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'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.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

The film I am recommending this week is Dangerous Beauty starring Catherine McCormack, Jacqueline Bisset, Rufus Sewell and Oliver Platt and Moira Kelly in a small role.

The movie takes place in 16th Century Venice and is as rich and opulent as that implies. The costumes are gorgeous, the sets are grand and the romance is epic! Catherine McCormack plays Veronica Franco. She is a young woman from a good but poor family. When she finds out that she cannot marry the nobleman she loves (Rufus Sewell) she chooses the life of a courtesan as they are the only women in their society permitted an education or any sort of freedom. Will her love survive her new profession? Will she survive the Inquisition? Watch and find out!

This movie is one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures. Fun and fantastic from start to finish.

My book rec for this week is the first book of a trilogy which is the first in a series of 3 trilogies. The book is Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

This book is in the fantasy genre but it is very smart and like nothing I had ever read before. The first book and the entire trilogy has everything! There is political intrigue in the royal court, scandalous liaisons, courtesans of every persuasion, assassins and spies, sword fighting and war all in a world that worships a god whose main tenet is "Love as thou wilt." Boy do they ever!

The first few chapters are very densely packed with world-creating but if you have patience and stick with it, you will not regret it. The heroine of these novels is wholly unique and I love her, I love the man who becomes her consort and I love her story! The writing is sophisticated and very poetic in many places. It's an altogether fantastic read and I read it over and over again without getting tired of it.

I will warn you that there is a lot of sex; some of it homoerotic and some of it sado-masochistic but I don't think it distracts from the greatness of the story.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Koyla or Mute Stable Boys FTW!

If you haven't guessed already by the "K" title of this movie, it is a film by Rakesh Roshan. I have given Rakesh Roshan a bad rap in the past but I may have to give him the benefit of the doubt in the future after this most recent viewing of Koyla. I have found new depths to the movie that I didn't notice before and he does always entertain.

What bothers me most about Rakesh Roshan is that he borrows (and that's putting it nicely) so heavily from other films' plots and his movies are the kind that you feel guilty enjoying because they unabashedly cater to the lowest common denominator. In Koi Mil Gaya it was the painfully obvious similarities to E.T. and also the 1968 American film Charly. In Krrish he even copied himself which I will point out later in this review. In Koyla he did it again copying the Kevin Costner film Revenge plus a little bit of Rambo and just a dash of Forrest Gump. The effects are bad, the wardrobe and the hair is unforgiveable and he has stolen plots but what he also has is an action/romance/drama packed film that will keep you interested from beginning to end. What surprised me into reconsidering my inherent ambivalence towards his films are the Hindu symbols running through Koyla and the little touches here and there that reinforce them. Really cool stuff! (I have explained in more detail at the bottom of this review)

Koyla is the story of Raja Saab played by Amrish Puri who rules as a tyrant over the local villages and workers in his coal mines. (For those of you who have seen the movie before, Raja says "bloody fool" exactly 13 times. I counted just for you!) He has a crazy brother, Brijwa, who runs amok raping, pillaging, beating. He has a mute stable boy/slave (yes, he's called a slave) named Shankar played by Shah Rukh Khan (dil squish!). He also has a secretary, Bindiya, who sleeps with him for power and money when he can get it up, which it turns is not very often despite ingesting copious amounts of herbs which are a homemade version of Viagra. His inability to perform in the bedroom is blamed on the available woman not being desirable enough or so the local snake oil salesman tells him. He is advised to get himself a new woman who will stir his desire. Unfortunately for Gauri, played by Madhuri Dixit, it's about this time that Raja sees her for the first time and becomes obssessed with having her. Add to the mix Gauri's absentee brother and unscrupulous Auntie and Uncle and it's disaster for Gauri.

There is, of course, a love story at the heart of Koyla as well as a tale of evil deeds and vengeance. Shankar and Gauri's love story is quite beautiful. What makes it so is the way the two characters begin to evolve upon meeting each other and grow into their relationship and each other(despite the mad Rambo-like jungle chase they are involved in much of the time).

When we first see Shankar he is literally running with hunting dogs, he is compared in conversation to a loyal dog and he presents Raja's hunting prize to him on his knees, head down, giddy in his master's praise as a dog would. When Gauri enters the picture and Shankar realizes how she has been deceived and mistreated, he begins to look at Raja differently. It's as if Gauri awakens the compassionate human being in him. He begins to stand up for Bindiya and Gauri, eventually breaking away from Raja. He goes from slave to protector of innocents to man fighting for and winning the right to self-determination.

Just as Gauri awakens the compassionate human in Shankar, he awakens the woman in her. When we first see Gauri she is a mischievious woman-child still running around tormenting priests at the temple and spending her days with the village children. Once she finds herself married to the old, lecherous Raja she goes through a crisis, at the pinnacle of which she meets Shankar. When she realizes that she and Shankar are essentially in the same situation, both prisoners to Raja, she softens toward him and together, they care for each other and grow as people. As much as possible, in the situations she finds herself in, she is not a victim. She fights when she can and rebels when she can.

By the end of the film, both Shankar and Gauri have become strong people in charge of their own lives and able to punish those who robbed them of their choices before. They have also become a formidable team working together to achieve their goals and assert their personhood.

I also have to give kudos to the filmmakers for the way the relationship between Gauri and Bindiya is treated. So many times in life and in movies, women are each other's worst enemies. In Koyla, however, they do not pit the two against each other. Although Bindiya would have every motivation to resent Gauri, she does not. She becomes Gauri's protector and Gauri becomes hers. I definitely applaud the solidarity in that relationship as opposed to the easier and more titillating route of cat fighting and scheming the filmakers could have taken.

The main thing that Koyla has going for it in my opinion is of course Shah Rukh Khan. Even with one of the worst mullets in hair history (Where oh where was Dilshad?) the man is amazing to watch. He is nothing short of entrancing onscreen. In this role he is especially fascinating because he is mute for at least 2 hours so that all communication is done with body language and eyes. When he's a slave, before he begins to evolve, his posture is often curled in as if to look smaller and avoid notice or as someone constantly in fear of being whipped like an abused animal. His eyes convey an innocence and vulnerability that immediately inspire your compassion and protective instincts.

There is a scene where Gauri comes to his hut to tend his wounds. This scene will break your heart! His eyes somehow convey every slap, every whipping, every emotional scar and indignity that he has ever suffered without once shedding a tear. Throughout the film he conveys torment, confusion, love, anger, joy and sadness all with his eyes. I can't say enough about his performance. I can't imagine another actor pulling it off. Much has been said about Shah Rukh Khan's eyes and I have to agree. They have an eloquence that I have rarely, if ever, seen before.

I believe Madhuri Dixit is at the height of her beauty in this movie. Her dancing is wonderful. She is a great actress and she does a great job in Koyla. She is equally believable as the childish Gauri at the beginning through her transition to powerful, mature woman at the end. She is exquisite in the item number Sanson Ki Mala Pe Simroon Main Pee Ka Naam where she dances under the statue of Shiva. This is one of my favorite item numbers of all time. A terrific scene from beginning to end that should not be missed. This scene marks a very important transition in the movie and the characters which I will discuss in the religious symbols section at the end.

Finally, Amrish Puri as the lecherous old goat Raja Saab and Salim Ghouse as his lunatic, animalistic brother Brijwa are two of the creepiest villains in filmi history. Yes, they're campy and over the top but I defy you to not get the shivers at the thought of having Raja Saab turn his lustful gaze on you or at the prospect of being anywhere near Brijwa.

This film has a lot of problems, I'm not gonna lie. I rarely find Johnny Lever as funny as he is supposed to be but he's not horrible in the quiet scenes where he's just being Shankar's friend. His father is annoying throughout and none of the comedy in the film worked for me. When Shankar suddenly turns into Rambo in the jungle it's a bit silly but then you have a sweet scene where he brings Gauri food that kinda makes up for it. There's also a scene where he starts running and splints break off his legs a la Forrest Gump that will have you rolling your eyes. There is a lot of improbable stuff that happens during the "jungle time" as I like to call it but I truly believe that the relationships and evolution of characters in the film more than make up for it. And, hey, I grew up watching Rambo movies with my dad and I loved them, so what can I say?

That pretty much sums up my feelings about Koyla. It's not fully original, some parts are totally campy, over the top and just plain bad. However, the surprisingly smart and heartfelt evolution of the two main characters and their relationship plus the riveting performance by Shah Rukh Khan and the beauty and talent of Madhuri Dixit more than make up for the shortcomings. This is truly one of my favorite Shah Rukh films and, in my opinion, Rakesh Roshan's best film.

Religious symbols in Koyla-
I will be the first to admit that I am way out of my depth talking about Hindu religious symbols. I had a hunch while watching and did some research and the mind boggles at the amount of information I came up with. That being said, I think knowing that these symbols are there enrich the movie-watching experience and show that Rakesh Roshan is smarter than I gave him credit for previously. So, here's what I got and I encourage you to keep it in mind as you watch and see what else you can find.

Gauri is a young, innocent girl in the beginning of the film and is a representation of the goddess Gauri who represents purity and austerity. She is the Kanya (young, unmarried) Parvati who had undergone severe penance in order to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Unmarried girls pray to Gauri for a virtuous husband. The goddess Gauri is the peaceful, innocent aspect of the goddess Durga. Durga fought and killed Mahishasura and his army. This demon represents the egotistical propensity that brute strength is all that is needed to acquire selfish desires. You can see how Gauri in the movie follows the same evolution as her goddess namesake as she evolves into a strong woman who fights the evil of Raja Saab at Shankar's side. Raja Saab also uses his brute strength to obtain his wealth and Gauri and anything else he desires. Durga is the Mother Goddess. She is Mother Nature and Shiva is the Father of the Universe.

One of Shiva's many manifestations is as Shankara, giver of joy. So, Shankar in the beginning of the film is Shankara the peaceful, gentle manifestation of Shiva. But, we are given a clue to his forthcoming evolution in the first scene when Bindiya comments that "he is not a man but a storm." Rudra, another manifestation of Shiva, is the god of the roaring storm and is usually portrayed in accordance with the element he represents as a fierce, destructive deity. Rudra is also viewed as the protector of humanity against its enemies just as Shankar protests Gauri and Bindiya and eventually all those under Raja Saab's tyranny. Just as Shiva and Durga are consorts, so Gauri and Shankar are meant to be together.

Rudra is associated with the color red as is the goddess Gauri so watch for red in the movie. Durga is known for her mudras or small, precise hand movements, so pay attention to the way Gauri uses her hands when she dances. Also watch in the scene where Gauri goes to Shankar's hut to tend his wounds and she fixes his shrine which was disturbed in a fight. The shrine is dedicated to Shiva and Durga and we are shown Shankar's and Gauri's reflections in the glass of the pictures. This is pretty obvious foreshadowing that they are not going to be helpless for long. Finally, pay close attention to the Sanson Ki Mala Pe Simroon Main Pee Ka Naam item number mentioned above as it's my opinion that this scene is where the shift occurs from their peaceful manifestations of the gods to their destructive avatars. The intensity of the dance, the events that spur Gauri to dance and Shankar to play the drums (drums associated with Shiva) and the scene taking place under an enormous statue of Shiva kinda clue us in as well.

Before I close, I mentioned in the beginning that Rakesh Roshan has copied himself in Krrish and he does so from this film. I believe Shankar is an early incarnation of Krrish. Allow me to demonstrate: Krrish has superhuman powers including outrunning horses. Shankar has superhuman powers including outrunning dogs. Krrish is a simple, rustic raised in nature. Shankar too is a rustic character obviously quite close to nature as we see in the jungle scenes. Krrish wears horrible, homespun clothes using strange scarf as belt and Shankar also wears awful homespun clothes using rope as belt. Both go on quests to win the women they love and seek vengeance for their families. I rest my case.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Because it's too HOT not to get its own post

It's like someone found out about my plan to kidnap him and tie him to a chair. I don't know if I should be hiding from authorities or suing for copywrite infringement.

Come know you wanna leave a comment. This is the place to behave like a 12 year old girl!!! I'll start things off.
As soon as I saw this picture, I set it as the background on my laptop and then did my thing on the computer for a couple of hours. When I closed down to make dinner, I had forgotten that I changed the picture and I literally gasped when I saw the picture again. He's just so damn hot!
So, come on, get your squee on!!!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Friday Movie and Book Rec

This week's movie is Love Song for Bobby Long an American film starring John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson and Gabriel Macht.

I adore this movie for several reasons. The story is set and the movie was filmed in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities. You can feel New Orleans in the way the story unfolds, kinda slow and lazy in the Delta heat. It stars Scarlett Johansson who I am quite fond of as an actress and Gabriel Macht who is a beautiful man and does not star in enough movies.

The story is melancholy and tragic and yet happy enough in the end. It's a story that shows that everyone has family whether they think they deserve it or not and even misfits fit in once they find home. I am not a big John Travolta fan these days but this is not his typical role. And while his character in this movie is not very likable in the beginning, you can't help but grow to care about him as he seeks redemption. Ultimately the movie teaches us that a lot of times broken people can't heal themselves but they can heal each other.

The book I have for you this week is Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend by Robert James Waller.

This is from the same man who wrote 'The Bridges of Madison County'. While I must admit that I find the prose florid, the metaphors exalted and the characters Mary Sues, I still have a real love of this book. Maybe it's because it's set partly on a Midwestern college campus and partly in India, one place I spent some of the best times of my life and the other I hope to do the same someday. Maybe it's because he writes with a certain nostalgia and melancholy, both things that I adore. The sentimentality is nearly unforgivable at times and yet this book speaks to me. In fact there are lines of it that I could even say haunt me without being guilty of exaggeration.

Both the book and the movie leave me with the same longing for places I've never been but might go to, people I've never met but might love, someone I've never been but could be. I hope they do the same for you.

Life in a ...Metro...Makes me Wanna Smack Somebody!

OK, deep cleansing breath...This movie sends all the wrong messages or, when it sends the right ones, it does so so late that the viewer no longer believes or cares. This is going to be FULL OF SPOILERS because no one should waste their time watching this movie if they haven't already.

Essentially, you have a film about eight people looking for love, companionship, sex, escape. First you are introduced to Rahul who works in a call center and lives in a flat that he is babysitting for someone else. He allows men he works with, who are in a position to help his career, to use the flat as a place for them to have sex with their girlfriends, mistresses, hookers. So, yeah, he's only about three steps removed from a pimp. By the time we find out his motivation, we no longer care because he's been so sullied by what he allows others to do in his home. He seems to maintain a clear conscience by figuring he's not hurting anyone because he's not the one bringing women to the flat. He learns that it's not that simple, however, when someone he cares about gets hurt within the walls of the apartment. But then he turns around and tries to get a promotion out of "dealing with the situation" for his boss who was the cause of it. Eventually, he changes his mind, quits his job and vows to go back home because he can't handle life in such a city. This implies that it was the evil city that made him do what he did. Sorry, I'm not buying it. We make our own choices in this life. At least be decent enough to take responsibility for your actions. In the end, he gets the girl though it's hard to see how he deserves her. Or is it?

It's Neha that Rahul is in love with. In the beginning of the movie she is oblivious to Rahul's feelings because she is having an affair with her and Rahul's married boss, Ranjit. She and Ranjit meet in Rahul's apartment for sex. During one of their meetings they argue and Ranjit offers her money for her services and then leaves her. She is so distraught that she drinks poison she finds in the apartment. Rahul finds her and calls Ranjit. Ranjit tells him to handle it and keep her away from her roommate, Ranjit's sister-in-law, until Ranjit can get back to town and fix things. Rahul balks and Ranjit reminds him that this is the kind of thing a junior manager does. Rahul takes this opportunity to extort a promotion out of Ranjit by saying it would take a senior manager at least. Neha, we already know, has tried to commit suicide at least once before because she just keeps choosing the wrong men. Well, I have some advice...stop it! Oh, and by the way, you don't get to feel sorry for yourself or get the audience's sympathy when you sleep with a married man...on his anniversary...when his wife, your roommate's sister, is at home hosting an anniversary party for all of their friends. Especially when you accept perks at work because of your relationship. Drinking poison....really? Get off the cross honey, someone else needs the wood! Maybe Rahul deserves you after all.

Ranjit, oh Ranjit. You make Gabbar Singh look like a sweetheart. Ranjit is so reprehensible that I have to transcribe some of his dialog to make it believable. Let's start with his inner monologue about Neha:
"Why am I with this girl? Because with her I get the happiness and peace that I don't get at home. Whether it's the house or the office there is always irritation, anger and tension. (Gee, I wonder why?) The mind is always thinking about the future. When I am with her, I feel like 20 again, free and full of joy. Is it wrong to be happy in life? This cannot be called deception, because nobody is getting hurt. So what the hell."
So, he's that rather pathetic specimen, "middle-aged man trying to recapture youth by sleeping with 20-something mistress". Fine, be the sad stereotype.

My real problem with Ranjit is the awful comparison that is made in the movie between what he does in carrying on a sexual affair for 2 years and what his wife, Shikha, does in having a 5 week flirtation with a man, Aakash, that never goes further than a few kisses. (As for Aakash, I don't believe Shikha was in love with him. He is an escape for her. An artisitic, passionate man to make her forget about her awful life at home. That's why she couldn't go through with sleeping with him or leaving with him. He is just one of those totured artist types who cause their own suffering because that's what they're truly in love with, their own pathos.)

I also have major issues with the scene where Shikha and Aakash almost sleep together. First, he takes her to a friend's apartment that is in such a seedy looking neighborhood and is, itself, so derelict looking that it looks like where you would find hookers and their customers. There are no other women anywhere. Outside the window there is a giant neon sign that says "LIVE" which is just lame. Throughout the whole scene they are bathed in red light which either means stop, warning or passion I guess. But what it really feels like is Shikha being labelled, not so subtly, as a scarlet woman.

But, back to my main problem. In the scene where Shikha is wrongfully made out to be just as bad, if not worse than, Ranjit, Ranjit has confessed his affair to her ONLY because he thinks he's already been outed by her sister. Shikha feels compelled to tell him about her flirtation with Aakash. The guilt and regret on her face as she confesses disgusts me but it's the righteous indignation that Ranjit gets to express that pisses me off. Again, the dialog is transcribed below because you have to read it to believe it:
R: "What she said to you is true. There is a girl in my life for the past 2 years. It isn't an emotional tie. It's a mistake. Can we start a new life? Can we put this behind us?" (Ranjit is expressionless the whole time)
S: "Shruti hasn't said anything to me." (Ranjit gets a "Why am I doing this then?" look on his face)
R: "Well, in that case, will you forgive me?"
S: "If I said the same thing to you, would you forgive me?"
(She starts to cry and physically crumble)
R: "What is it?"
S: "I didn't go to the movies with Shruti. I went with someone else. I've been seeing him for about 5 weeks. I don't know when it started. Ranjit, I made a mistake. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I love you."
(She looks so guilty and collapses onto his chest practically begging for forgiveness)
R: "It's ok, ok. Have you slept with him?" (He puts his hands lightly on her shoulder blades but then removes them as if she's too disgusting to touch)
S: "Ranjit, no." (She looks devestated)
R: "So this was going on while I was at work. Did he use my bedroom?"
S: "Ranjit, don't say such a thing."
(He swipes a dish off the counter in anger)
R: "Is my daughter really mine?" (Their daughter is 8 years old and they've been married for 9 years.)
He then proceeds to leave her having every intention of shacking up with Neha permanently.

At first, when she said,"If I said the same thing to you, would you forgive me?" I was cheering. I thought, "Yes, great point." Men are always getting away with this behavior and their wives are expected to forgive them and welcome them back with gratitude and open arms. If a woman cheats, however, she is considered dirtied beyond redemption. I thought the filmmakers were going to take this opportunity to have Shikha take a stand and be strong and highlight this inequity but instead we got a disgusting reinforcement of the very double standard I was hoping they were about to criticize.

Shikha is such a victim in this scene. As she grew more distraught making her confession, I grew angrier and angrier, watching in disbelief as she was made out to be as bad a Ranjit. She allowed her lesser betrayal to be equated with his absolute betrayal, not just equated but somehow she is demonized and made out to be the more despicable of the two. She is ultimately left shattered and weeping while he runs off to his mistress feeling like the injured party, escaping the consequences of his actions.

In the end, Ranjit comes crawling home after Neha chooses Rahul instead of him. Shikha, of course, takes him back. Early in the movie the filmmakers make a point of telling us that Shikha quit working because Ranjit wanted her to and that she was actually capable of making a better living than he. So what should have happened is Shikha should have left him and made her own way but, no. They end up back together presumably because she feels that she's no better than he so if she wants to be forgiven, she has to forgive or maybe that old gem of "staying together for the children." Whatever the reason, the filmmakers utterly failed to do the right thing.

Next we have Amol and Shivani. They were childhood sweethearts until he left for American one day telling her he'd be back. She didn't hear from him for 40 years until he sends her a letter out of the blue asking her to meet him. They meet, they still have feelings for each other, he reveals that he's come back to India and to her to die. While I felt like I was supposed to like this couple, I couldn't help thinking how selfish it was of Amol to come back after 40 years of silence so he could spend his last days being cared for by Shivani and leaving her alone with her grief...again. Oh, how romantic, how full of crap! Where was his regret for abandoning her 40 years ago with no explanation? As it turns out, Shivani dies first. We don't hear a peep about his regrets until Shivani's dead and for obvious reasons, she never hears an apology. I guess outliving her is his punishment?

Finally, meet Shruti and Monty. They are using a website a la to meet potential mates. They meet for coffee. We see Monty ogling a woman's legs on his way to the coffee shop and when he gets a peek at Shruti's cleavage, he falls silent and stares openmouthed. I don't like Monty at this point and neither does Shruti. The coffee date ends abruptly but then they keep running into each other. He later explains the ogling by confessing that he's a 38 year old virgin. So, I guess we're to forgive men who stare at our breasts as long as they have the excuse of 38 years of unrelieved horniness. Give me a break! Even if I was willing to let the lechery go and let myself get sucked in by their slow building friendship that blossoms into love, I am then expected to just forget that Monty has jilted and humiliated the woman he promised to marry when he rides away on his horse from his wedding procession to let Shruti know that he returns her love. Sorry, nice guys don't do that.

I probably should be bothered by Shruti's "Egads, I'm an old maid and better get married now" thing she has going on but I'm not. Yes, 28 is a bit early to panic about becoming a spinster and it should be enough that she supports herself and has her own apartment and life but different cultures, different standards. It's ok, I get it.

So there you have it. A film about love stories with some of the most unloveable, undeserving of love characters that I have ever encountered. I still cannot believe the message they sent about Shikha's small indiscretion compared to Ranjit's ongoing affair. This idea that a woman who is anything less than an absolute paragon of virtue is a whore is utter bullshit and the filmmakers should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating it. I'm talking to you Anurag Basu!

Some final random notes:

1. Based on the background music, I think the montage of Rahul trying to reschedule everyone at the fuck pad was meant to be humorous. Frankly, I just found it seedy and disgusting.
2. Now I know why Hindi films have stars lip synch and playback singers are hidden. The guys who sing the songs in this movie are, quite frankly, suitable only for radio. I'm still wondering if the singer is blind because of the way he squints. Add to that the body movements of Bob Seger and you can imagine how scary looking he is. They look like the guys who had a hair band when they were in high school in the 80s and decide to get back together for the 20th high school reunion complete with pot bellies and long, thinning hair.
3. The whole storyline of Shruti's boss setting her up, unknowingly, as a beard for the gay RJ that he's secretly dating and who she has a huge crush on is just awful. What a horrible thing to do to someone. And the Brokeback Mountain poster in the boss's office...real subtle.