Rakht Charitra, pt. 1, 2010

(Telugu)
Directed by: Ram Gopal Varma

I decided to stream the music to this film while I wrote to get me in the swing of things… it’s actually making me really anxious. Point taken!

Ok. Here is the deal. I’ve been all sorts of excited to see this movie because during my internship I spent a good majority of my time on this film’s set. Prior to the film’s release I knew this much about it:
-Vivek Oberoi was starring… and wore a mustache.
-It was about something or someone political
-It was being shot (or dubbed, depending on the actor) in three languages.
-Vivek had whispered in my ear that I was NOT, on my honor, allowed to talk about anything I’ve seen or post the pictures that I had taken until the film was released.
-Vivek Oberoi. Whispered. In. My. Ear.

Just imagine…
When I was passively watching previews before Anjaana Anjaani the preview for this film came on. Blood was spattering everywhere and I was having a serious deja vu moment but I could not place it. THEN I saw it. IT. “IT” comprises of Vivek Oberoi walking about in said mustache and a sequence of the scenes that I sat on the sidelines for.

“HOLY SHIT!” I screamed, very loudly, grabbing the arm of the poor auntie in the seat next to me. Having attracted the attention of the packed theatre I ducked in my seat. My heart was racing a mile a minute, I was blushing, very cold and sweating.

It was so weird.

I was ready and excited to see the film when it came to New York. Little did I know that while I was visiting my parents in Indiana that there was a one-night screening of the Telugu version. I booked tickets online and somehow talked my obliging mother in to going with me.

We arrived at the theatre, and were stopped by the theatre owner when we tried to collect our tickets:
Owner: I saw your name on the credit card statement. You know this film is in Telugu, right?
Momma: Oh, yeah, we know. My daughter always watches these things. She’s crazy.
Owner: Really? Well, it doesn’t have subtitles. Usually the Hindi ones do… you’re sure you’re going to see this? It’s not a mistake?
Momma: Oh no. I promise. Erin really wants to see it because she worked on the movie in Mumbai.
Owner: NO!
Me: *head bobble* Yeah, I had this internship….*mumble mumble*

That, is how I became a pseudo-celebrity. Basically I  got the most remarkable look from the owner, like he was going to kiss me, or hug me, or make me marry his son (or all three, I’m game… and his son was hot. So was he…in the uncle way.). Next thing I know he’s shouting (in Telugu) to all his employees and pointing at me. Momma and I collected our tickets and slipped into the theatre trying to avoid the mob.

I was famous!

Everything I wanted in my Endhiran audience I got from this experience. The theatre was packed. To the brim. They hooted and hollered and threw popcorn and whistled and jumped and did all sorts of amazing and spectacular things. I loved them.

I can’t provide a detailed plot analysis since I was suffering in the language department…. but it was pretty straight forward. It was political. And violent. And bloody. And Vivek Oberoi wore a mustache*.

There were humorous bits, and romance; and the best proposal/carrying away of a bride ever. Nothing says romance quite like showing up at your girl’s house, a gang of goons toting guns behind you, and simply telling her father that you’re taking her to get married, whether daddy likes it or not.

The movie went on merrily (ha!) and I was starting to get really confused as to when what I saw in India was coming into play when BAM! Credits!

It was over?

And then… there was a preview. And contained within that preview was everything I had witnessed in the filming stage.

Ok.

THERE ARE TWO PARTS!? I felt so uncool. Like all that I had been bragging about was a lie. And there I sat, a cad of the first water.  I was duped. And so impatient for the second installment that I literally started pulling my hair out.

It is/was/continues to be torturous.

Aside from all of that drama…

I enjoyed this film. Not only because I saw it in its raw form but because of a variety of other things.

The filmography was stunning. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t clean but that hardly mattered. It was stylistic. Everything through the lens seemed so unstable. Given that everything as a whole was unstable it was a really nice, unconscious touch. I say “unconscious” because the stability of the camera isn’t as concrete as if it were on a tripod but it’s not as rocky as if it were handheld. Granted, there are uses of the upside-down shot and tilted axis and so on… but overall it is a very subtle devise used in keeping the viewer uncomfortable and a little on edge.

Couple all that anxiety with the droning music and general blood thirstiness and you’ve got yourself one very nervous viewer.

Or, since I don’t want to generalize, one very nervous gori named Erin who couldn’t watch another knee injury with a shovel (it happened A LOT) since it made  current one throb in sympathy.

From what I can surmise, Vivek’s character, Paritala Ravindra has the moral high ground (in theory… what with the killing and the plotting) up until the end of the film. I could be entirely wrong, but until I have the chance to see the Hindi version with subtitles I just have to imagine.

What I liked and what I thought spoke volumes about the differences in Vivek’s character and Abhimanyu Singh’s** (and heaven forgive me if I have that wrong) was how they treated the women folk. VO’s was a picture of respect and inclusion and AS’s was a degenerate with lustful appetites and dominance. It was interesting to see them switch back and forth between both men. It probably served in my thinking of VO’s character as the moralistic one…

There was also a lot of no nonsense scenes including sex. Whether just sex or forced rape on an abducted girl it was nice to see it presented in a way that wasn’t cheapened by the “OMG! LOOK! THEY’RE DOING ‘IT’!” mentality or by some absurd guilt on the victim or any other such nonsense. So, just for that, Ram Gopal, thank you.

There was a female cop! And she RULED! However, her story line did not go the way I would have liked it too. I was a little sad, but overall very impressed and in love with her.

The cast for this film is huge. Everyone was slightly recognizable without me knowing exactly who they were. Granted, I am really, really, really crap with names and faces, so it’s probably all my failing. I thought everyone gave spectacular performances… and, this was my first Vivek Oberoi film and I was so impressed by him that I could hardly stand it. I won’t dally in the oddness of seeing him portray someone so completely opposite of who he is in person but I will give him credit for being a stunning actor. He employs my preferred technique of keeping everything a little restrained and behind the eyes. Wah! I’m such a fan of his now.

Overall, I adored this film but then this sort of film is right up my alley. A little intrigue, a pinch of politics, a smattering of blood (I’m so witty) and a fancy cocktail party to stir things up and you’ve got me hooked.

And since I am honorable, I’m going to wait until part II releases and then I’ll post all sorts of goodies from set!
…Unless Ram Gopal Varma, who is very nice, kills me.

*I’m obviously obsessed with this mustache. I am just a facial hair kind of gal. YUM!
**Forgive me for only using actors name in lieu of their character names, since without seeing the names typed below the screen I didn’t ever really catch them… if you get me.

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Jodhaa-Akbar, 2008

Directed by: Ashutosh Gowariker

I’m right under the “S”… I have a white thing on my head.

Fact: I have a weakness for Rajasthan. It was the first part of India that I saw and I spent a week on the un-air-conditioned, open windowed train cars riding from Delhi to Jaisalmer to Jodapur and everything in between. I spoke a lot of terrible broken Hindi and used a lot of facial expressions and doodles and hand signs to communicate with the people who shared my train car. (It was a beautiful family that actually shared our compartment on our out trip and our return! Talk about fate!)

Our cabin family, well, one side of it. 
There were a Maa and Babaji, 2 sons and their wives and their
 children and two sets of grandparents. 

I think Rajastani women are the most beautiful women in the entire world. Their clothing and color choices are the best and their children the most dil-squashingly precious things I’ve ever laid eyes on. The men are so poised and dignified, quiet and observing. And then there was the fact that Rajasthan always looks like a film set. Billowing curtains, rooftop lounges with cushions and carpets made for a king.

And then there is the architecture. The forts. Be still my heart. I could hardly go from one chamber to another in the Amer and Amber forts without absolutely bawling. On both trips through both forts I had a steady stream of tears on my face because it was the only way I knew how to express how arrestingly beautiful the sights were.

This is me at the Amber Fort. I look a little disheveled (to put it lightly) since we had arrived in Jodapur at 3 am and had to stay awake to wait for our hotel room, and then we hired a driver to take us around…and he left at 9am… and I had been in those clothes for about 48 hours. 
I.Love.India.
Since Jodhaa Akbarwas filmed on sight at these forts I had a similar reaction to the film. There was no crying but placed in a setting that I had found so life altering I was instantly drawn to the film and fell in love with it, even if (at first) it was because I was seeing the forts decked out in their supposed grandeur and beauty as they would have been during the time of Mughal rule.

When I was in Mumbai, actually working, I went one day to a storage unit where we saw the costumes and sets and props from the film. Seeing those, I can only call them works of art, coupled with my boss’ insistence that JA was his favorite film of all time, made me have to watch it too. A copy of the film was actually kept in our house, but I was too busy drooling over all the Shashi swag I bought every day and I never got around to it.

I was apprehensive of both Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. Yes, the both of them are gorgeous but did they have the umph to pull of a historic, political drama?

The answer, my friend, is yes. A million times yes.

Hrithik is increasingly growing on me, that boy has skills! While in this film he mostly is just commanding and fierce there was something under the surface that brought to life his character of Jalal. With Hrithik, as with Amitabh Bachchan, I have learned that the subtleties are the clinchers in their performances. Sure on the surface it doesn’t look like they’re doing much but building up scene after scene they become an integral part of the fabric with which the film is woven. (Tacky cliches for $100, Alex.) A lot of Hrithik’s lines could have been so groan-inducing, tacky and awful, but he kept them from going there by giving his character a bit of stoicism that really helped keep things from going towards the eye-rolling category.

Aish, Aish, Aish… I always forget how much I love seeing her in films when all I see are her on a red carpet looking fug, stuck up, and aloof. (Aish, can we stop with the updos? You look so much better with natural, free flowing hair.) The woman literally mystifies me, mostly because I spend half of the time watching her going “I forgot she’s actually really good” and the other half thinking “Man I wish she wasn’t such an ice queen in person.” (That’s just how she comes across to me, take it or leave it.) Jodhaa Akbar is no exception to her prowess. Doesn’t she just look her best decked out in full garb, a-la Devdas and Umrao Jaan? She takes on the regal role so well and so fully becomes her character that I could not help but to fall in love with her all over again. It was interesting to me how well she played the innocence and doe-eyed wonder that she put into Jodhaa’s character, but at turn was strong, independent and demanding. Plus, wearing hardly any makeup, I kept thinking she looked like Juhi Chawla.

I would have been content to watch this film just to “ooh” and “aah”at all the visual spectacle, but thankfully there was dialogue and a story. And oh, my, goodness. I had no idea that JA was a love story! Come on! It’s about war, and empires, right? Well, yes, but there is a love story too (stupid me, forgetting) and it totally knocked me quite out of my senses. My heart felt like warm, melty butter. I was just so entranced by the chemistry between Aish and Hrithik that I don’t think I breathed a lot during this film… so by the end of three and a half hours I was a little woozy. Also, I have been spoiled by all the kissing in modern (2008 is not modern, aparantly) Bollywood because I just kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a kiss to happen, especially in this scene:

Wah! Wah! Wah! Steam city, my friends, steam city.

The music was… well, it was A.R. Rahman and that’s all I can say. I know, I know, A.R. Rahman is the best composer ever and blah… blah…. blah. Frankly, I’m not terribly impressed by him. His music, to me, is just a bit shallow and never quite reaches the emotional intensity that I so desire and long for. I’m not going to deny that his music is very beautiful, but it just leaves me a little underwhelmed.

You’re now free to hate me for that comment.

I have to buy this fillum, that’ just it. Excuse me, I’m off to eBay!

I Must Love You

Oh Blog Child of mine, look how I am giving you gossip TWO days in a row! I must be addled!

I am starving. Unfortunately we had a film crew in the house all day, so the left overs we usually have from lunch were gobbled up and we are left without in my house and the cook made her exit five hours ago. I have a real hankering for eggs on toast, and we have both eggs and bread but I’m somewhat daunted by having to make eggs on a plate over an open-flame stove top.

I’m such a spoiled little gori cook.

Today we shot for my coworker’s film, an expose on Rickshaw-wallah’s daily lives. It was fun, and a day full of firsts, of which I shall list out and explain in full Erin style!

1. First Sunburn: I don’t burn. Ever. I’ve never turned pink, but I’m looking at my face and my chest right now, and it’s red. Lobster red. I blame my coworker for forcing us to film her film from the hours of noon to three. Outside. In the middle of the street. I’m actually not that upset, but as I’m allergic to sunscreen (all types) I knew I was at least going to come home a little toasty. I was basically on-hand as “recorder” and I just took pictures of her recording video… ok, and I was flirting with all the people who came by to watch… and I’m talking, there were crowds. All they saw was camera equipment and a white girl and WAKAOW! we were swarmed. I rather enjoyed it, since I wasn’t doing any actual work and I was quite a hit with all the little children, since I accidentally let all the Mango Bites spill out of my purse at convenient times.

2. My first ride on a motorcycle: I have a scooter, a dilapidated Vespa that can’t top more than 10 M.P.H. and I basically use to just putter around my housing edition. Today I was seated on the backseat of  a legit Hero Honda (pardon me while I giggle a tad) behind SANDEEEEEP (whom I love) as we drove from shooting location to shooting location. Why have I never traveled in this manner before? It’s so free, and it’s a hell of a lot faster than an Autorickshaw… or car. Plus, there are those moments where the driver takes a sharp turn and you have to timidly grab hold of his shoulder…

No, I don’t take myself seriously.

3. My first hit-and-run. Times two!: The first time I was not paying attention to where I was standing (in the middle of a busy road) while I was taking pictures. A BMW came up, slowly, and nicely informed me of its presence by bumping into me. I blew a kiss at the driver (I’m truly insane) and got out of the way. The second time I was literally rammed down by an Autorickshaw. I didn’t fall, since that would have just been unpardonably embarrassing, but I do have a nice single-tire bruise on my ankle. Ha! I hope it scars!*

4. I saw a naked uncle: Uhhh. I don’t really know if I want to talk about the Rickshaw driver actor who was forced to take a bath by my coworker in the vein of “artistic integrity”.  Call me a prude, but there was a score of intense blushing and eye-covering throughout the entire process. Oh dear, I’m so going to be having nightmares about that.

5. My first milk candy: I don’t know what milk candy is, but Oy Hoy if it isn’t delicious! The end.

Oh, I shoot my movie on Thursday, and then Saturday I go home. Can there be a collective sigh and tear shed for me please?

And no, we’re not going to talk about my film, because I think it’s pretty awful. Confined to 5 minutes, I couldn’t quite put on the Filmi Epic complete with scars, lost twins, Shashi and sword fighting item numbers that I so desired.

Uff!

*Yes, I just hoped that a bruise would scar. I bet it would happen in some Masala.

Mumbai Monday: This Didn’t Go the Way it Was Supposed To…

Occasionally I get it into my head that I need to update this poor, dilapidated blog child of mine, but then I get distracted by something remarkable; Shashi on the television or the most disturbing cookie advertisement of all time:

And I must say this before my brain melts, I am absolutely tired of seeing Hrithik Roshan’s face everywhere I turn. Every other commercial, billboard, light post, rickshaw, trashcan, store front and food is emblazoned with his face. It was enough for me to NOT go see Kites, as I thought that I had seen enough of Mr. Roshan’s face, thank-you-very-much.

Digression aside, I am in full form to inform (ha) you of my various travels and trials whilst living in the Indian Subcontinent. Today, for example, we have been waiting for 5 hours to meet a man about an autorickshaw. My fellow intern is doing her short film on an auto-wallah and we must rent the vehicle for her. Currently she lies asleep in the bed beside me while I steal a few minutes on her laptop. I was supposed to cast my actress for my film (of rather dismal plot), and the both of us were to nail down locations. As we have been waiting for the auto, nothing has happened. Well, I did watch about 3 hours of Monk re-runs, but only because I couldn’t force feed myself  Dance India Dance for one more moment.

Also, I did get along with the cook today who has a habit of wanting to over-feed me all the while commenting on various methods I might use to drop weight. The most obvious to the American mind, anorexia, is unpardonable around here and I must be stuffed full with daal (which I abhor) because she feels I lost far to much weight in the two and a half weeks I was suffering from dysentery (of which I was quite proud of). I cannot please her!

Granted, I suppose she’s just happy that I can stomach Indian food again, and I just generalize and tell her (though she speaks no English and looks at me in a bewildered way) that all Americans are fat and I’m just tall and I quite like myself, as my body is characteristic of my vocal fach, even though only Opera singers really understand and see those biological traits.

I think if I had grown up in an age where I had to deal with servants I would have been quite a terror to them. Mostly I just itch for the chance to cook for myself again, and I dream about broccoli and Sexy Rexy Chicken and salads and apples and peaches and carrots and beef until I cry.

This is getting absurdly sentimental.

So many things I cannot talk about though, for neither Vivek Oberoi’s new film, or Ra.One have come out and I have a gag order around my throat for all the little details that I saw. Though I will say, the rubber suit is absurd…

ZIP! My lips are locked.

Also, someone (perhaps a smart auntie) needs to slap me senseless, for I imagine myself in love with every man I’m introduced to, despite their small little height. DAMN the growth hormones in food! I’ve turned into an abominable flirt, (though I always was one according to L), but here it is remarkably fun. After studying Indian women interacting with males I noticed they just giggled and looked bashful. OH HO! Their (the men’s) inability to come back after a saucy little return on their jokes is hysterically funny and they often fuddle up as if they’ve never had a ladki talk back to them in a fun way. It provides hours of entertainment and creates such sad little illusions in my head.

That, and it’s wedding season.

I’ve decided it is high time I got myself hitched, so I might as well do it here; though with only a week left to complete this daunting task I rather feel that I shall return to the states a disappointed woo’er.

One week! O goodness, sometimes I feel like I haven’t seen or done anything in the 6 weeks that I’ve been here, but I have and I feel right and ripe for coming home… though I’m already planning my return.

For fun, here is a picture of me at a shaadi in one of the slums.

The cook scolded and scolded me to wear my hair “open” 
and I refused, since I was afflicted by the heat.
The cook was right. 

Also, and this may be out of taste, but it rather looks like my boobs 
are going to attack that poor short girl’s (my coworker) head. Fantastic.

Housefull, 2010

Directed by: Sajid Khan

1. WHY does Laura Dutta get all the love that she does? I think she’s just SnoozeLand, USA. Compared to Deepika I preferd the latter, and my feelings about Miss Padukone are not the nicest things in the world.

So I saw Housefull last night at the InOrbit mall in Mumbai… just a hop and a skip away from my house here in the city.

Can I tell you how WEIRD it is to watching INDIAN films in INDIA?  It shouldn’t, SHOULDN’T blow my mind but seeing all the previews with Shah Rukh and Bebo and everyone else was just so WERID.

Ok, I admit it, I started crying a little. Don’t judge.

These are the people I live through in the states, and here they are, just the normal Tom, Dick and Harry of the entertainment business around here.

PAGAAL!

Anyway, Housefull is a film that I would never have seen back home. As it is, I thought I was meeting with the director, but my boss misinformed me and I saw it anyway. O well.

Comedy isn’t my thing… except in really rare cases. Spy Movies, War Dramas, Historical whatsits… THAT’S my scene. So to see an Indian Comedy… something I don’t quite understand to begin with is something. I think the lack of subtitles really aided in the fun I had at this film… that and a very long, very Ranbir-centric preview for Rangeeti

Having to know exactly what everyone said would have killed this movie so dead for me. And quickly. I’d say I got 75% of it just on context alone, but I don’t need the fine details. It was low-brow humor of the same qualty of all of those dumb teen sex movies. Am I right?

At first I was annoyed that there were no subtitles to distract me from Deepika’s face… but then after I realized I just had to bite my tonge and look at her, that I didn’t find her that offensive. Maybe she’s growing on me? Maybe I found her so much more interesting than that annoying-even-in-Hindi Itailian fellow, or maybe because Ritesh might put me to sleep faster than Laura Dutta… I don’t know but I managed to find Akshay and Deepika the most compelling characters in the story.

Oh… and Lilete Dubey. She’s fab.

Although I haven’t seen that many pairs of shiny hot-pants as displayed in the “Boys Night Out” since the Spice Girls were cool.

Fashion is circular, I guess.

Blah blah blah. Housefull.
It’s not that I found it so terrble, but it just seemed so contrived, so forced. Like everyone on set should have taken a muscle relaxer and THEN done their shots.

And is it just me, or does Deepika just have one dance move? The bent-knee, “drive the golf cart”, hip thrust? TRUST ME, watch for it, it’s ALL SHE DOES!

Akshay was precious though, I tend to just like him for the sake of seeing him wear clothes. Suits in general. OOOOO BABY can he wear a tux! Also, what happened to the extreme clumsy-ness about 1/4 into the film? It was just gone. (Good riddance, but still, inconsistant!!)

And is it only becasue I’m in India that I find the Punjabi/Sardar sterotype rather abrasive? Gosh, I’m going to have to investigate that.

Deepika should only wear all black, and with a smokey eye. Even I will admit that she’s quite the sex kitten enrobed ala Femme Fatal.

Ok, So I might just like Deepika now.

Wasn’t it SO werid to see Mukesh (Arjun Rampal) from OSO being happy and dancy? Gave me the shivers.

This is not so much a reviw as just feelings. But it’s effing hot here. Ok?

Love,
e

(p.s. this keyboard kind of stinks, any errors are not my fault.)