Action Replayy, 2010

Directed by: Vipul Shah

When you Wikipedia Action Replayy it says “Formerly ‘Action Replay'”. I wish I hadn’t seen that. Why on earth was the extra y added?

WHY?

I cannot mentally handle the implications or motivations to screw up words so I’ll just carry onwards.

Action Replayy is neither awful or monumentally profound.

I also have to preface by saying that I totally adored this film, even for all of its flaws. (Don’t I always, though?)

The premise of the plot is simple, Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapoor) goes back in time to fix his parents’-Kishen (Akshay Kumar) and Mala (Aishwarya Rai)-marriage. Bunty manages this because his girlfriend Tanya (Sudeepa Singh) just happens to have a mad scientist for a grandfather who spends his free time building time machines. Yup.

The first 20-25 minutes of this film are, and there is no other word for it, excruciating. It’s awkwardly shot, acted and presented. I cringed and cringed and sank lower in my chair so disheartened that I was going to hate the film and then, we crash land in 1975 and flutter goes my dil and happiness pours forth with abundance.*

Unlike Dabangg where the Masala style was intentionally alluded to I didn’t get the same vibe from Action Replayy. It was set in 1975 but that was it. Frankly, that was a failing on the film’s part. Think of the source material they could have gleaned! This film is an exercise in not going the distance; the costumes were fantatabulous but the interior decorations of our hero and heroine’s homes were too subdued.

I realize you can’t have everything you want in life but there is also no shame in going big.

I don’t know why time travel to the past was entirely necessary to fix this marriage BUT since it involved men wearing white bell bottoms I’m willing to overlook nagging and enjoy the visuals.

While the film was shot beautifully and there were several moments of gasp-worth set designs (I’m look at you, millions of paper lanterns!), I felt that the colors were all off. The Cotton Candy color scheme seemed to scream at you “THIS IS FANTASY!” when we, the audience, are already quite aware that fantastical things are going on.

Time travel, for one.

Yes, it is very pleasing to see such a vivid display of yellow and pink and blue but when I think 70s I see more avocado and oatmeal and husky red and brown.

The movie spends 90% of its duration in 1975 which I would have never guessed having listened to and fallen in love with the music before seeing the film. In case you’re unaware, the sound track has not a shred of 70s flavor to it. Oh, that would have been good, to me at least, to have some throw backs to the golden age; but alas I was left wanting. It is hard enough to reconcile the Cotton Candy 70s without having to wrap your head around the introduction of early 2000’s-esque Hip Hop 30 years too early. That being said, I adore this soundtrack and thought it actually worked really well on screen.

Where I was not disappointed was in the incidental music. The sound designers so perfectly captured the essence of 70s films with the background music that it left me in giggles every time a sharp “DUN DUN!” accompanied bad news, a fast turn or the approach of a bad guy.

I cannot deny my absolute head-over-tops pyaar for the song pictureizations. Well, that is how I felt AFTER I had to sit through the awful first song. I like Zor Ka Jhatka as a song, but on screen we were treated to the visual delights of seeing Aish pop-n-lockin’ it. If we learned nothing else from Endhiran, we should have learned this: Do not make Aishwarya Rai dance modern dance. IT. IS. PAINFUL. Our pain is rewarded later on with the other songs, which to my everlasting praise, contained a Holi song.

Now on to the things I didn’t love so much…

This film was set in the 70s, ergo chest hair should be flying about free and akimbo.

Guess what there was NONE of?  It was so frustrating not having any glorious chest hair peeking out through open-buttoned shirts.

Oh, and the girls were too…flat. Yes, that is how I’m going to phrase that.

And that is all I didn’t like.

Well, that is a lie. There were a variety of other things that didn’t please me… but I was willing to ignore them in the face of being swept off my feet by Akshay Kumar and being so confused I didn’t know what to do with myself. He always does this to me. I think “Oh boy, what unfortunate teeth he has” and then he goes growling around in that voice and with that nose and those legs and I turn into a complete idiot. And I start off all of his films disliking him, and then he grows on me by the last 20 minutes and I just die with disgust and self-loathing.

While I have a love/hate relationship with Aishwarya I’ve never been one to say “Oh, home girl can’t act” because I think, honestly, that she can. However, I do think she does better when she is given the opportunity to be organic. The main reason the first 20 minutes of this film were so impossible to endure was because it felt like the director had set our Mrs. Bachchan down and said “Just pretend you’re an Ice Queen and Victoria Beckham and yourself and you’ll be great!” Don’t give our Aish instructions, directors! It backfires. Just let her act as she will. It is apparent when she is just enjoying her roles and when she is trying to make them into something and I much, much prefer the former.

This film suffers from a very common oversight: the inclusion of too many unimportant characters. Sure, Om Puri is there and Mama Kirron is flying about in overly dramatic displays but did they NEED to be there? No. Neither did the “goon” that never turned into a goon. There were about 5-odd characters that were loose strings and entirely unimportant to the plot. They could have been removed, replaced as cameos (In Om Puri and Kirron Kher’s instance) and things could have continued on merrily. With these extra characters it just felt like there were too many finer plot details were left on the editing room floor and they didn’t get the development or attention they required to make them important enough to justify their inclusion.

Since I am a complete sap I was totally charmed by this film. Like I said, it isn’t groundbreaking or extraordinary in any way, but it is good enough to give you some cheer.

Oh, and can I just add that this film blows. Badly.
But, I have such a weakness for brightly colored things and bell bottoms.

I’m going to go watch Om Shanti Om and detox.

*’Sup? I write scripture?

Anjaana Anjaani & Endhiran, 2010

Anjaana Anjaani – Endhiran (The Robot), 2010
Directed by: Siddharth Anand – Shankar

These films have NOTHING in common with each other outside of these minute points:
-I saw them both twice
-I liked each one so much better the second time around.

I’m going to work alphabetically, so up first: Anjaana Anjaani.

The first time I saw this film I almost walked out during interval. I was not impressed by where the story was going, unconvinced by the actors and totally not onboard with the “serious” nature of the story that lacked any substance and feeling. Thankfully I stayed and was totally charmed by the second half of the film… but it was a close call.

The second time I saw this film I was a) not alone like I was the first time and b) in an audience of more drunk man-children and less aunties so I was able to lighten up a bit.

Anjaana Anjaani is standard Romantic Comedy fare. All the over-used ploys that leave me bitter in Hollywood once again were melting my heart and making me all lovey-dovey through the guises of Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.

I’m such a conflicted individual.

The songs in this film are totally what saves it, there is something just GOOD about them. And, this film has the most seamless background score I have ever heard in an Indian Film. Ever. It was so polished and so professional and so clean and so wonderful that I can’t stop adding “so…” to my description.

Priyanka Chopra is quickly becoming my go-to girl for Bolly Rom Coms. There is just something about her that makes me want to BE her. It is an essence she is acquiring with age, since her early movies leave me less than thrilled or impressed by her. She’s the Julia Roberts of Indian Cinema, and since that’s my opinion you can take it or leave it.

Ranbir, Ranbir. I love yo so. After Neetu Week it was so obvious to me how much of your mother is present inside you. Oh, sure you get some things from your poppa, but I think that Neetu is very much living on through her darling son. Forget that they look so much alike, but Ranbir’s screen presence just comes across in the same vein that his mother’s did. I could eat him up with a spoon.

Odd observations:
-The road trip sequence was filmed right outside of St. George, Utah. It is actually the highway that goes to Vegas. I have many, many, many memories on that curvy strip of land.
-“New York is the haven of single ladies”. I’ve never laughed more bitterly in my life. It’s so true.
-Now that I live in New York it is the weirdest thing to watch a movie set in it. It’s almost like a film crew has run over your personal property… maybe I’m feeling especially weirded out since I work in an office that is currently being overrun with at popular TV show…
-You can’t have coffee that is “black, low fat” since “black” implies there is NO MILK.

Favorite song: Tumse Hi Tumse… because there are multiple Ranbirs and I LIKED what they were trying to express; that when were crazy about someone we try to contain it, while on the inside were jumping and skipping and giggling and dressing up like Superman. …I can so relate right now.

ROBOT.

OH SWEET MOTHER OF MERCIFUL HOLY THINGS!

Rajni is the hottest thing I’ve ever seen! I don’t care if he’s sixty. I don’t care if he’s petrified in plastic makeup and wigs. I don’t care. I just don’t.

Endhiran was my first Southie film, and while I think they’re something rather different and I’m a little off put by the overt machisimo I have to admit that I’m wildly intrigued. I’m not making promises, but now that I know where to find them in Queens, I’ll probably be going to see them more often.

Also, am I the only one who likes Aishwarya Rai better in Tamil? She seems so much younger and easy going and relaxed. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the no-nonsense role she was given, but it was still to see her in such a refreshed being.

The songs in the film were my only repeated nuisance. They appeared out of NOWHERE and they had nothing to do with anything happening before or after the interlude. Oh, a girl almost gets raped and then we’re teleported to Machu Picchu!? Okaaaaayyy… I just went with it because I figured it was like an aria in opera. The song isn’t really needed for story purposes but more for emotional effusions.

I was wildly distraught by the outright carnage and overt violence… it was just a bit excessive to be killing off entire police forces, in my opinion, but like I said, I was just going with things.

One cannot take things too seriously when the hero is a 60 year old in a wig and mask.

There were a few moments that really, really concerned me but I lack both the energy and the passion to talk about them. I’ll just put it simply and state that I think the blaming the victim mentality was far, far over played and incorrectly enabled since there was no need for it, that is all.

Odd observations:
-Who signs a contract when they break up?
-Watchign people write in Tamil script is nothing short of awe inducing.
-Is a zetabyte even a real thing?
-Aishwarya should probably refrain from trying to HipHop dance AND from becoming a “rapper girl”. Just saying.
-Mosquito programming? REALLY?

Favorite song: Kilimanjaro. Because, Aishwarya has dreadlocks. And come on. It’s amaaaazing. And there are llamas, that stare at the dancers like they’ve lost their marbles.

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!

Bride and Prejudice, 2004

Directed by: Gurinder Chadha

It was my 6th Bollywood Anniversary on the 11th of February, but I was doing important things like driving 11 hours to Las Vegas in the quest to see My Name is Khan so, yes, I totally forgot it.  However it all came back to me like a Celine Dion song when at work the other night I saw a copy of Bride and Prejudice on sale for 5$.
Of course I picked it up! I was feeling nostalgic, hopefull it wasn’t as terrible as I remembered it to be, and giddy with happiness that something remotely close to Bollywollys were being sold in the great state of Idaho. Oh, and B&P was totally my first exposure to the great filmi world.
I’ve spent six years rolling my eyes at people when they ask me “Ohhh! You like Bollywood? Have you seen Bride and Prejudice!? Isn’t it like the best movie…ever?!”
Yes, I love the Bollywobbles. Yes, *large sigh*, I’ve seen it. No, it’s definitely not the best movie in the world. Fashion is, everyone knows that. Silly!
To be honest, when my family and I were stranded in a hotel room after a delayed flight and we were looking for something to watch on the Pay-Per-View I had no idea what Bollywood was, so my innocent suggestion to watch B&P was just that: innocent.
I think to this day they still think I had the whole thing planned out and made them suffer through it because I like to laugh at their pain*. I will say, however, that hearing and seeing my mother breaking into sudden outbursts of “No Life Without Wife” for months afterwards might have been totally worth it.

Oh, and of course my slow introduction to the BWoods after this experience made it REALLY worth it.
There was a three year gap between this movie and Salaam-e-Ishq (when I took the plunge and got all addicted) and the soundtrack, as terrible as it is (the singing is atrocious and the songs dull as powder), got me through those bleak, empty years and woke me up via my clock radio everyday during High School.
Everything, and I mean everything that my family and I scoffed at during this film are now the things I love: running through fountains, unplausible trips via helicopter from LA to the Grand Canyon for a simple date, scheming Maas, epic Punjabi Bhangra fests (a soft spot of mine, actually. Now I know where it comes from!), random celebrity musical numbers, choirs on risers that appear magically on beaches, Helen!, Aishwarya’s face, coming painfully close to kissing…and then not, wind machines, amazingly terrible dialogue… the list goes on, and we laughed joyfully at it all.
Oh, I am so much wiser now!
As I was watching this yesterday I kept thinking to myself, “Jane Austen was just made for Bollywood”. It just fits, and, as a person who sports a very Austen surname, I glee over hearing it pronounced over and over again. (I like hearing my name said, is all. I like to hear how everyone says it. I know, it’s weird).  And I was also glad I had re-watched it, there are hidden posters of Shah Rukh and Kajol and Rani all over the place! It’s like an Easter Egg Hunt!
I think this might be the worst performance of Aishwarya I’ve ever seen. Eh, we all have bad days, I guess. Plus it was terribly painful to watch her on screen with her abusive husband from Provoked.
Ow ow ow.
Ah, I’m just glad I didn’t spend more than the five bucks on it… oh, and Happy Anniversary to Me!*To be fair they might be right about me subjecting them to terrible movies, the only other films my dad has seen are Saawariya and Kaminey (which I kind of liked, Kaminey, that is…) and Mom sat through the bit in K3G when Amitabh throws Shah Rukh out of the house before she looked at me and called me insane…

Bunty Aur Babli, 2005

Directed by: Shaad Ali

If this DOES NOT get stuck in your head 
you might not have the power of hearing.

This movie has it all! Bright colors, awesome dancing, super catchy tunes, RANI!!!!, Amitabh AND Abhishek AND Aishwarya, clever and smart acts of crime, humor, pyaar, the Taj, comedy and all over goodness.

Rani (Vimmi/”Babli”) and Abhishek (Rakesh/”Bunty”) are small-town people with big-time dreams that continually run into each other on in their quest for fame. After Abhi’s business deal gets stolen and Rani is refused for the Miss India competition they hook up and go on a crime spree becoming “Bunty” and “Babli” ripping off hotels, stores and even selling the Taj Mahal with ingenuity, charm and style.

They fall in love (how can you resist Abhi? Answer: You can’t) and have a cute little shaadi at the Taj, a kiss(!), a super sweet love song (“Chup Chup Ke”, complete with mountains and snow) and continue on their spree.

As they gain more and more publicity they attract the attention of super-sleuth DCP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh) who makes it his life’s work to track down the thieving duo and lock them up. 
Of course the big show-down/chase happens when poor Babli is going into labor; and I think she receives the award for fastest labor-and-delivery in the history of all time. (Also if my husband had dragged my onto a bumpy train just minutes after giving birth he would have been so dead. SO DEAD.) 

They get caught and promise to give up their glamorous life of crime and move back to their little village. A few years later DCP Singh comes back and recruits the pair to work for the police as expert scammers to catch other criminals. They say “yes” without hardly even thinking, so bored and unchallenged they are by their mundane, respectable lives. (How awesome is it that Rani goes back to work after having a baby!? Kudos to the writer for that!)

I love this movie, it’s just so fun and happy and sweet; the only bad part was that I started thinking “Is it really that easy to rip off whole hotels?!” and wanted to try it but my very real, very logical self caught up with me and forced me to acknowledge how wrong stealing and con artistry is. Very wrong. :)

There was also the funny interplay between Abhi, Amitabh and Ash; those made me giggle. All of the “you could be his father” nonsense and Ash’s scorn of Abhi’s affections in favor of Amitabh’s (which is still funny, even if they weren’t married yet)!

Whew! All those “A” names!

Also, “Kajra Re” is one of my new all-time-favorite songs! (even if the Bachchans squared leave something to be desired in their dancing…)