Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday… guess who's been spotted begging for work in Mumbai? (No, not me.)

What's that ominous music playing…? No! It can't be… THE LUNCHBOX IS HERE!

I kid, I kid! I'm actually reviewing the film myself later this week and I promise you I will keep an open mind. I'm sure it's a good film that the people who made that Marigold Hotel movie a smash hit will enjoy muchly, I'm just not sure it's a Masterpiece of Cinema.

A.O. Scott gives it a lovely write-up in the New York Times--didn't trust this one to Saltz, eh?--that compares it to a 1940s Hollywood drama.

The LA Times ranks it with Eat Drink Man Woman.

Indie Wire thinks it's a rom-com but enjoys it and also makes mention of a three-act structure, which I was suspecting since all the Western reviewers seemed to immediately grasp it.

(Meanwhile, I'm definitely skipping Shaadi Ke Side Effects. A nagging Vidya Balan is the last thing I'd like to spend my free time watching.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday: FG gets carried away again...

Okay. Guys. Bollywood Life is running a contest to be able to DANCE WITH RANVEER SINGH AT IIFA! Somebody has to enter this!! Oh… how much fun would dancing with Ranveer be?!

THIS MUCH FUN! (Picture 10 in this slide show is also pretty excellent. I miss that hairy chest.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday: Queen! More Queen!!

The beginning of the year has been not-so-great for box office. (According to TOI.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday: Can you master, baby?

Tons of action in the comment section from yesterday… *phew* Today is a little lighter, I think.

Here comes trouble: Ranbir, Ranveer, and Arjun Kapoor. The article is pointless but I liked the image!

Is somebody filming Entourage: Mumbai? And if not, Ekta, get on it!

(Apparently Ranveer also dances AT Madhuri and Juhi, which is something to keep an eye out for.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday: We're so sorry YOU'RE offended.

Highway does 13 crores opening weekend but it's not exactly blockbuster material so that's understandable.

Imtiaz Ali is happy with the mixed response because it means people are engaging.

Sounding nonchalant, the director said: "I have no problem with it. It's good that there are mixed reactions. At least there are opinions. It is actually dangerous when people just say, 'It's good'," he added.

I've got more to say about Highway but I'll save it for another post. Like Imtiaz, I do find the mixed reactions interesting, though. I mean, how often do Mihir Fadnavis and I agree on a film?

Reviews have come in a few different flavors--though Mihir's haranguing praise stands alone--but I have to admit that I'm disturbed by all the 'romance' and 'Stockholm Syndrome' talk. I don't think either tag accurately reflects what went on between the two main characters. Why must we automatically read a relationship between a man and woman as romantic love? Highway is remarkably chaste and, for my money, more closely resembles one of those Shirley Temple films where a beaten down but good hearted girl melts a cold man's heart.


Let's see what else the news holds today!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Highway: This is not the Robber Bridegroom

Highway is not the movie I thought it was going to be, it was a far better one. Both the promotions and Imtiaz Ali’s filmography had me convinced that the film was either going to be an Indian tourism board-approved version of a) something like Eudora Welty’s The Robber Bridegroom--in which a girl is kidnapped and love happens--or b) a man who doesn’t know what love is kidnaps a girl, falls in love, and proceeds to angst about it for 2 and a half hours. Not totally immune to the allure of the Robber Bridegroom, despite my hatred of the rom-com genre,* I decided to go see it on the off chance that it would be the former. And if it sucked, at least I could watch Alia Bhatt romp through some travelogue scenery.

But Highway was not the movie I thought it was going to be.

Last week I was walking home from the grocery store late one evening and I happened to look up at the sky. I was deep into a residential neighborhood and the street lights were dim enough that I could see the stars. The cold night air filled my lungs and as I breathed out, all my fatigue went with it. Orion was looking down at me, watching me as I walked past all the giant houses with the television glow flickering in their windows. Nothing clears my head like walking. Being free to roam where my feet take me, just looking around and seeing everything--clever graffiti, colorful flags fluttering in the breeze, the shape of bare tree branches against the sky--before I’m gone.

[Warning: Vague spoilers ahead but nothing major is given away.]

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday: Are we ready for a return to the 'one-pack'?

Highway is at my theater!! YES! I've been dipping my toes in reviews and I'm still not sure if I'll like it but at least I'm not convinced that I'll hate it, which considering Imtiaz's last couple of films is a victory in and of itself. Critics I sometimes agree with are disappointed and other critics I sometimes agree with are over-the-moon. It's really going to be a tossup which way I go. Plus, I'm really thrilled to see little Alia getting good reviews for her acting. I thought she was wonderful in Student of the Year.

On a related note, I do hope Gulabi Gang makes it to Netflix Streaming or Hulu. It seems like this documentary would have some interest in the West.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursday: What will I see this weekend… hmmm...

I found this BBC piece on how Bollywood is doing things 'just like in LA' really depressing… Is the film industry really no different from the motorcycle industry, like SRK says? Maybe if your only goal is sell product. And why does the industry need to 'evolve' a language the communicates to global audience? Especially when a non-global film like 3 Idiots does really well in places like Japan and China and Russia? Unless this 'global' is just code for 'white people in Hollywood'?

I know I'm speaking as an outsider but I really don't understand this manic drive to go Hollywood that exists almost hand-in-hand with spouting a reflexive 'proud to be Indian' line. I won't name names but you can catch more than a handful of industry types doing this. Talking big about India but then Tom Cruise shows up and all of a sudden no film or actor or director is good enough.

And then I thought Jaideep Sahni was going to talk sense but did just condescendingly refer to people with 'no mind power'? Please tell me I misheard.

I wonder if we'll see those 'no mind power' audiences increasingly turning to regional cinema, leaving Bollywood as to be the lingua franca of the diaspora, producing the context and content free equivalent of The Smurfs and those film festival type sentimental films like The Lunchbox.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wednesday Post.

Actress Geetika Tyagi has accused Jolly LLB director Subhash Kapoor of sexual assault.

There are going to be charges flung around on both sides and unless we were there we can't say for 100% certain what happened but I've said this before and I'll say it again, even from my limited interactions with Bollywood types, I can tell you there is this attitude among quite a few industry men that any woman around them is 'available' for sex. If you want access to the starry world, you comply. So, I'm inclined to believe Geetika.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday: Ignorance is bliss!

I was going to talk about how much fun I had watching Boss but I think I'll save that for a review since there was a lot to discuss. (BOSS! What a cast! What a script! Delightful!)

Instead, I'll start off with Juhi Chawla pulling a "Get off my lawn, you kids!" about women in Bollywood these days.

"There is so much noise around like size zero, public relations, marketing...I hope these girls are also enjoying themselves," added the 46-year-old as she shared how she is "not really happy" about this aspect of Hindi filmdom today.

I hear you, Juhi. I'm not happy about that stuff myself. Every era has it's tradeoffs… the curse of the 2010s seems to be the corrosive nature of Hollywood's money.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Post: Happy Three-Day Weekend to me!

Oh, myopic America… I'm both kind of charmed and kind of face-palming at the list of helpful tips given to Tampa tourism businesses:

* Don’t be shocked by accents that aren’t Indian.

India was under British rule almost a century, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Great Britain also had colonies in Africa, South Africa and the Caribbean and encouraged Indians to help develop these regions by offering financial stipends, free travel or land. Many Indians remained even after the colonies became independent. Cultural ties to their ancestral lands remain and many are fans of Bollywood film.

Got that, guys? Don't be shocked if not every brown person you greet talks like Apu from The Simpsons.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday: What day? I'm going to pretend I don't know what you're talking about.

The TOI covers just about everything I hate in the recent trend of seeing every film as if it's a romance.

When you see everything through the 'love' filter, it really puts all of human experience into one tiny box. If Dil Se is just about 'love,' it can't say anything about obsession or modern ennui because those have no place in that bizarre 'romance' formula of boy meets girl, everything is now perfect.

I won't harp on this because everybody already knows I hate romance films, especially the dreaded 'rom-com.' Pinning all your wishes and dreams onto just one person is dangerous and unhealthy… unless that person is Ranveer Singh in his hero entrance song for Ram Leela. Watching that again this morning is my Valentine's Day present to myself. Ranver Singh: Better than chocolate at soothing a bitter soul. Oooo!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday: A magic will happen… maybe.

We bid a fond farewell to a legend of Tamil cinema Balu Mahendra today.

In a recent interview, the doyen had said “Good cinema is a tricky area. When a director who has absolute command of his craft narrates a story in a simple and honest manner, there is a possibility of good cinema”. He says ‘possible’ because, “A magic MUST happen to make it a good cinema”, he adds.

I have so much to learn...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday Post: Vidyut, have your people call my people.

This essay on why the Sholay 3D version flopped is sooooo depressing. For a number of reasons.

A) Sascha Sippy, the grandson of producer GP Sippy, is like a Sholay-themed patent troll who hunts down references to Sholay and demands money for them. AKA he has a Disney style "career" in the arts.

B) This line:

I am told Sholay commercially flopped for the first time in 2014. The older audiences couldn’t care less for 3D. I watched most of the film without the glasses on. The post-91 young, with enough entertainment on their plate, could hardly spare half a working day (almost three and a half hours running time) to sit in a dark hall on expensive seats to watch a film from their father’s generation.

I get the older audiences not caring for the 3D release (I'm not that old and I hate 3D) but did younger audiences not care about Sholay or did they not care about a heavily edited version of Sholay in 3D--which does require expensive seats. Would a plain re-release in non-digital single screens have done better?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday: It's not a 'lip job;' it's a 'lip… JOB.'

Soha Ali Khan to star in a film on the Delhi riots? I have to say, I was strongly reminded of these types of films--and the sort in the article just below the cut--when I read this excellent editorial from N+1 magazine on the state of world literature.

Here are soft-focus word-pictures of fig jam and recipes for spring salads, the glimpse of “a sprig of absinthe leaves used as a bookmark,” and rural poets lifting their wives’ yellow cotton dresses and fucking a tergo beside the water barrel still glinting in the moonlight. Late Ondaatje will give a French character a Spanish name, so that another character can reflect on its brilliance: “Segura. The irony of his name was not lost on him.” Shifting arbitrarily from region to region with spurious worldliness, these books inspire jet-setter jacket copy: “Spanning three continents . . .” It’s not even as if the novelist were desperate to match the American imperium or international finance in scope. It’s more like the writer is writing for a global West Village.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Post: Happys Endings.

Dear Hollywood,

She's all yours. Especially if that means she won't be stinking up my masala bromance films anymore.


Still Bitter About Gunday in DC

Sunday, February 9, 2014

James Babson: Outsider in Kollywood (Vishwaroopam Special)

Kamal Hassan’s Vishwaroopam (2013) was a mass entertainer that told a story about terrorism and heroism. Rather than painting with the more typical cinematic terrorism shades of black and white, Kamal treated all his characters with compassion--even the non-desi ones. James Babson [check out his official site here] played FBI agent Tom Black, who works with “Wiz” (Kamal’s character) in order to bring down villain Rahul Bose’s evil plans. Although Agent Black doesn’t make an appearance in Vishwaroopam 2, with the upcoming release, now seemed as good a time as any to revisit the first one. (You can read my review of Vishwaroopam here if you want to refresh your memory.)

Listening to the recording of our interview again this past weekend, I was struck by just how much love James had for this project and for Kamal and I want to apologize to James and Kamal (and to you, dear readers) from the bottom of my heart for taking a year to put this interview together.

Consider this a promotion for Vishwaroopam 2 as my humble apology.

Pizza: Good to the last slice. [SPOILER FREE review]

Earlier this week I received a tweet from @PrimeMediaUS telling me that Pizza was available for $2.99 rental from iTunes with English subtitles and everything. [Information I am now sharing with you, although I can’t find a direct link. Just search for “Pizza” in the iTunes store.] I usually ignore PR blasts but this was information I was actually interested in. I’d been hearing about the surprise 2012 hit Pizza for over a year now and although I’d been dying of curiosity, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to watch it minus subtitles on youtube. And now my patience has been rewarded!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday: "Join a film school, buddy."

I'm definitely considering Hasee Toh Phasee this weekend for Parineeti's sake. The music promos have been awful (OMG WHAT ARE THOSE LYRICS) but it hasn't turned me off 100%. So, I'll be avoiding reviews of that but Heartless on the other hand. Bring. it. On. I'm just disappointed I won't get a chance to review it for Box Office Poison because it seems like the perfect candidate:

Adhyayan Suman can’t act. As harsh as this may sound but that is the only prevailing notion I gathered about the young actor. Join a film school buddy, you absolutely need it.

Haaaaaa! Although Bollywood Life found him surprisingly convincing as the 'rich playboy' for some reason… I wonder why… Hmmm…

(AND JACKKY BHAGNANI KEEPS ON TRYING. The bills his daddy must have racked up on this kid.)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursday: Jimmy…!

CNN has a piece on that documentary Champ of the Camp.

Though the subject of labor camps can be somewhat touchy in Dubai, with many expats living comparatively gilded lives at the expense of the city's migrant workers, there seems to be a lot of curiosity about how these men -- squirreled away into tower blocks on the fringes of the city -- live their daily lives.

Curiosity but little empathy, apparently, since the labor abuses keep happening. There was a post on the New Yorker blog a couple of days ago expressing shock (SHOCK!) that abuses were happening in these labor camps. How myopic and naive are we? Even I've never been to Dubai but I knew about this. Seriously.

I really want to see this movie. I hope it gets an American release.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday: How NOT to climb an elephant

Possibly my favorite story of the day: 3 students embark on harebrained scheme to earn money… by catching Dawood Ibraham. They were apparently inspired by D-Day. Boys, try selling the rights to your story to one of these biopic making studios!! That'll earn you something. Although, could anybody other than Raj & DK turn this farce into a enjoyable film?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday Post: Because I can.

The big story, as far as I'm concerned today is AMITABH ADMITS SODA IS POISON!

Big B, who was urging celebrities to exercise due diligence before endorsing brands, said that he stopped endorsing Pepsi after a schoolgirl confronted him and asked why he promoted the soft drink which her teacher branded as poison.

Bachchan admitted that the question left him speechless and made him realise what impression it had on people's minds.

"So I stopped endorsing Pepsi," he told the gathering.

Seriously, good for you, Big B!!! Habitual soda use is terrible for health and the soda companies use a lot of water, taking a public good and selling it back to us.

There has been a lot of discussion here in the USA over Scarlett Johansson endorsing Sodastream, which has a factory in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories. Do celebrities have a moral duty not to endorse harmful products? I suppose it depends on the morals of the celebrity…

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday: Good-bye Philip Seymour Hoffman...

Yesterday we had to say farewell to Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was never a huge fan of his but he definitely owned a corner of my filmi heart, by putting more thought and care and effort into small two-dimensional roles in popcorn films than the lead actors ever did. He seems like he was a very intense person, who had troubles we can only guess at.

Check out this interview with him from 2011 in the Guardian and this the Onion AV Club interview from 2010.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Vishwaroopam 2… coming soon?

I have been sitting on a interview with one of the actors from Vishwaroopam for almost a year now. Transcription is tedious business and I kept putting it off and off and finally I just started feeling guilty whenever I thought about it and buried it under a pile of work in my 'to do' box.

But, you know, with Vishwaroopam 2 coming out soon, I think it's as good a time as any to put on my big girl pants and finish this interview up.

So, I've been diligently typing away and will hopefully have something for you, dear readers, very, very soon!

In the meantime, I thought I would share the results of my trawling youtube for fond memories of Vishwaroopam!

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