Saturday, February 13, 2010

Filmi Girl Reviews the New York Times Review of My Name is Khan

Good morning, all!!

Let's visit my old nemesis Rachel Saltz at the
New York Times? She has one of her trademarked pretentious yet uniformed reviews up for My Name is Khan.

First of all, she enters major eye-rolling territory by titling the review "A Hero Begins His Quest." Really, dude? So, five words in and you're showing off that you read the Cliff's Notes to Joseph Campbell?

And then we get convoluted sentences like this one:

The message of My Name Is Khan, an effective exercise in Bollywood high emotionalism, is less political than movie-ish: there are two kinds of people in the world, good and bad, a distinction more important than any other differences, like those between Hindus and Muslims.

It's not good that it took me a couple times reading through it to figure out all her clauses. Also, what does 'movie-ish' even mean? In this context, she seems to be implying that it's the opposite of 'political' but then what about films
with a political message? Why didn't she just say that the message of MNIK is emotional? Or simplistic, if that's what she meant? But many political messages are both simplistic and emotional - why do you think Sarah Palin has become so well known?

What she means to say--I think--is that
MNIK is moralistic, concerned with the inherent goodness of humanity instead of the actual wrongs committed by people in the name of this government or against that one.

But either way, why would you open a review with a sentence like this? I ask the Powers That Be (yet again) why this woman is writing Bollywood reviews for the
New York Times.

Rizvan falls for and weds a divorced single mother, Mandira (Kajol Devgan, a frequent co-star of Mr. Khan), a Hindu who accepts his oddities even if by marrying him she seems to be taking on another child. (Then again the true Bollywood romance is the one between mothers and sons.)

Okay, just because I'm nitpicking here, "Kajol Devgan" is not how Kajol is known professionally. Call her Kajol. That is how she is billed. And is it really important that she is a frequent co-star? Fans will already know that information and it's not contributing anything to helping curious non-desi Americans understand the film.

More importantly, was that dig about true Bollywood romance being between mothers and sons really appropriate? It's mean-spirited and TOTALLY out of place in this review. One of my fellow bloggers and I might say something like that on occasion but that's because we write BLOGS for BOLLYWOOD movie buffs. We're not writing for a general audience.

Rizvan, a kind of genius, may have trouble expressing emotions, but he has them, and with a copy of “Intercourse for Dumbos” gets through the wedding night. After her son becomes a victim of an anti-Muslim attack, Mandira throws Rizvan out, and he takes her command literally: go tell the president that your name is Khan and you’re not a terrorist.

That crack about "Intercourse for Dumbos" is uncalled for. If Shahrukh was unconvincing as an Aspie in love, just say so. Why is this mocking tone necessary?

“Khan” is one of a handful of Hindi films (“New York,” “Kurbaan”) about Indians living in a paranoid, post-9/11 America, and there’s something fascinating about looking at this country through a Bollywood lens, even when the story is a kind of fairy tale. (Most interesting here is the link made between black Americans and Indians, especially Muslims.)

MNIK is a fairy tale. I don't think anyone claimed otherwise and both Kurbaan and New York were more about the slow poison of hatred than anything else. Yes, seeing one's own country from a different cultural perspective can be interesting but that's far from the point of the film and, honestly speaking, MNIK is not ABOUT the United States any more than Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited was about India. So, if that's all she got out of the film, then clearly she wasn't watching it with the right mindset.

Watch out, somebody is about to put on her THIS MEANS SOMETHING IMPORTANT hat:

Ah, tolerance. In India, a firestorm surrounded the film’s release on Friday. The Shiv Sena, a fundamentalist Hindu party, is angry with Mr. Khan, a Muslim, who is probably the biggest star in Bollywood. Why? Because Mr. Khan won’t apologize for remarks he made about Pakistani cricketers being allowed to play in India. (He is part owner of a team.) But the Shiv Sena’s threats and promises to disrupt the movie’s Mumbai opening didn’t stop crowds from going to see the film. Chalk one up for Bollywood.

This has nothing to do with the film itself AND was already covered in another article in the
New York Times from the same day. Why add it here unless a certain reviewer needed to pad her word count or something?

If she wanted to tie the film to real-life events, why not mention SRK's detention at Newark?

And then that ending: "Chalk one up for Bollywood." What does that even mean? Bollywood is tolerant? Really? Shahrukh is popular and people like him? Chalk one WHAT up for Bollywood? A good film?

I read all the way through this review a couple of times and what I gather from it is that Ms. Saltz found MNIK excessively emotional and wished that it had been more about the politics of being named 'Khan' in a post-9/11 America instead of being about a "Holy Fool" (her words) who helps people discover their own human goodness.

She never bothers to take the film on its own terms-she mocks and editorializes about tolerance instead of reviewing.

New York Times, you NEED to find somebody else to review Bollywood because Ms. Saltz just doesn't get it.

And lest you think I'm being too harsh, one of the comments on the NYT site had this to say:

Good movie

I'm a biased reviewer because I am a huge fan of Sharukh Khan. A few of the things said in this review are true, but I'd like to say one thing to the reviewer - your condescending tone is annoying. I know you're paid to be "edgy" and write scathing reviews...but your ability to convey your message is affected by the fact that I'm put off by your "standing on a pedestal" attitude.

– thoughts07 , NJ

If you have a user name on the NYT site, I recommend going and leaving your own review of her review and or just "recommend" the critique from our friend thoughts07.


MsBlogger said...

Haha, this is the first review of a review I've ever read.

Some of these critics hit me as people who tried hard to become authors but failed so instead they decided to confuse us with their long sentences and equally pointless phrases in an attempt to prove they can 'write'.

MNIK looks good, I might see it tomorrow.

ajnabi said...

Well, it *is* a KJo film. Have you seen it yet? I mean, maybe he did throw an "Intercourse for Dumbos" so he didn't have to pay for the rights to "Sex for Dummies?" Just wondering because most of the time an American woman wouldn't refer to an autistic person as a dumbo, at least not in print. Still, overall I agree with you about the tone of the review, which is weird because usually she's SUCH a fangirl!

Amol said...

yup it was in the movie. Probably one of the worst movies I've ever seen. If I ever meet any of the reviewers who gave this movie a high rating, I'm going to tap-dance on them. with hobnailed boots.
If Hollywood made a movie like this about India, the PC brigade would call it racist.
Garbage is too good a word for this atrocity.

Christine Menefee said...

Oh, this is wonderful. I recently did a blackout poem using another similary incompetent review by another NYT "critic" - how do these people get these jobs? You and I, and probably a lot of other people too, could do a far more competent job of it. It's wonderful to see a lousy reviewing job criticized. I hope you sent a copy to the NYT, especially if they always have this person do Bollywood reviews. Burns me up.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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