Tag Archive for 'Cinema'

In love with a dirty girl

In The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma reviews The Dirty Picture:

The Dirty Picture is Adults Only, so is this review. Having sorted that out, let’s go. Ms Vidya Balan, and I say this with respect and not a hint of misogyny, has balls of steel. Not any ordinary steel balls. No. Hers are lipstick-red, clanging, solid, shiny balls, hard to dent and impossible to ignore.

It takes guts to take on a role inspired by the sleazy and tragic life of an extra whose magazine cut-outs and images were mostly conjured up in the privacy of bathrooms to assist ejaculation. Few actresses in Bollywood would have said yes to portraying Silk Smitha, the two-bit “item bomb” from south, and turned it into a career-defining concerto. And fewer still would have delivered it with the dazzling chutzpah and high jinx that the retelling of Smitha’s life demanded, and added their own generous sprinkling of sauce, salt and red pepper. Ms Balan lets it all hang out, metaphorically and literally, and deserves a loud and ecstatic standing ovation.

Barring the last 20-25 minutes, The Dirty Picture is an inspired piece of work. For producer Ekta Kapoor to zero in on Smitha (I am completely ignoring her oscillating stand on it is-it isn’t about Smitha) was obviously a commercial decision more than a feminist schema — you’ll be hard pressed to find a script on which the cliché “exposing is necessary because the script demands it” sits more happily. But to put together a team that not only tells the story with skill and cheekiness, but also comes together to create the naughty Eighties, is an act of mad genius. More:

My own private Bollywood

After the Slumdog boom, Bollywood has become more Hollywood—and looks like it’s in America to stay. What does that mean for people who grew up with it? Sarah Khan in The Atlantic:

Pre-”Bollywood” Bollywood was a simpler time, with simpler titles like Beta (Son) and Maine Pyar Kiya (I Have Fallen in Love) and Hum (Us). Today, nonsensical spectacles with monstrous appellations like Jab Kabhi Kabhi Kuch Kuch Ho Na Ho to Dhoom Machake Alvida Na Kehna (JK4HNHTDMANK for short) generally struggle to make up for what they lack in storylines by serving up extra helpings of vulgarities. Even the music is rapidly spiraling downhill. “Sheila Ki Jawaani” (Sheila’s Sexiness) and “Character Dheela” (Loose Character) might get the frontbenchers excited for all the wrong reasons, but it was during the smash “Mehndi Lagake Rakhna” (Keep Yourself Adorned with Henna) in the ’90s classic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The Good Hearted Will Take the Bride) at a theater in Hyderabad that I witnessed crowds express their sincerest appreciation by exuberantly flinging rubber chappals (flip-flops) high into the air.

Today’s Bollywood is a different animal. Bye-bye, dhamakedaar (action-packed) plot twists; hello, remakes of remakes of remakes. Sylvester Stallone and Rob Lowe share screen space with Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, and Akon and Snoop Dogg collaborate with Mumbai’s top music directors—even singing lyrics in accented but admirable Hindi. The arrival last week of Royal Couple Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan’s baby made headlines on E! News; superstar Priyanka Chopra signed on with Lady Gaga’s manager and is currently joining forces with the likes of Pete Wentz on an album; and one of India’s most celebrated production houses, YRF Films, announced this past Tuesday that it’ll be adding a touch of masala to a romantic comedy it’s producing starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Billy Crudup. Gone is the innocence of yore, replaced instead by X-rated dance moves that put the Pussycat Dolls to shame—in fact, when that very girl group joined music maestro A.R. Rahman for an English version of his Slumdog hit “Jai Ho,” it seemed all too natural.

Perhaps it’s easy to romanticize the past; after all, when do I ever sit down to watch an ’80s romance-revenge mash-up in my Manhattan apartment? Maybe if I actually revisit the favored films of my bachpan (childhood)—I saw Dil (Heart) a mind-numbing 93 times—I’ll cringe at the gaudy clothes, over-the-top histrionics, and voluminous tresses (on both the heroines and heroes). Glorified in the enchanted recesses of my memory, these movies will always have a special place in my own dil. More:

What Bollywood thinks of you

…and why that should make you gnash your teeth. Rahul Bhatia in Open:

Bajirao Singham is an upright cop gifted with earthen values and a natural tendency to whoop ass. The hardcore antisocial elements of Singham have got nothing on him, but we learn that love and its admission reduce him to a stuttering wreck. This film is a celebration of his virtues, which, though rare here, were virtually a contractual requirement in every such movie three decades ago.

Like his predecessors, Singham is not ambivalent about dealing with crime—watch the pussycat ‘claw’ move in the film’s opening item song—and matters are usually resolved with: a) a belting right out of Ralegan Siddhi, and b) a bullet. Singham, which poses the wholly reasonable question of how to deal with a corrupt administration, finds an answer filed under Rang De Basanti. But here’s the thing: although the story is the stuff between fights, like plaque between teeth, Singham holds up well in comparison with Bodyguard, which has somehow become this year’s monster hit.

While the story arc of both movies have nothing in common, they could have been designed by committee. For the superstars who wrap these films around themselves, duty, love, humility and justice come above all else. Both open with songs that glorify their legend, and both songs contain a trademark move: Singham gets to claw, and Salman Khan’s character gets to flex his biceps. Both heroines come under attack. Both heroes destroy these attackers with moves that require a blue screen. Both heroines fall instantly in love. More:

The Bollywood lie

Cannes may have been awash in Hindi movie glamour, but the truth is that Bollywood is hardly a blip on the radar of world cinema and culture. Derek Malcolm in Mint Lounge:

The real influence of Bollywood on anyone other than the diaspora is practically nil. It’s thought to be a bit of a joke—a huge engine that spews out dozens upon dozens of films a year, some of which make large profits but most of which sink without a trace. A couple of years ago, the main companies distributing Bollywood in the UK organized press shows for British critics. They duly went along to the first two or three. But the reviews were short and often negative, and soon the idea of adding to the 10 or 12 new films opening in London each week with a slice of Bollywood was quietly dropped.

If the sheer gigantomania in India’s film factories has indeed attracted bemused attention in recent years, it is largely because of the omission of Indian cinema from most global histories. Dozens of books have been devoted to the history of Hollywood in the West. Very few have even tried to tackle Bollywood, which, until it realized that as much money could be made abroad as in India itself, frequently seemed to come from a vast, enclosed world nobody but Indians knew a great deal about.

The idea that Indian commercial cinema, whether from Mumbai or not, is made for the illiterate masses and seen by no one even slightly sophisticated, dies hard in the UK. It was always a view verging on sheer ignorance and, even today, when it could be claimed that India’s cinema has been technically strengthened but culturally weakened by Western influences, it’s not entirely true.

It certainly wasn’t so in the post-war decades that produced a whole series of film-makers, stars, musicians and playback singers worthy of anyone’s attention. I have soundtracks from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s that combine Indian classical, folk and traditional music with memorable skill. Would there were good-quality DVDs of some of the lost films. M0re:

Aamir Khan on his new role and turning producer

Sanjukta Sharma in Mint:

On the eve of the release of 3 Idiots, the only film of 2009 with Aamir Khan in a lead role, the actor’s residence at Pali Hill, Bandra, wasn’t exactly bustling with pre-release activity. He had already completed a tour across India, promoting the film, and All is Well, the film’s anthem, was already in advertisements and Top 10 lists of radio channels. Khan spoke to Mint in his study, crowded with books and files and a painting recently painted by and gifted to him by Salman Khan. Edited excerpts:

Such a long promotional tour for ‘3 Idiots’ across the country, and that too in disguise. You must be tired?

I am actually a bit under the weather. But, today, for the premiere, all the people that I visited are coming to Mumbai. After this, I’ll have to go and meet them.

You do few films. What makes you decide which films you want to be a part of? Why ‘3 Idiots’?

I choose films based on my excitement about the script and my level of confidence and faith in the director and producer of a film. At that time, I am the audience. I move towards roles instinctively, there is no great thought behind it.

I loved the script of 3 Idiots. I have been very keen to work with Rajkumar Hirani for some time now. The only doubt I had and still have is the age of the character. He’s 22 and my own age is 44 now. The audience will decide whether I’ve been able to pull it off nor not. But the character of Rancho, which I play, is someone who Raju (Hirani) felt was close to who I am in real life. I have taken some bizarre decisions, have followed my own rules. More:

Once upon a time… Boy met girl

In The Indian Express, film critic Shubra Gupta looks at Bollywood’s romancing of the historical.

Blame it on that feather caressing Madhubala’s face. Dilip Kumar has eyes only for her; she has hers shut in eroticised ecstasy, and we have never been really able to shut out that image – iconic, forever – from our collective memories. Mughal-e-Azam may have had other stories to tell: Prithiviraj Kapoor busy saving the Mughal sultanate from being devoured, Dilip Kumar aka Shehzada Salim learning the rules of the game. But what’s your top-of-the-head recall from the film, which was re-released a couple of years ago in a colourised format to renewed box office bonanza? That feather, and those lovers, lost in each other, as music throbs in the background, foregrounding the legend of Salim and Anarkali, and their doomed, incandescent love story.

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