Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The bad and the beautiful – catching up with 2007 films

My dwindling bank balance has decreed a strict moratorium on DVD-buying sprees. How then to quench the thirst for movies and more movies? This is where Calgary Public Library comes to the rescue! For the past few weeks I’ve been catching up on all the 2007-08 movies that I missed watching on the big screen. Here’s a brief review of some of them:
Salaam-e-ishq Dard-e-dimaag for the viewer!
salaam-e-ishq poster
I cant say I began watching with a lot of expectations but I still managed to be disappointed! To those of you not familiar with the plot, the movie follows the love-under-threat stories of five loosely-related couples - Ashutosh-Tehzeeb (John Abraham-Vidya Balan) whose young marriage is under threat because of Tehzeeb’s tragic loss of memory; Shiven-Gia (Akshaye Khanna-Ayesha Takia) whose love is imperiled because Shiven doesnt want to commit matrimony; Vinay-Seema (Anil Kapoor-Juhi Chawla) whose marriage is going through Vinay’s mid-life crisis; Kamna-Rahul (Priyanka Chopra-Salman Khan) in whose love-story Karan Johar plays an unlikely cupid; Raju-Stephanie (Govinda-Shannon Esrechowitz) whose love story you hope and pray does NOT take off but does! There is a random sixth couple Ram-Phoolwati (Sohail Khan-Isha Kopikkar) whose unsuccessful attempts to consummate their marriage will [not] educate the uninitiated about the “donts” of marital sex.



John-VidyaThe women in the movie do a great job. Vidya Balan was terrific as the woman who has forgotten her husband and cant cope with her loss of memory or his wordless anguish. I was surprised to find myself liking even Priyanka Chopra! She was quite charming as the extremely-over-the-top item-girl and Bollywood-star wannabe. The men though, were uniformly unlovable. OK no, John Abraham was nice. But for the rest, I couldnt understand why all the women seemed to care for their less than charming lovers.
Anil-Juhi Note to Juhi – if you must fall for a jerk, at least find a good looking one! Note to Anil Kapoor - NEVER shave off your moustache, you look like a shorn lamb! For Salman Khan, I need to revise my list of too-old-to-be-young stars. Note to self – stay away from any movie where Govinda acts, but catch his singing whenever you can (he is surprisingly tuneful).
The high point of the movie (for me) was a brief glimpse of K K Raina - a big favorite of mine from parallel-cinema world - as Vidya Balan’s Dad!
Dus Kahaniyaana mixed lot
Dus Kahaaniyaan DVD cover
10 different stories, 10 writers, 6 directors and a huge ensemble cast come together in this compilation of 10 different films. The result is a mix of excellent, good, and plain bad movies. I was struck by the uncharacteristically subtle acting and well-edited narratives in all the 10 movies. For length considerations, I will only list the ones I liked…
Matrimony: Scratch the surface of a happily married, upper middle-class couple, and you might come up with – a surprise! Arbaaz Khan and Mandira Bedi as the happy couple were great but it was the story (its based on a short story by Roald Dahl) that impressed me.
Pooranmashi: Its a story of a forbidden love and its tragic consequences. Amrita Singh is awesome as the subdued middle-aged housewife of a domestic tyrant.
Strangers In The Night: A married couple (Mahesh Manjrekar and Neha Dhupia) exchanging dirty secrets on their wedding anniversary. Dont be put off by the erotic presentation – its a great film.
Zahir: Put together a lonely writer (Manoj Bajpai) and a beautiful swinging neighbour (Diya Mirza) and what follows is awfully nasty. The story had a very satisfactory end and some great acting by Diya who looked breathtakingly lovely.
Rice Plate: My favorite of the 10, its the story of a bigoted old woman (Shabana Azmi) who learns from her mistakes. Shabana Azmi + Nasseeruddin Shah = great movie, and this one was no exception!
Gubbare: The heartwarming tale of a middle-aged couple as told by the husband (Nana Patekar). I found myself warming to Nana Patekar’s irritating banter for the first time!
Johnny Gaddaar – a thrilling tale
Johnny Gaddaar poster
The best movie by far in this particular lot, it is a well told, fast-paced, thriller, with a twist at every turn. It follows the fortunes of five partners (Dharmendra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vinay Pathak, Zakir Hussain and Daya Shetty) who pool their money for a deal with quick profits. The youngest of the partners (Neil Mukesh) decides to co-opt the capital, and then needs to stay one step ahead of the rest of the gang to escape with the spoils and his girlfriend (Rimi Sen).
Neil Nitin Mukesh The narrative was a bit confusing at first as I couldnt figure out what was part of the “present” and what was the flashback. But once I’d sorted it out, the film was fun all the way through. A hard-boiled thriller in the style of James Hadley Chase’s novels (the movie is dedicated to Chase and Bollywood’s own thriller-king Vijay Anand) the story relentlessly carries you with it as it moves from twist to twist. And through all this, you never lose your sympathy for the man who kills his friends for money!
Dharmendra Performance-wise, all the cast was very convincing in their roles. Dharmendra was utterly charming as the gang’s genial but clever pater familias and Vinay Pathak did a great job in a role that, for once, didnt require comedy of him. Much as I loved Neil Nitin Mukesh – he was adorably blank-faced and terribly good-looking – I couldnt help but wonder what he’d look like with more expressions on his face. I am not complaining, mind you, just wondering while I look forward to seeing more of him.

35 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you didn't like Salaam-e-Ishq. I thought both it and Dus Kahaaniya were both mixed bags - with some great stories and some mediocre ones. (Also, I skipped through most of Anil's story line because it was too uncomfortable for me to watch. I *hate* stories about infidelity.)

    As for Johny Gaddar, I thought it was fun but slight. I couldn't help but wish for more Dharmendra-ji and less Neil - who was rather dull.

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  2. Weeping over the lack of Salaam-e-ishq love- but I will recover from it :D I loved the hamminess of it all- but agree w/ u about ANil's beard- he should be banned from ever shaving it again :)

    I loved Dus Kahaniya- esp Rice Plate, Gubbare and the Amrita Singh story- wept through all 3 of them, and wanted to give hugs to Shabana, Naseer and Nana- thats amazing stuff.

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  3. I thought Salaam-e-Ishq was about okay. The music was good, though. And Vidya Balan, as you note, was outstanding!

    What did you think of Lovedale in Dus Kahaniyaan? I agree with all your other picks, thought the film was a very good experiment by Sanjay Dutt. I really like its soundtrack, especially disc 3 of 3 which contains poems by Gulzar, recited by the actors in the film. Good stuff!

    And Johnny Gaddar was excellent too. I loved the color template and wardrobe in it. All appropriately styled; if it wasn't, the film was too engaging to notice, and worked either way.

    Cheers!

    PS: That's a gorgeous profile pic ;)

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  4. Filmi Girl and Shweta, I had every intention of liking Salaam-e-ishq - it was an interesting concept and reminded me so much of Love Actually. Unlike LA though, it was seriously lacking in the eye-candy department. Anil Kapoor looks way better in Race, Salman Khan needs a face-lift, Akshaye Khanna never did appeal (even in his hair-full days) and John Abraham reminded me of a hurt cocker spaniel - cute but not eye-candy!

    The John Abraham-Vidya Balan track was pretty interesting, though. Had they focused on it exclusively, I'd have liked the movie a whole lot better. As it is, I think it kinda got lost in all the chaff that was the other couples.

    Filmi Girl I too wished there was more Dharamendra in Johnny Gaddaar. He still has more charm than any of todays stars!

    Shweta, I managed to be tough in Rice Plate and Pooranmashi but discreetly sniffled through Gubbare!

    TheBollywoodFan, I wish S-e-I had more of Vidya Balan than it did and that Juhi had kicked the butt of her annoying hubby!

    "What did you think of Lovedale in Dus Kahaniyaan? I agree with all your other picks, thought the film was a very good experiment by Sanjay Dutt."

    Lovedale was nice but rather bland and didnt make a big impression on me. I'm confused by the rest of your comment. Sanjay Dutt had nothing to do with Lovedale, I am sure. Or are you referring to his segment Rise and Fall? The latter struck me as a very artistically made but routine gangster saga.

    PS: Thanks for noticing the profile pic. I trawled the web for genuinely "old" pics of gorgeous women! :-D

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  5. Anil made me feel like throwing a pie at the tv when he shaved his muchha! Kahan gaye yeh mush? Oiii Anil is lovely even if he's not conventional hero! LOL thats my succha pyar for him stepping in there!
    though he was great in the movie, but i don't think he deserves to be on the evergreen heroes list just yet, govinda definitely and salman is edging that way!

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  6. Awww, I *love* S-e-I, John and his huge crocodile tears made my dil get all mushysoft. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more though! I really want to see Johnny Gaddar but I'm on the fence about Dus Whatever.

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  7. Hi, pardon the confusion. Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta produced Dus Kahaniyan, and the film is said to be Dutt's brainchild.

    We could use more of these experiments, I think. The package, I found very appealing, including the soundtrack, which was labeled the "world's first three-disc soundtrack". I don't know enough of world soundtracks to know if that's accurate, but the three discs stand alone quite well.

    As for Lovedale, now I'm convinced I'm of the few who liked it despite its predictability and redundant theme :) I blame the music and art direction!

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  8. Rum, never fear. He has transitioned into playing older characters and is still pretty well preserved - so no danger of him joining the evergreen heroes. Agreed about Govinda and after seeing this movie I would definitely include Salman.

    ajnabi, John's tears were very affecting but the momentum of mush that they generated was interrupted so often by the other couples that it lost most of its impact! Dus Kahaniyaan is very untypical of mainstream Bollywood - I'd say check it out for its novelty value.

    theBollywoodFan, Thanks for the clarification. Didnt know Sanjay Dutt produced Dus Kahaniyaan. Its certainly an interesting experiment and I am all for more such experiments.

    I didnt notice the movie's soundtrack. For most new movies that do not have well delineated song sequences, the soundtrack is little more than background noise to me! :-) Will definitely check out this one's "3-disc" soundtrack, though.

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  9. OK, now I actually read the review.

    Hmm, sounds like I'm edging towards watching S-e-I and 10, but still not 100% sold. Gosh, I love the Anil/Juhi, Naseer/Shabana combos. More please!

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  10. Aaaww, you didn't like SeI? I did. It could be I had no expectations. I actually like all the films that you just reviewed - all in different ways. All three, I went with no expectations and ended up loving the films.

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  11. PPCC, do watch them all. I'd love to read your reviews and what you think of Anil Kapoor's mouche-lessness! :-)

    Nicki, I did approach them all with no expectations but SeI was brimming over with all my least favorite actors. So, even a line-up of all my favorite actresses couldnt save the show!

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  12. yES, S-E-I was a failed attempt. Overall production value was great, Music was excellent [Ya rabba....] and still it failed miserably. Maybe cause of awful length of the movie. Even me [a filmy freak] got bored and was waiting hard for the End.

    Dus Kahaniyan, was a good effort, but some stories made it look bad. Rise and fall, sex on the beach and High on Highway, were really bad. Best one, you described it, Rice Plate. But yes, i liked track in 'Sex on the beach' the song is -Aaja Soniye. So haunting [literally]. And Pooranmashi - punjab di mitti....aaahh.

    Johnny Gaddar was amongst the Best in 2007. The 70's era re-created. The title sequence was awesome, with music inspired by Vijay Aanand's movies. To my surprise, that track is available on the movie's album - woweee. Track's name is ''Revenge of the 70s'' . And special mention to 'Bhule bisre geet'. Just check that out.

    Everyone acted so well. The best was Ashwini Kalsekar. And our very own newbie - Neil.

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  13. Darshit, thanks for stopping by. I didnt realise how long S-e-I was going to be. I kept waiting for it to end!

    The stories you mention in Dus Kahaniyaan were bad but they were mercifully brief, so I wont hold them against the movie. And after TheBollywoodFan and your recommendation, I checked out the soundtrack. Its certainly pretty interesting - I loved the poetry in disc 3.

    Checked out Johnny Gaddar's soundtrack too. Its awesome. Loovved Bhoole Bisre Geet and pretty much everything else. Dont remember where most of the songs appeared in the movie, though! Are the snippets in Bhoole Bisre actual old songs or new old-style ones?

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  14. Bhoole bisre Geet is coming in parts at background of most Cafe scenes. Remember Vinay shukla's place? there.
    They are new old style ones.

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  15. O thanks for letting me know, Darshit. I think I need to see the movie again since I was too busy with the action onscreen to pay any attention to the soundtrack, last time! And that is a pity with such a great soundtrack.

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  16. I think the title song is the best - and only truly great - thing about Salaam-e-Ishq. I was really disappointed in it, despite Akshaye and Ayesha being pretty cute.

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  17. Yes, S-e-I had so much potential for goodness but managed not to tap into it at all!

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  18. A review mentioned that all stories in S-e-I had the potential of working as great individual films, rather than narratives strung together and I can see where the reviwer is coming from. However, while I second your comments about the actress' performances, I must say that I quite liked Govinda though - and this is saying something because I usually avoid Govinda movies like plague. However, I guess, with competition from Salman (his Raoool was intensely irritating), Anil (shaven off moustache look only worked in Lamhe and that too for a reason), and John (no comments), he wouldn't come off too badly!

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  19. Priyanka, welcome to OiG.

    You're so right about Govinda having a lot of competition in the movie - it was a tough choice between Anil, Salman, Akshaye and him! The thing in his favor was that he was the only one playing a heartwarming role. Still... I think I am kind of immune to his rather ageing charms!

    And yes, 6 love stories in one go was a bit too much of a good thing. Every story just served to distract from the others' stories. So, 6 individual films (actually make it 5. The Sohail-Isha track is best forgotten) would be way better than a movie with "highlights" of 6 stories!

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  20. Oh, it's been a pleasure to browse through OiG; I too greatly echo you of wishing to see how people lived in the past *sigh* closet historian me:) Love your profile pic - is it a Mughal painting?

    Yes, regarding Govinda, it did help that his was the only heartwarming role and his particular love-story was the cutest.Otherwise, his subsequent 'comeback' films have reaffirmed the earlier opinions I held of him.

    5 stories indeed, Sohail and Isha - superfluous indulgence at its very best. And according to gossip, Govinda was initially signed to play Sohail's role first and he agreed, so desperate was he for a comeback!

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  21. Excellent gossip about Govinda. Didnt realise he'd been away long enough to need a "comeback"!

    And yay for closet historians. Isnt it great that there are period movies and old books to satisfy our cravings? :-)

    My profile pic is something I picked off the net. I dont know anything about it, but suspect its a modern painting done in Mughal style.

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  22. Bollyviewer,

    I agree with you on "S-e-I"---parts were okay such as the Vidya/John story, moments of Priyanka's turn, and the music(esp the title song as Beth points out). I also enjoyed the Govinda/Stephanie romance which I see you did not. As a whole the movie kind of had flop written all over it, but I think its still something fun to watch with friends over drinks and conversations(I say conversations because you can talk about the film while watching and make it more interesting than the script was)!

    As for "10"..i've heard mixed reviews. But since its 10 stories, I guess that's to be expected. I actually own this and need to get around to watching someday.

    Btw, the line about Juhi and Anil was hilarious!:)

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  23. I guess I'm in a majority of one when it comes to not appreciating Govinda! Its more to do with my general dislike of "simple" guy and intelligent girl (or vice versa) romances.

    As to Dus Kahaniyaan, the best part of it is that the movies are short. So, good or bad, they get over fast. Plus, you can elect to watch one movie per day - like a TV series!

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  24. I'm hopelessly biased against Hindi movies of this century, but I really enjoyed S-e-I. I am sure that you are right that it would have been even better if it had been more focused on the John/Vidya story, since those are the bits I rewatch again and again. I've never been an Anil fan and whenever I see Priyanka I keep humming "hothon mein aisi" wile waiting for hers to explode from collagen overload. That said, S-e-I was a sweet and good-natured film that was refreshing in its uncynical return to HAHK style masala sweetness. Of course, the fact that Vidya is plenty in the ye candy department for me didn't hurt.

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  25. "I'm hopelessly biased against Hindi movies of this century" - Why? I personally think that at least technically, they are better than oldies, and there is such a wide variety of themes and genres nowadays, that we viewers have more choices. Of course, I prefer the oldies - mostly because I love the music and the charming technical inadequacies, not to mention that the language in those films was soooo much better.

    S-e-I had plenty in the female eye-candy department. My complaint was that there wasnt a single attractive male in there to make the "HAHK-style" masala mush worth my time!

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  26. ""I'm hopelessly biased against Hindi movies of this century" - Why?"

    The music. The Hindi films of this century I do like are more or less song free - Dhokha, Dor, Page 3 and the like. I am totally paagal for filmi qawwali, a species that is apparently extinct, and the songs in most modern films take banal to new depths. Also, many songs in modern BW films appear to be there as formulaic requirements and/or filler. Few songs today seem to actively advance the storyline as was common in days of yore (like one of my favourites, "ek tha gul" from Jab Jab Phool Khile) I also don't like the cynical, jaded attempts at weary irony in a lot of modern films. I yearn for simpler times, when powerful movies like Pyaasa could be made that managed to combine important messages with stunning lyrics and music. There are good Hindi films being made, and I am itching to get my hands on Firaaq and Ramchand Pakistani (मैं नन्दिता का दास बनना चहता हूँ), but most mainstream "Bollywood" is crass, inane and sleazy. Plus, all the nightclub/ dance floor scenes are seizure-inducing for me. :)

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  27. Such sweeping indictment of modern Bollywood! I agree about the music and songs - NOTHING beats the 50s and 60s for that (even the 70s dont get there). But then, every movie in the 50s wasnt a Pyaasa. It has survived because it was good, while the bad ones havent. In the present, of course we see all the good and bad ones. Of course, the bad ones far outnumber the good ones! I think the best part of old movies is that even the rotten ones had lovely songs with poetic lyrics. Have you seen the new Parineeta? I thought the music there was lovely and the songs reminded me of oldies in their content and their integration into the story.

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  28. But then, every movie in the 50s wasnt a Pyaasa. It has survived because it was good, while the bad ones havent. In the present, of course we see all the good and bad ones.

    Absolutely true. I never pretend that there were no bad oldies, any more than I insist there are no good new films. It's simply that in general old movies synch better with my personal tastes. Trends in the themes and content of modern Hindi movies do not fit my personal preferences. For example, I have a VERY low tolerance for violence in films, and this is rising noticeably. Also, I am prone to strobe-induced seizures so lots of flickery, fast-moving flashing images as in the seemingly obligatory nightclub dance scenes are dangerous for me. The newer movies that I like tend to be those most like older films in spirit, like S-e-I or Parineeta which I very much enjoyed. I have also endured many oldies that I would rather not have suffered through, such as the irredeemably depressing Mother India - a six-month long ad for suicide as an effective anti-depressant.

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  29. More violence and a lot of graphically gory scenes, seem to be the trend in filmi reality nowadays. And I HATE those fancy nightclub photography (or any fancy photography/CGI for that matter), as well! lol at your description of Mother India - it never ceases to amaze me that someone would want to make that movie and viewers would want to see it!

    By the way, I did manage to get my hands on Firaaq and Nandita Das can sure as hell make good movies. You should definitely watch it. It conveys all the horrors of communal violence without resorting to gory scenes and graphic violence. And though its dark, its not depressing.

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  30. By the way, I did manage to get my hands on Firaaq and Nandita Das can sure as hell make good movies. You should definitely watch it.

    Thanks, I intend to. As I am fond of saying, मैं नन्दिता का दास बनना चहता हूँ and I have more than helf her movies. Her creative collaborator on Firaaq, Shuchi Kothari actually lives here in Aotearoa and she helped me get hold of a 10-min short film Nandita shot here, so hopefully she can help me source Firaaq too.

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  31. O thats so cool. Bet you can learn more about the film from her, too!

    Since you are Nandita's Das, have you seen her Before The Rains, yet?

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  32. Since you are Nandita's Das, have you seen her Before The Rains, yet?

    It's at the top of my rental queue, but its demand is "high". Shuchi told me Firaaq is doing the festival round here next month, but not coming within 300km of my hometown. She also said it's out on DVD in India next month, so I'm thinking of bugging family there to get it for me.

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  33. I liked parts of SEI too - the vidya balan/ John story and the Govinda/Shannon story. By jove it was indeed a long movie esp when I saw it on the big screen! I remember my 10 yr old niece saying "this movie is so loooong" and then in the last 10 mins "wait lets see how all this finally ends together". BTW, we didn't know anything about the theme of SEI when we went to see it on the big screen ie suitable for a kid or not.

    I am not a Govinda fan at all and in fact have avoided all his movies. Surprisingly, I liked his role and acting in this movie. I found the Priyanka/Salman bits annoying.

    I haven't seen the other movies u have reviewed here.

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  34. You saw S-e-I in the theatre?! God heavens - that must have been difficult! I watched it on DVD and that was bad enough. All I knew about it before watching was that it was something along the lines of Love Actually - a film that I love to bits. So I was disappointed at the execution of the plot.

    Do try to watch the other two films too, especially Johnny Gaddar. Its a pretty interesting thriller.

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