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. 
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!

Kites, 2010

Directed by: Anurag Basu

I had avoiding this film because of the Hrithik Roshan overkill I’ve been subjected to for the 6 weeks I’ve been in India; but today I had a day off and was feeling daring enough to go out by myself, so I just did it.

And I really liked it. Bahaut liked it.

I think that like Housefull I was saved by lack of subtitles… but that is not the only reason I feel victim to Kites (“in the skyyy!”, sorry, but I can’t help myself):

1. Copious use of the Spanish language…mixed with Hindi.
Actually, this was one of the really big attractions to me to see the film. I grew up speaking Spanish, and am (or imagine myself to be) beautifully fluent in the language, however; since I have been dawdling in Hindi I can never remember one or the other and have developed a form of Hinpanish… if you thought Hinglish was a nightmare, than you’d be appalled by this combo. Whether I’m speaking Spanish or attempting Hindi the holes are filled in with the other language. So I would say something insane like: Como se dice ap ki naam? And get bewildered looks. This film did nothing to help my condition, BUT the Spanish bits were the only parts of dialouge that I understood verbatim. Que lastima! And, Hrithik speaking Spanish. More of this will come later but, can we say “melt”? Yeah.

2. Mexico and the South Western United States.
I have a love affair with all things pertaining to Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. The food, the colors, the language (Spanglish!) the people… everything! A long-unfulfilled dream of mine is to live in Chihuahua again, rename myself Rosmarita, wear fouffy dresses with roses in my hair and simply get fat on mole, tacos and horchata! So I might have teared up a bit when they were eating tacos and rice (since that’s been my #1 craving since being here) and dressed up in traditional garb dancing salsa and being all around amazing.

3. Simple Hindi Film…. Bollywood-ness.
A car barely hits another car and causes a chain-reaction of 50 cars blowing up BUT the next time 10 cars go flipping into the air they just land sans becoming fireballs. Oh, I love little oddities like that.
Gratuitous showcasing of Hrithik’s body and/or dance moves.
Villains/Godfather-family-esque mobstering.
Use of the phrase “love story” to mention another couples relationship.
“Just Add Water” rain and dance moments.
Overall “snuggle-ness”.

4. Kissing.
It’s taken me a very long time to get used to kissing in Hindi Films, but now that it’s more common place, and NOT used as a shock factor, I don’t want it to stop. The kissing in this film was superb, and always came right when you wanted it. (This sounds so perverse!) And sometimes it left you wishing they would kiss when all they would go for is the Incredible Filmi Hug. Plus, it would be remiss if you let two of the world’s most perfect noses not snuggle up towards one another. The audience would just be outraged!

5. Chemistry.
Barbara Mori could have smoldered a hole through the screen herself, but matched with Hrithik it was like an all consuming blaze. They looked so so good with one another, and they made their amazingly stressful relationship believable, and enticing to look at. They also have matching eyes, with is one of those little things that always just tickles my fancy.

6. The Music:
Please correct me if I am wrong, but this is the first film I’ve seen with an actual SCORE. Now, being the music geek that I am, I grew up on film scores, so they’re just something I notice… and this one, (besides stealing heavily from some Lord of the Rings* music…) was a full-on-changed-with-the-action-full-feature-score. Not just a loop of the same ambient music repeated over and over again with variations of volume for emotional effect (I’m looking at you, My Name is Khan!) Also, I was a fan of the Filmi music too. Full of Spanish flavor with moments of “Well at least he’s trying and almost succeeding” singing from Hrithik. I’m becoming more comfortable with the music used as background pieces if it suits the film, and for this film, an all out dance sequence would have just been too much. My hats off to the sound designer and music director, for they used the music with good taste, and to display the proper emotions.

7. The story:
I liked it, there were parts I didn’t like (namely, um, violence, since I’m a Quaker and all**) but for the most part it was easy to go along with. Almost like a twisted, bizarre, not as lovable Bunty aur Babli. And I won’t give away the ending (that takes a lot of restraint for me) but while it’s something I find hard to deal with, I thought it was done tastefully and with delicacy. The pacing was spot on and I never felt like it was dragging or becoming too cumbersome. Plus, I really liked the narrative, flipping back and forth from present to past with a seamlessness and a “I’m really not getting lost” clarity. For the most part I was feeling very lovey-dovey and kept sighing with happiness when something especially cute would happen.

Oh the power Indian Cinema has over my hard heart that other RomComs fail to soften!

8. Ok. Hrihik:
I am not, or was not one to fall down adoringly at HR’s feet and worship anything about him. His face was always too defined, his bellybutton too weird, he lacked the proper amount of body hair (a.k.a. any), and he was just too pretty. However, scruffy, bleeding, dirty and at the “Yes, I would find you more attractive now” age of 36, I totally fell for him. Plus, he has long-ish curly hair. Battle won over this ladki’s heart. I was also surprised by his acting, since I never sought out his films before I wasn’t sure if he could do more than smile and melt women’s hearts; but Mr. HR has some commendable chops, played his tortured Romeo well, and I might be more inclined to partake in more of his films.

Ah, Kites (in the skyyyy!) was just what I needed… but you made my desire to hurry home and eat tacos all the more keen. Damn you for that!

Oh! And I must say, that the trailer for “I Hate Luv Stories” makes it look utterly fantastic and hysterical… but I could be really wrong.

Also, why does Raajneeti, or as I call it, Ranbir-eeti, have to come out AFTER I get back home? I shall be having words with my home theater if they don’t order it in!

*I hate Lord of the Rings, and am dealing with my shame for 1) knowing the music and 2) mentioning it here.
**My high school mascot was the Fighting Quakers, and I’m from a predominantly Quaker area, and while I am not a Q myself, you do develop certain values when you are reared in a pacifist community.

Koi…Mil Gaya, 2003

Directed by: Rakesh Roshan

This movie almost made me loose the faith. It made me seriously question at one point WHY I would ever be dabbling under the dangerous influence of Indian Cinema.

There are so many things about this film that are just so fantastically absurd that I hardly spent a minute NOT in high-pitched, hysterical laughter. Ask K, she was there, she witnessed this loss-of-brain-spectacular. There are so many life-altering manifestations of “Just…WOW!”

1. What the heck was up with Rohit’s (Hrithik Roshan) mutant thumb!? Why was it there? Did it give him magical powers? Was it for eating delicious slugs from under logs? It is responsible for his amazing basketball skills?*

2. I still don’t get why Jadoo was even there. True to form, I was Twittering away (because I am an addict that needs a 12-step program) while watching this, so I might have missed that important detail, but it just seemed so… Ok, fine, I know it’s supposed to be Sci-Fi (which I have differing, yet very strong opinions on to begin with) but I felt it was lacking in development. It seemed very patched together, like there was more to the story at one time, but it all got hacked out.

3. Jadoo didn’t even do anything! He just looked rather like a blow-up doll (as far as his facial expressions are concerned.)the entire time and just aided Hrithik in his already stellar jumping. Oh, and turned Rohit into an insufferable cock-of-the-walk. I thought he was actually going to do something; like hatch elaborate plans for world domination, or travel back in time to a world stuck in 1920s Mobster New York where they have daily shoot-outs, fall in love with a woman who would then later die, tragically, struck by a car en route to a movie (if you get that, you know my deepest, darkest, best-kept secret). But he did nothing of the sort. He just looked cute, and made his brain glow every once and a while. Can we say “letdown”?

4. Rekha. Rekha. Rekha. I have a total girl-crush on Rekha. I want her hair so badly I’d shave her head and collect the pieces, make a wig, and then never take it off. I wish my name was Rekha, so that people could obtain as much pleasure from saying my name as I do when I say hers. Reeeekkhaaaa. Not only is she my one-true-love (sorry, Neetu, it’s not you it’s me… you know) but she has a few kick-ass moments in this film where she tells people what, exactly, is what. GO GIRL!

5. I can’t remember too much of the music, Twittering and alternating between tears and giggles as I was, but I did really LOVE Haila Haila. Maybe it was the orchestration, the playback singers, or Hrithik’s wardrobe, but it just felt like it had wandered out of a Shashi movie and transplanted into this one.

6. I seriously thought that Hrithik could just jump as high as he can. I didn’t even think about the use of harnesses until K made a sarcastic comment about them. It is fair to say that I felt really dumb, but at least glad that she pointed it out before the pivotal basketball scene. That would have really been embarrassing!

7. Preity Zinta, darling filmi clone, you are too cute for words.

8. I found everyone’s reaction to Jadoo a bit… melodramatic. They were going to open-fire on his house with cannons if the alien wasn’t surrendered? Odd.

9. Sometimes, I question casting directors taste level when Johnny Lever is involved.

10. This film actually did not make me question my faith in the Bolly. Good golly, that’s well and firmly established, and it is not going anywhere.

This probably isn’t a film I’ll be revisiting, unless I ever take up drinking, in which case it would be spectacular and well worth it. However, for all the sarcasm it was rather charming.

*There is some debate over the validity of Hrithik’s current “Jesus hair”. I for one, really like it. I dig men with longer-ish hair. Yum!

*Hindsight is a great intellgence booster. I get the thumb thing now.