Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is it Akshaye Khanna time?!

I'm sorry, friends. I'm still working on my Kick write-up. I know by the time I post it nobody will care but… it's still very busy at work at the moment. No rest for the wicked, eh?

Anyways, I stumbled over this gem today about Akshaye Khanna "reworking" the script for Bombay Samurai and then I was confused because a) I hadn't realized Akshaye had any films "in his kitty" and b) I'd thought my Bebo-starrer was stalled thanks to Farhan (THAT GUY RUINS EVERYTHING) but the resulting mental film I created for myself--in which Bebo is a Bombay Samurai and has to fight off the heavy-browed and evil Akshaye's henchman before ramming him through with a sword--pleased me muchly. The actual film probably won't be that cool, unfortunately, and will feature MUCH MORE of Farhan's self-serious "acting" than I really want or need.

But Akshaye. Oh, Akshaye. He was a terrible hero but I rather enjoyed his super star turn in Tees Maar Khan. I could FULLY support a ridiculous over-the-top character actor Akshaye.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mere Rang mein!

I hope everybody enjoys my take on Maine Pyar Kiya! That film is special to me because it was the very first soundtrack I ever listened to. I think I've told this story a million times but I'd been hugely into Britpop and, especially, Kula Shaker back in the late 1990s and I was always blasting something dippy (I was only 17, okay?!) from my dorm room. Eventually one of the guys in my dorm cornered me about it and was like, "So… how about some real Indian music" and handed me a dubbed cassette of the Maine Pyar Kiya soundtrack.

Ah… it really brings me back. I fell in love with that cassette. Not the guy, though. He was planning to enter the seminary. I wonder whatever happened to him.

This was my very first favorite Bollywood song! I used to dance around my dorm room to it. Hee! I loved and still love the brass flourishes.

I'm working on my Kick review now. Hopefully I'll have that up for you soon, too! I just can't believe how much crap has been written about it. I get that these outlets need something to stick around the ad-space they're selling but there's no need for tripe like this. Lazy thinking, lazy thinking, lazy thinking passed off as "sociology" and "film criticism."

Well, as @thebollywoodfan said to me yesterday:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Maine Pyar Kiya: What ever happened to friendship?

Last weekend I re-watched Maine Pyar Kiya and I was amazed at how alive it feels, even after 25 years. The story, to refresh your memory, goes like this--Karan (Alok Nath) and Kishan (Rajeev Verma) are best friends who will do anything for one another as young men. But when they grow up, they grow apart: Kishan becomes a wealthy industrialist and Karan remains a poor country mouse. As the movie begins, Karan, now a widower, needs to go abroad to earn some money but he can’t just leave his teenaged daughter Suman (the absolutely darling Bhagyashree) on her own. Who does he turn to? His best friend Kishan! And so Suman goes to stay at Kishan’s giant mansion. Although she misses her papa dearly, she soon finds a friend of her own in Kishan’s son Prem (Salman Khan).

Happy Monday!

Good morning, all! I owe you two reviews for the two Salman films I've seen. One of which is almost done and the other shouldn't take too, too long. It's a busy time for me right now, so thank you for being patient!

I will give you a quick verdict on Kick--it's a silly film but a great entertainer and absolutely worth seeing in a packed hall where you can cheer at all the appropriate locations.

Friday, July 25, 2014

If you can, try to have a nice weekend.

I'll be in New York tomorrow to do some shopping and see Kick! It'll be a nice break and if you are around, do feel free to drop into the 4:15 showing in Times Square! I'm trying to avoid ALL spoilers/reviews/etc. so please don't post ANYTHING about it in the comments. I don't even want to know what the "buzz" is; I just want to have a good time, dammit! The world is going to hell and I'd like to sit in peace and forget how shit things are by watching Salman hero around for a few hours. Okay? (OKAY?!)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday? One more day until Kick!

I got up a little late this morning so all I have for you today is a link on English in India I've been sitting on.

From the NYRB:

A decade or more ago, the publishers of English newspapers scorned Indian language readers, assuming that, as hundreds of millions more Indians became literate, they would turn automatically into consumers of English papers. But the steady rise in literacy rates—from 64.8 percent of the population in 2001 to 73 percent in 2011—has had unexpected consequences. The new middle class is increasingly found in smaller towns, and prefers to read in its own regional language, rather than English. Meanwhile, major media houses have discovered that English readership is declining or stagnant, and that advertising rates in English papers cannot be pushed much higher.

I'm sure you all have your own opinions and maybe this is off but it does track with what I've observed--where English press and increasingly "Bollywood" are aimed more at the global audience while regional languages and films are for the people at home.

Anyways, have a great day, folks!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bang! Bang! Vacance!

Uh, yeah. This is going to ROCK! Really looking forward to Bang Bang!

In other news Priyanka Chopra: The Movie has a full trailer and it basically hits every negative point I was afraid of. I've said my piece on this but the short version is: what bothers me the most is the erasing of Mary Kom herself from her own story and replacing her with a glamorous celebrity. Biopics about real living people are just creepy.

And… it looks like I'll be in New York on the 26th to catch Kick--probably the 4:15pm show in Times Square--so if you will be around feel free to drop me a line!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eep! It's Tuesday already? How about some more Strong Women?

Do forgive me, friends. I got caught up writing on Maine Pyar Kiya this morning and lost track of time. What a wonderful film, no?

For all the "youthful rom-com" boom today, nothing I've seen has quite captured that sweet, friendly romance like Maine Pyar Kiya. Maybe in part because Bhagyashree and Salman were so young at the time. Youthful romance is more convincing from teens than 30-40 year olds playing immature.

It's all made me feel like I should watch Bobby again, too.

Dimple! Rishi! Dimple! Look!

You don't know how it pains me that she's the "butt" of the joke of the Finding Fanny trailer. I'm glad she's working but are these really the only roles out there for women of "a certain age"? Dimple, you're still a star in my books.

Ah, and speaking of ladies who are forever stars: a lovely bit of writing on Zohra Sehgal over at Tehelka.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We're doing something with a strong female lead.

Let's start the week with an utterly delightful interview with Kalki Koechlin! She just seems like a normal theater-arts person, which is lovely.

And Kalki's advice for up and coming actors? "Stop wasting your time 24 hours in the gym."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What is Japanese Idol Pop? From A.B.C-Z to…?

All I really wanted to do was read something thoughtful on Weird Al’s latest releases (“Tacky” completely captures the modern American ethos) but I should have known better than to venture over to prime American Media Nerd territory, the Onion AV Club. Before I could even begin to search for Weird Al, I was distracted by a link claiming to contain a beginners guide to Japanese idol pop, a link I wish I had never clicked on… for it did not link me to a beginners guide to Japanese idol pop. No, it linked to a woefully ill informed, hackily written piece that appeared to be more of a guide to what a online media outlet writer--in this case, one Abigail Covington--under a deadline could Google about Japanese idol music in 45 minutes or less and then regurgitate in heavy handed manner. I was so offended by the callous treatment of a topic I have been lovingly researching for a few years now that I was almost shaking in anger as I read through it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

TGIF! Have a great weekend, everybody!

There's not much of interest to me in the news today but last night I went to dinner with a friend and we had a good time reminiscing over some of the melodramatic plots of 1990s films and bemoaning the lack of QUALITY evil uncles in films today. Remember when films were just larded with evil uncles? Where's the drama in a romance when the only thing keeping two lovers apart is the dude's immaturity? AKA EVERY Bollywood "romance" from the last ten years.

And aunties with big personalities. We need more of them, too. Jobs for Dimple, Ratna Pathak Shah, Lillette Dubey, REHKA…! It would be nice to see more casts with a big range of ages. Old people don't just want to watch old people; young people shouldn't just be watching young people's stories, you know.

Anyways, my friend and I had a good old time rehashing the plot of Aaina so, for your consideration, the trailer:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday: Two Creatures That Need To Be Taken Down.

You guys!! The trailer for Creature 3D looks so bad! Bips looks wonderful, as always, but that monster…

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Grab Bag...

Good morning, friends! I've been sitting on a handful of things and, poking around the Internet this morning, I found a few more bits to interest me. So, if it's okay with you, I'll just go ahead and dump everything in this post!

First of all, one of my favorite things about youtube subscriptions is you never know WHAT content is going to come floating down to you from say, Apiinternational. Content like all the songs from Kajol-starrer Minsara Kanavu in which, according to wikipedia, her character wants to become a nun.

Yes, THAT Kajol! I didn't realize how much I'd missed her…

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Priyanka Chopra in and as "Mary Kom"...

To be fair to Priyanka, one of the biggest problems I have with Mary Kom: The Film is the same problem I have with ANY "biopic" of a person in living memory--namely that it erases the real person and replaces them with a glossier, less edgy, less complex, and more societally acceptable version of themselves. I will never forget the day I stumbled across the mass market tie-in paperback of A Beautiful Mind--a biography of John Nash--with freaking RUSSELL CROWE'S FACE ON THE FRONT! I mean… what? There's just something really, really creepy about it, as if we're celebrating the accomplishments of a real person as if some actor did them instead.

Monday, July 14, 2014

*GROOOWWWLLLL* Singham Returns.

So… Singham Returns looks pretty promising.

But then you all know I have a soft spot for Bebo being awesome.

You'll have to excuse me this morning, my cat woke me up at 3am for some reason, possibly the storm, possibly my roommate was up and rustling around because he's getting over jet lag.


While I was dozing, though, I was thinking about the review I wrote yesterday and how funny it is that I almost never write about visuals, even though film is substantively a visual medium. I'm sure I've written this before but I'm not a very visual person and never have been. What matters to me are characters, emotion, and music… and performance. I love a contextualized performance number. Story flow and pacing matter more to me than "logic" and I'll always appreciate a good pratfall or preposterous comedy accent.

And I have very little patience for filmmakers who think "art" means navel-gazing self-portraits or condescending poverty porn. And an equally small amount of patience for filmmakers who coat "entertainment" in layers and layers of irony.

I like films that entertain and engage the audience, films that are talking to us, rather than at us.

Visuals are important, sure, but unless they're really good or really bad, it's usually something I pick up on in a second or third viewing of a film… if I make it that far. One exception, however, is the way some modern films seem to be filmed for the TV screen rather than the movie screen. There is something very particular about all those lush Swiss landscapes that just doesn't translate to television… we almost ever see them anymore.

I do prefer to go to the theater when I can, for that reason and because any distractions are forcibly taken away, leaving just us and the film.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Avan Ivan: This guy, that guy, and the other guy, and some women, too.

The first and only real dance number in Avan Ivan features Walter (Vishal Krishna) disguised in his feminine avatar dancing among the ladies in celebration of the zamidar's (G.M. Kumar) birthday. When Walter’s cover is blown, he lifts his skirt up over his head like a lungi and keeps on going until the blows from ladies force him to rush up behind the zamidar’s throne for protection. It’s funny, but why? Because a man is acting as a woman? Because our expectations have been thwarted? Because exaggerated movements are just funny? A combination of all of these?

Comedy seems to get very little attention from film critics or other cultural commenters, unless they’re telling you why this and that shouldn’t be funny. Popular films are brushed aside with a sigh and perhaps a long essay or two lamenting the fact that “low” humor is still so popular. Our bodily functions aren’t funny; our cultural habits aren’t funny; stupid people aren’t funny; puns aren’t funny; profanity isn’t funny; and outsiders aren’t funny (and, in fact, shouldn’t even been seen unless we’re pitying them). Nothing is funny except maybe some references to old films or skewering of tropes seen as old-fashioned or cliched.

Friday, July 11, 2014

RIP Zohra Sehgal...

Zohra Sehgal passed away yesterday at 102. I don't have anything to say that others haven't said better. So…

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A.B.C-Z one camera LEGEND STORY!

2014.07.10☆ZIP・A.B.C-Z by ichigocherry

I totally forgot to mention that my favorite idol group A.B.C-Z put out a new video yesterday!! Here's a little behind-the-scenes making-of. It's short (about 3 minutes) but you can see how they wrangled 1200 fans to be part of the shoot. It's really, really cool how they do these one-camera, no-cut performances.

I wish some choreographer would give it a try in India… I mean, what a great promotional point, right, producers?? How about it, Farah? Prabhudeva? Anybody?

PS: Those guys are THESE guys that I saw in Japan!!

A.B.C-Z!! ♥ I can't wait to go back! Right now, half of A.B.C-Z is doing a musical version of Tezuka Osamu's "Faust," which looks EPIC. My DVD of Legend Story should be arriving today and I CAN'T WAIT TO WATCH IT!!! 楽しみに!

Riteish Deshmukh: Not your average Bollywood rich kid.

So, Eliza commented that it was interesting that I liked Riteish so much when he seemed like the kind of guy I'd usually rag on for just being a rich kid with good connections. In theory, it's a fair observation but it's overlooking something critical--Riteish himself.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Another Wednesday, another weekend coming...

Have the summer blues gotten to you? Too hot? Too much rain? Or just too much junk at the theater?

I have to tell you… I've been getting A LOT of e-mails and messages from PR people recently looking to "provide good quality content" for me for no charge. Oh, how thoughtful. Seriously? What about this blog looks like I'm dying to copy-paste articles about how Ajay Devgn stubbed his toe and let me tell you about that NEW KAPOOR KID.

Just in case you didn't know already, I do NOT accept any money or perks or ANYTHING for writing. I pay for things legally where I can, although I am occasionally given screeners of films. Honestly, though, the screeners tend to make me more critical since it feels like an assignment instead of enjoyment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stop everything. THE HAIDER TRAILER IS HERE!!!!! (Also… ANJAAN!)

Pardon me for a moment while I flail wildly about how awesome this looks!!!!!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Is it really Monday again?

I hope my fellow Americans had as a nice a weekend as I did! My sister was in town and we (and my brother and his wife) went to see 22 Jump Street, the first film I've seen in the theater in ages. Every once in a while Hollywood really nails it for me and both the Jump Street films are just really enjoyable. Part of it is the specific American-ness to them--jokes about frat douchebags loving pooka shell necklaces and whether backpacks are more cool worn over one or two shoulders ("Are you two-strapping it?")--and part of it is Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Not only are both of them really fun to watch but they go all in on the bromance but play it absolutely straight, that is, they don't wink to the camera at the homo-erotic undertones present in every great buddy cop movie. So you get some slapstick, some cultural critique, and a lovely depiction of a friendship! Perfect Filmi Girl film!

Even better, in 22 Jump Street was the appearance of Workaholics comedienne Jillian Bell in a hilarious and very non-stereotypical role.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


The Group Sounds era began when the Beatles touched down in Japan in 1966* and ended with the breakup of the Tigers in January, 1971. More than just a style of music, Group Sounds captured the spirit of a young, post-war generation who wanted to wear crazy clothes, grow out their hair, and dance, man! A wide range of bands are captured under the GS label but musically most of them can be filed in comfortably with their British and American contemporaries like the Turtles and the Kinks.

But unlike the Turtles and the Kinks, the GS bands entered into an entertainment system designed to handle pop idols, not rock bands. Although they could play their instruments and rock extremely hard, they also had to learn how to play the "cute" songs their management gave them, how to be funny on television, and sell trinkets with their face on them like the Monkees. (Although one could argue that the Turtles could have rocked a crazy Monkees style movie of their own.)

[The Tigers in an advertisement for Meiji Chocolates.]

As the Tigers’ Toppo (Kahashi Katsumi) said in a recent interview with Rock Jet magazine, “There was a lot of resistance to the cutesy songs. It was like, ‘This is fucking stupid’ and ‘What the fuck is this?’”**

Along with cutesy songs and chocolates with their faces on them, the top bands also got the chance to make more money for their management companies by making movies! None of these films ended up being classic cinema like A Hard Day’s Night but they are all delightful and strange in their own ways. The basic template appears to be taken from the school of wacky band antics as popularized by the Monkees, who were quite popular themselves in Japan, but filtered through Japanese cultural ideals. And like the best of American pop of the 1960s, the main goal was to push product. As long as it sold, the bosses didn’t particularly care about artistic content, a creative freedom that was absolutely taken advantage of.

I wanted to write this small series on the GS films--a genre I’m calling GSploitation--because I couldn’t really find anything substantial written about them (or, indeed, the bands themselves) in English. I managed to track down all three Tigers films plus four films from the next most popular band, the Spiders, and one from a band that could be English-ized as either the Jaguars or the Jaggers. Unfortunately none of the films has been subtitled into English or officially released outside of Japan, so I hope my little series will be helpful to anybody looking for information.

『世界はぼくらを待っている』(Sekai wa Bokura wo Matteiru, 1968)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Daingad Daingad...

You know, it's funny. I went out for dinner with a friend last night, the same friend who showed me where the Indian movie theater was back when I first moved down here in 2006 or so. We used to sit and watch old movies together and gossip about stars. We gossiped a lot about stars last night, too, although it was mostly me catching her up on gossip on all the stars of the 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s. Salman, Aamir, Shahrukh, Preity, Rani, Aishwarya and Abhishek, Lolo and Bebo, Urmila, Bipasha, Priyanka…

So much has changed since those days.

Instead of those movies that would be 80% nuanced look at conflict with Pakistan and 20% Sunny Deol negating everything by fighting his way through armies, you have movies that are 80% promotional campaign for a glossy "brand driven" consumer lifestyle and 20% recycled story content from Hollywood.

Maybe I'm feeling nostalgic.

Not necessarily for the interminable Most Feelings Ever wedding films but the simple pleasures of a wedding song.

So, it made me happy to stumble over "Daingad Daingad" this morning.

Anyways, it's Fourth of July weekend here in the USA so I'm going to barbecue up (veg only, of course!) and will see you on Monday!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

RIP Bombay Talkies

Let my voice join those expressing sadness at the fire at the Bombay Talkies studio.

According to the Mumbai Mirror, master prints of 60 films went up in smoke, including Ashok Kumar's debut film. Deccan Chronicle says posters, letters, photos, and other memorabilia were also destroyed.

It pains my heart to think of Dadamoni's work turning to ash. It's really sad, the lack of care and respect for these old films and the memorabilia.

If not the Criterion Collection, then I really wish some Indian group would take the responsibility of restoring these old films, so the entire world can see the treasures Bombay produced. A film like Mahal stands up to anything in the Criterion Collection but who knows this one now besides the oldies and a handful of us movie nerds who tried to get our hands on everything Ashok Kumar ever did because we thought he was dreamy back in the day.

Anyways, I have a heavy heart today. I love this art so much and it's always painful to be reminded that most other people really couldn't care less. It's also hard to reconcile the HUGE show contemporary Bollywood makes of kowtowing to the past with the actual lack of respect for the films and actors themselves…

Sing us out, Dadamoni.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bang Bang (Vacance!)

You guys, it's the exclusive poster that only every web outlet with access to the official Facebook page is linking to today!

Seriously, though, I'm pretty pumped for this! A big, glossy action-masala film from Hrithik and Katrina, two of the biggest, glossiest, hardest working, and most physically present stars!

I don't necessarily trust Fox Star Studios but I do trust that Hrithik will make sure I have a good time… and maybe even cry a little.

Now I'm feeling nostalgic for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara… remember that one?

Maybe this movie year will turn out okay…

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