Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bombay Day 1!

Well, I'm finally here!

After some massively annoying flight problems due to weather - 24 hours after I left Washington, DC - I arrived in Bombay at 2am and was at the Sun'n'Sand by 3!

The first thing I noticed was... mosquitos. And also, dogs. There are a ton of ferrel dogs running around. I sat next to the cutest young couple on the flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai - they were so impressed with
everything on the plane but also were kind of disparaging towards Air India. It was really funny.

So, today I didn't do much. I was really, really tired from the flight but I wanted to get over my jet lag as soon as possible so...! I got up in the morning and got myself a taxi to the Gateway to India!

What else could I do on my first day here?

My taxi driver was the sweetest man who kept telling me which stars lived where - Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Lata Mangeshkar. I was ready to tell him to go but he was pushy and insisted on waiting for me, which was smart because clearly I was a silly and tired white lady and called him just 2 hours later.

So, after fending off a million people trying to sell me things at The Gateway to India, I went for lunch at the Taj - because I am a spoiled memsaab.

Oh. My. God. The Taj Hotel is beautiful inside and I had an amazing lunch in the Sea Lounge which overlooks the water. And then I went back to my hotel.

This whole process took 5 hours.

When Bollywood stars tweet about traffic, they aren't kidding. Going from North to South Mumbai is crazy - and amazing. I can see how it would get tiring to do it everyday but, honestly, I was really enjoying watching life pass by outside the taxi windows with narration by my taxi driver. I got to ride on
the sea link which was really cool! Also, I kept seeing places that looked really familiar.

I took a small rest in the afternoon and then drank my dinner at the bar at the Sun'n'Sand.

Now I'm watching MTV India while typing to you all!

That was my first day in India!

Here are some observations!

* Everybody is trying to sell me something - everybody. But mostly people are nice about it.

* Culture shock is surprisingly not an issue. Mostly, I'm just having 'in an unfamiliar city' shock.

* Being treated like a princess is surprisingly fun. Maybe that should be Mumbai's next ad slogan: Where a Librarian Can Feel Like A Princess.

* See Katrina Kaif and Amitabh on billboards is like seeing old friends, which is kind of sad.

* There is some guy who keeps yelling things through a microphone outside my window. I have no idea what that is about.

Hopefully I'll have a bit more for you tomorrow!

Until then, have a cheezy video of "Kurbaan Hua" which is going through my head!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

70s Week Recap: Paapi

Still coming with the crime and punishment 70s films - Paapi is one of my TOP 5 FILMS ever!

Paapi is a wonderful 1970s masala film. Who would have thought that I would ever find the Sanjeev Kumar/Zeenat Aman jodi so burning hot or desire to see more of Padma Khanna....

Backed with a
killer soundtrack by Bappi Lahiri - and I mean a killer soundtrack - Pappi tells the story of Ranu, an orphan, who is separated from her brother at a young age when their older sister/caretaker is raped and killed by an Evil Thug in an amazing sequence where we cut back and forth between Ranu's didi struggling for her life and a religious devotional song in the building next door. Ranu's brother falls in a deep puddle trying to get help and Ranu assumes that he's dead, too. She runs off afraid that Evil Thug is going to kill her, too! Her bhai survives and is taken in by a kindly policeman and grows up to be a Tough On Crime Cop (Sunil Dutt, looking scarily like Sanju) and Ranu becomes Rani, a Master Thief (Zeenat Aman).

Through the course of the credits, we see young Ranu go from stealing bananas offered to the god to shoving bananas in the faces to dopes who get in the way of her thievery!

Trying to steal some diamonds from an old man, she poses as his niece and meets Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, a kindly soul who is very attracted to Zeenat. She is very flattered by his affection, but she has a job to do. As she is casually walking off with the loot, he asks where he can get in touch with her in Bombay - she gives him a number...

... the number to the police station! LOL! Being a kindly soul, he gives her the benefit of the doubt.

As Zeenat Aman is living the good life, Sunil Dutt is slowly turning to the dark side with his extreme approach to crime. The trauma in his childhood of watching his sister get raped has left him very scarred and emotionally cut off. Even Reena Roy can't shake him out of his revenge-driven career.

(Of course, he's good friends with Dr. Sanjeev!)

Here is one of the interesting narrative threads in
Pappi - Dr. Sanjeev's belief that criminals are separate from their crimes and Sunil Dutt's insistance that all criminals be locked up forever. We'll see who changes their mind...

(Set borrowed from
Teesri Manzil?)

Also thrown in the mix are Padma Khanna as caberet singer Miss Kitty, who becomes best friends with Zeenat and Prem Chopra's slimy gangster.

And no O.P. Ralhan film is complete without O.P. Ralhan! Here he plays a photographer who has a on-going flirtation with Dr. Sanjeev's secretary, Dolly. Can anyone tell me who the lovely lady playing Dolly is? I couldn't figure it out.

So, there is the basic set-up. Some of the things I loved:

* The film is packed full of wonderful tension between Dr. Sanjeev's admiration of Zeenat - his ability to see beyond her crimes to the sweet person within - and Zeenat's longing for some kind of release from her life of crime. She doesn't feel worthy of him and wants to protect him from himself. *pardon me while I swoon*

(Running into the good doctor again!! He can't believe she's the same girl!)

(He still likes her, though..... the rose amongst the thorns... *dies*)

(EEEEE! She's getting beat up rather than let the doctor's name be tarnished with her criminality!! I LOVE IT!)

* Sanjeev Kumar's character was really well done. What could have been a whiny, impractical doofus of a guy is instead extremely sympathetic.

I love that Dr. Sanjeev's compassion for the man who was sent to kill him is what saves them all in the end! Ah... treat people like people. What a concept!

* I was also really pleased with the depiction of female friendship between Padma Khanna as Miss Kitty and Zeent Aman. Instead of having the secondary female lead be a stereotypical vamp who is after the hero, Padma Khanna's character has her own story where she grows from being frozen in a life that she hates to taking action against the men who have trapped her there, with a little courage borrowed from Zeenat.

(Padma disguised as a taxi driver, helping Zeenat (in the veil) deliver a cruical piece of information.)

(Pretending to cat fight with Zeenat so that they can distract the gang members. Of course, it totally works!)

(Padma taking down Prem Chopra AND Nadira! You go, girl!

(Padma getting an extended death scene after she kills about 20 gang guys.... *sighs with happiness*

* Reena Roy's saree in this scene was divine. I want one, too!

In the end, what strikes me most about
Paapi is how it takes the masala conventions and just does them better. Instead of the tired two-hero film, we get a two-hero film where one of the heroes is Zeenat Aman. Instead of the vamp who dies for the hero's love, we have a vamp who is totally kick-ass and best friends with the female hero. And O.P. Ralhan fits in some great commentary on crime and the criminal element. In short, I don't see how it gets any better than this. Why is Paapi not mentioned up there with Don and Johny Mera Naam as a great 70s masala film?

Oh, Zeenat! You have won me over with your repentant ways! This movie was totally win!

70s Week Recap: The Train

I've tried and tried to like Rajesh Khanna but he's just such... A JERK IN ALL HIS MOVIES!

I loved so much about
The Train that I couldn't help but wish it had been tweaked by O.P. Ralhan to fit my moral views better. At the very least, I wish a more charismatic actor had played the lead - like Shashi in full SPARKLE mode or perhaps a smarmy Vinod Khanna with his rugged masculinity.

As it is,
The Train is the story of the world's dullest policeman - Shyam (Rajesh Khanna). Shyam has been dating a woman, Neeta (Nanda - not one of my favorite actresses), for some time, at least as demonstrated in the opening number "Gulabi Aanke Jo Teri Dekhi". Neeta and Shyam romp like a couple of Young People who have known one another a while. Meanwhile, in another part of town, a robbery goes down and the criminals use Shyam's license plate numbers on the get-away gaari! Sneaky! or is it....!?!

This particular band of criminals consists of Madan Puri and Helen, who is the brains behind the operation. The whole operation has one purpose: to allow Helen to canoodle with Rajesh Khanna. Otherwise, why on earth would the gang want to tease Shyam with the license plate ruse? Why not just get some sucker to take the fall? It's not like the police care if the accused is innocent or guilty as long as they are arresting somebody. RIGHT, RAJESH KHANNA?

Once his cunning "art student" disguise had fallen through, Shyam revealed his true job to Neeta. And for her part, Neeta was rightly concerned that one Sri Shyam "Regressive Social Values" Kumar could never love a woman who ...
had a father in jail!

And, to make things even better, on the night that Shyam is going to come over to Neeta's house for dinner for the first time, Neeta's father appears! He ran away from jail
because he is innocent. Understandably, Neeta's Pop was tired of being kicked around by the justice system. I'm sure that Shyam will be understanding, right? Of course he wants to work for the side of justice? Right?

Alas, in a scene so tragically funny that I may have had to watch it twice, Shyam hides outside the window long enough to eavesdrop that Neeta's father is a) in jail for a crime he didn't commit and b) home. Shyam then
calls the police on his wanna-be future father-in-law. Yes. No wonder Neeta's father zung Shyam hard-core with his line: "Your law is blind and merciless." Preach it, brother! And Shyam never learns his lesson.

So, after this, Neeta never wants to see Shyam again. Shyam then takes up with the lovely Miss Lily (Helen), who is the brains behind this whole operation.

(She also looks great in a faux-Arabian outfit.)

(And out of it!)

Shyam, in his second major jerk move, totally plays along with Miss Lily's seduction game. The direction totally hints that they, you know, do...
it, which is really sleazy on his part and naive on hers. Oh, poor Miss Lily! I know you're not bad - you're just drawn that way.

Meanwhile, Neeta gets a job at the same hotel where Miss Lily's gang of criminals works!!

And she mysteriously appears on A TRAIN and is then involved in MURDER all while doing her best HELEN impression!!

This leads to two things - the first is an awesome item song featuring Aruna Irani and a band of gypsy girls.

The second is a tedious subplot starring Rajendra Nath. (He's like a tedious Prem Nath!) Oh, how I wished for something - anything - to happen during Rajesh Khanna and Rajendra Nath's scenes together. Acres of boredom broken by -

Oh, look! It's TUN TUN! Save me, Tun Tun!

Things perk up a bit when Miss Lily returns wearing the best dancing gown in the entire world. (I'm not exaggerating.)


Still a massive jerk!

Neeta thinks so, too. And I'm going to need this image on a t-shirt or something.

Okay - so, as a final crazy caper Shyam and Rajendra's sidekick character get decked out in fancy disguises and try to bait Miss Lily's Gang into "robbing" them.

Neeta-acting-like-Helen shows up! And fails to recognize Shyam in his genius disguise as "Carnaby Street Fashion Plate." OR DOES SHE?!

I won't give away the final ending, but I will say that Shyam remains a jerk up and until the end. Here he has his beloved cradled in his arms. She's dying and all he can say is, "Well, a criminal's daughter is sure to be a criminal, too."

Le sigh.

In short, Rajesh Khanna refuses to believe what O.P. Ralhan always tells us - criminals are made by society; not born. Miss Lily turns to crime because she had no money and no way to support herself and pay her family's debts. Neeta's father is sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit and yet the taint remains on her. Who would blame her for taking a job in Miss Lily's hotel when nobody else will hire her?

If you can stomach Rajesh Khanna is full-on bland mode, then
The Train is really worth your time for the soundtrack (KILLER), the direction (TRIPPY), and the always lovely Helen in a starring role.
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