28 December 2009

Thanks Santa!

Now that the Filmi Secret Santa Project 2009 has finished, I need to give credit and thanks to my Secret Santa: Daddy's Girl (at In Praise of All Things Dharmendra). The Priyanka Chopra / Who's that Girl video she made for me was just one of her wonderful gifts, but I'm keeping the rest for myself.
Well, okay, here's one other :)



I really had a lot of fun finding and making the gifts for my own recipient as well as finding out what my Santa would come up with (presents in your email inbox! just like . . . well, Christmas!). I thought it would be a fun thing to give and receive filmi videos, pictures, songs, whatever else, but when I signed up for it I didn't really think about what it would involve--I drew the name of someone I didn't know at all, so I had a lot of sleuthing to do to find her some things she might like. And then once my own Santa unveiled herself, it turned out to be a great way to get to know more about not one but two bloggers. I'm looking forward to next year already! And thanks to everyone involved! शुक्रिया! धन्यवाद!

19 December 2009

Secret Santa Gift!

So I signed up for the (first annual?) Filmi Secret Santa project, dreamed up by Beth Loves Bollywood. One of the virtual gifts I’ve gotten from my Secret Santa (it’s handmade! just for me!) made me laugh like a drain*: It’s a video of Priyanka Chopra pics, set to the Madonna song Who’s That Girl?

http://www.esnips.com//doc/580693a1-fe85-4330-b364-8d12852a43b6/Whos-That-Girl.flv

video

For why this gift is so incredibly funny to me, see here and here. Oh, and here.

And as a bonus, there’s a cameo of the original Spygirl, La Femme Nikita, at the end of the video!

Thank you, Santa!

*Yeah, I don't really know what that means, either.

03 September 2009

Chandni Chowk to China: 1st half too slow, 2nd half much better, more action. Also, what a difference (shaving off) a mustache makes. La.

02 July 2009

The book Bollywood Nights is like Valley of the Dolls without the redeeming qualities. I got bored and didn't finish it.

01 July 2009

Aaja Naachle nutshell review: The second half is much better than the first. Konkona-Kunal and Laila-Majnu are best parts. Plus Irfan.

19 May 2009

Marigold: Ack, they're playing Dhadak Dhadak! A good big chunk of it, too. Easily amused, I am.
Yes, I'm watching Marigold. The idea of a romance starring Ali Larter and Salman Khan was just too mindboggling NOT to watch.
Marigold: She lands at Bombay airport, then takes a 10hr taxi to Goa? Are there no flights to Goa? Must brush up on my travel knowledge.

10 May 2009

Confession No. 4

 

 Fanaa

Yes, I loved Fanaa. It blew me away. It was one of the very first Bollywood films I ever saw, and I had never heard of the Hindi film masala format where a light-hearted romp with a naïve(ish) blind girl on vacation with her friends and a scarf-wearing rascal(ish) tour guide could suddenly turn into an action drama of the type it turned into, namely

[SPOILER ALERT - highlight the blank space to see]

 

a terrorism action drama, with the romantic hero of the first half becoming the villain of the second half; or if not the villain, then at least a conflicted bomber-type person in love.

What? Who knew that was going to happen? Obviously not me.

[END SPOILER ALERT].

I saw the movie in the theatre, so there was a proper fifteen-minute intermission, and I can still remember how boggled I was at the turn it took right before the end of the first half (as well as how the intermission chai and samosas tasted, too, mmm. I can smell the cardamom now).  Maybe it's just me and I am an idiot about not paying attention to what's going to happen next; I can usually be easily surprised at plot twists in films because I like to let the movie happen without trying to think too far ahead about how it will come out. And maybe if I had seen other films like it before, I would have had some idea what was coming, but at any rate, I was not prepared.

Oddly enough, though, I was prepared in one tiny area: I had seen the website of the film, which was quite fancy and high-end (lots of Flash) in preparation for seeing the movie, and it drilled the soundtrack into my head. And I also somehow knew that this film was Kajol's big comeback after six years away from films to have children (even though I didn't have any previous knowledge of who Kajol really was)

Fanaa 1 Kajol

and that the buzz was that Aamir Khan was thought to be a little too old to be playing that particular hero, or not as good-looking as he would have been several years earlier (I don't know, I didn't see any problem at the time, but now I can kind of see their point, sort of).

Fanaa 2 Aamir Khan

 

My experience with Bollywood/Indian films up to that point consisted of Monsoon Wedding, Bride and Prejudice, and a couple of Aishwarya films, neither of which had the clearly enormous budget that had been lavished on Fanaa. The fancy movie website! The "Des Rangeela" dance number in the outdoor amphitheatre with the packed audience! That huge beautiful cabin in the mountains! I was totally smitten. And boggled.   

09 May 2009

Yet AGAIN!

I went over to Anarchivist's house lthe night before last to watch Billu Barber, and when the film was over and the credits rolled, I turned to her and said, "Priyanka Chopra was in this film? Where?"  My brain acknowledged all the other big stars in Billu: Lara Dutta as Irfan Khan's wife - check; Om Puri as the cheapskate villager - check; Deepika Padukone with Shah Rukh Khan in the sci-fi film set number and then Kareena Kapoor again with Shah Rukh in the "Maarjani" song - check and check. But, Priyanka, no. Even after I vowed to remember what she looked like, after I watched and liked her performances in Salaam-e-Ishq and Dostana, somehow she managed to totally get past me here again in Billu. This girl needs to get a job as a spy. 

Confession No. 3

Next up in the I-did-not-like-at-all-but-everyone-else-seems-to-love department: Dil Se.

I did not like this from the beginning, nor in the middle (I never really bought into the so-called love story), nor at the end (well, okay, the ending was dramatic, but if you have zero investment in the story . . . ).

I watched Dil Se right after reading two very long discussions (the first one over at Beth Loves Bollywood, about the Chak De! India scene where the girls beat up some boys who harass them at McDonald's, and the related discussion of so called "eve-teasing" [i.e. harassing of women; what a terrible euphemism] over at IndieQuill), and I couldn't help but notice that Amarkanth's (Shah Rukh Khan's) behavior in Dil Se matched some of the descriptions of  eve-teasing I had just been reading about in all the blog comments.  It was stalking! He mooned over her, just wouldn't leave her alone when she gave him no encouragement whatsoever (that I could see), and was generally a pest. Blehhh. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, but I didn't see that Meghna (Manisha Koirala) had any inner opinions one way or the other about how he behaved to her. He pushed, she didn't reciprocate, he pushed some more, she acquiesced. She accepted his behavior toward her but it didn't seem to matter to her what her own feelings were, or what she herself thought of the whole "relationship". That may have been part of what her character was going through and related to the past problems she was already dealing with, but I just couldn't handle it.

And to top it all off, the movie was BORING.

On the other hand, and this is getting ahead of myself to Confession No. 4, but I loved another drama with a similar theme that everyone else seemed to think was garbage! There is no accounting for taste!

 

15 March 2009

Battlestar Galactica

I've recently finished season three of Battlestar Galactica, and now I want EVERYONE I KNOW to watch it too (not the least so we can discuss!!! OMG, I'm dying to discuss). It's that good. 

You might think, "eh, it's sci-fi, I don't like sci-fi. Why should I watch it?"  Because Battlestar Galactica is one of the best television shows ever made. In any genre. And it just happens to be sci-fi.

So what's it about? Well, it's a long story, but basically this (from the opening credit sequence for season three): "Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies. And they have a plan."

What is the plan? Nobody knows. The humans only know that the Cylons attacked, killing all but 50,000 people, and now these humans, the only ones left in the universe are trying to avoid becoming extinct.

What in the world is a Cylon? Questions, questions. Some of the Cylons (the Centurions) look like big scary seven-foot-tall armored robots with guns for hands,

Cylon Centurion

Creeeeeeeepy.

but some other Cylons actually look, act, and feel like humans.  Some of them don't know they're Cylons. This is one of the genius ideas of the show. What makes a person a human? Does it matter? It's not like a human-looking Cylon can just cut his or her arm to expose robotic wiring, or circuits, or anything like that, because not only do they resemble humans on the outside, but they look the same on the inside too.  If a Cylon and a human can have a baby together, are they really that different?

There are really only three things that distinguish the Cylons and the humans: When Cylons die, their thoughts and memories get downloaded to another copy of themselves on a Resurrection Ship. Second, the Cylons want to kill the humans (well, this is not so different, because the humans want to kill the Cylons too). And finally, the Cylons believe in one god. The humans believe in a pantheon of gods with names like Aphrodite, Zeus, Hera, Athena, and Apollo. (Yes, really.) 

While these people may be humans, they are not earthlings. These remaining 50,000 humans in the universe are running for their lives in a convoy of a fleet of starships somewhere in space. Battlestar Galactica is one of the ships in the Colonial fleet. The Colonists, as they are called, are all that is left of the Twelve Colonies (which were named Aquaria, Aerilon, Canceron, Caprica, Gemenon, Leonis, Libran, Picon, Sagittaron, Scorpia, Tauron, and Virgon -- sound familiar?) and which were all destroyed by the Cylon attacks. But the Scriptures mention a Thirteenth Colony, lost to time and memory.  No one knows where it is. They only know it is called Earth.

Is it our Earth? Why do the humans believe in a set of gods with the same names as the Greek gods of myth? Are they the same gods? Do the humans ever get to Earth? Do the Cylons ever get to Earth? When is this all taking place?

The look and feel of the show is not particularly futuristic, nor is it trying to be; the clothing that the military personnel wear would be acceptable as uniforms and fatigues in any number of navies or air forces around the world, and the civilian clothing is indistinguishable from contemporary fashion (though certainly not on the dowdy end of the contemporary scale).

  Tricia Helfer as Six

Tricia Helfer as Six 

The look of the series goes a long way toward making Battlestar Galactica unlike most other shows on television. When Galactica's pilots take off from the flight deck in their Vipers and Raptors, it feels like something you might see in real life, except that these pilots fly off into the deep black of outer space instead of the wild blue yonder.

The series is filmed with a handheld-camera style that gives it a sense of documentary realism.  Even for shots that you know in your head will require special effects, such as establishing shots of the fleet in outer space, the camera work is such that you believe in your heart that it is really happening. For example, a shot may start out with a wide angle and a slow pan, taking in a group of several ships in the fleet moving through the vacuum of space, but then all of a sudden the camera jerks over, finding one particular ship, zooming and focusing shakily as if the cameraperson suddenly found the right closeup and is trying to get a bead on it before it moves away. I'm not doing a very good job of explaining it, but trust me, it makes it look real.

Secondly, the cast itself is excellent, and the stories and characters are all great. While this is a large ensemble cast, and even the most secondary characters have their moments, I'm just going to mention a few main characters that stand out right away at the beginning.

  • Starbuck (aka Lt. Kara Thrace, played by Katee Sackhoff) is loud, brash, rash, and picks fights, and yet is utterly appealing and never a caricature or one-dimensional character. She's the fleet's best and most reckless fighter pilot.  (I haven't seen the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series, but I know that some of the female characters in this series, such as Starbuck, were played by men in the original series, and I believe that some other female characters are new additions to the current series, making it more evenly apportioned. Original-series-purists grumble, but I think this was a great move, and I love how gender roles are not an issue in the new series.)

Starbuck with Boomer and Apollo

 Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) with Boomer (Grace Park) and Apollo (Jamie Bamber)

  • Gaius Baltar (James Callis) is a genius scientist who's verrry interested in saving his own skin.  He's not evil, per se, and he doesn't see himself as a bad figure (who does, really?) but his all-absorbing self-interest is focused on maximizing his own lifespan as much as possible (at the expense, if necessary, of whomever and whatever else). But it's not like he actively thinks about how his actions affect other people one way or another -- I would call him bumbling if he weren't so weaselly. His "I'm the victim in all this! I had no choice in my actions!" attitude explains a lot about why he does what he does, but man, what a weasel. Villainous, yet totally realistic. I know people like this.

 Tricia Helfer as Caprica Six and James Callis as Gaius Baltar

Tricia Helfer as Caprica Six and James Callis as Gaius Baltar

  • Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the President of the Twelve Colonies, was previously Secretary of Education before the Cylons attacked. When the attack was over, it was discovered that she, at something like forty-second in the line of succession, had just become President of the Colonies. 

 Edward James Olmos as Commander (later Admiral) Adama and Mary McDonnell as  President Laura Roslyn

Edward James Olmos as Commander (later Admiral) Bill Adama and Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin

  • Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin share responsibilities for the battle fleet and the civilian fleet. He captained a battlestar which was about to be decommissioned and turned into a museum just before the Cylons attacked. The ship was decrepit, out-of-date, and named Galactica.

 

The final element that puts Battlestar Galactica in a class of its own is the music (by series composer Bear McCreary). I'm totally not a music person, but I'll do my best to describe it. The opening titles include several different sequences -- the music in the first intro bit which explains about the Cylons ("Cylons were created by man. They rebelled....") is orchestral and has a fast-paced, clock-ticking quality designed to put you on edge for the rest of the hour.

Below are the opening Cylon credits for both season one and season three. Both contain a very slight SPOILER, but it's nothing you don't find out almost right away.

Season one (with SPOILERS)

Season three (with SPOILERS)

Then following this short pre-credits sequence comes the first act of the show; after that, you see the actual main credits. This musical sequence here is also orchestral, but slower, spacier, and melodic, and includes wordless vocals (or rather, vocals in another language; some of it sounds English but I don't think it is). At the end of this slow, dreamy credit sequence, the music and the editing immediately segues into a very fast-paced, heart-pounding teaser sequence showing brief flash-forwards to what will happen in that particular episode, accompanied by a military/tribal drum beat that just keeps getting faster and faster, ending in a swirling crescendo of orchestral strings. It's breathtaking. I've been trying to find a good Youtube video of these so you don't have to rely on my crappy descriptions, but it's hard to find good credit sequences for seasons one through three without accidentally wandering into spoiler territory for season four, which I haven't seen yet (eeeee! I can't wait!).

 

 

(Note: all still images from the official Battlestar Galactica website at http://www.scifi.com/battlestar. Click on a picture to go to the site.)

06 January 2009

I thought horoscopes were supposed to predict the FUTURE.

My TVGuide horoscope prediction for this week of Jan. 5, 2009--almost exactly one year too late:

Gemini: A new interest or hobby will seize your imagination and refuse to let go--and may become a central part of your life over the next year. Don't worry about colleagues and loved ones who think you're wasting your time. What do they know? Not much!

(I am not kidding; this is really what it said.)

Ever since I first saw Om Shanti Om on December 9, 2007, it's been all-India, all-Hindi films, all the time*.  What more could I possibly be obsessed with?

-----

 

*Well, except for the latest dvd seasons of Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica, and Smallville, and Chuck, and Dexter, and The Big Bang Theory, and Torchwood, and Heroes, and House, and Lost, and Ugly Betty and. . . .

Hindi Word of the Day Archives for December 2008

kaun? (who? which?)

jo (who, the one who, which [relative, not interrogative form])

jo koii (whoever; whichever, whatever)

jo kuch (whatever; whichever)

koii (some, any; someone)

koii nahiin (nobody, no one, not any)

koii na koii (someone or other)

har koii (everyone)

kuch (something, anything; some, any; a little, a few)

kuch kuch (somewhat, rather)

kuch aur (some more, something further; something different)

bahut kuch (a large amount)

kuch nahiin (nothing)

kuch na kuch (something or other; somewhat, a little)

sab kuch (everything)

kuch bhii (whatever; anything at all); kuch bhii nahiin (nothing at all)

manzil (stage of journey; story, floor; destination)

rasta (way, road)

mushkil (difficult, difficulty)

aaj (today)

aajkal (these days, nowadays)

har (each, every)

havaa (air, breeze)

faislaa (decision, judgement)

ruubaruu (face to face)

rishtaa (relationship, connection)

havaaii jahaaz (airplane)

baar (time, occasion); pahli baar (first time); ek baar (one time, on one occasion)

sadaa (ever, always, constantly)

samay (time)

saal, varsh, baras (year); san (year of calendar)

---------------

Disclaimers:

I am not a native Hindi speaker. The words I list are either ones I have picked up by watching Bollywood movies or from perusing my Hindi reference books, including Teach Yourself Beginner's Hindi Script, Teach Yourself Hindi Dictionary, Teach Yourself Hindi Complete Course, Living Language Hindi Complete Course, and best of all, the enormous Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Despite all these reference sources, it is still totally possible that I read something wrong or misunderstood it--so keep in mind that this list is made by someone who's only been watching Hindi movies on a regular basis since November 2007 and has no previous experience with the language.

02 January 2009

Kyun? Ho Gaya Na

I knew this movie was a romance, and that's about it. The Netflix summary describes the two leads, Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi, as "cinematic lovebirds," which somehow struck me as funny. But there seem to be very few reviews of it out on the internet (admittedly, I didn't look very hard). Because of this, I'm actually going to include a plot synopsis this time.

Arjun (Vivek), wants his parents to arrange his marriage for him because he thinks that love is full of deceit and creates nothing but problems, and that promises are made to be broken, and so on. He thinks if it's arranged, he doesn't have to worry about all that. And besides, an arranged marriage was good enough for his parents and grandparents! He lays this all out in the first song, which takes place at a two-story, log cabin-type sports bar that reminds me of the bar in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Meanwhile, Aishwarya, during the same song, is hanging out with two friends at home, singing about how she only wants to marry for love. (I've returned the movie already, and am writing most of this review from memory, so I'm not entirely sure, but I think those two friends appear only in this song and then are never seen again. Strange.)

*****Music review interjection: I didn't like this first song at all. I think they tried to make it into some sort of Russian folk song, with a lot of stringed instruments, but it just ended up sounding too . . . Christmassy. And bad. It made me want to hand back my imaginary unofficial Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy fan club badge.

The actual Russian-style dancing was all right (yes, there was that), but the music was not good. Watch at your own risk:

Pyar Mein Sau Uljhanne Hai

Ugh. But this song was a hit, apparently.

Anyways, back to the plot. Arjun is shown to be impetuous, impulsive, and irresponsible:

  • He has just participated in a car race against his mother's wishes and without her knowledge.
  • He lost the race by trying to overtake his friend and competitor, but he spun out instead. After the race, his friend told him, "You lost because you were trying too hard to beat me, while I won because I focused on finishing first."
  • When Arjun first meets Diya (Aishwarya), she is a passenger on the train, and he is serving drinks to the passengers as a "pantry-car boy" to earn his train ticket home (he had his bag stolen after he left it with an "Uncle" he didn't know on a bench at the train station).

Of course those qualities must be balanced out by some positive qualities, but we're getting to that. At this point, Diya shows up on Arjun's family's doorstep. Lo and behold, she has come to stay with them while she studies for an exam for her Master's degree.  She and Arjun don't really know each other except from the train, but her father and his parents do, and the parents have arranged all this. (Actually, they have tried to arrange much more; but their children, especially Diya, just haven't gone along with it.)

When Arjun's mother (Rati Agnihotri) finds out (thanks to Diya) that he had not, in fact, stayed home like a good boy while she was gone, but that he was at the car rally instead, he charms his mother back into forgiving both him and his father (Om Puri), who knew all along what his son was doing and didn't tell his wife. 

Diya settles in to studying for her exam, but Arjun, who is a bit ADD, thinks she is studying too hard and tries to get her to loosen up and take a day off. Here we have a library song. Yay for library songs! And this is a good one.

Main Hoon 

Aishwarya is particularly appealing in this film because we get to see her acting like a regular girl, instead of the reserved, sophisticated princess she usually plays--which is ironic, because her character is meant to be on the reserved, prim, studious side as a counterpoint to Arjun's roguish impetuousness. But she manages to be vulnerable, and relaxed, and sporty. Here she goes bowling! She plays soccer in shorts and kneesocks! And she is the one who falls for Arjun, while he, on the other hand, goes and plays an incredibly insensitive and idiotic practical joke on her.  But not until after the end of this song:

(Youtube lists this song as Aao Na Aao Na but the dvd lists it as Gunji Si Hai.)

Wouldn't you be mad if he went and did something really stupid right after that song? And she is justifiably mad about the practical joke, even if the song was all in her head.   She confesses her love in a frustrated shriek to a clueless Arjun (stupid boy!), but gets nothing in return, so she decides to leave.

At this point, as Diya is packing to leave Arjun's house, her father's friend, whom she calls Uncle, shows up. (Uncle, hereafter renamed Crazy Uncle, is played by Amitabh Bachchan. I had totally forgotten about Amitabh--despite the fact that he got first billing at the beginning of the movie--because he's not in the first half at all.) With a "Come on Charlie!"  and a "Sab thik ho jayegi! [Everything's going to be all right!]" he cheers her up and whisks her off home. (Why Charlie? I don't know; he's Crazy Uncle.)

Crazy Uncle has an orphanage, apparently, with about fifteen kids in it, and Diya has come to help him out with the orphans and to forget about Arjun. Time passes, Crazy Uncle and the kids play several practical jokes on each other (they give him a candy that turns his mouth and teeth bright blue, he puts blue paint in the water while they are washing, etc.) and then Arjun shows up.

Arjun is still a practical joker, like Crazy Uncle, but he has begun to realize his feelings for Diya yet doesn't know what to do about it. He wants an arranged marriage, remember? He's not supposed to fall in love! That's not the plan!

To make matters worse, Diya's much-extolled-yet-previously-unseen (male) friend Ishaan comes to visit the orphanage and to see Diya and Crazy Uncle and all the kids, and Arjun finds out that he has much to be jealous over. I won't spoil the special appearance for those who haven't seen it, but you can click here to find out who plays Ishaan.

A lot of armchair reviewers on the imdb don't seem to like Arjun's character and don't see how Diya could fall for him.  I don't fall for him personally, but I can see how Diya does; he's lively and charming and he likes to tease her (in a good way). She's on the serious side and appreciates his spontaneous and impulsive personality.

And chemistry! Whoever said these two don't have chemistry? I didn't realize until after the movie was over and I was looking (in vain, mostly) for reviews or commentary about this film online, that Vivek and Aishwarya used to be a couple around the time of this filming. I wonder if the buzz about their offscreen relationship affected moviegoers' reactions to their onscreen portrayal?

I liked the film when I saw it (although I bored myself when I was writing the plot summary; but really, it's a decent romantic timepass). The romance was good, and as I mentioned before, this is one of Aishwarya's most appealing performances. She's warm, endearing, and natural, not overly mannered (a trait I can tolerate in Shah Rukh Khan much more than I can in her). See the movie for Aishwarya, for the romance, and for all the songs except that first one [shudder].