Billu [Barber], 2009

Directed by: PriuadarshanSigh.

I’ve seen this movie twice now, with both viewings almost over a year apart; the first time I loved it, I gushed, I cried, I got warm fuzzies, I adored. The second time I rolled my eyes a lot.

I’m a jaded, bitter, angry adult now folks, and nothing is going to give back my youthful cheer.*

Here’s the thing, I like this movie. I think the plot, story, acting, costumes, locations, the music… everything come together to make this a beautiful, touching film but for some reason it just fell flat on me last night and I was not charmed.

I know exactly the reason why: Shah Rukh Khan.

Before I get an earful about how amazing he is and how beautiful he is and how this-and-that he is please just understand that post-Indian internship Erin cannot deal nicely with SRK. Things happened, opinions were ruined, someone was a complete DBag…etc.

Now, while I can still respect him as an actor and for his body of work, the relationship he has with the audience and the love he inspires I cannot, myself, watch something like Ae Ae O without feeling the need to emphatically roll my eyes several times.

Billu, in my opinion, should have not fussed about renaming SRK as “Sahir Khan”. If he’s going to essentially play himself with nods to Shah Rukh Khan films he might as well have spared Kinko’s the effort by not having them erase his name and change it on the posters. There are plenty of posters, and banners and movie posters and merchandise all brandished with “Sahir Khan” that would have saved considerable time, effort, money, resources by just keeping SRK SRK.

Why they chose to defer to an alias when everyone just assumes he’s playing himself anyway is unknown to me. It’s weird, really.

Not to mention that for me, personally, SRK seemed to really be dialing it in on this performance. I don’t blame him, as a character Sahir has no depth (Except at the end. Maybe.), he shows up on screen, does some dance moves, squiggles around an item-girl-cameo, waves at the adoring crowd and slithers off in an overly-embellished leather jacket.

If you’re going to dial in a role, this is the one to do it.

NOT to spend my whole post ragging on our beloved King Khan, let me just continue onwards.

This is one of the few movies I like Ms. Dutt in, and I think she does a great job of being an impoverished, star-struck Maa. There was something so rustic and relaxed about her that I typically don’t see. Maybe it’s a director, maybe it’s the role, maybe it’s magic. Who can tell, and who is going to listen to me try to explain it? No one.

Irrfan Khan is an actor I’ve always loved. He’s so brooding, so serene…. he brings a nice dejection to Billu’s character that really helped me to relate to him on screen. He’s humble, he’s dirty, he’s quiet, he’s withdrawn. Wah. He’s wonderful.

While I have my qualms with the film, and may not be as awe-struck as I was the first time ’round I won’t deny that the soundtrack is brilliant in its diversity of styles; ranging from ballad to rock to folksy to hip-hop**; neither will I rob the production of praise for its cleanliness, style and overall beauty.

Sigh. Again.

*Excuses
**or rather my totally wrong, Opera student perception of “hip-hop”

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Karz, 1980

Directed by: Shbhash Ghai

This movie is so full of awesome.  I remember trying to watch it back in my younger days–before I had sat through a couple old films and been aclimated to them–I turned this movie off before I even reached the 10 minute mark! If I had just kept going until the 11 minute mark and seen Disco Rishi I’m sure my Masala conversion would have happened YEARS ago.

It also should be noted that Karz is not named such because every other person gets slammed into with a car. Oh no, it actually is the Hindi word for “loan”. Foiled again by mad spelling!

Our saga begins with a court decision to keep Ravi Verma’s (Raj Kiran) estate in the Verma family rather than hand it over to the Morse Code tappin’ villain Sir Juda (Premnath). Ravi runs out of the courtroom to celebrate with his girlfriend Kamini (Simi Garewal). Kamini, we learn rather quickly, is not the innocent she appears to be. For one thing, she smokes:

I’ve never seen a good Indian girl suck a cig…

She also agrees to marry, kill and change Ravi’s will when she is solicited by Sir Juda.

Our girl is even savvy enough to ask for an advance! She has clearly been around the ol’ block a few times where dacoits are concerned.

On their way to his maternal home, Ravi and Kamini pull over to investigate a problem with the Jeep. Ever the gentleman the new husband tries his hand at romancing his little lady. Ravi, however, makes the mistake of bringing his guitar into the romance and Kamini promptly kills him by running him over with the Jeep.

Back at the Big House, Kamini somehow manages to pass of Ravi’s death as an accident and his Maa (Durga Khote) mourns and torments over his corpse.* Our devout Maa takes out her rage on Kaali and demands that he must be reborn in order to repay the motherly love that he had been given as Ravi.

With much montaging and psycadelic background kalidescoping we are informed that Ravi has been reborn as Monty.

Enter: Disco Rishi and the funniest titles yet to grace my eyes**.

Monty (Rishi Kapoor) is an orphaned singing sensation who is the 1980 Indian equivalent of Justin Bieber. They both have fun hair, dress in killer ishtyle and swagger and swoon the ladies with their killer tracks and fly dance moves.*** However, Monty is alone and laments his status as both an orphan and as a single man. (Well, mostly being an orphan).

At a party Monty meets and falls in pyaar with Tina (Tina Munim) in grand style. Not only does the congregation “disappear” as they look at each other, but magical curtains of ishq also fall from the sky and envelop the lovers in lovey-dovey feelings.

Monty, who is forbidden from singing at private parties, is caught by his boss and scolded. Later (that day? Week? Year?) Monty performs a concert and writes a song to and about Tina describing how they met. What we are given is Om Shanti Om, not just a love song for Tina and Monty, but the same one that I sang and danced for the Kishore Spawn 5 minutes after meeting him.

It is quite the romantic song. Nothing says romance like silver spangles and a rotating giant record. It’s also just a fun song to go to when you’re having a rotten day. Face it, Rishi Kapoor is just the last word in adorable.

After taking a totally Superstar-esque Evian bath on stage, Monty returns to stage with some sexy lighting and procedes to play a little ditty that just comes to him.

Monty begins to hallucinate and remember being killed by Kamini. He collapses on stage and finds himself in the hospital, strapped to all sorts of brain scanners. One doctor suggests that it could be memories from a previous birth, but this is laughed at and considered impossible. Monty is ordered to a months rest without music in Ooty.

Luckily enough, Ooty is home to both Tina and Kamini and was the place where Ravi was murdered.

I just love when stuff comes full circle.

While in Ooty Monty woos Tina and her father Kabira (PRAN) and asks for and is given Tina’s hand in marriage.

Good fatherly advice.

However, being a protective father, Kabira makes sure that the couple cannot get into too much trouble in their larks.

After singing and dancing for a while, Monty comes to the temple of Kaali where Ravi was run over and killed. He collapses and remembers all of the memories. Monty does not tell Tina or her father what happened and instead gets a lecture on romancing.

Monty then goes on a quest to figure out the details of what has happened to Kamini since his (as Ravi) death. He interviews local oldies at the tea stand and even gets information from Kabira, who knows of the murder. Monty becomes obsessed with stalking Kamini, who lives in the palace, and barges into her room.

It is kind of hot.
Might I point out the utter uselessness of covering up a clothed body 
when a naked one is right behind it?

Manical and unstable, Monty is taken from Kamini’s bedroom by Kabira; back home the two fight and toil. Craving revenge and having no idea where Ravi’s mother and sister have gone, Monty takes up alcoholism**** One morning while being served tea Monty discovers that the cook is his (as Ravi) long lost sister Jotyi.


That is the most Bollywood-esque sentence of all time.

Reunited the brother and sister race to see their Maa, who in the years since Ravi’s death has fallen ill and blind and deaf… however, she can both see and hear so I’m calling a flub in subtitling on that one.

While the family gets settled, Kabira and Monty scheme a way to get Kamini to admit to her crime. They decide that the best way is for Monty to seduce Kamini. However, boyfriend and father forget to inform Tina of their plans so she gets understandably stroppy when she spies Monty and Kamini out on the town. Eventually (like, at the end) she is informed of the plan and supports her man through and through.

A number of tricks are played on Kamini in an effort to weasel her confession out of her. She is attacked in her room by a creepy man, confronted with dancing skeletons and Monty says that he reads “murder” in the lines of her palms. All of these pranks lead up to the final ousting of Kamini’s secret through a song and dance at the local high school:

After running away from the show, Monty and his posse confront a very changed Kamini at the palace. Disheveled and without her pristine wigs she admits finally to her murder of Ravi.

In true Masala ishtyle there is a shootout and people get beaten up, locked in burning houses and pushed down hills. In full comeuppance Kamini drives off a cliff after trying to run over Monty in her Jeep, just outside of the same temple where she killed Ravi.

The fillum ends with Monty and Tina driving off on to their honeymoon. Daddy Pran is their driver, no less…

In essence Karz has one theme: Maa.

Just Maa.

There are countless paintings of mothers, children and mothers nursing their children. There are a TON of boobs in this movie. They’re just everywhere. It’s really quite creepy. Hello, we get that Monty/Ravi has to be reborn because of his debt of mothers love and to repay her milk (which, I’d like someone to explain to me, quite frankly) but can we just push the “Overt, much?” button and be done with it? IF they were trying to paint Ravi as emotionally bankrupt where his mother was concerned they didn’t do a very good job of it. He was always calling his Maa, hugging her and being an all-around good son; if anything he needed to be reborn just to kick Kamini in the ass… Oh. I’m just so confused. (It’s the milk repayment that’s doing it to me).

The songs in this film are amazing (hence why I included almost all of them) they’re just so catchy and disco and suited for the action of the film. Granted, what am I going to say in the negative about my favorite voice-actor match of Kishore Kumar and Rishi Kapoor? They just work so, so well. I also really liked the little theme that enabled and accompanied the flashbacks Monty experienced. It was so haunting and repetitive but also had that fancy little descending chord that made it rather flashy and exceptional as well.

Simi Garewal is so fantastic. She really has a handle on her art and knows how to lose herself in her character. She was innocet, flirty, dangerous and manipulative at turns but she really caught my attention at the end when her character broke. Kamini just breaks. The deterioration of her mental state by the pranks into the dramatic pounding on the chest and screaming of “I KILLED RAVI VERMA” is just so… perfect. Wah! Wah! She stole the show.

Everyones’ concept of time in this film is off. Monty claims he is “almost 30” (and is dating a 16 year old. BLECH, even for me, the Patron Saint of May-December romance), but his Maa says that he died 21 years ago and someone in the village says 25. Oy, my brain hurts.

I would like to give Rishi Kapoor for being the best instrument mimer I’ve ever seen. He plays almost EVERY instrument ever invented (hyperbole) in this film and does it just well enough that you think he might actually have a grasp on it. Alas, it still looks fake.

Piano.
Guitar.
Violin. 
Trumpet.

I know that Om Shanti Om is supposed to be a remake of Karz, or a non-remake-remake. There are definitely ideas that and devices that are used in both films that are very silmiar but to me each film stands on its own without OSO constantly referencing Karz or being just like it. Are there similarities, yes.  Is it a full-on copy? No. I will say this, I do want to watch OSO now for fun and to see what might be there and I’ve never caught before.

In closing, there are no words for how much I need this top:

*That word just feels so morbid. Shiver.
**I always love when I learn how to count… also don’t you love the “& PRAN”?
***I kind of hate myself for that sentence.
****Can you even just “take up” alcoholism?

Jaan-E-Mann, 2006

Directed by: Shirish Kunder

I was going to log this film under the “Seen but Unwritten” and forget about it but then I realized it was Salman Khan’s birthday, and I thought I should honor it. Somehow.

This film is brainless fluff. There are some funny parts, some sad parts, a love triangle, sequins and cool lighting effects. Otherwise, there isn’t much to recommend and it is simply a film that I watched because I was snowed in and it was almost 3 hours of time killer.

Sparkly trees? Me want.

The plot centers around Suhaan (Salman Khan) and Piya (Preity Zinta) who were high-school-college sweethearts and who eloped when their parents disapproved of their pyaar. Suhaan is a wannabe movie star who lands his first Hero role by strutting into a casting directors office and rips off his shirt*. When the director of his film learns that he is married he demands the Suhaan live apart from his wife until the film comes out so that his Hero image is not spoiled. Instead of shrinking away in to the background Piya files for divorce and moves to New York City. With his movie a flop and a demand for Rs. 50,000 in alimony Suhaan and his uncle Vakil (Anupam Kher) determine that the solution to their problems is to get Piya married again so that the demand for alimony is null and void.

Luckily Champu (Akshay Kumar) comes knocking on the door looking for Piya. Champu was a fellow classmate of Suhaan and Piya and has always nursed a love for Piya. He feels that he can win her now, as a NASA astronaut, compared to the geek he was in High School/College. Suhaan and Champu fly off to NYC and start wooing Piya.

In true love triangle ishtyle Piya must make a decision between Suhaas and Champu…

This movie was so painfully long.

I just have to get that complaint out in the open. Thankfully it was not drawn-out because it deviated from the plot at all, there was just so much jammed into the 2 hours and 80 minutes that it dragged. And dragged. And dragged.

Pacing was not helped by the songs which were awkward, ill placed and so non-lyrical that it often felt that the singers were singing phrases to songs that were completely different from what the accompaniment was playing. It literally made my brain hurt. It was like rapping on top of songs that sounded akin to the ones that would play as Shashi and Mumtaz ran around a forrest. It just made no sense.

Given the rather shallow nature of the subject matter I applaud the trio of main actors in their effort and devotion to their roles. Akshay Kumar was as close to normal as I’ve ever seen him and so spruced up in a suit and slicked back hair that I was having many “fan myself” moments. Salman Khan was my first filmi crush so there is not much I will say against him. He was very funny in this role, light hearted and heartbroken at turns with great effectiveness. Preity was given a great role and did well in it as the independent woman.

There is not much I can find to nitpick about this film. It’s seamless in its charm and besides an oddly paced section is fun enough to bring some cheer on a cold, snowy day.

Also: Shashi!

*Oh, the casting couch stories that are in my head!