Sharmeelee, 1971

Directed by: Samir Ganguli (Ganguly)

This contains spoilers. Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be. The plot is readily available everywhere  and I’m terrible at secrets.

When you, as a DVDwallah, hand me Sharmeelee and say “Oh, you will like this one, if ‘Shashi Kapoor is your man'” you are assuming a lot of things about me based on 10 minutes or so of conversation.

I think my DVDwallah is my soul mate.

He knows.

Everything and anything there is about my personality he has pegged, because this film has it all: Raakhee, Shashi, twins, goons, scars, moments of hatred and love, explosions, The Voice, cute sequences with animals, Kishore Kumar on playback, songs by Burman…

I could go on but I’ll stop, lest my post turn into a laundry list of perfection.

This film also did something miraculous. It converted my mother to the ways of Masala! We were snuggled up watching this film while our Thanksgiving dinner cooked and for nothing could I tear my momma away from the movie!

Magic!

She is, after all, the same woman who sat through Pyar Kiye Jaa and was unmoved, even hostile.  (As if that were even possible!)

Sharmeelee is so interesting! It’s Masala but there is something tangibly different about it that I cannot put my finger on. Trying to explain my feelings on this is like giving a speech and forgetting a very obvious word that you just cannot remember.

On the whole the film is engrossing and the pace is kept fresh by twists in the plot whenever there is a  threat of listlessness, either on screen or in the audience. There is also an interesting “need to know” feel established wherein, for example, after pulling off a heist (that goes largely unseen) the Bad Guy says “now we’re rich”. You aren’t informed why they might be rich or what they had to do to become so, they just are. It is an amusing if unhelpful path to take. The ploy is used several times, mainly to establish back story or to introduce characters, but it should have been reworked when one of the main characters turns pure evil for apparently no reason what-so-ever. More on that later.

On paper Sharmeelee could easily have been read as a bit campy. Two twins (Raakhee), a shy, “traditional” one (Kanchan) and the rambunctious, “Westernized” Kamini fall in love with the same man, Captain Ajit Kapoor (Shashi Kapoor). Arranged to marry Kanchan Ajit instead chooses Kamini after discovering that she is the girl he met and fell in love with on a night in Kashmir. When Kamini comes into some trouble and “dies” (disappears, more or less) Ajit is tricked into marrying Kanchan and runs away from her after learning the truth.

The saving grace to this film (besides its outright brilliance) is the abilities and the strengths of the lead actors. Shashi Kapoor and Raakhee give their characters such earnestness and complexity that it is easy enough to slip along with them into their experiences.

In playing both twins Raakhee gives a superb performance. Not only does each twin have their implied characteristics but they are also given different temperaments, expressions, voices and attitudes. Even when she is Kamini pretending to be Kanchan you can still tell that it is Kamini; this is more easily identifiable when Kanchan is forced to play the outgoing Kamini, there is still a sense of ill ease and shyness  that pervades her person.

Raakhee’s skill is further displayed when she becomes the “evil” Kamini. The effect is chilling and a total abandonment from the care free Kamini seen earlier in the film.

What I wonder about concerning evil Kamini is why she became that way. Sure there is some slight suggestion that she is mixed up with the wrong people, and she has a few terrible encounters* with the Baddies; but it is never shown or described why she became (or if she always was) as ruthless and terrible as she is at the end of the film. Of course she has her moment of redemption as she draws her last breath and uses it to save her sister but I feel as if it was the one moment where the “need to know” curtain should have been lifted and more insight into the making of evil Kamini would have been greatly appreciated.

Another thing that outrageously miffed me the first time but only slightly gnawed at me in subsequent watchings was the self-sacrifice of Kanchan’s personality to appease and enable Ajit. Sure he had lost the will to live and had been tricked into a marriage to someone he was not expecting (and I can understand all of these reasons) but… ugh… why force Kanchan to be Kamini anyway? Who cares if the wedding doesn’t happen? Who cares if Ajit is depressed for a while? Who cares about telling the truth? It was so painful. Kanchan didn’t want to be Kamini as much as she did want to be Ajit’s wife, so why not make the story about how Ajit falls for Kanchan as Kanchan, not as Kanchan pretending to be Kamini so that her parents’ reputation is upheld and so that Ajit doesn’t suffer disappointment and heartbreak?

Oh wait… he still suffers through all of that anyway, so why not just out the truth and be done without the added heartache of having been lied to?

Sure, at the end Ajit realizes he is in love with Kanchan as Kanchan, maybe? It just seems too contrived to me that after being told the person he thinks is Kamini is actually her sister that he could just SNAP! say “Oh yes, I’ve loved her the entire time!”

I would have much preferred an honest relationship established on the premise that Ajit know what girl he was wooing. I can’t even imagine the pain and anguish that Kanchan had to endure in the name of saving face.

Gross.

And just one more tiny thing that vexed me about this film: you can see a TON of production helps. Characters in glasses have spots obviously pointing at them face-on and every time someone is in a car you can see the outline of the umbrella shielding the glare from the glass. In a film that is pretty spot on otherwise in terms of production quality and craftsmanship, these and other oversights are unfortunate.

I do not mean to take this film to task, I really do love it and it has sandwiched itself up on my “Favorites” list but when there are minor annoyances with such perfect (and I use that loosely) work, than generally we focus on the annoyances.

On to things I did like, shall we?

The music is to die for. There is something about Burman’s work that just sparkles and haunts at the same time. Combine his ear for melody and Kishore, Lata and Asha’s talents; hold me close and let me weep. I can’t get enough of this soundtrack. I wish, now more than ever, that films still had songs like these.

Locations, costumes, props, design… everything was so laid back! Alongside the effortless portrayal of our complex characters was the stunning “real life” feeling houses and hotels and clothing. I am all for the glitz and the glamor that tends to run rampant in Masala but it is also nice to see a restrained set that suggests “Yes, people might actually live here and they might actually wear these very common looking clothes”. Oh, and before I forget, I need ever sari featured in this film ASAP.

Thanks.

I want that salmon one on the hanger especially!
And this white one is a must have!
 It looks fairly similar to one I wore to a wedding in Dharavi, 
but more sparkly… and lacking in bubble-gum pink color. 
And just a little something to look for when you’re watching Sharmeelee: The twins wear different rings on their “wedding ring” fingers. In an odd twist Kachan’s is large and flashy and Kamini’s is small and understated. It bothered me from the beginning that Ajit simply couldn’t tell them apart from just this small detail, but I guess it’s frivolous to expect men to ever notice jewelry.

*I am choosing to omit reference to the EPIC battle between Kamini and her attacker. That, simply must be seen, and not described.

Oh, and just because I must…

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Shankar Dada, 1976

Directed by: Shibu Mitra

Take a moment and consider something, this picture, to be exact:

And just think about if you can handle two things:
1. All of this bumptiousness (it is a word) up in here.
2. If Neetu Week gets a little derailed and we smush in some Shashi.
Is that OK? Because, I totally intended for this to be a Neetu-centric post! I didn’t even know Shashi was IN this film and… well… I got a little VERY distracted once I put in the DVD and saw him on the menu screen.
I am only human.
Je damn! I loved this movie. Don’t ask me why, you should know better than to ask me why at this point. I wish I had the skill, care, and ability to read into things, to dissect them and analyze but I don’t and I never shall.
Bas! 
Our happy little fillum starts off with Police Inspector Amar Singh (Pran) and his wife (Anjali Kadam) in the typical household squabble of “Men never remember important dates”*. Amar tries his best at guessing, leaving the wife much unamused.
The long-suffering wife reminds him of what day it REALLY is, and points towards the two things my uterus will ever do anticipatory backflips for.
The two things:
1. Indian children.
2. Twin boys.

Of COURSE it is the twin boys, Ram aur Shankar’s birthday! And Baba forgot! He quickly kisses the boys on the head, feeds them some sweets and promises to see them that night.

At work, Police Inspector Amar Singh does his duty in combating goons and corruption from the local Don, Babubhai (Anwar Hussain).

No…and I DID bribe a police officer while in India…
Phew! I was lucky!

After a long day of “battling the lions of injustice” (name that movie) Amar Singh returns home too late to celebrate his boys’ birthday. He makes some phone calls about work related matters and settles in to dinner with his biwi when there is an urgent knock on the door. A frantic woman enters, crying hysterically and begging Amar to come with her as goons have invaded and surrounded her house and are holding her husband captive. Off they trot leaving the twin boys and Amar’s wife at home (Can someone smell what is coming?). As soon as Amar leaves the house goons come to incapacitate Mrs. Singh and kidnap the little boys.

Amar and the frightened woman enter her house.

The way the light comes through the sari…
That’s magic. Lovely!

Once inside Amar is once again matched against Babubhai. Appealed to again and and again Amar refuses to join Babubhai’s evil club. Until, that is, that Ram aur Shankar are brought in and used as leverage.

Amar instructs his boys to run away. Once they are gone from the house, Amar breaks the lights in the house (ALL of them, but just shooting ONE lightbulb) and ambushes Babubhai and all of his goons in the dark. Grunts and shots ring out and the rest of the police force arrive just as the action ends.

Meanwhile, as they are running away, Ram aur Shankur are separated, and since we neither saw that coming OR understand what significance that will play in the following hours, I propose we just ignore such a plot device for the time being.

That’s sarcasm, folks.

In trial Amar is accused of illicit behavior and of murder and is sentenced to life in jail. Clearly he is convicted under false terms, but were he to get off scott-free that would make his sure-to-come-revenge all the less sweet. Amar is carted off to jail.

Fast forward 20 years or so, or however long it takes Shashi to turn into a 30 something, and feast your eyes on adult Shankar:

He’s a facial hair wearing, swashbuckling, oddly moralistic con man with a knack for disguises and very, I’m talking impossibly fast, costume changes.

Shankar has done the unthinkable. He has one-upped Babubhai and stolen the Don’s stolen goods. Because that cannot be tolerated, especially from such a young whippersnapper, Babubhai sets him up with Bindiya at a night club.

Shakar, totally enjoys himself,

And essentially, falls for it:

Falling for the dashing diva only gets Shankar in thick with Babubhai and he takes a job from the Don. Heists, cons and narrow escapes ensue and we have the joy of seeing Shankar work his disguises for all they’re worth.

In other news, Amar Singh is release from prison, apparently having outlived a lifetime sentence and goes undercover in attempts to infiltrate Babubhai’s inner circle in hopes of enacting his revenge. During this time, Shankar gets aquatinted with both of his parents, not that he knows it of course.

In order to deal with the swelling of crime that Shankar has brought upon the town, the police decide to bring in an Inspector Ram, from Delhi, who will be handling the case. Being all that we want him to be, Ram meets and falls in love with a lovely ladki, Roopa (Neetu Singh) in the airport.

Look at his eager little boy body language!
Cho chweet!

Without warning, Roopa is taken immediately upon landing to the villain’s lair where her father is being held for reasons that aren’t really specified, but she pleads for his release, and becomes distraught when she witnesses his torture at the hands of a machine that… heats him up(?).

Thinking that it will set her father free, Roopa agrees to work for the bad guys. The goons have discovered the doppleganger Ram after a few hours of mistaken identity and accidently foiled plans wherein I got really confused trying to tell both Shashis (in disguises) apart from one another. Suffice it to say that my dreams came true in one disguise….

In the name of all things holy, Shashi as a Sardarji is the most UNFAIR yet
amazing thing EVER. 
Roopa agrees to take on the job of seducing Ram to get him into the cavern of villainocity. She proceeds to meet him at a pool, pretend to drown, then pretend to get drunk and entices him with a sexy song in his bedroom. I love Neetu so much.
The short and short of seduction by Neetu Singh is that it works. Ram falls heads over tops with Roopa and accompanies her to an art gallery (Date win!) where they snuggle a bit before she insists she go study a particular engraving before she pulls a lever which causes him to fall through the floor and into the cavernous jail in the villain’s lair.
Ram is lucky enough to land in a cell that shares bars with Roopa’s father. At first angered by her betrayal, Ram settles down after he learns that Roopa is only cooperating with the thugs in a hope to save her beloved Babaji.
On the outside, Pran has donned the guise of a leprechaun and invades a political rally to shame the politicians and demand the end of poverty in India. There is also a map of India… made out of people.
Back in the underground jail, a fight breaks out between Ram and the head thug wherein fire torches are thrown.
Ram is presumed dead and is dropped into the ocean. Fortunately he survives and climbs out onto the beach sparkling with sea water dripping from his curls. Yum. He hightails it over to the police department where Shankar has been impersonating him. The police chief bids Ram to hid behind the door while he calls in the impostor. Ram and Shankar meet at stare at each other in amazement.
His deceit found out Shankar runs back to Babubhai and kidnaps an old woman, who will later turn out to be his mother. On his way to catch him, Ram encounters the soon-to-be-kidnapped Maa who informs him of who he is and who his brother is. A hop and a skip before you know it and we’re all corralled into the villain’s lair awaiting the last 30 minutes of dishoom!
During the battle Ram informs Shankar of their brotherly bond and that he kidnapped their very own Maa! In a secret winking ceremony while scuffling, the two boys decide to work together in bringing down the Don. Thankfully, the happily reunited sons and Maa don’t have to wait too long before their long lost Babaji, Amar Singh, reappears and kicks the tar out of the bad guys.
Then, in order to get her revenge, Roopa pops out of a trunk pointing a pistol. Can I repeat it? I love Neetu Singh.
It all ends with the Police Chief showing up, Roopa being threatened and the Don getting his just rewards for being such an awful man.
Then, Shankar must face the consequences of his actions, but in a total b!t*h move, his dad makes his own twin brother arrest him. My disk ended abruptly after the cuffs were on and Shankar was smiling manically. I kind of hope that wasn’t the real ending, because it was totally creepy.
Ok. I’d be all analytical and stuff, but this post totally exhausted me. Granted, I was toiling over a pot of chai at the same time, more than visibly concerned that I’ll make an awful filmi wife one day**. Oh, and I’m not analytical. However, I did really like Bindu’s cabaret song, seen here.
And, just for some gleeful things, extra screen-caps of pyaaaaar:
I was so obsessed with this wall. 
SO going in my house….
when I grow up enough to get a house.
Those hands.
Beads.
Diamonds
The very Piet Mondria entrance to the liar.
*I’m awful at remembering important dates and anniversaries. It’s not always the men!
**Don’t judge me.

Pyaar Kiye Jaa, 1966

Directed by: C.V. Sridhar

This is a movie I wanted to screen cap the life out of. It was full of so many great moments, but I only got the opening credits because the sound on my media player was AWFUL, and the DVD seemed to only work (in a bizarre twist of weirdness) in a proper player, like, attached to my big screen and surround sound and stuff. (Imagine!) But, the opening credits are just as precious as the rest of the
fillum. Tres cute and cartoony.



I liked all the songs from this film, they’re all so fun and catchy and fabulously Late 60s. The incidental music was exactly like watching some kitschy Teen Beach movie where they all dance the jitter bug and have little bows in their beehives. 

I could post ALL of the songs to this post, but I’ll save you. Instead I’ve just wasted about 30 minutes watching them all, Shashi is so steamy, Kishore is so jolly, Mumtaz is so Mumtaz (which is to say, bombshell).

As I was watching this I couldn’t decide which Shashi I like better, early Shashi (as seen here) where he is innocent, prone to over-acting, cute, wide-eyed and eager OR later Shashi (say, the delicious 70s) where he developed THE VOICE and smolders through the celluloid because he know he can reduce women to piles of pudding just by breathing. Hm. My problem with early Shashi is that it is SO much like early Shah Rukh; I’ve heard that darling Mr. SRK moulded his technique after the famous actors of yore and it’s just so annoyingly on-spot to the Shashi that I get irritated. 

As a performer I know all about drawing inspiration, but the point isn’t supposed to become that person… unless you’re an imitator or doing a biography film. I won’t deny that Shah Rukh grew into his own (most notably in his most recent handful of films) but ….

This isn’t a blog about SRK

And I liked the film because it was just good hearted Bollywood fun! The KishoreShashi-bromance was too cute for words. There were disguises, mistaken identifies, pyaaar (of course pyaar) heroic rescues of radio transmitters from canals, non-violent protests and happy endings. 

It’s not a film meant for in-depth analysis, just fluffy happy thoughts to give you a boost and a good mood, and that is the best kind of movie, in my book. 

Silsila, 1981

Directed by: Yash Chopra

I cannot hate this film. I just can’t.

It goes against my better nature, but I can’t. I don’t have the power to.

I despise cheating/adultery/sneaking around/hidden romances… all variations of dochebaggery.
I find all forms of self-sacrifice, withering, and pathetic justifications absolutely disgusting.
BUT
I appreciate semi-quasi-maybe-it-is-and-maybe-it-isn’t biographical flicks.
I love awkward semi-quasi-maybe-it-is-and-maybe-it-isn’t casting. It’s so true to life! It happens all the time!
Couple those with some of my favorites, Rekha, Shashi, Amitabh, Jaya and Sanjeev; throw in some Alps, romantic tulip fields, some nods to Clara Bow, and overall Yash-Raj-ishness and you probably will get a movie that I’m going to love.
This movie is like the cleaner, more endearing Bombay Talkie. It is highly, highly Romanticized, but it still has the same basic feel, except for all of the pathetic characters; on the whole, while I pitied the characters in this film, I neither hated them or thought they were right. They were just being human. (With glaring morality issues, but for this moment, that is beyond the point).
 
Shekher (Shashi Kapoor) is an officer in the Indian Air Force and he is truely, madly, deeply in love with Shobha (Jaya Badhuri*). 
 
Shekher has a brother Amit, whom he loves dearly too. And they do precious brotherly things… like shower together…?
The unfairness of this reverberates through MANY levels of unfairness.

Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) is a playwright, lauded for his voice which he uses to read his plays over the radio, and is smitten by the seductive Chandni (Rekha) whom he meets at a wedding and woos in precious filmi-love ishsyle. 

 

Chandni is promised to another man, but when she tells her father she is in love with Amit, he breaks off the engagement and allows her to follow her heart. When Shekher is killed in a rescue mission, Amit rushes off to the funeral and in the process discovers that Shobha is pregnant. Out of loyalty to his brother, and compassion towards Shobha Amit marries her. Amit writes a tearful goodbye to Chandni and shuts her out of his life for good…
 
Or so we think. While Amit plays the doting husband very well, especially after Shobha loses the baby, he is tormented by what his life could have been like, had he been free to marry Chandni. The more the couple drifts apart the more desperate Amit becomes in his quest to find Chandni and revive their romance. Almost by design the two meet, and meet again, and again and again… At first Chandni is firm, there will be no relationship. Amit is married, she too married a Dr. V.K. Anand (Sanjeev Kumar) and she will not take part in the eventual destruction of two families. 

 

Amit is nothing if not persistant, and eventually wears down Chandni’s resolve and the two begin a passionate, blissful affair. At first the relationship is taken casually by the respective participant’s spouses, but slowly, ever so slowly Shobha and Dr. Anand get the hints.  After a particularly telling display at Holi the lovers are confronted. Shobha tries to scold Amit but he does not find her serious and Dr. Anand persuades Chandni to forget her past before it rips apart their marriage. 

 

Later, when Dr. Anand and Shobha chat the Doctor tells Shobha that she has rights, and she has the ability to stand her ground and get what she wants too. Shobha races off to tell Amit that she loves him, and she does, but only after he confesses that he is being unfair to her, he loves Chandni and he’s leaving. 
 
Rather than put up a fight, Shobha lets Amit leave, citing that he will return when his sense of duty kicks in and that she is resigned to wait for him until that happens. 
 
When the two extramarital adulterers go to a wedding together “as friends” things get messy. And fast. During the ceremony Amit thinks of his wedding to Shobha and her newly confessed love for him, he’s haunted by his nonchalance and lost sense of duty.  A phone call in the middle of the wedding alerts the two decietful lovebirds of a plane crash involving Chandni’s husband. The two race to the scene where Amit sees Shobha. He is ready to jump into the continually exploding wreckage but is halted by Shobha who begs him no to. She doesn’t want to loose him, he should consider saving himself, if not for her, than for her unborn child.  With those magic words Amit’s demeanor changes and he softens a little. He promises that he will come back to her, and flies into the burning plane. 
 
Dr. Ananad is alive, remarkably, and Amit assists in dragging him out of the plane and to his wife; Chandni, in a move uncharacteristic for her thus far, embraces her husband and rejoices at his safety.
 
Amit races home to find Shobha (who had collapsed due to anxiety) and professes he is her husband, she his wife and nothing else matters. The film closes with Shobha and Amit strolling lovingly through a park, cuddling, goo-goo eying and looking very happy.

 

First a foremost I don’t understand why Amit had to marry Shobha at all. Se appeared to be an independent woman who could take care of herself. I understand that she would have been an unmarried mother, but surely all parties would have been better suited had Amit just married Chandni. The whole idea of marrying his brother’s fiancee, not wife, but fiancee, just seemed incredibly Biblical and dated. Plus, if I were to put myself into Shobha’s shoes, I wouldn’t have wanted someone to marry me just because they felt sorry for me. There was so much guilt, regret and misplaced sympathy in that that relationship, and that is just not healthy. Of course something like that is going to self-destruct. If not in an affair, in another way.
 
Amit needed to grow up, and that’s that. HE made the choice to offer marriage to Shobha so HE shouldn’t have felt the need to call up Chandni whenever he got a little mopey and insist they get back together, especially after she tried to say no! At least she was being a responsible adult in her attempts to have some sense of propriety. After her blatant refusal it should have been a non-issue, but Amit persisted and look where that got them.

I’m not going to even start on Shobha’s “I’ll wait till he returns because I have no claim on him, he has no responsibility to me, I only must do what he says and stand by him because I owe him for marrying me in the first place” stance. I refuse to go there. 

 
I think I was so sympathetic to this film because it was shot absolutely beautifully. Visual aesthetic will get you quite far in my book. Yash Chopra has a gift for composing stunning scenes that just ooze perfection. I drool over this mans lighting and his eye for creating ambiance and interesting pictures.

I especially liked Rekha’s treatment in this film. Obviously she was the femme fatal, and I don’t know if Yash was going through a Film Noir binge or what but there are some excellent moments where Rekha is shot  very much in the style of all the steamy oldies. She’s the Clara Bow of Bollywood. That’s my new name for her, because frankly, she is. Oh, her half-opened eyes and her pouty baby-doll lips, I can’t get enough! 

 

The performances made this movie. Being cast in their “real-life roles” (yes, I will get there**) added some spice and edge to the film. There was discomfort laced through every scene. There was tangible tension and moments of “Please stop looking at each other like that, and get back to acting, please” where I thought they had forgotten that they were playing characters.
 
 However, I do have to say that my favorite performance was by Sanjeev. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites, he’s just so calm and collected, yet manages to convey everything his character is experiencing through his subtitles in his face and carriage. When he confronted Rekha about her affair it was heartbreaking, astonishingly real and overwhelmingly touching. 

 

The music is simply beautiful. Melodious, catchy, calm, soothing, beautiful…etc. Everything that good music is, this soundtrack has it. Of particular note are Sar Se Sarke and Ladki Hai Ya Shola. As well as having good songs, there are A LOT of them. As far as I’m concerned they’re all going on my iPod to help stave off boredom on my flight to India.

Ok, the drama.

As far as I’m concerned I don’t really care about the Rekha/Jaya/Amitabh real-life love triangle. I’m not one to get involved in celebrity woes and drama, and based on the effortless, minimal hunting I did no-one could tell me if it actually happened or not. Let’s though, say it did, in which case kudos to Yash Chopra for wrangling all three of these people and getting them to say “yes” to this film. On the other hand, let’s say it’s not true, and again, kudos to Mr. Chopra for getting them to play up the press the “affair” was getting. (I tend to lean towards the “yea, it happened” ideal, but still, I find that rather irrelevant)

I’mma say it again:
I love this movie.

*Jaya is billed with that last name, but on the film credits as Bachchan. I left her with that one, because that’s how I roll…
**I thought about not mentioning the real-lifey bits at all, but I know better than that. 

AND, a joy I had never considerd, Shashi in uniform! Enjoy:

 

Bombay Talkie, Revisited

Directed by: James Ivory

I’ve taken a few deep breaths since Sunday night, had some cardiovascular exercise, finished a few finals…etc. I’m in far better condition to talk about this movie now, and I promise, that feeling of hatred towards Lucia Lane that I can feel creeping ever so slowly into my fingers shall be beaten back with a stick.

I mentioned in my last post on the topic that I didn’t exactly hate this film. Unbeknown to me, I totally flew over that talking point and straight into girl-hate, but I’d like to cover it now:

Why Bombay Talkie didn’t really suck (a topic heavy enough for a thesis) is due in large part to the delicacy the director gave to the film. After watching half of it and being totally turned off to the film I never expected to be so drawn in the second time, but I was. There is a sense of emotional restraint that you grasp onto, while you know that the movie isn’t going to go full-out Masala-tastic, I personally kept waiting for something more to come from the characters who were so real, but painfully two-dimensional.

If you understand opera* composers/genres it’s like comparing Verdi to Puccini. Bombay Talkie is Verdi. Restrained, kept in line, seemingly emotionally misleading, discreet, refined, clean, polished, with an air of disconnect between the audience and the performer. Verdi, and this film, don’t lack the opportunities to turn into full on emotional catastrophes (the Puccini method) but they choose not to. While I’m a fully devout Puccini gal, I respect Verdi and all his artistic attributes, so the same way I watch Il Trovatore is the same way I have to watch Bombay Talkie. I have to take off my “but I want to feel it too” hat and put on my “Well, at least it’s not happening to me” cap.

But venturing back into the realm of films and not opera, I must give credit to the actors themselves who put on a marvelous performance, each of them actually evolved into their characters. It was spectacular.

Jennifer Kendal, despite my downright hatred of her character, is quite a fantastic actress. It is hard to take a character like Lucia Lane and make her sympathetic, but (and I hate myself for this) there were moments when I just wanted to jump inside the film and hug her (and then slap her) and teach her the tools of self-confidence and independence. In reality, all she was missing (besides a heart) was someone who genuinely cared about her. You could say that the Hari character did, but that wasn’t a healthy support system for either of them. What Lucia needed was a dependable girlfriend, a few good talkin’ to’s and a wake-up call. Lucia is the type of person who is desperate for attention but goes looking for the wrong kinds. She perpetually hunts for something exciting, someone who would dare take her seriously; she never finds it because she’s to caught up in the small things and can’t see the big-picture. She has a daughter whom she loves, money from writing books a comfortable lifestyle but still she is unsatisfied. People like that, who cannot, or refuse to see the good in life and take responsibility for their own happiness just… irk me.

You know exactly what you’re doing, cow.

For those of you who know me in the flesh, you know of my rather infamous bluntness. Lucia Lane is the kind of person I would just love to get my hands on, not because I’m maniacal, but because the girl needs someone to tell her what’s-what, someone who wants to see her as an independent, functioning adult, and someone who will listen to her.

*sigh*
That was supposed to be about Jennifer Kendal not Lucia, wasn’t it?
Crap.

Jennifer Kendal was just spectacular. The end. Try taking the above character brief and making her real. JK did that, and it took me about 24 hours to separate JK from her character and who she was in real life. Once that disassociation was in effect, I had an easier time of digesting the movie and thinking rationally.

Um. Melt.

Is it traitorous to say that Shashi surprised me? I’ve seen him in serious roles, but just as I was able to hate Lucia Lane, I found myself hating Vikram too. (Me? Hate Shashi!?) He was a man-child, indulged and loved to pieces by his wife, incapable of seeing (again) what he had that made his life good. What I kept seeing in Shashi’s eyes was conflict. So many times we see ourselves standing at a crossroads (I know, I’ve gone philosophical again. Apologies) and there is a clear decision: does he leave in the middle of the night to see Lucia, or does he stay home and try to fix his marriage? Go to a film shoot on time or continue to play “consenting adults”**.

Not even your whimsical, mod-printed number shirt can save you after that phrase,

I think Shashi made a great effort at writing the decision making process so clearly on his face, as well as double-up as the Filmi Superstar (and downward spiraling-superstar) his character portrayed.

Yeah, that line didn’t really work on Lucia either…

I really enjoyed the performance of Zia Mohyeddin, whom I don’t think I’ve ever come across before. I found him rather swoon-worthy, actually. There was great depth to his character, and I think of all of the combined efforts of the other actors his performance was really the most emotional. I can’t pinpoint why exactly, except for perhaps he was around so seldom on screen that I paid particular attention to what he was doing while he was. And rather than delve into why I disliked his character so much, I’ll just tell you that it is for the same reasons that have been previously mentioned. Though, he (or his character, rather) did give the film a spectacularly Puccini ending that, while I kind of predicted (or hoped for, just to end my anguish), I didn’t think would actually happen.

Aparna Sen, as Vikram’s wife Mala was spectacular. She was the only one of the main characters that actually stuck to her ground and her decisions. While everyone else was flip-flopping between their morals and lack-thereof Mala took her stand. Albeit it took her a while, but once she made up her mind she wasn’t going to stand for Vikram’s behavior anymore she stood her ground and vamoosed right out of that nightmare.   She played her role very well, and got in a few jabs where it counted.

I do wish the pink wig (she’s holding, and that popped up every so often) had been explained. 
It’s so…exciting! 

From a picture standpoint Bombay Talkiewas filmed beautifully. All the shots were composed meticulously and with an unobtrusive manner, which aided in my being sucked into the film. That kind of disconnect with the action makes the view feel like they are sitting in the room with the players. Granted the audience is feeling very awkward in that room, but I have to believe that that was the anticipated emotion Ivory was going for. It’s voyeuristic and complicated and slimy, but it works to the effect that is desired.

My favorite shot. I just like it. 

Overall I don’t necessarily like this film, but I don’t adamantly hate it either. It’s best that I just forget about it, to be honest. Wipe my Jennifer Kendal/Merchant Ivory slate clean and start afresh.

But, to end on a lighter note, Typewriter Tip Tip Tip! Finally seen in the flesh and not on YouTube! And Helen!

Ahhh, sweet, sweet positivity.

*Sorry for the Opera-centric attempt of explanation. Occupational hazard, ya know?
**I was so sick of hearing the phrase “consenting adults” by the end of this film I wanted to puke.
***The film is entirely in English, but, as you can see, I obviously watched it with subs. Habit. I grew up with a pal that always used subs…

Yes, I know. Me too.