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!

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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.

Veer-Zaara, 2004

Directed by: Yash Chopra

I watched this last night with my two pupils (i.e. B’wood novices) K and L.  K in particular is an amazing success story, a year ago she couldn’t understand my obsession with Indian Cinema and especially couldn’t stand the music (she had an issue with the voice registration; we’re all Opera singers, just ignore it) So what did I do to persuade my two pals that “east or west” Bollywood was “the best”? I sat them down and made them watch Dard-e-Disco. Conversion complete. I am, when necessary, an excellent sales-woman and champion for the Indian film industry. Since then they have been hounding me for daily installments in their educations. It’s wonderful.

Anyway, back to VZ…

It took me years for me to finally see this. One of my best friends growing up was from Pakistan and she always told me “you HAVE to watch it. You just HAVE to!” So I did…

I don’t want to discuss the plot, you can find that anywhere. There are so many wonderful moments in this film, and I want to talk about those.

-The music, oh! The music in this movie (weird jazzy-saxophone included) is just phenomenal. You can actually buy the soundtrack for this movie, a rarity in Indian films that I wish was practiced more often. It’s poignant, dramatic and touching. Sure, a little romanticized and overtly emotional, but that’s just Bollywood, and that’s what you get. The filmi songs are just so so good too. The first one you see is so camp and so typical YRF that you want to gag, but you can’t because it’s just that good and precious to see SRK hoping around and being happy. And if you’ve never seen “Main Yahaan Hoon” then you’ve never seen something so inclined to induce me into a fever and heavy breathing. K and L made use re-watch that particular song at least 3 times.

…if only…

-The cinematography is breathtaking. There are so many shots that just make you think “Yash knew what he was doing”. The settings, scenery, colors and little details scattered throughout provide lush surroundings for this “love legend”. The post-production details are impressive too. So many times there are awkward “cut offs” in either music or feeling as the film moves from scene to scene, and it’s one of my only peeves; but in VZ, there is only one of those moments, and you’re so caught up in the story when it happens, that you don’t even notice it (unless you’ve seen it a million times).

-Amitabh Bachchan! In this movie he’s so fun and happy and smiling and funny. It’s refreshing to see him like that, compared to his frowning, stern parenting roles. If I had to pick a grandfather, Chaudhary Sumer Singh would be my top choice. (Kirron Kher also gives a great Maa performance, if I could pick a filmi Maa, she’d be mine!)

-Preity and Shahrukh and Rani!!!… it took me a long time to get used to Preity Zinta and like her, and what finally hooked me was this movie. She gives a great performance and her character is simply lovable. How I like my Shahrukh is the way he appears in this movie. His face isn’t the hard, chiseled thing he’s sported since Om Shanti Om, nor is it the cutesy, baby face of DDLJ. In this movie he sizzles. His eyes, his hair, his eyebrows, his Adam’s apple… yum! Rani also gives a good performance as Veer’s lawyer who has heart, hope and compassion.

The short and short of it (and this movie and its review are neither short) is that I love Veer-Zaara, it’s a good one to take down when you haven’t seen it for a few years and just get caught in the “legend” of Veer and Zaara’s love, and all of the sweet, short little moments in between the moments of grandeur that  are what make this movie touching and all around good.

*I wrote this during my ethnomusicology lecture so if it’s disjunct or just plain poorly written it’s because I was trying to look “engaged” in the lecture and my teacher would periodically call on me to pronounce the Indian names of musicians, instruments and songs…