually. Two that I especially enjoyed were one where J is looking at his new car and the flashing lights of the casino sign are reflected on the car surface. It's just a great visual, very cool. The other is a scene of J and Natasha/Linda in the desert framed by rock arches...very pretty. I also appreciate the color coordination of the couples' outfits when they are on the boat. If you ever wonder in a Hindi film who is going to end up together, look at who is wearing the same color and you'll have your answer. I like that. It's certainly better than airbrushed T-shirts from the mall.

My two favorite scenes in the film are two quiet, tender scenes between J and Natasha/Linda. The first is when they make shadow puppets together. It's so sweet you can't help but smile and feel all gooshy inside. The other is a stand out scene for Hrithik where he tells Natasha/Linda about why the rain makes him sad. Really well written and exceptional acting from Hrithik.

The other scene that I loved was Hrithik's big dance number. He never fails to top himself. He is without a doubt the BEST dancer in Bollywood! The man must be made of rubber! Knowing a bit about how Hrithik prepares for roles, I can't even begin to imagine how many hours of practice he put into getting the dance right. He works incredibly hard yes, but he also has enormous amounts of natural talent. The scene is mesmerizing. I think I watched the whole thing with my jaw on the floor. The high splits alone will blow your mind.

As far as the music is concerned, I really enjoyed all of it and thought it was different than the usual Hindi film fare, it absolutely works both in the context of the film and as stand alone songs...that is except for Kites in the Sky. It pains me to criticize Hrithik's first attempt at a movie song but this song just does not work! I think Hrithik is a decent singer...probably better than this song indicates. It's just a bad, bad song (Rajeshji did a bad, bad thing). The lyrics are beyond cheesy and the arrangement is awful. Upon hearing it before the release of the movie I know some kept an open mind thinking, "Oh, it just needs to be heard in the context of the film" Nope! In fact, it may have been slightly less cringeworthy if used in a different scene, a quieter scene. As it is, the context in which it is played just adds to the reasons why the song doesn't work at all. I hope Hrithik sings again...just a much better song.

Barbara Mori is gorgeous and sexy but sweet at the same time. You can't help but fall in love with her just like J does. She's a fresh, talented actress and is especially touching during the climax of the film. She will break your heart in the scene where she saves J's life. I am curious to see what she does next.

Hrithik's performance I already touched upon but I will say a bit more (mostly because there are few things I like more than rhapsodizing about Hrithik and SRK). In the beginning when they are showing us J's life in Vegas, Hrithik couldn't be hotter! God, he's sexy! But I digress. He does a great job playing a convincing...well, player. He then transitions beautifully to devoted man in love. He is totally believable as both. He is also really funny in a few scenes. I would love to see Hrithik in a *smart* comedy. He has some great comic timing and expressions. His most affecting scenes were the quiet scenes between he and Barbara. He's fantastic at sweet and sincere. He has also really gotten good at the big drama scenes. He held back the lip and nostril quivering (well, there's a little bit of that but not too much) puppy dog-eyed histrionics. He was subtle and believable. His physical performance complimented the scene rather than detracting from it by being too over the top.

As for the much speculated about on-screen chemistry between Hrithik and Barbara...it is powerful, no doubt. I would, however, not call it sizzling or hot or anything with a sexual connotation. There are a couple of steamy moments to be sure and they are certainly very beautiful together but I found the chemistry to be more emotional than physical. When they look into each other's eyes, you really believe that they love each other not just that they want to jump each other. Oh and for those of you who care, there's not just one kiss in the movie...there are at least 4 if my count is right. ;-)

The supporting cast, with the exception of Tony (Nicholas Brown) and the train station agent, are quite good. I especially liked Kangana in her limited role and Anand Tiwari as J's friend Robin.

So what is the message of Kites? I don't know. Does it need one? At the beginning, there is a scene with two kites in the sky with a narration that likens them to two lovers but we are cautioned that the kites don't have control of their actions or fates, those who hold the strings do. So, who then controls the fates of our lovers if not they themselves? The rich and powerful Tony and his father? Fate? There's no clear answer to that especially since J and Natasha/Linda individually have chosen paths that are less than noble so they can't really blame anyone but themselves for the people they find themselves beholden to. Then they continue to make poor decisions that lead them to their ultimate fate. So the story seems to actually contradict the "theme" of the kites. Anyway, like I said, does this movie need a message? Nope. It just entertains and does so thoroughly. I'm recommending it to everyone just with a parenthetical disclaimer about "Tony's" acting.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

This Friday I have difficult but worthwhile recommendations for you.

The film I'm recommending is Yesterday (South Africa 2004).

This is the first film ever filmed in the Zulu language. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and very thought-provoking on the topics of forgiveness, unconditional love and how one can choose to live life knowing the end is near, selfishly or selflessly.

I'm borrowing Jeff Shannon's review from Amazon as it's been too long since I saw the film to do it justice.
As beautiful as it is heartbreaking, the Oscar®-nominated drama Yesterday brings an intimate human perspective to the AIDS crisis in Africa. On the surface, it's a harsh and devastating story about bad things happening to good people, but such a limited description robs the film of its warmth and tender compassion. Best known for his 1995 drama Cry the Beloved Country, director Darrell James Roodt returns to his native South Africa for this moving and heartfelt portrait of a young, devoted mother named Yesterday (played by Leleti Khumalo, from Hotel Rwanda) who learns that she is HIV positive, and remains determined to stay alive until her young daughter Beauty (Lihle Mvelase) is old enough to go off to school. Her husband (Kenneth Khambula) is also stricken with AIDS, and Yesterday cares for him even as they are ostracized by fearful neighbors in their tiny Zulu village. One might expect a film about AIDS to be terribly depressing, and Roodt pulls no punches when conveying the emotional anguish of Yesterday's dilemma. But Yesterday is so visually beautiful in terms of its physical and spiritual landscape (it was filmed in the expansive KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa) that it's universally appealing, and the score by Madale Kunene adds just the right emotional seasoning to the film's ethnic roots. Anyone with a beating heart can relate to Yesterday's plight as a caring wife and mother, and Khumalo's performance is so lovely that she lights up the screen, even (and perhaps especially) during Yesterday's darkest hours. Without pounding on its point, Yesterday puts a human face on a global crisis that's too often viewed on impersonal terms. --Jeff Shannon
See it...you won't regret it!

The book I'm recommending is Desert Flower by Waris Dirie.

Waris Dirie was born into a nomadic tribe in Somalia. At the age of 5 she was subjected to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and at the age of 13 she ran away to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man. She eventually made it to London where she worked as a housemaid until she was discovered and catapulted to the status of "super model" in the 90s. Her book talks about her personal experiences but also focuses on the horror of FGM. She now works as a UN ambassador for women's issues, specifically FGM. I implore every woman to educate herself about FGM and this woman's personal account of its effect on her life is an excellent way to do so.

Some people would argue that it's not our place to impose our values on other cultures...I say that's bullshit. Some things are inherently wrong and should be stopped. FGM is one of those things. Please check out the UN page on FGM for more information as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year

Rocket Singh was not at all the movie I expected it to be.

So, let me take this opportunity to talk about the way some Hindi films are marketed. It seems to me that occasionally a film comes along that the producers are afraid to market for what it really is for one reason or another. Chance Pe Dance was marketed as a dance movie when it really isn't. It's a movie about a guy who wants to be an actor. Just because they had Shahid Kapoor they thought they had to market it as a dance movie I guess. I suppose, in that movie's case, they had to look for the best thing they had and go with it. Another film that comes to mind is Life in a Metro. I was really excited to see this film when I saw trailers for it. It looked like a nice, gushy film about various couples at different places in life. What I got when I finally watched it was a tawdry, infuriating film about people twisting love and mistaking physical intimacy for what's most important in life. (If you want to see the movie that Life in a Metro could have been see Playing by Heart) And now, Rocket Singh. The ads for this made it look like a high energy comedy of some sort. I was reluctant to see it because it looked like it would be slapstick and quite possibly ridiculous. Instead you have a thoughtful film that moves at a realistic pace. Nothing earth shattering happens and it's just about regular people going about their mundane lives but figuring out how to be as dignified and as happy as possible in the process. Now that is a movie I would have been anxious to see, a movie I really enjoyed once I overcame my misgivings caused by the ads. So what I'm saying is, don't be afraid of your films people! Especially just because they're not the typical BW fare, a good film will stand for itself. You do the films a disservice by marketing them based on what you think the audience wants to see. Market them properly and let them find their audience.

The main reason I decided to watch Rocket Singh, despite being wary of it based on the marketing, was Ranbir Kapoor. I believe he is definitely the best of Bollywood's younger generation of actors. He's that rarest of commodities...a really good actor. Beyond that, he's got the "it" factor. I don't think it's the super mega-star "it" factor of SRK but he's certainly more compelling than any of his peers and many of those who've been at it much longer *cough* Saif Ali Khan*cough* He has a great vulnerability about him and a genuineness that translates to his characters and really makes you care about them. I can't wait to see his future films. I especially want to see him play a grey character which, if the trailer for Rajneeti can be trusted, may be coming very soon.

On with the film review.... At first, Rocket Singh made me uncomfortable and, quite honestly, depressed me. I think it's because I identified with Harpreet so very much. He's a middle class boy being raised by his grandfather who graduates from college with below average grades. He passes the test to go for an MBA course but can't afford to pay for it so he goes out into the work world. He ends up in a shitty job that quickly sucks away any enthusiasm he had about entering the adult world and starts to change his attitude towards his life in general and his loved ones. The movie does a brilliant job of showing you what effect a horrible job can have on every aspect of your life and, as I once said about one of my jobs, can kill a little piece of your soul every day. Harpreet is a good guy and he gets punished mercilessly for doing the right thing. He finally decides to take things into his own hands and show those who have put him down that he is more than they have given him credit for.

Without getting into major spoilers, let me just say that Rocket Singh is a great example of how Bollywood can make movies that will appeal to an international audience without losing what makes them wonderful. It's a good story with a tight plot, good dialogue, believable characters and nothing over the top. There were a few instances in the plot where the characters had a choice to make. Had this been a Hollywood film, the characters would have gone with the cynical, negative choice. In this movie, however, they made the choice to trust, forgive, do the right thing and that is one of the best things about Hindi films. They have a hopefulness that the West has come to view as too uncool or unreal. (I'm really sad for us if hope has really become too "unreal" to even be portrayed in films. This is why I watch more Hindi films than American films these days.)

Overall, I thought Rocket Singh was a good, solid film. I identified with it and was interested in the characters and their journey. Ranbir gave a strong, engaging performance. The supporting cast was solid, especially Prem Chopra as Harpreet's grandfather. Rocket Singh tells you that you can't let other people's expectations of you write your destiny (nicely illustrated in a scene where the formerly slimy supervisor is misjudged by his new parters in Rocket Sales) Ultimately, it's a movie about not letting the world around you make you lose your self-respect, about getting the life you deserve the right way even when everything tells you you can't and about knowing that you're more than what's written in black and white and more than someone else's opinion.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday


Yesterday I saw the Doc,
Was better than bein at work watchin the clock,
I told him I think I'm dyin,
He told me to stop my cryin,
After all, if I pass away,
I won't have to work today!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday: Just Another Day in the Life

Just Another Day in the Life
It's Monday and the sky is a brilliant blue,
While walking to work I got gum on my shoe,
I stopped to pour myself some coffee,
Now there's a stain all over the front of me,
My boss got mad and ranted and raved,
My teeth are on edge, my nerves are frayed,
For everyone else this is a great day it's true,
But I might as well be stuck to the gum on my shoe.

Happy Monday y'all!!

Meeting Bono or Crap! Where are my pants? And my First U2 Concert

Well I warned you that U2 would be popping up here from time to time. As the two month countdown to their show in Denver (my 25th U2 show) begins, I felt like reflecting on my first U2 show and the weird turn of events that resulted in my meeting Bono earlier that same day whilst I was pantsless.

Growing up, I became aware of U2 via the incredible video for Sunday Bloody Sunday that was shot live during their now legendary concert at Red Rocks. I believe it was around the time that Joshua Tree came out though, not when War, the album the song is on, came out. I say that because my hometown didn't get cable TV until I was almost a teenager so I would not have seen them on MTV until around 1987 when Joshua Tree came out.

I remember very clearly sitting watching that video mesmerized. I had never seen such passion in anyone in my life. It didn't fully register then but it stayed with me in the back of my mind. Years later I remembered it when my friend Cheryl undertook my U2 conversion.

It was the summer of 1996. I had just completed my junior year of college and Cheryl had just graduated. I was at home wasting away with panoramic views of corn fields and the drone of cicadas my only entertainment. Cheryl was spending the summer in Champaign where we both went to school. I wanted to spend some time with her before she moved to Chicago and I wanted something, anything, to do. So off I went to spend the weekend with her. There would be drinking and dancing and general summer fun! Not so much. Somehow, we ended up staying in, playing U2 albums and talking nearly all night about U2, of whom she was already a longtime fan. I was blown away by the poetry of the lyrics from album to album, the spirituality that made me feel for once in my life like I wasn't alone with the questions I had. It was a deep conversation, the kind you have in college about life and God and all the really big things.

Not long after that evening, the album Pop came out. I immediately bought it and fell in love with it. Little did I know that U2 purists hated it and had no idea what to make of it. (I still maintain that it is one of their best, most meaningful albums.) After Pop, I started buying their back catalogue as well as any book about them that I could get my hands on. Over the course of that school year, I developed a full scale obssession. Luckily for me, they embarked on a world tour that would bring them to Chicago in the summer of 1997. My roommate and I got tickets in the nosebleed section of Soldier Field and prepared for our trip.

I was so obssessed at this point that I was wishing on stars (seriously) that I would meet the band and looking for omens in everything. When we pulled out of the parking garage headed to Chicago and almost hit a bird Dahlia, my roommate, convinced me that it was a Persian omen of good luck (What can I say? I was grasping at straws! or was I?)

My best friend Brad was also going to Chicago that weekend so we agreed to meet up with him and share a hotel room. U2 was doing 3 shows in Chicago and Cheryl was going to the show the night before Dahlia and I. We agreed to meet up the day of my show to catch up and chat.

When we arrived in Chicago we first went to meet Dahlia's mom for shopping at Bloomingdales. We were enjoying it but, at the same time, itching to get away and try to find out where the band was staying so we could stalk them. We ended up on a wild goose chase out to a hotel near O'Hare airport. Oh how naive I was back then. I now know that they were staying across the street from Bloomingdales! Grr.

The morning of show day I was antsy and couldn't sleep despite being out late the night before. I was up early before Brad and Dahlia. I switched on MTV for something to do and what comes on? Where the Streets Have No Name...you guessed it...Omen! That was it! I couldn't stand it anymore. Didn't my friends realize that U2 was out there somewhere in the city and we were wasting time laying around in the hotel? Like a kid at Christmas, I harrassed Brad and Dahlia until they got up and we agreed to hit the beach. Probably not much chance of seeing Bono, Adam, Edge and Larry hangin' at the beach but it was better than sitting in the hotel. I called Cheryl and she said she would meet us at the entrance to Navy Pier.

We got settled at the beach, leaving Brad to bake himself in the sun. At the appointed time, I donned a T-shirt over my bathing suit and Dahlia a pair of shorts with her bikini top and we ventured forth to meet Cheryl at the nearby Pier. I suppose it should have occured to me that Navy Pier was not an appropriate place to walk around seemingly pantsless but it didn't.

We waited and waited but Cheryl didn't show. We thought maybe she had misunderstood and had gone to the beach instead. So, we headed back towards the beach all the while talking about U2. I was telling Dahlia that I wanted to meet them so badly that I kept looking at random strangers we passed thinking they were members of the band. She jokingly pointed to a guy on a bike and said, "Yeah, like that guy on that bike over there is Bono." I looked, out of reflex, only to realize that it was, in fact, Bono riding a bike!! I was speechless. All I could do was stand there mouth agape slapping Dahlia on the shoulder as I waited for my mouth to catch up with my brain. Finally, I was able to spit it out. She turned to look at me in disbelief and asked me what we should do? Follow him!! So we did! Trying to nonchalantly speed walk after a rock star on a bike is not easy. The nonchalant part is especially difficult when you finally realize that you are in a very public place and very without pants.

As he was on his bike and we were walking, he was quickly getting away from us. So, we decided to cut across the middle of the pier and "head him off at the pass" as he came around the other side. It was hot out, I was out of breath and sunburned, slathered in greasy sunscreen and pantsless but as I stood there gasping, he rode by. Realizing we'd recognized him,he smiled and said "Hey." We freaked...quietly. As sanity returned, we knew we had to run back to the beach for a camera. You might think I also took a moment to put my shorts on at this point...you would be wrong. And let me add that I was wearing a really old bathing suit that had very little elastic left so it kept riding up my butt.

As we were coming back to secretly photograph Bono sitting outside at a cafe, we ran into Cheryl who was also very excited. I assumed her excitement was because she too had spotted him. I asked her if she had seen "him". She said no without asking me who "him" was then quickly explained she had gotten us 3rd row tickets to the show that night! That in and of itself was mind-blowing so there was much screaming and jumping up and down. Then it finally occured to Cheryl to ask me who "him" was. I told her Bono was sitting about 100 feet behind her and like Road Runner in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, she was off like a shot.

I have no excuse for what I did next other than I was dying and convinced that I NEEDED a lemonade to survive. I thought Cheryl would wait but she didn't (and in my right mind I wouldn't have either). By the time I procured the life-saving lemonade and Dahlia and I got to his table, he was politely ending his conversation with Cheryl. In hindsight, I suppose it was all for the best though. The moment I was standing there so close to him, I felt like if I opened my mouth a scalding torrent of vomit would rise up and spew forth upon him and his table. He makes me that nervous. So, I suppose everyone involved was better off that I didn't try to talk to him. Still, I have been kicking my own ass for years. Lemonade?! Really?!

We headed back to the hotel soon after to get ready for the that night's show but not before driving by his table and taking pictures from the car like stalkerazzi (with a circa 1997 35mm film camera made of plastic and purchased at K-Mart no less). Funniest thing is, after we returned to Champaign and I had the pictures developed, I discovered one of him sitting there as a guy in a U2 T-shirt walks right by having no idea he just walked past Bono.

People have asked me over the years why I didn't go back and ask for a picture with him. Honestly, when I admire someone as much as I do Bono I care about them as much as you can care about someone you don't really know. I understand that for them to have a moment of anonymity like that is a very rare thing. I never want to be the person who ruins that for them just so I can get something for my own selfish reasons. It's much more important to me that they have that peaceful moment than it is for me to have a picture that every time I look at it will make me wonder if they were resenting me for bothering them. Believe it or not, we were the only ones during the time that we were there, who recognized him. But I digress.

There were so many great things about that evening. One of my favorites, which I'll never forget, was walking into Soldier Field to our seats. This was in 1997 before Soldier Field was desecrated by that hideous spaceship-looking renovation and before U2 did General Admission for floor seats. It wasn't long until show time and the majority of people were already in their seats on the floor and in the stadium. It wasn't like today when those of us closest to the stage are the first ones in the stadium and we spend hours watching as it slowly fills. We walked onto the floor at the opposite end of the field from the stage and we just kept walking. Past rows and rows of chairs and people we walked. Ushers would stop us about every 50 feet, check our tickets and tell us to keep going like we were VIPS or something. It was AWESOME! I remember looking up and all around me as we got closer and closer to the enormous stage and being awed by the size of the stadium from the vantage point of the field. Finally, there we were, 3rd row! Of course, that didn't last long. We quickly picked a spot right on the rail and acted like we belonged there praying we wouldn't get tossed by security. I stood there in disbelief that I was going to be that close to the band and all that had happened that day. Standing there on the field waiting, the sun began to set and it was a truly beautiful sight to behold as it came shining through the old columns of that classic building. The weather was warm but there was a cool breeze coming in off the lake and it was one of those perfect moments you know you'll never forget.

Of the show, I could say a lot but what it boils down to is that it was a religious experience. People may think that sounds hokey but until you've been to a U2 show, you won't understand. There's a reason that their live shows are legendary. Unlike any other band in the world, U2 can take 60,000-70,000 people or more and make them feel a kind of harmony with each other that I don't think any of us has ever felt before. Every person there feels the immense size of the event and yet also feels like they are having a personal moment with the band that no one else is having. And no matter what your religious beliefs, you will feel a spirit moving through the crowd that defies any other explanation. (Google "U2 concert religious experience" and see how many hits you get.) It's truly a magical thing to experience.

Since that night, I have seen U2 23 more times in 10 cities, 10 states and 2 countries. I have waited in line at certain shows for up to 36 hours for that coveted spot on the rail all for what may only be a moment of eye contact with Bono. But that one moment is worth everything it took to get there. I've made friends waiting in U2 lines, some who have been in my life now for 13 years. I have journeyed to Dublin and Death Valley on pilgrimages that every die-hard fan must undertake. I have touched the Joshua Tree from the album cover and, yes, even cried when they played a song live that I never thought I would hear in person. I've had the chance to meet all of them now. I finally got that close to Bono again. I still didn't say much but at least I didn't barf on him and now I can stop kicking my own ass. U2, the men and their music, mean more to me than I can explain. I can't wait to hit the road in June to see them again before this latest tour ends. It'll be a long 4-5 years waiting for them to come back and if they would decide not to...I have great memories that will last a lifetime. Also, I can always stalk Bono at his home in the south of France.

Pictures from that first show:

Jerry, U2's personal security, who I have been in love with since I took this picture. He leaned forward during the show to whisper (Yell is more accurate I suppose but whisper is so much more intimate) in my ear that I had my finger over the camera lens.

If he hadn't, I would have missed this shot which Bono actually stopped and posed for

The famous Popmart lemon

The stage after the show

Dahlia, Me and Cheryl after the show

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday: Inaugural Edition

So, Mondays suck right? It's the first day back at work after the weekend. You're usually tired from trying to enjoy your weekend freedom and the week stretches out before you like eternity in purgatory.

Years ago I had a job that was miserable, not so long ago I had a miserable one too but that's neither here nor there. At the long ago miserable job, I used to write purposefully bad poetry about absurd or mundane topics to entertain my coworkers. The collection, as a whole, is called "The Itty Bitty Book of Bitter Poetry" I thought I would share them here on my blog.

Maybe you'll find them amusing enough to give you something to smile about when you have a case of the "Mondays". The first rule of bad poetry is, of course, that no matter what verbal contortions you have to go through, your poem MUST rhyme so keep that in mind!

With no further ado, I give you...


Life it seems to me is rather dull and grey,
There's nothing I can think of to brighten up my day,
I think I'll go home and lay on the couch,
I'll stare at the wall and sit with a slouch,
I have low self-esteem I say to you,
Things couldn't get worse if I were a big ball of goo.

If you have a topic you'd like a poem about, please leave a comment and I will endeavor to write you a poem so lacking in quality and style that you can't help but feel better about yourself that you didn't write it.

The Eros Voice: I Know What He Wants and I'm Here to Warn You

I was watching the Ten Commandments this weekend and thinking, of course, about the voice of God. As Moses was talking to the burning bush I couldn't help but think of the voice of Eros Entertainment. You know the one I'm talking about. It compels you, it whispers to you in the dark and haunts your every waking moment.

Who is the voice? Where does he live? Does he work for Eros? Is he an enigmatic figure haunting the offices of Eros like the Phantom of the Opera? Does he know the UTV hand lady? What is this power he has over us?

I remembered the first time I fell under his powerful spell and decided to go back for a visit. I popped in the DVD of Om Shanti Om, sat back on my couch and expected a simple movie, instead I was thrust into a world of infinite and, well, vague possibilities. Or so I thought. It gradually became clear to me that a vast and frightening conspiracy has been at work in Bollywood for years and we are nearing the hour when these evil plans will be executed unless we can stop he who speaks but has no name!

First we are drawn through the cosmos almost against our will

to a place high above our home planet, Earth.

Suddenly, a divine light bursts from all the major land masses and like a volcano gives birth to new land, the Eros banner is thrust onto the screen with a fancy ribbon and two spotlights provided by God? the voice?

Then a montage begins and the voice hearkens to us, taking us all the way back to 1977. He then begins to recount the Eros story and the thrall they have held us in lo these past 33 years (the age of Christ when he died by the way. Coincidence?) They have made us laugh

(interesting poster child for laughter) they've forced our tears

they've made us stop and wonder why (just like me right now! This is getting eerie), they've made us feel the highs and touch the skies (WHO is this poetic, manipulator of emotions? Kyun?!)

Then the voice dazzles us with new fangled technology, digital convergence and new media! Then it reveals it's true nature...to bring about the one world government, see?!

Not just that, but it says it will take all of this to a new dimension! Is the voice a Traveller like in Star Trek? Has he achieved interdimensional travel? Will he take me with him? or is he taking Leo?

My God!! He's got Leo! Nahiiiin!!

Then, to my horror, like a veil being lifted from my eyes, the true nature of all this was revealed to me. The voice! The voice itself is responsible for the Indian diaspora (Eros is simply a front, you see) and now that it has disbursed Indians all over the world, it will be forcing the rest of the world to inhabit India.

And somehow Pierce Brosnan figures into his plot. Diabolical!!

Integrated studio model and global distribution seem to be the code words for this operation. We are being led like cattle to the slaughter I tell you!! There is then a series of subliminal messages embedded in the video to make us docile and complacent. As we sit hypnotized, the voice then tells us to prepare for the "quantum leap." So that trip through the cosmos, flying unprotected through space, is exactly what the voice has planned for all of us. We are being desensitized by being forced to watch this over and over so we won't struggle when our time to leap dimensions comes.

Once I woke from my OSO stupor and while I still had enough free will to do so, I did some more investigating into this vast conspiracy and what I found was cause for even more alarm. This secret information is hidden in plain sight on the internet . Pay particular attention to the way the voice has infiltrated everywhere and is not afraid to publicize it!!

"The group has its own worldwide offices in India, UK, USA, Middle East, Australia, Fiji and further liaison offices to service Bollywood fans in every nook and corner of the world. Eros has truly emerged as a leader in helping the World's largest Film Industry, reach all parts of the World."

Film industry?! I'm onto you Mr. Voice!

We have very little time left!! The voice is working on a 5 year timetable that started in July 2006

See what he's done there? He knows people are attracted to sparkly things.

"Eros aims to expand over next 5 years through increased distribution abroad, selling film content in formats, which can be viewed on the Internet and via mobile phones, and distributing the digital movies in India. EROS is truly taking Bollywood Places"

It's all just code for how he will remove us from our homes and transfer all of us to India where he can keep us corralled like sheep!

I also found older DVDS before this brainwashing program was put into use to prepare us for displacement. The groundwork for this forced removal has been being laid for years with other propaganda ads.

He tried magic first before technology and quantum physics.

"Spell-binding spectacles"

"Magnificence beyond belief"

"Irresistible charm"

..."the magical trance of Bollywood"

For 25 years, one name has cast the spell of Bollywood across the globe (name? Try one voice!). Insidious!!

At first I think he wanted to destroy the world all together.

Then, for some reason he changed his mind and decided to send Desis out into the world to ultimately take over.

See how he flaunts his magic

See how he has bribed Desis to leave India

it builds and builds until finally he tell us his ultimate purpose, the reason behind it all, the master plan is to be "taking bollywood....places"

wah, wah, wahhh. Huh?...big build up...tiny payoff, right? (That's What She Said) But you see, he was lulling us into a false sense of security with this vagueness. He didn't want to alarm us until he came back in his new technological avatar. He is still taking Bollywood to these mysterious and non-specific "places" he spoke of but now you and I know that those places are our homes, schools, parks and playgrounds.

Global domination is more like it.

So, who is the voice and why does he want to do this to us? I still have no answer to those questions. The answers I seek now are so much more important than that. How do we stop him? How much time do we have left? If I fail, can I have dibs on Mannat? These are the questions that haunt me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

This week's film is: The Last Supper starring Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, Annabeth Gish, Courtney Vance, Bill Paxton, etc.

This movie is a great black comedy about a group of friends sharing a house while they complete their graduate studies. When one of the friend's car breaks down one night, he gets a ride home from Bill Paxton's character and they invite him to stay for dinner. The conversation turns political and Bill Paxton's character is revealed to be not so nice to the point that he attacks one of the friends and the others accidentally kill him while trying to stop him. After they bury him in the garden they start to think that since they rid the world of one bad person, perhaps they should keep doing so every Sunday night after dinner. What follows is a hilarious series of dinners where they lead the chosen person into conversation giving the person a chance to save or condemn themselves based on the views they profess. Just how crowded will the garden get? Watch the movie and find out. I love a good serial killer comedy, don't you?

This week's book recommendation is a series by Karen Marie Moning, The Fever Series beginning with Dark Fever.

This is an urban fantasy series that takes place in a Dublin where Faeries exist but only certain mortals know about it and Faeries aren't exactly the cute little creatures with wings that we've been told they are. The story focuses on the heroine, MacKayle Lane, who goes to Dublin looking for answers to her twin sister's murder only to find a lot more than she bargained for. MacKayla is your typical 20-something, southern belle with not a lot going on upstairs it would seem from first glance but she becomes quite a bad ass as the series goes on (she's a heroine very much in the Buffy tradition).

The hero of the series is hot, hot, hot. He's dangerous and mysterious and sexy, just as he should be. Four books in and I still can't figure out exactly who he is or what he's really up to which is great. So many books are too predictable but not these.

This is not a series like the Anita Blake books which are just an excuse for the heroine to have sex with as many characters as possible. In fact, there's very little of that. It's a great read and will keep you interested from first word to last. I couldn't put the books down and can't wait from one to the next for them to be released. There are 5 in all with the fifth coming out this December. So, start reading now and you'll be ready for the big finale!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coming Soon...or soonish? Reviews take me awhile, OK?!

I am hoping in the next couple of weeks to have in-depth discussions of Dil Se, Maya Memsaab and Asoka up on the blog. This is ambitious for me to say all three in the next couple of weeks but I can't stop thinking about all of them and I need to get my thoughts out. Hopefully, some of you will participate in the discussion!

These are three of my favorite SRK films and all of them so rich in symbolism that they are a former literature major's dream come true. So, hopefully, good things in the works!

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

This week's movie is Queen Margot a French film from 1994 starring Vincent Perez and Isabelle Adjani.

I love this movie! The cinematography is gorgeous as are the sets and costumes. It definitely captures the hedonistic viper's nest that was life in the royal court. The movie takes place in 16th centiry France and is the story of Marguerite de Valois, sister to the king of France and daughter of the scheming Catherine de Medici. It is a love story set against the backdrop of the Catholics and Protestants struggling for control of France. Margot is married off as a political pawn but falls in love with a simple soldier, she Catholic and he a Protestant. There is political intrigue, doomed love, suggestions of incest, poisonings, beheadings, sex in alleyways and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Good stuff!!

Vincent Perez is great in his role as the soldier who falls in love with the much maligned Margot. He is sexy and intense. Isabelle Adjani is exquisitely beautiful like a porcelain doll but her Margot is anything but fragile. She is called a whore and much hated but you see that who she really is is a lonely woman besieged from all sides who needs a purpose other than political pawn and someone she can trust and love.

So if you like political drama, period movies, and epic love stories then you should definitely watch this one.

This week's book selection is my favorite novel of all time, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

This is, of course, one of the most famous books of all time so many of you have probably read it already (and seen the AMAZING miniseries). For those of you who haven't, it is the story of the Cleary family and their life working on a sheep station in the Australian Outback from 1915- 1969. But, it's about so much more than that too. The book really focuses on the only daughter in the family, Meggie and her lifelong love of Father Ralph de Bricassart, the parish priest.

This story is EPIC! You have ambition v. love, scheming matriarchs, Vatican politics, broken vows both marital and priestly, the questions of are we doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again in our own lives and from generation to generation, the hardships of life in the Outback in the early 20th century, a son's love of his mother and hatred of the man he thinks is his father, and finally, whether or not it's true that if you love something or someone too much the gods will become jealous and take it from you.

This book really deserves a lot more than I can write in a simple, off-the-cuff recommendation...maybe someday. I have to say though that Meggie is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. No matter what life throws at her, she just keeps going. You have to admire that. I ADORE the myth of the thorn bird that Father Ralph tells to Meggie in the book which represents the struggle of the book's characters. I have searched for years to find the myth in Celtic folklore and have been unsuccessful but I had a chance to ask Colleen McCullough at a book signing years ago if it really was a myth or something she made up and she said it was an actual Welsh myth so there you have it. I will leave you with it because I happen to believe it's true, so much so that I have a thorn tree with a bird impaled tattooed somewhere on my body ;-)

There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the Earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain...Or so says the legend.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010



So those of you on Twitter may or may not follow celebrities. What some of me and my Fritters (that's my word for Twitter friends because tweeple is just silly) have noticed is that when the celebs have nothing interesting to say about their lives, they resort to bestowing all kinds of new agey, positive energy, life affirming crap via tweet.

Yesterday my Fritter Sachin (of the world famous Curry Smugglers who you MUST listen to. Click the link NOW!!) lost his shiz on one such celeb and told her what to do with her B.S. Of course, she tweeted back that she doesn't usually do that and he should actually read what she tweets on a regular basis before jumping on her and then he kinda apologized ....but the point is: It's annoying! These are celebrities who have success, money, fame and every material thing they could wish for. I don't want to have them shoving their musings about the "miracle of life" down my throat. So, Sachin asked for mocktations that are the opposite of inspirational and what he asks for, he gets. Please read below and feel better about feeling bad ;-)

Shoot for the moon but don't expect to do anything more than smoke, fizzle a little and quietly pop without ever leaving the ground.

As you lay down to sleep tonight remember someone somewhere in the world is thinking of you and how to defriend you without you noticing

No one can make you feel inferior... without you being inferior and I have some bad news for you...

Life is short...that's about it

Keep your head up and you'll trip over your own feet, probably get hurt pretty bad.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll sell them and we all starve.

Hope springs eternal but we die within like 75, 80 years

Love is the greatest force in the world so force someone to love you today

Love is all around you so what's wrong with you that you're alone?

Everyday is a miracle because there a million horrible ways you could die but you haven't...yet.

Winners never quit and losers are very well-rested and stay young-looking much longer

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you...unless you're suicudal then stay the hell away from me.

Walk on with a smile in your heart and you'll die of a very rare and bizarre heart condition.

Love yourself because if you don't, no one will. (@RedBlack75 Self love is the greatest kind of love really... @pareshg Consistently the most satisfying anyway)

Greet the morning with a smile because the rest of the day is downhill from there.

Always follow your dreams because real life sucks and it's better if you sleep thru as much of it as possible.

Always reach for the stars...it's a good way to check for B.O. without people knowing.

Together we can do anything! Without me though, you're hopeless.

It's always darkest before the dawn, unless you died in your sleep in which case it just stays dark.

You are in charge of your own fate! Remember when you worked at 7-11 and they wouldn't even put you in charge of the slurpee machine? You're screwed.

You are capable of things you never thought possible...and that's why you're under arrest.

Home is where they have to take you in...Whaddya mean restraining order?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Dude, no problem, just hit on blind chicks.

The best way to summit your outer mountains is to conquer your inner ones first. It's a real shame about your inner broken legs.

Love means never having to say you're sorry. I love you. Now I'm going to treat you like shit and never apologize. This is great!

People often live not knowing what vast power is available to them, or more accurately, what vast power they themselves are. Luckily, you realized early on how powerless you are so you can avoid any unrealistic expectations.

Admit to your mistakes before someone exaggerates the story or, do what I do and blame your mistake on someone else and exaggerate the story before they can deny it.

The miracle of being alive is a very important gift. Too bad you got your life at God's white elephant gift exchange.

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed...every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle...when the sun comes up, you'd better be running. Cuz Sarah Palin's comin' and she's got a big ass shot gun and a helicopter!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kurbaan...It's All About Being Too Much of a Pansy to Say the Right Thing With Your Film

Karan Johar and I are so in a fight!! Too bad he doesn't have a clue who I am because I have a few things to get off my chest about this “film”.

Many of you may argue that this is not Karan's fault because the film was written and directed by Rensil D'Silva, Karan only produced it via Dharma Productions. I say that's crap! (witness the self-control I'm using in avoiding profanity.) This movie has Karan's dirty little fingerprints all over it! I know when I've been Joharred and believe me I have been, and how! But don't take my word for it. There are plenty of articles out there discussing how this originated as Karan's story before Rensil took over. I have my issues with Mr. D'Silva as well which I will get to. For now let me just say that these two making a movie together is as good an idea as say casting Uday Chopra in Jodhaa Akbar instead of Hrithik Roshan...yeah, ponder that one for awhile.

Kurbaan is supposed to be primarily a love story set against a backdrop of “global terrorism”. Charming concept. According to Karan himself,

“Of course the film is conveying an important point of view with an eye on global terrorism. However, at the heart of it all, it's a love story and that itself is its biggest strength too. This is what constitutes for an emotional narrative against the backdrop of terrorism. Of course emotional strength is the film's mainstay but I can confidently state that Kurbaan does scratch the surface more than any other film based on a similar subject. Still, we are not making a political or a social commentary here.”

Can someone explain to me how one makes a film with global terrorism as a “backdrop” without making a political or social commentary? No wait, never mind, I saw Kurbaan. You know what it's called? Irresponsible film making and the worst kind of fence sitting.

Setting the ridiculousness of the film's premise and execution aside for a moment, I want to talk about how Karan and D'Silva portray terrorists and terrorism in their films, the damage done by refusing to take a strong stance and what seems to be Karan's attitude towards Americans in general. When I started watching Kurbaan, I knew it wasn't directed by Karan but I didn't know who the director was or who wrote the script. It didn't take long to figure out. After the terrorists got two impassioned speeches (Riyaaz's argument in Ehsaan's class and Aapa's explanation to Avantika) in which to make their case that even had me thinking “Gee, maybe they have a point” and, to a lesser extent Riyaaz's conversation with his father upon his return from covering the war in Iraq, I got a feeling of deja vu. I thought, “Man, this feels a lot like Rang De Basanti.” Imagine my lack of surprise when I googled the movie afterward and found Rensil D'Silva to be the man behind both films.

I have spoken at length in my Rang De Basanti review about the misplaced and inappropriate romanticism with which D'Silva portrayed characters who were, for all of their school boy charm, still just murderers, terrorists. I took it easy on him there because he was dealing with freedom fighters from another era as well as present day but now I think I was wrong in doing so. I was wrong because he does the same thing in Kurbaan with people who murder their wives and keep the body in the basement until it stinks, imprison their wives to keep them quiet, blow up a plane killing over 200 members of a UN delegation, plan to blow up seven subway stations in New York and all the while justify it by claiming it is but a small repayment to the US for the number of people killed in bombings of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The justification given for terrorist activities (which 9/11 is confusingly lumped in with) in both big scenes is the personal impact of US bombings of Afghanistan and Pakistan on the characters in the film. When did we bomb Afghanistan and Pakistan before 9/11? The message and motivations are so muddled in this film that at the end, even though the filmmakers proclaim to make no political commentary, they end up making the terrorists look more sympathetic than anyone else in the film. Every reason the terrorists give for their actions either goes unanswered or the response is shot down by further justification until no one opposes the terrorist viewpoint anymore apparently because they have run out of arguments. The scene in Ehsaan's classroom is just painful to watch. So, are we to assume then that the the big counter argument that terrorism is bad is the consequences of the terrorist's actions, death to all? If that's the case, the argument is made pointless by killing so many innocents too. If you're going to be so explicit with your terrorists' arguments for why they do what they do then you have to do the same with condemnation of those acts. Otherwise, you end up with Kurbaan and Rang De Basanti, two films that make terrorism look romantic and patriotic.

But what did I expect from Karan, a man so politically correct and terrified of offending anyone that he issued a written apology to the Shiv Sena goons and posted apologies at the multi-plexes for using the historical name Bombay in Wake Up Sid. Hey, Karan, here's my advice to you, strap on a pair of balls and learn how to use them! And while you're at it, stop looking down your nose at Americans at the same time you use our cities and technology to make your movies. This movie was originally supposed to take place in London but the English denied them filming permission due to sensitivity over recent London tube bombings. I wonder if the story would have been quite so insulting had it been set in England as opposed to the U.S. I have an ugly hunch, it would not have.

It is sadly becoming clear to me, Karan, that you think that all or at least the vast majority of Americans are ignorant, bigoted yokels. The irony here is that you believe you're so much smarter than we are and yet your movies keep proving the opposite. Have you gotten a clue yet as to how offensive your black stereotypes in My Name is Khan are? And am I right that you consistently pick the worst American actors you can find for your films on purpose, giving your audience or your colleagues something to feel superior about? Or is this how you actually see us? Then again, your Indian heroes in this film do some of the dumbest things I have ever seen so maybe you just think you're smarter than everyone. In any case, the irresponsibility, naivete and downright stupidity you have consistently incorporated in your movies of late show you to be the ignorant one and the thing I hate most in this world, a self-oblivious hypocrite.

Examples of film maker's stupidity...I give you, the ridiculousness of Kurbaan:

The background score over the opening credits- When will Hindi films about serious subjects quit using Mission Impossible/Bourne Identity type jaunty tunes to open with? It's inappropriate and sets the wrong mood from the beginning. Terrorism is not a fun adventure romp. Cut it out.

Note to Saif- when you have the surgeon pull your face back that far to get rid of wrinkles, you need to remind him to move your hairline back down. Aiee! That's enough forehead for 3 heroes.

Note to Kareena- Get a new make-up artist. Half of your eyelid should not be covered with black eyeliner no matter how exotic you want to look. Cleopatra would look askance at you. Also, the snot at the end...I guess that's what you think qualifies for great acting and gritty realism? Was gross. I'd rather watch Poo on repeat than see that again.

Saif and Kareena's chemistry was gross. Felt like I was watching Saif and Kareena foreplay as opposed to characters falling in love. Major backfire!

What is with the fade to black and long pause as scene transitions? Horribly amateurish.

Ehsaan's job interview- Horrible American actor is no surprise but the dialog!!! Why don't you just have him come right out and say that Americans are closed-minded bigots who will attack anyone they perceive to be Muslim without a second thought. Oh, I know why. You think you're cleverly veiling your opinion of us. You undercut everything in the film about the dangers of fundamentalism when you make the US out to be full of idiots so xenophobic that the argument could be made that we deserve what we get.

Let's talk about the way Avantika treats Salma's cry for help. She doesn't call Salma's friend immediately as requested, let alone the police and when she does tell Rihana, no one takes it seriously. “Oh, it's probably just a typical case of domestic violence.” (And in what world is THAT an acceptable response anyway?) “Yeah, I'm just over-reacting, teehee.” I've never seen anything so idiotic in my life. Oh wait, yes I have...the way Avantika creeps around the wife beater's house, goes into the cellar, overhears a terrorist cell plotting, finds Salma's dead body, cries out alerting terrorist cell to her presence, runs to home across the street, locks door and stands there staring at it while terrorists break into home. Now, she's stupid enough to deserve what she gets.

If you want to take a moment in your film to make a point about racial profiling in airports, a scene that takes place only days after a plane bombing that kills 200+ members of UN delegation is not going to make the strongest argument. Someone may argue that Riyaaz reacted the way he did in this scene as a way to ingratiate himself to Ehsaan. If that's the case then the direction for the scene is horrible because there is nothing in the performance to suggest that. He doesn't do this until he sits down after the bag search. I'm just guessing because I can't believe any director could be that ham-fisted but I should have suspended this disbelief long ago I suppose.

Karan, I hope if you ever happen upon a terrorist cell's secret plot to blow up a plane and pull off a 9/11-scale subway bombing, that you don't attempt to bust the cell yourself like Riyaaz does. One, because dumb as he is, Riyazz is smarter than you and two, it's the dumbest freaking thing I may have ever scene on CELLULOID.

Let me tell you something so you can pass it on to Riyazz and Avantika, 911 ain't just a new way of marking time in the western world. It's the number you call if you know a plane is about to explode or you discover a terrorist cell operating in the suburbs or terrorists and wife murderers have just chased you into your home.

Where can I buy that nifty first aid kit that Ehsaan and Avantika have in their bathroom cabinet that comes complete with a surgical needle? I'm going to need one of those after I gouge my eyes out watching your next movie.

Am I still supposed to sympathize with your hero after he pulls the trigger on that gun just because the terrorists didn't put bullets in it and the innocent fast food clerk doesn't get his brains blown out for no reason? Seriously?

The car chase- one man versus about 10 policemen. He's pinned down in his bullet-ridden SUV and yet he manages to take them all out and send the SUV up in flames with one shot despite the fact that it had been hit with 20-30 bullets already with no problem. Ok, sure.

Bodies have to be burnt to dust before dental record identification would be ruled out and they certainly wouldn't do so at the crime scene. But maybe I'm just being nit-picky now.

There's more. I know there is but my rage has been vented and I can't vent no more. Let me close with this quote from Karan,

“No, I don't see foresee any controversies around the film since it is only showing things as they are. It has been made with a huge level of sensitivity and I am sure it won't be offending anyone's sensibilities. “

First, you can't make a film about global terrorism without controversy and offending sensibilities. Whose sensibilities are you protecting anyway? There are terrorists and then there is everyone else. So, you're protecting terrorist sensibilities? Great logic. Second, what you have done is offend your audience's sensibilities and intelligence. Cut it out before you have no more audience...oh wait, you didn't have much for this film did you? Learn your lesson please. If you are too frightened or ignorant of an issue to deal with it assertively and clearly, then leave it to someone else. Your love stories are beautiful and of those, I am the biggest fan. So, maybe you should stick to those. And Rensil D'Silva should never ever make a movie about terrorists or freedom fighters or anyone remotely related to any struggle against anything ever again.