Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Gossip!

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE! I will be out of commission tomorrow but never fear, I will ringing in 2011 in Filmi Girl style... at my brother's girlfriend's family party with family, good food, and lots of reggae, hip-hop, soul, and calypso music until late at night.

Now, let's hit the GOSSIP!

There's not much going on today other than people's Best and Worst lists, neither of which I can take seriously. Look
Tere Bin Laden was a cute film but one of the best of the year? And My Name Is Khan? Really? On your best list?

* Read an interview with
No One Killed Jessica director Raj Kumar Gupta.

Both actresses have a different approach to acting. I have certain sensibilities as a writer and a director. It's up to them to go with my sensibilities. It's not an easy film to say 'yes' to. It's a challenging film where both play testing characters. Vidya and Rani are two different set of actors. Rani is someone who is naturally gifted. She doesn't prepare her character. She won't go into the skin of the character. She believes to be in the moment. On the other hand, Vidya is someone who prepares for her character. There is a certain method she approaches towards her craft. Working with these two is a learning experience in itself.

* Get a rundown of
the remakes coming to theaters in 2011.

The Italian Job

The original: Starring big wigs like Donald Sutherland, Edward Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron,
The Italian Job was a remake of a British film. Released in 2003, it was about a group of thieves who steal gold from a former associate as he had double-crossed them. They create the largest traffic jam in Los Angeles that gives them time to pull off the theft. The film was applauded by critics and viewers alike.

The remake: Abbas-Mustan, who are known for their racy thrillers, are directing the film’s remake. Titled
Players, it features a vibrant cast of Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sonam Kapoor, Omi Vaidya and Sikandar Kher. The director-duo have made some changes to the script and also included new characters to make the film stylish.

Watch out for: Apart from Junior Bachchan, who has worked with Bipasha Basu and Sikandar Kher earlier, the rest of the cast will be seen sharing screen space together for the first time.

I have no comment.

* Shahrukh Khan has
super fans in Germany.

Anna Neun, 30, admires Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan for the way he portrays love on screen. “Like this fanatic, crazy lover to whom nothing matters except love. You don't find this kind of lover here in Austria. Austrian men are not like this,” says this student of Vienna University.

* Things are so slow that Lolo is
making news with her reveal-nothing interview in Harper's Bazaar.


Rani and Vidya put the smack down on a casting-couch wallah.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Gossip!

Happy New Year's Eve Eve!

First - A MUST READ!
Words of advice for Pakistani filmmakers that Indian filmmakers should probably check out, too.

But if we are to focus on the cinema as an industry, and to concern ourselves with how to make profitable films, the first thing we have to see is which films make money. A cursory glance at almost every major cinema industry all over the world would show that both the bread and butter films, and those that form the majority of the hits, are of the formulaic, predictable, cliched variety that the critics claim are the reason why our cinema has reached a nadir. In contrast, most of the critical, artistic films rarely make any money, and rarer still are films which are both commercially and critically successful. The cinema as an industry thrives on lots of simplistic, formulaic, and ultimately escapist films in most places around the world. So why do our authors and critics continue to write about how about making films which are simultaneously are artistic and financial blockbusters when it is patently clear that it is extremely difficult to have your cake and eat it too?

The confusion that arises is because our writers forget, or are perhaps not aware, of the subtle difference between a cinema industry, and a cinematic tradition. The former is the concern for producers, loan managers, production companies, media corporations, in essence, suits. The latter is what filmmakers need to worry about and think of.

And then please go and check out the latest episode of
UPodcast in which we discuss the negative reaction to Tees Maar Khan. I suspect that very confusion between cinema industry and cinematic tradition plays right into it.

And to those who continue to say it was the worst film of the year... I have two words for you that I will continue to repeat: Pyaar. Impossible.

Now! On to less controversial subjects!

* Like a producer's strike... well, maybe not less controversial but the strike is
postponed for the moment.

* China is funding a
Bollywood film and the producers seem to have settled on Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor for some reason... low expectations, maybe?

* Dharmendra will never
get old.

"There is a saying horses and men never grow old and I'm one of those men who was tagged as the 'He Man'. So can a 'He Man' afford to become old? This tag keeps me young at heart and I don't let age overpower me."

* Sadly, Shashi and Shammi Kapoor aren't feeling as youthful - the two are in
hospital. Amitabh stopped by for a visit.

* The Big B is also lending his voice to an
opening narration for Dhobi Ghat. Can I just say that I'm really tired of hearing about this film? I'm sure it's going to be great but much like Peepli Live, these small films don't really benefit from constant promotions. They aren't strong enough to stand up to the modern media machine - not like a film like Dabangg, which is built for it.

* 40-something
Shahrukh Khan feels that only a fresh face can play opposite him in Two States, a film I'm going to assume is about a daddy and his daughter who live in two parts of the country.

* Good news for Ajay Devgan, who snatched a part from Abhishek Bachchan in
Neeraj Pandey's next film.

* AR Rahman is taking a
sabbatical from Bollywood for the moment.

* Sonu Sood loves
Sandalwood! (And I love Sonu Sood for his willingness to go where the roles are!)

* Ram Gopal Varma probably isn't loving the South these days - he's experiencing
release date problems.

* I've pretty much already decided that what Ekta Kapoor produces, I'm going to see. Her latest is being done on a
quickie schedule.

Was it easy to wrap up so fast because of no stars involved?

"You can say that. We took a decision of taking a new guy and a new girl because we wanted to make the film in a very raw manner. We wanted the couple to look as real as possible, I mean the kind of conversation they have in their bedroom. Imagine
Paranormal Activity having Kate Winslet. It would have never worked." Ekta adds.

* And we'll end with a classic Bollywood backstage story - The Case of the
Mystery Choreography.

The poor earlier choreographer was bowled over by seeing the new transformed performances which were outstanding. He definitely was left wondering what went wrong.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Films of 2010!

While the pretentious crowd over at Passion For Cinema might feel as if their subjective tastes in film were objective standards, I know better. I don’t put a lot of stock in “BEST OF” lists. Our experience of media is so subjective that I strongly feel that the only thing one can assemble with any honesty is a FAVORITES list. Things that are my favorites may not be yours and that’s okay. My criteria for a favorite is something that I like (obviously) but also something that I keep thinking about, something that changes my world in a small way, and something that I continue to return to.

Now, we all know that Bollywood has not been churning out the good stuff like it usually does and I couldn’t honestly give 10 “favorite” Bollywood films from this year, so I decided to mix it up a bit and present my 10 Favorite Films of 2010!

(Check out previous 2010 wrap-up lists - picturizations, dances, and songs.)

Lead Roles: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha
Director: Abhinav Kashyap
Language: Hindi
My Review:
Dabangg Review

Dabangg reminded us all what it felt like to be excited about Bollywood again. After a long dry spell of pretentious films that failed to engage the audience, films attempting to ape Hollywood aesthetics and narrative techniques, and some really dumb comedies, Salman Khan emerged like a Greek God! That buff, bronzed body inspired the cheers of millions of Bollywood fans worldwide as he single-handedly saved masala the trash bins out behind Filmistan studios.

The Social Network
Lead Roles: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher
Language: English

Why? Despite some odd race-bending casting choices,
The Social Network was a perfect slice of storytelling. The dialogues were tight, the acting was nuanced, and the narrative was gripping. The film was the equivalent of those narrative non-fiction books I like so much where the author goes on a quest to find the story of some mundane object like a vanilla bean or cocaine or something and uses the object to tell a story of greed or commerce or both. Making the ordinary seem extraordinary is no small task and this film accomplished it in spades.

Lead Roles: Naseeruddin Shah, Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Language: Hindi
My Review:
Ishqiya Review (and reading it, I feel the need to rewatch this soon...)

Why? I have to admit I was dubious to check out this Vishal Bhardwaj production, considering how badly I was burned by
Kaminey, but Ishqiya is beautiful little film held together by three masterful performances from three of the most talented actors in Bollywood, including the criminally underrated Arshad Warsi. (I swear, if there was ONE PERSON who deserves some sort of broad recognition from the industry, it’s Arshad Warsi. The man is amazing.) The story is a bit of fluff but I didn’t mind because the filmmaking is so exquisite.

Band Baaja Baaraat
Lead Roles: Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Language: Hindi
My Review:
Band Baaja Baaraat Review

Why? Another crap shoot, another winner. Just when I thought Bollywood had lost its touch for real romance,
Band Baaja Baaraat dropped into my lap. Not only did it feature a smashing debut from non-industry kid Ranveer Singh and a refreshingly natural (and style-magazine free) performance from Anushka Sharma but the film itself was free of the flashy, self-conscious ironic tone of the contemporary romantic-comedy. Shadi Mubarak Zindabad!

Kick Ass
Lead Roles: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicholas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Language: English

Why? DAMN! Look, I don’t want to give away any spoilers but let’s just say the last fight sequence in this is
amazing. I’m not typically a fan of superhero movies, they tend to be all about massaging the super-male-ego or in indulging the eternal male adolescent’s worst desires but Kick Ass isn’t a typical superhero movie. Bringing a healthy dose of messed up emotional realism, enough daddy issues to make at least two Karan Johar flicks, and a dash of the old ultra-violence, Kick Ass was fully popped kernel of a popcorn film.

Tees Maar Khan
Lead roles: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Akshaye Khanna
Director: Farah Khan
Language: Hindi
My Review:
Tees Maar Khan Review

Why? I stand by
Tees Maar Khan as a highly entertaining film despite the critical drubbing it got. Everybody was on their A-game. It was as if Shirish Kunder had spotted the critical flaws in previous high profile mainstream Akshay Kumar flops Tashan and Chandi Chowk To China and took out the negatives, leaving only the khiladi to do what he does best - dazzle the audience. Katrina Kaif plays a ditzy actress with aplomb and Akshaye Khanna is a surprise charmer as an Oscar obsessed actor. What’s not to like?

Lead roles: Rajinikanth, Aishwarya Rai
Director: Shankar
Language: Tamil
My Review:

Why? This is getting the number 4 spot because it is the absolute best experience viewing a film that I have ever had. I paid $20 to see Rajinikanth strut his stuff on the big screen and he did not disappoint. Robots, robots, and Aishwarya Rai directed by Shankar. Bollywood has not given a
paisa-vasool like this in a long time, which is why I couldn’t limit my favorites to Bollywood. Kollywood is where the action is these days.

Lead roles: Arya, Amy Jackson
Director: Vijay
Language: Tamil
My Review:

Why? Epic romance, thy name is

I loved everything about this film - the songs, the acting, the humor, the writing... and for introducing me to Arya. Plus, kudos to a film for actually casting a person who can speak English with an English accent (i.e. Alexx O’Nell) in the role of the evil baddie and not just shoving some German tourist in a uniform.

Black Swan
Lead Roles: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Language: English

Why? Director Darren Aronofsky pulled off a spectacular feat in
Black Swan - he made Natalie Portman turn in a good performance and he made a film that delved into psychological grey areas without ever dumbing anything down for the audience (A Beautiful Mind, I’m looking at you). I suppose I should have expected as much from the man who brought us Pi but I am still impressed.

Plus, nobody else has made Western Art Music seem as compelling and fresh in years! It’s amazing what modern updates in aesthetics can do for an old ballet.

Lead roles: Vikram, Aishwarya Rai, Prithviraj
Director: Mani Ratnam
Language: Tamil
My Review:

Why? Oh, for so many reasons... Simply put, I loved this film. I cannot even imagine life before it - before I knew Vikram. The Hindi version may not have come together but Vikram and Aishwarya make the screen sing. In Vikram’s hands, the character of Veera is a many-headed demon with the heart of a man. We feel everything he feels.

The film is an exploration of myth and man, set in the rainy Mani Ratnam countryside.

Everything about it is beautiful.

(I can only hope that the bad press surrounding the Hindi release, won’t prevent people from checking out the Tamil one.)

Wednesday Gossip!

Hello and good morning!

I have a real treat for you today... Vijaysree Venkatraman over at the
Boston Globe has some important information about Bollywood:

Dishoom, which opened last summer and calls itself “A Bombay Cafe in London,’’ takes its name from the Indian comic book equivalent of “Pow!’’ and “Wham!’’ In some Bollywood films, “dishoom’’ is said out loud in fight scenes when someone throws a punch. Mumbai, once called Bombay, is the home of studios where these films are made.

Does anybody spot the problem here?

And lest you think it was just a slip of the pen, here it is again:

Taking this quaint retro-cafe to its original home may be a tricky business venture. But the concept can work in any cosmopolitan city. Think of all the people who could go around saying, “Dishoom!’’

Um... really? I've seen hundreds of popular Indian films and have yet to see a single person actually saying, "dishoom."

Feel free to go leave him a comment about how ridiculous an idea that is. I already did.


* Happy birthday to that old dog
RAJESH KHANNA! Enjoy this collection of random factiods sourced from "Internet." (It's right there at the bottom - "Source: Internet.")

Rajesh Khanna was once accused of lewd conduct on the sets of Anokha Rishta. The young lady, who raised a hue and cry, was Sabeeha, daughter of yesteryear superstar Ameeta. Eventually nothing came out of the allegations and all was forgotten.

* Sanjay Dutt is having
property seized for failure to pay back an advance on a film he never finished shooting... in 2003. Sanjay is both denying that he kept the money and is saying that Noorani the producer had the underworld make extortion calls.

If there was anybody good for a slow news day, Sanjay Dutt is him.

* Read an interview with
Amit Trivedi!

It's sad that very few people in our country know what the difference between a score and soundtrack is. Raj Kumar Gupta wanted to kick start No One Killed Jessica with a bang and 'Dilli Dilli' was his idea. He wanted to incorporate heavy metal and told me, "Yaar, ek Delhi pe gaana kar ke de mujhe". I did it in my own way and used heavy metal and the rest is in front of you.

Bro, there are plenty of people in the USA who don't know that difference, either.

* And with
Vidya Balan:

Sabyasachi went with Rani Mukherjee to London to shop for her clothes for No one Killed Jessica. He is such a designer that he doesn't see films as a showcase for his clothes. Sabyasachi clothes characters. What took me by surprise is the fact that he came from London and said, "I got your clothes too". So when I asked him why he didn't take me along with him to London, he said, "I wanted clothes which were larger and not your size". He gave me tees that were over sized and completely asexual. He told me, "From the sexually aggressive Krishna in Ishqiya, comes an asexual lady who ain't pretty". That was how real Sabyasachi wanted me to be in the film.

* Anushka Sharma isn't above some
petty sniping in the press.

Sharma added that she thinks the other leading ladies are less famous for their films than they are for their off-screen activities. "I am glad that I am known for my talent and not for my clothes or controversies."

Just keep plugging away at it and soon you, too, can be famous for making snarky comments about other actors and actresses in the press.

* Is Shahrukh going to be in
Krrish 2? Apparently, he's agreed if the film releases after Ra.1.

* Shahrukh may not like Farah Khan anymore but at least he gave a thumbs up to my favorite...
Javed Jaffrey!

* Anil Kapoor is putting floptastic
Aisha and No Problem behind him.

And speaking of
Aisha, I seem to recall that the same Anil Kapoor who was like, "Kids will be kids" when it was Sonam trashing Ranbir, was a lot less understanding when it was Abhay Deol saying that doing Aisha was a waste of time...

Anil is one of the few actors that I like less the more I hear from him. I should probably stop reading his interviews and just appreciate his amazing performances.

Oh, no! I had already found this one for you where
Anil Kapoor refutes Anees Bazmee's very honest statement about how No Problem was kind of terrible.

And in a rare event, Bazmi was even quoted in a leading tabloid saying: “People are now saying No Problem ‘mein problem hai’. I knew it even while shooting. The disappointing collections come as no surprise to me.”

But actor Anil Kapoor defends him. “That statement is very unlike Anees and that is not what he meant,” says Kapoor.

Really? Because it made me respect Anees Bazmi a lot more for being honest.

* Neil Nitin Mukesh's
Tera Kya Hoga Johnny is being delayed again... one might suspect that the industry is waking up to a fact that some of us have known for a while: Neil is just not that great an actor.

This gives me hope that we'll be seeing Imran Khan make his exit stage left in the near future, too. (And hopefully the Hollywood-style rom-com genre with him.)

* Akshay Kumar talks
Tees Maar Khan!

In the film, you come together with Katrina as a couple more than two years after Singh Is Kinng. What was that reunion like?

Beloved Kat is like a colourful stain on my shirt, bright and very loud but I'd miss her if she wasn't there. She knows I think the world of her, and I am proud to say as a producer and co-star that this movie couldn't have been complete without her, she just grows with every opportunity she's given. She's always been great to share a screen with, she annoys the hell out of me but I wouldn't want it any other way, I always look forward to our yearly movie together.

And behind the scenes of
No One Killed Jessica!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Gossip!

Hello, world! I've been a busy little bee gathering up my BEST OF 2010 lists and you'll be seeing the rest of them trickle out over the next week or so. I was waiting for TMK to release before I committed to any favorite films, actors, etc. and I'm glad I did.

I did a podcast episode on the reaction to
TMK with my friends Asim from Upodcast and Beth from Beth Loves Bollywood about the ridiculous negative reactions to the film.

An example? How about
people complaining that it's worse that RGV Ki Aag?

Or how about this
positive review from that is paired with a two-star rating.

Something is very odd in the media...

But let's see non-TMK gossip!

* Rani Mukerji is
fantastic. She just is.

"Strength lies in mothers who up bring their children. Strength in a woman is inborn. Strength isn't about people who are famous or people who we know are powerful. Our mothers are very powerful. They have fought through nine months and that is the biggest battle a woman ever faces in her life. Some women have the courage to show it, some people have inner strength the way they conduct their lives, some show it through their pen as journalists, some show with their political lives they live like Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi but even the simple middle class house wife and the woman who do a nine to six job are as powerful as the others I mentioned."

* Enjoy the
scandals of the year.

* And Adnan Sami is embroiled in a another scandal. What else is new, right? Well, this time - it's

* Even better is a list of
slip of the tongue moments...

[Abhishek Bachchan] claimed that he jumped off the cliff for a stunt in Mani Ratnam’s film, Raavan. “I told Mani that if the local boys could do it, so could I, only if there was a professional diver to train me. The only thought in my mind was ‘Oh, my god, I am going to die,” he said. Later, M Balram, a national-level swimmer, said, “I had done the stunt.”

* Checking in with
Kalki Koechlin, who seems to have solidified her status as a hot new name in Bollywood.

[S]he’s also learning to cope with, apart from dealing with the star treatment that comes with doing a mainstream film. “But these perks don’t appeal to me,” she says candidly. “I enjoy the different formats of storytelling, that’s all. Be it theatre or offbeat cinema or a masala movie, each have different sensibilities, a different way of bringing alive characters and that process is artistically and creatively stimulating."

* Dharmendra and Hema are doing everything within their power to ensure that
Esha Deol makes a comeback. If nepotism alone could guarantee Esha a career, she'd be a superstar.

* Akshay Kumar's role in the much anticipated (by me)
Patiala House was inspired by Sikh cricketer Monty Panesar, who played for England.

* Rapper Bohemia wants to work with
Akshay Kumar again.

"Rap is a cool quotient for kids. I do not find any difference between Indian kids and those from other countries. Kids in Europe and America are also doing the same thing. It took about 25 to 30 years for rap music to develop in America. In India, you just wait for another five years."

* Arjun Rampal has been replaced with...
Rahul Khanna for Housefull 2, which means that Sajid Khan just ensured that Beth will have to see it despite her review of the first one.

Read a humorous account of a newbie director being faced with Anupam Kher declaring - 15 minutes before shooting began - that he wanted his character to be blind.

The story goes that Joshi, new to the star system in Bollywood, thought Anupam was upset and was expressing his grievance in this way. But apparently Anupam not only insisted on his character going blind just minutes before the first shot, he refused to shoot until the change was made.

* Anushka Shetty turns down the lead in the
Bollywood Singam remake.

* Funny how
Passion for Cinema don't mind if Vishal Bhardwaj copies a Russian song...

* Ajay Devgn was the
top earner in Bollywood this year... not counting Toonpur Ka Superhero, which just seemed like an ill-fated project from the beginning. We all remember what happened to Roadside Romeo, right?

(Kat was the top earning lady.)

* Shahid Kapoor is being set up with Charlie Chaplin's
granddaughter. Shahid is doing a chaplin-esqe role, apparently. And actually, I suspect Shahid could do a pretty good silent film Chaplin, if he had a good director.

* And this is disappointing, Rishi Kapoor is back in
Agneepath... probably. Any mention of this film just sets my blood boiling. I mean, I'm pretty forgiving of the gender math of Bollywood filmmaking. I'm usually happy if the female lead isn't a doormat and hasn't been forced to starve herself down to a size zero but turning a nurse to a prostitute for GLAMOR reasons just goes beyond the pale.

I am disappoint, K.Jo.

* Katrina's new film, on the other hand,
sounds fantastic - in Prakash Jha's Satsang, she plays a woman from the West who comes to India to 'find herself' but finds the global religion factory instead.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Gossip!

Good morning, everybody!

I hope you all had a nice Christmas.

Now, let's see what was happening this weekend...

* Salman Khan is
45! Happy birthday!

* Everybody is
getting sued.

* Javed Akhtar is
banned by the Film Federation of India.

* Totally bereft of original ideas, Karan Johar wants to make a sequel to

* Will it be Asin opposite SRK in
Two States?

You know, I'm pretty forgiving of 20 year age gaps and 40 year old virgin heros when it comes to
masala films which are big fantasies anyway but if this is supposed to be "realistic" like Love Aaj Kal or 3 Idiots, I'm going to have to skip it. Nobody in those "realistic" films ever wonders why some 45 year old man is courting a girl young enough to be his daughter.

* Rani and Vidya
talk about their liplock!

“The mock kiss was our humourous take on the so-called animosity between Vidya and me. Guys have done it before as a fun stunt, so we decided to spice things up.”

Rani can lay a mock liplock on me anytime... I'm so excited for
No One Killed Jessica.

Another mag has the two
talk about each other.

What in your opinion is the best scene in No One Killed Jessica?

Rani: There is this scene in the film where she breaks down on the terrace. I think Vidya performed it brilliantly.

Vidya: I like the scene (it’s also there in the promos), where Rani is jumping at the bonnet of a car and screams that justice has been denied. It was quite an intense scene.

* Amitabh Bachchan
hates the media.

Tell us something we don't know...

* Shruti Hasan is going to return to Bollywood opposite
Abhishek Bachchan... under the ABCL banner, natch.

* Sonam Kapoor says she doesn't want to go to Hollywood until she builds a
solid resume in Bollywood. *cough cough no comment*

* Sonam may also luck out and have Daddy secure Madhuri Dixit for a
Freaky Friday remake.

* Anil and Anupam have
buried the hatchet.

* At the same party, Salman gives a fan a
tight slap for kissing him!

Here is an interesting piece on a Brazilian telenovela called Road to India.

* China wasn't too impressed with
My Name Is Khan.

My Name Is Khan does not look like any Indian movie that Bai Lu, 26, a software professional, has watched before. She likes the special features of Indian movies, otherwise Hollywood provides her with better options than this "second rate copy of Forrest Gump."

TMK gets a big opening! Third biggest after 3 Idiots and Dabangg and Joginder Tuteja reflects on the silliness of the obsession with a big opening.

Three decades back it was the silver jubilee v/s golden jubilee run of a film that decided its fate

Two decades back it was the 100 days run that came with its own prestige

A decade back it was the collections more than the days or weeks that were looked at closely

Five years back it was the first week that decided if the film was a hit or flop

A year back it came down to the weekend collections

Today, with the arrival of
Tees Maar Khan, it is the First Day number which appears to be an all important decision point for the industry

What would be the deciding factor tomorrow? The first show?

* Speaking of, SRK is enjoying the critical drubbing Farah Khan is getting and has (allegedly)
thrown a party celebrating the bad reviews.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!

Filmi Girl will return tomorrow with gossip!

Until then...


Saturday, December 25, 2010

In defense of Tees Maar Khan...

Let me start with a disclaimer since I’ve been getting hassled by people with too much time on their hands who seem to think that just because I loved Tees Maar Khan that I must somehow be associated with Shirish Kunder, Farah Khan, and/or Akshay Kumar in some way. I am not. I do not get paid to write nor do I get any other sort of compensation. I do this on my own time because I love films and I find that my point of view isn’t really represented in a lot of the film writing out there.

You can read my review of the film here.

ETA: Please read the commenting disclaimer. Disagreeing with me is fine but nasty comments will be deleted.

The intention is to make you laugh of course, which it manages at exactly 2-and-a-half places. Don’t ask which, because those moments don’t really stay with you.

It’s the kind of movie whose makers couldn’t care less if you hated the film, fell asleep during the film, left the film in twenty minutes, or collapsed from a stroke midway through the film. They only care about the fact that you paid your two hundred bucks and bought your ticket. To hell with you after that.

- Rajeev Masand for CNN-IBN

[E]ntertains in bits and pieces but the comical situations just arent enough to keep you in splits throughout. It also tends to get a bit boring. Also the major problem with Welcome is the writing, neither the story (which of course doesn’t exist) nor the situations connect. The chemistry between the lead pair (Akshay – Katrina) is completely lacking.

So, it looks like the critics really hated
Tees Maar Khan, right?

Well, yes but these are taken from the reviews of Housefull, Singh is Kinng, and Welcome respectively. Three box office hits and three films mostly trashed by the critics.

Here is something I think critics don't understand: just because something aims to please a wide audience or bases a joke on a pratfall doesn’t make it inherently worthless. A single well-timed pratfall is worth more to me than an entire film pretentiously musing on the emptiness of the middle-class lifestyle.

Physical comedy and farce aren’t inherently stupid and are not easy to do well. Something we can accept when it’s tempered with age like Kishore Kumar in Half Ticket.

Imagine somebody trying to make this today – Tun Tun (whose main joke was being fat), cross-dressing, Kishore doing full-on comedy shouting, and a plot that involves Pran trying to grab Kishore’s butt for 90% of the film.

Oh, brother, would it get panned if this had Sajid Khan’s name attached to it but we all look at it fondly now. Did they make this film with the intention of making money off of the viewing audience? Absolutely. Does that make it worthless? I don’t think so. Critics who seem to have traded their funny bone for a first-year film student’s reading list (and who cling to this ridiculous idea that film isn't also a business) do a real disservice to their reading audiences and to the industry by failing to differentiate between a smart farce like Singh is Kinng and something that’s just plain bad like No Problem.

The great Roger Ebert has a theory of film reviewing that says something like: look at what the film is aiming to do and the audience it’s aiming at, and review a film on those terms. In other words, review a film on its own merits and don’t judge a film based on your preconceptions of what you thought it was going to be. It’s good advice and advice that cycled in my mind as I read review after review of
Tees Maar Khan that were all essentially 500 word declarations of butthurt about how it wasn’t Om Shanti Om 2.

(Pssst… confidential to Rachel Saltz: It wasn’t trying to be.)

There are two differences between
Tees Maar Khan and Farah Khan’s other films – one is Akshay Kumar and two is Shirish Kunder’s script.

For whatever reason Akshay Kumar cannot catch a break from critics and the press, who seem to resent that he is making films at all. Akshay is mocked not just in reviews but all the time – what other hero gets called
a jackass in the mainstream media? Having Akshay Kumar in your film automatically puts it in the negative column for critics, just like having Shahrukh will give you a boost. I’m not hating on SRK or saying he doesn’t deserve praise, just that critics are a lot more forgiving of SRK films than they are of Akshay Kumar films.

Akshay Kumar puts in a tour-de-force performance as TMK, charming, sexy, and completely in control but still that’s not enough for the critics. What did they want from him? To be Shahrukh Khan? They are two completely different actors with different styles – comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Shahrukh has a tenderness and sweetness to his acting where Akshay is more bombastic and aggressively physical. For example, in the “Bade Dilwala” song, you can see him bite Katrina’s ear – I mean he really nibbles on it. That’s not an acting choice Shahrukh would have made, but does that make it wrong? (I, for one, thought it was super sexy.)

And where Shahrukh puts a lot of emotion in his face and voice, Akshay is more of a full body actor. In the scene where TMK is trying to convince Aatish Kapoor to join his film shooting and gets him all whipped up into an Oscar™ frenzy, Akshaye raises his hands over his head in celebration and Akshay deliberately echoes him but hilariously leaves his arms in the air just a beat too long as he turns and is confronted by Akshaye’s secretary. Again, I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that the choice of Akshay in the role makes for a very different kind of film than Om Shanti Om was.

And as for the story, unlike
OSO or MHN, TMK doesn’t have a personal storyline. Where OSO and MHN were about the main character’s (Shahrukh Khan in both cases) personal journey and his personal emotions, Tees Maar Khan is a set piece, moved along through gears and levers. Does it matter how or why TMK calls up Salman Khan for an Eid song during December? No, not really, we’re just glad to see it. Is the whole making a film within a film contrived? Obviously. Do I care? No, of course not. It’s a farce; of course events are going to be manipulated for maximum comedic effect. You have to just go with it – it’s a different style of filmmaking but it’s not wrong. Again, look at Half Ticket - did it have zero emotional resonance and extremely contrived characters? Sure! But it’s still funny and worth watching.

We get a few flashes of emotions here or there, all coming from TMK’s growing bond with the villagers, but for the most part, the main drive of the film is the meta-narrative
FU aimed at the pretentious tone of contemporary Bollywood. Towards the end of the film, TMK is in custody and he asks his henchmen to take care of something for him. “Ma?” asks one. “No,” he replies. “Cine-ma.” The world is bigger than the small films coming of Bollywood recently and mass audiences still crave films that provide something that will transcend daily life instead of getting bogged in the details – films like Endhira or Magadheera. Obviously there will always be a place for ‘international’ films that win Oscars™ but what about regular folks? Are they supposed to go line up to get depressed at Dhobi Ghat (the trailer for which played before TMK)? I’m sure it’s going to be a great film but reveling in the mundane details of contemporary life is not something that everybody wants from a trip to the cinema. The desire for films that touch on Magadheera-style transcendence has been so strong that even films which are good but not amazing like Dabangg, which heavily drew on recycled Southern masala conventions, have been pounced on like manna from heaven.

Critics need to take a good hard look at who they are actually reviewing films for – we are not all easily offended little girls on the way to a tea party who will faint at a sexy pelvic thrust from Akshay Kumar. Things can be politically incorrect without being hateful; jokes can hinge on pratfalls without being insulting to our intelligence; and you can make a good movie without having it be about the hero’s personal growth or his unrequited love.

I’m not saying that everybody has to like
Tees Maar Khan but it’s not fair to jump on it because it’s a farce that doesn’t star Shahrukh Khan and isn’t Om Shanti Om 2. And it’s certainly not the worst film of the century, a charge I have seen thrown around from irate commenters on Twitter. What people want to write on their blogs is fine. It’s what I do –I’m not pretending to be impartial. But reviewers, who are supposed to be objective, need to take the sticks out of their butts and recognize that they aren’t doing anything worthwhile by trashing a film simply because it wasn’t to their sense of humor.

(And if I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t find
OSO all that emotionally resonant, although MNH, rooted in the 90s soft-focus Karan Johar genre, is very sentimental. Of Farah’s three films, TMK is now my favorite.)
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