Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Post!! Good morning!

For those who don't follow me in other places, I injured myself pretty badly last week. (Basically I tripped over my own feet/the curb and face planted gracelessly in the middle of the street.) Alas, I had no burly hero to piggyback me home and no filmi maa to hover and feed me delicious things and my weekend was spent being miserable and achy and I didn't get to do any of the writing I wanted to. I feel like it's the fitting end to this ridiculous month!

Ah!! March can kiss my butt. Let's get April started! A brand new page, a brand new springtime! Although sometimes--like this March--I get kind of frustrated with and tired of Bollywood, I know I would miss it SO MUCH if I stopped writing every morning. I hope you all enjoy reading my ramblings. Even if I get things wrong sometimes or you disagree or I get excited about stupid stuff or I post weird video clips, I'm happy you all are along for the ride with me. I started writing all those years ago because I didn't know where to find a good conversation about Bollywood movies so I thought I would make one on my own. It's been a long journey and I've learned a lot from you all and from the films themselves; and my knowledge of my own tastes has become clearer.

There's more good conversation now than when I started writing but one thing hasn't changed--Bollywood still gets no respect or love from "serious" films types, especially in the West. I hope we can change that. I was feeling to crappy and restless to sit through any film this weekend but I watched about 20 minutes of this 1960s Japanese spy film called Ironfinger that's part of the Criterion Collection on Hulu and it really made me sad that Criterion would never consider giving the same loving treatment to a film like Jewel Thief, a real Bollywood masterpiece of an equivalent genre.

Well, some Hindi films seem to be getting through, not just "world cinema" dreck like The Lunchbox.

Anyways. Let's see what silly season has in store for us!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday: Silly Season!

Silly season continues… maybe I should just try to find the stupidest story of the day? (i.e. I'm a beverage now, says Karan Johar. Kareena helps Katrina plan her wedding?! Amitabh getting sued for playing a ghost on television!)

But at least it's Friday, so we have movie reviews!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday: WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (No, really.)

Last night I went to see Sono Sion's 『地獄でなぜ悪い』 (Why Don't You Play in Hell?, 2013) at CineMatsuri and it was glorious!! I love Sono Sion's work anyways but this film really just hit the spot for me. The story has a lot of moving pieces but the gist is that an amateur filmmaker gets roped into filming a real gangster fight.

^^ Trailer. It's bloody, brutal, hilarious, smart, and kind of touching, too. And packed full of really quality actors letting loose. (You might recognize Kunimura Jun from Kill Bill.)

As I left the theater and was walking towards the Metro, I heard three youngsters behind me quoting their favorite lines really loudly and enthusiastically. And it's totally enjoyable on that level but I was also fascinated with how Sono also plays around with gangster film cliches and with the idea of how movies influence our ideas of reality. He deploys some devastatingly funny/ironic uses of schmaltzy Hollywood-style orchestral background music and sentimental flashback. And the gangsters themselves seem to have taken all their ideas of Proper Japanese Manliness from old samurai films.

I really love the clean style of Japanese filmmaking… sparing use of background score, unglamorous sets and costumes, and a big focus on the human element above all else. American film just doesn't do it for me, with a few exceptions. I still love my trashy American teen movies (Hands up who is going to see Divergent! *raises hand*) but the American films that really click with me are few and far between. Maybe the closest you'll get to a Why Don't You Play in Hell in the US is something like American Movie or the second part of Todd Solondz's Storytelling.

And then you have Upendra's A. And here is where I wish againsome of these AMAZING South Indian films would get decent subtitles and global recognition. I'm currently reading a couple of books on the art of translation and Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters is definitely worth a read. Subtitles aren't going to give you the same experience as being able to understand the language but without them some really wonderful works of art in minor languages remain inaccessible to the majority of people… and our ideas about those cultures and peoples are left in the hands of the academics and the "academy" to pick and choose what gets shown and what doesn't.

That's why every film fan around the world knows Satyajit Ray and only the Indians and the weird obsessives like me know Manoj Kumar.

I don't think I'll review Why Don't You Play in Hell since I think there's enough info out there for you in English but definitely if you get a chance, go for it!!!

Anyways. Forgive the digression but it's silly season in the Bollywood press. I mean, it's always silly season but spring time is like the extra-special silly season. I couldn't even get through my news searches today because the stories were all so dumb. Basically, Varun Dhawan promoting Main Tera Hero (releasing April 4th!) has free rein over whatever publication he wants because nothing else is happening. Queen is playing for a record fourth week in my local theater for crying out loud! Kangana-starring, small-budget QUEEN!

Keep this in mind as we dive in the dregs of the dregs… ARE RANBIR AND KATRINA GETTING MARRIED IN 2015?! SALMAN FOR DHOOM 4!!!… don't say I didn't warn you!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Apparently when one stays up past midnight researching kabuki and buying the first two Crows movies on eBay in preparation for Crows Explode, one has trouble getting up the next morning in time to write one's usual blog post. I mean, or so I've heard.

I did a quick check and the most important story seems to be Lata Mangeshkar NOT dead, says Lata Mangeshkar.

CineMatsuri: 髑髏城の七人 (Seven Souls in Skull Castle, 2013)

I decided to write something on this because there was almost NO INFORMATION on this play or movie available in English.

Everything I know about kabuki (歌舞伎) comes from watching Japanese television: namely that it’s a stylized type of theater in which all the stories are about samurai times, all the roles are played by men, and all the actors wear white face paint. I assumed it was an art stuck in the past and patronized by a small, specialized, elite audience like opera is here in the West, a beautiful art but no longer relevant to the mainstream. And the fact that the overwhelming amount of information on kabuki available in English appears to have been written by pedantic PhD students holed up in some midwestern university library study carrel meant that I had no motivation to learn more. If kabuki is something only put on for elites, Western lookie-loos, and academics, why should I care?

But when I got the e-mail announcing the line up of CineMatsuri the film that really called out to me was not really a movie but a kabuki play put on film: Seven Souls in the Skull Castle (髑髏城の七人).

Punchline spouting heroes, vamping villains, plucky heroines, swords, and a badass score… this was kabuki?! I was sold.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday: RIP Nanda

Today we bid a sad farewell to Nanda, who passed away at age 75.

Here she is romping with Dev Anand in Teen Deviyan!

And this isn't the soberest of choices, but I do have fond memories of Nanda girl bonding with Helen in Gumnaam!

Rest in peace, Nanda-ma'am. You'll be missed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday: He's clearly the most appropriate condom spokesman...

Good morning, friends! Are you ready for another week? No? Don't worry. I'm not either. Well, it's my own fault for taking a few weekends off from my normal life… there's just so much to catch up on!

But sometimes it's worth it. Let me tell you that I had the pleasure and honor of being at the very first night of CineMatsuri, a new Japanese film festival here in Washington, DC! It's running through Thursday and you can check the schedule here. I'm attending two more nights, including seeing Sono Sion's new film 地獄でなぜ悪い, a title which is confusingly translated to Why Don't You Play In Hell?

The film I saw last night--which I may or may not write up, depending on time--was called 髑髏城の七人 or The Seven Souls in the Skull Castle and it was actually not really a "film" per se but the filmed version of a stage play.

And it was FANTASTIC! One of my many expensive habits that I can't indulge in nearly as much as I'd like is watching the DVDs of Japanese stage productions. I think it's incredible that the theater world is still so closely intermingled with "normal" pop culture that these DVDs even exist let alone sell well enough to have a production company raise the scale to theater releases. Seven Souls is neo-Kabuki in the same way that Dabangg was neo-Masala, a modernization of old tropes that maintains connections to the original. So, for example, there were women characters who fought with swords and had giant guns and, also, a just barely subtext homoerotic relationship between two male characters.

The Japanese have really mastered the art of the filmed stage play and while the result is certainly not as good as being there live, the copious use of close-ups--sweaty faces and all--give us something we wouldn't be able to see in the theater.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday! Let's get happy!

Happy Pharrell!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday: Hump day is upon us...

Welcome back, me!

I had a great time visiting my sister. We ate so much good food and watched the Veronica Mars movie, which was excellent, if you like Veronica Mars… which I very much do.

This sugar house had a TREE in the restaurant!! It's called Red Bucket Sugar House for obvious reasons! LOL!

And fun graffiti in Northampton, MA!

I'm still catching up with everything so I'll need a few days to get back into the swing of things… but here we go!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Non-Post: Saifu's latest misadventures will have to wait until next week.

I'll be heading off to the sugar houses in Western Massachusetts for the weekend and will be back on… Wednesday!

In the meantime, congratulations to Kangana and Queen!! Apparently, business is still doing very well! I mean, it's not 100 crore club territory but it's nice to see Kangana proving what we all knew--that she can carry a film on her slender shoulders all on her own.

(And Bewakoofiyan seems to be just as awful as the promos made out.)


A big happy birthday to my main Khan… AAMIR KHAN! Please keep entertaining us with your special brand of Aamir magic for years to come!

I find myself returning to this mantra time and time again: "All IZZ WELL!"

And PS I double checked on the Japanese academy awards and it looks like that shitty Broadway musical-movie won instead. Well, their loss. きっと、うまくいくよ!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday Post: Orange Caramel

IIFA news!! Tickets for the technical awards go on sale Saturday and Vidya Balan will be doing a four city tour but none of those cities is DC so see ya, wouldn't want to be ya, Vids.

For the Indian film industry, bringing the awards show to the United States presents an opportunity to make new fans in a key part of the world.

"America is Bollywood's second-largest market," Joseph said. "The importance of it, one can't stress more."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday: Short post!

Sorry, friends. I wasn't feeling well this morning: sinus problems. I love spring time but as soon as the weather gets a bit warmer, my head starts to feel like it's full of cotton. Ick!

Okay! Just a few stories…

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday: Tabu! It's a slow news day...

Congratulations to Kangana Ranaut and Queen!! I can't wait to see it!! (Eventually! Have some legal online streaming options soon, please!!)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: Riot Grrl for the 21st Century. [Best Buy Theater, New York City, 2014.03.08]

(Photo from Kyary's Official Fan Club Page)

だれかの ルールに しばれたくはないの

わがまま ドキドキ このままでいたい

I don’t want to be tied up in somebody else’s rules.

Selfish and excited, I wanna stay the way I am

-Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, “Fashion Monster,” translation by me.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is not a novelty act.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has something to say and if the media and PR flacks and lookie-loos are too dumb to figure that out, her audience isn’t. The view from inside the crowd is very different than that of the critic jotting notes in the stands above. While female performers will always have creepy adult male super fans, Kyary’s not singing to them and they aren’t the majority of her fanbase.

Monday: Time Bomb.

I'm back from New York!! Tired, as always, and with plenty to say about my trip but it will have to wait until tomorrow because I ran out of time this morning.

Today, my sympathies are with Juhi Chawla today. Her brother Bobby has passed away and the media are all over it like a swarm of flies. Be careful if you google the story because a lot of articles are featuring some really insensitive photos from the funeral. The NDTV piece I linked to seems okay.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday: Is Revolver Rani out yet? What about now? Now?

Okay! So! I'll be away to New York City this weekend to see the divine Miss Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and won't be back until Monday. I was hoping to see Queen but it looks like if anything is playing in Times Square it's going to be that zom-com Total Siyapaa . I mean, Ali Zafar I love but no. Not even you could get me to sit through that. (DIE ROM-COMS! DIE! DIE!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday: Kangana!! (...tera ni by Dr. Zeus)

Okay, okay… I got a little pushback on my Three Khans breakdown yesterday and, yes, all three have many facets to their personas but I was just musing on what I see as the overriding force in their film choices right now when they have enough power and influence to be doing anything they want. While Aamir's masala films don't always have overt messages, they usually do leave me with a strong feeling of empathy for my fellow humans. And, sure, sometimes Salman does a film with a positive message like Jai Ho and I'm sure he does want to give his fans their money's worth but then--and here is today's news stories--he also dances with 60 babes in his brother-in-law's dodgy looking film and snags his firang ex(?)-piece an item in the same. Family just seems to be the most important thing to him and there's nothing wrong with that. That's all I was saying.

(And it is Sonam opposite Salman for Sooraj Barjatya's next.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday: Pizza in the morning, Pizza in the evening, Pizza at suppertime...

I was thinking about this over the weekend and the difference between the Three Khans right now is that Salman makes films to please his family and friends; Aamir makes films with a deep sense of social obligation; Shahrukh makes films looking for outside validation, especially from the West. Is it because he's just got the kind of personality that can never be satisfied? If he "conquered" Hollywood, would he be looking for new people to impress on Mars? It's just interesting, you know?

Case in point are the smattering of Shahrukh stories today all from a some watch brand's party:

* Shahrukh "recreates" that star-packed Oscar selfie with some mediocre directors. Kunal Kohli is not the same as Jennifer Lawrence, dude.

* Shahrukh zings Salman Khan over Jai Ho knowing full well it will be fodder for the press.

* Shahrukh actually talks about Indian film's changing image in the West. Somehow, I just don't see Aamir or Salman particularly caring what Westerners like me think. On the other hand, that's probably why Shahrukh is the most popular with Westerners. But on the other, other hand, why should that be something special?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday: Nobody told me about W. I WANT TO SEE W!

I'd take Irrfan's pronouncements on the State of Bollywood Being Crappy a whole lot more seriously if he wasn't going around proudly taking tiny roles in like Jurassic Park 4. Let's just ship him and Tom Cruise's Best Friend and Miss Exotic India all over to Los Angeles for good. No, please. Have all the tiny roles in Hollywood blockbusters that you want.

(I really hate seeing talented foreign actors like Asano Tadanobu treated like nothing in those Hollywood films. I suppose Asano just needs the cash but still…)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Lunchbox or "Irrfan Gets His Groove Back."

After what feels like at least a year’s worth of hype in the English-language Indian press, The Lunchbox is finally getting an American release. While it’s not the type of film I’m generally interested in watching, I have to admit that I was curious to see the film that was so amazing it inspired Anurag Kashyap to flounce from social media when it didn’t get sent to the Oscars. Both the trailer and the reviews I’ve read seemed to suggest that The Lunchbox was going to be generic World Cinema (capital ‘w,’ capital ‘c’), the type of film that people who claim to love foreign films enjoy watching.

I was not wrong.

Filmi Girl’s short take is: The Lunchbox is a perfectly fine piece of World Cinema and I suspect that if you are the type of person who enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you will also enjoy this film. Also, it will make you hungry.

.article .article-content { word-break: normal !important; }